Category Archives: Writing

Stirring things up

One of my goals while not drafting new material is to shake things up around here. It’s nothing drastic, just an attempt to sweep out the old and try some new things.

I need to change my banner, but with a couple of releases looming, I’ll probably just wait until one of the new books comes out. I can recycle the underwater scene when Lanternfish shows up in the Amazon store.

Start over there.

(Not liking this new editor. This should be centered. Probably fix it with the old editor)

In my sidebar, I always keep the two most recent publications available as quick ways to check out those books. I could put all of them over there, but that would be a busy mess. These images are about to be replaced by HMS Lanternfish and The Ballad of Mrs. Molony in the next couple of months.

You can always find everything on my Amazon page, but if you’d like to check out Serang or Grinders, the links are still there. I think they’re two of my better works. Serang is a great way to climb aboard the Lanternfish saga.

Up Top

All blogs have pages, but very few people check them out. I’m making some changes up there, too. If you were familiar with my layout, you’ll notice something missing. I have retired Lisa Burton Radio.

This regular feature was designed so I could pay back all the help others have given me along the way. I designed something a bit different that loaned out Lisa’s popularity as an interview of your fictional characters. They were labor intensive, but quite productive.

Honestly the interviews worked best when I promoted them. By doing that I kept a regular schedule of one per week for over two years. It was fun collaborating with my fellow authors, and we moved a few books along the way, too.

I wanted some of my time back, and quit pushing authors to try it out. They were available upon request, and there’s the rub. Nobody was requesting them. Most authors are introverted to a degree, but we have to promote our wares someplace. Good free options are drying up from lack of use, and Lisa Burton Radio is one of those casualties.

My door is still open to folks who want a place to promote their books, but you can write the darned things now.

Still up there

I’ve added a new page to check out. Music plays a big role in The Hat series. Lizzie and The Pythons play music as a way to get her out at night and travel around as they explore the supernatural world.

Some of my Story Empire friends suggested that playlists are popular and that I should consider sharing one. I’ve never tried anything like this before, and didn’t have a playbook, so I made my own up.

I have a huge playlist on my phone that goes along with these books. However, I limited this page to things that got mentioned in the books. Videos are bandwidth eaters, so I didn’t want a page of videos to clog up your processors. I went with links to most of them, but included a few videos from key moments in the stories.

I won’t publish The Ballad of Mrs. Molony until later this year, but I included the music up above. Maybe it will inspire some interest in that tale. When I have a link and cover I’ll make sure to update it. I threw in a couple of tiny Lisa Burton posters for flavor. As I get those for Mrs. Molony, I’ll add one for that book, too.

I’m looking for feedback on this page. If you think I need the artists, let me know. Some of the older tunes don’t have great videos available so I went with what I could find.

I should change the wallpaper from Frankie’s brindle coat to something more summery. My zucchini is trying to bloom, so maybe it’s time for some bright yellow flowers.

Let me know what you think, and if the pointers are centered when you visit, you’ll know I used the good editor to fix what this abomination thinks I need.

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It’s a staycation

One of the things I enjoy is writing. It makes sense that I would do some of it for relaxation. I worked on a lot of projects, but none of them involve drafting new material.

Yesterday I bought a ladder. Exciting, right? I have a nice six-footer, but have to stand on the top to change the lightbulbs in the living room. (You know that label that says never do this? I’ve been that guy.) Ten years ago that was fine, and I’ve been doing it all this time. Pushing sixty, I’m just not willing to do that any longer. (Plus 2020 doesn’t feel like the year to gamble.) I bought a nice eight-footer, and it’s a simple matter to change the bulbs without risking life and limb.

I collected all my critiques for Mrs. Molony and made changes based upon that input. After that, I sent out the next chapter. There isn’t much left to send out, and after that I’m sure my critique group will appreciate the break.

The short story got to the point where I’m changing things, then changing them back. That’s usually a sign that it’s time to set it free. I emailed it in to the publisher.

I’ll be dealing with Mrs. Molony, either going out or coming back, as it happens. I won’t touch Lanternfish until I get Mrs. Molony to that point.

