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The Next Big Thing is a writer's game of tag that I heard about from the wonderful Monica G. Edwards, if you have a chance, check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter, she's super funny and very inspirational!

So, according to the rules of "The Next Big Thing", my author interview is posted below. Enjoy!


What is the working title of your book? We're Only Human

Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea for We're Only Human came from a crush I had in High School. Every day in Gym Class, I'd see this cute guy playing basketball and though I liked him, I never had the courage to talk to him. Finally, during the last week of school, he stopped playing basketball long enough to walk up to me and start a conversation. He was really sweet and I'm so dorky that, to this day, I still get giggly thinking about that...

What genre does your book fall under? YA, Science Fiction, Romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  I would cast Zac Efron and Meagan Tandy in the lead roles, along side supporting actors Dane DeHaan and Sarah Ramos. (Also, while we're dreaming... I would want either J.J. Abrams or my brother to direct it! )

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Lanie, a Freshman at South Louisiana High, is struggling with the loss of her mother as well as a sudden onset of O.C.D. when she unknowingly attracts the attention of Randall Hawke III, a popular jock with a secret identity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I have a feeling that agent representation would be best for this story.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? About three months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? This is a tough question and I'm going to take the comic book route. What?! Yes, let me explain...I think I can compare the romantic aspect between Lanie and her new jock friend to Spiderman's Peter Parker and Mary Jane, but in this case, Lanie (the "Mary Jane") is something of a geek while her jock friend (my story's "Peter Parker") is the more popular of the two.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? I was at a point in my life where I felt a bit abandoned and recalling this one rare occasion back in High School when a gorgeous boy (who was also very nice) took the time to talk to me and ask me questions about myself was such a nice memory that I wanted to dwell on it and even jazz it up with some sweet sci-fi curve balls : )  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The underlying theme of "We're Only Human" pertains to our capacity to look beyond the visible differences that society tends to focus on, and, instead, see others for who they are. Additionally, YA readers with an interest in theater/acting will probably be able to relate to Lanie's love of theater.

I'm thrilled to have been able to participate in "The Next Big Thing", so a huge thank you to Monica and I hope those of you who read this will also take the opportunity to visit Zoe Cannon's site!

Zoe Cannon- http://www.zoecannon.com/






 
 
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Who knew that writing as a profession came with health risks?!

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Garzon-Jones, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Instructor who has over ten years of experience in working with patients.

I asked Susan what kinds of health risks are often associated with writers/people who spend long hours in front of the computer.

Susan:                
    People who spend long hours in front of their computer, tend to have posture issues that can lead to     burning and aching in primarily the neck, shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand muscles, from overuse. This can also affect the lower back and hip muscles. If these muscles become excessively tight due to overuse the result can be compression to nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels. When these vessels are compressed it can cause numbness, tingling, and a lack of blood flow to the muscles. This, in turn, causes the muscles to hurt, as pain radiates up and down the neck and arm to the wrist and hand. This can also cause tension headaches.In the lower back and hips it can cause numbness and tingling down the legs and pain in the lower back and front of the hips. Common diagnosis for these conditions are: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Siatica or Piriformis Syndrome, as well as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Writers often rely on that sudden burst of inspiration that puts them “in the zone”. Sometimes, being in the zone means spending hours upon hours sitting down to type.  Though we don’t want to lose our inspiration, to avoid potential health risks, how often would you suggest we take breaks while typing a story?

Susan:                  Taking breaks is a good idea. As far as the time goes it’s good to take them as often as possible, as long as you get them in they will help to give those muscles a break. A good gauge would be when you start to feel slight burning in your muscles. This signifies that your muscles are tired from being in the same position and that, for a little bit, you need to switch up your movements. Doing this may also have the added bonus of helping you to process your ideas better.

What kinds of stretching exercises are good for writers who are glued to their computers?

