Post-NaNoWriMo blues

It’s officially December now, which means people think it’s officially winter. I’m over here with my pumpkin stuff, still pretending it’s fall. Just let me have this, guys.

I’ve been pretty busy. I have finally been aunt-ed for the fourth and possible final time. So, lots of family time, lots of pictures, lots of driving back and forth.

The good news is I actually have good news this time. Things are still tough, but there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Writing:

So the most important and exciting news- I have finished the first draft on my novel!! This might not sound exciting to anyone else, but the people closest to me know what this means. This story has been a personal, painful, mildly excessive journey for me. Getting everything worked out on paper has been years of madness. I kept telling myself, “If I just get through this scene then I only need to finish this,” over and over again until it was finally true.

Now, this doesn’t mean in anyway that it’s done. This is just the first draft. But it has a beginning, middle, end, and romantic subplot just for fun. This story has been floating around in ten different notebooks and on two different computers (RIP my original MAC that contained the first real fragments of this story) for probably close to 8 years. That doesn’t mean I haven’t worked on anything else. I’ve written a stack of short stories, a few poems, an actual novella, and a few other questionable things. Getting this whole story out has been the most difficult thing.

The only downside to all my work last month is that I didn’t mean the word count for NaNo. That’s ok, though, because my real goal was to finish this book. I considered starting a new novel, but my friends “kindly” reminded me that I needed to get over myself and finish this story. The best kind of friends encourage you to achieve your goals, and aren’t afraid to call you out on your bullshit.

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Tried to take a cool selfie, but he jumped in my lap and ruined it for both of us. This is what it’s like to live with a cat. Nothing gets done.

Reading:

I’ve been listening to audio books, which is something I’d never thought I’d do. Both my jobs have been requiring me to work extra hours, which has cut into my reading time. I refuse to let anything cut into my writing time, which is why I was up until midnight on the last day of NaNoWriMo to post my final word count. I can listen to headphones at my main job, which means I’ve already gone through 3 books in a week. It’s not how I want to live my life, but there are so many books I want to read, and I have so little time right now.

I just finished Little Girls by Ronald Malfi, which did not end how I thought it would. It had lots of twists, and not the ones I expected it to have. I also listened to Hush, Hush by Becca Fitztpatrick, and I’m almost done with the second one (Crescendo) because I have a thing for fallen angels. I’m pretty sure I listened to another one, but I can’t remember right now.

I’ve been using the library’s website/app to listen to these audio books, and it makes me feel like I’m technologically behind. I had to have one of my friends explain it to me. I’m pretty sure I have the soul of a 45 year old librarian, and I honestly don’t feel bad about that. Libraries are amazing! I’d love to be working at a library so I can spend my day surrounded by books and shushing people loud people.

Plots and plans:

Now I’m at that terrible editing phase for my novel. I’ve put the words down, now I have to make sure it all makes sense. This is the scary part.

Once Christmas is over, I should be working less. That means more writing nights, and more reading before bed. Most nights I have just enough time to shower and then go to bed, so I can get up again in the morning and do it all over again. Free time is a myth right now.

My final goal is to finish the books I started reading this year. I’m notorious for reading like 4 or 5 books at once, so if I can just reign myself in that might help. I can totally do this…

I think that’s all for now. Back to editing while my cat sleeps on my feet.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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Another year older, not much wiser

It’s Thanksgiving here today. While it’s usually one of my favorite times of year, this year it’s fallen at an odd time for me, which means I’m not home with my family and celebrating my birthday. I’m at my house, alone with my cat. It’s not too bad, though. I saw my family less than 2 weeks ago, and I will see them again in a few days when I become aunt-ed for a 4th time.

The weather has finally turned colder, which means lots of blankets and sweaters and boots. The best ways to stay comfortable. It also means my cat is actually attached to me. Right now he’s glued to my feet, desperate to stay warm. For anyone feeling sorry for my cat, just don’t. He’s so spoiled he has his own pumpkin house and a special blanket I wrap him in when we go to bed.

So…I thought I posted my Halloween update, but I apparently didn’t. Halloween was strange this year. My plans changed so many times that by the time Halloween actually arrived I just didn’t want to celebrate. That’s not a good sign because Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I took some cute pictures and got a burrito, even though I hadn’t even bothered to get a new costume. Luckily I have a closet full of costumes already.

My handsome cat got a new costume, because I finally found one that perfectly matches him.

 

It’s safe to say I’ve been overwhelmingly stressed out recently. With the holidays rapidly approaching, I don’t see it getting any better, but I’m going to keep trying.

Writing:

My Tuesday writing nights have sort of taken a hit the past few weeks. This is particularly bad considering it’s NaNoWriMo and I’m running a bit behind. I’m hoping to use this last week to catch up, but my current schedule for both jobs is working against me. I’m trying to stay determined, though. I can totally do this, right?

The good news is that I’ve gotten through one of the toughest scenes I needed to write. It’s one that I’ve known I needed to do, but had been ignoring for a while. But now that it’s finished I can move on and work towards the much more exciting part to write, the end of the book. Then go back and add in a few scenes that have been left out for the same reason.

