It’s been so hot here lately that when I get home from my day job, I don’t want to do anything! (  ̄^ ̄) I would like to go for a run today (I’ve been trying to exercise more (︶︹︺) and I just took up running) but the heat tends to absorb all of my motivation. How about I write a post while I work up the willpower to don my running shoes? (・∀・)

How many of you write by hand these days? Sometimes it’s unavoidable; depending on your job, you might spend all day initialing forms or jotting down notes. Other times, it’s just easier to use a computer – like when you decide it might be fun to write an epic adventure novel (oh, silly misguided young Melissa…). Whether you like the smell of ink or the click-clack of the keyboard, one thing I’ve noticed is that penmanship in general has suffered over the years. When I ask a teenager to sign their name on a form at my day job, I get a bewildered stare, as though I’m speaking some foreign and ancient language: Sig-na-ture… What is that?


Even I’ve gotten sloppy, to be honest. When I was first started exploring the joys of the written word in my tweens, I kept all my hand-written stories in a treasured binder. Though I rarely completed my meandering tales, the ones I did finish were written up on the computer as “good copies”. I still have all those notes and half-formed ventures in a box somewhere.

Nowadays, it’s just easier for me to churn out thousands and thousands of words on my laptop. I do still edit by hand and often continue my thoughts or chapters elsewhere on a stray piece of paper when nothing else is handy, but predominantly, I write on the computer.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might notice I tend to like a lot of photos of stationery or planning materials. It’s my guilty pleasure – and goodness is there a lot of gorgeous handwriting on Instagram! From quotations to people sharing their ほぼにち pages or bullet journal spreads, my mind drifted back to a time when I used cursive writing to denote character thoughts. Cursive. That was something I hadn’t thought about in a long time…

Enter the #rockyourhandwriting challenge. \( ̄▽ ̄)/

I’ve recently learned about bullet journaling and have started following specific users to get inspiration for my own future projects. Eventually, I stumbled on a handwriting challenge post for July. I tried my hand (hur hur, dumb writing humour (⌒_⌒;) ) at cursive writing for the first time again in … probably about 12 years and boy, was I rusty.


This handwriting challenge seemed like a great opportunity to practice a long-forgotten art: the art of joined letters. ╰(▔∀▔)╯

With a prompt for every day of July, I worked at improving my penmanship, and the results were startling. Seriously, guys! Challenges like these are great because it gets you writing every day and the progress is undeniable. At first, my letters were uncertain and shaky, as I tried to remember just what the heck a Z looked like in cursive, but after a week, I didn’t have to pause to consider the difference between a lowercase B and an L. If you struggle with your own handwriting and want to work on stronger penmanship, I encourage you to take the #rockyourhandwriting challenge and see how much you improve.

Now check out some of these photos because I am so very proud~ (and so very humble ( ̄~ ̄);;)



Do you write by hand much? If so, how do you feel about your handwriting? While I have my off days I tend to like my penmanship a lot!


TMWODT Series – Ideas

Hello one and all! Welcome to the first installment of…

Oooh, ahh! Maybe I should add sparkles next time...

Oooh, ahh! Maybe I should add sparkles next time…

Today, I’m talking about Ideas. How do I get them, how do I cultivate them, how do I even keep track of them!? Sadly, I am not a goblet teeming with the sweet nectar of inspiration (wow, that phrase sounded way more badass in my head. ⊙﹏⊙;;). My ideas are wisps and shadows, scattered when I reach out to grasp them…

Are you fed up with my melodrama? By now I’m sure you’re grumbling, throwing your hands up and cursing me – “Melissa! Quit it with your alack, alay nonsense! I do not read these posts for your melancholic ramblings!”

Apologies, dear reader. What I mean to say is… You never know when inspiration will strike. You could be on the subway, struggling to stay conscious during a meeting, visiting the whiz palace – BAM! The perfect plot twist tickles your brain or maybe you suddenly realize you have always wanted to write about a zombie trying to break into broadway.

It’s like a heart attack; it sends a jolt through you; you’re bolt upright in your seat – but are you ready for this eureka moment?

I. Always carry a notebook with you.
I guess you could use a note app on your phone, but having a little notebook or notepad and a pen with you is a creative must. Do not trust yourself to remember anything (because you’ll probably forget) and even the physical process of jotting those words down will help cement them in your brain.