Susan:                   While stretching exercises are great, you also want to move your muscles to get them working more organically than they are when you’re in the same position for long periods of time. A good example is to go for a walk. Some other good exercises would be shoulder circles, neck rotations, squats or lunges among others. I personally love the P90X moving through the green jello exercise where you create tension in all your shoulder to finger muscles and imagine you are pulling yourself through jello. As massage therapists also use a lot of the same muscles that writers do we have similar problems and I have personally found these exercises to be helpful. It can take maybe 5 to 10 min to do one set of all of these exercises and would be great to do during your break.

If a writer decides to consult with a massage therapist, what kind of massage do you suggest they specifically request?

Susan:                   Well, each person is different when it comes to what their bodies can take, as well as their desired end result. If the goal is to relax and you don't like deep pressure then a Swedish massage, which is a lighter touch massage that has as its main focus to relax you and increase your circulation, would be a good choice. If you like firm or deep pressure but still want to relax a deep tissue massage which gets deeper into the muscles while at the same time allows you to relax would be a good choice. If you are looking for pain relief for a condition that is hindering your work, like if you already have carpal tunnel or any of the other aforementioned conditions or are experiencing numbness or tingling sensations due to muscle tension then Neuro Muscular therapy would be your best choice as the therapist will spend their time focused on the problem areas to bring relief, and help restore normal function. If you don't feel comfortable taking off your clothes, and have a hard time stretching on your own Thai massage may be for you. This style combines yoga-like stretches with compressions to help increase circulation and improve flexibility, all while you comfortably lay fully clothed on a mat and your therapist does all the work. If none of these seem like a good fit you can consult with a massage therapist about the many other technique styles that may be better suited for you.


I know Susan is also an avid reader, so I asked her what one of her all-time favorite books is…

Susan:                   I’m not much of a fiction reader as when I read it’s usually text books or biographies. But, the best novel I’ve read is actually based on a true story, so best of both worlds for me- I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg. It’s about a young girls struggle with mental illness. One other favorite book of mine is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, I like the journalistic nature of this true story.

Thanks for stopping by and a big thank you to Susan for the helpful tips!

 
 
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This morning I was thrilled to "Twinterview" (interview via Twitter) Laura Rae Amos, the multi-talented author of Exactly Where They'd Fall!

In addition to being a blogger, web-fiction writer, poet, and photographer, Laura is an extremely nice person and a talented player of a little thing called Mad Libs : )

So check out my Twinterview with Laura below and the game of Mad Libs that she totally rocked!




This is the Mad Libs Story:


                                                                        The Things We Already Have

Sometimes the things we want are simply smooth.

By smooth, I mean, that they are already ours.

This is something I learned from my best friend James.

You see, fifteen months ago, I was hit with a sudden realization of screwdriver spitting proportions.

I realized that by hiding the way I really felt about James, I was doing nothing but floundering under the fast thing we call hand.

This made me feel like a coward...and if there is anything I refuse to become, it's a coward.

So, the next day, I put on my best fuchsia striped knee socks (the ones with tiny cutouts of cute little horses all along the edges) and, feeling as beautiful as Hugh Jackman, I marched to the RV James lives in.

Before they both died, James' parents were the best birthday party clowns in town, so he's pretty well off and his RV is the fanciest on the street.

Unfortunately, while I was walking, a fishy shovel slithered into my path and to make a long story short, I ended up in the hospital with an IV drip full of Tums running through my bouncy veins.

So, the guy I was in love with still had no idea how I felt about him and I was beginning to feel pretty hopeless when James ate his way into my hospital room with a gift wrapped chair tucked under his arm and a spicy smile on his perfect face.

That's when I realized James wasn't the clueless one, I was!

He already loved me...I'd had him all along.








So, check out Exactly Where They'd Fall, a novel by Laura Rae Amos!
 
 
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Did you have an imaginary friend when you were growing up?

Yeah, I missed that boat.

But it's okay because as an adult, I've got tons of imaginary friends : )

No, I'm not insane, I am  {...the words within this parenthesis represent one long dramatic pause that continues until we both begin to feel the slightest bit uncomfortable...} a writer.

Excuse my need for intense drama- I've been watching a lot of Spielberg movies lately- sorry.

What I mean is, when I'm writing a story, the characters I'm writing about become so realistic I actually start to care about what happens to them as if they're real people.

