Publication News – “Worlds Away”

Hello and good day!

I wrote a few weeks ago about a new book I’d completed, titled “Worlds Away.” It is now available for purchase in its entirety on Amazon, in all markets. It’s available as an ebook, and for the first time with any of my books, in a paperback option as well. Click links for the Amazon pages.

I hope you enjoy it if you read it, and if you do, please, PLEASE, leave a review and rating. It’s all I’ve got to generate interest in the book if someone new is browsing my work.

As well, I’ve entered the book in something called the Storyteller Contest. It’s run through the Amazon UK Store specifically, but it’s open to entrants from all over the world, so long as they publish their work in the UK store/market, which I have done, and usually do. 🙂 I’ve been reading up on the rules and how the judging will be working, and a large part of how they narrow the field is through the reader reviews, download counts, and purchases. So, if ever you’ve wondered how to support me beyond just buying the book and giving it 5 stars (:P), here it is. The grand prize, not that I’m holding my breath or anything, is a substantial amount of money. It would certainly go a long way towards making it easier for me to devote more time to my writing, which means more of the books and stories you love. Or at least, I hope you love them. Why else would you be here? 😉

In any case, another book published, another one I’d love to hear your feedback on, and always more in the works.

Worlds Away, by Tamara Clarke

“She’s been on the run for years, never staying in one place too long. She thinks she’s safe, until the day a Raven and a Wolf show themselves. Then she’s running headlong back into the world she once knew, where things aren’t what they seem, not anymore. Politics and magic collide and she’s in danger from the moment she steps foot in the Autumn Kingdom. Her every breath is a violation of the world’s laws and she knows it, but she soon finds out that there’s so much more at stake.

Kingdoms will clash, and corrupt, evil magic will show its face. Somehow she has to find a way to save them all, without losing herself to the fire in her veins.”

As always, take care and happy reading!

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Worlds Away

Good day!

Just a quick post to let you know I’ve finished a brand new book, in a brand new genre. There’s a rather substantial preview on here right now. I created a page for this preview specifically as it is so lengthy. I’ll warn you ahead of time that it ends on a cliffhanger, and the only way you’ll be able to read the rest is when it’s published, which should be soon.

So feel free to click on the tab above, labelled “Worlds Away”. Read on for a small description, and I hope you enjoy and come back to buy the book soon.

As always, take care and happy reading!

”She’s been on the run for years, never staying in one place too long. She thinks she’s safe, until the day a Raven and a Wolf show themselves. Now she’s running headlong back into the world she once knew, where things aren’t what they seem, not anymore. Politics and magic collide and she’s in danger from the moment she steps foot in the Autumn Kingdom. Her every breath is a violation of the world’s laws and she knows it, but she soon finds out there’s so much more at stake.
Kingdoms will clash, and corrupt, evil magic will show its face. Somehow she has to find a way to save them all, without losing herself to the fire in her veins.”

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My NaNo Adventure

As you may or may not know, (or care) I participated in NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) this year. I’d never had the time or drive to do it before, and I didn’t know if I could face the challenge. But this year, November approached and I had no plan, I wasn’t traveling, and I didn’t have any more part-time jobs, so I decided there were no more excuses.

For those who are unaware, NaNoWriMo is a month-long novel writing challenge. The goal is to reach Novemeber 30th with a novel of at least 50,000 words. Does that sound easy? Then you’ve never tried. It boils down to approximately 1667 words a day. Give just one day a try and then let me know how easy you think it is.

I’ve wanted to do NaNo for some time. Mostly, just to see if I could, but also, for the challenge. Not because it’s some kind of competition – at least, not against others. It’s more of a personal challenge, in the way the you really only play golf against yourself. Sure, others around you are whacking balls, but you have only yourself to face when you’re out there with the club in your hand. As with writing something for NaNo, there was no one helping or hindering me. Only me and my computer. I mostly wanted to know if I could work on a deadline, so to speak. I’ve always only written on my own schedule, published at my own pace, since I have no one to answer to, and no one is paying me an advance to write something by some obligatory date in the future. I’ve always wondered if I could do it, write on a timeline, with a schedule, in order to meet a deadline.

