An Interview with ChiWriMo Member, Bree M. Lewandowski, Author of Under Winter Lights, Part One

I had the opportunity to interview one of our ChiWriMo members on her recent release, (well, okay, I kind of pounced on her and wouldn’t let her get away until she agreed to be interviewed).  So here, without further ado, is what we’ve all been waiting for:

Bree M Lewandowski

The ChiWriMo Interview

2016-11-25 Book CoverCWM: Which came first, writing or dance? How do they inform each other for you?

BML:  Dance definitely came first for me. It was one of those things my mom put me in because she liked dance, the same as her mother. And whether it be nature or nurture, I liked it too. A lot. And specifically Ballet. In Ballet, the dancer takes a melody and brings it to life. The invisible becomes physical and tangible. If that’s not the closest thing to real magic in this world, then I don’t know what is. Perhaps that wonder extends into my love of writing. Like Ballet, it should be impossible. When I sit down to tell a story, I lack touch, sound, taste, color. All I have are words on a blank sheet of paper. But through those words, I can take the reader to new places, introduce them to new characters and make them feel in new ways. It’s amazing!

CWM:  Your new book is Under Winter Lights: Part One. What was the inspiration for it?

BML:  There is a wonderful film from 1948 called, The Red Shoes. It is an imaginative re-telling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale and features my favorite ballerina, Moira Shearer. I can’t count how many times I have watched that movie and it made me want to take a world rarely portrayed in literature and bring it to life.

CWM: How many Parts can readers hope for?

BML:  Two. The story, as I originally conceived it, proved to be a bit too ponderous as a stand-alone novel.

CWM: How has participating in National Novel Writing Month changed your writing?

BML:  Oh my gosh, so much! Before I tried National Novel Writing Month a few years ago, my writing habits had capsized. I wanted to write, but I lacked the self-discipline to make myself sit down and flex those creative muscles. Then one day, while I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a friend mention she was doing NaNoWriMo. I asked what she was talking about. When she explained, I couldn’t shake the idea. Here was a chance to right a habit I wanted so much to reclaim. No excuses. I signed on and have not looked back. National Novel Writing Month gives writers a chance to flourish and fight for what they want most-to create. NaNoWriMo helped me take control of my sinking ship and steered me towards other writers trying to do exactly the same. And as if that wasn’t enough, I am now able to proclaim that I am a published author, a title I never once believed would be mine.

CWM: What are your plans for your dance and your writing in 2017?

BML:  Do both more and with increased creativity and efficacy. Hopefully.

CWM: Coffee or tea?

BML:  COFFEE.

CWM: Dark or milk chocolate?

BML:  Milk chocolate. But the good stuff. Not some waxy $.99 chocolate bunny from 7-Eleven.

CWM: Deep dish or thin crust?

BML:  Deep dish, please. I like my gluten.

CWM: How ’bout them Cubs, man? How do you feel about the Cubs winning the World Series?

BML:  I can’t believe it actually happened. For as long as I can remember, my father has joked about what a hopeless mess the Cubs are. When I got married,even though my husband was a die-hard fan, he admitted what a disappointment the team was. But they did it! And it’s been really nifty seeing a city rally around the Cubs. Signs everywhere, people cheering in bars together. In such a social media world where people rarely look up from their devices, it felt wonderful to come together as a community, to feel that sense of camaraderie. Go Cubs, Go!

CWM: Your profile says, “furry baby mommy.” What’s your perfect furry baby?

BML:  All of them. If I had the space and disposable amounts of income, I would have sixteen cats and seven chow chows. My ideal snuggle fluff purrs, has a blue tongue, and holds my heart on a string.


Thank you to Bree for taking the time to share a little about her writing, and her new release, with us!  Guys, she’s even got a book trailer.  How cool is that?

Blurb: The world of Ballet had always been Martina’s world, made of music and magic. But the seasons are changing and like the snow tumbling over Chicago, Martina’s music-box world is swirling.  Director of The Bellus Ballet Company, Alan Jung, can offer her luxury and fame. But Russian rebel Maraav, “a wolf with gray eyes,” has everything Martina needs.  Three hearts made of hope, flesh, and stone…  With the curtain set to rise…

Under Winter Lights: Part One

Book Trailer

 

Self-Care During NaNoWriMo

Self-care.

