Tag Archives: writing

Busy, busy, busy

So I confess that I was worried.  When I quite my day job to write full-time, I was concerned that I might slack off.  I know myself.  If I can nap all day, I might just do that.  But although my workday is considerably less hectic than it was in phone support, I’ve discovered that one deadline is almost immediately followed by another in this gig.

There are plenty of writers who write faster than I do.  I talk to people daily who find it easy to churn out 2,000-5,000 words a day, and it’s not because they’re writing crap.  Some are among my favorite authors.

I can’t do that.  I can do 1,000 words a day on average, generally a bit more.  When the spirit moves me, as it did for the final couple weeks of my YA novel, Gods (Book Three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy), I can do twice that.  But that’s not a normal writing pace for me.

I’m also a little fuzzy on the whole deadline thing.  Always have been.  I try very hard not to piss off my publisher, but begging an extra day or two is sadly not uncommon.

However, I’ve had a pretty productive summer despite my shortcomings.  I turned in the manuscript for Gods, which turned out to be 66k words long, in mid(-ish) July, and submitted a 20k Christmas novella for the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar on August 1st.  Then I spent a week or so starting a steampunk project for an October deadline (it’s currently at 8.8k), but put that aside to finish a 9.5k story about two men on a business trip for a charity anthology, where they will learn about ichimoku cloud strategy for their business.  In between there have been miscellaneous bouts of editing, blog posts (not counting guest blogs), and other promotional work.  About 30k of Gods was written since going full-time, so I’ll say that’s about 68k written in the past … well, about 86 days.  Which works out to about 790 words per day….

Wait a minute — that sucks!

Oh, wait.  I get to take out 24 days for weekends (there were also some holidays in there).  That brings it to just over 1,000 words a day.

Well, that was all rather pointless then, but at least I can justify not searching through Help Wanted ads for a bit longer.

Anyway…

JakeMy current project is a contemporary (more or less — it takes place in 1996) college romance novel, currently called Second Chances.  Yes, my publisher has already suggested changing the name, since are probably about ten million romances out there with similar names.  It’s not all that descriptive anyway.  It’s just the best I’ve thought of so far.

Anyway, the story concerns a  cute, somewhat jockish redhead named Jake, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the right.  Jake was mentioned in Billy’s Bones, as the high school best friend of Tom Langois.  Tom had had a crush on him and came out to him, only to have Jake freak out and run away.  Tom brooded for a while, walking past his house every afternoon trying to build up the courage to go knock on the door (yes, I did this once, when I’d had an argument with my best friend in high school), until Jake’s father threatened to put a restraining order on him.  (In real life, my friend and I just patched it up and we’re still friends to this day.)

So, back to Jake.  Jake, we learn in this next novel, is gay too.  He’s just closeted, as a result of growing up with a homophobic father and two older brothers who enjoy beating him up.  His family moves away from the area before he can figure out how to patch things up with Tom, and sadly they never see each other again.

DannyBut Jake goes off to college and that’s when, in 1996, he moves into a creative arts dorm at UNH (the dorm I lived in) and becomes roommates with Danny, who resembles the possibly naked young man pictured on the left.

While Jake struggles with the guilt he feels over rejecting the best friend he ever had for being gay, knowing that secretly he was gay too, Danny is dealing with the aftermath of what happened when the jock he was crushing on in high school betrayed him in a rather horrible way.

This story is a bit lighter than Billy’s Bones, though it deals with some similar themes.  That part wasn’t intentional — they just kind of crept in there.  But Jake and Danny are young and living in a dorm with coed bathrooms, marathon D&D sessions in the lounge, and naked pizza parties, so I think it’s a fun, entertaining read.  And God is it nostalgic for me to write!  The years I lived in that dorm were some of the best years of my life.

It’s a bit over half done, since I started it in the spring.  I had to put it aside for the other commitments, but my publisher wants to see it in mid September, so I really have to get cracking!  The first half was so much fun to write, I’m really excited to finally have a chunk of time to finish it.

