Some Thoughts On Writing Meghan’s Previous Story — Before The New One Starts

Yes, you read that title correctly. So much for a break from writing another Meghan Bode short story on the blog. Those of you who said she wouldn’t fade into the background were absolutely right. This week is my break. A new adventure begins next Tuesday, whether I’m ready or not.

But first, I want to share some of the thoughts that crossed my mind while writing about her brush with forensic archaeology.

1. I’m Still A Pantser, But I Learn From The Experience

When I started the second installment of Poetic Archaeology, I had no idea I was about to write a short story and put it on the blog—while I was still writing it. But as I wrapped up that first post with an unexpected three lines of dialogue, I knew I was in for a wild ride.

But if I’d taken more time to think, I would have done things differently. Don’t get me wrong, I would still “pants” the story. But I wouldn’t have made it part of Poetic Archaeology. I may have lost out on a larger audience. Some people who saw the story under the “writing” tag in the WordPress Reader might have been turned off by the initial poetry—not realizing a serialized short story followed.

So the second story won’t be categorized as Poetic Archaeology or carry a poetry tag. I’ll focus on the short story/mystery aspects.

2. The Style Is Different From My Novels. Will That Matter?

One of my initial reasons for blogging was to introduce potential readers  to my novels-in-progress, Death Out of Time and Summer at the Crossroads. These Meghan Bode short stories aren’t comparable to either book, except for an archaeologist as a main character. Will future readers assume the novels will be like Meghan’s stories and thus be disappointed? Or won’t they care as long as they like the stories being told? I don’t know the answer, but I still wonder about it.

3. Am I Crazy To Do This Again?

In my one-year anniversary post, I said I might need a break from Poetic Archaeology because writing the “live” Meghan story was tough. But my subconscious left some wiggle room. I noted that Meghan and the Muse might drop an idea on me, and we could be back soon. Yeah, that Muse is one sneaky goddess. She’s spent the last few days laughing over her mojitos.

As I wrapped up the last installment, I thought, “Maybe Meghan finds…. Hmm, could it work? I’ll think about it for a while.” Two days later—BAM! Breakfast and my morning workout were flooded with ideas how it WOULD work. I couldn’t write as fast as the ideas were flowing. I wondered if this is how Julie feels every day. 😉

Part of me acknowledges the fact that some agents and presses won’t touch a story that’s been “published” anywhere else—even excerpts on a personal blog. Some people would argue I should write these stories in private and submit them to traditional outlets. Maybe. But the monetary reimbursement would be negligible to nonexistent. And how large would the audience be? My current thinking is that, if I decide to, I can revise the stories by fleshing them out and adding more to sub-plots and e-publish them myself as a collection.

4. Meghan Is Quiet, But Determined

She had me put together a page for her stories, which you can find on the top menu or by clicking HERE. She’s also far more visually creative than I am, but she’ll have to suffer my limited graphics abilities for now. Don’t worry, Meghan. I’ll hire a professional for a book cover.

So that’s the path my Muse has laid out for me. We can’t do things the easy or traditional way. Some of you may give me good reasons why I shouldn’t do this. Others may say, “Go for it!” In the end, we all have to do what feels right for us in all parts of life. One thing I do know as I set out on this next story—I’ll enjoy the ride again, harrowing as it may be.

What do you think? I’m crazy? It’s too risky? Would you try something like this?

59 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On Writing Meghan’s Previous Story — Before The New One Starts

  1. JM—I think it’s cool you want to e-publish this collection. It’s a nice introduction for future readers and gives them something immediate to read while you work on other books in progress. 😉

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    • Thanks, Christy. 🙂 This is not where I expected to be going right now, but I’ve learned not to underestimate my Muse. And I don’t want her turning away in a huff. 😉 As Julie notes below, it’s difficult for new authors to get representation or a press for a collection of short stories. So I think indie is the way to go with the shorts if they get favorable reviews. That gets me “out there” and may help when the novels are finished. Even if the shorts don’t sell well enough to matter to a potential agent, I might at least have a start on an audience. 🙂

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  2. I think we pantsers (I mostly am a pantser) have to go where the Muse takes us. And though I’m often writing about my life, which someday I’d love to collect in some essay collection format or something, I have to get the stories out. Who knows if that will ever come to fruition? And I wonder, too, whether putting these stories out there is a mistake… making any of it unpublish-able in the future. It’s difficult to say.

