Friday, February 28, 2014

Guest Post: Mary Buckham, USA Today best-selling author

How/why did you start to write?

I started to write for publication as an alternative to working 60 plus hour work-weeks as a bank officer. I had five children at home under the age of eight and I didn’t want to look back on a life where they were raised by caregivers instead of at least one of their parents. It was not an easy decision, especially when I learned that just because you write a book does not mean you’re ready to have that book sell and be published, but it was the best choice for my family and myself.

How did you become an author?

A lot of hard work on top of hard work. Writing is not the same as writing for publication. It took me about five or six full length completed novels to learn all the major elements of the craft of writing, a process that is ongoing. The reason it took so many novels is that the editorial review process was, for a lot of good reasons, very long, so it was just as easy for me to write the next book while waiting to learn how the previous one could be improved. My first published book took over two years to be reviewed and revised and reviewed again and it wasn’t until I sent a nice, but pointed note to my future editor suggesting that if they were still considering the project I’d be happy to rewrite the sex scenes to incorporate wheelchairs and walkers because the characters had aged so much. I received The Call within the week.

What was your first published piece?

A Category Romantic Suspense novel. I researched the market and looked for what genre and which publishers offered the most openings and career opportunities for debut authors. That’s who I then targeted. What I learned though was that through traditional publishing there was a strong tendancy to grow an author by having them write more of the same. But as a creative I’d already moved on in what made me excited to write. The tension between the publisher’s needs and my needs was something I  took into account. Fortunately I had a wonderful editor who was willing to see a different type of novel from me, after I tried to write the type of story I’d written before. I was lucky that the publishing house I was with was in the process of opening a new line that was tailor made for what I wanted to write.

Where was it published?

My first and second novels were published with Silhouette. The second one was part of a three book series with a kick-ass heroine (I read the parameters wrong and thought they wanted smart-ass heroines which was right up my line)  and more focus on a woman’s story journey rather than just about the romance. Unfortunately the roll out of that line met some marketing issues (readers expected romances from Harlequin) so that by the time my second and third book were scheduled for release, the line had closed. A great lesson in flexibility, which is always important to learn as any entrepeneur.

How long ago?

Back in the Stone Age? Some days it feels like that. I actually keep track of time via my children so an easy-reference time frame is I started writing when my oldest child was eight and the youngest three. My first published novel was when my youngest was starting high school (I’d like to pretend he was a very advanced student but I can’t) and I moved on to Indie Publishing when my youngest was leaving college. Boy, does the time fly!

What are you currently writing and why?

I’m currently writing nonfiction writing craft books to help other writers learn elements of the craft of writing. At this time I’ve published the WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series that’s met with a lot of positive feedback. I’m also writing an Urban Fantasy series called the INVISIBLE RECRUITS series with the initial books focusing on Alex Noziak, a part witch/ part shaman who is recruited with other women to fight preternatural threats in a world that’s unaware that we’re not all human. The books and novellas combine the pacing of thrillers, the who-done-it of mysteries, and a strong dose of romantic elements as Alex and her teammates learn to use their inate abilities in new and untested ways.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

One of the things I’ve found fascinating about so many writers is that we can get bored easily so tend to have an eclectic career path. In other words a fun/intriguing job wins over the same job day after day. I worked in accounting, international banking, as a magazine editor and contributing editor among other jobs and yes, there is nothing that goes to waste for a writer. My sons once asked me if their dad could take them to the Emergency Rooms for broken bones and injuries because I’d get talking to the doctors and nurses about bullet wounds and how a vampire’s blood might be different than a human’s.

What inspires you?

Learning stretches my comfort zone and makes me excited. Travel, lots of travel, new places, meeting new people, sharing with others, exotic food, handwoven textiles, the list can go on and on.

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

One of the platforms that has been a huge win-win for me is teaching. I didn’t have a teaching background but loved learning and sharing what I learned with others who wanted to write.  I started teaching online classes that quickly lead to speaking engagements with writing groups around the US and Canada. Not only did I have the opportunity to meet writers in a variety of genres but to make friendships around the globe. I hadn't intentionally thought of teaching as a platform until one of my NYT writing buddies was giving me a hard time because every where she traveled, including Australia and the UK, she kept running into people who knew of me.