You may have heard the term before. A generic definition for the term is “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him- or herself.”

Picture1If we break that down a bit, we can see there are a few day-to-day activities that fall into that category: eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, some minimal level of physical activity. These days, having a steady source of income can also be considered self-care, so you can provide a roof over your own head and other comforts. That said, it’s well understood that a steady source of income comes with its own stressors that can interfere with other parts of your self-care, but that’s a topic for another day.

As novelists and artists, we have additional components to our self-care that may not be obvious at first. We are the custodians of our own creativity, and it is up to us to guard that creativity, the same way we might guard the time we need to sleep and to eat meals. As you might have guessed, doing the basics and checking them off the list may not be enough for us. Did you sleep? Yes? Great. Was it only for five hours last night? ….. Well, how about food. Did you eat? Yes? Good start. Was it nutritious, energizing food, or something greasy you’ll probably regret later?  …..  If these snippets sound like you, you may need to re-examine your self-care habits and adjust them.

At the first sign of heightened stress and activity, self-care often goes out the window. We short-change ourselves on sleep, eat unhealthy convenience foods, don’t exercise, and forget to take quiet time for ourselves.

The articles on adequate sleep, good nutrition, and a proper exercise regimen, all for stress-management, are plentiful. If you haven’t done any basic research in those areas, I invite you to take a quick look.

So, let’s say you manage to master those basics – get enough sleep, have a pantry full of healthy food, and get a little physical activity each day. Even just those simple things can go a long way to boosting your mood and, thus, your creative productivity. But if you’re still struggling, it can be because you need to widen the scope of your self-care, to not just your physical needs, but also your mental needs.

Here are a few things that we, as writers and creators, might need as critical components to creative self-care:

1)    Take a break. Set aside some time just to relax. Try it just for 30 minutes. Watch a TV show that’s non-toxic and makes you laugh. Read a few pages from an inspirational book, even if you’ve read it before. Meditate. Organize something. Whatever you do, make sure it’s soothing to you. For this kind of activity, hopping on social media can be helpful for some people, but if that’s your choice, be sure to steer away from profiles and posts that you know will suck you into stressful, toxic discussions. If you know you can’t do that and will be too tempted, then maybe seek a different activity. The point is to avoid getting riled up and to let your brain just rest for a little while.

Picture22)    Do something you know you’re good at. Whether it’s playing piano or guitar, cleaning the kitchen, gardening, painting or drawing, cooking, or patting your head while rubbing your belly, doing a familiar task that you know you are capable of doing will boost your self-confidence and self-esteem and renew your sense of creativity.

3)    Visit somewhere new. If you are mobile, try going to a new location, perhaps one that you have been meaning to visit but never got around to it. Is there a local museum you’d like to explore? A park or garden that you’ve admired as you’ve driven past? A local shop you spotted but never stopped in? Let yourself explore.

4)    Take care of something that’s been bugging you. A stack of clothing in the bottom of your closet you’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill; the pile of leaves in the backyard that needs to be bagged or composted; dusting; getting an oil change. If you’ve been putting something off that you know you need to do, it can weigh on you in unexpected ways. Check one thing off of your list this week by just gritting your teeth and getting it done.

5)    Journal. When the words won’t flow, sometimes you need to unclog the bottle. Try handwriting a few paragraphs of whatever comes to mind – all of a sudden, you may find things flowing freely. A few ways to start out if the blank page is staring at you judgmentally: “What I really mean to say is….” Or “The reason I don’t want to write is…” Whatever comes out, listen to yourself. Act on it.

Picture3For any activity you do, just remember to limit your duration to avoid overdoing it. A spare half hour to watch some TV should not turn into an 8 hour Netflix binge. Cleaning those clothes out of the bottom of the closet should not turn into an entire afternoon spent re-organizing the whole bedroom. Do what you need to do, enjoy the time you spend doing it, then get back to writing. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed you’ll feel.

