Friday, May 31, 2013

First Page Friday

Can you believe it's Friday already?  I'm so excited for the weekend and for a new installment of First Page Friday.  

Thank you to our author and to Angela and Heidi for their hard work.  I am so appreciative of everything I've learned from these critiques.

See you next week!

The Entry
A Turn To Windward
by Robert M. Starr


The hands that pushed the rabbet plane carefully along the edge of the lapstrake plank were still strong and skillful, but they were no longer young. And the two teenage boys learning to cut gains into the ends of the planks being shaped for their sailboat no longer noticed the burn scars that began abruptly four inches above the wrists and continued up both arms to disappear under the sleeves of an olive drab T-shirt. As he handed the plane to the older of the two boys, the man was equally oblivious to the fact that both boys looked almost exactly like their Japanese-American mother and bore little resemblance to their Irish-American father.

“Okay, Frank, you finish the gain on this plank, and Joe can do the next one.”

“Sure, Chief,” the seventeen-year-old next-door neighbor agreed. “But stay close until I get the hang of it.” The almond-shaped coffee brown eyes sought reassurance from the faded grey-blue eyes of his teacher. “I don’t want to ruin this plank after all the work we did spiling the lines and cutting it to shape.”

“I’ll be right beside you, but you’ll do the same excellent work you always do, whether I’m watching or not.” Chief encouraged.

Chief felt the vibration of his cell phone before he heard the opening notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony and noted the name of his daughter-in-law on the caller.

“Hi, DeeDee,” he said.

“Chief, you were right,” she said, abrupt as ever. “Rachel is in New York. She’s safe, but she’s in trouble. I need you to meet me at JFK tomorrow. I’ve booked a flight for you. Sorry, all I could get from SeaTac was a ‘red-eye.’ I’m e-mailing the details as we speak.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“She’s in juvenile custody at a treatment center for drug addicts.” The worried mother paused a moment to take a deep breath. “And, Chief, she’s pregnant. I have to meet with a juvenile court judge day after tomorrow, and I need you to be with me. They want to put her in the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Security Program, and I’m going to insist that they let you look after her instead.

“What did she see?” the retired Navy SEAL asked softly.

“A murder.”

Comments by Angela and Heidi from Eschler Editing

What’s Working

You’ve got a good eye for detail, and have obviously put a great deal of thought into choosing interesting embellishments to add intrigue to the story. You’ve also got a couple of attention-grabbers that could function well to hook the reader: the burn scars above the protagonist’s wrists and a murder. In addition, murder is always a good place to start a story, and making the protagonist the grandfather of the witness opens up lots of interesting possibilities. I think you have the talent to pull off the right opening, but be patient, as this review touches on many points and gets a bit long.

Too Much of a Good Thing 

Details can add texture and realism to a story. But in the wrong time and place, they can muddy the story and slow its momentum, distracting the reader from the plot. Every word is a promise to the readers. They will assume that if it’s important enough to bring up in the first pages, it must be significant. So if woodworking or ring tones or the neighbor kids’ ethnic heritage aren’t central to plot, you should strongly consider inserting those details after you get the plot up and moving, rather than using up precious real estate in the first few pages.

Lost in the Jargon

While using detail lends nice realism to the story, the reader can’t infer meaning of new terms when there are so many in use simultaneously—and none of them provide anchoring context that allows readers to deduce what the new word means. There’s too much woodworking jargon (rabbet, lapstrake, gain, spiling) for this spot in the story. Readers like learning stuff like this, but they don’t like having to put down a novel to go find a dictionary. If you pick up a murder mystery at the store, you’re not going to last long if the first page is a how-to woodworking guide. Even if these details are relevant to the plot, there’s time to get to that later. Instead, focus on getting to the inciting incident as soon as possible. In the meantime, one unusual word or term is enough for the page—giving the reader a hint of flavor without drowning them.

Information Overload

It’s true that you want to pack a big punch in a short time, so every word should count. But in addition to too much detail (too many adjectives, especially), the overall amount of data in just these few paragraphs feels like overload. For instance, who uses the full name of the witness protection program, especially if they’re familiar with it? This opening is also crammed full of characters – neighbor boys, DeeDee, Rachel – all named and thus requiring us to pay more attention than we’re ready for, when we haven’t even really gotten a handle on the main character yet.

Don’t be Mysterious about Your Main Character’s Identity

Go ahead and introduce your main characters by name right away. You are going to have to do that in a paragraph or a page anyway, and most readers are savvy enough that they’ll see through the curiosity approach. Like all writing rules, there are exceptions. Daniel Silva uses a mystery approach to introduce his main character in The Kill Artist. But it works because he has a different named point-of-view character that is observing the unnamed stranger. By doing this, he anchors the reader in the scene. In your opening, since there appears to be no reason we can’t know his name, I’d just introduce Chief by name right away and hurry on to the inciting incident.

Start with Action or Strong Intrigue

Murder is great, especially on the first page. It would be even better if the reader could witness it with the character in question. What would happen if you started with Rachel, a teenage girl alone on the streets of NY, witnessing a murder? You’d be showing rather than telling, and it would add intensity to the opening. You could even have her thoughts stray to her grandfather—for good reason, of course—in that scene, thus tying a more page-turning opening with the following introduction of Chief. And even if Chief is the main point-of-view character, you can still open your story with Rachel’s point of view and then switch over. As long as you have one point of view per scene, it works fine.

Naming—Identity Clarity 

First the protagonist is anonymous. Then he’s Chief. Then he’s a retired Navy SEAL. If you jump from label to label for him, it’s confusing for the reader. What is most important about him? A name is an identity and we need that to start defining/assessing and connecting with him. Introduce him by his given name, and if other characters have a different name or nickname, let them use it, but try and keep it to those two unless absolutely necessary. Also, is Chief going to be his name the entire book? Do we ever find out his real name? If so, I’d introduce him using that, then use his nickname where appropriate. A good way to do this is with dialogue reveals instead of the narrator detailing it all.

