It’s fine, everything’s on fire, but it’s fine

It’s taken a little longer to post than I planned, because of several terrible unforeseen events. Car broke down, credit card was stolen, stepped in cat puke early one morning. When it rains, it pours.

But I am trying to stay positive, thanks to the encouragement of my amazing friends. And this guy, creepily staring at me from my bed while I write.

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He spends more time sleeping on my bed than I do

I hope everyone is having better luck than me the past few weeks. I didn’t complete Camp NaNo, but that’s mostly because I have commitment issues. I enjoyed it, though. It’s nice to have a mid-year NaNoWriMo. Hopefully this keeps me motivated to actually finish it this year.

So, now it’s time for some fun updates.

Writing:

I have actually gotten writing done this month, guys. Not just notes and scribbled scenes in a notebook. Actual stuff I am working on. I’m so pleased. I made the difficult choice to leave the comfort of my apartment and go to the library. Sounds weird, but it works. I tend not to connect my computer to wifi when I’m out and about, so really the best way to get me to do stuff is to make me take my computer out.

I spent many hours at two of the libraries in town. I work best with very little distractions, so sitting at a desk in a quiet corner is perfect. The newest library is very bright and beautiful. There’s a fireplace in the middle, so I can’t wait for the weather to cool off so I can write next to the fire.

I was able to get two chapters of my Phoenix story done, as well as a few pages of the soon-to-be-popular fanfiction. I feel like my quality of work has definitely improved since I’ve started giving myself real time and space for it. It’s so easy to get distracted when I write at home. I can look up weird things or take a nap or play with the cats. When I put myself in that quiet space (like at the library where I am required to wear shoes) I get myself in the right mindset.

Reading:

I’ve been slowly working my way through my apparently questionable list on GoodReads. I took a little break from reading, meaning I didn’t actually do anything for a month, but now I’m back at it. Regular trips to the library have helped as well.

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One of these might be overdue

My choices this time were a bit random, and I’m not even sure how one of them landed on my list to begin with. Blood and Salt was very relatable, as someone from Indiana who has a healthy fear of what lurks in cornfields. Soulless was excitingly different, and my first attempt at reading anything steampunk. I’m currently still reading Let Me In, which I’m loving. I still think it has one of the best titles in it’s original language, which would be translated to “Let the Right One In’. I love a good title because I’m so terrible at coming up with them.

Also in the exciting reading front, I finally got the chance to read a story from one of my best friends. She’s an incredibly talented writer, so I was very excited to do the first content read for her. I let my pen bleed all over the pages, but that’s what I’m getting paid for. I felt so official when I mailed her manuscript back. I think mailing a package at the post office is one of the true markers of adulthood. I can’t wait for the next round of edits so she can get her story published. My friends are so talented.

Plots and plans:

I met up with the always amazing MLT at one of the newer coffee shops in town to talk over the ridiculous things we’ll be doing the next few months. It has nice tables and a pretty good atmosphere. Plus it’s not downtown so parking is much easier. Locally roasted coffee for the win.

I have surprisingly kept up with my insane goal of working out a few times a week. I started doing beginners yoga, which my cat thinks is hilarious, but I’m really enjoying. He likes to play on the mat, which is adorable and distracting. I’m trying to focus on taking care of myself, because it’s so easy to slip back into bad habits.

I’ve been feeling more creative lately. I’ve had more story ideas and plot revelations that I can’t wait to work on. I felt like I was stuck in a writing rut for so long, that feeling these ideas flow has just been amazing. So amazing that I bought myself new notebooks and folders from the back to school section at the store. You can’t just expect me to pass up Art Deco notebooks or a folder with tacos on it.

I think that’s all the updates for now. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I’m hanging in there. I’m lucky to have such supportive people in my life to keep me going. Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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Beach Diaries: Or, How I Survived 7 Days of a Florida Summer

Last month I embarked on a looooong journey to Florida with my family. The 12 hour drive felt more like a week, so by the time we hit the Florida state line I was ready to throw myself out the window and walk the rest of the way. It’s not that my family is bad, it’s just that they’re very chatty. All the time. I did not get any reading done on the drive there. I think I read a chapter on the drive back.