It’s been months since I looked at the first chapters of Lanternfish, so I could start reading it. I’d love to get it out in a couple of weeks, so I don’t have to kill myself to get Mrs. Molony out for Halloween. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Halloween season is kind of a stick-pin, so the sooner the better for Lanternfish.

I also committed to hosting a friend. She sent me all the pieces, and I need to assemble it. That will probably be top priority tomorrow. I might even try some of it at the Toyota dealership. I have to take my truck for service early, but they have WiFi.

I also picked up a book I started months ago and read a chapter. Something is lost by doing it that way, but I admit to having a sneak peek at it before it was published. More reading is on my list during my break.

I don’t have to return to work until Monday, so other things on my list could happen. I need to start a storyboard for the final Lanternfish book. The next book about Lizzie and the hat could benefit from one, too.

Honestly, I still love my stand-alone titles, and I have I couple of nearly complete boards for two. I’m going to have to park on those because I’ve committed to series work for now. Halloween will be a stick-pin for one, and I want to conclude Lanternfish in 2021 as well.

I think I can accomplish more before I have to return to the office. Eventually, I’ll be down to storyboards and reading. That’s going to be nice, and will clear some room to get Lanternfish out the door.

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Shifting gears.

It wasn’t part of my long term plans, but I’m going to take a kind of break. This doesn’t mean I’m not writing, It just means I won’t be drafting new stories right now.

This morning I finished the draft for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. I’m debating a couple more paragraphs, but don’t know if they’re necessary.

This story involves Lizzie and the hat in pursuit of a pair of rodeo cowboys. These guys are now members of the undead. This allows the band, Lizzie and the Pythons, to explore country music as part of catching the bad guys. Made for some cool outfits and hat styles, too.

Lizzie has a small melt-down over the music. At the end she returns to more familiar ground. I could add a couple of paragraphs to show how they weave in some country songs without compromising what they like. Or I could leave it out.

I’m calling it finished, regardless of what I decide. I need to work up some blog ideas for the books, work with my cover artist, decide if I’m spending any promo money, but I doubt it. Think about formatting. Oh yeah, I’m going to need some of those silly graphics to put in Mrs. Molony so as to keep with the theme.

I’m going to be storyboarding, too. The final Lanternfish is going to require a storyboard. I have two novels full of information that I have to stay faithful to. There are a bunch of loose ideas for the finale. A board helps me mold all that into a decent story.

I think next year’s Hat story could benefit from a storyboard, too. I want this one to be more grim with an undertone of sadness, while still keeping the humor going. Not an easy task. It’s my intention to break Lizzie mentally toward the end of the next one. That will lead into another one that has a lot going on including a revisit with the witching community.

Aside from that, I have some stand alone novels that are already in the early phases of storyboards. I should probably hold off on these until Lanternfish is complete.

There’s also reading. I haven’t taken a serious reading break for a long time and there is a lot I want to catch up on. I also have a bit of a blog makeover in mind.

Honestly, if I can get Lanternfish out this summer, then Mrs. Molony for the Halloween season, I will have met my yearly goals. If I don’t write another word this year, I’m in pretty good shape.

Just because I’m not working on a draft does not mean I’m not working. We’re going camping this weekend. I’ll probably do some reading while I’m up there.

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Not really an oracle

You have to admit, life has been strange for a while now. I’ve been fighting with technology, old and new. Working from home, and all the learning curve that entails. I wish I really were an oracle, maybe I could make some kind of plans for the future. Here are a couple of interesting things that have happened across the last year. I’m not ready to pick lottery numbers or dive into the stock market, but they’re kind of crazy.

Back in September, on Friday the 13th, I released Viral Blues. This is a story featuring Lizzie and The Hat, and deals with tampering of the nation’s vaccine supply. Not quite the same thing as COVID-19, but maybe it’s just circumstantial. There is localized quarantine in the story. This is dark humor, so I’m not sure anyone is ready for that right now.

I released Grinders on February 18, 2020. This one is a cyberpunk tale that projects what I was seeing at the time into the future. It has cyber-shut-ins in the story. These are people who never leave home. They work from home. Play and gather online. Even take advantage of deliveries for every personal need. I had no idea we’d be living this mere weeks after I published it. It’s kind of starting to creep me out.