As for the fact that he’s a retired Navy SEAL, it needs to be introduced relevantly. Definitely before we need it to explain his ability to engage in killer hand combat, say, but in a scene where it would naturally come up as information in dialogue or something else. Not as a stop-the-action-and-let-me-establish-everything-you-need-to-know moment. We don’t remember things that aren’t immediately applicable to our lives in some way. So with character information, if it’s not applicable to something in the story that will anchor it in our memory as significant, we’re very unlikely to remember a character fact when we really need to.

The Stakes

If Chief is the guy we care about, what’s at stake for him with this murder situation? No one seems terribly concerned. Normally, you’d expect family members to be freaking out. But the mother sounds matter-of-fact and the grandpa isn’t jumping to conclusions about his grand-daughter’s safety. There’s nothing for us to be stressed about, and the mood of the scene, if you will, is methodical to the point of being almost meandering. If there’s nothing at stake for the protagonist, the reader has no reason to keep turning the pages. (This is why I suggested an alternate beginning; but drastically changing up what’s at stake in this beginning would work too.) For instance, if you wanted to keep this scene, what if Chief was on the phone at the start of it, the conversation being about the murder and witness protection for his granddaughter, and he’s calmly (or even nonchalantly) wood working while having the conversation? That’s interesting—his lack of reaction. You’d still need to establish something at stake, but it could be something that surprised the reader, or a hint of something surprising, but without your fully committing to revealing all he’s thinking. (What if he thinks it’s lucky his granddaughter only witnessed a murder, rather than being party to one? Obviously that’s just very cynical—or hints at worse—but it’s a type of surprise that would stop a reader in his tracks to find out what kind of grandpa, or granddaughter, would produce a thought like that.) Starting with intrigue rather than overt intensity can also be a good hook, but there has to be a really good playout of mystery and surprise regarding a character’s motives—something totally unexpected for the character archetype that keeps us turning pages. The carrot has to be more than just information.

Point of View

The point of view in the opening is awkward, using that omniscient third person to get in the heads of people and demonstrate what they are NOT noticing about the scene around them. Really, that’s not a POV at all. POV is what defines the relevancy of everything in a scene—it is the story.

POV is the lens through which every detail—setting, character, plot—is built. You need to know why you are using a certain POV. Definitely don't start with what neighbor boys are not noticing about Chief. Yes, the scars are great, but introduce them efficiently. Every sentence should try to accomplish plot, characterization, and setting all at once. You shouldn't have big blocks of text only accomplishing one of those goals. The reader phases out and gets bored when such blocks don't inform the other two elements of story. Maybe note that his scars itch or that he glanced briefly at them as he rolled up his sleeve, thinking for a moment they looked faded – but really it was a trick of the light. Or he noted the neighbor boy looking at them (even if you’ve frequently seen a physical detail on someone else, it can still be interesting to that outside party if said observer has never had that physical experience himself).

Your Next Steps

Keep those details handy – just thin them out of the first page and transplant them in other scenes. Name your character right out of the starting gate and establish a strong POV. Establish the stakes for the protagonist—the most important thing you can do. And start with the most interesting thing (the murder) first. Do this and you’ll strengthen your opening and keep the reader turning pages.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Weird Thing Happened & My Thoughts On Critiques

Yesterday I was driving to pick up my son from school and there was a crowd to one side of the street.  I slowed down and saw a young woman lying half in the road, her leg, arms, and belly all bloody with what looked like road rash.

From my vantage point it seemed like she'd taken a nasty spill off her bike.  She looked like she was a teenager, around 16 or so.  As I mentioned, there was a little crowd around her, several teenage boys, a couple of girls, and a woman.  The woman was bent over her and I rolled my window down and talked to one of the boys I knew to ask what happened.  The woman jerked her head up and said, "We got this."

She seemed really annoyed when I mentioned that maybe someone should call 911 and I was again told "we got this."  I drove slowly away, but the look of pain on that girl's face stayed with me, so I took out my phone and called 911.  I told the operator everything I'd seen and she said she'd send medical help.

At first I felt upset for the girl, then I thought the angry woman would be even more mad I'd called 911 when she said she had things in hand, and then I just hoped the girl got the help she needed no matter who provided it.

Not to take anyone's pain lightly, but sometimes I think we're like that with our manuscripts.  They're obviously bleeding and in need of help, but we don't want help for whatever reason and tell everyone we've got it.

People may offer help to us, but we sometimes feel defensive and angry.  I think we're always grateful when help comes, though, if we're open enough to accept it.  It's just getting to that point where we can see the offers of help as something that will make us better, and not a commentary on any perceived shortcomings on our part.  Most people want to help our manuscripts improve and while it may sting at first to read the critique, if we can sleep on it, generally it seems better in the morning and we can dig in to fix the problems.

What do you think?  Are you more like the angry woman or the one who called 911?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

Well, today is a tender day for me.  My son will be leaving on a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He'll be serving in Texas and while I am so proud of him, I'm going to miss him. Because of this, helping him to get ready and doing a lot of stuff as a family one last time for two years, I didn't get any writing done.  I did have another idea for a twist in Bart's story, but I haven't written it down. I know I'll get back to writing this week and I'll probably need that distraction.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review Her Hesitant Heart

Things haven't really slowed down, but just for my sanity's sake I fit in some reading and finished Her Hesitant Heart by Carla Kelly.

Her Hesitant Heart is about Susanna Hopkins, a divorced woman who is traveling west to Wyoming to accept a teaching position in Fort Laramie.  The details of western life in the late 1800s are amazing and really add to the authenticity of the story.  I loved Susanna's spirit, even though she's suffering through some agonizing personal trials of being separated from her son and the emotional toll of the abusive relationship with her now ex-husband.

The doctor at the fort, Joseph Randolph, also has his own personal demons that he's trying to work through.  He takes Susanna under his wing when the military families don't take kindly to her and the story grows from there.  I like how Ms. Kelly shows the growth in the characters in a very organic way as they work toward reconciling their pasts so they might have a future.  The characters feel real, both main and secondary, and when tragedy strikes anyone at the fort, you feel it along with them.  This was definitely a nice historical afternoon read.  For my clean read friends, this one does have some intimate scenes, but they weren't graphic and were between a married couple, so be aware of that.