Hello Kitty is the keeper of my secrets... and shopping lists.

Hello Kitty is the keeper of my secrets… and shopping lists.

II. Have a place to organize all of your ideas.
KEYSTONE CALAMITY came to me fairly quickly and complete, but most of my other ideas are just feelings, phrases or scenes I want to incorporate into something. Until I figure out what that something is, they need a home.

You can use a binder or a folder on your Dropbox – as long as you keep everything together. There’s nothing worse than wanting to read through some notes you made ages ago only to realize you can’t find where you’ve put them!


I use a notebook and colour-code my points according to the project. When those thoughts take on a more novel-shaped idea, I move onto a separate book that is dedicated to that project.

Writing ideas down and keeping them organized is great – but what do you do when you don’t have any ideas? Sometimes you’re antsy with creative energy but can’t seem to piece together any coherent story. If you’re finding it impossible to write, it might not be a bad idea to pursue some other creative interests until you feel enough inspiration to write something.

There are all sorts of ways to generate ideas; here’s a handy list of some options!

  • Keep a dream journal
  • Re-write a fable or a fairy tail
  • Write a journal entry of the day in the life of one of your characters
  • Write up a detailed summary of your favourite book or movie from memory
  • Try out some writing prompts

III. What do you like to write? What do you want to avoid?
We often write what we ourselves enjoy reading. Have you been devouring books about android crime fighters or sparkly sheep prophets? What keeps you turning page after page, well past your bedtime? If you’re reading a lot of fantasy, chances are you want to write a lot of fantasy!


I like to make DO/DO NOT WANT lists. I will admit that I often fall into the same traps – whether they be easy plot devices (amnesia) or a bizarre obsession with twins (it became a serious problem!). New perspective can be gained from making a list of things you want to avoid and feelings you want to capture. You can also make a list of topics you’ve always wanted to write about and see what matches up. I had an insane yearning to write something that felt like super heroes/Power Rangers/Persona/Sailor Moon (wow, what a mishmash of oddly specific items!) and from that whirlwind of super-powered angst came MASQUERADE.

It’s all about slapping that lump of clay onto the table and poking it until it resembles a shape you can recognize. When that lopsided mess starts looking like a dancing bear or a flamingo on stilts, then you can move onto the planning stages!

Next in the TMWODT series, we explore how the elusive Melissabeast brainstorms and agonizes over plot points that just won’t work! Stay tuned for TMWODT #2 – Planning!

Staying creative

I just saw the Warcraft movie with a friend recently. I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft back in the day and it was really neat seeing the live action take on magic and the fantasy setting. It almost made me miss the game – Bad, Melissa, bad! This is no time for MMORPGs! They are a time sink and you have far too much work to do! (And other games to play!)

I love fantasy as a setting and high fantasy is a genre I have returned to again and again. There is something that sets my heart pounding at the thrill and crackle of a whispered magic spell or the acrid stench of the dragon’s breath. The Warcraft movie also made me nostalgic for Welland, the realm in which KEYSTONE CALAMITY takes place.

While I love that strange and silly world, I wanted to give Welland a rest and focus on some other ideas. Thus, I am writing something new… Or – well – trying to at any rate. I’m not yet ready to banish my life away to the Nether and embark on a new novel yet, but as I flesh out ideas, I find my creative spirit has gotten quite antsy.

I have the creative jibblies. (Yes, that is a phrase I may or may not have just coined.
Jibblies~! (⊙ꇴ⊙) )

I’m sure you’ve face-palmed by now or maybe you’re just shaking your head with a sigh. “Melissa, what does that even mean? Have you gone loopy?”

Okay, hear me out. I am a writer, but sometimes, I just cannot write. Whether you suffer from a writing block or you’re just swimming through a sea of ideas without an island to stop and rest your weary limbs, the creative jibblies are when you are pent up with creative energy and it has no place to go. You are antsy and have trouble sticking to your projects. You feel dreamy, excited, inspired… but it has no source or destination. You’re just jazzed – about nothing in particular.

So what do you do with this sudden burst of artistic energy? Something fun, something challenging, something new.

I’m not invested in a new book enough yet to delve into that, so I’ve been drawing and world-buidling.