Recently I’ve been drafting HMS Lanternfish. This is the second book of a series about pirates in a fantasy environment. A gunpowder fantasy if you like that term. I don’t have a link for this one yet, but here is one for Voyage of the Lanternfish, book one in the trilogy.

A big part of the story is the environment they live in. This leads to what gamers call random monsters on occasion. The first book had a creature called Buwaya. This is like a mashup of a crocodile and a dinosaur. She walks upright on land. She never appeared in the story other than via some vocalizations and stories.

Part of her story is that one day her mate just swam away. Aptly named, Buwaya’s mate, appears in HMS Lanternfish and is a bit more active than she was. (Naming kind of reminds me of Grendel and Grendel’s Mother.) Here is the weird part. Scientists have just discovered a fossilized trackway in present day South Korea. It provides conclusive evidence of crocodiles who walked upright on land. I swear, I didn’t miracle this into existence somehow. It provides some of that reality I try to bring to my speculative fiction. I’ll take it.

Maybe they were in shallow water, and the article didn’t address that. I’ve seen photos of crocodilians standing up in the water with only their nostrils above the surface, but this doesn’t sound like what they discovered. There were no tail-drag marks like you would expect.

Maybe something like this? Maybe not?

If you’re interested, you can check the article here https://tinyurl.com/y7xxu96c

I wish I were an oracle, and these were more than blind-assed luck. I’d find a way to sell a few more copies of these books, and to end this infernal lockdown without making everyone sick again.

The only draft I have going is The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is a new book for Lizzie and The Hat. After that, my focus will move to publication and promotion for the new stories. I’m going to take a break from drafting new material to work on some storyboards.

With my recent string of luck, maybe we’d all be safer if I avoid anything too futuristic for a while. I have one historical piece I could move on next. Or there is the post apocalyptic tale I have roughed out, but it includes autonomous zones and some things you might not want me poking with a stick.

I’d appreciate it if you’d check out the links above. I think these are all good stories, and you might find something that appeals to you. You can also read about the scientific discovery and that might spark you to try out Lanternfish.

What weird circumstances have you stumbled across lately?

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Poking my head above ground

It’s about 10:00 a.m. as I start this post. I just finished the draft of HMS Lanternfish. It’s one hell-of-a-lot bigger than I wanted it to be, but it’s all good stuff.

This is where I start contemplating the old phrase, “Kill your darlings.” It’s an important concept in fiction. Today isn’t the day for that. Today is the day to savor the moment and not dive into something I’m not ready for.

One of the things that occurs to me right now is that every stop the ship made in this adventure involves something important. Every stop does something to advance the story in one way or another. If I start eliminating chapters, characters, or scenes, the story will lose something. If I eliminate some of the monsters and such, it will change the world Lanternfish is set in.

Honestly, in science fiction or fantasy, 120K word volumes are common enough. I didn’t hit that watermark, but I’m not far off.

Only a few of you will know what I’m talking about here, but you can get it from context. If I eliminate Fēngbào, the bringer of storms, or the Omcrom, the story will lose something. Besides, I have a cool Lisa Burton poster on order that involves Lisa vs the Omcrom.

The critique and editing phases always tend to reduce words to a degree, so the count will go down in a small way.

I might eliminate some characters, but who? There are some that were barely used in this volume, but will have a bigger role to play in the final book.

This is why I’m not doing it today. If I send a chapter per week to my crit group, it will take weeks for them to see the end. I have some specific work to do after that, then I always read from start to finish one more time. At this pace, I’ll be lucky to have it out by August.

Somewhere in there, I need to finish The Ballad of Mrs. Molony, too. That ought to clear my head for the Lanternfish read. My hope now is to have Lanternfish out in time that it doesn’t interfere with releasing Mrs. Molony for the Halloween season.

I need to be content today. Show a bit of patience, then turn my attention to the critiques I received over the weekend. I also have a submission to mark up for a partner. Back to the regular grind, tomorrow.