Here's the back copy:

Tired and hungry after two days of traveling, Susanna Hopkins is just about at the end of her tether when her train finally arrives in Cheyenne. She's bound for a new life in a Western garrison town. Then she discovers she doesn't even have enough money to pay for the stagecoach! Luckily for her, the compassionate Major Joseph Randolph is heading in the same direction.

As a military surgeon, Joe is used to keeping his professional distance. But, despite Susanna's understated beauty, he's drawn to this woman who carries loss and pain equal to his own and has a heart that is just as hesitant and wary..

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

I hope you're taking advantage of this Memorial Day to hug your loved ones a little bit closer and remember those who have gone on before us.

I'm so grateful for my belief and knowledge in a hereafter where families are reunited and a loving Savior will wrap his arms around us and welcome us home.

Until we meet again . . .

Friday, May 24, 2013

First Page Friday--Oops!

Well, remember on Wednesday when I mentioned this has been the busiest week of my life?  Yeah, I had a little snafu when I thought that this was the last Friday of the month, so I gave the critique to Angela Eschler instead of Ms. Shreditor.  And, of course, Angela is critiquing next week for the last week of the month, as usual.  And poor Ms. Shreditor didn't get a sample to critique because of my mistake.  *sigh*

So, instead of a new critique from Ms. Shreditor, there's just a very sorry and red-faced Julie Bellon.

However, all is not lost.  I was going back over some of the very first First Page Fridays on the blog in 2011 and I thought I'd link you to Ms. Shreditor's debut critique.  The comment trail was pretty good, too!  Lots of great memories from when this blog first started.  Click here to read it.

I'm very sorry about the mistake, but hope you liked the walk down memory lane.  Come back next week for an all new First Page Friday.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Author Newsletters--What Do You Want To See?

Yesterday I sent out a newsletter to my mailing list talking about my new book, the conference I'm presenting at next month, what I'm working on, etc. etc.  It's supposed to be a quarterly newsletter, but lately it's been more like a bi-annual newsletter.

I know several authors who have newsletter that put them out monthly, but lately I've been wondering how effective newsletters are.  I love hearing from my readers and I know I could use my newsletter more effectively, but what do my readers want to see?

Do you ever read exclusive content that comes in a newsletter?  Like deleted scenes, stuff like that?

What is your motivation for reading newsletters?  Catching up with your favorite authors?  Hoping for free stuff?

Do you like writing tips in newsletters?  What kind of stuff do you like to see?

Chime in, because this author really wants to know.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word Count Wednesday & Come Vote For Me

Well, this has been one of the busiest weeks of my life so my word count is zero.  I did think of a few more possible plot twists for Bart's story, and I'm glad about that.  I just need to sit and write them down.

I did want to mention that there are only two more days to vote for me in the public voting for the RONE awards.  What's that you ask?  Here's the info:

My book All Fall Down, is up for a RONE award which honors the best of independently published and small press books. This is the second round where the public can vote and I’m asking you to vote for me. Please keep in mind voting ends this Friday.

In order to make it fair, the sponsors have required that everyone register so no one can robo-vote. It is fast and easy, and they don’t spam, so if you don’t mind that one extra step, I would really appreciate it.

All you have to do is register, log in, go to Fun Stuff Week 5 and vote for All Fall Down by Julie Bellon.

Of course if you don't think my book merits this award, then you are not under any obligation to vote for it.

Click here for the link to register and vote.

How did you do on your word count this week?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hawaii Five-O Season Finale---My Thoughts

Well, it took me a little while to write this post because I had to gather my thoughts.  There was so much action, secrets, and emotion in this episode, it was hard to pinpoint one thing that summed up my feelings.

I loved the Kono/Adam investigating to clear her name.  I loved Steve and Danny coming to her rescue.  I loved how evil Michael was and I'm so sad about Fong.  I hope he makes it.  He deserves that, especially with how he's been there for Kono every time she's needed him.  The look he gave Adam as he took those gloves said so much.  *sigh*  And yes, despite that, I love Adam's character.  It's never black and white with him, he's so complex, and I love that.  He's easy on the eyes, too.  The ending scene at the dock was so poignant with Steve protesting, Chin saying let her go, and Kono leaving.  I will miss her and Adam.  Hopefully she's not gone too long.  (Although I have to say seeing Doris get on that boat was a highlight for me.  I hate her character and am SO GLAD she left.  *Julie's happy dance*)

Then we had the whole Wo Fat thing.  I love the energy in scenes with Steve and Wo Fat, but I really really don't want him to be Steve's half-brother.  And I hate that he's so disfigured.  Such a waste.  But the ending with the door being broken through and Steve's face saying who's coming was a bit of a let-down.  What's Steve going to do?  It's not like he has a weapon or any way out of there.  And why would he save Wo Fat?  He hates him.  I guess Wo Fat has answers about why Doris came to see him, but that hardly seems like much motivation for Steve to employ his super SEAL skills to save him.  I guess we'll find out in four months.

And, as you all know, I'm a big McRoll fan and while we didn't have a whole lot of them, we did have Catherine's old love show up, which could be very interesting in the fall if he pursues her.  Maybe Steve will have to man up and really make a commitment of some sort to Catherine instead of saying things like, "she's not my girlfriend," and "we have an understanding."  Jealous Steve might be fun to watch, too.

So, at the season's end we have Gabby and Danny hugging in his house, Chin calling up his prison riot fellow prisoner saying he's ready, Kono's with Adam, and Steve and Catherine are together.  For now.  Not a bad way to end the season if I do say so myself.

Did you see any great season finales lately?

Monday, May 20, 2013

4th Annual LDS Writer Blogfest---A Personal Book Review of 21 Principles

LDS Writer Blogfest

This week I've been reading the 21 Principles---Divine Truths to Help You Live By the Spirit by Richard G. Scott.  He is an apostle in my church and I love his frank way of presenting things.  There were so many principles that applied to me in his book, but Principle 3 has stuck with me all week and I really want to share some of my thoughts about it with you because it encompasses a lot of how I feel about my writing and my religion.

Elder Scott presents Principle 3 as "Repeatedly I have been impressed to learn that to reach a goal never before attained, one must do things never before done."