What To Do in the Middle

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It’s the second full week of NaNo, and we’re inching up on the halfway point.  For many of us, that means we’re hitting the middle of our manuscript and reality has set in.

What To Do in the Middle

What DO we do in the middle of a manuscript?

Well, that depends.  What makes sense for our story?

And that’s where, sometimes, our brains go spung.

Don’t Trust Boredom: It’s a Block

If we get suddenly bored with our story, that’s likely a creative block and not actual boredom.  Don’t give up!  Don’t turn on the television, or numb out on Facebook, or read a book.  Keep going.  This is the point at which our inner critic has woken up to the fact that no, we really were serious, and yeah, we’re writing this here book thing and holy crap what do you mean you think you can write a novel?  Who do you think you are?

You Are Too a Writer!

Ignore all the voices that say you’re not a writer.  Who are you kidding?  You’re a dilettante!  You never finish anything.  Who wants to read what you have to say?  All the good plots have already been written.  There are too many books out there, don’t bother. IGNORE ALL THAT.   It doesn’t matter where it came from – Mom, Dad, Kids, Uncles, Aunts, Siblings, Teachers, Bosses, the Internet…  KEEP GOING.

A writer is someone who writes.

The definition is in the action.  The action defines the definition.  If you write, you’re a writer.  Ipso facto.  (That’s just Latin fancy talk for “by that very fact or act.”)  (You can use that, if you need to, to defend your nascent writerlyness: “I’m writing, ipso facto, I’m a writer!”)

Keep Going

The only way to get to the end is to keep putting words after one another, occasionally followed by a period.  Or, if you’re me, an overabundance of exclamation points.  (No, I’m not kidding; ask my editors.)  But the story that you’re trying to tell will not reveal itself to you unless you keep writing.  Quite frequently, it will only reveal itself after a bunch of what feels like wrong turns.  You put Bob in a bar, he sees Lucille, but then you realize he’s gay and Lucille’s a black drag queen, but the biker gang from scene two is going to come in and they’re going to want to shoot Lucille and Bob can’t have that and…

Don’t be afraid to take wrong turns.  Don’t be afraid to put a porcupine in your story.  “Bob looked down and froze.  Standing not two feet in front of him was one pissed off porcupine.  What had pissed off the porcupine wasn’t immediately apparent, but Bob was damned sure the porcupine was pissed at him and he didn’t know what to do about.  It’s not like he could pick the thing up, pet it and snuggle it, and apologize.  Of course, he couldn’t really do that with his cat, either, but at least Mister Buckles didn’t stay mad for long… and the porcupine looked like it had a lot of endurance.  Bob walked forward and…”  What next?  “What next?” is your friend.  If you’re stuck in one place, drop back a couple pages and find some action, then take it another direction.  “Bob turned the corner too fast for the porcupine to see.  Good.  He lost the little spiky rodent.  But then…”

Interview your characters.  “So, Bob, it’s me, Noony.  I’m volunteering for NaNoWriMo, and I’m writing this article for Wrimos about what to do when you get stuck in your story.  So tell me, Bob, what’s it like to be a porcupine?”  “To be pointed, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  On the one claw, you’ve got all these quills.  But on the other claw, you can’t really cuddle with your loved ones, now can you?”  “Good point.  So tell me, Bob, where do you think this article should go?”  “Tell them to keep writing.  Just sit down and write what you think your story’s about.  Keep going, and add more stuff.  Write crap.  Don’t worry about grammar.  If you hear a voice in your head say it sucks, let that voice write for a while, until it runs out of things to say, then go back to writing your story.  All words count during NaNo, so put all the words down on the page.”

See?  You heard it here first, wrimos.

Bob the Porcupine Says, “Keep Writing.”

So unless you want a face full of quills, you know what to do.

Keep the faith.  Fifty thousand, we’re coming for you.