Parting words

Expect writing to be  published to be hard work. First novels are rarely ready for publication unless they’ve been rewritten multiple times. We hear about first books being published because it’s the exception, not the norm, and even then we rarely hear about how many drafts those books underwent to be ready for publication. Know what you want out of your writing—for enjoyment, to be published, as theraphy—whatever works for you works. Writing for publication means you are writing for your readers, keep that in mind, you are thus writing to meet their expectations and not only your own.  Not for every reader, but for those core readers who read what you want to write. Honor that commitment to them. Honor the commitment to yourself. To be a writer is a gift, an avocation, a responsibility.  Treat it as such and you can have a career that is ever changing, stimulating and exciting. And that can happen all in the same day!

Mary Buckham's books...


Writing Active Setting Book One: Characterization and Sensory Detail
Readers usually remember the plot and characters of a story, but Setting is every bit as important in creating a memorable world. Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story -- creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.
See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose. Learn to deepen the reader's experience of your story world through sensory details. Notice how changing characters' POV can change your Setting. Explore ways to maximize the Setting possibilities in your story.

Writing Active Setting Book Two: Emotion, Conflict and Back Story

Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story -- creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.

Active Setting: Book Three Anchoring, Action, as a Character, and More
Discover how truly Active Setting empowers your story -- creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.
Learn to use Setting to quickly anchor the reader into the world of your story. Use Setting as movement through space effectively. Explore Setting in a series. Learn the most common Setting pitfalls.


Available Now for Kindle, Nook and Print!
Hidden from a world unaware of magic, a recently and only partially trained group of operatives known as the Invisible Recruits are the only ones willing to stand between mankind and those powerful preternatural factions seeking to change the balance of power and gain world domination.
Alex Noziak, part witch/part shaman, anticipates facing dangerous preternaturals out for blood . . not fashion week. But when the rookie agent is sent undercover to find out who, or what, is behind a series of world-wide thefts of top-secret intelligence, Alex tangles with the Seekers.
Seekers hunt gifted human individuals like Alex and her squad whose rare powers can keep the balance between human and nonhuman squarely on the side of the humans. Her simple assignment turns into a battle of survival for everyone involved when she crosses Bran, a mysterious warlock, who might be her only ally or worst enemy.

To save the innocent, Alex must call upon her untested abilities, but at what cost?

The second Alex Noziak novel

If she wins he’ll lose his freedom. If he wins she’ll watch her brother die.
Sworn enemies and former lovers must hunt the same enemy with different agendas. Alex Noziak, part-witch; part-shaman must save her brother before warlock Bran eliminates the only man who knows where her brother is hidden.
The IR Agency’s new recruits, each with unique if untested abilities, are brought deeper into the world of the preternaturals as their governing body, the Council of 7, is caught in a dangerous and vicious feud between Weres and Shifters.
But when Alex has a chance to save her brother and capture the Weres who held him hostage disaster happens.

Author website
Facebook:  Mary Buckham or Mary Buckham Fan Page
Twitter: @MaryBuckham

Monday, February 24, 2014

WordsThaw literary festival notes by Leanne Dyck

On Saturday, February 22nd I woke at 5:20 a.m. to catch the 7:05 a.m. ferry. I would be travelling with my friend and fellow writing group member, Amber Harvey and her husband.
We spent an enjoyable day at the University of Victoria attending...

 My only suggestion, and it's a suggestion often made by visitors to Mayne Island, more signage please. Amber and I weren't familiar with the campus. We'd been told that it would be in the Human and Social Development Building. We found the building. But finding an open door proved to be a lot harder. As we waited, doubt crept up and stabbed us in the gut: It's 9:30 a.m. Why are we the only people here? Had Words Thaw been cancelled? Finally, I walked around the entire building and found an open door. A few well placed signs would have arrested our concerns.
Any way, the rest of the day more than made up for that small oversight. Volunteers were cheerful and helpful--a winning combination.