I was hesitant to go on this trip for several reasons:

1. I don’t really have the money for a vacation and

2. Florida in June is not the place I would pick to go.

But I went anyway, to stay in a house with 7 adults and 2 very small children. It was much different than I expected. The house we stayed in was spacious and modern, with a nice pool in the back yard. We had private access to a beach just a short walk from the house, which we definitely took advantage of.

That part of the vacation was wonderful. I went to the beach everyday, and swam in the pool several times a day. We ate tons of seafood and spent most of the time playing with the kids or just hanging out. My dad and I even took an hour and a half bike ride. But I’ll admit that I had other plans for vacation.

I thought that we didn’t have any “real” plans for the week, so I could just wander around, biking to the shops and writing there. But as it turns out the shops were over a mile away and the sun makes me weak. I ran out of sunscreen by the third day and angered my siblings by using theirs. Oops. I had brought 4 notebooks, 2 books, and my e-reader to keep myself busy. I had decided that I wanted to journal every evening, and do real writing in the morning or any time I wasn’t in the pool. I was hilariously optimistic that day we arrived.

My first journal entry was all about how wonderful my room upstairs was because I had a balcony. I was going to take my coffee out there and write while everyone got ready for the day. I was not aware that small children get up at 6:30am every day, and knew how to get to my room and whisper “Jessi…” under the door. I also didn’t know that my family had appointed me head coffee maker for the trip, which meant I got a text very early that first morning from my brother wondering where the coffee was.

Every morning after that went about the same. It wasn’t really so bad, because I love my niece and nephew. I was happy to spend every morning helping them eat breakfast get ready for the beach. The only problem was that I don’t like going to bed early. Everyone else, except my mom and sometimes my dad, would go to bed by 9 or 9:30. I’m used to staying up until at least midnight. Most nights later than that. So it was a little difficult to break my routine of going to bed late, even though I was being woken up early every day.

So my plan of coffee on the balcony was put aside (for good reasons) so I decided to do my writing at night. That, of course, kept me up even later. I took a notebook to the beach, but it was hard to focus on writing when my niece wanted to put wet sand on my legs. This also meant that I didn’t take any cool beach pictures like I planned. I did get one good sunset picture, and a whole bunch of awkward ones, with my phone.

So my big plan of reading all these books and getting a good chunk of my possible-fanfiction story written didn’t go as planned. I did spend quite a bit of time journaling, which was like stumbling back in time. That was how I started writing as a kid. I would lock myself in my room, away from my siblings, and just write until I couldn’t write anymore. It felt good to write, but it always brought up some painful feelings from when I was younger. I was not really a happy kid.

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I put on sunscreen to see the last sunset of the trip because you can never be too careful

About halfway through the week I went on a long journal-rant about the sun and the sand and the lack of alone time I was getting. I had managed to get a terrible patchy sunburn and my brother couldn’t stop reminding me how red I was. That same night I started freaking out, I also realized that Hot Topic had a Buffy the Vampire Slayer clothing line. So in my panic, with encouragement from my writing buddy, I bought two jackets and a shirt, none of which was cheap. I had a mild freak out the next morning when I realized how much it was, but then I actually got the jackets and they were beautiful. 13 year old me is still crying those fangirl tears. I regret nothing.

The last night of the trip I spent several hours writing. My brother, his wife and their little girl had left that day, so I had the whole upstairs to myself, which is when I realized it was probably haunted. Each bedroom had a remote to control the fan and lights. The light in my room had turned on several times by myself. There was also the toilet paper we found completely unrolled in the bathroom. The first time it was blamed on my niece, but the second time it happened after they had left. When I was alone upstairs. I spent that last night on the couch downstairs watching terrible old movies, trying to ignore the strange sounds of the house.

So the big family vacation was not at all what I thought it would be, but it worked out. I’m pleased with the journaling I did, even though I didn’t get anything for my stories done. I’ve kept up with the journaling, which just made me wonder why I ever stopped. It’s incredibly therapeutic for me.