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Guest blog: Desktop – “The Trouble With Tony” by Eli Easton

Eli Easton’s highly entertaining novella, The Trouble with Tony, was released this past week.  I loved it and definitely recommend it for a quick, lighthearted and very sexy read!  Eli put this post up on her blog a few days ago, but I offered to duplicate it here, because I thought it was a lot of fun.

Click on the cover pic to the right to get to the purchase page!

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Whenever I write a story, I like to google images for inspiration.  Sometimes they’re for mood, sometimes they’re characters (major and minor), sometimes they’re locations, and sometimes they’re things like a building or a shop or a car that I just like to have a visual reference for.  I thought it would be fun to share these with readers.

** Note:  I own none of these images – they’re from google.  These images were not used in the book, but if you have a problem with my having an image on this website, please email me and I’ll remove it.  

So without further ado, here’s my “Trouble with Tony” desktop:

TONY DEMARCO

Tony is an Italian-American private detective from Brooklyn now living in Seattle (in part to elude his big, Italian-American family who don’t know he’s gay).  He was a cop for six years but decided to to go it alone as a P.I. after being shot in the leg.   He’s very funny.

I had several images on my desktop to inspire me to write Tony’s character.  Here’s my favorite:

images

This pic was identified as Fabio Cannavaro by a commenter.  Thank you!

DR. JACK HALLORAN

Our other MC, Dr. Jack Halloran, was a combat surgeon in the US Army for 8 years until an I.E.D. damaged his left arm, making it impossible for him to do surgery.  His PTSD made even working in an ER impossible.  He’s now a sex therapist for Expanded Horizons.  He’s not a big guy, but he’s a serious bad ass, he is probably the top surgeon around.

I searched for a ‘blonde doctor’ image to inspire me and I like the attitude on his face.  This one made it onto the cover!

young doctor man with stethoscope and clipboard against different backgrounds Stock image

MICHAEL LAMONT

Oh, Michael!  I’m currently working on Sex in Seattle #3, which is Michael’s story, but he makes his first appearance in “The Trouble With Tony”.  I love this character!  Michael is a sex surrogate and also does in home nursing care part time.  He’s slightly built, very cute, and extremely compassionate/empathetic.  In my head, Michael is physically based on Isaiah Garnica.

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Isaiah Garnica (LA based model/actor)

SETTING: SEATTLE’S CAPITOL HILL

The story is set in Seattle, mostly in and around Capitol Hill, a gay district in Seattle that’s up on a hill (hence the oh-so-brilliant name).  My husband and I had a house on Capitol Hill for 15 years and I love the neighborhood!  I greatly miss it.  Here are a few scenes of this funky/cool area.

elysian-brewing-company caphill seattle-capitol-hill-flcikr-matthew-rutledge

EXPANDED HORIZONS

Expanded Horizons is the name of a (entirely fictional) sex clinic on Capitol Hill around which the series revolves.  I pictured it on Pike Street between Broadway and 15th, which is an area I walked often.  It’s not a very big building. The clinic has a waiting room with receptionist area, three therapists offices, a staff kitchen and meeting room and a, ahem, massage room.  This is about the style/size of the building.

seattle-remodel-urban-animal-01

DISCOVERY PARK

I’m an avid hiker, so I worked a few of my favorite places to hike into the story.  Tony meets up with his police detective buddy, Mark, to discuss the case at Discovery Park, a Seattle park that I miss dearly now that I’m no longer in the area.  It has a beach, lighthouse, woods and trails on a bluff, and gorgeous views.

discoveryparkseattle

The trail along the top of the bluff.

Disc Park 203 SM

 One of my own photos taken whilst hiking with a friend

MT RAINIER’S SKYLINE TRAIL

One of my favorite hiking trails of all time is the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier.  It’s quite high in elevation.  You can hike right up to the glacier and the views are spectacular.  Being above the treeline, the flowers and vegetation are really different from most NW forests.  Tony and Jack discuss the Skyline trail earlier in the book and then the epilogue takes place there.

