Are you a Part-Time Writer Looking for Inspiration for 2014? You’ve Come to the ‘Write’ Place!

I’m starting of the year with a guest post from Nikolas Baron, from Grammarly.com. Have you heard of them? It’s a great site for writer’s who need help proofreading their work. From blog posts to essays, they’ve got the tools you need! But first, get inspired to start 2014 off the ‘write’ way!

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The Part-Time Writer

part_time_writerBeing a writer is, for many, a lifelong dream. Writing for payment is a thrilling accomplishment, but it’s usually soon followed by the realization that most writers do not make a living from writing alone. In fact, many writers pursue a separate, unrelated career while writing part-time, whether as a hobby or as a secondary source of income. For the part-time writer facing deadlines, a quality online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can be a valuable tool. Saving time is just one aspect of creating success as a writer, however. Writing takes dedication, patience, and a willingness to learn the craft.

Being a writer is an admirable goal, but it’s not a realistic one. How does one become “a writer”? There is no pill, no bottled potion to be ingested, that will magically bring about the transformation. Becoming a writer begins with picking up a pen; but, having taken that first crucial step, the aspiring writer will discover that the journey has just begun. First, the writer must decide what type of writing he or she wants to do. Fiction or nonfiction? Short stories?

Articles? Novels? Each type of writing requires a unique skill set, and there is a distinct path to follow to the individual definition of success for every writer. It’s important to study the craft and read within and outside the genre to become a well-rounded reader and a better writer. Wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. It’s important to decide upon a genre and a style that best suits the writer’s individual dream. Becoming a writer is a dream. Transforming an abstract desire into a concrete success takes deeper thought.

Once the budding writer has decided upon writing mystery novels, for example, the next step is to set some goals. Novices may want to keep the goals reasonable, setting themselves to the task of writing for a set amount of time per day or obtaining a certain word count, depending on the time that can be found in between other obligations. Some professionals suggest that writing every day is critical to success, while others claim that a certain amount of time must be invested. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Time and discipline are important, but the definition of success is an individual one that only the writers themselves can create. Goals create personal milestones, giving the writer a measuring stick against which to check progress. Setting the goals is entirely up to the writers themselves.

Time can be a precious commodity in our fast-paced world. Between work, family obligations, hobbies, volunteer work, and other commitments, the idea of finding time to write might seem out of reach. However, it can be done. It may be necessary to write out a simple schedule, noting work, family obligations, and other time constraints, and then consider the blocks of time that are not already committed to other pursuits. Television viewing might have to be sacrificed. Getting up a little earlier in the morning, for a morning person, or staying up a little later in the evening, for a night owl, might be an option as well. Moreover, a shorter lunch break might provide some time to indulge the muse.

Time, however, is not always the only consideration. Many writers need to “warm up” to the page, to shift gears from their day jobs into the mental work of writing. It is necessary not only to find time to scribble a few words on a page but also to find long enough blocks of uninterrupted time suitable for writing. Indeed, protecting the quality of one’s writing time is as important as finding time to write in the first place. If writing is not a priority and if the commitment is not as firm as the Saturday-morning golf game or the monthly martini lunch with the girls, it will never get off the ground.Marjorie Facklam, author of numerous children’s books, began writing while raising her five children, with several still in diapers. If a harried mother of five can find time to research and write rhyming science picture books like Bugs for Lunch while chasing toddlers and maintaining a household, any writer can find time in their schedule. Often, the question isn’t one of time, but of commitment.

Connect with  Nikolas Baron on Google+      Plagiarism Checker

nick-Grammerly Guest posterAbout the Author:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Have you heard of AuthorsDB? If not, you have to check this out!

adb_badgeRecently, I was directed to a website that offers free author promotions. In the digital age of Indie authors, it’s up to us to find ways to promote our work in order for our creative voices to be heard by millions of readers. I’ve signed up for a variety of sites, but this one in particular stands out from the rest.