My artwork is nothing serious. I mostly like to doodle characters and simple portraits. It’s a great way to unwind or keep yourself engaged and occupied if you’ve got a movie on in the background.

The world-buidling is a whole other beast. I’ve played pen and paper RPGs – like Dungeons & Dragons – for quite some time. In the last couple of years, I’ve fallen into a Pathfinder campaign or two and while it is very enjoyable to roll a character and live in their shoes, another vocation beckoned to me with each session I played…

I decided to run my own game. I’d grown comfortable enough with the Pathfinder rules and general world knowledge to create my own adventure… which is a lot harder than it sounds!

The city of Azura.

The city of Azura.

Writing a novel is tricky as it is; your narrative must be compelling enough for the reader to turn the page and follow your characters through a twisty labyrinth of lies, laughs, and heartbreak.

But what happens when your readers are the characters? That carefully crafted adventure can be thrown into the trash heap with the roll of a die or one turn of phrase. As a dungeon master, you must anticipate how your players will react to your description of that castle or the disposition of your non-player characters. Just as they go on a journey to save the dragon and kill the princess, you embark on your own quest to craft a story worth living and breathing.


Planning my own dungeon was a lot of work!

It’s… enthralling. Since my campaign is still fairly new, I don’t have a good grasp of the personality of my players’ characters yet. Who will be the one that wants to steal everything? Who will be the diplomat that somehow negotiates the party out of a prison cell? Who will be the leader, the protector, the knave, the comic relief? I’m not following an adventure path – an official campaign written by Paizo, Pathfinder’s publishers – so the game is fluid and how these characters craft the story is up to them… and that lack of control does wonders for your creative brain!

I started with a main city and a premise for the first few adventures. This was fresh, this was new – this could be anything and everything I wanted it to be. With a new world, you aren’t trapped within your own rules yet. I decided on the terrain, the city’s denizens, the temple’s beliefs… It was I, the DM, who decreed that Azura was the city of Wizards and that you needed the proper papers to access different parts of town.

Details of the first adventure.

Details of the first adventure.

Even talking about this is getting me all jazzed again! Since this post is already pretty long, I’ll end it here for now. I might talk about The Seven Seals (my campaign) again sometime, as the story develops – and if you guys are interested too!

What do you do to stay creative and engaged? Do you write round-about stories with your friends or make comics? Share your own adventures in the comments!

A new year, a new post

Hi, 2016!  There are no excuses.  I have maybe four or five half-written entries and I almost posted two of them!  Almost! ( ̄ー ̄)See what I mean about   making a plan and sticking to it?

So it’s a new year, full of wonder and hope.  I would say my New Year’s Resolution is to be more consistent with my blog posts, but I won’t for two reasons:

  1. I’m a procrastinator.  (The only reason I’m making a post right now is because I had to fix some theme errors and because I’m motivating myself with snacks.  Kidding! ( ゚∀ ゚) …Maybe!)
  2. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.


Well, that’s definitely the coolest gif I have.  ( ̄へ ̄)

I know, I know.  You’re probably rolling your eyes with a sigh… maybe throwing in a little slow-clap for good measure.  I’m not trying to be a badass or super cool; I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a few years ago.  Instead, I make resolutions and goals at the end of each one of my written journals.  Pretty boring, right?

So in a new year without the gusto of a plan or goal… what is there to be excited about?


╰( ・ ᗜ ・ )╯

For those of you who don’t know – which is probably everyone – the Hobonichi Techo is a Japanese agenda/planner that is made to be practical but also encourage creativity!

hobonichi2I keep my Hobonichi in my bag and try to plan out my day and make notes about what’s going on in my life.  It gives me an excuse to buy cute pens and stickers and also helps keep me on track.

I only found out about them last year and I ordered mine in October.  I was so excited to use it and now that it’s the new year, I’ve been doodling and writing down ideas and thoughts.  Each page is one day and it’s grid paper, so it lends itself well to different approaches.

With the power of Hobonichi, I hope to schedule out my life a bit more and maybe even get a routine going with this blog again! (~ ̄▽ ̄)~


Let’s get through the January slog together! ヾ(^▽^ヾ)

TMWODT Series – The Process

How does one write a book?  Do you have to know how it ends before you begin?  Should you plot every detail out or let the story unfold as you go?  Is it really as simple as opening a Word document and typing A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…?

