Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, March 30, 2009

Could you pitch your book in 3 sentences?

The Knight Agency is holding a contest! The "Book in a Nutshell Competition" challenges writers to pitch their book in only three sentences.

Yep, you read that right. Anyone who's game has just THREE SENTENCES (150 words max.) to pitch their manuscript to an agent.

From the blog: "Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work...and it may even lead to possible representation."


Enter TKA's Book In a Nutshell Competition!

I have received a rejection from TKA for one of my novels in the past. Reading the comments, I gather I'm go for pitching a different manuscript. I have no idea how I could sum up my story in 3 sentences. But this is a fun diversion and of course I'm gonna give it a shot.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Welcome to Ghost Town, USA!

You hear all about "ghost towns." You know them: Deserted cities with nary a soul in sight. But there are different kinds of "ghost towns" out there that aren't so deserted. Real cities, real towns -- and real ghosts.

While doing research for the haunted houses book, I came across a site about a real "ghost town" where several residents shared stories of ghostly sightings and hauntings. I was surprised by the idea that a whole city could be haunted, often with several ghosts. (It's rumored that the Bell Witch haunts the whole town of Adams, Tennessee to this very day.) Curious, I dug deeper, and soon learned there were actually several cities in various parts of the country that earned the title of being a "ghost town," simply because the whole city was haunted!

I continued my research into this. More stories surfaced. But what I was looking for was something a little more concrete than just urban legends and rumors. I wanted something with solid evidence that hauntings are indeed taking place in these cities.

And after some thought, I got an idea on just how to go about in getting that evidence. And if ANYONE would have good, hard evidence of a haunting, it would be the paranormal investigators who look into them.

The professional paranormal investigators who investigate a haunted location aren't going to fake feeling dizzy or plant something to prove a haunting. These people take what they do very seriously and are willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of whether or not there is indeed paranormal activity taking place. They won't fudge their reports or buy into any hype. They'll give honest and thorough information about what they find at an investigation. And the tools they use to gather this evidence -- EVP, digital photos, motion detectors and heat sensors, etc. -- are all recognized as legitimate equipment for the purposes of research and investigation.

For this reason, I knew that if I wanted to get stories straight from the horse's mouth about these haunted cities, and the ghosts haunting them, the investigators are the people to turn to. I have been interviewing many investigators who have gathered evidence (including photos) that locations in haunted cities are indeed haunted and contain ongoing paranormal activity. I have come across many of their reports and gathered information about their cases, as well as researching many claims, all in an attempt to prove that these real ghost towns are actual "ghost" towns inhabited by spectral residents.

My current WIP will show readers the many cases of hauntings in real haunted cities and offer personal eyewitness accounts of these hauntings from investigators who have seen the real thing with their own eyes. Through research, reports and interviews with no-nonsense, straight-talking investigators, this new book will serve as the last word on whether or not a town is haunted, and the truth behind the ghosts haunting them!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not-so-great expectations

I like to think I am someone who won't be held back by my physical limitations. Because of my left hand being the way it is, I must type with one hand. Still, I type. Because of the third degree burn scars on my face, I must endure mean and disgusted looks from some people when I go out in public. Still, I go out in public.

But the biggest challenge for me is my deafness. Yes, I am deaf. Profoundly deaf. "Deaf as a post." LOL I don't wear a hearing aid because it hurts my one good ear. (My left ear was damaged and burned in the car accident I got my burns from.) I am going to try to find one that I can wear, though. Meantime, I don't wear one. I rely on lip-reading, sign language and written communication as a way to communicate with others. (Also, email, texting and online chatting.) I can talk just fine, and usually manage to get what I want to say across to others if I remember to speak loud enough. (That's a problem I've had for some time.)

It's just the receiving of communication from others that is the hard part. And this has been an even bigger challenge for me as far as being an author is concerned.

You hear so much about how authors must do all of these things to promote their books and themselves. And sadly, a lot of that "promotional pressure" emphasizes aspects of the hearing world. Radio interviews. Speaking engagements. Appearing on shows. Teaching workshops and giving lectures.

All of those things require you to be able to hear. Or, at least, competently communicate with others.