Have you heard of IMDb (Internet Movie Data Base)? They are the biggest source of information regarding television shows, movies, and actors. AuthorsDB is the same, except that its a  Data Base for finding authors on the web. This site  not only allows you to post your biography, books, blurbs, and sales links, it also gives you the freedom to share every available social networking sites your connected to, list your publisher information, and share specific details about your books. The site also offers services for authors, contests, and even shares your information across the web via Twitter, Facebook, and the other major sites where readers can be found! Did I mention this service is FREE?????

Interested? Stop by and visit my page. And while your there, I’d appreciate your support in a book cover contest that is being held. I’ve submitted both covers, you can see the samples on the right hand side of your screen. Take a minute and cast a vote. I’d love the support! Don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Share” the page as well.

Vote for A Heart Not Easily Broken Cover           Vote for Jaded Cover

I hope you find this tip helpful. Good luck with your book promotions!

MJ

 

 

#8Sunday- Jaded (Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs)- Words of Wisdom

When I write, I like to incorporate the point of view of an outside character who steps in as a voice or reason or wisdom. Doing so gives the reader a chance to see how the characters actions are viewed by someone outside of that intimate relationship. In the case of Yasmine and Zack, the voice comes from Zach’s mother, Belinda Givens. Listen to her words of wisdom as she speaks to a very upset Yasmine.

Excerpt:

I tapped her chest lightly. “A good heart. You’re selfless and care about others. You’re just the kind of woman my son needs. Sweetheart, if you let him, my son will take care of you in every way he can. He’ll be anything you need him to be and then some. You two were made for each other.”

“That’s what scares me the most.”

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Will Yasmine listen to those words and take a chance? Buy a copy of this 5 Star Reviewed Amazon Bestseller today!

 

Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

New to The Butterfly Memoirs Series? Catch up with A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book One of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Reviews, Free Chapter Samples, All Sales Links

#8Sunday- Jaded (Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs) – Dreams

Have you ever found yourself  working at a job that, even though your good at it, is not right for you? Have you ever wanted to break away and do your own thing? Your not alone…

Excerpt:

“You’re supposed to be training me to manage the new location.”

I groaned. Hearing about the third Phillips’ Family Inn was not on the top of my list of things to talk about. I appreciated the family business, especially since we sacrificed so much to open the original location twelve years ago. Since graduating college, Id been in charge of the daily ins and outs of the second location. I ran the place as if it were my own. However, it was not what I saw myself doing five years from now.

My dream didn’t have anything to do with hotel management.

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Jaded will be available from 5 Prince Publishing on in FOUR MORE DAYS!

In the meantime, if you haven’t read A Heart Not Easily Broken, grab your copy today so you can catch up!!!

Reviews, Free Chapter Samples, All Sales Links

Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ

#SampleSunday- A Heart Not Easily Broken- Talking to Brian’s Mom

#SampleSunday: A Heart Not Easily Broken-Talking to Brian’s Mom

Meeting your boyfriend’s family can be a nerve wreaking experience. Ebony spent hours stressing over how Brian’s family would view him dating a black woman.  She is pleasantly surprised by the warmth of their reception. And as with any relationship, there comes a time when you find yourself alone with your boyfriend’s mother. And as you know, moms have a habit of letting things slip.

Excerpt:

“Forgive me for asking, but did you really pick my son up in a bar?”

I laughed. “No, ma’am. I was at the bar when he picked me up.”

“That’s what I thought. He doesn’t usually do stuff like that. Well, not as far as I know…” She glanced away, apparently embarrassed by what she’d said.

“I know what you mean.” I smiled. “To be honest, he picked me out of a crowd watching the band play. He came up to me, and I politely brushed him off.”

Mrs. Young laughed.

“A few days later, Brian showed up at my house, hired by my roommate to cut our lawn and well…here we are. I can say one thing, he’s very persistent.”

“Oh yes,” she agreed. “As a kid he used to flash those blue eyes at me all the time to get cookies from the jar before dinner. He’s got eyes just like his father.”

“He knows how to use them,” I agreed. Brian did indeed have the same swag as his father who was strikingly handsome.

I glanced up and saw her smile.

“You are the first woman Brian’s brought around here in a long time, Ebony. He likes you. I hope you feel the same way about him. I’d hate for my son’s heart to be broken again.”