He goes on to talk about how he tried his hand at watercolors, even though he wasn't that great at painting.  He took lessons from a master, received constructive criticism and noticed his work getting better.  He said he still felt accomplishment from the first sale of one of his paintings and an award he received.  But the thing that touched me the most was how he described his change in sensitivity and awareness of the world around him.  People's faces became a fascinating study of light and shadow and texture and he thought more about the miracle of color and expression of feeling through art.  And these things made him appreciate God's creations more.  He goes on to say,

"Search for feelings that prompt you to try something new yourself, and if they are not there strive to generate them.  Try art, poetry, prose, music, dance, photography, clothing design, or anything you haven't done before.  Otherwise you may never know the thrill of personal creativity nor enter the doors it opens to insight, enjoyment and wonder.  Every individual has creative capacity.  The satisfaction and growth creativity generates is intended for each of us, not just for the most gifted.  To try takes courage."

When I was young I knew I wanted to be a published author.  As I worked on my English degree at BYU I wrote my first novel.  I felt that thrill of creating something.  Of course when I submitted it, it was rejected and I let doubt in myself creep in.  I gave up.  I put the manuscript under my bed and let it gather dust.  I wish I would have read Elder Scott's words then when he said, "Believe in yourself.  Doubt destroys creativity, while faith strengthens it."

But then, a year later, I was talking about my rejection experience with a friend and she encouraged me to try again.  Make the changes, she said, and submit it again.  So I did.  And I received an offer for publication within a week.  I achieved my goal, but I'd wasted a lot of time letting doubt creep in when I should have had faith in myself.

I love being a writer.  I love creating characters that can help me present my perspective on life and explore all kind of myriad experiences.  I listen and observe the world around me more because I see creation in relationships and humanity accompanied by emotion wherever I look.  When I'm watching a mother and her young son at the grocery store and she's kissing his face even though there's sticky ice cream all over it, I smile.  When I see beautiful cloud pictures in the sky during a fiery sunset I marvel.  When I look at my sleeping babies tucked into bed I know I'm blessed.  Being a writer makes me look deeper, feel more, and appreciate it all.

I feel like I was given the seeds of a talent by a loving Heavenly Father who knew that if I developed this talent I would find joy and personal satisfaction.  It took courage to do it in the first place and to continue with it, but I'm so glad I did.  Not only have I achieved a goal, but I've met so many wonderful people who have helped and cheered me along the way.

I've learned a lot about myself while I focused on my goal of being a published writer.  I've learned to find balance in my life, I've learned I have limits, and I've learned that I have an Eternal Friend in my Savior who is always there to lean on, to help me through the dark days, and to share my happiness at my learning and growth, not just in my writing, but life in general and I'm so grateful for that.

I hope you will try something, whether it's writing or painting or dancing or whatever, that can help you see the world in a different way, that will give you a goal and personal satisfaction when you meet that goal.  I hope you will look at the incredible world around us and feel something stir in you at our Heavenly Father's creations.  But most of all I hope you find belief in yourself and your abilities.  Find your courage and try to create something.  We've all been given the ability now we just have to do it!

So go on.  You won't be sorry.

Here's a list of other blogs that are participating in the blog fest today.  Check them out!

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Page Friday

Before we get started today, the second round of voting in the 2012 RONE awards is open and you can vote for my book All Fall Down.  (You do have to register to vote, but it's free and easy).  If you are so inclined, please go here to vote for me!  (We're on Week 5, the thriller/suspense category).

It's finally Friday and I'm so glad.  Today on First Page Friday we're learning about looking for audience and pulling your readers in.  Thank you to Ms. Shreditor and our author for all their hard work.  See you next week!

The Entry
The Sex Stone of Agassia
by Richard Maitland

[NOTE: In view of your submission requirements about "no sex", I should mention this is a British comedy, and so the nudity on the first page is intended humorously]

Detective Constable William Lilley shuffled his feet and gave a nervous cough. “You absolutely sure about this? Seems a very funny way of getting into the Freemasons if you ask me.”

In the darkened Briefing Room of a north London police station thirteen candles flickered. The lambent light played over a pentagram inside a circle, the wobbly outlines drawn with sand on the linoleum floor. A trail of gritty debris and cigarette butts led back to the shadows where a plundered fire bucket lay on its side. Desks had been shoved against walls; chairs stacked in corners; telephones unplugged; tea-trolley pushed under the window. Gray venetian blinds barricaded the windows.

“Get on with it”, snapped Detective Inspector Marigold Bateman from the centre of the pentagram. “We haven’t got all night.”

Bill slowly removed his tie and stepped into the circle, unbuttoning his shirt with reluctant fingers.

D.I. Bateman advanced. Pounced. In a lightning movement unzipped his fly – yanked his trousers and underpants down to his ankles – threw off her raincoat – stood before him. Naked.

Too shocked to react, Bill could only stand open-mouthed as Inspector Bateman wrapped herself around him, pressing her ample flesh against his fear-shrivelled member.

A moment later he came to his senses. Prising her fingers from his outraged buttocks, he fought to break her grip. But D.I. Bateman was strong. And slippery. And with no clothes to give him purchase, Bill had only handfuls of Metropolitan Police flesh to grapple with. In a silence broken only by harsh panting they struggled together as Bill tried to fend her off and at the same time reach down to grab her coat and wrap it round her shoulders.

The room blazed with light. Detective Chief Inspector Bradshaw stood framed in the doorway, his hand on the light switch. He took in the terrible scene with one sweep of his eyes.

“You two. My office. Tomorrow morning.” The door slammed shut.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This sample ran longer than a page when I double-spaced it (in keeping with Julie’s submission guidelines). Several of the samples lately have run long, and I don’t want to keep beating this poor horse to death. It may seem nitpicky for me to take a submission to task for running a paragraph or two over the allotted length, but I’m trying to give you all the best chance for success when you submit to an agent or publisher. Submission guidelines are, among many other things, a litmus test of your ability to follow directions, which will become increasingly vital as you move through the various editorial and production phases.

I wanted to address the note that accompanied this sample because it raises a crucial point: NOTE:  In view of your submission requirements about “no sex”, I should mention this is a British comedy, and so the nudity on the first page is intended humorously. The disclaimer gives us some context, but the problem here is audience. I’m not offended by raunchy humor or occasional nudity, but that’s neither here nor there because I’m not really the target audience for this blog. Julie’s “clean” guidelines echo the preferences of her readership. An audience of clean readers will find the paragraph that begins “Too shocked to react...” jarring.

