A Message For My Spammers

I’ve just devoted way too many minutes to cleaning up my comments and deleting spam. It’s a bit out of control.

I know, Spammers, you spend a lot of time trolling the interwebbie thing, and you hate for your work to be in vain. I thought I might offer you some tips so that your efforts can be better targeted and all the silly, mundane spam can quit being such a burden to both of us.

  • “Assess far on minuscule the flabbergast” doesn’t mean anything to me. Please consult your American translation dictionary and try again.
  • I do not read Russian.
  • Or any of the Asian languages.
  • Nor the Middle Eastern ones.
  • I’m neither located in Melbourne, nor do I own a car there, so I have no need for a car removal service in Melbourne.
  • Opening with “Howdy” doesn’t make the rest of your super-shady comment any less suspect!
  • I am not following that link.
  • There are far more educated people than I, who can make recommendations about plug-ins, web servers, etc
  • If you found duplicate information on my blog, it’s because I’m human, and forgetful, and probably have no idea what I blogged about a week ago.
  • I will not call you daddy.
  • Also, I will not spank you.
  • I am definitely not following that link
  • However miraculous that pill may be, it will not give me guaranteed penile growth. Mother Nature determined that in advance.
  • Posting the exact same comment to each and every one of my posts is just lazy, lacking in creativity and is the mark of a spammer who isn’t truly invested in his/her future with the spamming company
  • What can an online casino tell me about the topics I blog about (books, writing & parenting)?
  • I am by no means “truly a webmaster” and the “sheer velocity of the loading time” has more to do with your internet provider than anything I’ve done.
  • I don’t believe, based on your generic comment, that you really do think I made “good points”, that you’ve bookmarked my blog, or will be coming back frequently. (Nobody is that interested in a post about pink eye!).
  • And for the rookie spammer: You were supposed to copy & paste ONE of the spam comments. I don’t think you were intended to post all the possible variations of spam comments! I hope you’ve been fired for your lack of attention to this deplorable career path you’ve chosen.

And finally, why are you trying so hard to invade my pitiful web page? Don’t you have a country or multi-million-dollar corporation to topple? There’s much more glory there! Dream big, my Spammer friends.

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Author Spotlight: Wendi Silvano

Name: Wendi Silvano

Author of: Turkey Trouble; Turkey Claus; Turkey Trick-or-Treat; Just One More; What Does The Wind Say?; Hey Diddle Riddle; Counting Coconuts. (Upcoming book: Turkey’s Eggstra-Special Easter, Two Lions Press, January, 2019)

From: I was born in Salt Lake City and grew up there. I lived for two years on the coast of Oregon at ages 7-8, and I lived in Peru for 18 months at 21-22. I have now lived in Grand Junction, CO for 19 years.

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I don’t remember for sure if it was the very first “story” I wrote once I decided to try and write a children’s picture book, but Just One More, was certainly one of the first. When I lived in Peru I was fascinated by the crazy bus rides I took (since drivers cram their buses as full as they can get them, and people bring animals of all sorts aboard). I knew that multicultural stories were something publishers were looking for and I thought I could make a funny book telling the tale of a young boy who is so crammed in he can’t get off the bus. Just One More ended up being my first published picture book (after 7 years of submitting and after 24 rejections).

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years, until my 3rd child was born. I quit teaching to stay at home with my kids. I didn’t really like so many of the domestic things stay-at-home mom’s often do (cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting, etc.). I started looking into how to write teacher resource books, as I thought that might be something I could do to earn a little money. The more I looked into that the more I realized that I really wanted to write fiction picture books. They were something I had always had a passion for reading… so why not help create what I loved to read most?

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

When I first began writing, I pretty much began on my own. As there was no internet to use, I checked books out of the library on “how to get published” and purchased a copy of the Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market Guide. I joined SCBWI, and began sending away to publishers for the author’s guidelines. Since I had three tiny children, I wasn’t really able to attend conferences often (I only went to one during the first five years of my writing career. I didn’t have a critique group or anything at that point, so SCBWI was probably my best source for help. However, once I moved to Grand Junction, I found a group of three other writers who became my critique group and their help was absolutely critical to improving my writing and helping me get published. Cherie Winner, Linda Armstrong and Penny Stine hold a very dear place in my heart. We laughed a lot, and learned a lot and I credit their help for my success. Years later, Diane Hower moved to town and revitalized the local SCBWI members (and we formed another critique group here in town which was amazing). There’s nothing more helpful than having a good critique group!

Do you exclusively write  picture books or have you written in other genres?

I write everything from ages 0 to about 8. (I think my brain quit growing after 3rd grade!). I have written board books, early readers, picture books and young chapter books. I have also had numerous stories in children’s magazines. (I have absolutely NO ideas for middle grade or YA novels). I have done considerable writing for the educational market, which has included writing reading passages that are used for standardized tests from Kindergarten to Grade 12 levels, and a number of teacher resource books for middle grades. I did the puzzles for the puzzle spreads in OWL Magazine for two years, and have done a variety of work-for-hire assignments of all sorts. I will try almost anything.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I will admit that I go through cycles in my writing. There are times when I can write every day and be productive, and other times when my family has greater needs and I am lucky to get in any writing time for weeks. There are also times when I have a few hours to work on my writing and nothing comes out right. Those are the most frustrating days because my available time is so limited I hate to not be productive. I have learned that is just the nature of the process and I have to live with that. I do try to do something writing-related EVERY day. If I can’t write or revise something I try to research or send out queries, etc. I read, on average, 25-30 picture books per week. I request so many picture books from the library (that are shipped in from all over the area), that they have given me my own reserve shelf. I think there is nothing that helps more with my writing than reading the wonderful writing of others. It gives me a feel for what works and why. It generates new ideas and shows me new ways to structure or approach a story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions

