Light Bulbs A’Plenty

Ideas, ideas everywhere, and too many thinks to think…

Writers are, by nature, creative people, and as such look at things a little differently. Take the everyday and drama it up a bit – add sequins, monsters in argyle, and gears and levers, and you have an inkling of what goes on in the head of a writer. It’s magical, and it’s exhilarating, and, at times, it’s exhausting.

One of the hardest things (and, arguably, the best things) about being a writer is the constant having of ideas – ideas for characters, ideas for plots, ideas for settings – and not knowing what to do with them.

Though there are *wizard* writers who have the ability to work on more than one project at a time, I am not one of them. (Seriously, it’s black magic, and I don’t have the right type of wand.) It takes all of my discipline and concentration (and so, so much coffee) to focus and finish a single project, there’s no way I can carry on multiples at the same time. So what’s a one-project-at-a-time-minded writer to do with all of her ideas that come at the most inopportune times, like while she’s in the middle of a current project?

Well, I certainly don’t want to forget the idea. I mean, I’ll need a starting point for whatever comes next, right? But neither do I want it to derail me from what I’m immediately trying to accomplish. (Writing writing writing oh, look, a shiny new adventure!) < This is not a good thing.

So, this is what works for me. And maybe it can work for you, too.

I have an “Ideas” notebook. This is – wait for it – a notebook filled with ideas. (Genius, I know.  Hold your applause, though, until the end.) I allow each idea one page. One. No more. I write *whatever* the idea is (plot, setting, character, object, etc.) at the top, and then I give myself the space of one page to write around that idea. The text on the page can be thoughts, questions, observations, subsequent ideas, whatever – it doesn’t matter. But when I get to the end of the page, that’s it. Then I have to put it down and go back to what I was working on. One page gives me enough space to develop the idea a little bit, and to give it some context, but not enough to really delve in and become immersed.

Why am I so mean to myself, you ask. Well, it’s because I know myself. And I know that I ❤ new projects, but I don’t ❤ abandoning WIPs. And if I allow myself to focus on a new idea before I finish the one I’m working on, chances are better than even money I won’t finish either one. So, in the interest of my precious story children, one page is all my new ideas get. Until it’s their turn to be the focus project.

Ideas are a writer’s blessing and curse. How do you handle those ideas that pop into your head and threaten to take over your writerly life?

 

 

What the Heck Did I Just Read?

Have you ever asked yourself this question after finishing a book? I just did.

To be honest, I don’t read a lot of “recommended” books. Not because I don’t trust other readers, but because I know my reading tastes. That said, when one of my friends who doesn’t normally recommend books told me I absolutely had to read this book because it was “amazing” I took a shot, and picked up Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Now, I could take this time to write a traditional review – tell you about the book, the characters, what I liked and didn’t – but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to tell you what this book taught me.

*This book taught me that it’s ok to read outside my “usual” genres. I do not read horror. I do not read suspense. I like sleep too much. Yet this book is considered both horror and suspense, and I read it from start to finish in one sitting. But to be fair, there’s no gross blood and the suspense is all mental. That’s a suspenseful horror I can get behind.

*This book taught me that character names  are more than just titles. So, none of the characters in this book have names. At all. Rather, they are referred to by their job (i.e., “the biologist” or “the phychologist”). I find that the lack of names made me suspicious of ALL the characters, no matter what actions they took. The biologist is presented as the main character, and I found her highly unreliable. In this case, the old adage that “names have power” is relevant; somehow, knowing a character’s name creates a sort of relationship between the reader and the character – a sense of camaraderie. In this case, I felt no connection to the characters, and so trusted nothing about them.

*This book taught me secrecy, the unknown, and insanity can be more terrifying that a serial killer. There is nothing in this book that is reliable. It’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s only in the characters’ minds. The untrustworthiness of the characters made me question everything. The tension is palpable, and the sense of foreboding and dread builds so slowly I almost didn’t realize what was happening until the tiny clues along the way that initially seemed so unimportant suddenly all come together into a truth insidious and alien.