I paused, mid-slice of an onion, and frowned.

“Oh, dear, I’ve said too much.” Laura turned her focus to a pot on the stove.

Brian’s heart had been broken? He’d never mentioned it to me when talking about previous relationships.

“I like Brian. I love his confidence and his desire to reach his goals, and he supports mine. That’s why I’m with him. I don’t know where our relationship is going to go, but I’m willing to stick around and find out.”

We studied each other before she nodded.

“I can understand why he likes you. You speak your mind. That’s a good thing. He doesn’t need a woman who’ll back down. Keep that up, and you’ll be fine.” She smiled briefly and turned back to the stove.

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BUY your copy of this Amazon Bestseller for $3.99 today! For REVIEWS, SAMPLE CHAPTERS, and LINKS of all formats…all with just ONE-CLICK! 

 

Thanks to everyone who visited Peggy L. Henderson’s blog post this week and commented on my interview. Now, as promised, the winner of this month’s $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD is…………………

TASHA  SMITH!!!!!

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Check your email soon for further information!

What You Don’t Know About Queries CAN Hurt You!

Recycle Those Old Manuscripts, Don't Trash Them!So, you’ve written your story and want to share it with the world. But first, you have to query.

What is a query?

A query is a presentation of your manuscript shortened into brief paragraphs in the effort to draw an agent/publisher’s attention to your work. A well-written query letter can lead to a request for more information about your project: a full synopsis, a request for the first couple of chapters, or the entire manuscript. The goal is to receive a request for representation (agent) or publication (publisher). But like writing, in order to tell a good story, it takes research and planning  in order to make the process flow smoothly.

So, what steps should you take?

First of all, research the agent/publisher you want to submit your letter to. No two agents or publishers are alike.

  • Agents:  Visit the personal pages of agents on the company websites. Most will tell you if they are looking new clients.  Some welcome new, unpublished clients, while others prefer to work with already-published authors. Some have a wish list with the types of stories or genres they are looking for. Knowing this before you waste time sending them your work saves time on both of your parts. Submitting a query of a Sci-Fi story to an agent interested in only Romance novels is asking for rejection.
  • Publishers:  Whether you’re looking to self-pub through a vanity press, Indie Press, or Traditional Publisher, you MUST read the submission guidelines. No two are alike. For example, one publisher may want your manuscript  typed and submitted in 12 point Times New Roman font, while another may request 11 point Calibri. (Yep, I had that happen!). If I hadn’t read the submission guidelines and assumed they wanted the manuscript written in standard Times New Roman, my manuscript would be ignored for not following their guidelines before they read the first line!

Prepare various files ahead of time to save time. While researching agents/publishers, make note of what type of file they want you to send. (Note: this is the age of digital. Gone are the days of only mailing your manuscript or query letter. Most require emails, not snail mail. ‘Snail mail’ –traditional mailing- can add longer wait time to getting a response to your request).

Here are the various requests I ran across:

  • Query letter– that’s all they want. Keep it short and simple, to the point.  Open with a hook that leaves wanting to know more. Talk briefly about your writing experience (if applicable) and where samples of your work can be found. Leave with a respectful and professional closing. Be sure to include correct contact information for phone, email, mailing. (Note: if including social networking information, know that they WILL research you before contacting you. Having an unprofessional presence online can cause them to lose interest, regardless of how great your story is.)
  • Query and Sample Chapter (s) or Pages In addition to the standard query, some want to sample your writing voice. Here is where having a strong opening to your story comes in. The first three chapters are your make or break it points in your novel. If an agent or acquiring editor can’t get hooked then, then they push your work to the trash pile and send the dreaded ‘rejection form’ letter. Create separate files for the following page counts: 5 pages, 20 pages, 50 pages. (or 1st chapter to 1st-3rd chapters).
  • Query and Synopsis The dreaded synopsis letter can take more work to write than the 350 page novel it’s being written about. The point is to share the highlights of your story, from beginning to, yep, the actual end…not the lead up to the end. They want to know how the story ends to decide if what happens in the middle is worth the time to read. Synopsis request can be as brief as one page, to as lengthy as 4 pages. Prepare a one-page, three-page, and four-page to have on hand. No need to pull hair out after writing a one-page synopsis and run across a request for a four-page and have to start all over again.
  • Query, Synopsis, and Full Manuscript:  Not many will ask for a full manuscript from the get go, but some do.  Be sure to have your manuscript completed BEFORE submitting it. Agents/Publishers want to see a finished product, not one that is incomplete. If they like what they see, they will want to jump on it. If they have to start working with you by giving you a deadline to finish the project, it could be a turn off.  As a rule, most manuscript requests come in the form of the following:*12 point Times New Roman font  *1 inch margins (all around) *double spaced (entire document, without space between paragraphs)