    I’d say, for now, we all love reading the Meghan stories, and that’s where your creative feelings are taking you. So go with it! We’ll be happy as we go along on the ride. ; )

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    • Thanks, Anne. 🙂 Personally, I don’t understand how putting some snippets or an “earlier version” of a story on one’s blog makes them unpublishable to some agents/presses. Think how many novels are based on an author’s earlier short story. If we add new information, change things around, and remove some parts, I don’t feel “cheated” reading that updated/new take. But I’m no agent, editor, or lawyer, so I’m sure they have their reasons. 😉 I also don’t know if they have different “rules” for fiction vs. personal essays vs. memoirs….

      Short story collections are a tough sell as Julie notes below, and that’s one reason why I would e-publish them myself. My current thinking (which is subject to the whims of the Muse) is that I would do three of these stories and turn them into ca. 20,000-word stories with the addition of some subplots and maybe changing some of the storyline. I’m steering away from the term “novella” here because it’s so vague.

      But Meghan also has to share my time with the revisions to Death Out of Time!

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  3. Thanks for the link and yes, that is about how things go for me regarding inspiration and the result of wondering “if”. Welcome to the club. 😀

    Agents don’t do short fiction individually, and my understanding is that getting them to do a collection of shorts if you aren’t an existing client is a tough sell. That said, I do say go for it, regarding self-pubbing. There’s very little to lose, as long as you treat it professionally, and I know you will.

    And you may have noticed, this plotter is definitely at the mercy of the muse. The torrent she pours into my brain is, well, irresistible. 🙂

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    • So far I haven’t come anywhere close to your current number of ideas! But on those rare days when I can’t keep up, it is an amazing feeling. 🙂

      The difficulty of pitching a collection of shorts really makes the indie route the only way to go with these mysteries. And if they are ready before the novels, then the experience of getting a cover and ISBN number, formatting them, and publishing them myself would be good if I end up needing to do the novels myself, too. And they would definitely go through beta readers and a professional edit before I sent them out.

      I may tease my Muse about her mojitos on the beach, but I will never bad-mouth her. I love the stories she feeds me, and I never want her to leave. 🙂

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      • Yes, well, now my store of ideas has grown again (and is groaning). Never enough hours. And no, I’m definitely not complaining about being fed awesome ideas by my creative self. Just about the insufficient amount of time I have to deal with them.

        I think part of my concern with shorts is that one or two of mine make certain reveals and secrets more obvious in the books if you read the short first. That’s part of why I haven’t released any of them. Still deciding what I want to do.

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        • Ah, that’s a problem I don’t have. These shorts aren’t related to my novels. But releasing yours after the pertinent novels could be that “extra content” that fans love to read.

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          • That’s my thought about it, but it’s requiring patience. The truth is, I have so much on the go for writing because I’m not a patient person, so keeping busy is my substitute. I rather want to share all the shorts, and everything else for that matter, but I really shouldn’t. Oh well. I’ll just keep busier.

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  4. A mojito-sipping Muse. I LOVE her! I think your reasoning is sound, JM. My inclination is also not to overthink something. It looks to me like you’ve got good instincts that will lead you to the right place. Your work with Meghan is but one aspect of our Self expressing, so no worries: there’s plenty more where that came from for a variety of audiences! xoxoM

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    • Thanks, Margarita! 🙂 It’s funny, I can take or leave mojitos, but every time I envision my Muse, that’s what she’s drinking. And despite the way I talk about her sometimes, she doesn’t have a drinking problem. 😉

      One of these days, I may write a story that doesn’t involve an archaeologist. But then again, is what I’m doing so different from someone who writes a series about a single character? Maybe all those archaeology characters “out there” want someone like them to write their stories…. 😉 I’m happy to oblige!

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  5. Pantsers rock! 🙂 I think there is a method to our madness, and you are one of the lucky writers who does a great job editing. I think pantsing can get us into trouble if we don’t have strengths in grammar, punctuation, structure, etc.

    I knew that Meghan would take over–and I’m thrilled that you are open ears. I think your plans for epublishing make a lot of sense. Can’t wait to see what you deliver us next week.