Fortunately, I am not yet at a point in my career where I need to stress out over things like that. I don't have to panic and try to find someone who can hear to tag along on all of those engagements. (I don't have one at the mo. All of my family lives far away.) But I know that time will come. And I also know I'm going to be tearing my hair out in trying to figure out HOW I will manage to do those things.

All of the people I work with -- editors and publishers -- know that I am deaf. (Though sometimes they forget.) And I usually make it clear that I am deaf if I have to. (When an interviewee says in an email that I can contact them by phone, I let them know first that I am deaf and must use a relay service. Some people are not comfortable with relay calls. Or they don't have the patience for one.)

And because they know that I am deaf, they probably understand that doing a speaking engagement or a radio interview would be a little difficult for me. It's not that I'm not willing to use whatever means necessary to promote my book(s). I'm all for the promotional stuff and do whatever I can fit into my chaotic life. But some things are just a little too undoable for me, a deaf person trying to fit into a hearing medium.

And then I think about the people who don't know that I am deaf. Literary agents I'm querying who are peeved I either don't answer the phone when it rings or that I don't provide a phone number. Or editors who give acceptances via a phone call. And when they can't contact me by phone....what then?

With any disability, we have to adapt. We have to change the way we see things and our expectations. We have to live our lives around our disabilities. But even still, there is only so much adaptation that we can do in the hearing world. There is only so much we are able to do. Whether or not editors and publishers are willing to make exceptions with a disabled person as far as promotional efforts are concerned remains to be seen.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Advice for the aspiring author

Many years ago, when I was just starting to get serious about having a career as a writer and becoming a novelist, I foolishly signed with a co-op that would publish my book if I footed half the bill. Young and naive at the time, and not so aware of the various types of publishers out there and ones to avoid, I went through with it. I didn't revise my manuscript. I didn't get any crits or feedback on it. I didn't do any research on the publisher or even know much about what kind of publishers there were. Those were my mistakes and even though my book got into print, I was left with a manuscript that is in poor shape and one which is very hard to buy a copy of. (As it is, I have remainder copies of this novel, but I have not been very zealous in promoting it for the very reason that it is poorly written.)

Just starting out, I apparently got taken in by a shady business with even greater shady dealings. What happened to me today stands only as a reminder to never again be so lax about understanding the various types of publishers out there, being aware of scammers and checking people out.

I recently came across information about a literary agency that was sending writers a referral, first to use their editing service then providing the suggestion that the writer self-publish their book instead. To say the least, I was outraged. This suggestion came only from a query letter (under normal circumstances), and a writer querying a literary agent is obviously not interested in self-publishing their novel. (Self-published novels are a hard sell.) The response this agency was handing out was not only confusing but very unprofessional.

A literary agent or acquisitions editor will give you one of two responses to your query letter: "Yes, send me more" or "No, sorry, not for us." Those are the only two kinds of responses you, the aspiring author, can expect to receive.

If an agent or publisher says something like "we'll get you published if you use our editing service to whip your manuscript into shape!" or "here's a contract, give me money" or "your writing is so brilliant that I want to post your sample chapters on my site for a small fee and we'll hope a publisher somehow or another finds your marvelous work then offers an advance" then run away. RUN. AWAY. Do not sign with these agents -- and especially a publisher who promises you the world for all rights to your work, ownership for 7 years and/or an up-front fee. (Somehow, these people will convince the writer who doesn't know better that publishers and acquisitions editors spend hours surfing the Internet looking for new talent. Sorry to say, they don't.)

Besides being wary of responses to your query such as the above, another good habit for any aspiring author is to never jump the gun. If you're offered a contract, don't blindly sign on the dotted line. Read the contract first. Study its terms and ask a fellow writer about anything which might leave you a little confused. (Don't ask the agent or editor; if there's a chance they are shady, they'll only confuse you even further with their twisted lingo or tell you not to worry about that, it's just standard). Make sure you agree with the terms in the contract. If you're not comfortable about something, try to negotiate with them. (You can negotiate the terms of your contract!) Go with your gut on this. If something doesn't sound right, chances are it's not.