You don’t want to submit your piece to the wrong agent or publisher, so here’s a good rule of thumb: if you have to insert a disclaimer explaining why your piece doesn’t quite jive with the guidelines, you might not be submitting to the right person. Make sure that, if/when you submit this for publication, you submit to a publisher for whom the disclaimer would be unnecessary.

If you are looking to publish in a clean market, you might reconsider your approach to the nudity on this first page. In a national market, this scene would likely be an attention grabber, but in a niche market of clean readers, it might be offensive. Perhaps there’s a way to tone down the nudity so that the narrative doesn’t pause too long to gape at the “ample flesh” and “outraged buttocks.”

I do have a few important questions about the story itself. What exactly do Bill and Marigold need to do to enter the Freemasons? Why do they need to enter in the first place? Is the nudity/attempted seduction part of the ritual, or does Marigold spring that on him out of the blue? It seems as though they’ve gone to great pains to prepare the room for it, and then Bill suddenly chickens out moments before their boss enters the room. I’m not all that familiar with Freemasonry, so forgive me if I’ve missed something.

A brief word about semicolons: they’re not necessary in the list that begins “desks had been shoved against the walls...” Commas will suffice here because 1) the list isn’t made up of independent clauses, and 2) the list doesn’t contain compound items (i.e., individual items that contain commas or other punctuation). You might recast the passage to eliminate the list structure if the commas seem awkward.

It took me several paragraphs to get here, but here it is: I really do like this first page. Audience issues aside, it grabbed my attention. A sentence or two made me laugh. The author has a strong sense of setting and is able to paint a vivid scene for the reader without stopping too long to smell the discarded cigarette butts. As I mentioned above, the premise is still a little foggy to me; I’m not sure exactly why the two main characters end up naked. But I sure am curious to find out.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Castle Season Finale Review

Wow.  I'm just not even sure where to begin with this.  It was great and it was horrible all rolled into one.  Let's start off with the case.

They took a ripped from the headlines approach (there was a Canadian tourist found in a water tank not too long ago, ew) and had the blood shower which led to the body.  (Would it really be all bloody? Like Jon, that was my question.)  Anyway, Beckett rushes up and Castle asks her where she's been because he's been calling her and she looks all guilty and shifty and doesn't tell him she went to a job interview in D.C.  (And I can see why.  What a weird job interview.  Beckett seems all backward and I don't know why I'm here until the interviewer said, woman up already! I'm paraphrasing, but you know.)

So, she's keeping a secret from Castle, which doesn't bode well and plus, it sucks the life and fun out of the show when she's like this.  The murder mojo is flowing from Castle about why a Harvard computer scientist student would be pretending to be a hooker in a seedy New York hotel and some of his theories made me smile.  Beckett's incredible detective skills have her offering that maybe the girl "needed a change."  Um, really?  Harvard to hooker?  Yeah, not so much.

Esposito notices something going on and asks Ryan if he's noticed Beckett acting different and the discussion of pregnancy comes up.  That was actually one of the highlights of the show for me when Esposito hears Ryan's news.  Love them.  (Seriously, though, why is Esposito wearing a tie nowadays?  Weird.)

Castle finds the boarding pass in her jacket and asks her about it.  She gives him the lame excuse it was just an interview, but he's understandably hurt that she didn't even discuss it with him at all and it affects him.  They both go talk to their mommy and daddy and make some decisions.  (Great scenes with Martha.  And her dad.)

They meet at the swings where we began this season.  Castle has a mad look on his face and I'm thinking, this is it, they're breaking up.  Castle talks about wanting more, Beckett is agreeing, then instead of walking away, he gets down on one knee and proposes.

Um, what?

It was so unromantic and he looked kind of mad.  And it felt like he was only doing it because she might leave, yada yada, not because he necessarily had planned it or wanted to do it right then.  Blech.  So, there was a cliffhanger, but I was SO disappointed.  No matter what Beckett does she's going to look horrible, so the writers have written her into a corner.  I mean, if she accepts, and doesn't take that job, she's said straight out she'll always wonder.  And she'll resent Castle.  If she says no, she'll look even worse since she supposedly loves Castle.

I guess we'll have all summer to think about it.  *sigh*

Luckily, I have Hawaii Five-O to look forward to this week for their season finale.  The tag line is that the team of four will now be down to three.  Uh oh.  Can't wait.

What did you think of the Castle finale?  Share all your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

Well, I went on a little getaway with my husband, so my word count was zero.  I didn't even have any plot ideas or anything.  But I did have a great time on my mini-vacation and I really needed that.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't Tell Me I Haven't Watched It Yet!

I wasn't able to watch the Castle season finale yet, so don't tell me a thing.  *covers eyes and ears*

I'll watch it and give you my review on Thursday.

Do you love or hate season finales?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Review: Belonging to Heaven

Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears is like a gentle breeze on a summer's day---something to savor.  It tells of courage, sacrifice, and dedication of George Q. Cannon, the first LDS missionary there, and Jonathan Napela, a convert to the church who has to make some very big decisions in his life.  The last third of the book is so inspiring and touching, you'll want to have a handkerchief nearby.

The book had a slow-moving style to it that made it something for me to look forward to at the end of the day.  It immersed me in the history and culture of the Hawaiian people.  As most of you know, I won a five night stay at a Hawaiian vacation getaway, but because of circumstances I wasn't able to go and have been feeling down about it.  I didn't want to read this book when I found out the subject matter because I thought it might be too depressing with what happened with my Hawaii trip.  I found it actually helped a little because it made me feel like I was almost there eating poi and enjoying the incredible scenery.  The author really brought to life some memorable characters as well that rounded out the experience. (But someday, Hawaii, you and I will meet.)  I loved that this story was based on real people and that the story was so poignant.  It's one that I'll think about for a long time to come.