I work full-time, and I’ve been attempting to get into a regular 5-days a week gym schedule – I prefer to go to the gym at 5:30 a.m., which means I’m exhausted every evening. Add to this the attempt to write 1667 words a day… well, I’m sure you can imagine the challenge. I could have scrapped the gym for the month so I wouldn’t have felt so tired each evening, but I didn’t think I could consider it a success if I had to do that. I wanted to see if I could do this within my life as it is now. I could have also pounded out 10,000 words each weekend instead of worrying about the daily totals, but 10,000 words, even over two days, is again, far more challenging than it seems. As well, I couldn’t just scrap my social life for an entire month. I’d had plans made with my parents, friends, and a certain Naughty and Nice Taboo show downtown one Friday night, all of which I wanted to fit the writing around. All of this I wanted to do, to see if I could find a balance or routine of some kind, because all I really want to do is be a writer.

Still, I could have made this a little easier on myself, instead of deciding three days out to participate, with no story outline, notes, beyond a broad idea/vision in my head, in a genre I’ve never attempted before and using a POV I’m not entirely comfortable with. I hit the ground running, so to speak, and didn’t look back. I couldn’t! Didn’t have time. There was barely time to take notes on my own story, never mind go back to fix things that started to go wrong with my story. It was awful. I’d reach one part, realize I’d contradicted myself, and I’d have to plow through. Having only a few hours each night and only four weekends to work with, there was no time to make the story good… Well. No time to make the story perfect.

I am tempted to make the story available on here so you can see for yourselves what I managed to get done in 30 very short days. And I thought you could all be my beta readers, but everything in me is saying “FIX IT. Fix it all. Make it not stupid. Oh, God, it’s total crap. What were you thinking? No one is going to like it. Don’t let anyone see it.”

Yeah. All that and more. The entire time I was writing it. But I just kept writing. (…sing-song like a certain blue fish in a certain animated movie… “Just keep writing, just keep writing…”) and somehow reached 50107 words. So that was the first goal accomplished.

The second is that I do want to finish this story. It was an idea I’d had and sketched out a few points prior to starting it, and I still have a picture in my mind of how I want it to go. In my efforts to ‘just keep writing’, some of my original plot points have been pushed aside, or obliterated. I have so much to go back and fix before I can think of continuing with it. I have major continuity issues, problems with flow and exposition, and moments that drag on, with none of the action I think it might need to make readers want to keep reading it.

And there you have it. A glimpse inside my writer’s mind. My conclusions after completing the challenge – a day early, mind you! – are that I am capable of writing to a deadline, that I would probably do better given a bit more time to fix issues as I go, and that I could still have a life while maxing out my writing time. Will I do it again? Yes. I think so, perhaps with just a bit more prep before November 1st.

Anyway, stay tuned. I may still post the mess that I wrote this year, for your perusal and you can tell me if the errors are worth fixing or if the whole thing should never see the light of day. 🙂

In other news, it’s been snowing all weekend, which is perfect, since I’m exhausted following the challenge and I’m into doing some writing at my more normal, relaxed pace.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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Update on Focus

It’s been a busy month for me, which only partially explains my lengthy absence from Facebook and my blog. I moved again, and hopefully for the last time until I win the lottery or my Prince Charming sweeps me off to Far, Far Away. 🙂 I had a short family vacation to bid farewell (sprinkle ashes) to my maternal grandfather, who passed last August, and aside from it being a bittersweet occasion, it was a wonderful time to catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in oh, about seven years… And finally, I left one of my two part-time jobs, just as my summer job at the golf course is starting up again. But that’s okay. The one was way too stressful for a part-time job, and I feel heaps better since leaving it behind. I also love the golf course gig, because how else would I get to golf at one of Canada’s top one hundred courses. 😉

All in all though, it adds up to me not being able to focus much on writing. Or even editing. I’ve been slogging through an old “Ice” story lately, polishing and sprucing it up but as you know, I loathe the editorial process. I do it because it’s necessary and I’m interested in making sure my work is worthy of being read, but doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’ve also been working on two or three other new stories. One is the fifth in the TAITS adventure series, another is a new hockey-romance, and the last is in the fantasy genre, and while they’ve all been coming out fast and furious, I’ve painted myself into a corner, so to speak, in every single one. It’s not the first time it’s happened but I am extra frustrated because I can’t choose one over another to get through these road blocks. All three main novels I’m working on have me stumped. I’m more than a little afraid it’ll mean going back and scrapping a large portion of each and I’m stubborn enough to not want to do it. See my previous note on loathing editing…