Once I figure out what it is that I want my story to be, and know how I want to approach it the first draft usually doesn’t take long (maybe a few hours to a day or two). But, it can take me many tries at starting a story to figure out what execution might work. Once a draft is done and I start revisions it will usually be many, many months (or even years) of getting feedback, revising, putting it away for a while and getting it back out to take a fresh look, then revising again, over and over, before I feel a book is ready to go on submission. It’s crazy, but most of my books that have sold have taken at least a year to get “right”.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I have numerous notebooks full of possible ideas for picture books. When I choose one to start working on I might look for other picture books on similar topics/themes to see what is already out there. I brainstorm every idea, word or notion that comes to mind on the theme and try to think of a unique approach. If a book has science elements or some character that is an animal, I will, of course, get as many books from the library as I can find on the topic to learn more. I love reading other children’s books about a topic (i.e. the states of matter, hedgehogs, etc.) because they explain things so simply. It’s the easiest way to learn about something.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I don’t know if it is quirky, but I find that every time I am sitting at the computer writing, I get a craving for gumdrops. I try to resist the temptation, but often cave and eat a few… just for inspiration!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t gone on a trip specifically to do research for a story (although that sounds delightful!), but when our family went to Peru to visit relatives in 2008 I was taking good notes for future story ideas. We visited the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu (where a current story is set) and the Amazon Rain Forest (where several older stories have been set). Anywhere I go I am watching for inspiration for stories.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Not so much an exact moment… more like a general time frame. As I said before, I have notebooks full of possible ideas. I might think of a title or character or plot idea and write it down, and then later work on it over time to see if a whole story comes of it. For example, I saw a facebook video or a person in a tyrannosaurus costume wearing a tutu and visiting some office somewhere. It gave me the idea for a character who is a tyrannosaurus who desperately wants to dance ballet, but struggles because she has those itty bitty arms that can’t reach the barre and clunky legs and a long tail that gets in the way. But it took some time after seeing the video before the story idea came around.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Of course I read picture books by the hundreds (as that is my preferred genre, and there are SO many wonderful ones being published lately I could never choose a favorite. When I read adult stuff I find I tend to lean towards thrillers because they keep me from falling asleep as I read (or drive if I am listening).

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t done that yet… but what an intriguing idea!

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Sometimes. In fact, my Turkey character was inspired by a “pet” turkey that a family had that I lived with for a time in Peru. This turkey acted just like one of the family dogs. He would come running when leftovers were scraped into the feeding trough, and would follow people around, wanting attention. I never knew turkeys had so much personality!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

There is a wordless picture book called The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. It has to be one of my all-time favorite picture books. It was published in 1996, and was actually a Caldecott Honor book, with truly incredible illustrations (the grandmother in the story is depicted in negative space… so clever and fun). However, I hardly ever hear anything about this book, or see it on recommended reading lists, or anywhere. Every child deserves to know about this book. My five children and I have received such delight in reading it.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Once in a while. It’s sort of scary to see what comes up!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

A Llama or alpaca. I fell in love with them in Peru, and have a fascination for them now.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Yes. I struggle with critiquing the work of other writers. I can tell you if a manuscript is working and if I like it, or if I feel like there’s something amiss, but I struggle to be able to put my finger on exactly what is right or wrong sometimes.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient and persistent. Even great work can take a long time to get published. You have to hit the right editor or agent with the right thing at the right time. Keep learning how to better the craft and don’t give up!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Do what you can to market your own work. Publishers often don’t do that much, and it is up to you to create a buzz.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I love talking to aspiring writers. They are so enthusiastic and anxious to learn. I am the local area coordinator for the Western Slope Area of the Rocky Mountain Region of SCBWI. I help organize and coordinate writing “Connects” in our local area so writers have a chance to get together and learn from each other.

Want to know more about Wendi?

 

Turkey Trouble 

Turkey is in trouble. Bad trouble. The kind of trouble where it’s almost Thanksgiving… and you’re the main course. But Turkey has an idea- what if he doesn’t look like a turkey? What if he looks like another animal instead? After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise to make this Thanksgiving the best ever! This delightful book is a Children’s Choice Award winner!

Get Turkey Trouble from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

    Turkey Claus

Turkey is in trouble…again. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it’s almost Christmas, and guess what’s on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa on Christmas Eve isn’t as easy as Turkey expected. It’s going to take all his ideas- and his clever disguises- to find a way into Santa’s house. After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise, and Santa has the perfect solution!

Get Turkey Claus from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Turkey Trick Or Treat

Everyone loves Halloween candy—even Turkey. But how can he and his barnyard friends get any when the farmers give it out only to children? With a costume, of course! As his pals look on, Turkey comes up with one clever costume after the next. Each trick gets better and better…but will Turkey and his friends end up with any treats? This hilarious companion to Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus is filled to the brim with holiday fun.

