Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Winter, you need to go. Seriously.

hoarfrost 1 Since I didn’t get a fresh picture of the snow we’ve gotten over the past 2 weeks, I’ll recycle this one, which doesn’t show the foot of snow we now have. So, imagine another 10 inches of snow in the picture.

The weather people say our average temperature for this time of year should be around 30 F.

High temp today: all of 10 F.

We are now within 6 inches of the all-time snowiest February on record. As it is, we are in 4th place.

Talk about wonky weather. Yep, I’m done with it. Soo ready for spring.

As I’m shooting in the dark putting my website and email list and newsletter and everything else that comes with it together, part of me is thinking about seed catalogs. I usually take an evening and look through seed catalogs during the New Year’s holiday time off.

I have a stack of seed catalogs, and haven’t looked at a single one yet.

And the inevitable question: garden or no garden?

Then the inevitable ‘hold on there’: tomatoes fresh from the garden. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and all the other things that taste so much better fresh from the garden, like asparagus, cucumbers, beets, peppers, kale, zucchini, green beans, cilantro, onions, etc.

And the next inevitable thoughts: Weeds. Mosquitoes. Rabbits. zoeyprowl

Effing rabbits.

And there’s Book 2, along with the 6 or 7 rough drafts in its wake. Not sure what I’m going to say to my editor when she asks when she’ll be able to see it. Or a synopsis.

So maybe I’ll take a night and look through seed catalogs. Pick out one new thing to grow. Maybe I’ll do pumpkins this year; haven’t done those for a while. Or maybe brussels sprouts–I didn’t do those last year, but I love them, especially roasted with sweet potatoes. Maybe I’ll plant marigolds around the perimeter, just to make me feel better about trying to keep the rabbits out. And maybe spinach again, since I now know that spinach seeds are only viable for a year; no wonder those leftover seeds from two years ago never came up.

I guess this means I’ll do a garden. There is something about growing plants and being in touch with the dirt that renews the soul. It will probably be neglected, because writing. And promoting. Which also reminds me I have some blog tour posts to finish and send out. If you are on my list, I’m hoping to get them to you by the beginning of the week. I’ll be in touch. (If you aren’t on my list and want to be, let me know 😀 )

Have a great weekend!

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Getting closer … #amreading #mystery

Wave if you survived the deep freeze *waves*  This weekend will be above freezing according to the weather people. Yippee–until the freezing rain hits on Monday. And the cold returns (but not as brutal as this past week).

Hoo-boy. Or as they say in the Great White North–uff da!

I’ve been working on all that marketing and promo stuff that goes along with a book release, like planning the cover reveal, writing posts for a release tour, waiting impatiently for the book listings to be completed …

I’ve been paying attention and taking notes on the stuff some of my writer blogging friends do for their book releases. Now that I’m doing it, I wonder how on earth they find the time. And writing besides.

Did you figure out how to get more hours in the day? I mean, seriously.

Then again, I’m spending a lot of time with Canva to put some promo stuff together and a lot of time poking around WordPress to set up my author site. I have a landing page–woo-hoo! Sure, it says it’s under construction, but there’s a button that comes here to the blog, and another button that lets the visitor sign up for my newsletter–I just got that working. Woo-hoo!

Wait. Now I have to figure the whole newsletter thing out. Plus start setting up events. Plus order bookmarks and other swag through my publisher. Plus pray I can get physical books by the first weekend in April in time for the Writers’ Institute.

Oh, and I need to plan the workshop I’m conducting in March for our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Oh, yeah, and the two presentations for the Writers’ Institute.

And it’s February already?! Where did I put my duplicator?

calvin-and-hobbes-duplicator

I have my cover, and I just caught this great post on Terry Odell’s site. So, cover mockup it is. Pretty cool, actually. Thanks, Terry!