Write on!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings
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A Guest Post from ChiWriMo Member Chris Deane

Chris Deane posted a lovely essay series this morning on Facebook.  I asked her if I could post a large excerpt of it, because its clarion call to write is one of the things that NaNo is all about.  We don’t get political here at NaNo, and my intention isn’t to do so; my intention is to share some inspiring words from a valued member of our wrimo community, words that I think all of us need to hear today – whatever place on the political spectrum we occupy. – A. Catherine Noon


A Mom Talks You Down

We have taken the bait. We have been fooled. We have fed our fears, our anxieties, our psyche. Someone has created articles that affirm that it’s us against them. Let me tell you something.

It is just us.

We will get through the next 4 years and we will all be better for it. We will be better informed or I should say we NEED to be better informed by good sources and locally. We will volunteer for the things that inspire us, the things that need to get done that can’t without us. It will get done because we can put all that energy however negative into something worthwhile. We as a country can (sorry about the language) bitch about what is wrong or we can roll up of collective sleeves are start making it right ourselves.

So Hillary didn’t win and Donald did. So what? Do you honestly think that Congress is going to let him do all the things that he said he’s going to do? NO, of course not. If Hillary had won (and I say this for my other friends who would be equally as upset, believe me)–if she had won, do you think everything she wanted to do would go through? OF COURSE NOT, CONGRESS WOULDN’T LET HER.

Our country has checks and balances and frankly they are politicians. They will promise things that they cannot possibly deliver. Oh, they can try. Sometimes they succeed but most of the time, think about it. They change their minds or they negotiate and they (excuse me) piss of their constituents because of some compromise they made. That is how it is. That is how it will be.

We have had a lot of things going on here in Chicago with the Cubs and now the election. I live on the south side with all the city workers and firemen and police. I don’t need to tell you what has been going on just down the street from my church. You have jobs. You have school. If you are me, you have driving to all over the flipping Midwest for auditions and stressed about all the driving and getting lost in spite of your GPS.

We have to live our day to day life filled with the highs of pennant and now the lows of the election. And when I say lows, I mean the dirty, mean spirited, bullying, nasty comments that one politician said against each other and the click bait wants us to say against each other so that we will read their inflammatory articles again and again.

STOP READING THOSE ARTICLES RIGHT NOW. STOP IT. They are not helping you. They are, to put it mildly, upsetting you and keeping you from your goals.

What. Are. Your Goals?

Your goal is to write. Yes, yes, the 50k words. You get a badge. That’s so wonderful. It is. But your goal is to write. It is to create. You have set aside the month of November-Thanksgiving month-because that’s what a single guy in California dreamed up and what a lovely, noble dream it is.

You have these beautiful ideas and you are trying to “write them down on paper.” Maybe you’re still working on those ideas. Maybe this year it’s really hard for you but you still want to try.

Ok. You are going to explain to me how the baloney of this election with the bipolar high of the pennant is going to help you get down those creative, one of a kind ideas. Here’s a hint–they won’t.

Turn off that social media. Turn off the television and if I were you, I’d turn it off for a couple of days. Nothing. Process. Talk a walk in this glorious weather. Sit alone in the park and let your mind unwind itself. I can’t go in your room and take your chargers. You can. That’s your job now.

You have embarked on a journey, like a ship. Like Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl. If something, anything is hold you back, anything superfluous, throw it OUT. Go through your house and take out all the garbage. Order take out today. Pizza, Chinese. Run over to Mariano’s. Give your mind a break and listen to some music. Run a load of laundry like you would on a Saturday morning. The normalcy of these routines will comfort you and remind you that we are going forward.

Write. Write anything. Write your anguish about the outcome of the election. Write about your emotions when the Cubs won and now the Donald has won and how this whole Black Pearl of the month of November has made you seasick from highs and lows of emotions. Write about driving on the Dan Ryan because it all comes back to that-for me, at least. Write. Pour it out. You will feel better because writing always makes you feel better.

Then, you go back to your work in progress, no matter how far you’ve come or how little you have done. You think this is about writing. Well, maybe it is. Nanowrimo is about challenging yourself, it’s about taking chances, it’s about doing something brand spanking new and seeing where it leads because it may be the most anarchistic thing you’ve ever done.