Mount Rainier Skyline Trail

Image by Smigelski Photography : http://www.smigelskiphotography.com/2011/10/mount-rainier/

That’s it for this desktop!  I hope the pictures add to your enjoyment of the story.

ABOUT THE SERIES:

Sex in Seattle #2, ”The Enlightenment of Daniel,” has been written and contracted to Dreamspinner and is due out in the Dec/Jan timeframe.  This story is about a patient of Jack Halloran’s.  Daniel is a high-powered Type A business man who has a midlife crisis when he learns his father is dying of cancer.  Daniel comes to several life-altering realizations –first, that he’s gay and secondly, that he’s in love with his male business partner who is in a marriage-in-name-only relationship for the sake of his kids.

Sex in Seattle #3, “The Mating of Michael” (working title), is my next writing project.  Tentative pub date is April 2014.  This is, of course, the story of Michael Lamont, sex surrogate for Expanded Horizons.  I’m very excited to bite into this one!

Eli

Eli Easton can be found at http://elieaston.com/

The Trouble with Tony can be purchased at:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4110

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Taking the Plunge

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgAs of this weekend, I am now a full-time author.  In other words, I’ve quit my day job.

It’s a little scary.

Although I didn’t do too badly last year, in terms of royalties, it wasn’t enough to live off.  And halfway through this year, I’m way behind what I made last year.  But one thing has become very clear over the past few months:  I can’t continue working full-time and still have the kind of writing output I had last year.  It used to be that I would write on my lunch breaks, then come home and write in the evenings until bedtime.  But thanks to staffing issues at my job, that all changed this year.  Everyone was taking on more and more work and I was just too tired to write, when I got home.  My writing output during the work week dropped to nearly nothing, and I spent the weekends trying to catch up, and trying to maintain my beauty by going to spas and having beauty treatments, and even taking supplements for the skincare such as amazon vitamin c serum and others you can find online.

Fortunately, my husband makes a decent amount and can afford to cover expenses for the next year or two, while I see if I can ramp up my writing income.  And New Hampshire recognizes our marriage, so I’m covered under his health insurance, which is perfect since I take many supplements, so I’m cover in case of anything happen, but I’m still choose to be prepared by reading about the proflexoral side effects, or any of the other supplements I take.

I’m excited about this, of course, but also a bit anxious.  What happens if I can’t increase my output significantly?  What happens if my publisher stops buying my stuff?  What if no other publishers are interested in my writing?  What if Erich loses his job?

On the other hand, this is probably the best time for me to try this “experiment.”  We’re financially stable.  I have a publisher.  I have a decent track record with five (soon to be six—Billy’s Bones is in editing) full-length novels out and five shorter works.  And I have a husband who loves and supports me.

So, holding my breath… 1… 2… 3…

 

 

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“Billy’s Bones” has been contracted!

KevinI just signed a contract with Dreamspinner for my psychological drama, Billy’s Bones!  For those who haven’t been following my progress on that novel, here’s the “blurb” I sent in my cover letter:

Kevin Derocher was just thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up in an attempt to hide the bruises around his throat caused by hanging himself in his garage.  After this initial encounter, therapist Tom Langois is convinced he’ll never see Kevin again, until the man turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.

The two men become fast friends and Tom begins to suspect that Kevin may be interested in more than just friendship.  But Kevin is haunted by something from his distant childhood—something so terrible that he’s blocked it from his mind.  Not only do these suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently, but as they begin to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to the disappearance of a boy from his neighborhood twenty-five years ago.

The picture on the left is what I pictured Kevin looking like.  Tom looks like this guy:

TomWe’re looking at a release date sometime in late July or maybe early August!

So this week I decided to go back and re-read the novel.  I’d already had a conversation with my mother, who is a psychologist with experience treating PTSD, and I learned that I’d handled several things incorrectly in the therapy scenes.  Or you might say I had Tom and Susan doing things the way they used to be done, and psychology has learned a thing or two since then.  For example, it’s no longer considered essential (by many therapists) to pressure the client to remember suppressed memories.  That can cause them more trauma than simply leaving things alone.  And giving someone something to relax him, such as Valium, before experiencing a possible trigger in a controlled setting isn’t as good an idea as I’d thought.  It can do additional harm by distorting the memories further.  (Some therapists don’t believe in repressed memories, but my mother has worked with enough cases to take them seriously.)