Author as Avator:  Social Media and blogging (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)

Moderator:  John Threlfall

Writers, journalists and publishers increasingly appreciate the importance of social media and blogging to their processional aspirations. The panelists will talk about how to develop a following and sense of community through social media and what best practices apply to this increasingly more visible arena of writerly activity.

I'd like to thank the panelists and moderator, I gained tons of helpful information. Here's what I learnt...

most valuable social networking tools:  twitter, blogging, facebook and YouTube

All authors should have a website. Building an on-line presence is very important for authors. But be ever aware of how you are representing yourself. You want to come across as a person but avoid appearing negative in anyway.

Think about why you want to be on social media--who you want to follow and who you want to be followed by. How much time do you want to spend? (rule of thumb:  1 per day twitter/ 1 to 2 per day on facebook). Invest time in planning before you interact. And spend time maintaining your social media. (i.e. unfollow on Twitter, etc.)

Social media is about sharing and building community. So 30% should be about you--70% should be about supporting other people. Remember social media means that you're in the public. And think about what you're audience wants.

If you receive a negative review don't call attention to it on-line. Instead the best method is to briefly mention that you were reviewed and the publication.

You can post published articles/stories on your blog. [I do this and link back to the publisher's website.]

Plan your blog posts and incorporate visuals.

Maximum word counts for blog articles should be around 700 words. [My articles have been getting a little long, as of late. I'm going to work on shortening them.]

I asked for useful twitter hash tags. I received:  #librarian; #canlit, #bookblogger

Twitter:  if you want to connect with someone through twitter and have the public see it use:  .(dot) name
if you want to send something directly to someone through twitter and keep it private us:  @name

Twitter is an especially effective tool when promoting events and books.

Blogs to check out:  

The Inner Life of our Words:  Writing and the Human Spirit (1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.)

Panelists:  Marita Dachsel, Tim Liburn and Jane Munro

Moderator:  Andrew Rippin

Is there a relationship between poetry and the inner life? And if there is, what form or direction--or directions--does it take? Does writing and reading probe the spiritual life (or lives) of the self, another person, a community, or even an age? Can poetry be a catalyst to discovering and expressing not only "what we know" but "what we want to know"?

This was a thought-provoking, mindful discussion. So mostly I just sat there captivated and mesmerized. Here's what I heard...focused on...

Something that you've been reading knows you deeply and through this experience you've been made stronger.

Anything truly attended to is spiritual practice.

The act of making art is key.

Something is growing inside me
Occupying my body
I don't know what it is 
It absorbs me
Between me and it--there is commonality but difference

General discussion about the muse and general agreement--amongst the panelists--that she/he/it doesn't exist. 
writing is hard work
writing is the courage to waste time

Poetry is how she figures out life and a way to answer questions that she has

Poetry makes a life that is identifiable out in the world that is close to her inner life.

Writers and poets are making sense of things not recording things

Not everything I write needs to be read by another

From a member of the audience:  I need to be centred so that life flows through me. Life flows through me onto the page. Our gift is to listen to the soul. A surprise of the writing process. The whole purpose of writing is connecting soul to soul.
Asked panelists to comment on soul.
Panelists replied by saying that her words were beautiful but that they had problems with the terminology she used--namely, 'soul'. One panelist said that she equated 'soul' to 'creativity'. 

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guest Post Author Joan Hall Hovey



(Previously published in The Writer Magazine)

Like you, I started out as a story 'listener'. Both my parents were avid storytellers, and I needed only to hear the words, "I remember the time when..." to feel that rare and exquisite pleasure in the anticipation of a new story. The dark, scary ones were best - stories my father told of the man with the cloven foot who showed up at the card game, or the discovery of a young girl's body in the woods behind the school ... the town drunk found dead in the cemetery, his face as granite-white with frost as the tombstones surrounding him...

From the time I could find my way to the Saint John Library, I was a constant visitor. For me, the library was a magical place - a hushed, warm haven where, through the pages of a book I could travel to far off exotic places in my imagination. I could experience vicariously all the joy, romance, terror, tragedy and triumph of the characters in the stories.