BUT, sometimes I'm afraid that no matter how real my characters are to me, it doesn't come across in my writing.

In other words, I fear I might be an exceptional daydreamer and a terrible writer.

Hmm...

If I am, at the moment, somewhat of a talentless hack, that's OK because I can get better : )

Annnnnd I think I've found one way of making my characters as real to readers as they are to me.

Why, what is this epic stroke of genius I've had? (insert evil laughter here)

It's called the Jung-Meyers personality test!

This morning, I took the test as if I were the main character in the manuscript I'm currently editing and wow...this test gave me unbelievable insight into her quirks and, most importantly, why she thinks the way she does.

Of course, by the time I'd completed my manuscript I'd already given her a back story and I thought I knew all there was to know about her.

Wrong, wrong wrong...if I don't even completely understand myself, how could I have thought I knew everything about my MC?

The first time I took this personality test (as myself) a couple of years ago, it sort of made me cry because I realized a lot about myself that I didn't know before.

So, you can imagine how much insight it shed on my MC.

What are some ways that you've gotten to know your MC and, in the end, made them easier for readers to relate to/connect with?

Thanks for stopping by to read these words that I...wrote (wow, that was eloquent was it not?).

Anywayz, have a lovely day : )

-Paula





 
 
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While writing is therapeutic and fun, making a career out of it can be a challenge.

Fortunately, "challenging" and "impossible" have two, very different, definitions.

Writing for a living is doable.

Proof of this comes, not only in the form of successful writers such as Gillian Flynn, Tina Fey, and Marissa Meyer, but from "How To" sites created by helpful individuals who are already a part of the literary world.

These sites, some by literary agents and others by writers, have great advice on how to write query letters, how to land an agent, and even how to write and get your books out there without a literary agent.

Here are three of my favorite sites:

Thursday's With Amanda

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.


Pub Rants


Kristin Nelson, a well known U.S. literary agent, offers her blog followers an insightful behind-the-scenes peek into the writing world. Her agency also creates a newsletter with helpful tips for writers, news on upcoming books, and writer's conferences.


Rebecca Berto- Novel Girl


Rebecca Berto is an Editorial Assistant at Thomson Reuters and she loves books! She began studying Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing in 2011 and is very willing to share her expertise in writing in her awesome blog series.


These three sites are just a few of the many helpful How-To sites on writing (such as The Creative Penn and Writer's Digest) that are out there.

So, for the newbie writer like me, these sites are just awesome!!









 
 
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Who's my favorite fictional character?

That's easy.

At the moment, it's definitely Katniss Everdeen.

She's pretty amazing.

What makes her character "amazing" is that she's realistic.

She's conflicted by her inability to understand why she feels what she feels, she's ferocious in her need to protect the people she loves, and I find her likable because as selfish as she can be, Katniss Everdeen wouldn't be Katniss Everdeen without her conscience. Even Jiminy Cricket himself would admire the girl's conscience.

The crazy story that she finds herself thrown into is believable because she's so easy to relate to.

We're often drawn to characters who share some of our quirks because they make us realize we're not as weird as we think we are. Or...then again, maybe we are weird, but we're not alone in being weird. Yeah, that sounds better.

So anyway, Katniss is the kind of character who makes me feel like less of an oddball when I can't figure out why I think or feel a certain way. For the longest time, she anxiously wonders why she feels the way she does about Peeta and Gale, respectively. She doesn't understand herself well enough to sift through her feelings. I think a lot of us are like that.

I also enjoyed the process of watching someone who reminds me of myself make it through hurdle after hurdle and, in the end, come out, not completely unscathed, but stronger and more mature. It makes me feel like, if she can do it then maybe I can too.

So, that's my favorite fictional character: Katniss Everdeen.

Who's yours?








 
 
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A still from the "Finding Stories" trailer!










Creating a book trailer was probably one of the highlights of my year in 2011.

Ever since I was a kid I've liked the idea of being a part of a movie, as a grip, an actor, behind the camera...whatever...I just like it.

So last year, I finally got a taste of what being on set is like!