Heh. You didn’t really think I would show you, did you? Well, I was going to, but that unfinished listing still bugs the crap out of me. And I don’t have images ready to put up everywhere yet. Now that I have my nifty 3d cover mockup, guess what I’ll be doing this weekend.

I went through the galley proof this week as well. Another step closer.

Six weeks and counting. And my publisher still hasn’t finished the Amazon listing. *grumble* Since it is Amazon, and I have an Author Central account now, I’m going to ask my agent if it would be kosher for me to at least add the cover and the search terms. On the bright side, the BN listing is almost complete. Still missing the ebook on both sites. Just. Frustrating.

So, another teaser to tide you over (and I thank Staci for giving me the idea of these little tidbits (check the comments for last week’s post if you’re curious)) Why do I feel like rubbing my hands together and saying “mwahahahaha”?

teasers(2)

Getting closer.

And of course:

zoey1


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Almost there …

checklist-2077020_1280

So many things to think about, get prepped, and design. And time seems to slip away. Maybe I need to take a sabbatical. Or maybe just a weekend with nothing else going on. No kids home from college, which always throws extra energy into the routine, and usually means I don’t get a whole lot done.

I do have an excuse to hunker down for the next week: it’s going to be freaking cold. I mean, below zero cold. For the high. We’ve been so spoiled this winter, and now when the hard stuff gets here, it’s almost nostalgic. You know, the ol’ “I remember when we had -40 windchills. For days.” Yep. This is nothin’ when you think about it.

It’s Minnesota, after all.

“I thought you were going to do a cover reveal, love.” My Muse settles a hip on my desk beside me. “You have the image.” He’s doing the flannel thing, with an appropriate thermal shirt underneath his black- and red-checked flannel, sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms. Worn jeans and hiking boots complete the lumberjack flair. “So share it. Everyone’s waiting.”

I lean back in my chair. “Except when I share it, everyone is going to want to see the listing. And the listing isn’t complete.” I just sent an email to my publisher asking them to please complete the listing. A half-finished listing is not professional. I think I would be disappointed if I went to look up an author’s book and the listing didn’t even have the cover the author just revealed.

“The ebook isn’t even on the listing yet.” And we’re in the red zone in terms of book release. I mean, seriously. I’m trying to be patient. I really am. It’s just frustrating. My agent suspects it’s fallout from the merger. She’s probably right, but that doesn’t make things any easier.

My Muse sighs. “Everyone knows a cover reveal is just that. The cover. No one expects the listings to be complete.

“Yes, they do. I mean, how many times have I gone and put in a pre-order after the author has done a cover reveal?”

“How many?”

Of course he would have to ask. “Okay, I don’t know exactly, but it’s a lot. And I have to figure out my author website, and my newsletter.” Which I have been working on.

“The site will go through changes, love. Everyone’s site gets refined over time.”

“Thanks, but that doesn’t do much to reassure me. My publisher doesn’t even have my book listed on their ‘Coming Soon’ page yet.”

“It’ll work out, love.””

“Nice thought. I’m just not seeing it yet.” On the bright side, if I don’t have my author page finished this weekend, it’ll give my publisher more time to get the listing fixed before people see the not-quite-done one.

“Hey.” My Muse slips off my desk, takes hold of my arm, and lifts me from my chair. He turns me to face him, blue eyes full of reassurance. “You keep doing your thing. Do what you can do and don’t fret over what you can’t control.”

“Fret? Really?” No one says “fret” anymore.

A crooked grin stretches across his face. “Yes, really. Look it up.”

Sigh. Okay, here’s something to tide you over:

teasers_cr

Oh, and can’t forget Zoey:

zoey_cr

She sure looks regal here. Yep, just like a cat to think she’s in charge. 😀

O-kay. Stay tuned …


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Look! Cover Reveal! #amreading #paranormal #urbanfantasy

Hey, lookie here! Check this out–fellow blogger Marcia Meara is revealing her upcoming release. Also, make sure you visit Marcia on her blog, The Write Stuff, where you can find all Marcia’s other books and check out her posts.