On another topic, but still related, I’ve been playing with the idea of putting my books through the Kindle Createspace process, which would mean interested readers would be able to purchase my books in print. It does involve quite a bit more prep on my part, and I don’t have enough know-how on designing covers just yet. As well, it would mean selling all my work exclusively through Amazon Kindle. I don’t mind so much, but I do sell a fair amount through the other outlets (eg. Kobo, iBook store, Nook Books, etc.) so I’m worried about losing those readers. I don’t want to limit my exposure, since I have so little as it is, but I have had more than a few people express interest in buying my books in print. Any thoughts you want to share, I’m open to your opinions. 🙂 I may or may not like it, but I’m always happy to have the feedback.

So where does all this leave me? Unfocused on writing, but focused enough to write this post. 🙂 Which isn’t all bad. I’ve decided to give you a sneak peek of the fantasy story I’m working on – check it out over on my ‘Sneak Peeks’ page. Maybe putting it out there in the world will spur something, and get me going again. Maybe not. Maybe I need to take a break from writing, and catch up on my gargantuan to-be-read pile of books and ebooks, because frankly, it’s giving me anxiety seeing them all piled up there (physically on my shelf, and figuratively on my ebook device). I know I can’t get through them all in an instant, but I do want to read them all, and one piece of advice I’ve had from other writers, and that I sometimes give, is to read, read, read.

And there you have it. I can’t focus because my characters are being stubborn and the plot bunnies are off enjoying the summer that finally arrived, and because… life happens.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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Follow The Rules

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rules lately. Not laws. 😉 The rules when it comes to what I write. You might be thinking, what rules? There are no rules, beyond basic grammar, spelling and punctuation. Except there are.

In the genres I write, contemporary and suspenseful romance, the rules are pretty basic. They’re the same as the real world. I don’t deal in magic, portals to other dimensions, space travel, or supernatural creatures. People don’t fly, murder is wrong, and no man or woman is perfect. Sounds simple enough, right? I used to think so, but lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ve got a set of rules that I write within.

Let me explain a bit more.

In a fantasy novel, for example, the rules are different. There might be magic, wizards, flying people, and werewolves, etc, right? But they follow rules, or canon, set out by the author. They might be: magic is good, but can be used by bad people. People can fly, but it requires a certain spell, or they’re not able to fly beyond our own atmosphere. Werewolves exist, but only at the full moon, or maybe they can shapeshift on their own schedule. It all depends on the novel, or the world that the author has created. Once they’ve established that world, the rules are set. If a werewolf can only change at the full moon, then that is the rule. If people can fly without a magic spell, then they don’t need to cast a spell before jumping off the Eiffel Tower. They can’t break the rules. They can’t, in the penultimate chapter, suddenly have a werewolf change at the new moon. It would be against the rules. Do you understand?

When it comes to my own work, you still wouldn’t think the rules are all that restrictive. And they’re really not, but I do have them. I didn’t start out telling myself that I have to follow them, or that I can never change them. Each of my hockey-romance books are stand-alone and could each presumably come with a new set of rules if I wanted.

The TAITS series of adventure/mystery, they on the other hand, do have to follow the rules I’ve created. The technology they use is advanced, but it’s not omnipotent. They take care of foreign threats in far-off places, but they can still diffuse situations they come across at home. The characters are faster, smarter, and more resourceful than the average person, which means they can move faster, or handle more firepower than most people. There are a few other minor details that you probably never gave a second thought to while reading them, or that I even considered while writing them. All together, it makes up a sort of playbook that I have to reference whenever I write something new.