Get Turkey Trick or Treat from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Just One More

Hector doesn’t know what he’s in for when he climbs aboard a bus high up in the Andes Mountains. He watches in disbelief as the driver lets MORE people and MORE animals on the already swaying and bouncing bus until it’s ready to burst. “There’s no more room. This bus is packed.” said Hector. This bus is piled and stacked up to the roof and out the door!” But the bus driver hollered, “Just one more!” Come along with Hector as he learns a valuable lesson. There’s always room for just one more.

Get Just One More from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

What Does the Wind Say?

A rhyming picture book for 3-5 year-olds that poses playful questions about some of children’s favorite things, like the moon, clouds, frogs and raindrops. From whish-a-woo to peek-a-boo! the answers to the questions make for lively poetry. Warm, charming illustrations depict familiar scenes for little ones.

Get What Does the Wind Say? from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Hey Diddle Riddle

Enhanced with gatefold flaps and bold illustrations, a silly book will challenge kids to guess the answers to simple riddles featuring the dish and the spoon, the three kittens, and other classic nursery rhyme characters.

Get Hey Diddle Riddle on Amazon

Counting Coconuts

Help! Monkey is hungry. But before he can eat his coconuts, he must find the fastest way to count them. A trio of tapirs, a slithering boa, an oh-so-slow sloth, and a wickedly wise jaguar are among the rainforest animals that suggest various counting methods. Learn to count by sets and help Monkey complete his comical, ever-changing, arithmetic task.

Get Counting Coconuts from Amazon

                                      

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Author Spotlight: Tiffany Brownlee

Name: Tiffany Brownlee  

Novel: Wrong in All The Right Ways (Macmillan)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? 

The first story I ever remember writing was when I was in the second grade. It was something about a taco pocket (a common food that we ate in the cafeteria) and how it didn’t want to be eaten so it ran away from the table. Much of my writing from when I was a child had to do with food, which I find hilarious.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to think about writing professionally. My good friend, Brad, and I would daydream about becoming professional writers and we’d trade off stories. But then, senior year happened, and I realized that I needed to get serious about college. So, I put my dreams away until after I graduated college, and when I picked writing back up, the first novel I wrote, which landed me an agent and ultimately a book deal, was Wrong in All the Right Ways.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Yes! Once I got my book deal, I joined a group called the Electric Eighteens. It’s a group of debut authors who have novels coming out in the year 2018. This group, collectively, has been so helpful on my journey to publication. Anytime I had a question about something—be it book swag, author events, the struggle of writing book 2, etc.—they’ve been there to advise me. My agent and editor have been really helpful and supportive as well, and without either of them, I’d be so lost. So, I’ve kind of gotten advice and support from a number of people during my journey; I can’t say give all the credit to one person.

Do you exclusively write contemporary YA (young adult) or have you written in other genres?

So far, I’ve only written in the YA romance genre. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good romance—or “kissing books” as I sometimes call them. However, I have written pieces of novels in other genres, but I have yet to figure out how to write a good action scene. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out and pick up one of the half-written novels I’ve started and work on finishing it.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I’m an English teacher, so for most of the year, my focus is on making sure I can deliver high-quality lessons to my students, and unfortunately for me, that makes it difficult for me to get an adequate amount of writing done. However, whenever I’m on vacation from school (especially summer vacation) and I get the opportunity to I write for extended periods of time, I crank out

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

When I wrote Wrong in All the Right Ways, it only took my twenty days to write the first draft of that novel, and maybe three months on revisions before I began to query for an agent. I’m not sure how I did it, and I wish I could go back in time and write down my exact process because now that I have one novel out already, I feel so much pressure to repeat, and because of that it’s become more and more difficult to finish the first draft of my next novel. It’s getting there, though.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

When it comes to preparation for writing a novel, I’m definitely a plotter. I love making outlines for the entire project before I begin writing. This helps me reveal every possible twist and turn, so I can write with those things in mind. For the most part, I try to stick to my outlines, but occasionally, I’ll get an idea in my head that throws the outline off a little bit, but I always know that it won’t be long until I’m back on track with the way I’ve planned the novel to go.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

 I’m kind of an open book, so I don’t have anything I wouldn’t want anyone to know, but one of my habits is that I listen to Disney songs while I write. And I’m talking all kinds of Disney music—from the animated films, DCOM soundtracks (High School Musical is my personal favorite), and even from albums that past and present Disney stars have put out (Hilary Duff, Bridget Mendler, Miley Cyrus, etc.). I don’t know, there’s just something about Disney songs that put me in the mood to write.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I wouldn’t say that I do any interesting research to write a novel because a lot of what I write is pulled from my own life experiences. When I do research something, it’ll be to fact-check something medical-related or get a little more information about the setting that I’ve chosen for the novel. Surprisingly, what I spend most of my research time on are names of characters. I will scour through baby name websites for days until I find the perfect one.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