Among my favorite authors were Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Bronte, Shirley Jackson and Phyllis Whitney. Far too many to list here. I am forever grateful to them all, for it was through reading their works that the seed to be a writer was planted in me. I wanted to join the ranks of those authors who had given me so much pleasure, and in turn tell my own stories. I had learned about the power of words.

Reading is, of course, where it all begins for all writers. Although it might surprise you to know that a number of aspiring writers have told me they didn't have time to read. Or that they didn't read because they wanted everything in their own work to be totally original. Sadly, I don't expect to read much of their work in published form. So the first key to publication is to Read! Read! Read! Nothing you didn't already know. But it's true; we learn by osmosis. And we learn by doing.

When I first set pen to paper with thought of publication, I didn't know bad literature from good. I devoured it all, and learned from it all. I came across the True Confessions in the market section of a copy of Writer's Digest Magazine, and it seemed possible to me that I could write one. I was right. That first story was titled: I Didn't Kill My Husband, But I Might As Well Have. Pretty bad, I know. But looking at the models on the page portraying the characters in my story, not to mention my cheque for $125.00, I felt like I'd won the lottery. The only downside was that my name wasn't on my story. You don't get a bi-line from the confessions. The stories are supposed to be true. Or at least read like they're true. Everyone I wrote sold. I seemed to have a knack. But I never approached the writing of these little stories lightly, or with tongue in cheek; I always wrote from my heart, in all seriousness. When I could no longer do that, I stopped writing them.

My children were small then, three under six years of age, and I was squeezing in writing time when I could find it. Usually, in the evenings after they were in bed. (Ah, to be so young again! ) Later, I wrote while holding down a full-time job. You do what you have to do. John Grisham rose at 4:00 a.m. to get in his stint of writing before going off to his law office.

My second story, God's Special Gift, made the rounds for a time and finally sold to Home Life magazine in Nashville. It was about my grandmother, who died in a house fire when I was 15. Writing that story, albeit many years later, was very cathartic for me. And I got a bi-line. My work soon found its way into the now defunct, (unfortunate, because it was a fine magazine) Atlantic Advocate, both fiction and non-fiction, and various other magazines and newspapers.

Pregnant with my fourth child, I determined to pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel. That summer, I sat on our back deck and read a stack of suspense novels of the sort I wanted to write. I reread Poe, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson and many of the new authors who were also becoming my favorites. In the fall, I began writing my own suspense novel, The Strawman. (Later Zebra Books would change the title to Listen to the Shadows.) I wrote it at our kitchen table in longhand, and the book took a long time to write. I worked on it off and on over a period of maybe four years.

Finally the novel was finished. I'd already gone through my Writer's Market, as well as checking out the books on the shelves of our local bookstore, and Zebra seemed right for The Strawman. I sent it off. It came flying back within a few weeks, but the attached slip of paper wasn't quite a rejection. Anne Lafarge, acquisitions editor at the time, had scribbled a note saying she liked the book, but it was too short. They needed 100,000 words; mine was about 75,000 words.

I settled down to work. It took another four months to add the other 25,000 words, which I did by weaving in a couple of subplots. In November I sent the manuscript off again, addressing it to Anne LaFarge. On the outside of the package, in bold black marker, I printed: Requested Material, just in case she forgot me, which I'm sure she did.

One day in February the phone rang. I knew intuitively that it was Zebra. They wanted to publish The Strawman. When my husband came home that night I was at the stove cooking spaghetti. He took one look at my face, and said, "You sold your book."

It was a dream come true. I felt weepy and humbled. And very happy

Nowhere To Hide

End of story? Hardly. I completed and sent out the third manuscript and it was returned. I was told Zebra was no longer publishing suspense. At least the kind of psychological suspense I like to write. More sex, they said. That sort of book had little appeal for me. And I'm convinced you should only write what you really want to write. Otherwise, it's just too damn hard. The moral of the story: You're never there. (Unless you're Stephen King, but he's a genius.)

Back to square one? Well, not quite. What I have now is a track record. Publishers tend to give my work a longer look before they turn it down.

  I thought your visitors might find this audio excerpt from ‘Chill Waters’ (winner of the Bloody Dagger Award) of interest.  Complete with music and sound effects, narrated by the author.