I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I’ve been writing everything I do within a set of rules. I suppose it’s been on my mind in the last couple months since I’ve posted the last two stories on Lit, “Cold as Ice” and “Reflections on Ice.” I enjoyed writing both of those, for different reasons, and to me, they ended on satisfactory notes. The majority of feedback I received was positive, but there were several people who commented that I’d ended the stories without a marriage, or even a hint of a proposal. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that sort of response, and I suppose it’s because I rarely end my stories with marriage or a proposal. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in my mind, I cannot suddenly have my characters go from the first tentative confessions of love to all-out marriage and commitment at the end of my stories.

I write contemporary romance, which, to me, means they’re modern interpretations of love and romance, within the societal norms I’m used to in the Western world. Meaning, people don’t meet and get married after dating for a month or two. They don’t even get engaged. Not typically, anyway. I’m sure everyone out there has some story of love-at-first-sight or meant-to-be about real, live people they know, but whatever the case may be, that is not typical. That is a very small percentage of people who experience those things, and in my opinion, having those situations in my stories would not make sense.

There have been three stories in my catalogue of work where the characters have come together in marriage or engagement by the end. In those stories, that step in their relationship made sense. They’d been together for some time, and they’d spoken of marriage or a life together. It wasn’t just a grand finale chapter or epilogue I tacked on the end to bring some kind of final conclusion to the story.

In my other works, the characters have only known each other for a very short amount of time. (Kaitlyn and Alex dated for about two months, Mina and Drew, the same, Dylan and Cassia dated a grand total of two and a half weeks before the end) To me, it would be disingenuous to have them end in marriage mere weeks after they got together in the beginning. It may not have started out as a rule in my head, but it has come to be something I do follow, in my efforts to keep my stories as “real” as possible. Yes, yes, I know. I write fiction, and really, my hockey-romance stories could arguably be classified as pure fantasy, but I still try to have realistic characters, dealing with realistic issues in a realistic world, our world.

Maybe I don’t like the stereotypical happily ever after scenario because I don’t want to see my stories ending at all. Maybe I like to keep them open-ended for future sequels. 🙂 I know I like revisiting characters in later stories, weaving friendships throughout and updating on characters from old stories – in a more realistic timeline.

I’m not suggesting my rules are the same for all romance, contemporary or otherwise. They’re just what I find myself working with, or having had worked with all along. Any set of stories, romance, fantasy, or otherwise, does fall within a set of rules. You may not know it, may never be able to pick them out after having read them, but they’re there. I know occasionally I read something and find myself detaching a bit from the story, and it can sometimes be because the author has strayed from their own canon.

I read a truly awful hockey-romance themed ebook a few weeks ago. The story was all over the place, the characters went from being jerks to whiners and back again repeatedly, and there was a sad lack of research when it came to hockey facts, which annoyed me to no end. How hard is it to Google even the most basic hockey facts? Altogether, along with poor editing, I couldn’t get into it at all. It felt like the writer put down whatever they felt like in the moment, without a thought for previous actions or timelines. I can suspend my disbelief for just about any kind of story – I mean, look at what I write! – but this was too much. It’s just an example, of my own opinion, of how a story loses so much when an author isn’t consistent at all. Can you think of anything you’ve read recently that sounds similar?

I’m currently working on something brand new, in a new genre for me. It’s a fantasy story, and I’m making the rules up as I go, but writing notes as I go along as well. I’m sure I’ll contradict myself at some point – hence, the notes – but that’s why there’s the editing process. I hope the end product will be faithful to the world I’ve created and that I won’t have readers poking hole after hole in my efforts. It’s definitely got some plot points that will require firm guidelines. It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time on before – well, not since I was a kid – but I’m excited to be working on something new and exciting anyway.

The rules are there for a reason. Then again, many of you are probably thinking, rules are meant to be broken. Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to my own writing, I’ll always be working on the things I need to, in order to improve and continue to deliver something I love, in the hopes you might love it as well. 🙂

Take care, and happy reading!

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Some Book Suggestions

Here it is, another cold, snowy day, and I’m bundled up inside, wondering how much snow I’m going to have to shovel later. In the meantime, I’m spending day one of a three-day weekend catching up on some reading. I’ve got a gargantuan stack of to-be-read books on my nightstand, and a couple hundred or so ebooks in my queue on-line. If you know me at all, I love reading almost as much as I love writing, and part of what I love, is sharing and discussing awesome books I’ve read, or am reading.