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    • Thanks, Kate! 🙂 Editing is what scares me the most about doing these stories on the blog. There’s not much time for it! So I know glitches, mistakes, and weaknesses will slip through. And readers shouldn’t be shy about pointing them out.

      But when I flesh them out into longer stories, I’ll have betas go through them and get a final professional edit before publishing them. As Julie said above, even as an indie e-publication, they need to be professional.

      Will they find an audience? I have no idea. But even most traditionally printed books don’t sell even 1,000 copies. At least an e-book won’t end up in the remainder pile. 😉

      My one-word description for Meghan is SNEAKY. Little did I know what was happening when I said “let’s call her Meghan” in the first installment of Poetic Archaeology. But she has to share me with Maddie and Jack and Catherine and Michael and the others! 🙂

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    • I’m getting a lot of encouragement here! 🙂 And Meghan’s smile is a mile wide right now. As Kate said above, pantsers rock! (Not that there’s anything wrong with planning. 😉 )

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  6. I love that you’re interested in doing another round because the stories are particularly interesting to me. But I also understand your hesitance. I personally don’t post fiction on my blog. I have no real great reason other than I guess I like to hold it close until it’s ready for me to unleash. But I think if one keeps the story line different from what’s coming in the books, than there is no worry about divulging too much or scaring away agents. Plus, you’ve built up readers’ interest, so that they’re itching at the bit when the book does come out, even if it’s a different story line. Just my own two cents, and I imagine there are many differing opinions. It gets down to what you said–one needs to do what is most comfortable for him or her.

    Always a pleasure to stop by your blog, JM!

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    • Put a hundred writers in a room and you’ll find a hundred different writing habits, thoughts on sharing, and ideas for how to best get the stories out. 😉 There’s not one way that works for everyone. For me, doing these online short stories forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me focus on writing. I just can’t let it take all my revision time for the novels. Short stories are also a new venture for me. When I started writing fiction in 2009, I jumped right into a novel. I think the shorts will help improve my overall writing. Or, it could all come crashing down around me. 😉 But that’s life, right? (No, I’m not that easy going about it in reality!)

      We’ll see if my revised tagging approach for the upcoming story will bring more readers to the blog. If so, I hope they’ll enjoy the stop, too. 😉 If I could come up with fun posts like you do, maybe Meghan would never have gotten the chance to tell any stories!

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    • No arguing allowed. I’m allowed to say things like “WHAT?” or “Are you serious?” but that’s about it. If I say “I can’t do this,” she shrugs and then kicks me in the behind. I’ve been kicked a lot, and I hope some good will come of it. 😉

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  7. I’m excited for the new Meghan story. That page at the top is cool. I like her ideas she gives you. Isn’t it fun when our characters have a life of their own…and are very real to us? I think it is.

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    • Thanks, Char. 🙂 Meghan would probably put together a better graphic than I could do for her. But I’ve promised her a professional cover. 😉 I’m absolutely convinced the characters live “out there” somewhere. And they and the Muses find a way into our brains. Thank heaven, they’re not zombies! And I would be very sad if my characters left me. I hope they never will.

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  8. I knew she wouldn’t leave you alone! I’m glad – I do enjoy her stories. I don’t think it matters if the writing style is different because they’re all about archaeology so that’s what readers will come to expect. It’s always good to play around with different writing styles – I probably haven’t done that enough. I’m looking forward to her new adventures!

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    • Thanks, Sheila! I think it was hearing so many nice comments from you and other readers that got her hooked on telling another story. 🙂 But I’m reminding her that she has to share my writing time with the novels. I’m not forsaking them!

      Now we’ll have to see how good a job I can do with writing this one. Until I started the last one, I never would have thought I’d write a short story and do it in the present tense. I still can’t see doing it for a novel. But it’s a good exercise with the shorts, and I think it helps me find new ways to look at structure and description. I hope that will also help the novels and future books.

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  9. I think you are brave and I applaud you for putting your stuff up here on the blog. You could always include these short story excerpts in the published book as a free giveaway. I think it’s a great way to get interest in your novel. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kourtney! I just hope I won’t fall flat on my face with the new one. 😉 Meghan’s got a good story, but it’s up to me to tell it well. I’ll try not to disappoint her!