COMING SOON!

They’re back!
Jake and Dodger are at it again,
accompanied by their boss, the archangel Azrael.

I am so excited, I can hardly stand it. Once again, Nicki Forde Graphics Design has come up with a cover that does exactly what I wanted it to do. It provides a great-looking image that clearly links the second novella in my Emissary series with the first one. And it does this by putting Jake’s big, red-and-white semi front and center, angel wings and all, but with a completely different background.

In The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody, Jake and Dodger travel both coasts of Florida, day and night, working their emissarial magic wherever they find souls in trouble. For me, the palm fronds over the truck, the ocean in the background, and the moon shining down are perfect.

I can’t give you an exact release date for The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody yet, as I still have a few more tiny odds and ends to finish up, including the blurb. But I’m 99.9% sure it will be available within a week or two, and I’ll have more to share with you then. In the meantime, what do you think?

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who have helped me share my new cover with the Immediate World! It’s lovely to be part of such a supportive online community, and every single one of you is special to me. Thank you!

NOTE: This is not a stand-alone novella, so now’s a good time to grab the first one. You can read it in an evening and be all set for The Emissary 2. You’ll find The Emissary 1 on Amazon HERE.


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Guest Post–End of Day Cover Reveal #mystery #suspense #amreading

I’m thrilled to help my wonderful blogging friend, Mae Clair, with today’s cover reveal for her second Hode’s Hill novel, End of Day. If you haven’t read the first one, Cusp of Night, what are you waiting for?
Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weeds

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller

Publisher:  Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint

BLURB:

The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined in a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. In order to set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

End of Day can be read as a stand alone novel or as a follow-up to book one of the Hode’s Hill series, Cusp of Night.

End of Day is available for pre-order through this link

and available to add to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up  

Website & Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | All Social Media

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Mashup Marketing, Amazon, and a Muse–Guest Post by Staci Troilo #amreading #amwriting

Please welcome my guest today, Staci Troilo. Staci has just released the last book of her Medici Protectorate series (and I am so bummed, but there is the Nightforce Security guys, which is a spinoff written by Staci’s alter ego (well, one of them 😀 ) Kiera Beck). If you haven’t checked out the Medici series, you’re missing out.

And now, heeeere’s Staci!

Hi, Julie. Thanks for inviting me here today. I’ve been crazy busy writing guest posts for my latest release, Tortured Soul, the fourth and final installment of the Medici Protectorate series. As I was about to compose my piece for you, my muse interrupted me. I’m sure my original idea for a post would have been a good one, but I think you’ll like our conversation better. At the very least, you’ll get a kick out of this, since I have you to thank for introducing us.

muse

I’ve transcribed our chat for you:

“Ahem.”

I’d watched him come in the door. He’d risen at dawn and had been doing some form of martial arts in the yard for over an hour. Now he stood in the doorway, his broad, bare chest glistening with sweat. Dark hair, damp on the ends, curled at the nape of his neck. He sipped from my “This Might Be Wine” bottle, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he guzzled the water.

Had to be water. No one built like that drank wine after a workout. Certainly not Mr. Perfect. I had to admit, I might. Okay, I confess—my morning drinks of choice are coffee, mimosas, and Bloody Marys, in that order. Which isn’t really a problem, since I seldom workout in the morning. Nor am I built like a Roman deity. (I’m starting to see some uncomfortable correlations.)

Cara, you’re staring. Again.”

“Sorry.” My cheeks heated as I dragged my gaze up to his and forced myself to blink. And swallow. “Did you want something?”

“You’re supposed to be working.”

“A ha!” Is it bad that I feel perverse glee when he’s wrong about something? “I can’t write right now. I’m working on marketing materials and guest posts.”

“I didn’t say you’re supposed to be writing. I said you’re supposed to be working.”