So today, I’m going to show you a few of my recently read books that I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for something to read after the last thing you’ve finished, or you’re interested in trying something new, these are my suggestions for today.

1.) Shades of Magic series, by V. E. Schwab

20180217_104918The first book in the series (pictured) is A Darker Shade of Magic. A good friend recommended this author to me, and I picked up the book, not sure what to expect. What I got was a refreshingly original fantasy story, with enigmatic characters and an exciting, danger-filled plot. There’s magic, alternate worlds, evil, good, love, and so much more. I devoured this first and second books immediately, and had to wait in agony for months for the third book. Loved them all. If you’re looking for something new in fantasy, give this one a try.

 

 

2.) The Invisible Library, book and series, by Genevieve Cogman

20180217_104948The premise is that there is an immense, inter-dimensional library out there, filled with scholarly librarians who make it their life’s work to travel to all the worlds, bringing back unique copies of books from every place. Not just a different year’s print of say, Jane Eyre, but lost novels of Charles Dickens, steampunk versions of Jane Austen, and so many more. The main character, Irene, a librarian with a particular fondness for the Sherlock Holmes books, is given an apprentice with his own secrets, and they’re thrust into a dangerous and politically charged search for yet another rare book. I’ve loved every book in the series (so far there are four) and who doesn’t love the idea of a library so huge that it takes literal days to get from one end to the other?

3.) The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

20180217_105010Bought this one and didn’t know quite what to expect, then burned through it so fast, I was sad when it ended. It is about a golem and a jinni, otherwordly creatures brought to life in the real world with such ease and care that I can almost believe one would walk past me on the street. The book takes place in 1899 New York and the historical details are well-written without being too wordy, the characters are believable and full of life. This book isn’t quite fantasy, isn’t quite history, and definitely not quite romantic, but it can make you believe in things you never would have thought possible.

 

4.) A Study in Scarlet Women, book 1 of The Lady Sherlock series, by Sherry Thomas

20180217_105437The writer has changed Sherlock Holmes into Charlotte Holmes, and the idiosyncrasies that you may have loved about the original detective are here, but because she’s a woman, her situation is quite different. And still, she solves murders by pretending to work for her brother, Sherlock, a fabrication that allows her to do what she loves. There are familiar characters and if you’re looking for a fun, new twist on the old classics, I’d recommend this one.

 

 

 

5.) Historical Mysteries, various:

I don’t know why but I’ve been hooked on historical mysteries lately. There are a few series I’ve been reading, and several others I could go on and on about, but if you’re interested in anything of the sort, here are some I’d recommend (on top of the Lady Sherlock series I’ve already mentioned.)

Death at Bishop’s Keep, the Kathryn Ardleigh series, by Robin Paige, a husband and wife writing duo using a pen name. Kathryn Ardleigh is an American woman visiting her eccentric, elderly aunts in late-Victorian England only to be embroiled in a double-murder investigation. There are 12 books in the series and they were published starting back in the nineties, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

The Anatomist’s Wife, the Lady Darby mysteries, by Anna Lee Huber, about a widow who drew pictures and diagrams for her late husband, an anatomist, which, in the time period of the series, was not a respectable career. Because of her strange knowledge, she’s asked to assist in a murder investigation and helps, in spite of wanting to have nothing to do with it. I’ve enjoyed the five books in the series so far, and look forward to the next.

A Curious Beginning, the Veronica Speedwell mysteries, by Deanna Raybourn. I’ve read other historical mysteries by Ms. Raybourn but this is her most recent, and the main characters are unique, to say the least. Loved the fresh twists and characters as much as the mysteries themselves.

And Only to Deceive, the Lady Emily Murder Mysteries, by Tasha Alexander. This series is about a widow who begins in the first book by solving her own late husband’s murder. I’ve been reading this series since the start and have enjoyed each book very much. The author spends a decent amount of time researching the time period and places that the characters visit, from Greece, to Venice, to St. Petersburg.

