Coming Out of Hiding….#Nanowrimo…@NaNoWriMo

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Another year has passed: a full 365 days of work, and kids and friends and parties. It has been a good year but a non-productive one, literarily speaking. My writing over the past year has been sporadic to non-existent, leaving my followers to wonder about my wellbeing.

So I’m writing this post to let everyone know that I have not been abducted by aliens or eaten by a Hungry Hippo. I have not contracted a flesh-eating disease or Polio. Finally, and contrary to popular belief, I have not decided to trade my life of luxury to live in a cave, amongst a pack of wolves.

I have been living a beautifully charmed life. My children are growing and learning to read and write and create stories of their own. I have a new job, working in a Toxicology lab and I’m gearing up for a new tax season with H&R Block. I met a beautiful woman and so my circle of (already amazing) family and friends is growing, as we begin to build a life together.

With all this, comes struggle…struggle to balance it all, to find time to think and feel and quench the thirst that is writing…

And the struggle is real!

So, again, I am thankful for the beginning of National Novel Writing Month because my commitment to it will force me to make time for writing (something that I have failed at miserably for the majority of 2015).

At this point, I’m a veteran of sorts. As I begin my third Nanowrimo novel, I know exactly what to expect from the month-long sprint to write 50,000 words of a perfectly imperfect novel.

This year, I’m doing something different. I generally write Sci-fi, Fantasy, or Horror Fiction (YA optional). This year, I will be writing a Women’s Fiction novel (VERY tentatively) titled: Coming Out and Coming Home. 

Basically, the novel centers around the MC as she travels home to her very small home town to attend the wedding of the first girl she ever kissed…and so it shall be a novel about coming out and coming home. It shall be full of romance and dysfunctional family dynamics.

And of course, I’m pantsing it.

I have had literally no time to develop characters or setting. Shit, I don’t even really know what the full plot line is going to be yet. All I know is that this story is personal. It’s a way of connecting to a part of my own life’s story. It’s a scary thing, to flesh out something so close to my heart…to put it into written word and make it a real breathing thing to share with others.

But really, this year’s Nano novel isn’t for others. It’s for me…I feel certain that this novel will be the closest to my heart of anything I have ever written…

And that’s the best motivation I could ever hope for.

So, good luck to all my fellow Nano participants! May you win and if you don’t, you shall certainly end the challenge with plenty value! I welcome all the contact and you can follow the links below to find me on the social medias….after all, the greatest thing about National Novel Writing Month is finding a community of authors that can relate to the insanity that is the waking of the sleeping mind.

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Writing for Profit or Writing for art, does it matter? #NanoWriMo

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The month of November is coming to an end and thousands of novels are coming close to their completion (as a first draft, anyway). Some of those novels will end up in the hands of literary agents and publishers and some will end up being self-published. Somewhere in the world, a writer will look in the mirror and say (as I did last year), that I CAN be an author…and so they will become one.

Probably the most important question asked of any author is “Why do you write?” The answers to this question vary from author to author, from project to project and from interview to interview and perhaps the greatest debate about the answers to this question is “Do you write for the money?”

This is precisely what the IRS wants to know about your writing activity and the answer can have a bigger impact on your tax return than you may know.

When I enrolled in the HR Block tax course, I was surprised to learn that there are a few ways writers can claim their writing earnings and expenses.

  1. Writing as a business
  2. Writing as a “Passive Activity”
  3. Writing as a Hobby

Writing as a Business

This is probably the most common method used for claiming writing income and expenses but, it’s not always the best way and it’s not always necessary. If you claim your writing activity as a business, you will file Schedule C: Profit and Loss from a Business, along with your regular 1040 return.

You will be allowed to claim expenses against your Writing proceeds and if you have a loss, the loss is deductible against other types of income (such as wages or interest). In the case of a business, however, you will be required to pay Self Employment Tax, which covers the cost of Social Security and Medicare for Self-Employed individuals.