*This book taught me setting can function as character. Area X is as important an element to this story as is any of the human characters. In many ways, it’s more interesting than any of the human characters, too. It’s more dynamic, if not more mysterious. The greatest danger of Area X is unseen, but is present in the effect it has on the human characters manifesting as terror, insanity, and unnatural physical transformation.

*This book taught me resolution isn’t always the endgame. So, to loop around and back to my initial question: What did I just read? I literally can’t answer this. Because the book doesn’t have a resolution. Oh, it has an ending, but it isn’t a pretty, satisfying, wrap-up-all-the-loose-ends ending. In fact, by the end of the book, I didn’t really feel like I knew anything more than I did at the beginning of the book. And, somehow, I was ok with that. Area X is an unsolved mystery.

So, the long and the short of it is, exercise your reading muscles every now and then, and choose something you wouldn’t normally read. Take a chance. You may end up reading something that you completely hate, but, then again, you may end up reading something that you absolutely love – like I just did. So much, in fact, that I devoured the other two volumes of the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority and Acceptance, in four days.

And to those of you who have read Annihilation, riddle me this: with regards to Area X – is that the letter X, or is it the Roman numeral ten?

Top 10 YA Reads of 2017

Another year has gone by, dear readers. It hardly seems possible. Where did the time go? I think this means I’m getting old. BUT, that’s neither here nor there…

Inevitably, at the end of the year, this reader/writer looks back at what she wasted spent her time on the last twelve months. In retrospect, I feel pretty good about my year, all-in-all. I got a lot done, much of it fun. Here are some of the things I’m going to count as wins:

  • I spent an entire year in my position at the Library, and saw some awesome things happen there. Our team gained several new staff members, all with unique strengths and talents, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with them on a daily basis. We implemented a lot of new programs, and introduced some non-traditional materials, and our patrons ❤ ed them. So that’s pretty cool.
  • I prevailed in the Great Reading Contest of 2017. I have to give props to my little sis, though, because she found/recommended some great books to me that I may not have otherwise come across. And I have a feeling that the GREAT READING CONTEST OF 2018 isn’t going to be so easy a win, because now she has her Competition Pants on.
  • I spent an entire year writing regularly, like, with goals and accountability partners and stuff. That was WAY new for me. I also tried not being a pantster, and did a little plotting. Because of this, I
  • Wrote a book. From scratch, start to finish. And it wasn’t even that hard. (Not to belittle the time and work authors put into their books – I mean, it’s really hard work. It was just not nearly as hard when I did the groundwork ahead of time.) It’s got me thinking that maybe the “planning” thing isn’t such a bad idea.

In addition to looking back over some goals met, I am also obliged to include the inevitable “Best of” year-end list. As most of you know, I read across a lot of genres, but particularly like to read YA. So this list in particular highlights my Top 10 YA Reads of 2017. Picking only ten books was SO hard. If I had no life, and no other responsibilities, I could have done a Top 30 list. But, alas, I am a grown-up, so you only get ten.

I don’t have any “official” criteria by which I judge books. But they have to hold my attention, and I have to care about the characters. I don’t like books with sucky characters. That’s just straight-up honesty.I don’t have any patience for whiny, helpless characters (most of the time female, which I also take exception to. Like, why can’t more people write strong, capable, ladies who can wear lipstick while twirling nun chucks?). I end up wanting them to die, and I’m fairly certain that’s not the intent of the author. So to make the list, the book had to have good characters.

I am one of those crazies who likes a complex plot. Linear simplistic plots are complete snoozefests, and tell me one of two things: 1) the author lacks imagination enough to carry off an interesting subplot, or 2) the author thinks his reader isn’t intelligent enough to follow multiple lines. Either way, simple = boring. Give me a broken/multiple timeline story with different narrators and POVs any day over something linear and sensible. So to make the list, the book had to have a complex plot.

Interesting settings are the cherry on top of sprinkle-laden whipped cream covering the hot fudge book sundae. An imaginary setting isn’t necessary, but I want to see something that makes the setting different. A book can take place in a completely conventional location – say, New York City – but be presented in a completely unique way, and that engages my own imagination. So to make the list, the book had to have an interesting setting (though this wasn’t a deal-breaker).