My inspiration for Wrong in All the Right Ways came when I reread Wuthering Heights a few months after I graduated college. But today, most of my inspiration comes from interacting with my students at school. They’re middle schoolers so they have plenty of daily drama for me to draw inspiration from.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love anything in the YA contemporary or YA romance categories. Reading those books remind me of when I was a teenager and was experiencing love and meaningful friendships for the first time. Some of my favorite novels are Jenny Hans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and anything by John Green. Occasionally I’ll try a YA fantasy, but it’s not really my style so it takes a very interesting premise for me to pick up a YA fantasy novel.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes, there are some secrets that only a few people will know about, such as my first kiss, that made it into the novel. There are two instances where I wrote about first kisses in the novel, and I’ve told readers that my first kiss is written in there, so readers will have to guess which one is from my life. But unless I or the guy it happened with spills the beans, no one will ever know which one is the real one.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Some of the characters are inspired by people in my real life, but one in particular is a mash-up of people I’ve met across my lifetime, and that character is Karmin Ortega. Karmin is Emma’s best friend in the novel, and she was inspired from every best friend I’ve ever had in my life. When I was younger, my dad was in the military and we moved around more than I would have liked to. Because we moved so frequently, I was never able to keep a best friend for very long. 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I have two, actually. One is the book Holes by Louis Sachar, and the other is the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. Holes is a book that made me fall in love with reading at a young age, and the Delirium series was one of the first book series I read when I just started getting into the YA dystopian genre. I will never get tired of reading those books.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

I used to Google myself a lot more prior to publication, just to see what people are saying, but I’ve tried to stay away from that because it gives me anxiety. I don’t want to know what people are saying about me or about my book, so I’ve stopped. Maybe one day, I’ll resume Googling myself, but today is not that day (haha).

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

My patronus is some kind of rodent (a possum or a ferret or something along those lines), and I don’t think that fits me very well, so I like to think that my mascot would be a dolphin or something fun like that. They’re so playful, which is SO me.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

I feel like I should be better at writing authentic dialogue, but I find it difficult to do sometimes, especially when I’m attempting to write dialogue for a male character. I’m always second-guessing myself, like “is this what a guy would say?” Usually, I seek advice from my boyfriend or brother when I start to feel self-conscious about the authenticity of my male characters’ dialogue.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

1) Don’t give up! And 2) do your research before deciding to get into the publishing business. There are a number of different routes that aspiring writers can take to publish their novel—self-publishing/traditional publishing, small press/large press, etc.—so be sure to do your research and choose the path that works best for you.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Here’s the greatest advice I can give any newly published author: Whatever you do, do not check your book reviews on Goodreads. I wish someone had told me this earlier, but I fell in the Goodreads trap early on my journey to publication. I think ignorance is bliss when it comes to reviews. I don’t want to know how many people are reading it, and I don’t want to know what they think about it. The second you realize you have a one- or two-start review, you’re going to start doubting yourself, and enough self-doubt can really hurt your future. So, one more time for the people in the back row: DO NOT CHECK YOUR BOOK REVIEWS ON GOODREADS! You’ll thank me later 🙂

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I try to help other aspiring authors by giving them as much advice as possible about what I learned from my journey to publication. Aspiring writers are always looking for advice on querying/publication do’s and don’t’s from an experienced author, and I try to help them out any chance I get. I’ve gotten messages from writers asking about my process and what they should do, and I don’t mind answering questions or telling them how I did it, but I always give them the disclaimer that just because I did things a certain way doesn’t mean that they have to do the same. Every author has a different publishing experience and they should choose the route that works best for them.

Would you like to know more about Tiffany?

  • Visit her website
  • See what she’s posting about on Facebook
  • Follow her on Twitter
  • Check out what she’s sharing on Instagram
  • See what Tiffany is reading—and writing—on Goodreads

 

Wrong In All The Right Ways

An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Wuthering Heights.

Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews.

Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.

Tiffany Brownlee’s Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.

 

Get Wrong In All The Right Ways from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound

 

 

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Author Spotlight: Sonia Hartl

 

 

Name: Sonia Hartl

Author of: Have a Little Faith in Me (Coming from Page Street, Fall 2019)

From: Grand Rapids, MI

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

The first thing I wrote was a book about penguins in the first grade for a school project, but I began writing more frequently in junior high, mostly poetry and short ghost stories.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I started out majoring in creative writing in college and had a huge stash of poetry and short stories I’d written over the years. I didn’t write my first novel until 2005 though (I was 25) because a lot of fear and self-doubt kept me back. My first novel started as a short story, but it begged to be longer, and one day I just sat down and forced myself to try.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

So many people. The writing community is amazingly supportive and helpful to newer writers just starting to find their way. Dannie Morin picked my manuscript for Pitch Wars in 2013 and changed everything for me. She taught me so much about plot, character arcs, organic dialogue, evocative narrative, all the things I needed to take my writing to the next level. I also met my long-time CP Jen Hawkins on the Pitch Wars Twitter feed while we were both hopefuls and she has been a constant source of support and wisdom over the years. And my agent Rebecca Podos is the best. She’s always encouraged me while pushing my writing to the next level, she’s truly my partner in this business in every sense of the word.

Do you exclusively write contemporary YA (young adult) or have you written in other genres?

I mostly write contemporary YA, but I’ve written in a few other genres and categories. My first manuscript was an adult dystopian, my second a YA ghost story, my third a NA romantic suspense, fourth and fifth were YA contemporary, sixth was a YA mystery, and seventh was HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, which is a YA contemporary.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

When I’m drafting I try to squeeze at least two hours of writing time in a night, and if I’m really into what I’m drafting, I’ll write up to ten hours a day on the weekend. The work, life, write balance is tricky, but I’m fortunate to work at a job that gives me a reasonable amount of vacation and my family is really supportive. Most of my writing time is crammed into the two hours I have free at the end of the night though, usually from ten to midnight.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

That varies so widely from manuscript to manuscript. I had one take six months to draft and a year and a half to revise, and I had another that took a week to draft and two weeks to revise. Both of those are the exceptions though. I’d say average, it takes me about one to two months to draft and about two to three months to revise.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