Do it because all that disarray, all that chaos, all that creativity is propelling you forward in other areas of your life. You will be more open to new ideas. You will be more willing to hear other people’s ideas, even if you disagree with them. You will be have a little more sympathy for Stephanie Meyer and be a little happier for her, even if you will never read her work. You will cringe at Associated Press’s lousy writing and you will thrill when you read a beautiful sentence written by Simon Winchester. You joined NaNo to explore writing and to explore your capabilities.

Explore and don’t let the seas toss you around. The ups and downs of those very seas are opening you and are part of the exploration.

So yes, feel sorry for yourself. Process. And GET IN THERE and WRITE because that is what you said you were going to do. It is the 9th already. How much have you written? How much energy are you going to expend towards something that is keeping you from doing what you set out to do? Throw it over board, savvy?

And unload the dishwasher like I told you to last night.


And remember, find us online:

National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

How to Write Fast—and Why – Grant Faulkner, at the Chicago Humanities Council

Grant FaulknerNaNoWriMo is starting soon – and with it, ChiWriMo is getting ready to write words, kick butt, and take names.  And to help us do just that, we have a special announcement!

Grant Faulkner, the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, will be in Chicago to give a talk for the Chicago Humanities Council:  “How to Write Fast—and Why” on Friday, November 4, 2016, from 6:00 to 7:00 P.M.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) wants you to write… and write fast. Each November, thousands of names and nobodies churn out 50,000 words over 30 days. Notable results include Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. Started in 1999, NaNoWriMo has become a worldwide phenomenon and a fable of the internet age—creative empowerment without gatekeepers. Writer and NaNoWriMo executive director Grant Faulkner will lead a hands-on exploration of the method behind the madness of fast—and uninhibited—writing.

Friday, 11/04/2016, 6:00 to 7:00 P.M.
Francis W. Parker School, Diane and David B Heller Auditorium
2233 N Clark St | Chicago, IL | 60614
Members: $10
Public: $12
Students and Teachers: $5

And guess what?  We have four tickets to give away!  All you have to do to be entered to win is comment on the blog, and tell us the name of your NaNo project.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Camp NaNo Is Coming! Camp NaNo Is Coming!

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Never fear, Wrimo, the write-in is here!  Wondering what to do in the off-season?  Getting sad and lonely looks from your manuscript?  Your butt miss its chair?  Just have this need to write?

Then wait no more, and join us in April for Camp NaNoWriMo!  What’s that, you ask?  Well, let’s see, straight from the Camp NaNo site:

Camp NaNoWriMo is a more open-ended version of our original November event.We have Camp sessions in both April and July, and we welcome word-count goals between 10,000 and 1,000,000. In addition, writers may attempt non-novel projects. Camp is a creative retreat for whatever you’re working on!

We even have a write-in, for you social butterflies.

Sunday, April 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M.
Geek Bar
1941 W North Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60622

And remember, find us online:

National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Friday Friendships – An Interview with ChiWriMo Member Robyn Bachar

2016-01-08 Robyn_Bachar_photoI got to chat with Robyn about writing, NaNoWriMo, and her book.  Take a peek!

CW: What 1 word best describes your hero and/or heroine? Why?

RB: Badass. (Badass is one word, right?) Andee is an assassin, and not just any assassin. She’s an empath who uses her psychic abilities to find and exploit weaknesses in her targets. I love the image of her on the cover. She’s the muscle in her relationship, ready to do anything to protect her mates. Andee kicks a lot of butt in Sunsinger. She’s much like Carmen in Nightfall and Bryn in Morningstar, who are all very “Give me the gun so I can save you!”

CW: What was your inspiration for this book and the main characters?

RB: I love the epic drama and adventure of space opera. Laser pistols! Space battles! YES. There’s a bit of Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and Mass Effect in the Cy’ren Rising series. Sunsinger is my Return of the Jedi, complete with a final battle of good versus evil that takes place both on the ground and in orbit. Galen is the brains, Andee is the brawn, and Malcolm is their heart. They were a blast to write (this book was my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, and it always helps to have a fun story for NaNo).

CW: Is this story part of a series? Will there be more stories in this series?