Also, don't believe lies a shady agent or publisher will tell you. It is NOT standard to pay to get your book published. It is NOT standard to sign away all of the rights to your book.

A final word of advice: Do your homework. Check out agents, editors and publishing companies. Look into the kinds of books they've done, if they're available in major bookstores, if they are in professional condition (good covers, little to no typos and pages that are professionally set). Try to netwok with some of their authors. Visit the agent or publisher's blog or look them up on social networks such as Facebook or MySpace. Take the time to see what they are all about. Google them. Read what other people are saying about them. In this process, time is your friend. Give an agent, editor or publisher a little time and see what they're doing, who they're doing business with and how things move along with them.

You can check out agents, editors and publishers on sites such as Absolute Write (check out "Bewares and Background Check"), Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware. Newsletters for writers such as WritersWeekly will often have a "warnings" section that will let writers know if someone is better left avoided.

Bottom line: Go the extra mile to make sure the agent and publishing company you sign with is legit. Check out their background, check out their work and take the time to examine just exactly what a contract is asking for. Your career as an author will be much better for it.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Read an E-Book Week: Still time left to get a free E-Book!

As we near the end of Read an E-Book Week, I just want to comment on how wonderful it has been for me to delve into the world of E-Books and learn all about authors who are offering free E-downloads during this occasion. I have been enjoying the free E-Books but I have enjoyed even more learning about authors and E-publishers out there.

In honor of Read An E-Book Week, some authors with E-copies of their books have offered them for free. Sites which sell E-Books have either offered a free download or E-Books marked down at low prices. Some writers have been promoting Read an E-Book Week through their blogs, newsletters, sites and bulletin boards. This is, by far, not just a special occasion where E-Books and their authors get to have center stage, but writers also get to join in on promoting it. While the goal of Read an E-Book Week has been primarily to draw international attention to E-Books, it is also just one more way to get more people to read books (even if they are electronic books). The fact that many authors are offering their books for free is even better. I have encountered some people who say "well, I've never read an E-Book, but in honor of the occasion, I might as well give it a try." And more people are willing to "give it a try" if the E-Books are free. With such a tough economy and everybody trying to pinch pennies, it makes sense to go after free E-Books during this special week. You get more books without paying a cent! (I am just as enthusiastic at building my electronic library of books as I am on building a library of print books.)

I am glad I was able to do this blog series to celebrate the week and it's been a great experience to learn all about those great E-Books and E-Book authors we wouldn't otherwise get to hear about.

Today I downloaded a free copy of the novel Dream or Destiny by Lillie Ammann
Get your copy, among others, here: Free E-Books for Read an E-Book Week

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Read an E-Book Week: Just a link today

Readers, forgive the extremely late blog post today. I have been sick and it's hard for me to think straight. (As it is, I've had to fix typos in this post!) The stomach pain and nausea are pretty intense. I barely got any writing work done today. My daughter, who is also sick, was home from school today.

So without further ado, here is another link where you can download free E-Books: http://www.witguides.com/
I downloaded the E-Book Learn HTML and Build A Website by D. Thompson



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Read an E-Book Week: Finding the time to read -- an E-Book!

I had some time to kill last night, before going to bed. How did I spend it? I popped open an E-book I am currently reading until I was tired enough to fall asleep.

Reading right before going to sleep has always been a time-honored tradition in many homes. For some, reading before sleeping helps them to calm down or slow the thought processes of a busy mind. It also alleviates stress faced from the day.

But reading right before going to sleep is also just one opportunity of time to do any reading at all. You can also make time to read by including it in your early morning routine, while waiting for something or someone, and as you work away at something on the computer and need a short mental "break" from the task at hand.

A big argument against E-books from those who do not read them is that they just don't have the time. The thought of sitting at a computer for a long time, just reading an electronic book? Forget it. (Apparently, some think it's perfectly okay to spend hours at the computer chatting or playing games. How is reading an E-book a worse alternative?)

I see reading E-books to be just the same as reading a print book. If you can make time to read a print book, you can make the time to read an E-book. Take what time you have free to read and try reading an E-book instead. You're still reading a book, even if it's not one that you're holding in your hands.