Without further ado, here they are, in numbered, but no particular order:

10 The Reader1. The Reader by Traci Chee – I put off reading this book for the longest time. Heaven only knows why. It was clever and beautiful, and about a Book that holds All The Power. And it has pirates. Lots of pirates. There’s mystery and murder and magic, and really, what more can you want? You can read my full review here.

10 The Girl at Midnight2. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Gray – This book (well, this trilogy, really) was the sleeper of the year for me. I picked it up on a whim because, well, dragons, and read the whole trilogy in three days. The heroine is sassy and stabby and isn’t afraid to say exactly what she’s thinking. And did I mention there are dragons?

10 Caraval 3.Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Can we all just take a minute to appreciate a book about a magical, slightly murdery island that is a little reminiscent of a nightmarish Wonderland?

10 The Casquette Girls 4.The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden – I have so much love for this book (and its sequel, The Romeo Catchers). Vampires (but not sparkly ones, thank the godstars), ghosts, voodoo, and witchery set in New Orleans? With a double helping of red beans and rice, thank you very much. You can read my entire review of this book here.

10 Six of Crows 5.Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Riff-raff, street rat, I will buy that. Throw in some revenge, criminal masterminding, an enigmatic gang leader, and the most ballsy heist since Oceans 11, and you’ve got a great story.

10 Strange the Dreamer 6.Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Beautiful, beautiful blue monsters. And “Strange” isn’t an adjective. That is all.

10 A Study in Charlotte 7.A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – A (in my opinion) brilliant new take on the Holmes/Watson dynamic, where Holmes is appropriately infuriating yet awesome, and Watson actually has some agency.

blog nevernight 8.Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Murder wrapped in death wrapped in killing dipped in blood, with a smart- mouthed, cigarillo-smoking female antihero protagonist who has a license to kill. Jay Kristoff is basically a god. (Note: this is arguably not a YA title…)

10 The Dark Days Club 9.The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman – Proof that women can do anything – even hunt demons in a corset. Oh, and resist the patriarchy.

10 Lord of Shadows 10.Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – Flawed characters with good intentions who keep secrets from one another in an effort to protect each other, but end up putting each other in more danger because of their stubbornness. Sassy, stabby Emma and scheming Julian. You can read my full review of this book here.

In reality, there were so many good books I read this year. Kudos to all of you authors out there who keep giving us amazing stories to read. I can’t wait to dive into 2018.

My next reads are:

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

The Speaker by Traci Chee

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

How’s that for an awesome lineup?!

Au revoir.

“This is a Book”

I’ve had this book sitting on the top of my TBR pile for months now, and I finally got to it. I’m so glad I did, because I loved it, and now I’m a little annoyed that I waited so long to read it. I will not make the same mistake with The Speaker.

I really liked the concept of this book. It takes the idea that books include *all the knowledge* and sprints away with it. But in this society, land, world people don’t know how to read, or even what writing is. It is not something that is taught, not something that is desired. Except by a very few. And these few control the fate of the realms.

In some ways the story is cliche – young girl loses parents and all she holds dear, and is forced to venture out into the big, wide, scary world alone, and learns she has a rare and secret superpower, which, of course, others want to take advantage of. But that’s where the “been there, done that” stops. Nin is not helpless, and she is not foolish; she is no damsel in distress. In fact, she becomes the hunter, the rescuer, and attempts to take her fate and her future into her own hands.

Along the way, she befriends a ship full of pirates (because what girl doesn’t need a handsome captain and scallywag crew on her side?) and rescues a boy whose greatest talent is murder (who happens to be a mute, by the by). So, really, nothing typical here.

This book had a couple of things I really liked:

  • This book is not for the faint of heart. It has multiple storylines, and multiple timelines, which I ❤ ❤ ❤ . The threads weave in and out of one another, sometimes knotting together, sometimes barely touching, but the end result is a beautiful, intricately crafted tapestry. I so appreciate authors who assume their readers are intelligent, and Traci Chee does not make things easy for her readers. She expects them to follow and keep up, and she tells the story unapologetically.
  • Many books which feature a disabled or special needs character (no matter what it is that makes them so), whether intentionally or not, portray that character as somewhat less than. When I understood that Archer couldn’t speak, I was nervous that he would be shown as more of a victim than anything, someone to be pitied. This was not the case. At all. Though it took him a little time to get his bearings, and to settle in with Nin, he was never a victim. It was almost as if he was just waiting for me, the reader, to understand him, before he revealed himself. (And perhaps this was Chee’s intention – for her readers to experience what Nin experienced with Archer.) Archer is strong, he is smart, he is kind, which makes his ability to kill someone with a flick of his wrist even more important.