Reading:

The past few months I’ve been reading more from my e-reader by downloading books from the library. It’s pretty much the coolest thing. Libraries are amazing. I read Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, who is quickly becoming a new favorite for me. I also read Fallen by Lauren Kate because sometimes I’m a sucker for a supernatural romance.

I also read Peter Pan for the first time, and holy crap it’s different than I expected. There are parts that are much darker that Disney implicated. Peter, himself, is much more interesting. There were several times that I stopped reading, went to my friend that recommended it and said “Scalps? They had scalps? From people??” and she would just nod and tell me to keep going. Peter Pan’s life was terrifying.

Plots and plans:

Since I forgot to post anything from last month, I can now proudly announce that I completed a 5k without dying. It was so much fun. I got 2 medals, took some fun pictures with the amazing MLT, and then played on the farm where the run was being held. And finally got to watch a pumpkin canon. img_5574

It was awesome. MLT and I spent a while trying to record ourselves doing some of the activities on the farm, but neither of us are skilled enough with our cameras yet. I have several pictures of me going down this huge slide, but no actual videos.

So the biggest thing I had been planning (besides the pumpkin run) was my magical themed birthday party. I’m aware that I’m an adult, but if I want to have a tropical/magical/mermaid/unicorn party, you bet I’m going to be buying decorations all summer for it.

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Really, though, I did. It was a fun distraction, but now that it’s over I’m forced to remember how much I’ve been putting off work. Time for my to clean up the balloons and get back to writing.

So, the currents plans are try to hit my word count this month, and try not to die from excessive Christmas music. Hopefully one of those is achievable.

I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving, or random Thursday in November. I’m probably going to finish eating the pizza I made for lunch, the pretend I can’t hear my neighbor’s music blaring from their cars.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

 

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Ignoring the heatwave and pretending it’s fall

Things are slightly less on fire, so I’d say things are looking pretty good for me right now. I got a new phone, which was expensive, and a new car, which is slightly more expensive. So yay for being a real adult now with very terrible real adult bills! But also, boo to real adult bills.

The brief fall weather we had was nice, until it turned 94 degrees this weekend. Luckily I stayed inside all weekend and didn’t bother getting dressed until I went to get a burrito. Sometimes we all need a lazy weekend.

Now on to those very important updates!

Writing: 

I’ve been keeping up on my Tuesday work nights, which is incredibly surprising. I’m proud to say that I FINISHED MY NANO PROJECT FROM LAST YEAR. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.

That’s a big deal for me because I’m notoriously bad at finishing long projects. It’s the reason I usually opt for short stories. Working on something novel length is a a challenge. I’m proud of what I’ve written so far because I know once I get to the editing phase I’ll just be tearing it apart. So happy time until then!

I’ve also got a few more ideas for short stories, which I’ve been making notes for. And I’ve made it my new goal (with a helpful push from my roomie) to finish my original novel. I stepped away from it for so long because of some early feedback I received from my family. It’s hard to be excited about something when the people you trust give you so much doubt about it. I’m trying to ignore their comments and move forward to tell the story I always wanted to tell.

Reading:

This month I ended up with a stack of nonfiction to read.

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One book was something my mom gave me years ago, and I’m glad I’m taking the time to finish it now. My mom gave me The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight when I was younger because I used to want to work for a newspaper or magazine. Reading about people who shaped the writing style I love is the writing inspiration I need right now. I am glad that I didn’t end up in a magazine or newspaper. Those places are too fast-paced for me. I like to work on my own time.

I also read Lindsey Stirling’s book The Only Pirate at the Party, which was much different than I expected. I didn’t know much about her, other than my cat enjoyed watching her YouTube videos with me. I enjoyed learning about her journey because I really had no idea where she came from.

The most recent book I read was In a Dark, Dark Wood and it’s probably my favorite I’ve read so far this year. It flashes back and forth between the party the main character attended, and hospital room she woke up in while she tries to remember what happened. It was exciting and interesting, and definitely one I’ll be recommending to my friends. It reminded me of The Girl on the Train but the people people are much less terrible.

I’m not sure what book to start next. I’ve gone through most of my reading list (at least the ones available at my local library) so if any one has any more suggestions, let me know!

Plots and plans:

So, I’ve only been slacking a little bit. I haven’t been working out as much as I was, which is not good considering the 5k I signed up for is less than two weeks away. Luckily it’s the fun kind where you can walk or run.

Like I said before, I’ve been keeping up on my Tuesday writing nights at the local coffee shop. Usually I try to hit the library once a week as well. Some weeks go better than others.

My biggest goal right now is to finish my main novel. As much as I love the distraction of short stories and journaling, it’s time to do what I always wanted to do. Which means lots of focusing, less time binge-watching Netflix, and much less time lurking on the Internet. Wish me luck!

I think that’s all for now. Hopefully I have more good news next time. Maybe this heat will break soon and I can actually wear my cute boots and sweaters without sweating.

I hope everyone is staying more motivated than I am at the moment. Sometimes it’s difficult when there’s so much negativity in your life and in the world. But we must persist.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment with book suggestions!

-JBL

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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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