Today's free E-book download: Private Lies by Amy Eastlake
Get it for free here:

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Read an E-Book Week: Better than the real thing?

For the longest time, I've been an ardent supporter of good, old-fashioned print books. I realize that E-books have been around for a long time, though not as long as print books (understandably), but I never really quite caught on to the E-book craze.

In my defense, I prefer to have a book I can carry around. I like to read while I'm doing housework, waiting for the water to boil on the stove, waiting for something to happen/finish/work (usually work! haha), and while riding along in the car when we take a long trip. (The same can be said about going on long flights or train rides, but I'm iffy with flying right now after my daughter and I had to spend the night at an airport in Vegas. Ugh!)

I also don't like sitting down for long periods of time -- unless I am writing!

But, there are still some good qualities about Ebooks.

First of all, E-books are more environmentally friendly. You don't need to cut down a tree to make an E-book. They save paper, time, resources and money.

Second, they're more affordable. If you can't afford the print version of a book, chances are good you'll be able to afford the E-book version.

And, finally, there's an E-book for everyone. They're not just something you download onto your Palm anymore. There's Kindle, Adobe, eReader, etc. There's even some E-books available as a Word document! And oftentimes, you don't need to purchase special equipment to read an E-book. The special equipment, like a Palm or Kindle, makes it easier to carry around your E-books and to have them all in one place, but they're not the be-all and end-all to E-book accessibility. I have Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF files, as well as eReader and DigitalWebBook Reader (DNL files). Some E-books are even available in HTML formats, and on author sites.

While I know I'll never give up my love for ACTUAL printed books (and I'm in the process of putting together my own library of books), I have found that E-books aren't all that bad. Just as I have quite the library of print books, I also have quite the library of E-books.

Traditional bibliophiles will cling to print books, saying they prefer the touch, the smell and the feel of a real book in their hands. (Yes, some even say they prefer the SMELL of a real book! Myself, I'd rather focus my scent on coffee.) But E-books are just as good to read if you can't read a print book. Or if you're unable to read a print book. It's definitely one other form of media you can enjoy reading books in, and one worthy of being counted as a worthwhile form of reading.

I think as long as people are reading books, print or otherwise, there's no reason to bicker over which one is better. Actually, I think we should keep the comparison limited to the actual books that are read, and not the format they are read in.

Most recent free E-book download: Fallen Angels by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven and Michael Flynn
Get it here, with others, at: http://www.baen.com/library/

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Read an E-Book Week: Interview with Rita Toews

Interview with Rita Toews, Co-Founder of Read an Ebook Week

By: Dawn Colclasure

Rita’s bio: Rita Y. Toews is a Canadian author living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, with her husband and obligatory author's cat.
She has written three children's e-books, KELLY’S BABY BROTHER, CHRISTMAS STARS and THE BULLY. CHRISTMAS STARS was voted one of the best e-books for 2002, and KELLY’S BABY BROTHER won an award of excellence. As well, she has co-authored several novels with Hungarian author, Alex Domokos. THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, Domokos' biography, won a Clara Award and an Eppie Award and is available in audio. PROMETHEUS, a future fiction novel, was on the McNally Robinson best-seller list for two weeks. Their e-book, MASQUERADE, has been published by a Canadian print publisher.

Q: What is your background as a writer?

I've wanted to write since I was young but never really did anything about it until I had launched my family. I found university writing classes gave me the confidence to begin submitting articles to periodicals and newspapers. From there I graduated to children's stories and novels.

Q: Have you published any Ebooks? If so, what kind and where can we find them?

Yes, I've published several e-books. Along with my co-author we've done 3 novels with Hard Shell Word Factory - two, THE PRICE OF FREEDOM and PROMETHEUS, are available now, and THE CENTURION will be available soon. Our mystery book, MASQUERADE, is in e-book format with Books Unbound E-Publishing, as is my children's book CHRISTMAS STARS. MASQUERADE was also picked up by a print publisher and released as BODY TRAFFIC. Writers' Exchange has published a collection of our short stories entitled TEN CHOCOLATES FROM THE BOX in e-book format, as well as my children's story KELLY’S BABY BROTHER.