It definitely depends on how knowledgeable I am about the story I’m going to tell. I’m a big fan of immersive settings that tend to have their own set of rules and norms, so that requires a certain amount of research to write well. I’ve done everything from spending hours reading blogs on certain subjects, to hiring experts to read over my manuscripts for accuracy.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I don’t know if this is quirky or not, but I have dozens of first chapters for different stories in my Dropbox. I’ll sometimes write five first chapters for five different premises before I find one I want to progress to chapter two with.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

No, but I’d love to have an excuse to visit Ireland or Italy. I did set one manuscript on a remote island off the coast of Boston, and I’ve been to Boston, but I’m not sure if that counts. I’d really love to visit a small town with a quirky festival that the whole town puts their hearts into and write a story based on that.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

A lot of my inspiration comes from things I’m feeling strongly about at a particular time. I tend to create stories based around settings I’m curious about or obsessed with researching, and pair them with themes I’m passionate about diving into and subverting. I wouldn’t say there is an exact moment I’m hit with inspiration, but it’s more a slow growing interest that I need to write when I get to the point where I can’t stop thinking about it

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I mostly read YA contemporary, because that’s what I write, but I’m also a huge fan of YA thrillers/mysteries. I also occasionally enjoy contemporary fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, and historical. I’ll read across all genres and categories, as long as it’s a good story and can hold my attention.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Absolutely. I think all writers do.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

No, all my characters exist solely in my head.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

LUCKY FEW by Kathryn Ormsbee is so criminally underappreciated. It was such a fun, warm contemporary, and it’s one of those books that just makes you feel happy while reading it.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I’d say maybe any book in Nora Roberts’ trilogies, but I don’t feel guilty about it, lol.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Not right now, there probably isn’t much to Google, but I might after my book is released. Just out of curiosity.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

Probably a penguin, for no other reason than I really like them.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Pacing. I’m constantly second-guessing and doubting my plot points and if they have enough impact to keep the reader turning the pages.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Keep going. It feels like the climb is so uphill and the odds are so long, but if you keep going, keep learning, and improving your craft, you will get where you need to be in your own time.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

I’m in the same boat, but maybe try to enjoy the ride. There is a lot about publishing that is completely out of our hands, so try to enjoy the things you can control.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I would say the biggest way is being a Pitch Wars mentor. I’ve been a mentor since 2015, and it is absolutely the most rewarding way to give back to the writing community. As a former mentee, I know how much it meant to me to be given the opportunity to learn from someone who was a few steps ahead of me on the journey. Being able to do that for someone else means the world to me.

Would you like to find out more about Sonia?

 

Have a Little Faith in Me

(Coming Fall 2019 from Page Street)

When CeCe’s born-again boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp to win him back, though she knows nothing about Christianity. But when he shows up with a new girlfriend—a True Believer—she must face the truth about her feelings, and about the night she lost her virginity. Publication is set for fall 2019

Add Have  A Little Faith in Me to your Goodreads list  

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August #Giveaway: Win 1 of 20 free critiques

(*Updated to reflect additional critiques)

My birthday is this month and I’ve decided to give, give, give! (Oh, and I asked some of my friends to help me give)

For my August giveaway I’ve decided to gear it toward those of you out there who are still writing away, editing and polishing your manuscripts, obsessively revising your query letters, and dreaming of the day your efforts are rewarded. That’s right, authors, this one is for you.

At the end of  the month 21(!) free critiques will be given away.

So, what do you do to enter? Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the prompts. And yes, there are a lot of Twitter profiles that you can follow, but there were a lot of generous authors who volunteered their time to help out, so please show them some love.

Details (and the Rafflecopter link) are below. Best of luck to everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Release: Searching (The Fading Series, Book 2) by Cindy Cipriano

Searching
Cindy Cipriano
(The Fading Series, #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: July 20th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

A fast-paced fantasy romance with rich characters and immersive storytelling,Searching is the second book in theFading series by award-winning author Cindy Cipriano.

To say Leath is traveling light is an understatement. She’s only bringing three things on her trip. One is a silver heart locket—a gift from her longtime best-friend-turned-boyfriend Victor Santana. Next is a wedding token in the shape of a J, from James Turner. And of course, she’s packing her pistol. That’s it. She knows that when she leaves Woodvine, even her own mother may not remember her in the shifted reality that will be left behind. Bringing anything else would be pointless. But she’s driven now, by something that eclipses everything else, something she just got back: her memories. And now that she remembers James—she won’t stop searching until she finds him.

Goodreads / Amazon

LEARN MORE ABOUT SEARCHING!

One-liner for Searching?
How far would you search for The One?

More details?
Leath is packing light: just her two lockets (one from Victor, one from James) – and of course, her pistol. She knows that when she leaves Woodvine, even her own mother may not remember her in the shifted reality that will be left behind. But she’s driven by something that eclipses everything else: her recovered memories. Now that she remembers James—she won’t stop searching until she finds him.

Where did the idea come from for Searching?
Searching is the second book in The Fading Series. Searching takes up immediately where Fading left off, just as Leath puts her foot down inside Judaculla.

What genre is Searching?
Young adult.
But – the entire series crosses genres. It’s a paranormal, dystopian, young adult romance mash-up. Searching is also a crossover, appealing to young adults and up.

Who would enjoy reading Searching?
Fans of Fading who are waiting to find out if it’s Victor or James.