I hope everyone else is enjoying the slightly less hot days we’ve had this week. Fall is so close I can almost taste the pumpkin spice.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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Let’s just do everything at once

Time for some fun and exciting updates!! (at least the ones I can share right now)

I’ve actually been busy this time, which is why it took so long to post again. I was out of town for a week on vacation with my family, which will have it’s own separate post. Lots of plotting and planning with MLT, which I will tell you all about…soon.

So, vacation with the whole family. It was not what I expected in good and bad ways, but overall, a nice break from work. I was still woken up every morning at 6am, but it was because my niece and nephew wanted to see me, which is significantly better than going to work.

We rented a beautiful house within walking distance of the beach. Instead of wild sight-seeing and tours, we spent most of our time at the beach or just spending time with each other. Sounds less exciting than it really was. I brought my e-reader, 2 books, and a ton of notebooks for the week. I only finished one book that week, but I made a point to write every night.

I also made the (terrible) decision not to bring my laptop so I could focus more on spending time with the family. When everyone else went to bed early, I spent a few hours journaling in my notebook. It reminded me how much I loved keeping a diary when I was younger. I went through so many diaries and notebooks as a child. That’s probably where my obsession with notebooks came from. I made a real effort to write every night, and I’m really excited about what I got done. It was nice to have those 2 hours every night to reflect on things. Family time can be wonderful and exhausting. Expect the next post to be my ridiculous musings from the week. Stay tuned.

So the week I got back from vacation I thought it’d be a good idea to start a bunch of different projects at once. I made a last minute decision to attend Indy Pop Con, which required a last minute costume. I’m pleased to say that I made a decent Green Ranger costume in less than a week. The con itself was pretty disappointing, but I got to spend the day with one of my best friends. We ended the night at a Drink and Draw contest downtown. As someone who can’t draw to save their life, I found it hilarious and fun. I was unaware of the serious artists that would be attending. For good reason, though, as the top prize was a booth for next year’s con. Sadly, my dinosaur drawing was not a winner.

Along with making a costume for a con and celebrating the 4th of July in hilarious ways, I received a manuscript from my friend to read and edit. Oh, and I started working on my confusing fanfiction for Camp Nano. Totally a reasonable amount of things to do in a week.

I’m excited about everything I’m working on right now, especially the charcoal grill I impulsively bought because it was on clearance. Expect weekly updates on what I’m grilling every week. I’ve never actually grilled before in my life, so this is both terrifying and exciting. I’m going to get some grill utensils tomorrow, since I think I might need something more than my cat spatula. I’m pretty excited to grill some pineapple tomorrow.

So, to summarize, lots of good stuff coming up soon. A new story to write, a new manuscript to edit, a new grill to grill everything on. Also something exciting that MLT has been working very hard on. It might have taken half a year for things to get going, but it’s definitely worth it. Here’s to hoping the second half of the year is more productive than the first.

Thanks, once again, for reading! I hope everyone else is having much sunnier weather than the storms that have been rocking Indiana lately. I am currently halfway underwater.

What projects are you guys working on right now? Anyone else feeling motivated knowing that the year is halfway over? Find me on Twitter or leave a comment to let me know what you guys are all working on. I’d love to hear about it!

-JBL

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Don’t tell me it’s fanfiction

It’s that time again, dear readers. That time when I sit down to figure out how much work I’ve gotten done over the past few weeks and suddenly realize I’ve been watching three different TV shows. I’m not procrastinating. I’ve just been busy. So busy.

It’s been almost 2 months since I last posted. While this normally causes me to freak out, I have decided to be positive about it. I may have failed on my promise to post more frequently, but that doesn’t mean I’ve gotten nothing done. Ok, yes, I was in a slump and watching way more Netflix than I should have, but I’m working on it.

I took some time to actually plan out a few weeks with my planner. I made a goal of reading and writing each day, and limited myself to one episode of TV a day. It sounds strict, but I know my weaknesses, and it’s too easy to just lounge and binge-watch shows. By scheduling writing and reading times (and accounting for frequent interruptions from normal life) I’ve been able to get back into that creative mindset. One of the things I always missed from college was the daily writing prompts and the different kinds of literature I was exposed to. Getting back to that on my own has been an interesting experience.