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The weekend warrior

I work during the week, so I have to get my word count on my days off. I’m blessed to have a flex schedule that provides me with an extra day off each week, but it moves around. Sometimes my word counts seem high when I write about them, but if you spread it over a whole week they aren’t any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Today was a slow start for me. I slept in, spent some time for social media, and wasn’t generally feeling it. I also wanted to enjoy my coffee and Old What’s Her Face is off today. I decided to wait until she took the dogs for her coffee, then play ball with them.

It was about 9:00 before I got started. This is the middle volume of a trilogy, so my ending needs to have a complete disaster, while preserving that glimmer of hope they can deal with in the final volume. Yeah, it’s kind of formulaic and I own that. If it works, it works.

My writing turned out to be about a chapter and a half of solid action, and I slightly “told” small bits of it to keep the burner on high for the whole thing. If you think about a city being invaded by an enemy, you need to skip some of the running and hiding and stay with the action. I also included multiple points of view, because it’s a geographically large event.

Even after all that, I still haven’t finished the story. I need to write what is called a sequel to deal with all the things that happened. Staci Troilo is writing an excellent series about that process over at Story Empire.

The crew is in another new location right now. A bit of world building fits in with the flavor of the story. If I’m good, I’ll have one of those inspirational speeches that can lead us into the final volume. I know what remains to include in the story, and where it winds up, but I’m still trying to get there. I’m relatively certain I’ll finish it before I go back to work on Tuesday.

My short story critiques are all back, so I have to deal with those, too. This story needs some work, but it exists and that’s the hard part. Tweaks and repairs aren’t so difficult, and it is a short story.

I’m pretty happy with this Lanternfish tale, but Sundays are hard to get much done. I have other things I regularly do on Sundays. That might be the best day to deal with my short story. Monday will provide a great opportunity to wrap up HMS Lanternfish.

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Missed it by thiiiis much

I hit it hard this weekend. I was so close to finishing H.M.S. Lanternfish I could taste it. Needless to say from the title, I never made it. I blame Rusty, but let’s concentrate on the positives.

I just received critiques back on one chapter, but have about three more written. I also received cover art, and followed this up with ordering the first Lisa Burton promotional poster.

My short story is in the can, but I need to pass over it one more time, then get some other eyes to check it out. I already checked with them, and they’re on board. I’ll probably send it out PDQ. I still need to figure out a title.

Inside Lanternfish, I have a lot going on in these closing chapters. There’s a bit of intrigue and some crazy things, too. I’m going to end it with a lot of daring do, and kind of a disaster at the same time. This is going to be a challenge to pull off, and maybe it’s good that I ran out of time. It might be best to tackle this when I’m fresh so the balance comes out well.

Remember when I said the middle volume of a trilogy is usually the shortest one? Yeah, I was wrong. This one is going to be every bit as long as the first, and may exceed it to a small degree.

All combined, I hit about 9700 words over the four days. That’s nothing to cry about. I’m down to counting weeks before I can send it to my formatter and think about publishing. Honestly, I’m probably about six or seven weeks out. That’s mid-July sometime.

That timetable will depend on me, my mentors and helpers, and Sean Harrington with the promotional posters. It may seem absurd, but I’m already concerned about my ability to have The Ballad of Mrs. Molony available for the Halloween season.

I think I’ll make it all work, and while Lanternfish is aging, I can add words to Mrs. Molony. I need to avoid taking on any more projects and it should be fine.

It’s fun to lament the completion of the draft, but honestly I couldn’t be happier. Even though I lost some time on Saturday and Sunday, I wouldn’t trade a visit with my daughter for a few more words.

Hope all of you had a great weekend whatever you were doing.

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A glorious writing day

This had to be the longest work week in history. It added to my back problems, because I had to spend the entire day yesterday in an uncomfortable chair to attend a Zoom meeting.

I doubted my ability to even get out of bed this morning, but I made it around 7:00. I think the Woodford Reserve helped last night, because I slept like a baby.

Frankie was a little shit most of the morning. She’s really smart and calculates things. She wanted Otto to play outside with her, but he’s figured out her nonsense. She spots an imaginary squirrel, then paws the door with urgency. She runs out all excited, but he watches from the doorway.