Writing as Passive Income

Royalties from writing can also be claimed by filing a Schedule E: Passive Income Activity. Writers who file a Schedule E, will not be required to pay Self-Employment tax but Passive Loss from writing is only deductible against other Passive Income. So, a loss from writing as a Passive Activity will not reduce income from wages, interest or other income (but may reduce income from a rental or other Passive Activity).

Hobby Income

If writing is purely a Hobby and the writer has no expenses, whatsoever, to claim against the profit from writing, the income may be entered directly on Line 21 of form 1040: “Other Income”.  The full amount will be taxable and may result in a tax liability for the author (if the income is large enough to produce more taxes owed than was overpaid from other sources of withholding).

****Although losses from Hobby Income can be claimed on Schedule A: Itemized Deductions, this is often not the best route because the expenses would have to be more than the standard deduction for your filing status (along wiht other itemized deductions, of course).

How to tell if you’re writing for Business or Passive Activity?

The IRS defines a business as an activity “that which occupies the time, attention and labor of men for the purpose of livelihood or profit.” So, we see that the most important concept that separates writing as a business from writing as a Passive Activity is intent. Obviously, if you are a career author and you make your entire living from being an author, you are writing as a business.

However, if you are a self-published author, an independent author or you have other (more significant) sources of income, it may be a little more difficult to determine if you should file as a business or file as a Passive Activity. The IRS gives the following guidelines for determining whether an activity qualifies as a business or a passive activity (the full article can be read here)

In order to make this determination, taxpayers should consider the following factors:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

***The IRS notes that if a business activity shows a loss for 3 out of 5 years, it is (by defult) Passive Income (and vica versa).

In the end…

I wrote this, to educate Authors of their options but in the end, each situation is unique and it is important to have a Tax Professional look at your personal tax situation to determine whether your writing activity should be claimed as Business Income or as a Passive Activity.

I would also like to urge you not to attempt to file your own taxes, if you’re still not sure about what is your best option (or what counts as expenses). The great thing about the age that we live in is that you never have to leave your house to get quality tax preparation by a Tax Professional.

If you would like me (a fellow author), to prepare your tax return this year, all you have to do is email me your tax documents at my HR Block email: ashley.willis@tax.hrblock.com. I can prepare your tax return and email your return to you for review. Once you give me the okay, I can electronically file your return, from the HR Block office, and you never even have to move out of your favorite writing chair. 😀

Either way, I am always open to help fellow writers and answer questions about all of this. My work email is: ashley.willis@tax.hrblock.com and my personal email is acwilliswriting@gmail.com. Feel free to email me if you have a question which applies to your particular situation.

#Nanowrimo, @HRBlock, and #Life…OH MY!!!!

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It’s that time of the year, again…

As the wheel of the year turns and the Cailleach rises to bring winter storms, there is a great awakening of creative spirit. Nanowrimo falls on the first day of the Celtic New Year…the perfect time for resolutions and new beginnings.

I have looked forward to this day, since December 1, 2013, when last year’s Nano was over. I tried Camp Nanowrimo but it wasn’t quite the same and so I resigned to wait…and wait I did.

Now, it’s here and while I’m as nervously excited as I thought I would be, I’m also starting that I might be a little bit crazy for going at it this year.

Last year, I won Nanowrimo…

…but since then, I’ve kind of been a lazy author. I suppose lazy isn’t the best word…I’ve been increasingly busy with other things…

Sometimes life just rises up and steals away the time and creative energy of an author. I suppose that’s the greatest battle that we fight. We live in this world between worlds and sometimes one of them (the “real world” or “the alternate”) reaches out and consumes us.

Last year, I was busy; mostly with my kids (now ages 5, 4 and 4)…But also with the daily ins and outs of life, being a housewife and the pending holidays. This year, I’m swamped. My kids have grown a bit and started Preschool and I’m on the edge of a Divorce (I’m filing December 1).

I had this image of all the time I would spend writing, once my kids started Preschool but the reality of it is that I spend the majority of my newly “free” time with appointments and volunteering; conferences with the teacher and projects, homework, and fundraising…It’s a new kind of busy…one I had not anticipated.