One of my favorite things to search for on Pinterest is writing prompts. Sometimes they’re silly, but other times they’re actually pretty good. I love retellings of fairy tales, or old stories that we all know (and sometimes love). My word count for the past two months might be pretty low, but I’ve been working on developing different stories. I’m proud of how much plotting I’ve gotten done recently, and I’m excited about the new projects I’ve got coming up. Hopefully soon I can tell you the ridiculous things we have planned for this year. Go big or go home, kids.

In my Pinterest and Tumblr searches, I’ve found lots of different takes of familiar stories. So many of these horror and sci-fi ideas have been used and rebooted. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it gets weird. Sometimes I’m trying to decide if it’s just fanfiction that shouldn’t have been published.

As many of you might not know, I have very mixed feelings on fanfiction. I can’t lie and said I’ve never read it. I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and was more than disappointed when my OTP never got together. Even though it was pretty clear that that’s what needed to happen. I think that was the first time my heart actually broke.

Anyways, I’ve been working on a few stories based on fairy tales and urban legends. I recently got an idea for a new story, based on a very old book. I started making notes, and outlining, and even did a character sketch. While I’m working on all of this, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying “Hm…this could be fanfiction.” While I’m insisting that it’s totally not fanfiction because the story is so old, my best friend and writing buddy is reminding me that the first fanfiction was Bible fanfiction. I’m not sure if that makes it acceptable or worse.

Speaking of MLT, I have to do a quick shout out to how awesome she is. She picked up a 25 pound box of peaches for me and WALKING it back to my apartment because I was at work when the peach truck came to town, and gave me some good tips on menu planning. She listens to all my writing breakdowns, encourages me to read and write weird fanfiction, and is generally a writing inspiration to me. We recently had a long talk at our local Dunkin Donuts until they politely kicked us out. We talked about our plans for the year, and how we could motivate each other. She’s the kind of person moody writers need in their life: a little ball of lightning that randomly pokes you to see if you’re still writing. So, like a writing taser.

When I first sat down to write this, I was in a pretty low mood. But after thinking about it for a few days, and planning out some fun things, I’m feeling more motivated again. I started working out, which the cats find hilarious. I’ve gotten back to cooking and baking at home, which I love. I just finished baking my 3rd round of peach flavored baked goods. Things are looking up now that I have more baked goods and writing inspiration. And, of course, so much iced coffee.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to hoping my next post is more organized!

-JBL

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No spring cleaning, just spring setbacks

Here we are again, returning from another hiatus. Judging by my last post, my Thor-themed word tracker, and my Goodreads app, it’s been over two months since I’ve actually read or written anything. What have I been doing since then? Good question.

February and March seemed like such a blur, and now April is almost over. It’s hard to remember what’s been going on since I’ve been so down lately.

I attended Indiana Comic Con and an incredibly nervous cosplayer. I took notes at some of the panels, and plan on detailing that whole experience in my next post.

I visited my college for the last event before it closes this year. I caught up with my favorite professors and reminisced about the coffee shop. I even made a sort of peace with some old friends (That story is a whole novel series in itself).

But mostly I let myself slip back into bad habits. No writing or reading updates this time, which is why I haven’t posted anything. I’m no closer to my goals, and it’s pretty disappointing. But instead of continuing to ignore this blog and keep hiding in my room, I’m forcing myself to post this. I want to motivate myself to keep writing. I keep thinking that I should be writing each day, and how I just need to start doing it to make it a habit. But each day ends, and suddenly it’s time to go to bed, and nothing has been accomplished. The only way for me to change that is to start writing. So here I am, at 11pm, writing about what I haven’t been doing.

I hope everyone else has had more luck than I have. Tune in next time for a detailed report on Comic Con, and then some nostalgic stories from my college reunion.

Thank you for reading this very short post. Here’s to Monday Motivation!

-JBL

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I haven’t fallen behind, everything is just moving too fast

I know I said I’d be updating more, but so much stuff has happened. Nothing dramatic, really, just lots of little things that I’ve let distract me, even though I should know better by now.

I was gone for a few days at the end of January to visit my family and watch my friends lose their minds at a Breaking Benjamin concert. The concert itself was awesome. I’m not a big fan of moshing or crowd surges, so it was great to see a band and not come out with bruises at the end of the night. Frequent concert-goers know how those things can be.