And just like that, my glee evaporated. “I was. Until you interrupted.”

“If you were working, why were you staring out the window?”

Because my eyes were tired, my brain was mush, and I’d been admiring the view. At least until he came inside. “I was just thinking.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of exercising lately.”

His lips quirked.

My face flamed hotter, and I looked away—back to my blank computer screen.

He pulled on a t-shirt then dropped onto the sofa beside me. Close. Really close.

I inhaled deeply. To my surprise, he smelled good. Like pine and sandalwood and something sultry and exotic I couldn’t name. Seriously? After an hour flailing about in the summer heat? I vented the breath with an audible sigh.

He touched my arm. “You always sound so tortured, cara.”

Wonder why. Shifting in my seat, I knocked his hand away. My skin tingled where it had been.

“So, tell me. When you’re not fantasizing—”

“I don’t fantasize. I ponder. Plan. Prepare.”

“And now you protest too much.”

Hamlet? Queen Gertrude? What, were you Shakespeare’s muse, too?”

His jaw ticked and his gaze heated, but he didn’t speak. Still, I thought I heard an answer in his silence.

Given the circumstances—given his qualifications—I should probably give the guy a little more respect than I had been.

“Anyway.” I cleared my throat. “Julie has talked to me about marketing and publishing. In some ways, it’s tough for writers who write mashups or multiple genres.”

“How so?”

He wasn’t challenging me. Rather, he seemed genuinely interested. Apparently the business side of writing was outside his area of expertise. Never would have guessed there was something he wasn’t good at.

I reached for my mimo—er, my coffee—and nestled into the corner of the couch. “Well, if you’re going to be a multi-genre author, you’ve got some decisions to make. Are you going to try to maintain only one identity and segment your mailing list? Or are you going to write under multiple pen names, having one identity per genre? There are pros and cons to each.”

“And you chose to use multiple pen names?”

“Only recently. But that’s because of a policy at work.” He knows all about my job at a publishing company and the requirements that came along with it. He doesn’t know what the company is doing for me, though. “The marketing director there is helping me manage these different personas, and we’ve developed names and identities for each imprint that works for the genres I write in. Before that, I wrote only as ‘me’ and tried to target different segments of readers when I released different types of novels. And I was mostly on my own with marketing.”

“Either way sounds exhausting.”

“You have no idea.”

He took another drink. “Is there a way to make things easier?”

“Marketing takes time no matter what kind of author you are. Single- or multi-genre. One identity or many. Unless you have someone doing it for you, it’s not easy. But one of the easiest ways to target the right readers is to categorize your book correctly.”

Cara, correct me if I’m wrong, but you aren’t self-published. You don’t have control over your books’ categories.”

“That’s true of most of my books. But not all. I have a few self-published titles. I learned through trial and error on those. Lately, I’ve been asking questions and watching what my publishers chose for me. Watching what the top authors in my genres are doing.”

He leaned back against the cushions, and I got another whiff of him. It was more than a little distracting, so I sat up straight then bent over my laptop.

“What are you doing?”

“Pulling up Amazon’s site. I wanted to show you a few things. For starters, look at this. All these authors have multiple categories listed.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah, but you’re only able to add two categories and seven keywords when you upload on KDP.”

“So how did they get other categories?”

three categories

“You have to request it. Email the helpdesk in KDP with the exact path you want, and they’ll adjust it for you. You have to have the exact words, though. And don’t just rely on their options. If you look at your competitors, you can see paths you want that Amazon doesn’t offer. Copy them and ask KDP for them. That’s how you get the categories Amazon doesn’t organically offer. You have to be exact and specific.”

“But how do you know which categories to select?”

“Look at this.” I pulled up the categories for Hideaway by Keira Beck—one of my pen names. “See how ‘New Adult’ is one of them?”

Hideaway Amazon Ranking

“I’m not blind, cara.”