Here's the back copy:

Descended from the Hawaiian royal line, Jonathan Napela became one of the first—and most influential—converts to the Church in Hawaii. A man of intelligence, social status, and wealth, he used his considerable position to further the gospel in his native land. He developed a lifelong bond of brotherhood with Elder George Q. Cannon, helping to translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian and establish a gathering place for the Hawaiian saints in Laie, Oahu. But when his beloved wife, Kitty, was stricken with leprosy, Jonathan made the defining decision of his life. He would leave his life of privilege to become her caretaker and spend the rest of his life on Molokai, the island of lepers. To those who suffered similar heartbreak and banishment, Jonathan's self-sacrifice became their lifeline. Based on true story, this is an extraordinary novel of a man who chose love in the face of death.

Friday, May 10, 2013

First Page Friday

This was a very interesting critique and I hope you read it and answer Ms. Shreditor's question:  What do you think of semi-colons in dialogue?

As always I'm so grateful for the time and effort put into First Page Fridays.  I always learn so much!  If you would like to submit your work, please follow the guidelines in the sidebar.

See you next week!

The Entry
Until Shiloh Comes
by Robert M. Starr

October, 1876

The little girl at the piano was the first to see him ride over the ridge and down into the Montana valley that was her home.

“Rider coming, Mother, leading a packhorse,” she said, as she continued to play.

Sarah Hadley walked to the window beside the piano and looked across the wide expanse of grass. The rider was far enough away to be still only a dark silhouette against the pale brown of the autumn grass, but the young woman’s breath caught momentarily as she watched him. The rider sat his horse like the cavalry officer her late husband had been. How many times, she wondered, had she watched Jonathan ride across that grass in just such a manner, leading a packmule in from a hunting trip or from a trip to town for supplies?

“Keep practicing, Hannah; he is still a long way off.”

Sarah left the window, went out onto the wide porch on the front of the house and stood by one of the massive columns that supported the balcony above. She looked again to measure the rider’s progress then turned toward the barn and corrals to look for Caleb Stohr, the one man who had remained on the ranch through the trouble of the past two years. She saw him working his way around the corrals and the creek, approaching the house out of sight of the coming rider. As he reached the side of the house, she moved to the end of the porch to speak to him.

“Caleb, do you suppose he is looking for work?” she asked. “This time of year, he might be looking for a place to spend the winter.”

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

The excerpt that came to me was four pages, so I cut it off after the first page for review purposes. I’ll use this as an opportunity to review 

Julie’s submission guidelines: one double-spaced page of text in 12-point font. I have to be a stickler for this because, as I’ve mentioned in past columns, failing to follow submissions guidelines will land your hard work in a slush pile or recycling bin. Read the guidelines carefully, because they will likely be more complex than those for First Page Friday.

Now, the critique:

I knew from the date in the chapter heading that this would be historical fiction. What came as a surprise was how engaging it was from the outset. Historicals are tough; a writer has to present characters living in a long-gone era in a way that resonates with modern-day readers. They must establish setting and historical context without information dumping.

It’s so rare that I read an unpublished one that fires on all the right cylinders. This page, however, does just that. It lays down some compelling storyline fodder: the fact that Sarah is a widow/single mother, the mysterious “trouble of the past two years” on her ranch, and the arrival of a male stranger. These are all timeless story components. A writer could tackle any one of the above conflicts just as easily in a contemporary story, so they work well in a historical setting.

There is a nice balance between narrative and dialogue here. There’s enough interaction with other characters (namely, Hannah and Caleb) to establish immediate connections, but there’s also enough narration to ground the reader in the Montana setting and lay the groundwork for the central storylines. Combined, these elements leave me feeling complete, as if this first page has accomplished just about everything it needs to.

The writing is generally well edited. There isn’t much I would correct beyond a few punctuation marks here and there, but the second line of dialogue presents an opportunity for debate. Sarah says, “Keep practicing, Hannah; he is still a long way off.” In the strictest grammatical sense, the semicolon is correct; it links two independent clauses. However, some grammarians discourage the use of semicolons in dialogue because it’s too formal. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. My Chicago Manual of Style is at the office, and I can’t remember the “official” verdict. (To all writers reading this blog: If you don’t have a copy of CMS, I’d strongly recommend getting one. It’s the encyclopedia of bookmaking and the style guide of choice for many book publishers.)

This piece deserves an audience because it delivers so much of what a reader is looking for on a first page. Again, make sure to read submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. Otherwise, there isn’t much to be done here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Research--Fun and Boring All At the Same Time

I've started Bart's story, which means I've been researching and organizing said research for a couple of weeks now.  I know a whole lot about hostage negotiation teams, drug busts, what happens to cops who are disgraced, and well, I better not say more so I don't give away the story.  Research can be fun to do (and you have to know when to stop or you'll never write the story) and sort of boring to organize and make it useful.

I organize my research in two ways.  I have a notebook where I take notes (leftover habits from my days as a journalist) and I have research files on my computer that I tab and organize for reference.  Tons of bookmarks on the computer, of course,  The internet is a wonderful research tool and I could research forever, I think.  (Or at least research long enough to procrastinate the actual writing a little longer.  *sigh*  I probably shouldn't admit that I do that, but it's true.  I need to break that habit someday.)

It's always funny to me when people think that because I write fiction I don't have to research because I can just make it up, right?  Wrong.  People will call you out if you don't know your stuff or if it doesn't ring true.  I think I told you all the story about when I was reading a book that told about someone standing on a corner and hailing a cab in Provo, Utah.  Since I lived in Provo, I know that wouldn't happen because there aren't many taxis and you'd be standing on a corner forever to hail one.  Sort of ruined the story for me a bit because I knew the author hadn't done her research on the setting for her book.

How do you organize your research?  Does it bother you when it's obvious an author doesn't know what they're talking about in a book?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

I got another review of Ashes Ashes!  Thank you Tamera Westhoff.  Click here if you want to see what she thought of it.

As for word count, I'm excited to tell you that I have outlined Bart's story (the third book in my Hostage Negotiation Team series) and I started writing it!  I only have about eight hundred words or so, but it was awesome to see them on the page.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Castle and Hawaii Five-O Review: Drones, Carlos & Kidnappings Oh My!