I can’t answer those questions for you (except the last one.  Answer: I wouldn’t start your book like that unless you want Disney to sue your pantaloons off.)  Anyhoo, what I mean to say is that different methods work for different people; there is no right way to make it work.

Until you find your modus operandi, though, it can be nigh impossible to turn that key and start up that old writing beast.  Frustration is indeed a novel-killer.

Don’t stress – you just need to find your own M.O. <( ̄︶ ̄)>

“And how am I supposed to do that, Melissa!?” You might inquire with the subtle edge of panic in your voice.

Shop around.  How does everyone else do it?  I personally enjoy reading author biographies and FAQs.  Do they plot?  What time of the day do they write?  Do they listen to grunge music or drink champagne coolies?  Did they write the whole book on the back of napkins or naked in a hot tub?

... or all of the above?

… or all of the above?

I can tell you right now that I am not that interesting.  However, if you find yourself a confusing mess of thrilling ideas and crippling doubt, about to have a breakdown as you stare at the blinking cursor on the blank page – fear not!  And really – you ought to calm down. *pat pat*  You’ll get twitchy eye if you keep doing that.

I present you with a little something I like to call…

(I lie. This is the first time I've ever called it that. Maybe.)

(I lie. This is the first time I’ve ever called it that. Maybe.)

Yes.  TMWODT. (Actually, that’s not a very attractive acronym.  When you say it aloud, it sort of sounds like you’re saying tim wad.  Ew.  That could be something kids spit through straws at each other.)

In reading the methods of others, I have found my own way – my personal process.  The TMWODT (haha, seriously.  It’s a terrible acronym and I love it.) series will cover my approach to the novel writing process for your reading pleasure:

  1. Ideas
  2. Planning
  3. Writing
  4. Revision
  5. Sharing
  6. ??? Oooh, mysterious.  There might be more!

Aren’t you excited?  Over the next weeks you get to hear me whine about how hard writing is learn all sorts of new and interesting things!  Are you ready for the first installment?  Let’s talk about Ideas!

Charting your territory

At my core, I think I will always be a fantasy and science fiction writer; it’s what I grew up with and love.  Though I’ve written urban fantasy a lot in the past, KEYSTONE CALAMITY is resolutely high fantasy.

One of my readers recently asked me if I had a map of Welland so that he could more clearly visualize Gwyn’s journey from Tyr.  I didn’t – and I was surprised that I’d never thought of it.

There was always something magical about opening a new book and being greeted by a map of the fantastical world you were about to visit.  Each locale was filled with mystery and intrigue and I would follow the protagonist’s journey as each step was named: would the party venture to the Midnight Peaks willingly, or were they forced there by a ferocious storm?  Would they cross that desert in this book or the next or is it just there to leave me wondering?

When I admitted to my reader that I had not drawn a map of my world, I shared in his disappointment.  I whipped up a quick diagram to show him how they got around in the first few chapters and it looked a little something like this:

Could Pan lead her out of the forest? ... Anything was possible.

Could Pan lead her out of the forest? … Anything was possible.

Tada! ヽ(;▽;)ノ  . . . (;へ:)

I never thought about making a map before because I was so intent on finishing the story.  I used to make all kinds of character biographies and world histories but they were just a means to procrastinate and avoid actually writing anything.  Thus, the lay of the land went undocumented.

I would like to make a real map of Welland someday.  Of course, it’s all in my head, but it wouldn’t hurt as a reference and look kind of neat to boot.  Until then, I recently went through a lot of my old junk and found a ton of half-written stories and artwork – including some decade-old maps from a story I never wrote.  (Probably because I was too busy making maps! (¬д¬。) )



I know some of you do character artwork; I would love to see it, along with any maps you have too!

Forgotten along the way

When I first started working on KEYSTONE, I must admit that I had it pretty easy.  Most of the characters came to me fully formed and bursting at the seams with personality.  In fact, the only person who gave me any trouble was Pan.

Since everyone else already had their place in the party, I had a few ideas for what I wanted from him:

  • *secret secret secret*  (Well, I can’t tell you everything about him!  That would spoil the surprise!)
  • He was going to be a bard
Justin Kunz's interpretation of Fflewddur. Be sure to check out the rest of his Prydain art on Elfwood.