Yeah, neither was I. That was part of the problem. I turned back to the screen. “That’s definitely not a book about college-aged people, which is what NA was originally defined as. So I asked my publisher about it. They said the category has morphed to mean ‘includes unmarried sexual partners’ and has nothing to do with an age group. Other than the characters aren’t teenagers. If you want to place your book in the proper categories, you need to ask questions of people who might know more than you.”

“I see.”

“Another thing is to make sure you go as deep down into the categories as possible. The more specialized and specific you can get, the better chance you have at finding your targeted readers.”

“Makes sense.”

“And of course, you need to look at what comparable authors are listing their works as. Keeping an eye on them and what they’re doing helps you stay on top of your game.”

“You sure do a lot of looking at other things.” He tipped the bottle up and drained it dry. Never took his gaze off me, though.

I drained my own drink then scampered into the kitchen for a refill. It was really warm in the house.

“I think I’m going to shower then head to One Ugly Mug to watch the game.”

My mind kind of blanked at shower.

As he walked past me, he leaned down and whispered in my ear. “Don’t dawdle, cara. You’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Truer words never spoken.

So, as you can see, my newly-acquired muse has made himself at home. And we’re learning from each other—learning some really interesting things.

It’s hard to pick categories for books. I noticed my publisher chose different categories for my eBook than for my paperback and hardcover. Probably trying to maximize exposure. At the end of the day, I stand by the four rules mentioned above.

  1. Ask questions when you don’t understand.
  2. Request multiple keyword streams from Amazon, particularly ones they don’t offer that you can copy from other authors.
  3. The more specific and specialized the categories are, the better chance you have at finding your ideal readers.
  4. Always stay apprised of what comparable authors are doing.

Do those things, and you’ve won half the battle. Properly positioning yourself will entice Amazon to put their vast promotional machine behind you.

The other half requires developing relationships with your readers. Somehow I think my muse knows a lot about that particular subject. But I don’t have time to have that discussion today. I have promotional materials to write.

TS cover

Blurb:

Protection is safety. Until it stifles.

After months of clandestine battles, the Brothers of the Medici Protectorate finally know who is responsible for the assassination attempts on the Notaro family, the secret descendants of the Medici line. And they’ve never faced such a formidable foe.

Roberto Cozza–Coz–faces this new reality with surprising pragmatism. His powers may make the difference in winning their covert war–if only he can master them in time. It would just be so much easier if he could get his emotions under control, but neither his Brothers nor their charges are making things easy on him.

Toni Notaro appreciates the security provided by the Brothers, but she knows she has her own role to play–and it terrifies her. She is the missing link in Coz mastering his emerging abilities, yet she struggles to bridge the gap between what he needs and what she can offer.

As the Brotherhood hurtles inexorably toward the climactic final showdown, Coz and Toni must find the strength within themselves and each other to master the secrets of his powers, or risk death and defeat for all they hold dear.

Universal Purchase Link

Author Bio and Links:

Troilo Color Photo RT smaller

Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.

Web | Blog | Tortured Soul Info | Medici Protectorate Info | Amazon Author Page | BookBub Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter | Other Social Media Links


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A case of (almost) mistaken identity

zoey_cr

See how I did that? Made you look! 🙂

One of the decisions an author makes during the process of getting published, either traditionally or self-published, is what pen name to use. Most writers will use their “real” name, which makes sense. Some authors choose to use an alias, or pseudonym, as their pen name.

Writers with well-known pen names include Stephen King (Richard Bachman), and his son, Joe Hill (instead of Joe King. Heh, I never noticed that. Joe King. Get it? 😀 ). Others off the top of my head are J. D. Robb and Nora Roberts (which isn’t her real name either), Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick, and the (in)famous Robert Galbraith version of J. K. Rowling.