What an emotional Hawaii Five-O that was last night.  I knew I would have nightmares as soon as the little girl was shown to have a chain around her ankle and the newly kidnapped girl was brought in.  Every parent's nightmare.  I loved that the older girl was keeping a journal, since I'm a big journal fan myself, although I have to say when I saw what happened to her my first thought was, I hope her parents get that journal somehow.

It was interesting watching Danny's reaction to the situation.  You could tell he was affected from the first moment they looked in that shallow grave.  When Steve had to pull him back from questioning the guy who looked like a poor man's Patrick Swayze I knew it was going to get intense for Danny.  I liked that they kept the Steve/Danny cargument brief this week.  It seemed more realistic and really what else was there for Danny to say?  He'd been in those parents' shoes and it was horrific for him.

I didn't know how I felt about Steve walking away while Danny beat that guy.  I think there are standards and rules we have to uphold in our society and having law enforcement beat an unarmed man for information doesn't sit right with me.  (I know, I know, he'd given up his badge, but it was only for that moment and then he put it right back on.) But, on the other hand, my daughter who was watching with me said, if I had been kidnapped and he knew where I was, would you care if they beat him in order to find me?  I'm sure if I were in that position I would do anything to get her back, but truthfully, I hope I never have to face that.  (As an aside, didn't Castle just do that same thing when Alexis was kidnapped?  Hmm . . .)

I had a feeling the Kono thing with Adam would be coming to a head and I was right.  Next week looks intense.

Best light moment of the ep was the tiny girl in the sumo suit challenging that big guy.  And everyone making fun of Steve's new haircut.  All I can say is I hope it grows back soon.

Castle started out with a bang.  I always like when Beckett is frozen out of a federal investigation because she breaks rules and goes after the case anyway.  Plus, this episode had Carlos Benard in it (I miss you 24) so that automatically made it a great episode.  (And wasn't he just on Hawaii Five-O?  Hmmmm...)

The idea of a drone strike and the government testing it over our skies is obviously a current event topic.  It definitely sparked some conversation within my family as we watched it.  The twists and turns of who really did it (the goverment? the partner?  terrorists?) was well done and I didn't predict the murderer this time.  I love the light banter with the boys and Caskett about rise of the machines and the little remote controlled tank and helicopter scene between Beckett and Castle was funny.

I loved the tense interrogation scenes and Stack's admiration of how Beckett uses the silence.  The scenes with Beckett and Carlos had some chem didn't you think?  Not a Caskett chem obviously, but there was some energy about them that I liked.  I also liked Castle's heroic show of trying to protect Beckett against the drone shooting at them.  I always wondered if he felt a bit helpless since she can obviously protect himself.  Such a cute scene between them.

But now Beckett has a secret which it looks like the season finale will be addressing.  I'm nervous as to how it will be handled, especially with the preview of them on the swings.  *sigh*  I wish it wasn't the season finale already.

What shows are you going to miss over the summer?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Three Book Reviews for Mother's Day

I've been a busy girl this week.  I read three books that would be perfect for Mother's Day gifts or for any of the women in your life just because.

The first one is One Drop At a Time by Russell M. Ballard.  I loved the idea of a honeybee only producing one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey their entire life and yet their contribution is vital to the whole.  I think mothers and women produce a lot of kind and compassionate acts that aren't noticed, just part of their one-twelfth, yet it is so vital to the health and well-being of those around them.  The book is short, has some illustrations and inspired me to look at my small acts of service in a different way.  And I definitely think our world and society could use more love and compassion to fill the world with sweetness.  For any woman in your life.

Here's the back copy:

Do you sometimes wonder if your little efforts could possibly make any difference at all? Consider a simple example from nature.

Honey is “one of the foods that includes all the substances— enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water—necessary to sustain life,” writes Elder M. Russell Ballard. And yet, “Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon. Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive.”

Your simple, daily acts of service matter, and this charmingly illustrated little book will lift your heart as it demonstrates the power of many righteous people working together to fill the world, one drop at a time, with the sweet truths of the gospel.

The second book is The Beginning of Better Days.  This book is definitely for the LDS woman in your life.  It includes the full Minutes of the first Relief Society meeting and Joseph Smith's sermons to them.  There were many things I'd heard quoted before but not seen in context.  I found it historically interesting and thought-provoking, especially in light of today's society and feelings about the roles of women.  I also loved it because I had ancestors who attended those meetings and it brought me a bit closer to them, I think, in imagining how it must have been to sit there and listen to what was being taught.  It made me think of the timeless issues women face and were counseled about then and their relevance to me now as an LDS woman.  On an aesthetic note, I also loved the beautiful pages with ragged edges and the fact that space is left for your own thoughts and notes.  I personally didn't want to write in something so beautiful, so I refrained and wrote in my ratty old notebook.  But the opportunity to add your own thoughts is there.

Virginia Pearce and Sheri Dew share their thoughts on the sermons in the minutes through essays and those were quite revealing as well.  Virginia Pearce seems so down-to-earth in her approach to learning and reading.  She applies things to her life in much the same way I do.  Sheri Dew is very intellectual and approaches it more in a teaching manner. She is very forthright and has a style to her writing that I enjoy.  Both essays were well-done and added to the book.  My only complaint was that I would have preferred the sermons to be first, so I could reference them when I read the essays by the two women.  A personal preference I'm sure.  

Here is the back copy:

How important are women in the restored church of Jesus Christ? We learn something about the answer to the question from a simple historic fact: In 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith took time to attend several meetings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and give personal instruction to the women there. He did this at a time of great personal turmoil, when persecutions were raging and his responsibilities were heavy. He did it at a time when society barely acknowledged women as having any kind of status at all. On six separate occasions, he taught the women personally about their privileges, their opportunities, their obligations, and the blessings the Lord had in store for them in His kingdom.

The Beginning of Better Days includes Joseph Smith's six timeless sermons to the women of Nauvoo, along with personal essays from Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce that help us better understand the sermons and their relevance for Latter-day Saint women today. "We have attempted to share a little about our own processes of discovery regarding the sermons," writes the authors. "This is what worked for us. What works for you may be similar — or it may be completely different. The important thing is to dig in."

And you can watch a video about it here

The third book I read was the last book in the Aliso Creek series, One Chance.  I've loved this romance series by Heather Moore and I'm sad to see it end.  I hope she has second books for each couple so we can find out more about what happened to them.