Oh, and I had an adult Tonsillectomy a week ago…I wont get into the details about how horrible an adult tonsillectomy can be (or the obstructive sleep Apnea I’ve dealt with over the past year due to constant tonsillitis) but if you’ve had one as an adult or you google “adult tonsillectomy”, you will understand how this affects every aspect of my life.

…and all the ways in which my life has changed since last  year, I am sure that it will still get in the way as I attempt this year’s Nano…

…And Then There’s Work….

It’s hard for a single mom to find a job that (1) pays well and (2) works around a “schedule” (because who can afford daycare, these days?) and (3) is actually satisfying work….That is to say that the Single mom, although brilliant, talented and creative, has no formal training or qualifications to prove specialization.

…and that’s when I came across HR Block’s Tax Course….

I’ve done my own taxes (and that of a few closest to me) for about 5 years now…I’ve researched business taxes, self employment taxes, and the Affordable Care Act out of either necessity or curiosity…and I’m extremely organized and proficient with computers and forms….so I took a chance and enrolled.

I have done done exceedingly well in the course…better than I had imagined…and I have learned A LOT…but this Tax Course is a beast! On the first day, I received two (very large) books of reading materials, tax tables, exercises, case studies and forms. I have learned, section by section, everything I will need to know to be a GOOD tax professional and I have prepared every kind of tax return covered in the class, by hand and I have come to know each tax form line by line.

I have transformed, from someone who knew a little something about taxes to someone who has an intimate relationship with taxes…but I still have a ways to go. With a little over a month left in the course, there is still a lot to learn. I also have independent research and continuing learning, after the class (once I officially become a HR Block employee).

Probably my favorite thing about doing taxes is that the laws are always changing…this gives me the ability to constantly be in the state I’m most comfortable….the state of learning and growing. HR Block is the perfect company because, out of all the Tax Preparation companies out there, they value continuing education and growth more than any of the other companies out there.

So to sum it up….

I’ve got a lot going on….and Nanowrimo 2014 is smack dab in the middle of it all! So, here’s to moving forward…Here’s to making time….Here’s to writing your heart out!

I look forward to the journey, snares and all, as we battle toward the goal of 50,000 words, together!

Giving Back…#atozchallenge

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Maybe I’m biased but I see authors at being one of the best at giving back to their own communities (and any community that needs it, really). The best example of this in action are Patric Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders As if I really needed another reason to love Rothfuss, he has really used his position to give back (raising over 2 million dollars for Heifer international since 2008). It’s really not unusual for authors to donate to charity or to work toward literacy goals but in this case, it’s really great because he has thrown himself into it as much as he has his writing. It’s not a back burner project for him, it’s something he’s really passionate about and that he spends a lot of time organizing and working for. It’s almost like “giving back” has been a vision for him even before he “struck gold” with The Name of the Wind.

This made me think: what is my “giving back” vision? Community service, I think, is the heart of society and it has been the heart of my life. When I was a teenager, I spent more time cleaning up highways and doing fund raisers with my school’s Key Club than I did at parties. I love helping those when I can. Now, I try to “give back” in the writer community in small ways. That’s why I started the Indie Spotlight. I wanted to give my fellow authors as much exposure as I can and help them spread the word about their work. Still, I want to do more…I want to do something big, like Rothfuss.

I have no idea what that is right now. I feel like I’m making a checklist as I grow and learn as an author. I know that I want to give back to Nanowrimo when I can because it was such a big part of me breaking out of my author’s shell. I want to do a collection of stories with a few fellow authors for charity, like the Blog Hop I sponsored a while back. I have, in my mind, a shortlist of charities I will help when I get to the point that I can really do some good for them.

Maybe this is why authors are more charitable than other professionals…we spend the beginnings of our careers writing blank checks for those who lift us up and when we make something out of it, we get a chance to pay those debts back. It makes me proud to be a part of the community when I see authors lifting each other up, offering advice, hosting each other on blog tours, and promoting each other’s books. It makes me even more proud when I see authors reaching beyond the writing community and helping out those who are sick, or impoverished…when I see authors taking a stand and doing something good in the world. It makes me feel like I’m part of something that is real and good…it makes me feel like I’m home.