RB: Sunsinger is the final book in the Cy’ren Rising trilogy. It’s erotic sci-fi romance, each featuring a ménage. The first two books have a f/f/m romance, and Sunsinger was my first foray into m/m/f romance. I love Galen. As soon as he showed up in the first book I knew I had to tell his story, and as soon as Malcolm showed up in Morningstar I knew they needed to be together. Andee is the icing on their cake—they work perfectly together.

CW: What subgenres do you write in and who are you published with?

RB: I’m published with Samhain Publishing. I write paranormal romance, historical paranormal romance, and erotic sci-fi and paranormal romance. I also self-published a fantasy romance. I love stories with romance, adventure, and swords. I even have swords in space. Four of my published books began as NaNoWriMo novels (fingers crossed that the number will soon be five).

CW: What do you love about writing in your romance sub-genre?

RB: The Cy’ren Rising books cross a lot of sub-genres. They’re sci-fi, specifically space opera, and they’re also erotic romance because they feature ménages. Those ménages include bisexual characters, so they also skew into LGBT territory. The combination allows for spicy romance, epic adventure, and angsty drama, where the characters can find true love and save the galaxy at the same time. I love that.

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Her desire unites them. Her secret could destroy them all.

 

The lord.

 

The sole survivor of the Sunsinger massacre, Lord Degalen Fairren spends his days reading tales of the family he never knew. When a rival house threatens to enslave Cyprena, Galen is forced to pull his nose out of his books and enter into an alliance with House Morningstar, and a dangerous mission to save his world.

 

The assassin.

 

Lady Andelynn Harrow isn’t House Morningstar’s eldest or prettiest daughter, but she is the deadliest. After her father’s murder, Andee must defend her new house and mate—the shy, reluctant Galen—but every battle risks revealing her terrible secret.

 

The slave.

 

Malcolm gets his first taste of freedom when the Cy’ren recruit him to locate the cure to a deadly virus—and feels the burn of desire for Galen, the lord he can never have, and for Andee, who awakens memories of a long-lost first love.

 

The danger they face fuels the heat between them, but with Cyprena’s fate hanging in the balance, the race to find the cure could come with devastating costs.

 

Warning: Contains a blushing, virgin lord, a sexy geek, and an empathic assassin who always brings lube on a mission.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | All Romance eBooks | Samhain Publishing LLC

About Robyn:

Robyn Bachar enjoys writing stories with soul mates, swords, spaceships, vampires, and gratuitous violence against the kitchen sink. Her paranormal romance Bad Witch series, historical paranormal romance series Bad Witch: The Emily Chronicles, and spicy space opera romance trilogy Cy’ren Rising are available from Samhain Publishing. Her books have finaled twice in the PRISM Contest for Published Authors, twice in the Passionate Plume Contest, and twice in the EPIC eBook Awards. Find her on her website.

 

 

Writer Wednesday – Kickin’ It Old School

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An online friend of mine pointed me to the “A Month of Letters” site and I stopped by to give it a look-see.  It looks like a lot of fun!  In February, you commit to sending correspondence by snail mail for every day that the post office sends mail (so, not Sunday or U.S. federal holiday).  Since I love snail mail, I figured I’d point this out to my fellow Wrimos.

Write on!

A Poem by ChiWriMo Member Felicia R Johnson

Twas the first of December
and all through the land
there were Wrimos still typing
Writing even by hand
Cuz tho the competition was over
and many had won
the writing wasn’t over
so much to be done!
Revisions are needed
type until your fingers are worn
the labor pains aren’t over
until the novel is born.

Twas the First of December, and All Through the House…

NaNo is over.

Right?

WRONG!

Join us this Sunday, December 6th, from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. at Geek Bar for the Thank Goodness It’s Over Afterparty!

Plus, keep your eyes on this site for more content – I’ve got an interview with one of our homegrown Chiwrimos, an interview with the founder of Geek Bar, and some more stuff during the month of December.  I’ll also be posting about what to do in the off-season, and you’ll get emails from NaNo HQ on that very topic, too!

But for now, coffee.  Because, it’s December 1 and I should probably go do some chores and find my family under the mountain of laundry.  And the dog.  Here, Fido!