Chill Waters

This is a precarious business, with no guarantees for any of us. So you must love the actual process of writing. In the end, the only thing we have any control over is the writing itself. It takes courage to be a writer, to put our work (ourselves) out there, never knowing if it will be praised or ridiculed. We must rise above the fear, and do what we know we can when all cylinders are firing.

So give that critical editor on your shoulder the bum's rush (He gets called in for work later.) and write your novel. Enjoy the writing; give yourself to it like a lover. Get out of your own way by focusing on the characters and their story. And know that you are not alone. All around the globe, at this very moment, writers are sitting at kitchen tables with pen and paper, or at their computers, struggling to write their own novels.

Lastly, no matter your genre, be it romance, mystery, horror or science fiction, go where the passion, the pain, is. Write with joy! And believe in yourself. No one can tell your stories but you. No one. And if you need a little inspiration, check out the books on my site.

Good luck!

Joan Hall Hovey
Author website

More books written by Joan Hall Hovey...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is set in Mississippi during 1962. It's a heart-warming story about the love between a black maid (Aibileen Clark) and a rich white girl (Skeeter Phelan). Aibileen raised Skeeter like her own child--Skeeter's parents are too busy with other matters. Skeeter never forgot the love she received and uses her skills as a writer to cry out for social justice for the black community. However, this puts Aibileen's life in jeopardy. 


And closer to my Mayne Island home...
On one of our big sister islands, Salt Spring Island, there is a community of African-Americans. Many in this community can trace their family back to escaped slaves. I'm in awe of the courage it took to leave all you know, travel the underground trail way and start a new life in a foreign land. 
To learn more, read...

Every Goodbye Ain't Gone (book) (on Amazon)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Interview with Author Sheila Johnston

How/why did you start to write?
 I love theatre, history and non-fiction books. So it made sense to me to start to write in 1991 about Canadian theatre performer E. Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake (b. 1861 – d. 1913). Miss Johnson’s extraordinary life as a performing poet ticked all my boxes…theatre/history/non-fiction.

How did you become an author?
 When Natural Heritage Press of Toronto, Ontario put me under contract for my Pictorial biography about Miss Johnson, I became an author.

What was your first published piece?
 1997 saw the publication of BUCKSKIN & BROADCLOTH: A Celebration of E. Pauline Johnson.

Where was it published?
Toronto, Ontario

How long ago?
16 years ago

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I worked as a Communications Officer at professional theatre companies in Canada and England. It was definitely an asset to my writing. I understood how hard a job writing is.

What inspires you?
Canadian history.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique
Hand-written notes thanking people who take the time to (1) read my book and (2) communicate their thoughts with me.

Parting words
LIFE makes you smarter;

But LIVING makes you wiser.

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to propel your author career by Leanne Dyck

Kinematics...kinetics...analytical dynamics...dynamics explains 'how and why things move in the ways they do....There are numerous practical applications for kinetics' -wiseGeek

And because I'm not a scientist, I feel free to use it how ever I wish. In fact, I think I'll use it to describe building a successful author career. 

Theory:  my writing career is fed on positive energy. The more I create the farther I can go.

Testing this theory:  This week I'm creating positive energy by...

Monday, February 10th
Being published:  Have you heard about Sonia Marsh and her 'My Gutsy Story' Anthology?
Well, I did because Laurie Buchanan--yes that Laurie--told me about it. And I voted for her. 
Yes, voted.
I'll get into that. 
Sonia Marsh writes about her Gutsy contest: 'Every Monday, we shall feature a short story on "Gutsy Living" about something Gutsy you have done in your life'
I wrote a gusty story--Oh, yes, I can--and Sonia has published it on her blog.
You can help:  by reading my story

Wednesday, February 12th
Reading my writing:  at the Canadian Authors Association Open Mic Nights.
Readings are limited to 3 minutes. So it will be fast paced and fun.
You can help:  by listening to me
Address:  Alliance for Arts 100-938 Howe Street, Vancouver, B.C.
Time:  7:00 to 9:00 p.m. [doors open at 6:45 p.m.]
Note:  This is the first time I'll be reading in Vancouver. It would be so nice to have people cheering for me. : )

This entire week...
Keeping my pen moving:  I'll continue to work on revisions and work on a short story.
You can help:  By being here. It really helps to have some one to be accountable to. Please know that I appreciate you.