So there you have it, today’s book recommendations. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your opinions. If you haven’t, go out and give one or more a try. On a miserable snowy day like today, I know I’m going to enjoy my next new book.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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Hobbies and Stuff

Someone commented recently on one of my stories (don’t recall which one, or what exactly the comment said) but it pointed out a flaw in most of the stories I’ve written. The comment was only directed at the one story, but I’ve been looking them over, and thinking about it, and it’s true. My characters have no hobbies. The men are worse off than the women, for sure. They don’t seem to do anything but play hockey, work out, and think about the women. The women, well, some read, they all drink a lot of wine, it seems, and watch hockey.

I’m not saying this is a huge problem, by any stretch. Be honest, when you read a romance, of any genre, do you want pages and pages of the main characters doing their own thing, whether it’s reading, playing video games, knitting, or going to the movies? Or would you rather they interact, go out on dates, etc.? I know if a story is really good, and when the chemistry is off the charts, I get bored fast by the pages in between their interactions. I skim the descriptions of jobs or whatever else fills the character’s day until I can get back to the good stuff. This is just my preference, so perhaps some of that has crept into my stories.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have their hobbies. I think that in every healthy relationship, each party should have their own interests. I read, and write (though I don’t think I’d classify my writing as just a hobby), and with those two things, I’m mostly content. I’ve dabbled in other things in the past, like cross-stitching, scrapbooking, and painting, but nothing stuck like reading and writing. My guy, on the other hand, has a few game apps that he plays, also reads a bit (he’s my biggest fan 🙂 ), and has his cigars and all his cigar buddies. I’m sure you all have your own interests, sometimes similar to your partners, sometimes different. Do you spend your days talking about it with friends and family? Probably not too often.

In my stories, I try to keep the pace brisk, without seeming rushed. That means I head from one character interaction to another, trying to keep the inner monologues and overly descriptive passages to a minimum. Again, the reason for this is that my own preference is to read something that is well-paced. So many books and stories get bogged down by too much description, whether it’s the setting, the way a character looks or dresses, or what they do at work. I know I find my eyes glazing over if it drags on paragraph after paragraph. I don’t want to know the infinite details of an ancient stone castle, or the minutiae of a character’s career. A few lines to get a sense of something, and done. I recently read an ebook that was a decent story, with fun characters, but for every line of dialogue, there were about three or four paragraphs of inner monologue, in between the dialogue, which ended up making a five minute conversation into about a ten page passage. It got a bit tedious, to say the least. I read a different ebook last week, where the story was 80% what the characters were doing apart from each other, with very little actual interaction between the two leads. It was boring, and I found myself not caring at all about them when they were together – which, by the way, they only seemed to get together to have some sexy time.

So back to my original point – should I spend more time giving my characters more well-rounded lives? I worry that if I try to write about these other hobbies and activities, that I might actually have to know more about them. I could have the ladies do some of the things I’ve done, be it reading or scrapbooking, but beyond that, I don’t know what I could have them spending time on. Gardening? Don’t know about it other than how to cut grass and pull weeds. Making clothes? Nope. Haven’t used a sewing machine since junior high school.

And when it comes to the men, I’d have an even harder time. What do they spend their time doing? My dad has always been a carpenter. He’s spent years working at various hardware stores, and most of his spare time making things; furniture, picture frames toys, etc. I know about those things, so I could have someone doing that, but what hockey player is going to have that kind of time on his hands, outside of working out, practice, games, and travelling? And that’s another thing… what kind of hobby travels well? Reading, sure. That’s easy, but not every player on a team is going to be a reader. What else is there? Card games? Picking up women? I seriously have no idea. So how could I possibly write about it?

I guess I could wing it, just like I do with most of their lives. I don’t know how much they work out, or practice, or how they speak to each other, and I think I’ve managed to fake it all right for these past few years, no? 😉 Then I do run the risk of someone calling me out on getting the facts wrong. I wish I could spend my days researching everything to the max. I would read up on everything I could, travel to all the cities I write about, see all the arenas, and take notes like crazy. But I can’t do that, not yet, anyway. So for now, I am winging it.

I guess the question I want to ask today is, what are your hobbies? How much time do you spend on them, in between work, kids, and other obligations? And would you really care to see it in anything you read, or would you prefer to read about the characters and the story? Just thinking some thoughts today. 🙂

As always, take care, and happy reading!

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