The best part about going to a concert with my friends was the unanimous decision to go to Dunkin Donuts afterwards and drink coffee and eat all the donuts and hash browns they’d give us. Seriously, all the hash browns they could stuff in a bag. It just shows that you should be nice to the people making your food. They might just “forget” to charge you for those 13 delicious little hash brown rounds.

The other little distraction I’ve been dealing with is this massive cold that has kept me down for the past week. I had coffee for the first time in about 6 days and it was glorious. I’m finally getting to the point where I can breathe normally again, and my sense of taste is almost back as well. It sounds pathetic, but I don’t get sick very often. So when I do, it knocks me down hard. Thanks to an insanely British amount of tea and lots of medicine, I’m back on track.

Writing: 

As much as I want to skip over this update, I’m going to focus on the positive. I’ve gotten more writing done so far than I did this time last year. It hasn’t been as much as I wanted, but I like to think that I’m still ahead of the game.

Reading:

I think I’ve read somewhere around 7 books since my last post. First I read The Girl on the Train in which everyone is the unreliable narrator so good luck figuring out who’s not a bad person by the end of it. Spoiler alert: they all are. It was an exciting read. I think it’s interesting to see characters that aren’t clearly good or bad, because real people are rarely so clearly defined.

I finally read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and it was so different from what I expected. Reading classics like that make me understand why people are always so eager to put their own spin on the story. I’d heard so much about it, and saw it portrayed in different shows and movies, that I had built it up to more than it was. So my first thoughts when I finished it were about how I could use that idea for my own story. There’s a good possibility that I’m going to write a story based off of it. Does that count as fanfiction? That’s a real question. I need to know!

Next I read The Demonologist, which was quick and spoke to my love of horror, ancient texts, demons, and the struggle of good versus evil. Then I got into The Descent, which moved back and forth between the missing Caitlin and her guilt-ridden brother, Sean. I don’t always like books that move between perspectives, but I feel like it was necessary to slowly reveal everything that was happening to that family.

Finally, I got to Horns by Joe Hill. This book has been on my list for a while, and I’m so glad I got around to reading it. Ig isn’t necessarily a bad guy, he’s just had some back luck, mostly in the form of one person. He’s the devil in the blue dress that you surprisingly feel sympathy for. I loved it.

The next two books I read were part of my Christmas present from my friend. The Other Typist was set in my favorite time period in New York. I love reading about the 1920s. I was very interested in learning about these women that worked in police stations. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about, but typing was considered a woman’s job. These women listened to confessions and testimonies. Their work was important, whether it was acknowledged or not. The plot focused on Rose, who put her trust in someone that she definitely didn’t know as well as she thought. It’s also scary to me to think about how easy it would have been to falsify your background, or really anything. We get very caught up in the protection of our privacy (which, yes is very important) but it’s so easy now to prove who you are. Creating a false identity is a little more complicated than stealing your friend’s life story. The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking how it would make a great movie. Lots of drama and excitement, not to mention some awesome parties. I looked it up, and it’s supposedly going to be made into one…eventually. I really hope it’s true.

Next was Confess by Colleen Hoover. It was a sweet story about two people that were clearly fated to be together. Their journey started long before either of them realized it. My favorite part of the book, honestly, was the real confessions that were used in the book. Owen, the artist in the story, used anonymous confessions from people as ideas for his paintings. I loved what Owen was doing, because I feel like I do that myself. I build a story around some small snippet that I’ve heard or read. Knowing the truth behind the words takes away from the story I’ve created in my head.

So, in conclusion, I’ve spent way more time reading than writing the past 3 weeks. Time to fix that.

Coffee intake:

Seriously down since I’ve been sick. Only 2 cups today, I’m surprised I’m still awake.

Plots and plans: 

Keep reading like crazy, and write way more than I have been.

Get outside a bit more since the weather is finally warming up.

Work on that idea I had about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and try to decide the real definition of fanfiction.

Make real food for dinner tonight since I’ve only had a cupcake so far.