And you know what I learned?

I learned that the secret to making a great book trailer is this: Hire Daniel Jones.

J/K (though Daniel is an awesome film maker and at least 99.9% responsible for everything good about the Finding Stories in The Rain trailer)!

But, creating a book trailer that works involves more than having an experienced film maker on set.

The secret comes down to this: being organized, adaptable, and creative.

Writer's naturally have the creativity part covered, so yay to that!

As for being organized part...well, I needed help with that and here are a few tips that I hope will help you with the organization of your book trailer:

I like step-by-step processes. So, I've tried to organize the creation of a book trailer into steps that will help the writer feel a bit more organized and in control as they move through their project.

Step 1: Write The Script

I want to give the audience a tantalizing glimpse of my story without giving away the ending.
This means the script needs to be SHORT, to the point, and gripping.

Before writing my script, to get myself in the right frame of mind I:

  • Decided to Google "Popular Movie Trailers" and see which ones I liked.
  • Then, after watching my favorite trailers, I jotted down a couple of notes about what I liked and didn't like in each trailer.
  • My next step was to go through the pages of my book and find the most dramatic scenes.
  • Out of all the dramatic scenes, I narrowed it down to choosing three of the most gripping.
Now ready to sit down and write the script, I:
  • Opened Microsoft Word and Windows Media Player so that while I was writing my script I could listen to the type of music I wanted playing in the background of the trailer.This helped keep me in the mood that I hoped to push the audience into.
  • I lifted the dialogue from the pages of the book and retyped it in the style of a movie script (I didn't worry about it being a perfectly professional script, but I did my best to add camera angles and a few helpful notes for the actors)
  • I read the script outloud, realized it was too long and re-edited it to make it as short as possible, which made it about three minutes in length.
  • The, over the next couple of days, I re-edited it a zillion more times!
  • The last thing I did was take the script and storyboard each shot meaning, I drew a picture of how I wanted every single shot to look at every point in the short film. This gave me a clear idea of what I wanted the final product to look like.

Step 2: Scout Locations

  • I checked around town for free places to film and found plenty.
  • I decided to go with using these three locations: a park, the rooftop of a hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, and a small restaurant near LSU Campus (with the restaurant's permission).




Step 3: Find a Film Maker


At first I was going to do the filming myself and then...I looked at my last pathetic attempt at a short film and I realized I didn't want to do that.

So the next thing I did was:

  • Contact a professional film maker. (This isn't as difficult as it sounds because just about every city has at least one wedding videography production company that's filled with young, aspiring film makers who only shoot weddings to pay the bills. If not, there are also talented film students at local universities and community colleges who would love the opportunity to help a writer with their book trailer.
  • The film maker, in this case, happens to be my brother. So, when he read my script, frowned, shook his head, and handed it back to me saying, "Can you re-write this?" I didn't kill him because I really, really love him and also because he was right      : ) 

  • I gave him my notes on Locations, showed him my Story Board, and to make sure that we were both on the same page, we fleshed out which one of us would have the title of "Director" once we were on set. This way, the actors would know who to go to for the final decision when they had any questions.



Step 4: Find Actors

Baton Rouge has several Community Colleges and Universities so I:

  • Went online, found an email address to the Theater and Film department at one of the local Universities and asked them if they had any theater students who would be interested in acting in a book trailer. My email was forwarded to all of the students in their Department and I was flooded with responses from interested actors. (This is the part where I started getting nervous, because I knew the trailer had to look good. I didn't want to embarrass the people who agreed to act in the trailer! In retrospect, I think this extra pressure actually helped me try and do my best to be professional about it all.)
  • The next thing I should have done was hold an audition but I skipped that and simply selected actors based on their head shots (which worked out OK because, thankfully, all of the actors were wonderful to work with).
  • After selecting the actors, I provided each of them a contract that gave me the right to use the video and sound from whatever we filmed in any way I choose and, of course, I gave each of them a specific day and time they'd need to be "on set". 