Now she’s added me to her game. It was cold, but I’d let her out enough times that I left the door open so she could come and go. She started coming to me in a lather. She stomps her front feet back and forth, makes a Chewbacca noise, then runs to the door… but the door is open.

I decided that maybe someone threw a ball over the fence or something and she wanted me to see it, so I stepped outside and played right into her evil plan. Otto always goes outside if I do. As soon as he stepped onto the patio, she jumped him. I was just a device to get Otto to go outside. I really wanted to write, but you’ve gotta stop and laugh at that.

The Lanternfish crew was in the wake of a large sea battle that introduced some new elements into the story. Today was about what’s known as a sequel. If you haven’t been reading Staci Troilo’s excellent series over at Story Empire, you’re missing out. Here’s a link to the first one.

Stories have a kind of ebb and flow that I’ve always thought of as waves. The crest of the wave is all cannons, fire, and action. The valley between waves is about recovery, regrouping, then forging ahead to the next crest. They’re more properly called Scenes and Sequels. I think the naming is unfortunate, and prefer my wave analogy.

The crew completed their primary mission as privateers. They delivered their goods to the Admiralty. From this point on, everything changes. It’s more dangerous, riskier, and I hope I can pull it off.

One of the weird things I love is an outfit upgrade, and I wrote two into this chapter. One involves passing Yoshiko off as a princess to Western minds. She is a princess, but it isn’t that big of a deal in the East. The hope is the Westerners will fall all over her.

The other involves General Serang. You guys remember Serang. She’s come a long way since her origin story, and her appearance in Voyage of the Lanternfish. Just to refresh your memory, here is Lisa Burton posing as Serang.

Lisa Burton

I really like her makeover, and as she steps to the dock ahead of her army, everything is different. The only things she kept are her weapon, and that rockin’ hat. Sadly, she just marched out of this story. At nearly 96,000 words, the final chapters are all about James and the Lanternfish crew. She has a big role to play in the final book of the trilogy.

Makeovers are a great way to announce a change has happened. There’s something new here. If you like superhero movies you’ll see them used all the time. Two characters, two visions, one of grace and loveliness, the other of power and strength.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with it, but it may need some fine tuning. Today’s word count comes to about 3200. A very good kickoff to my four day weekend.

If you’d like to check out Serang, you can find her origin story or Voyage of the Lanternfish on my Amazon Page.

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Searching for McDoogal #newbook

Let’s all welcome Mae Clair today. She’s one of my best author friends, and a co-founder over at Story Empire. Today she has a new book to tell us about, and it’s a short read. I love short books and it’s nice to see Mae dipping her toes in that water. I read it and gave it five stars.

***

Hi, Craig! Thanks for hosting me today for the release of my Amazon 90-minute short read, In Search of McDoogal. It’s great to have a new release, and a different one at that. As a mystery/suspense author with a bent for urban legends, many of my books carry a somber tone.

Not McDoogal. This is all light-hearted fun. The reader gets to tag along as two friends try to recover a missing painting before the artist returns to town.

Brady Conrad and Declan Fitzgerald met in high school. Now, a dozen years later, they both hold key positions at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Research. Declan is IMER’s Director, while Brady serves as an investigator. Much of the financial stability behind IMER comes from Declan’s grandfather, Bartholomew Winston Everett Fitzgerald, III. That’s a mouthful, right?

The senior Fitzgerald only gets a passing mention in McDoogal, but I have plans to explore his role in the future. I hope to continue “IMER” with a series of short reads and novellas. With that in mind, I even developed a logo for the institute. Check out the image on the left.

Down the road, if all goes well, it may show up on future book covers to designate subsequent tales in the series. And the fact that my institute is devoted to both terra firma and the briny deep, gives me lots of wiggle room to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if an urban legend even crept into institute study down the road. 😉

IMER comes up several times in McDoogal, but the gist of the story is all about that missing painting mentioned above. Brady has mistakenly sold it, and only has a set number of hours to recover it before his girlfriend—the artist—returns from an out of town trip. He doesn’t have much information to go on…the buyer’s name is Abe, he drives an orange pickup, and lives in a small town called Breakers Bay.