So I sent Mom the specific scenes in question to get some feedback on how to make them more realistic.  Hopefully, since the novel is already contracted, we’re just talking about tweaking things a little.  In the future, I’ll remember:  always check with Mom!

In re-reading the novel, I’m still finding it engrossing.  But Tom is seeming a bit more like an asshole than I remembered.  My beta readers didn’t seem to hate him, so maybe I’m just seeing him from a bad angle at the moment.  But I may try to make him a bit less pushy in edits.

Of course, the really frustrating thing about re-reading a novel after it’s been submitted, but before the first edits come in from the editors is that the typos and mistakes I find, I can’t correct.

How on earth did I not notice that I’d failed to capitalize one sentence?

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

So let’s say you’ve decided to make a go of writing full-time.  You might imagine that your work day would consist of sitting at your computer for long stretches of time, busily writing.  After all, you’re a writer!  Isn’t that what writers do?

Well, I’ve had a busy day doing pretty much all writing-related stuff and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to someone contemplating the life of non-stop excitement and adventure that I’ve embarked upon.  Keep in mind that I still work full-time in the tech support industry, so this is all in my “free” time, at the moment.  This was how I spent my Saturday.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love it.  The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me), but the writing and editing is in fact fun.

But it’s also a lot of work.

  • Last night, I finished going over the final galley proof of my YA novel and emailed that off to my editor.  That doesn’t count for what I did today, of course, but this morning I remembered a couple things I’d forgotten, so I sent a couple emails to straighten that out.  That novel will come out March 1st!
  • I also received an email from a reviewer who’d been nice enough to host a giveaway of another one of my YA novels.  She’d picked a winner and was forwarding the email address to me, so I could send the eBook to that person.  I sent the email, of course.  And I was charming as all get-out.  
  • Murderous Requiem has gone into the editing phase.  Yay!  I received the first wave of edits from Dreamspinner and now I have to go through the manuscript and accept or reject the changes… and explain why I rejected them, if I do that.  I have a lot of respect for my editors and I think they’ve really improved my writing over time, by pointing out passive sentences and suggesting ways to make them more dynamic, as well as forcing me to review awkward phrasings and strange word choices.  But sometimes we disagree.  I may prefer the way I wrote the sentence originally, or I might have a reason for using a particular phrasing.  One of the big battles in By That Sin Fell the Angels was over capitalization of pronouns referencing God and Jesus.  The Chicago Manual of Style says they shouldn’t be capitalized.  After all, the King James Bible doesn’t capitalize them.  However, I based the church in that book on the Assembly of God churches I attended as a teenager in New Mexico and Texas.  They capitalize.  A lot.  Just listen to an Assembly of God pastor talking about Jesus and you can hear the capitalization.   Their website is covered with capital letters.  So I fought for that one.  But I digress….  Anyway, the edits have to be done by this coming Wednesday.
  • I was contacted by a fellow author who had read The Dogs of Cyberwar and wanted to let me know that she’d reviewed it, and also wanted to chew me out for the cliff-hanger ending.  I assured her that I would get back to Dogs as soon as this current novel I’m writing was done.  She’ll have to get in line behind all the other people who want to strangle me for the ending on Dogs.  Does this count as work?  It was a pleasant email chat with a friend.  But still, writing-related.  And yay!  A review!  (Thanks, Angel!)
  • Speaking of my current novel—or as we sophisticated writer-types like to call it, WIP (Work In Progress)—it’s lagging behind.  I’d promised my publisher I’d have it done by the beginning of March.  Now I’m certain that isn’t going to happen, so I had to hang my head in shame and ask for an extension, until the end of March.  Fortunately, she was gracious.  
  • Then I wrote a scene and realized I was going in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t bad, but it meant I had to change the direction I’d wanted to go in for that character, which really didn’t make sense.  So I spent some time brainstorming with my husband to see how I might get things back on track.  Fortunately, it didn’t involve throwing out what I’d written, but I now have to go back and write some stuff leading up to it and change what’s coming after it.
  • Then I played Morrowind.  (Scratch that!  It never happened!)
  • I updated the list I’m keeping of things that need to be done.  It includes interviews I’m doing, bloghops, submitting published novels for consideration in various awards, miscellaneous promotional stuff, etc.  I currently have about fifteen open items to keep track of.  
  • I did some brainstorming about my next YA novel, a somewhat surreal sci-fi adventure.
  • I submitted two novels to the Rainbow Awards.  (Last year, one of my YA novels got two honorable mentions.)
  • So how much writing did I actually get done today?  It actually wasn’t a banner day for writing.  Let’s say about 1,000 words.  A good day for me is about 2,000 words.  But if I can manage 1,000 a day for the next few weeks, I’ll make my deadline, at least.  