I like it when books surprise me in a good way, and this one certainly did. There is mystery, there is love, there is danger, there is adventure, there is heartache – all ingredients for a great story.

Peace out, my friends.

 

Crooked and Saintly

One of the reasons I enjoy YA literature is because YA authors are willing to write about absolutely anything and everything.  They are not self-conscious, they are not pretentious, they are not shy.  What they are is brave.  And inventive. And original. I mean, cyborg Cinderella? Check. Time-traveling pirates? Ahoy. Gender-bent Dracula origin story?  Savage.  It’s my firm belief that YA authors take full advantage of the fact that there are a lot of people out there who want to read stories that speak to their imagination – that make them feel wonder and confusion and atmosphere.

I recently sat down with the most recent release of an author I feel is one of the most unique currently writing in the genre.  That is to say her books are straight up cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.  They’re disorienting and magical and confusing, and represent all the best things about YA literature.  And when I finished reading All the Crooked Saints the only thing I could think was: what must it be like to live in Maggie Stiefvater’s head?

The book is about – (waves hand vaguely in the air) – darkness and monsters and love and slightly creepy, miracle-hungry owls. It’s hard to pin down, really.  The narrative is written in omniscient POV, which isn’t done a lot, and it took a little getting used to.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the first fifty pages I just looked at this book and said, “It’s so WEIRD.” But a good weird, not a bad weird. And it took me a while to catch on to all the intricacies of the miracles and the anti-miracles (as I came to think of them), but once I did, I steamrolled ahead.

In all honesty, what kept me reading was the characters. The Soria family is wholly unique and individual, and unlike anything I’ve ever come across. In a way, they’re unrelatable because of their remarkable gift; on the other hand, it made me care about them all the more.  They represent the best and worst aspects of humanity, in that they have the ability to work amazing miracles, but those miracles also call forth unimaginable darkness. And it’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of adults in this book – all of whose stories play an important role in the events of the book. That is something very different for a YA read. I liked it, and think it added richness to the overall tapestry of the narrative.

The story of the Sorias of Bicho Raro, Colorado, teaches lessons about people and humanity, and the miracles coupled with the inescapable darkness speak of deeper truths. But there is a shiny, glittery spark of hope here, too. Stiefvater does not crush all dreams (though she is completely capable of doing so). Individuals at the mercy of their darkness can choose to face that darkness, accept the truth of the part of their soul it represents, and banish it. In essence, if they are true to themselves, they are freed. What greater lesson can there be?

If you’re a Stiefvater fan, this one is a little different, even for her.  Ye be warned.  I even recall one particular tweet in which the author herself referred to this as “my weird little book”. Enough said.

 

 

 

A Bittersweet Farewell

As a self-proclaimed loner/introvert, I am one of those people who spends a lot of time alone.  This has always been the way of things, and it means that I’ve always enjoyed solitary activities – reading, writing, wandering.  I am also one of those completely insane people who love school, and actively look for new things to learn.  I am a #historybuff, and have always had a fascination with all things ancient in general, and Egyptian in particular. Independently of any assignments or school requirements, I learned about the history of Egypt, its deities, and its mythology.  Yes, nerd.