Road trip! And naturally, nothing goes smoothly . . .

***

BLURB:In search of something ugly…
All Brady Conrad wants to do is earn a few merit points with his artist girlfriend, so he volunteers to cover her gallery when she leaves town. What should be an easy day of sales goes belly up when he mistakenly sells a cherished painting.
With the clock ticking toward Vanessa’s return, Brady has less than a day to track McDoogal down. He coerces his friend Declan to tag along for moral support. How difficult can it be for an investigator and the director of a renowned institute to find a single painting in a town the size of a postage stamp?
Neither Brady nor Declan counted on a suspicious sheriff, rival baseball teams with a longstanding grudge, or a clueless kid trying to win his girlfriend with all the wrong gifts.
McDoogal is smack in the middle. But Brady’s biggest dilemma isn’t the disastrous hunt. It’s confessing to Vanessa her painting is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen.

***

I hope you’ll join in the fun of this road-trip-buddy-fic-comedy-of-errors. In Search of McDoogal falls into Amazon’s 90-minute short read category—perfect for an extended lunch break or quick read any time of the day or evening.
Thanks for helping me celebrate the release!
PURCHASE FROM AMAZON
Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:
Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up | Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

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A long weekend

I took Friday as a vacation day, and Monday was my flex day. This was just what I needed, to be honest. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t productive, but I didn’t hit it full speed either.

Start with Friday. Old What’s Her Face had to work, so this was my writing day. I tried to hit it hard, because I didn’t expect a better opportunity. I wound up adding 4100 new words to Lanternfish.

I’ve been setting the stage for some of this for a few chapters now. I started to reveal the con job my crew is going to have to pull once they arrive in the war zone. I also have some seeds that haven’t sprouted yet and look forward to those chapters.

Then I sent Lanternfish into a hot welcome in the form of two Hollish warships. With their little fleet, only Lanternfish is capable of defending herself, unless there is an even older battle tactic that might still have some life in it.

I also finally introduced my ghost into the story. This is an old Japanese legend, and honestly, Japanese ghosts are scary as hell. This involves haunted items. I did a ton of research on them, then made my own up to fit the framework. The result was bloody and gruesome, and I’m well pleased with it.

A root monster earned a name (kind of), and they made a mistake involving a golden phallus. Have to keep some of the humor going here.

My wife was off Saturday and Sunday. We’re doing our best to stay home, and did small things around the house. I pruned my Asian pear a bit, and have more to go. I continued with thinning its fruit. I should have sprayed it for coddling moth, but haven’t done that yet.

We turned on Disney+ and watched the new Star Wars movie. We went to it in the theater, but now that it’s that simple we decided to watch it again.

I dabbled with other writing projects, adding a few words to my short story, and a few more to Lanternfish. I’m debating parking Lizzie and the Hat now, until one of those gets finished. This is always a possibility, and it feels like time.

I had one goal for today, and that was to send a chapter of Lanternfish to my critique group. My iPad seems to have a haunting of its own today. When I selected the chapter, it froze up and wouldn’t let me do anything. I closed the app, and that will sometimes break the strangle hold. Not this time. It decided to arbitrarily delete the last two chapters I’d written.

Rather than throwing the stupid thing against the wall. I put it down and made a pot of coffee. About once a year, Old What’s Her Face buys me a can of chickory as a treat, and I used it. This gave me time to think. Apple just had an update and that could be part of my problem. Doesn’t solve anything, but it came to me in the kitchen.

Pages gives me options upon selection of a part of my work, copy/cut/ delete. Maybe it cut the section and was still on the clipboard. I could simply paste it back… Big nope. It had been deleted.

As a last feeble effort I tried the undo button. It restored everything that I’d lost, and I was able to copy and paste it for my critique group. It’s a miracle that I didn’t reboot the whole thing, which would have cleared the undo button.

Today was a possible writing day, too. I continued, but after my adventure, didn’t accomplish much. If you add on the dabbling with the short story and today, my whole weekend probably landed at about 5000 words. Good progress any way you slice it.

Tomorrow is working from home, and Wednesday I get my turn in the office. I have enough work for one day, but really need to go in for more files and such.

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