My children's e-book on bullying, THE BULLY, is available free from my website http://www.thebullybook.com Demand from teachers for THE BULLY in print was so great that it was published as THE BULLY: A DISCUSSION AND ACTIVITY STORY.

Q: Are you a BIG Ebook reader? How do you find the time to read Ebooks? What are some of your favorites?

Time! That's the big factor in reading, isn't it? I'd love to read more but where does one find the time? I have e-books on my Hie e-book reader as well as my Palm. I tend to lean toward the mysteries, or thrillers. Wayne Arnold's PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY from Books Unbound was a great read. When I'm in the mood for a good laugh I'll look to Darrell Bain's humor books.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Read an Ebook Week? Why did you create it?

I think e-books initially got a bum rap. The print publishers weren't happy to see e-books gain ground and it was difficult for individual authors and small presses to make an impact on their own. I felt that a united effort, supported by readers who wanted to read books from independent sources rather those dictated by large presses, was needed. Enter Read An E-Book Week. This week gives writers and publishers of electronic literature a chance to "toot their horn" so to speak. Read An E-Book Week is registered with Chase's Calendar of events so it opens doors to the media who are looking for stories to cover. For example, libraries have become receptive to e-books and welcome a display during this week.

Q: Has Read an Ebook Week gotten a lot of press? Any special notice? How do you promote it?

It has gotten some press. I'm approached each year for an interview regarding the week. I usually appear on our local television station and I put together a display for our library. This year has been difficult because I've been away on book tour when I should be promoting the event.

Each year I provide banners that are available for authors and publishers to display on their websites. Those can be found at

Q: Which do you think is better for an Ebook writer: Publishing it themselves, using something like Lulu.com or going through an Ebook publisher? Why?

I think an e-book publisher is the best bet for an author. A writer cannot, and should not, try to edit their own material. It's impossible. The eye reads what the brain tells it is there. I've had no experience with Lulu.com.

Q: In your opinion, what makes for a popular Ebook?

Certain genres have caught on in e-books. But even if an author doesn't write in the hot genres there is still the possibility of a best-seller. Promotion is key.

Q: Do you feel that free Ebooks really do bring more traffic to a person's Web site? How can they promote their free Ebook?

Oh yes! A free e-book brings a lot of traffic to an author's site. Make sure the Web page is coded properly in the header with the word "free". A good Web page is one that is saturated with your key words which should include the words 'free', 'e-books' and the words of your specific genre. To promote your books you do need a good Website. Learn basic HTML - it's not hard. A Website doesn't have to be expensive. I did mine using free web creation tools and a free hosting service. If an author wants pointers just get in touch with me. I'll be happy to share my expertise.

Q: How can writing parents squeeze in the time to write their own Ebooks?

That is very difficult - but it can be done. I've known writers who set aside an hour very early in the morning or in the late evening that they dedicate to their writing.

Q: Any final comments about Read an Ebook Week or for writers of Ebooks?

I encourage writers to grab a hold of this week and use it to their benefit. It was created specifically for you! Approach your local media well in advance of the week and open with - "The first full week of March is Read An E-Book Week. As an e-book author I would........" Offer to appear on TV. Offer an interview. Offer to do an information session on e-books at your library, or offer to do a reading. Take advantage of the opportunity to promote yourself and e-books in general.

Originally printed in the March, 2006 issue of the Burning the Midnight Oil Book Zine.

Currently reading: Dreams of Darkness by Elizabeth K. Burton
Download your free copy, along with other free reads from Zumaya, here:


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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Found a story flaw

So today's plan was this: Work on the novel manuscript edits. I'm editing my novel manuscript for hopefully the last time before I send it out to agents. I have not sent these pages out; just the queries. But I'm going to start aiming for agents I haven't yet queried only because they won't accept e-queries, and one particular agent requests sample pages with the query. (I know I have said before that there's nothing wrong with sending an e-query. Really, there isn't! A lot of my published work got accepted with e-queries. But I'm running out of agents to query who accept the e-queries and that means it's time to focus on agents who want snail mail. I'll go bankrupt sending ALL of them snail mail queries and samples, so I have to pick just a few select agents, and only the ones worth their stuff, at a time.)