Justin Kunz’s interpretation of Fflewddur. Be sure to check out the rest of his Prydain art on Elfwood.

Pan was – in many ways – an homage to my favourite character Fflewddur Fflam from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.  (No, not the one in Disney’s interpretation, the Black Cauldron.  That whole production just makes me very sad.)  That being said, there were a few things that I knew Pan couldn’t be; he was a nod to Fflewddur, not an outright mirror image of him.  Thus, I made some more decisions:

  • He could not be *secret secret* or have *secret* (I’m sure you think I’m just making secrets up, but I’m not!  Seriously.  It would be no fun if I told you right now.)
  • He must not have a harp

Huh…  That last one, though…  Something feels… off…

I’m sure you are waving red warning flags and shouting, “Melissa!  I’ve read the first two chapters of KEYSTONE and PAN HAS A HARP!!  What the HECK!?”

What the heck, indeed.

I thought about giving him a flute at first (Pan flute… the faun… not very original, I know) but I wanted him to be able to sing.  That was before I realised how horrible I am at writing songs.  Oh well.  It adds to his charm.  Right…? (~_~;)

After everything, I decided on a lute.

Lute, lute, lute. I even high-lighted those suckers. PAN WAS TO BE A LUTE-PLAYER!

Lute, lute, lute. I even high-lighted those suckers. PAN WAS TO BE A LUTE-PLAYER!

“Then how did he get a harp, Melissa!?”

… How, indeed.

Well, I forgot.  No joke.  I was writing the book, second chapter in and I just FORGOT that he wasn’t allowed to have a harp.  In fact, I did not even realise I’d mucked up until I had finished writing the whole book.  It was only after I read through my notes after letting the book sit for a few months that I noticed I’d erred.

… This is not the first time it’s happened either.

I couldn’t bear to read through all of MASQUERADE, my novel before KEYSTONE, but… oh man, did I forget a lot along the way:


The whole idea for MASQUERADE had been built off of one important scene and conversation – both of which were missed by the end.



From minor character details (Gwyn was supposed to have a spear from the beginning.  I remembered that halfway through and a subplot was born of it) to huge story/plot details (during one tense moment, I forgot to mention the reason why they were in hot water in the first place.  That one derailed the whole book.) I have missed so much during the writing process.

While I don’t plan for months, I do work out a rough outline for my book; I add detail when I already have the ideas.  Armed with these notes, you’d think this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

But it does. ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌

Sometimes you are so excited about your story that you have already forgotten important plot points and character decisions by chapter two.  And so, the bard found himself with a harp – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Some new ideas came of it and now Pan without his harp feels foreign and blasphemous.

Please tell me I’m not the only space case who forgets important things along the way!  Do any of you guys have similar stories to share?

Your own biggest fan

Reader:  I just finished your book!
You: Oh yeah?  Who was your favourite character?
Reader: Probably Brutus.  He was rather brutish.
You: That’s cool.  。◕‿◕。
You on the Inside: *almost explodes from wanting to share every single detail about Brutus and why you think he’s awesome* ヾ(@°▽°@)ノ

Over the years, I’ve become very guarded about my writing.  A story you have concocted starring characters conjured from your brain space can be very personal.  However, when you make the leap and print 10 000 business cards that say Writer underneath your name, you realize that you have to start sharing your work a bit more.

The weirdest moment for me was when I had a few people read my second draft of KEYSTONE CALAMITY and give me feedback.  Not only had it been years since I’d last shared my writing in earnest, but my beta readers talked to me about my characters.

☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

I never realized how much I loved my weird bunch of derpy adventurers until I heard someone else say their name or ask a question about their past.  Suddenly, I was bursting with information, ready to spill every anecdote, and grill my beta readers about every detail.

Why did you like so-and-so?
What colour is their hair?
How old do you think they are?
What was your favourite moment with them?
Where would you like to see them go in the series?

Does anyone else find themselves overwhelmed by the love they feel for their own characters?  Do you draw your own fan art, make your own detailed profiles and histories?  Do you wait with bated breath for the poor soul who asks you about so-and-so’s origin?

I do.  I’m always happy to discuss my characters!  In fact, I’m making my own POP! vinyl figure of KEYSTONE’s protagonist!