Get more organized! In so many ways…

Build a tiny greenhouse for my little pineapple plant so I can harvest little pineapples all year round. (It’s important to have diverse goals)

Finally read all the books that have been given to me. I’m working on the stack my friend gave me for Christmas. I have another stack that’s just from my mom. She’s always encouraged my love of books, and has given me so many that I’ve started but not quite finished. Time to finish what I’ve started!

 

So that’s basically what’s been going on. Along with the devastating news that my college is on the verge of shutting down. It’s been an emotional time for the current students, as well as the alumni like me and my friends who are saddened to hear about the closure of the school we love. Thinking back on my time there has brought back so many memories, things I hadn’t thought about for years. I drove around the campus a few days ago, but couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car and walk around. I’m hoping to return soon with some college friends so we can go through it all again, together.

I hope everyone out there is getting more done than I am. It’s easy to give up when things get too busy, but it’s important to stay focused on your goals, no matter how big or small they might be. So, right now, I’m going to work on one of my smaller goals, which is making dinner.

As always, thanks for reading!

-JBL

 

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Like a rainstorm in January

Two updates in one month?? Madness, I know. I’m trying to get better at regular updates. Seeing as this is only January, we’ll see how it goes.

Writing:

So I pointed out last time that one of my biggest goals for this year is to finally become the writer I pretend to be. Which means actually typing up my notes and stories. I downloaded a word tracker (actually the same one I tried downloading last year, but I couldn’t get it to work. Clearly 2016 was doomed from the start for me). So far it says I’ve only written about 3,000 words, but it’s better than nothing.

I’ve been focusing on the story I started in November. I love the character I’ve been developing, and it’s been fun creating some new mythology. Because no one else wants to believe that phoenixes are real. I’m also getting excited about my other novel again. Forcing myself to write every day is getting easier. The ideas for both stories are coming much easier. It’s a good feeling.

Reading: 

I decided to create my own reading challenge without hassling my friends about what book they’d be reading that month. I’m sure my friends are very relieved.

I started this month with two different books by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. I don’t even know how these books ended up on my list, but I’m so happy that they did. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was fun and weird. Everything that has happened to her is ridiculous, but believable, because I know someone who has never had anything normal happen to her either. Furiously Happy made me feel more than I planned on feeling. While the first book was more of a memoir, Furiously Happy was just so much more than I expected. I expected it to be funny and strange, which of course it was, but I didn’t expect it to bring me to tears. Sometimes I feel pretty insane, but her determination to be successful and happy when there’s so much wrong was strangely inspiring. It made me think about my own life quite a bit. Then a cried a little more, but in a good way.

Coffee intake:

Could definitely be improved.

Plots and plans:

I am generally disorganized as a person. This just a fact. I’m trying really hard to get my life together this year (definitely trying harder than last year, actually). The biggest help that I’ve found is using a planner. I had planners in school, all the way up through college and I loved them. I’ve been sort of lazy about using them the past few years, but I’m hoping that will change.

I have two planners this year, which might sound strange, but trust me, it makes sense. I have a pineapple one that’s about the size of a notebook that I’m using for normal life stuff. Bills, work, vacation, forced family bonding. Then I have a smaller one that I’m using for my writer goals. I looked at the next two months and planned out how much I should be reading and writing each day. My days off I’ve turned into full work days. I even got different color gel pens for reading, writing, and blog posts. I’m getting so organized.

The idea is to make the most of my time. There’s no reason for me not to be writing, or reading more books. I’m making myself get up earlier than usual as well. This also sounds crazy, but I move much faster when I’ve had three cups of coffee before I’ve even gotten to work. I don’t know how I lived before I got this automatic coffee maker. I set it for 6:30am, so I’m pretty much waking up to the smell of coffee. It’s amazing. And it sets the tone for my day. By the time I get to work I’m energized and ready to go. I spend less time being grumpy and more time getting things done.

We’re three weeks in to January, and I haven’t lost any momentum yet. I’m pretty sure this is a new record for me. I hope everyone else is keeping to their own goals, or resolutions, or small things they’d like to accomplish. fullsizerender

For encouragement I have included a picture of the handsome Editor Cat. He’s currently in his favorite position, on my lap, between me and my computer. I’ve gotten pretty good at typing around him. Not that he’d ever move. Time for me to get back to writing.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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