Friday, February 21st to Sunday, February 23rd
Attending literary festivals:  There are two literary festivals during the last weekend in February:  Galiano Literary Festival on Galiano Island and WordsThaw in the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Last year, I attended Galiano Literary Festival and walked away inspired.
This year... Well, this year I'd like to be able to split myself in half. But I think that might be painful. So I was forced to choose. I'll be attending WordsThaw.
You can help:  I'd like to support both of these fine festival. So here's my idea:  half of you attend the Galiano Literary Festival and the other half attend WordsThaw. Sound like a plan?
Here's an article about WordsThaw
Here's my review of the Galiano Literary Festival
Don't worry if you can't follow through on our plan. I'll share my adventure at WordsThaw on February 24th.
Next post:  Interview with Sheila Johnston
I meet Sheila Johnston at Words Vancouver. Here's a little more about that. (After clicking the link, please stroll down to Pauline Johnson--A Vancouver Legend with Shelia)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Guest Post: Room Magazine: Canada's oldest literary journal by and about women

For over thirty-five years, Room Magazine has been a space for emerging and established female writers and artists. Based in Vancouver and run by a passionate and diverse collective of volunteers who share editorial and administrative responsibilities, 
Room explores a wide range of themes and ideas through fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, interviews, book reviews, and artwork by women and about women. We have been honoured to published work by amazing writers such as Carol Shields, Amber Dawn, Ivan Coyote, Lorna Crozier and so many more.

Room was founded as A Room of One's Own (from Virginia Woolf's 1929 essay of the same name) in the 1970s by a collective of female writers, editors and academics, as a way of providing a space for female voices at a time when women writers had a harder time getting published than their male counterparts. Today, Room celebrates events such as Day of the Girl and International Women's Day, and maintains a strong, feminist mandate both in the journal itself, and through our online presence on Facebook ( and Twitter (@RoomMagazine).

Every year, Room publishes four unique issues – two themed, and two un-themed, open issues – and hosts a literary contest (deadline is July 15!). Upcoming theme In Translation (deadline July 31, 2014). We accept submissions on an ongoing basis from female-identified writers and artists across the globe. Please visit our website ( for more information.

Editorial Collective
Room Magazine

Monday, February 3, 2014

Peas, Please (short story) by Leanne Dyck

photos from one of my mom's favourite cookbooks

I think I was about eight or nine or maybe even ten. A plate of ham and a bowl of potatoes in front of me on the grey chrome oval table.

"Sit up straight," Mom told me. I'd been sitting on my knees. 

She passed a bowl to Dad. "More peas, dear?" She had a strange look on her face like the cat that had just swallowed a canary. 

"Yes, I love your peas." Dad stretched 'love' out like it was a rubber band. 

Something weird was happening between them. Something about peas. And I wanted to know what.

"Years ago, when we were newlyweds, I made Irish stew, for the first time--corn, carrots, peas," Mom told me. "Your father ate every bite."

"And asked for seconds." Dad used his knife to catch a pea and speared it with his fork. "Your mother is a good cook. I enjoyed the meal."

 "So. Dad loves peas." 

"That's what I thought." Mom took a sip of coffee. "But I discovered the truth the next day when I was hanging the wash on the line. When our neighbour, at that time, Mrs. Foster--"

"A childhood friend," Dad added.

"When Mrs. Foster stopped by to talk. 'Have you taught Jim to eat peas, yet?' she asked."

"Taught him to?" I looked first at Mom, then at Dad. "You mean you didn't like peas?"

"Not until I tasted your mother's." He grinned at me.

"I don't get it? What makes her peas so different?" 

"Her secret ingredient." A smile filled Dad's face and it passed it to Mom. "Love."

Sharing my author journey...
What is social networking?
-Marketing to potential readers...
-Networking with your peers...
-Building community...
-Gaining support...

Last year I came rather hard in favour of blogging and Google +. Anything else I maintained was a time suck. This year... Well, this