So, why do authors choose to use pseudonyms? Sometimes when an author is established in a particular genre, and they decide to write in a different genre, they will use a different pen name, like Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb. Nora is known for romance and romantic suspense. J. D. Robb writes futuristic police procedurals (which are great reading, by the way 😉 ). According to my editor, in her experience an author’s readers will read the author’s work no matter the genre. Well, except, I suspect, if the author strays waaay away from their usual genre, like a middle-grade author writing romance, or a horror writer getting into picture books.

Sometimes authors use pseudonyms because it may make their book marketable to a wider audience, though I suspect that isn’t like it used to be. I’m referring to the discrimination experienced by female authors in certain genres, notably mystery. I suspect the same thing would apply to male authors writing in genres such as romance. Gender expectations, I think they call it.

What if you have the same name as another author? I personally know a writer who uses a pseudonym because there is already an established author (in a different genre) with the same name.

Then there are the collaborative authors who write under a single pen name, like P. J. Tracy, a mother-daughter team (daughter only now, since Patricia passed away in 2016).

And a small percentage of authors may be concerned about privacy, but that might be more relevant if writing something highly controversial, or in the erotica genre. Look at the Fifty Shades books: E. L. James. I can see her not wanting to be immediately recognized at the annual church picnic.

The obvious question for a new, soon-to-be-published author is whether to use his/her real name. If the author’s name is something almost impossible to pronounce or spell correctly, or it just sounds weird (like Joe King 🙂 ), it might make sense to change it to something more reader-friendly.

It’s easy to search author names to see if your name already exists out there. Sure, your name might be Sue Grafton, but you probably don’t want to use that as your pen name, especially if you write cozy mysteries or women’s fiction. You might decide to use Susan Q. Grafton, or maybe your grandmother’s name (I know a writer who did that as well) of Lucille Cornish.

zoey2_cr

Seriously, get on with it…

Now to my story (sorry it took so long to get here 🙂 ). Because of the whole female writer in the mystery genre thing (gender expectations), I chose to use my initials. (Okay, there was some influence from my other half, who has an eye on privacy. I thought about using my maiden name, but that can be hard to pronounce correctly).

I searched Amazon, and no other authors used J. M. Holmes. Oh, added bonus: a mystery writer named Holmes. Never thought about it until a fellow writer mentioned it. Anyway, I established that with my publisher, set up a FB author page, Twitter account, yada yada. Just waiting on the cover art to really go gangbusters. My debut novel, Murder in Plane Sight, is being released in March 2019, and I don’t have cover art yet so I haven’t set up an Amazon author page or Goodreads author page.

Last week I got a notification that my FB author page has a mention. What?! So I go check out the post linking to my author page. It was a review/recommendation page for five summer reads, and a book by JM Holmes was on the list.

Except it wasn’t me. That JM Holmes is a male author in a more literary genre (story of African-American young men growing up in Philidelphia). His book is also a debut novel, to be released this month.

No wonder I didn’t find him in my author search last fall.

I can’t release a book under J. M. Holmes now. I asked the poster to remove the mention of my author page since I’m not the author she was looking for (she obviously didn’t look at my page, just probably searched for it).

I contacted my editor after getting reassurance from my agent that yes, I should change my pen name. I searched for my name, and no other authors popped up. Whew! My editor also assured me that the whole women mystery author thing is pretty much history thanks to authors like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton.

So, I will publish under Julie Holmes (much to my husband’s chagrin despite my promise not to embarrass his (my) name with shoddy writing and to keep as much anonymity as I can). So, change the FB author page, the Twitter handle, and at least I haven’t set up an Amazon or Goodreads page yet.

The benefits of a pseudonym are legit, but were more relevant years ago, I think. According to my editor, a lot of authors she knows wish they would not have used pseudonyms. I remember an article some time ago about how pseudonyms may be more trouble than they’re worth in a lot of ways. Using your real name simplifies a lot of things.

Sorry for the long post today (but I did include cat pics 😀 ). Have a great writing weekend!

zoey nap

Finally! I need a nap.