Step 5  Have Fun Filming


This was the best part, the filming!!!
Despite the fact that I was pretty shy when it came to directing the actors, I still had a blast  : )

But, next time here's what I'd do differently:

  • The day before we begin filming, while I'm making sure I have all props ready to go I would also take a few minutes to read through each of the actors lines and jot down a specific subtext which would show exactly what their character is thinking at that moment. (a lot of times the things we have our character's say is either the exact opposite or only a shadow of what they're really thinking- so it helps to let the actor know what's really going on in the character's head)
  • While we're filming, I'd make a point of being assertive and not shy away from exclaiming, "Hang on, that's not right, why don't we fix this and try again!" in my best Oprah-voice. Next time, I won't shrug and "just let it go" when a line isn't said correctly or a bird flies into the scene or something because the trailer is my vision and it ought to look the way I want it to look, right?



Step 6  Editing The Trailer

  • Before opening Vegas Studios to begin editing the film, the first thing I did was go to http://www.gameaudio.net/ and find the perfect music for the trailer. I purchased it, along with the appropriate license for about $60-$75.
  • I took about four weeks to edit several versions of the book trailer, and my brother edited one version of the trailer, which is my favorite (his trailer is posted below if you want to check it out)


Step 7 Advertising and Marketing

  • I decided to contact Rave Cinema about advertising my book trailer at a few of Baton Rouge's local movie theaters (it's pretty funny when people see the trailer at the movies and they're like, "You wrote a movie?!"... I wish!!!).
  • I also contacted a local television station and purchased a few inexpensive time slots.

So, creating the book trailer for Finding Stories in the Rain was an adventure and I honestly loved every minute of it!

The next time I embark on a book trailer, I'm going to try to do it without my brother's help (ack!)  In case you haven't noticed, this leaves me slightly terrified but I plan to give it my best shot : )

I'd like to make a behind-the-scenes video diary of what happens throughout the process of writing, filming, and creating my next book trailer. I'll let you know when I'm getting started on it and post each video diary here in my journal.

Whew! This was a long post!

What was your book trailer experience like? Or are you weighing the pro's and con's of creating one?




 
 
Yesterday I was in the mall with one of my friends and we stopped in Express to browse.

You know how those stores are; wonderfully loud music that sounds the way Pixie Sticks taste, cute, headset-wearing guys running around ...and you just have to stop and look at them because they're even prettier than you : )

So, we're looking at the outfits on display and comparing our differing tastes.

I like the weird looking pink dress with the jacket that doesn't really match slung over it, my friend says she's not crazy about that outfit, she prefers the really pretty, red sweater that, for some reason has a nice romantic look to it.

Then my friend is staring at this really sleek black and silvery outfit that's topped with a cropped leather jacket and she looks at it for a long time before quietly saying,

'I'd wear that if I had a different life...'

The way her voice trails off and the expression on her face has me curious, so I ask her what she means.

She smiles and seems a little embarrassed, but that day-dreamy sort of look hasn't left her face, so she goes on to describe what her life might have been like had she gone on to pursue her interest in art.

As she's explaining herself, I'm totally pulled into her daydream, but when she's done I'm feeling a little sad because it makes me wonder if she wishes that's what she'd actually done with her life.

The moment passed and we went on to look at other outfits on display, making up stories about what kind of life the girl who wore each outfit would have. After that we walked around the mall enjoying good conversation and it was a fun, relaxing evening.

But still...that question of "if" gets to me.

What would life be like without "if's"?

Suppose there was no looking back on alternative options that were passed up and instead, we just kept moving forward.

Some people equate that sort of outlook as more positive than one that looks back to consider the "what if's".

I confess, it does make me sad to recall some of the not so great choices I've made, but realizing that I could have made a different decision with a different outcome tempers the depressing factor.

So, while it's probably not a great idea to get stuck in the past, anxiously tripping and falling all over the "what if's...", it can be a good idea to consider and learn from past mistakes.

I like thinking about the "if's" because once I get past the sad part, it reminds me that there are always options...we just have to keep our eyes open to see them.

What do you think? What's one thing you've learned from a past choice you wish you'd handled differently?


 
 
This week on Wednesday, I didn't post anything because I was busy writing a story! Yay!!