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    • I have learned not to resist the Muse. She relays too many fun ideas for me to risk losing them. ;Next Tuesday’s opening installment is drafted and awaiting further editing. 🙂

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  10. I think what you are doing is a good thing. I don’t think how you write these really impacts how readers should see your other work as this is a seperate thing. I like the idea that you could expand them and self publish if you wish. Why not? The key thing is that you hit on an idea and it got people interested in the story. It gives you a foundation for other works in that there is already something out there. Part of your portfolio if you like.

    On the continuing adventures, isn’t it great when the ideas start to flow? I had an idea 5 or 6 months ago for a large story. The ideas started flowing quick and I realised that it really is a much larger story, say three novels or more. Unfortunately that project is on hold right now as I really don’t have the time. However I did get all the ideas, notes, structure down in Scrivener so it is ready to continue with. If the scrivener folks ever get their ipad version ready, that will help me on that score.

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    • Thanks, Elliot, I really appreciate the encouragement. 🙂 I was really caught off-guard by this development from Poetic Archaeology, but yes—I love that rush when a new idea takes shape and I think, “This could be good.” That’s really when I wish there were more hours in the day.

      I’m surprised Scrivener hasn’t done an iPad version yet. After all, they started on the Mac platform. I’m happy they finally made it to PCs last year. I can’t imagine trying to go back to Word for writing even short stories now. And a full novel? No way!

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      • I think there is a shrunken down version of scrivener for ipad in development, but those guys work to their own schedule so they get it right. They originally hoped for the end of this year but who knows. It would be so useful!

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        • It’s such a good program on the “big” platforms, I’m sure it will be worth the wait. Surely it will be compatible for those of us with the PC version? An iPad’s on the Christmas list, but my “grown up” computer’s a PC….

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          • I would think it would be compatible. From what I read it should be compatible with the grown up version for all versions, but just lacking some of the features when it comes to editing.

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  11. From one panster to another – go for it! Look at your audience (us) and traditional publishing houses will publish what has been published already (look at 50 shades – I’m pretty sure that was published before being ‘published’).

    I knew Meghan wouldn’t let you rest – her and your muse are conspiring 😀

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    • I’m going for it! I think I heard 50 Shades was done on the blog except for the conclusion—that’s where she said you’d have to buy the book if you wanted the ending. That I will not do. 🙂 My intent (at least as the Muse currently suggests) is to expand them for the published version and maybe change a few bits, too.

      Can you help by reminding Meghan she has to share time with the novels?! 🙂

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  12. I just want you to know that I love the poems that kicked off each segment, but I also understand your point about possibly losing some readers. Maybe you could insert a short poem into the next story every now and then, or end the segment with a thought provoking one? Also, you inspired me to try writing a serialized something on my soon-to-launch blog (eventually, anyway). Meanwhile, I’m glad your mojito-drinking muse is toasting your creativity so you must go on, pantsing or otherwise.

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    • Thanks, Jagoda! I suspect some people enjoyed the poems and others skimmed over them to get to the story. That’s just the way of things, right? Maybe some haiku will come to mind for this next story. And if they do, I’ll certainly pop them in at the end.

      I’m looking forward to seeing your blog when you start, and I’m curious what that serialized something will be! It’s an unfamiliar feeling to have inspired someone to try something creative—but I like it. 😉

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  13. I, personally, liked Meghan, even beyond the story. She was a likeable, attractive (in my mind, at least) person with perseverance and knowledge. I welcome another story. As you said about selling the story, e-publishing a collection will always work and the money, in my opinion, is not as important as the exposure to a fairly large and versatile group as you have in blogging. Sometimes, the money just isn’t all there is to it. I don’t do my blog to gain money. I do it for exposure, experience, and to help people feel something.
    Just know, whatever you write, I will enjoy reading – Your characters are different, but both good in their own way. That’s the way it should be.
    Scott

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    • Certainly I hope the books will sell. But writing them is what drives me first and foremost. Some people would say I should pursue traditional short story markets because that would be more “credibility” when I shop the novel to an agent, whether or not I was reimbursed in any way for the story.

      Given the serial nature of these short stories, though, I think an e-pub will be the way to go. And those will be fleshed out more than what you’ll see on the blog, so there will be something new for readers of the blog. Maybe Meghan will take off in a way I never expected. Or maybe a few short stories will satisfy her. We’ll have to see!