***Be sure to have your manuscript edited and as clean as possible. DO NOT SEND ROUGH DRAFTS! Try to have your work as close to professionally edited as possible. Not doing so and having blatant misspellings and punctuation errors can result in rejection of your work! ***

Once you have these things in place, you are nearly ready to start querying! With so many agents and publishers out there, it’s hard to keep up with what information was sent to which publisher and when. I suggest creating a spreadsheet to make note of the dates and information sent. If you don’t have time to make your own, visit QueryTracker.com. Create a profile, make notes of sent responses and request, as well as look up information about the agents/publishers you’re interested in. There’s also an area that allows you to view comments from others about their experience with those agents/publishers and turnaround time for responses.

The query process is time-consuming and a real test of your will and patience. The pay off; seeing your work in the hands of readers.  This is the time to grow thick skin. Prepare to get rejection letters, either as form responses or the very rare letter with actual feedback.  Take it with a grain of salt and look for the good part. No, I am not saying being told NO, is a good feeling, but sometimes it’s comical. I got one that said, “No, not interested.”…that was it, no hello, no Ms. Kane, nothing.  I laughed my butt off because it appeared that particular person was having a bad day.  I could only imagine what it’s like to trudge through a ton of emails day after day in search of a line that catches your attention. Just because they said no didn’t mean it was about me or my work. Remember my above comment: Wish List. If looking for the next hot book about Vampires is what is on everyone’s list, your next love story that’s about the average Joe won’t get a second look, no matter how well it’s written.

Don’t be afraid to explore your publishing options. If you don’t have the time or patience to look into self-publishing, then look at Indie Publishing companies.  They still request the same type of information as the big publishers, but you have a better opportunity to have your writing voice heard. The beauty of going Indie is being able to tell your story the way you want to without being told what you can or can’t write.

I survived the query gambit,  kept my writing voice, and ignored the negative responses that told me ‘no’. And now I am an Amazon Bestselling Author. 🙂

Here are a few links to articles on writing query letters synopsis. Good luck!!

MJ

eHow.com- Query Letter Sample Search

eHow.com- How to write a Synopsis Search 

Query Tracker.net  

Life on this Side of Publication: Part One- Playing the Query Game

For a while, I never thought I’d have a blog title like this, but it’s a blessing to be able to talk about life on ‘the other side’….

First, let me start with a recap of the past ten months.
I began sending query letters for my manuscript, A Heart Not Easily Broken, at the end of February. For those of you who have gone through that race, you know what a headache it can be. Its tries your patience, creates a crap load of self-doubt, and often you find yourself ready to throw in the towel.  Rejection after rejection pops up in your email, leaving you afraid to even open it.  Honestly, it’s hard to know what type of rejection letter is worse: standard form or one that has a little bit of a personal touch….either way, no is no.
I received both. It was disheartening to continue to have the standard forms instead of the ‘we don’t like it because…’ Who’s to say they even took the time to read the first line of the query letter you put your blood, sweat, and tears into writing?  How easy is it to look at something, decide you don’t have time to read it or the genre itself is not what you’re looking to fill, hit the reply button, and copy/past a rejection letter? Heck, my 10-year-old can do that! Out of the 70+ query letters sent, only four took five minutes out of their day to give me an explanation as to why they didn’t ‘feel’ my story. For that I was grateful.
I know, it sounds weird, but hearing them say why they didn’t like it gave me the fuel I needed to make changes to the next query letter or the story itself and try again.
Patience. Persistence. The will to try again.  (It makes a great mantra!)
Yes, I cried, had bad days, days filled with multiple rejections within hours of each other, as well as some that just flat out made me laugh.  It’s a part of the process. (The one that made me laugh was not a form rejection, it pretty much said, “Um…no.”)
Then one day, I got it…the email from an agent that said, “I’d like to represent you…but….”
Yep, that’s right there was a but.
‘But’…your story was good (she requested to read the full manuscript), BUT, I don’t know how to market this. I can submit it here (not naming the publisher, but I will say it was only to the few publishers who focus on African-American authors), but you’ll have to REDUCE YOUR WORD COUNT and this part, (the catalyst to the life changing event, the heart of the story which is in the middle of the book), will have to be changed to the end so the hero comes riding in on white horse. (Therefore turning the novel into a typical romance story, following all the genre guidelines).
Um…okay…