Eye_of_Horus

Years (and years and years ago), one of my reading buddies (one of the rare friends I’ve known since childhood, and retained into adulthood) introduced me to the Amelia Peabody mysteries, penned by Elizabeth Peters (a nom de plume for Barbara Mertz).  I was in my late teens, and immediately fell in love with the clever, feisty Englishwoman and her larger-than-life husband, Emerson.  Their adventures were ones I reveled in – chasing criminals across the desert and through famous ruins, discovering lost treasures, championing equality for all – and I looked forward to each new installment of the series with excitement.

peabody

One of the things I really liked about the series was the characters.  I appreciated how independent and forward-thinking Amelia Peabody was, and how she acted as if equality for all people – regardless of sex, race, or upbringing – was a given, rather than a right.  She was confident, she was brave, and she did not let others push her around.  And above all, she was clever, and used her intelligence to her advantage to get her out of all sorts of trouble.  Emerson, likewise, was written as an evolved character.  In a time period where men were intimidated by women who exhibited intelligence, courage, and autonomy, Emerson reveled in the fact that his lady love possessed all these qualities – and more.  He did not try to stifle her, he did not try to protect her; rather, he looked to her as an equal.  Additionally, he is awesome even on his own.  He’s brilliant, brave, determined, and just the kind of man others respect respect because he deserves it, not because he demands it.  Peabody and Emerson (and their son Ramses – but that’s another post), are among – and even at the top of my list – my all-time favorite literary characters.

peabody Emerson

Alas, the era of Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson is, indeed, over. Back in 2013, when I heard Barbara Mertz had passed away, I was profoundly saddened.  There would be no more Peabody/Emerson adventures, and I would miss them deeply.  So, in 2016, I was ecstatic to hear that Joan Hess would be producing one final volume, called The Painted Queen, based on Barbara Mertz’ planned plot and notes – a mystery surrounding the 1912 discovery of the famed bust of Nefertiti. And even though I knew it couldn’t be *exactly* the same as a Peters novel, at least it would have my beloved characters.

It goes against everything inside of me to give a negative review of this book. And to tell the truth, I didn’t dislike it. If it were a standalone title, and I didn’t have the rest of the Peabody canon to consider, I would think it a wonderfully fun adventure full of colorful characters. But it’s not a standalone. And though I think Hess did an admirable job of taking up Mertz’ mantle, something that had to have been infinitely difficult, I do think she fell a bit short of the mark.

Aside from the obvious continuity errors (of which there are many), something just seems a little off about the novel. It’s not the story – that was well done. The mystery is mysterious, the danger is dangerous, and the villain is villainous. Rather, it’s the characters themselves that I find problematic. Having read nineteen other entries in this series – all multiple times – I have gotten to know these characters quite well. And I find that, as written in The Painted Queen, they are all slightly off-center. Let’s look at them:
Amelia Peabody has always had an appreciation for whiskey and soda, and for adhering to mealtimes in an effort to retain a modicum of “civilization” in an “uncivilized” environment, but in this book, she is overly preoccupied with alcohol and with all the food. I mean, squirreling sandwiches away in her pockets and mentioning food every other page? If she had eaten so much through the entire series, she would have had to have a new working outfit made every season, and have her belt of tools resized to accommodate her expanding girth. This is not the same character I included in my Top 10 Coolest Book Characters post here.
Emerson has always been one of my favorite characters. In fact, I included him in one of my blog posts about my Top 10 Sigh-Worthy Heroes here, at my old blog home. I have a special appreciation for Emerson, because he very much reminds me of my own husband – large and imposing and blustery with a vocabulary quick to include expletives, but with a heart of gold. And I found the Emerson in this book to be a diminished caricature of Mertz’ Emerson. His suddenly-developed penchant for publicly professing his undying love and inability to live without Peabody was laughable. Everything he did was exaggerated, almost to the point of buffoonery, and it was a sad treatment of this most illustrious character.
Ramses I found to be the closest representation of the original. He is still imperious and arrogant, and his mind is still brilliant, if a little devious.
Nefret is a little trickier to discuss, because her changedness could be attributed to her harrowing (though self-afflicted) experiences reported in The Falcon at the Portal. She is demure, constantly apologizing, and annoyingly ladylike. This is not the Nefret I know and love. Yes, she made mistakes; no, she doesn’t need to change her entire personality to make up for them.
And, last but not least, there’s David, who seems to be around just for comic relief, and to make Ramses look smarter (as if that’s necessary). This annoyed me. I always admired the character of David, and considered him an integral part of the Peabody-Emerson family, as he was intelligent, yet brought a different perspective to the group. That is completely missing from this story.

So, even though it was lovely to return to Egypt for one last season with the Peabody-Emersons, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Good bye, Peabody.  You will be greatly missed.