And, anyone who has ever been in love with two people at the same time.

Favorite lines from Searching:

  1. I wanted to touch him. So I did. (pg. 1)
  2. The first time I held hands with Victor Santana, it wasn’t romantic. Not at all. (pg. 3)
  3. Victor’s strong hand cradled mine, and he became my tether to reality. (pg. 3)
  4. His warm lips brushed against my ear as he whispered three little words. “I can wait.” (pg. 6)
  5. Name James Turner. Age 17. Parents Emancipated Minor. (pgs. 10-11)
  6. “I don’t usually get this close to a girl, unless I’m going to kiss her,” said the boy, giving me a playful grin. (pg. 23)
  7. When we were apart, it seemed as if all of eternity passed before I saw him again. (pg. 110)
  8. To one boy, I’d gladly give my heart. To the other, my life. (pg. 130)
  9. I wondered how long a person could live like this, so completely torn in half. (pg. 130)
  10. She could have any boy in the restaurant. Why was she falling all over mine? (pg. 147)
  11. But right now I had him. The boy of my dreams. (pg. 174)
  12. “I will never stop loving you,” he said. “Not even in death.” (pg. 268)

James is sort of a two-sides-to-one-coin kind of guy. Was it difficult writing his character?
Definitely, but so worth it!
*sighs*
He’s drop-dead gorgeous and funny, but he hovers over dark territory. It was a challenge writing him because I wanted my readers to see what Leath sees in James. In Searching, fans will see just how deep James’s feelings for Leath go.

And Leath’s other love interest, Victor, was it hard to write him?
Not a bit.
*sighs again*
Victor is the definition of the perfect guy. He’s good-looking, funny, confident and charismatic. Not to mention he has an exceptionally beautiful heart.

Who is your favorite character in Searching?
Ever continues to be my favorite character. She’s the girl you love to hate. I think we’re all hoping that in the end, she’ll do the right thing. The problem is we lose a faith in her each time she opens her mouth. As I continue writing the series, I’m currently working on book three and James is fast becoming a close second to Ever as my favorite character. I think readers will enjoy watching James’s growth from Fading to Searching to where I am now in writing the series.

Who designed the cover of Searching?
The talented Marya Heidel. Isn’t it stunning?!

How many books are in the Searching series? There will be at least 4 books in the series.

How can readers keep up with you and the Fading series?
Anything and everything about The Fading Series can be found at Clean Teen Publishing or CindyCipriano.com.

 

Author Bio:

Cindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina with her husband, son and their 27 pets.

Not really.

Just three dogs who think they are children and three cats who think they are raccoons. It only seems as if they make 27. When Cindy isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and the avoidance of cooking.

Cindy’s first novel, The Circle, Book One of The Sidhe won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award for Pre-Teen Fiction – Fantasy. Other titles in the series include The Choice, Book Two of The Sidhe (2015) and The Lost, Book Three of The Sidhe (2017). This seven-book series is published by Odyssey Books.

Miller’s Island Mysteries #1 The Case of the Toxic River (2017) is the first in her eleven-book science mystery series (Vulpine Press). #2 The Case of the Catalyst will release in 2018.

Look for Fading, the first in her young adult series, in April 2018. (Clean Teen Publishing). Fading is the tale of first loves and the consequence of dreaming up Mr. Right.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Author Spotlight: Susan Harris

Name: Susan Harris

Author of: Shattered Memories; Jessie’s Girl; The Ever Chase Chronicles (Skin and Bones; Collateral Damage; Smoke and Mirrors; Night of the Hunter and Never Back Down)

From: Cork Ireland

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? I used to write a lot of poetry as a child and make up short stories. I wrote a poem for a local newsletter about my dad and how awesome he is!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? I’ve always wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I realized that acting, my other love, wasn’t meant for me, I continued to write despite not knowing if anyone would read them!

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?  When Shattered Memories was selected to be published by the amazing Clean Teen Publishing, I met a wonderful person called Melanie Newton  or(NerdGirlVamp or Melanie’s Muses as she is also known) who has become one of my closest friends. She kicks my ass when I doubt myself, tells me straight out if an idea will work and is basically just an all round amazing person.  She has helped me out so many times and I feel truly blessed to call her a  friend.

Do you exclusively write paranormal romance/crime novels or have you written in other genres? I love paranormal books but I do go off when the story takes me there! Shattered Memories is a YA Dystopian and Jessie’s Girl is contemporary romance. I am currently working on a book that could be classed as Fantasy and Romance …I like to think I am open to writing anything, if inspiration hits.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? Juggling a work life balance is extremely hard. I work full time, write as much as I can and sometimes venture out of the writing cave to do some fun things! I hate when I get into the flow of a story and have to table it to do non fun stuff like pay bills and socialize lol

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? It takes me about three to four months to get the first draft done and then go over for revisions. Once the first draft is done, I tend to send it to my trusty beta reader who is way better at spotting my errors than I am.

 Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?  It does depend on the book. For the Ever Chace Chronicles, I did an online course in Criminal Psychology so that I could write true about profiling and the likes. I want it to be realistic even if the supernatural aspect isn’t. I spend hours creating playlists as music plays a very crucial part of my writing process. I’m also a very big outliner and spend a lot of time planning and preparing for each chapter…that is until one of the characters misbehaves and completely changes my entire story!