This book is about Valentina who is in LA for her cousin Sasha's wedding.  She meets up with her middle-school crush, Cesar, and he's still as cute and infuriating as ever.  Valentina is attracted, but he always seems to be surrounded by women so she backs off.  But when she fills in as the maid of honor at the last minute, Cesar is there to help her through the stress.  Things heat up between her and Cesar and suddenly she's questioning her life choices and whether she can really give up everything she's worked for in order to have a chance at love.  We catch up a bit with two of the other Aliso Creek couples, and I was glad to see it, but wanted more.  Of course, by the last page I really wanted to see a bit more of Valentina and Cesar as well, but that's how it is with novellas.  It was a satisfying ending, overall, and very romantic.  For the woman in your life who loves romance.

Here's the back copy:

Welcome to the Aliso Creek Novella Series

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone... if perfect is even possible.

Valentina is the odd-woman out. She’s part of “the Five” when she dates Drew for a couple of years, and remains friends with the women, but with her traveling schedule as a runway model, it’s impossible to maintain a real relationship. When Valentina attends her cousin’s wedding in LA, she runs into Cesar, who she was school friends with in her native country of Puerto Rico. Cesar is not the young skinny boy she remembers, but a grown man who seems interested in what’s beyond her model-appearance. Back in New York, Valentina can’t get him out of her mind, but she also can’t deny the fact that they’re separated by more than one country

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My First Review!

My first review has been posted for my new novel Ashes Ashes.  It's fun and yet nerve-wracking when the book is finally out there and people's opinions about it start to trickle in.  So far so good.

Thank you Debra!

Click here if you'd like to read what she said about it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

First Page Friday & Ashes Ashes is Available on Kindle!

YAY!  My new book is finally available on Kindle!  I'm so excited for you all to read it and let me know what you think.

Click here for the Kindle link

Click here to add it to your Goodreads

On to First Page Friday!  As always, thank you to our authors and editors who spend so much time polishing and helping us all be better writers.

The Entry
Reigning Cats and Dogs
by Jane McBride

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.  ~Woodrow Wilson~

I heard my front door slam open and I sent my fork clattering to my plate in alarm. Henry, my Great Dane, jumped up and we heard the frantic voice of my best friend, Kell Harris.

“Annie, I been robbed!”

Apparently she had expected us to be sitting in the living room and had attempted a dramatic entrance. Finding no one there, she came more slowly into the kitchen. Considerably deflated now, she said more quietly, “I been robbed.”

Kyle, my handsome fiancé, stared at her but I came out of my shock induced coma and leaped out of my chair.

“MMMwhat?” I usually don’t talk with my mouth full, but sometimes exceptions must be made. I took her trembling hands and began looking her over for bumps, bruises, and other signs of personal violation. With some effort, I swallowed my mouthful and tried again, “What happened?” Henry sat down casually near the table, thinking we might leave our plates unattended. He was hoping I hadn’t noticed, but I had. “Oh, go ahead, geez.” I dumped the remains of my plate into his dish and he smiled happily up at me before diving in. Kyle was up now too, and some long buried genetic male memory on the topic of chivalry had apparently come to the fore. He had been my knight in shining armor more than once and would look mighty fine on a big white stallion, but remembering to hold the door open for me on normal occasions was usually beyond him.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This piece opens with a Woodrow Wilson quote about dogs, and it’s an apt one. The heart and soul of this first page, for me, was the relationship between Annie and her dog. I like that he’s a constant presence in this scene, watching as Annie makes her melodramatic entrance and trying to capitalize on their distraction by sitting near the table. The quote suggests to me that Henry will be a major presence in this story.

One challenge here will be characterization. This piece drops some intriguing bits about each character (the dog-loving Annie, the melodramatic Kell, and the well-meaning but sometimes insensitive Kyle). These traits have the potential to turn these people into full-bodied, three-dimensional characters or cardboard cutouts. It will all depend on how they’re handled. Is Annie a perpetual attention seeker, or is there more to her behavior? Is Kyle just a good-looking fixture in the story, or will the story introduce more layers as it progresses? The first thing we learn about him is that he’s handsome, and this feels a bit gratuitous. Is this the most important thing we need to know about him from the outset? Isn’t it a bit contradictory to say that he’s forgotten the art of chivalry in one sentence and, in the next, that he’s been Annie’s knight in shining armor on several occasions?

I feel torn about the overall tone in this piece. Annie definitely has her own voice, but the narration feels stilted in places. For example: “Kyle was up now too, and some long buried genetic male memory on the topic of chivalry had apparently come to the fore.” I understand what the author is trying to achieve here—that snappy, snarky commentary that so many of us know and love in our fiction. But it doesn’t quite work here. If you read it out loud to yourself, it just doesn’t sound like how a person would speak or think—not because of the vocabulary level, but because of the syntax. Think about what you’re trying to convey—that Kyle’s inner white knight has been suddenly reawakened—and convey it as concisely as possible to maintain a snappy rhythm.

Again, this first piece suggests to me that the heart and soul of this story will be Henry. There is always, always a market for dog-themed stories. Make sure to flesh out these characters, particularly your narrator, in the early stages. The spotlight is on other people in this scene, so we don’t yet know much about Annie herself; she feels somewhat like a blank canvas. It’s okay if other characters steal the spotlight once in a while, but just make sure that none of them steals the show.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I've Been Waiting and It's Still Not Up

So, I've been waiting to post the blog because I was SURE the Kindle version of Ashes Ashes would be live today, but it isn't and I'm disappointed.

Sorry to everyone who was waiting.  I'm still hoping and checking and will post it as soon as I see it.  Thank you all for your support.  The blog tour/book launch is going to be fun.  I've got some awesome contests coming up.

Check back for all the announcements.  And cross your fingers it goes live SOON.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

Well, I did about a thousand or so words in editing this past week and I'm so glad that part is over.  Now it's the fun part of blog tours and book launches.  Hooray!

This has been such a fun and exhausting process. I'm glad to see this baby going out in the world, though.  I'll let you all know as soon as I see it live and ready to buy on Amazon.

Big thank you to all of you who did sprints and supported me through the worst and the best.

How did you do this week?