Campnanowrimo and A to Z Blog Challenge, Oh my what a Welcome Back!

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I haven’t been far. I’ve kept my Indie Spotlight up to date. I’ve kept my blog in mind but I had to step away to deal with some storms that were brewing in my personal life. I wrote through it but in an effort to keep my public and personal lives separate, I had to take a break from regular blogging. With that being said, I wanted to give an update and provide direction for my blog….just in case everyone out there missed me.

Tomorrow is the first day of April…April Fool’s Day. On a side note, I love April Fool’s Day. It has to do with my love of the Tarot and, particularly, my reverence for the Fool Card. Rather than rumbling on about that, I will leave you with a link to an outside website that touches on that a bit (for those of you who are now curious). http://witchesofthecraft.com/tag/april-fool-day/

Now, time for the update…April is going to be a busy month for me, and for this blog. I signed up a few months ago to do the A to Z blogging Challenge. Now the time is among us to embark upon that journey and I am revved up and ready to meet the challenge (although I wish I were better prepared for it). Tomorrow, check back as I explore the importance of the Alter Ego to my own writing…and look out as I attempt to write on alphabet topics all month long.

If that challenge wasn’t enough, I’ve also decided to participate in Campnanowrimo this year. It will be my first, although I was successful in completing November’s Nano. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Campnanowrimo, it is a challenge to meet a certain word goal in a month’s time. The word goal for Nano in November was 50,000 words but for April, campers can customize their word goals. I am still going for 50,000 words but I am so much more busy this Spring than I was in Fall so here’s to hoping that I can find the time to meet my goal. My camper profile, and a link to the website can be found above. For anyone who wants to support Nanowrimo, you can make a contribution here.

Now that you know what I’ll be up to this month, you have probably concluded that something will have to be let go to make time. For now, I have suspended the “Soundtrack of my Life” challenge. There just wasn’t enough interest in it to justify the continuation of it. I hope to open it back up at a time when there is more expressed interest in it.

Also, my “Indie Spotlight” will be taking a temporary backseat during the month of April. I just don’t want to get too bogged down and release sub-par Indie Spotlights. I am currently accepting requests for May dates and beyond and this feature will resume then. So, if you’re interested in being featured during May or beyond, just shoot me an email at acwilliswriting@gmail.com and I will be happy to set up a feature for you.

That’s it, for now. It’s good to be back and I hope I move smoothly back into the swing of things. Furthermore, I hope to reconnect with some of my favorite readers and bloggers and meet many more new readers and bloggers here on the blog-sphere.

2014 Writing Goals…Blog Hop For Writers

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My plate is pretty full right now. I’m writing a novel and a collection of short stories. I’m doing the “Zero To Hero” blog challenge, getting ready for a promotion of and putting together a blog tour for my debut novel, while maintaining my Indie Spotlight and all other regular aspects of my blog. I’m doing all this while going through a separation and taking care of 3 kids (ages 4, 3 and 3) on my own.

What do I do when I have a full plate? I fill it up  more! I don’t  know why, it’s just what I do. I like to fill the moments in my day (particularly creatively) and it’s been so long since I’ve been able to engage in any type of creative outlet that I think my hunger for it is consuming me.

With that being said, I came across a great blog hop, hosted by Ruth L. Snyder that I couldn’t resist. It’s a 12 week challenge which requires posting every other Monday so it’s definitely manageable. It’s also creative and fun and I’m super excited about doing it. With that said, it actually started on January 13 so this first post is a little late. The subsequent posts will be on time, however.

My writing Goals 2014: 

  1. Get my debut novel, Darkness Within, in the hands of more people.
  2. Finish, and release, the second book in the series: Light Without. 
  3. Finish, and release, my short story collection based on the Celtic Lunar Calendar (still unnamed).
  4. Write Daily.
  5. Write well…(continuing to produce work I can be proud of).
  6. Complete as many blog challenges as humanly possible, this year.
  7. Win Nanowrimo for the second year in a row.