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? I don’t think so! I know I use the same kind of pens and notebooks for each story I outline, but then again, I do have OCD so the quirks I have are just really all me lol

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list? Yes actually I have. Last year, while writing Night of the Hunter I went to Paris for a couple of days by myself. It was m=one of the best experiences of my life. I went to the catacombs, and Pére Lachaise Cemetery. All of those amazing places were written into the book and make it so much better than I could have imagined.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?  With The Ever Chace Chronicles, I had been toying with an idea for a while and one night, I was watching Criminal Minds and suddenly thought, what would Hotch be like if he were a werewolf? And the Character of Derek Doyle was created!

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? I love paranormal romance and fantasy. I am a big fan of J.R Ward, Laurel K Hamilton, Nalini Singh, Sarah J Maas, Darynda Jones, Rachel Vincent, Ilona Andrews to name but a few…I know I am missing some of my favorites but there are too many to name. I am, first and foremost a reader!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I do actually. When I wrote Shattered Memories, it was because I had just been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, OCD and depression and my CBT therapist thought it would be a good idea to use my conflicting emotions any convey it in a story. All of the pain, all of the isolation that Alana, the main character, was going through was what I was going through.             I also like to use funny things people have said and use them for certain characters.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Some are …Melanie from The Ever Chace Chronicles is based off of Melanie my friend. Alana from Shattered Memories is also based on the real Alana. Donnie from Ever Chace is based off of Tom Hardy, but that’s for purely selfish reasons lol

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.  Can I say my own? Lol No okay…I’m thinking, I’m thinking….Maybe any of the books by Cat Clarke…she is probably one of the only out of genre authors that I tend to read. Her first book Entangled was sooooooooooo good and A Kiss in the Dark is one of my all time fave books!

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. The Fault in Our Stars…its john Green I have no other excuse.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Nope, not at all. I have no delusions of grandeur haha

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? Definitely a wolf…or werewolf to be more precise!

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? Being proud of my accomplishments, I once had a teacher in school tell me I would never be a writer, and now here I am, about to publish my 6th full length novel. I think I proved her wrong many times over.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?  I have a quote tattooed on my arm that reminds me everyday to stay humble and not forget why it is I have to write. It’s a Cyril Connelly quote that I also have above my writing space “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  I like to think it means that if you are writing simply to get published and not because you are writing for you the there is no point in it. You have to put all of you in your writing, or else the reader won’t feel it.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? You are doing just fine. Breath, relax, and never, ever, take any reviews to heart!

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I share links when asked. I’m also open to give advice though I feel completely unqualified to do so. And more than that, I am more than happy to be an ear or helping hand.

Want to know more about Susan?

 

Skin and Bones (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 1)

Being human in a world filled with supernatural creatures can give a girl a complex. Dr. Ever Chace wants nothing more than to be able to stand out in this crazy place she calls home. When she’s asked to consult on a case where teens are being brutalized, she relishes the chance to make a difference by helping to stop a monster. But when she’s teamed up to work alongside a sexy shifter, she ends up with more than she bargained for.
Derek Doyle has been a member of the Paranormal Investigations Team since the monsters first revealed themselves to the world. Considering he believes it takes a monster to catch a monster, he’s definitely in the right place. As a lone wolf not used to letting many people in, he isn’t prepared for the effect his new partner, consultant Dr. Ever Chace, has on him.
With a murderer on the loose, Ever and Derek will have to put their attraction aside while the hunt continues. Easier said than done… right?

 

Buy Skin and Bones from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 Collateral Damage (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 2)

When Derek Doyle wakes up next to a ripped-apart body, he’s terrified he’s about to lose everything he holds dear—Ever, his job, and his family. Dealing with his past has never come easy to Derek, especially since he’s too afraid of what people would think if they knew exactly what kind of monster he really is. But finding out who’s setting him up could be harder than the team thinks. As long as Derek has lived, there’s bound to be a long list of enemies.
Ever Chace has a lot on her plate. Confronted with the possibility that she is indeed losing her mind, Ever tries to push it aside as they deal with the ramifications of Derek’s past. Every new relationship has teething problems, but learning to deal with a mate who’s used to being a lone wolf has its own set of issues.
Can the team figure out how to save Derek from a swift execution? And just how much strain will the revelations put on Derek and Ever’s shiny new relationship?
Collateral Damage is the exciting sequel to Skin and Bones by Susan Harris.

 

Buy Collateral Damage from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

 

Smoke and Mirrors (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 3) 

Ever Chace is a Valkyrie, but not just any Valkyrie—she’s a Valkyrie queen in the making.
Torn between the past and present, love and obligation, Ever is terrified of saying the words that would break the curse she is bound to. Pushing Derek away hasn’t simplified things; it has only made her miserable. With her father waking, and her and Derek’s lives on the line, can she really shy away from who and what she is becoming? How long can Ever keep her past lives a secret?
Pushing thoughts of his mate aside, Derek tries to focus on the task at hand—tracking down a monster that leaves nothing but a husk behind. But Ever is never truly off his mind, even as two of his own become targets of the unsub. Can he set his personal distractions aside to keep his team alive?