WIP Wilderness

It’s dark.  It’s creepy.  It’s terrifying.  There are pitfalls around every bend, and gremlins lie in wait to attack when you hit a wall.  There are tears of frustration.  Sometimes you want to die.  But then, ah, then… other times, you see the sunlight peek through the shadows, and you know everything is going to be ok.

No one ever said being a writer was easy.  In fact, Ernest Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter & bleed.

As a writer, I can attest to the fact that sometimes (most definitely all the times) this is exactly what it feels like.  You sit down to write, and one of two things happens: either you write all the words, or you write none of the words.  So I end a writing session either exhausted, or discouraged.  Needless to say, this is not ideal. It’s not healthy to drain your tank dry so you have nothing left for tomorrow; neither is it healthy to admit defeat and give up. There must be a way to persist!

mordor

So, here you are, trying to make your way through Mordor the WIP Wilderness.  Many (way too many) writers make it halfway through, get discouraged, and give up.  I never want a fellow writer to get to that point.  So, how does one become a WIP Wilderness adventurer and navigator who laughs in the face of desolation and despair, and comes out victorious on the other side? Well.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert.  However, I have picked up a few tricks along the way that may be of *some use* to *some of you*.  (No promises, though.) Here they are:

  1. Stay off the demon internet. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start out on Wikipedia with excellent intentions of learning all there is to know about the Orient Express, and six hours and thirty-seven link clicks later, you’ll find yourself learning all there is to know about Stevie Wonder’s glasses prescription.  And while Stevie Wonder is, indeed, worthy of research, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s got absolutely nothing to do with the Orient Express.  So in six hours, you’ve made zero steps of progress on your WIP.
  2.   Don’t be intimidated by the blinking cursor.  You are the boss.  Make it move.  Make it type words.  Even if those words are crap.  You see, you can edit crap; you can’t edit nothing. Yes, writer’s block is a thing – but you don’t have to let it cripple you.  One thing I’ve found that works for me if I’m having a hard time getting words down is free association.  I start writing down random words that come to my mind when I think about my WIP.  Some of those words will inevitably lead to sentences and scene ideas.  Another thing I will try is asking questions about my WIP.  The answers will quite often help me solve problems, and put me back on my writing track.
  3. Don’t get discouraged if your plan changes.  I have two jobs, three kids, two dogs, and way too many horses.  I’m a busy girl.  So I guard my writing time with Anduril in one hand and Aegis in the other, and all who dare to venture near me during writing time do so at their peril. That said, things happen, and plans change.  Just roll with it.  If your hour’s worth of writing time turns into fifteen minutes, make the most of that fifteen minutes.  DO NOT JUST GIVE UP WRITING FOR THE DAY.  Use every minute you have at your disposal, even if all you accomplish is one sentence.  It’s one sentence you didn’t have written before.
  4. Keep your creative tank full.  I hear people say this all of the time.  But what does it actually mean??? Well, this is my interpretation.  Writers are artists of a sort. Art appreciates art, and all forms of art compliment each other.  So, as a self proclaimed writer-artist, I try to spend some time in the “art world”.  I read extensively, I listen to music of all sorts, I visit museums and galleries, I watch movies. You never know where inspiration will strike, so give yourself every opportunity to experience creative outlet.  Creativity begets inspiration, and vice-versa.
  5. Find a writing buddy (or two).  I used to think this was nonsense, that the only time a writer needed a pal was at edits time.  I was dead wrong. I naturally connected with two other writers, and we have formed a mini-group.  We meet twice a month, and share/critique work, have brainstorm sessions, and swap ideas.  I have never been so motivated/inspired to write. NEVER.  Having someone to hold me accountable, and to encourage me to stick with it, and just finish the project already has been the one thing missing from my writing. Bottom line is, you don’t have to fly solo all the time; find a wing man (or woman).

And though it doesn’t necessarily get a number, also coffee.

All methods don’t work for all people – that’s a fact.  But if you’re game to try new things, maybe one of these tips will work for you. And as you venture into the WIP Wilderness, know that you’re not alone.  Do you have any tips or suggestions that help you get through the WIP Wilderness?

Cheers!