Ahhh...it felt so good to just sit in front of my computer and write, write, write!

I hate that Hurricane Isaac was devastating to so many people in south Louisiana, but for some reason my family and I didn't lose power. This means that I basically had three days off from work to stay at home and do what I love most- write!

While I was trying to develop a main character for my hurricane story I started thinking about how similar writing is to acting.
I love watching The Actors Studio where actors discuss how they develop characters and then portray these characters in film and theater. Watching that show is teaching me a lot about writing. I'm learning that the various processes actors use to get in character are similar to the methods writers use to develop their characters.

When I'm writing about a character, I pretty much become that person. If I get to a part in the story where the character is crying, I'm usually crying (or at least a little teary-eyed), and when I get to an action-packed part of the story where the main character is frantic, well, let's just say that anyone who happens to pass me while I'm writing probably thinks I'm either having a seizure and need medical attention or ...just a little weird.

So, writing and acting seem very similar arts and it makes me wonder about what it is that attracts actors to acting and writers to writing?

Is it that we just like the art of story telling?

If so, why does the process of story telling make us so happy?






 
 
Everyone has an "off day" during which a series of unfortunate events seem to follow them like a shadow.

And some of us have "off months", "off years", "off decades", perhaps even entire lives of "off-ness"...

Last night I'd convinced myself that I must be one of those people who is destined to an "off life".

Clearly, I can be a bit of a drama queen when I'm down in the dumps.

My dreariness still greeted me this morning and stayed with me until I took a moment to review yesterday's series of unfortunate events.

I'd left for the day job thinking I'd be about five minutes late getting there.

Well, after three hours of being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic I was only halfway to my destination, running out of gas and one of the tires was low...so I decided to nix going to the day job and simply pull into Whole Foods where I'd hang out for a bit.
 <Whole Foods, BTW, is such a great place to go when you need to shop whilst calming your nerves.
It's not like other Grocery Stores. The people who shop and work at Whole Foods actually seem friendly - even normal! And the entire store smells like lavender. I just love it... >

The whole reason I got stuck in the worse part of the bumper to bumper traffic was because I'd seen a traffic jam on my usual route and after being stuck in the creepy-crawl for 20 minutes, decided to seek out an alternative route that I thought no one else would use.

Boy was I wrong.

Apparently, everyone and their second cousin had sought out the one alternative route that everyone assumed no one else would think to use.

So this morning, I started comparing yesterday's traffic jam to my life.

Like most INFP's, I hate following crowds.

That feeling of being one of the masses, a cow in the massive herd of cattle, makes me absolutely nauseous.

It's not that I think I'm better or even worse than anyone around me, I just like being different.

So, here I sit, wanting to be creative and different yet I spend 8 to 10 hours of my everyday sitting as a drone in an office where I file paperwork like the hundreds of other drones in the same office.

Most days, it takes a lot of willpower to not crumple into the fetal position as I stare out of the window overlooking my fake wooden desk and wish I was outside filming or writing something of importance.

When I start to feel like a part of the herd, my initial reaction is to panic and flee the scene in any way I can.

That's what I did in the traffic jam yesterday.

I found a different street and just took it- but it turned out to be even worse than the first street I'd been on.

Well, it's the same with my day job.

When an idea for a story grabs me by the throat, instead of being able to write the story, I'm stuck at my day job, answering phone calls about things I have no interest in. This makes me horribly sad because all I want to do is write and then it makes me panicky.


I scour Craig's List for other jobs, finding nothing but misspelled ads for "pretty ladies", and decide to forget Craig's List and create my own business. So I make a website for the first business venture that pops into my head, and I start sketching out a fear-induced business plan for something that I only half-believe in but feel I must do in order to escape the beige office I've gotten myself stuck in.

In retrospect, that's kind of crazy.

Instead of panicking and taking every wrong street possible, maybe I need to calm down and come up with a solid solution to how I can get out of this "traffic jam" of unfulfilling day jobs and do what I love to do.

When you love to write but you need to pay your bills (and unfortunately you didn't come into the world with a trust fund), what do you do?