That’s all I have, for now, but I’m sure as the year moves along, my goals will increase. I have a few other novels that I’m outlining, right now so I might end up releasing more than just the two additional books this year. I know that I will write 3 (because of Nanowrimo 2014 but I won’t have time to edit and release my Nanowrimo 2014 novel). Right now, I’m just keeping my focus on the release of those two. As always, I’m keeping an eye on the horizon, as well. 😀

 

Author Spotlight—AC Willis

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Indie Author, AC Willis.

Indie Author, AC Willis.

Before I kick off my Friday Feature; “Indie Spotlight”, I am doing a test post. For this, I’m spotlighting myself. This will work as an example for what the spotlights will look like. This is what the main spotlight post will look like.

Author Bio:

AC Willis is a new Independent Author. She released her first novel, “Darkness Within” in December of 2013. She is also a mother of four. AC has been writing since she was a little girl and although she has tried to do many other things in her life, she always comes back to writing. Her debut novel, “Darkness Within” will be on sale on Amazon for .99 cents beginning February 2, 2014. This is the first page in an unwritten story for AC and she has many more projects in the works that will be ready for release by the end of the year. Among them is the second story in the “Darkness Within” series, titled “Light Without”. I sat down to talk with AC about “Darkness Within” and learned the motivation behind the novel and what will come next for this young, but promising author.

 

Tell us a little about “Darkness Within”:

Well, it’s a young adult fiction. The main character, Awen Murdock, is…extraordinary. She sees the divine in the natural world, has magickal abilities and travels to the shadow realm. She keeps all her secrets bottled up and so she is a character that is fragmented and disconnected from the world and people around her. Darkness Within is the story of her “awakening”. Throughout this novel, she is trying to learn to define herself and struggles to find a place in her world.

What is her world like?

It’s essentially our world…and our time. Awen uses social media. She goes to high school and dates, just like any normal teenage girl in our day and time. So, there’s a sense of normalcy about it. However, within this normal world, there is also a magickal one. The main thing that sets Awen apart from the people around her is that she peers beyond the normal world and sees the magickal aspects of it. She also travels to the shadow ream which exists on a different plane and holds a completely different set of rules. Existing in both places at once is hard for her and eventually, events that take place in the Shadow World begin to effect her “reality”.

Okay, so tell us a little bit about how the novel came about.

That’s kind of a multi-layered answer. I’ll try to keep it simple. The general idea behind the novel came about in 2012 when I entered a short story titled “The Darkness Within Me” into Muskogee Public Library’s short story contest. After I won, it set on my hard drive for a year. My husband and I talked about turning it into a graphic novel but nothing ever came of that. So, when I entered Nanowrimo, I thought it would be a great opportunity to expand upon the short story and so “Darkness Within” was born. Actually, it was almost a completely different story altogether.

Really? How so?

I started writing it from a completely different point of view. My favorite character in the entire story is Cailleach. I can’t say too much about him without giving away some of the novel’s best secrets but I began writing the story from his point of view. Somewhere in the middle, I decided that there were parts of the story that needed to be told from Awen’s point of view, since it is her story. So, I put her in a situation where she sees part of her own life through his point of view and I reworked the beginning. It’s funny how something like that can change the entire story.

Cailleach is a weird name.

Yeah, there’s a lot of that in “Darkness Within”. Cailleach literally means “owl” but The Callieach is a Druid goddess of winter and death. She’s the “hag of winter” but at the end of winter, she drinks from the Well of Youth and transforms into a young maiden. My Cailleach is a male character but his personality and story is pulled a lot from the aspects of the Druid goddess. I like to play with mythologies and beliefs, particularly of the Celtic people, and use them in my work. In fact, most of the names in the story come from Celtic lore.

Are the names the only thing that comes from Celtic lore?

No. The timeline of the novel comes from the Wheel of the Year. “Darkness Within” takes place between August and December during the Dark parts of the year. The novel also mentions the Tree of Life and the Tuatha De Dannan which both come from Celtic lore. Also, the struggle between light and dark is synonymous with most faith paths.

That’s interesting. Why the love of Celtic society?