I started working on the edits, one eye on whether anything came up with any of my current book projects. Finding nothing and not having many leads to follow, I decided to just go for it. Get some work done on those edits!

Now this is a manuscript I have been editing and revising for a looong time. Longer than I would like to admit. So you can imagine the numerous times I have gone over certain scenes and dialogue.

Which is why I couldn't believe it when I caught a glaring mistake in the very first chapter. I won't give out the details, but I'll just say that a character I have in this scene doing something should NOT have been there, because he was only a baby at that time. Not a grown man.

He was still in his cloth diapers at that point in time!


I couldn't believe it. Wow, what a mistake to make! GAH! I was stunned I even caught it, because I should have caught it long ago. I should have latched on to that months ago. Several drafts ago.

Well, maybe someone would have caught it if they'd read the whole manuscript. As it is, my beta readers only read the first few chapters or first half of it, never the whole thing. Same goes with agents I've sent partials to.

Still, I did send the whole darn thing to a publishing company, and the editor didn't even catch that mistake!

So maybe it's just not one of those mistakes many people look out for. Really, you wouldn't notice it just by reading that one chapter. But you WOULD notice it later on, after you get this character's history later on in the story. It'd be like, 'Hey, wait a second. Wasn't he supposed to be just born right when that happened??'

Grr. I'm only glad I caught it now. Now, when I'm sending these sample pages out. It wouldn't hurt anything, because it's only the first chapter and not the whole manuscript. But it's still a mistake that needs to be fixed.

And I am relieved it's a mistake that I did finally catch. Took me long enough to catch it, though.

After I caught this mistake, I decided that I really should create a timeline, just to be sure who is at what age, or alive or dead, at certain points in a story. Timelines are a good thing to have to keep track of everyone and everything! And I'm making a note that perhaps I really should use a timeline for future novels I write -- just to be on the safe side.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Sometimes, the work will find me

So this morning, I got to work with the writing, raring to get all caught up on a couple of articles I have left to write from the 5 I have had overdue. For 2 weeks, I've had trouble getting those 5 articles written, because life was just so CRAZY! But I really hunkered down after everything reached some sense of normalcy, trying to get all caught up.

Last week, I only managed to write one. Over the weekend, I got two more done, but one of them isn't so great and needs tweaking.

So today, I was planning to work on that.

Except, something else came up. Something that has to do with one of the book projects I have going on. And it ended up taking up the better part of my day, too.

I'm not complaining, though. I'm happy that this project is moving along. (And doing a happy dance that I FINALLY found an interviewee I've been searching for. Yay!) But I really had to wonder how just this one thing changed ALL of my writing plans for today. It's like I'll think "I'm gonna work on the articles today!" and....life will just have other plans. It's like, "Uh, no. Actually, you're going to get some work done on THIS book today."

It kind of feels like my whole writing schedule is being monitored, or something. Completely rearranged or something. I know that things happen for a reason (even when we can't figure out why!) but it's still weird how this will happen.

It also reminds me of that whole "ask and ye shall receive" thing, too. Like in the past, I wanted to be a book reviewer. That only happened after an author I know asked me to write up a review of her book, and the editor I submitted my review to wanted me to join her team of reviewers. (I'm still sad that ended. *cries* I miss reviewing books.)

And I have been trying to find this very kind of interviewee for this book. Seriously, I've been kinda frustrated I didn't have ANYONE to interview or include quotes from for this chapter. So I guess you could say I sorta "asked" for this and, here we are. Signed, sealed, and delivered. Still kinda funny how it factors into changing my plans, though. But I guess you can never really plan anything!

And on that note: Sometimes, a project will fall right into my lap. I'll take on writing projects of things I never thought I'd write or don't even have credentials for, only because someone approached me with it and I felt I could do it or I fell in love with what the project involves, what it's about or how I've wanted to do this very thing but never got my foot in the door with it. (A few projects come to mind.) I embrace these new adventures, these new challenges. It's interesting how that will factor into reshaping my whole writing agenda itself, too.

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