OR for your story to be submitted to the BIG SIX as Women’s Fiction novel, (which was what I wanted in the first place), you’ll have to add about 20,000 works (Not a problem!!!)….BUT…..You’ll have to change from 1st person to 3rd person…regardless of which publisher we submit to.
*Crickets chirping*
The Butterfly Memoirswas built on stories told in a first person narrative. Turning that to a third person would destroy the concept of the series and the one point I was unwilling to negotiate…ever.
I respectfully said, “No thank you.” And kept moving.
Did I have a moment of doubt in my decision? Of course! After all, an AGENT had not only expressed interest in my work, she’d also requested to read the full manuscript and liked it!
As an author seeking publication, you relish the idea of having a professional take a look at your work, and if you’re comfortable enough and are willing to be flexible – albeit to a degree – once you sign a contract, the publisher and editors will at some point suggest, or insist, changes be made to make the storyline better. (If you are in no way willing to be flexible and listen to what others have to say, don’t waste your time…self-publish. But understand it’s an editor’s job to streamline your work, not re-write it. If they feel the need to do that, then most likely they will not accept the job.) By no means am I telling you to give the publisher/editor reign over your work!  It’s your baby, your heart and soul, but they know how to make it work best. If there is something you are not comfortable with in changing/deleting during the editing process, stick to your guns and find an amicable solution. If not, then be aware that publisher/agent/editor may not be the right one for you. Once the contract is signed, it’s like a marriage…all parties involved are looking to get the most out of the arrangement. Being stubborn or unreasonable can lead to divorce.
I will say this, even though I was unwilling to negotiate the change of POV in my writing, I did appreciate the suggestions the agent made and took from it what I was willing to work with, made the adjustments and continued to query.
Two months later, I was at a point where I realized no one would be willing to ‘break the rules’ of general romance writing and publish someone who not only wrote in 1st Person, but did it from multiple points of views while addressing a very sensitive subject. I was nearing the point of giving up.  Several e-publishers had showed some promise by responding to the query and request a full read. But once they read it, the response was, ‘we don’t have time to put into supporting your project’. 
What does THAT mean? They didn’t have the resources for an editor? They didn’t like the idea the story was a part of a series? They didn’t have the finances to market me? Of course no one gave specifics. Well, at least they replied.
Sigh.
Then one day I received an email from a very enthusiastic owner of an e-publisher whose acquiring editor had not only read the manuscript, she’d fallen in love with it. Was I available? My first question was of course, did I have to change to 3rd person. The answer: NO! Man do I love my publisher! Thank you 5 Prince Publishing!!!
 As I said before, signing a contract with a publisher, whether big or small, is like a marriage. I am fortunate to be able to say my ‘marriage’ has been one of great benefit to all parties involved. I love my editor! June is a wonderful woman who has expressed as much love of this project as I have. She in no way has been hard to work with, is very supportive, and willing to listen to my questions and suggestions. She’s pointed out things in my manuscript that I, even as the author, missed completely, even after 4 years of re-writes! That is exactly how an editor/author relationship should be!
Stop by next week for part two of this blog: Life on This Side of Publication: Part Two – To Publication and Beyond!
             
MJ
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