"One day I'll be cool like Gwyn..."

“One day I’ll be cool like Gwyn…”

How do you celebrate your quirky characters?

What is “senpai”?

Whilst perusing my website, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself a few times, “What the heck does senpai mean?” (Or if you’re sitting back with a smug smile because you already know or you googled it – well done.  Have a cookie.)

ANYHOO.  A friend once said a picture I had up on my Facebook page made me look like a “cool and mysterious senpai“.  I thought that was so amusing that I started using it in jest.  I needed a title for my website’s test layout?  Cool and mysterious senpai.  What else should I write in my Instagram profile?  Teehee, I’ll put cool and mysterious senpai.

By now, I bet you are letting out an exasperated sigh and saying, “Melissa, we didn’t ask for your whole life story here!  Where does it mean?”

Oh, right.  *clears throat*

Maybe one day, Kanji. Image courtesy of Know Your Meme.

Maybe one day, Kanji. Image courtesy of Know Your Meme.

I’ve mentioned that I study languages here and there and if you are familiar with Japanese culture, you might recognize senpai as something that younger students might call their upperclassmen.

The word 先輩 or せんぱい (pronounced sem-pie) is made up of the kanji characters 先 “former, previous” and 輩 “generation, class”.  You can think of it as meaning “one who has come before” or something like a mentor.  It can be used in school and work settings meaning that that person has been there, done that, and you can look to them for insight and knowledge – to guide you through that same experience.

It may seem silly or condescending for me to pepper my page with a word that presumes that I am your elder where writing is concerned.  While I mean it mostly as a joke, there is some truth in it.

I hope that I can be a source of inspiration and insight to those that want to push their writing further or need that extra step – or even just need to know that someone else has been there; they have felt that confusion, uncertainty and foolishness before.  I am still a novice, but I know there are those who are even greener than I.

To all you sprouts starting your awkward adventure through the world of Just How The Heck Do I Become A Legit Writer: I’ve got your back.  Learn from senpai‘s silly mistakes, read senpai’s acquired knowledge and her outlandish experiences – and let’s get through this together!

\(@ ̄∇ ̄@)/

Focus: the difference between 2 years and 2 months

☆*:.。. o(≧∇≦o)  « Everything is awesome! ♫~ Everything is cool when you have an idea~! )

Life is peachy and nothing can get you down.  Why is that?  You have an IDEA – a real good one too.  Flushed with excitement, you go about your business: a bit of plotting here, some serious brainstorming there.

Before you know it, your engines are revved and you’re ready to peel out of the gate.  Those first couple of sentences are awkward and embarrassing – or maybe they are so hilarious that you can’t help but chuckle as your pen glides along the page or your fingertips dance along the keyboard.

Writing is a breeze, right?  So long as you have an awesome idea, churning out a novel is easy-peasy.

You know, I think I have this sarcasm thing down, guys!  ヽ(*⌒∇⌒*)ノ

This is not a post whining about how hard it is to actually write (I’ll save that for later!); this is a post about the difference between two years and two months.

“Whatever do you mean, Melissa?” You might inquire.  And I might cackle devilishly and say, “Why dear reader, you have just played right into my blog post outline!”

I’m talking about focus.  If you haven’t yet noticed, I am a bit of a daydreamer.  My mind wanders, I am aloof and off playing in the clouds – all those nice ways to say that I can barely stick to anything.  I procrastinate, I avoid, and it takes an obscene amount of effort for me to buckle down and write.

How to writeeeeeee ;_;

“Writer? What was I thinking? Maybe I’ll go be an astronaut or something…”

All of this is basically a death sentence for a writer.  As they say, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot – or scribble feverishly while your pen still has ink.  Much as Stephen King wrote about in ON WRITING, you have to ride that wave of enthusiasm as long as you can.  Write while you are excited about a project; write as much as humanly possible while you want to because you better believe you will hit that brick wall of “ughhhh do not waaaannnnt! (╯︵╰,)”

If you are like me, when you reach the swamp of sluggish agony, you will make every excuse not to work.  It is not uncommon to find me crumpled on the floor at this stage, rethinking my life choices and hating every stunted sentence I manage to string together.

Fear not, dear reader!  There is hope; it will get easier if you make a plan and stick with it.

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