So that was my day.  I’m sure other writers are much busier than I am.  I certainly know writers who have more output, but I’m not too unhappy with the amount of actual writing I do.  I have slow days and fast days, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed about 150,000 words of new material last year, not counting editing.  If I calculate that out for 52 five-day weeks, then that means I wrote about 600 words a day.  I can easily increase that, if I were doing this full-time.  We’ll just see how things go.

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Even in gay romance, love does not always have to equal anal sex

WARNING:  What follows is a frank discussion about my views on the use of anal sex in the M/M genre.  If that sounds icky to you, don’t read it.

This came up when I was writing Billy’s Bones about a man who had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.  Since he had a history of sexual abuse, it would be ludicrous (and incredibly insensitive) for me to end with him and his lover having anal intercourse.  That is in fact something he might never feel comfortable doing, even if they remain a loving couple for the rest of their lives.

Yet this is a standard part of the M/M romance formula.  I’ve actually been criticized by readers for not always following this formula “correctly,” and it’s now become a pet peeve of mine.

The formula is basically this:  the couple meets and falls in love, often having various kinds of sex along the way—mutual masturbation, handjobs, blowjobs, 69s, etc.  And then comes the Big Moment, the moment where they truly share themselves with one another.  One man opens himself up to the other, allowing full anal penetration, and in the moment of orgasm, they are joined heart and soul and truly become one!

Yeah.  Right.

I’ve apparently violated this formula in two different ways.  The first was when I failed to get there fast enough.  I constructed a careful escalation of sexual experimentation that progressed through mutual masturbation next to one another (no touching) to masturbating each other t0 masturbating while kissing, etc.  I thought it was damned hot, but a reader dismissed it as, “It’s nothing but mutual masturbation!”

The next crime I committed (in the same story, in fact) was when their experience of anal intercourse occurred in front of other people, who offered them money to take it to the next level.  The characters agree and then discover that they really like it, forgetting about everybody in the room but each other.  This was apparently disgusting, because they would never agree to do something that intimate and emotional in front of other people!

Frankly I was shocked by both responses (from different people).  Mutual masturbation is my favorite sexual activity (Stop reading, Mom!) and even though I like anal sex, I’ve never liked it that much.  It’s just one of the many ways people can enjoy having sex with each other.  Given a choice, I think 69 is definitely the best way to go.  There’s a penis right there for me to play with, at the same time that someone’s playing with my penis!  It’s awesome!

As far as having sex in front of people…I had a housemate who was paid $500 to have sex with her boyfriend on camera.  She didn’t seem terribly traumatized by it.  I myself have had sex with a crowd of people watching.  (Shy?  Not me.)  Would I have been willing to try something new in front of that audience?  If it didn’t hurt, sure.  Why not?

Not all M/M novels are culminate with anal intercourse, of course.  But I’ve just read a couple more recently that promote this trope.  It didn’t ruin the novels for me, but I definitely find it irksome.