 

Buy Smoke and Mirrors from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Night of the Hunter (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 4)

Caitlyn Hardi is on a mission…a suicide mission. Driven by the pain of the past, she sets out to confront the monster deep in the Catacombs of Paris—the one who took everything from her. Caitlyn doesn’t care if she survives Paris. Her only concern is that the vampire who made her does not take another family from her. If dying means keeping everyone she loves safe—especially Donnie—then Caitlyn can accept that…as long as she can take her maker to Hell with her.
Donnie O’Carroll began to live the moment Caitlyn made him a vampire. Caitlyn gave him a family, a purpose, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to allow the darkness to overwhelm the woman he loves. He will fight to the end to prove to Caitlyn that love can conquer all—even if he has to die to do it.
Sacrifice, a supernatural assassin, and immortal love are on a cosmic collision course in this powerful fourth installment of the Ever Chace Chronicles.

 

Buy Night of the Hunter from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Never Back Down (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 5)

(Coming June 26, 2018)

Since the day that she was abandoned on the shores of Valhalla, and fought her way to be the fiercest Valkyrie, Erika has lived by those three words. There has never been a challenge Erika has backed down from; apart from Loki. But when Erika embeds herself in a supernatural fight club in the hopes that she can weed out Odin’s location, Erika will be put to the test. And when love and loyalty cause confusion, can this battle-hardened warrior finally let her guard down enough to see what’s been in front of her all along?

Loki knew the moment he clapped eyes on the beautiful warrior that she was meant for him. However, the Norse God of mischief hides a secret; he was once cursed and has shied away from his feelings to shield himself from hurt. Can he convince Erika that he’s the one meant for her, will he be forced to watch the woman he wants for himself spiral out of control?

 

Buy Never Back Down from Amazon

 

Shattered Memories

Shattered Memories is a stand alone psychological science fiction romance thriller perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Shatter Me.

A terrible tragedy forced Alana McCarthy to forget a year of her life. Now she is to be executed for a crime she doesn’t remember committing—the murder of her entire family. Lost and alone, Alana is terrified of unlocking secrets buried so deep inside her mind that she’s willing to forget the one person who could set her free.
Daniel Costello hasn’t forgotten about Alana, and he will do anything and everything to protect the girl he loves. But first, Alana needs to unlock her memories and find out the truth about what happened the night her family was killed.
The day of her execution is set. Together, will Alana and Daniel be able to uncover the truth behind her family’s deaths before it’s too late?

 

Buy Shattered Memories from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

 

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Writing A Second Novel

Writing a novel is so much pressure. You struggle to come up with a decent concept, struggle with world-building, develop interesting characters that will grow and evolve, make sure there aren’t any unresolved plot points and that you’ve reached the end you envisioned. Next you must edit—remove unnecessary commas, correct misspelled words, replace filtering words, hunt down the illustrious “show vs tell” segments. Then you dive into the submission pressure pool of writing a query and synopsis, researching agents/publishers and submitting. But once you’ve published that first book the pressure is a thing of the past, right?

Erm, in a word…no! 

Welcome to the Follow-Up Foibles, aka all the pitfalls that can make your second novel even more stressful than the first.

 

The fears and stressors that affect your writing during book two:

  • If you’ve got a contract/deadline for book #2 you’re under more pressure to complete your next book within a certain time frame. Luckily, I didn’t. My first novel was signed as a stand-alone and #2, though a companion novel, was developed after A Shine That Defies the Dark was contracted.
  • With your first novel you’re filled with optimism and still a blank canvas as an author. Nobody has preconceived ideas about your writing style or skill. With book 2 you have an established skill level, voice and marketability as a debut author. You can fall to the pressure of having to “prove yourself”—and the fear that each book thereafter will be used to gauge your skill as a writer.
  • With Book 2, you know now how much hard work comes after the novel is written. You know that after the soul-crushing, gut-wrenching work of writing your book is done you’ll be back in the trenches of promoting and marketing, not just one book now, but both.
  • There is an undeniable fear that you’ll disappoint your readers. What if everyone who loved book 1 are lukewarm about #2? Will you feel you’ve failed  them? Will you have failed your book? If book 2 doesn’t stand up will you have failed Book 1 as well?
  • After months (or years!) of reading, re-reading and editing book 1, you thought you were done with it, right? Well, if Book 2 is a sequel you’ll need to re-read book 1 (at least once!) for timeline, character growth, minor character reintroduction and plot line. Setting up a calendar, or event timeline that ties both books together can help so that you only must do this step once.
  • There is a great deal of stress in trying to make book #2 at least as good as the last and the paralyzing self-doubt that it isn’t even close. This fear can wreak havoc on your creativity and productiveness.
  • There is a degree of pressure in people asking when your next book will be out. While you’re happy they want more, the paralyzing self-doubt that “I’m a scam and the first book was a fluke” can impact your creative process. If I hadn’t finished my 1st novel, very few people would know. If I fail to finish book 2, well…more would know
  • Will my second book be as good a concept? Will my pacing and action balance well with the romance? Will my “steamy” scenes just seem like I recycled the ones from book 1? Will there be anything unique to the readers or will it seem like the same story with different character names in a different town?

 

The good news about the stress involved in writing book two:

  • Some of the stress is healthy for your writing. It shows you care, you aren’t taking it for granted that you’re a published author and don’t have to work so hard anymore.
  • If you’re obsessing over the details, it means you’re thinking about them. What sets this novel apart? How can I make it unique? You care about the quality of your work, which is good.
  • You don’t have to let the stress impact you in a negative way. Use it to fuel your productivity and creativity. There is nothing wrong with striving to do better. Just be sure to balance the inspiration with relaxation (take a walk, watch a movie, read a book!). Creativity is fueled in the quiet times a well as the busy ones.

When you’re done you’ll have a new book to be proud of. 

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