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      • I need the drive to work on my book. I have the thought, the idea, the characters, but the stroke left me without a certain drive that I used to have. I am told this is an honest brain malfunction from the stroke. My hope is that it will return and I will get back into it. For now, I can deal with the blog, the short stories, the poetry, and the comments. I enjoy these and they do take up most of my day. I just realized this is all in caps; lock is not on…sorry for that

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        • From recent posts and comments I’m seeing, I think there’s some glitching in the WordPress universe. I found 99 percent of my problems disappeared when I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox. And I hope you can capture that drive again. But it sounds like you are finding traditional outlets for your short stories, and that’s a great accomplishment in itself.

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          • Yes, the traditional was surprising. It’s not all that way. The two coming up are combo – online and Kindle and print. The other is an online magazine.
            I use Firefox; this is the first problem I have seen, really – so I will be happy. As for the drive, it will be there when needed. That’s the way my life has been and I trust that to continue.

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  14. I don’t think you’re crazy. I love it when creativity takes people in unexpected directions! I wish you every success with every creative venture. People love Meghan go with it. 🙂 You love her too, right? 😉

    Whatever decision you decide to make, you know we;re all still here – even if some people (like me) – take a while to catch up with their reading… lol.

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    • Yes, I am quite fond of Meghan (and Sandberg), even if she did sneak up on me! Will she want her own novel someday? I can’t rule out the possibility. But for now, short stories seem to be working. So if the Muse sticks with her current plan, there will be three of them on the blog, and then we’ll flesh them out for an e-published collection. But the Muse has been known to change the script at the last moment! 😛

      Don’t worry—we all understand how much you have on your plate just now! 🙂

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      • Excellent, let her grow… who knows how she might develop. Isn’t wonderful reflecting on what you’ve already achieved through the creation of this character… and knowing how much further you can take it. Great! 🙂

        Thanks, JM.

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  15. It’s a no-brainer! Go ahead and e-publish. Self-publishing is a growth industry and you don’t need anyone to decide whether it should be published or not except yourself. Good luck with it…

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    • Thanks, and good to see you back in the blogosphere! I figure e-pubbing (or is that a virtual drink?) the shorts as a collection would be good experience if that’s the way I end up going with the novels. I think I could get the stories fleshed out and polished in a reasonable amount of time. Then I find someone to do a professional cover! I think I could handle the formatting myself. If nothing else, it will be a good learning experience. 🙂

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  16. You want to do another one? You’ll get no complaints from me. And I think what you’re doing is “safe” from a publication standpoint. Short stories are a different category from novels. I don’t think if you later fleshed out one of these into a novel that you would find it unmarketable – even if you had self-published it in a collection. It wouldn’t be the same work, being longer and more fully-realized. And who says you have to fess up anyway?

    Looking forward to the new story.

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    • Thanks, Carol. 🙂 I have to trust my Muse, and so far, I like her idea on putting together a collection. She just has to lend a hand now and again with keeping the ideas and communication with my characters flowing. At this moment, I have no idea what the third story will be. But I didn’t know the second one until the first was finished. So I shouldn’t worry—yet!

      As for this second one? Well, Meghan continues to learn that sometimes the past won’t stay buried….

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  17. Reading this post made me go back and catch up 1 – 10 of the MB Mysteries. They were great! I enjoyed them and really liked the visuals that went along with the stories. I can’t wait to see the new mysterious Meghan encounters!!

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  18. Great idea – besides you build audience and reputation this way. These can be teasers to get readers into your other works ( even if they are different – many readers are bound to be like me – I find an author, then run through all their works – even if very different )
    I like the new page idea …
    (RC Cat has been nagging me to do something like that for her …she is sure everyone wants her to have her own blog – but staff is short of time)
    Would write more, but life intrudes – love what you are doing (and you must please the muse when she appears!)
    YEA YOU!

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    • That’s my hope—to give readers an introduction to my writing while I finish the novels. Even if Meghan’s stories are different in tone and genre from the novels, they’re still a chance to see what I can do. But she was such a sneaky girl…. I had no idea what she was up to when the second round of Poetic Archaeology started up!

      Ooh, a page of her own for RC Cat would be so fun to see. I understand staff being too short of time to give her an entire blog. But a page of her own? You know readers would be leaving her many gifts of virtual mousies and greenies. 🙂 I think that’s a wonderful idea!

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