I study Druidry, myself. It’s hard for something so personal not to become part of your work. Also, my ancestry is Irish. Murdock is my grandmother’s maiden name. But I do it in a manner that is not really overt. You don’t need to be Druid or Celtic to understand it. You don’t even have to be religious or spiritual. It’s a great story…it just so happens that I blended these aspects into the fabric of it…because I’m awesome like that.

So, what happens next for Awen and for yourself?

“Darkness Within” leaves a few loose ends untied so I’m working now to tie them up and finish the story with the second novel in the series, “Light Without”. Let’s just say that Awen has a few more obstacles to face before she can arrive at the moment that is her destiny. I will release “Light Without” sometime this year but I already have a few other projects in the works. Probably the next project I will release is actually a book of short stories.

Buy Darkness Within now…or wait until February 2 and grab it for .99 cents, HERE.

Connect With AC Willis:

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Nanowrimo 2013 Winner!!!!

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Nanowrimo 2013 Winner!!!!

Let me share with you a story. It is one of a young lady who always dreamed of writing a novel. This lady had always shown a natural inclination to the written word but she was lazy and listless in her work, hardly completing anything substantial. One day, this young lady grew into a woman, bore children and thus became a mother.

That mother looked back at herself and saw that something was missing. She felt sad at the thought that she had never pursued a writing career and lived the unfulfilled dream, only in her head. She moved through the motions of her adult life, creating stories and scenarios which revolved around writing and her fruitless dream. Until one day, this woman came across a challenge.

The challenge was to write 50,000 words in one month. Unsure of herself, she dove into it with trepidation. She sacrificed her nights, dedicating them to meeting her daily word goals and thought of little outside her character’s world. It was a daily challenge for her, as she had never forced herself to face the dream daily and she struggled with her own ability to finish what she had started. She battled the flu, the beckoning call of Facebook apps, and a Thanksgiving turkey along the way but she met the goal early and stood in delight of it.

Celebrating her victory, this woman realizes that with the challenge met, the novel is still incomplete but she has taken the dream and formed it into 50,000+ words of an unedited manuscript. Although the call of literary agents and publishing companies are a distant reality, they are closer than they were yesterday and she has done something difficult and valuable with the month of November.

She has gone from a dreaming mother to a 2013 Nanowrimo winner. The completeness of the work does not matter. She has written daily for a month and she now realizes that she can write daily for the rest of her life. She realizes that she is capable of more than dreaming and hopes that one day, her children will see this, too.

Sprinting across the finish line!

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I haven’t updated on my Nanowrimo progress for a few days because there hasn’t been enough progress to comment on. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I had written little and began, for the first time this month, to fall behind my goals. I never thought I wouldn’t complete the challenge, but I knew I would be cutting it a lot more close than I wanted to. With that being said, I managed to write 5,549 words today making my total word count….drum roll please…50,168 words!!!!

Yes, I did help my mom cook, and consume a Thanksgiving dinner today. However, I forewent the Black Friday shopping. Instead of standing in a line at a department store, I decided to catch up with my novel. The results were the completing of the challenge and moving toward a lifelong goal of mine—actually completing a novel! 

I still have a lot of re-work to do as I realize the story I have told so far needs some more detail to feel complete. I also realized that I am going to have to break my story into 2 novels to allow time to tell the entire story that I had originally planned. At the point that I left off, I haven’t even begun to tell the other half of the story, yet it feels complete. My MC comes to terms with the conflict she experiences in the beginning of the book and she ends with quiet reflection of the things which have occurred within her life so far. 

While there are loose ends that will need addressing, the immediate problem is solved and I already have the second and half of the third book planned on paper. I move from the writing to the editing phase with jubilation and trepidation. I will miss the pressing of my writing goals to move me forward and I may decide to begin book two while editing. Since this is my first novel, I’m not sure if this is wise but for now, it’s my plan. 

I would like to take a moment to delight in completed goals and dreams which were once on the horizon moving within reach. Whether it’s writing a novel in a month, or snagging a great deal the day after Thanksgiving, let us all stand proud for our own accomplishments and rejoice in met goals!!