Somebody once suggested that the whole “anal sex is the ultimate form of love” thing is a holdover from straight romance novels, in which “going all the way” — i.e., full vaginal penetration — is reserved for special moments in the novel, such as the final love scene or even held off until after the novel, when our hero and heroine are safely married.  That’s not really the case anymore with straight romance, any more than it is with gay romance, but it seems to be embedded in the psyche of many readers.

The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing special about anal sex.  Yes, some people — both male and female — enjoy it.  Many even prefer it.  I’ve heard one gay man describe it as the sort of melding one reads about it M/M novels.  But for me?  No.  It was fun.  That’s it.  Angels didn’t sing.  Some of my previous boyfriends hated it, as do many gay men.  They thought it was filthy and disgusting.

Yes, that’s right:  a lot of gay men hate having anal intercourse.

Oh, yeah.  I said it.  We’re not all cookie-cutter robots who like the same things.  Go figure.

I do occasionally include anal sex in my novels, but not always.  It isn’t always appropriate.  Certainly it wouldn’t be appropriate in a novel about a rape survivor and frankly I think I would be offended by a plot in which his lover felt compelled to teach him “how to enjoy” anal sex, as if that was particularly “healing” and there were no alternatives they could engage in.  That possibility did cross my mind as I was contemplating how to end the novel and I immediately rejected it.

While I’m on the subject, I also recommend against including anal intercourse in YA novels.  Not because of the sex part.  I expect anyone writing a YA novel to hold back on explicit detail anyway, of course.  But in terms of what two teenagers would try on their first fumbling attempts at sex…?  It’s possible, but I would say they probably wouldn’t.  It’s kind of scary for young men who have never tried it before.  (I did in fact ask my first boyfriend to try it with me, when I was nineteen, because I was more adventuresome than he was.  It hurt; we stopped.)

So once again, I’m not necessarily saying everyone should stop using anal sex in M/M novels.  But I really think there’s a little too much emphasis on it, as if it represents the ultimate merging of souls for two men.  It can be that, just as any sexual act can be for two people who are in love.

But that’s just my point.  It doesn’t have to be anal sex.  There are other possibilities.

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Just finished “Billy’s Bones”

I finally finished the contemporary psychological drama I’ve been calling Billy’s Bones (awful, awful title!) and several friends are reading it to tell me if it’s any good.  I’m really not sure.  I like the first half, but it gets very grim in the second half.  Ever read the beginning of Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones?  That’s about the level of grim I’m talking about.  To a lesser extent it resembles the revelation of Tom’s repressed memories of “Callanwolde” in The Prince of Tides (considerably toned down in the film version).  Not exactly what most people expect in a romance novel.

I should have seen it coming, of course.  I came up with this plot centered around repressed memories of sexual abuse and murder, and then when I came to the part where the repressed memories begin to surface, I thought, “I could have the character tell the story to his therapist or his lover (who is actually the viewpoint character), but it would be far more dramatic to show it in a flashback!”

Yeah, great idea.

Except that I soon realized that what I was writing was too horrific to describe in any kind of detail.  There’s a reason that I tend to use crimes against children to represent evil in my novels:  I find them absolutely horrifying.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  So there’s a fine line between being boring by not dramatizing it and showing too much by dramatizing it.  It wasn’t my intention to write a horror novel.

So I wrote the scene out, but didn’t go into graphic detail.  We’ll see what my friends say, when they read it.

The other potential problem is that my viewpoint character (Tom) almost disappeared in the last quarter of the novel, as Kevin works with the police to piece things together.  I had to go back and make sure he said something now and then to remind readers that he was still there.  I don’t know if that worked.  We’ll see.

What all of this demonstrates is that I can’t write in a vacuum — at least, not all of the time.  While I’m working on the first draft, I don’t let anyone look at it.  I generally have a sense of whether it’s good or not and I like to think I’m a fairly good storyteller.  At that stage, I don’t want people injecting their opinions.  But as soon as that first draft is done, I lose the confidence I had while writing.  Sometimes my ego is too fragile for criticism for a week or so, as my husband has learned, but fairly soon after the first draft is done, I need feedback to tell me if the story came out any good or if it should be scrapped.

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