Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Avoid Confusion with the Perfect Cover

One of the things I never really thought about until I started publishing is covers. What’s interesting is that I went to numerous writers’ conferences and they would discuss titles. I know I hate making up titles. In fact, I used to dream of the day when a publisher would decide on a title for me. After all, the must have some sort of training and expertise in the area…right? At least, that’s what the conferences would say. Mary Higgins Clark always created her titles based on songs. I like this idea, but I guess it’s already done so I can’t be like that. One author said he always tries to make it one work so he can hashtag it on all his marketing tweets. That, I thought, was pretty brilliant and yet oh so difficult.

Most never discussed the idea of covers. I find this interesting because we all accept the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In fact, in one poll that I read readers admitted to deciding upon a book based on the cover. I have also found that covers not only have to reflect the theme of the book in an interesting way, but they also have to match their genre.

For instance, if you search through the YA paranormal genre, you will find a lot of blues, blacks and purples. There are some other colors, but most fit this “mood” of colors. They are dark and bold. The typical mystery genre has a lot of oranges and reds. Suspense has a lot of reds and blacks. Again, there are covers that break this trend…maybe to stand out…but, especially in the YA genre, books can be defined by the colors that they use.

I saw this in practice at my last book signing. A few years ago, I published my novels. At signings, I constantly had to identify the genre of the novels. I also had to convince people that they were not “scary” novels. I couldn’t understand it at the time. Now, I do. These covers fit in with the “suspense” and “mystery” Genres. In fact, The Lord of Nightmares fits very well with the horror genre book covers. Their confusion is justified.

Flash forward to now. The Lord of Nightmares was adapted into the paranormal genre. You’ll see lots of purples and blues. I found the fantasy genre had no common characteristics. But, many showcased characters on the front. Urban fantasy that didn’t use characters seemed to use cities. Both of those would be tough, so we went with the wolf. Again, sticking with the same color scheme aside from the green…but that connects to a character in the novel as well. 

How do I know this made a difference? At the signing I did last weekend, I never had to mention genre. Readers automatically knew. They would ask if it was YA. I didn’t have to defend them, but simply confirm the reader’s decision. It was nice.

Next time you’re in the bookstore, look closer at covers. I’m sure you’ll find trends.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday's Quote: Lois Lowry

“I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.”~ Lois Lowry
Photo taken from her Goodreads Profile
I decided to pull this quote because I am super excited for The Giver movie adaptation to release. I know it's not for another few weeks, but I can't help it. I read this book twice as a teen. The first time is because all my friends were reading it for an English assignment and loved it. I didn't have that teacher, so I picked it up. The second time was "official" for an instructor when we were covering a "government control" theme of novels that included The Giver, A Brave New World, and Anthem.
I remember being captured by Jonas. It's probably because I was around the same age and Lowry truly grasped the emotions of a teenage character. I was enchanted by the world and the moral dilemmas without feeling preached at. It was a story above all else, although I was probably too young to truly grasp Lowry's intention.

Beyond the book, this quote stood out to me last week. I think it is because I have always felt like an outcast. I grew up wanting to spend my free time writing novels. I was definitely not the norm as far as my teenage peers were concerned. Even as an adult, I feel a little strange in this world. But, I have been in places where I not only feel strange (which I have come to relish in) but also stupid. That is a dark place.

The world can be cruel, especially for people who buck the status quo. It took me a long time to accept my differences and to proclaim from the rooftops that I am a better person for them. I am smart, I am talented, and I am comfortable in my own skin. No one can take that away from me. It's hard to hold onto sometimes, but we should all keep that in our hearts and let no one take it away.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Character Journal: Jocasta

Achille insisted on following me home from school again today. I know what he wants. It’s the same thing mom wants. To marry. This is my last year of school. I have to pick a life path. I don’t understand adults sometimes. They tell me I have to decide right now what I want to do for the rest of my life. And there’s no turning back. It’s not like I can choose to be a farmer and ten years down the line decide I want to sculpt instead. No. I have to decide now. Without knowing anything about my options. Without even knowing anything about myself. I must decide.

Achille wants me to decide on motherhood. Mom wants grandkids. And what does Dad want? Who knows? I really don’t think he cares. He wanted a boy, that’s what he wants. He barely acknowledges me. It’s because he knows Mom’s willpower. He knows the school’s willpower. Face it. There is one set path for me.

But what if I don’t want that? What if I don’t want to be the wife of a farmer? What if I want more than that? Surely I was destined for more. My father is Captain Peder of Zeus. His name brings honor. I want that. Why can’t I have that? I don’t want to just be Jocasta of Zeus. Nobody knows that name. Nobody cares about that name. I want to be more. 

Maybe I just want him to look at me. I want him to see me. I want him to be happy again. To know that I am his and I bring honor to him. Isn’t that better than being somebody’s wife? Somebody who may be perfect according to everyone else. But not to me. I want more!

Maybe life is easy. Maybe the adults have a point. Maybe, when the time comes to make a decision, it’s simple. Because there is only one option that doesn’t make me want to end it all. There is only one option that motivates me. I want to honor my father. I want to make him proud. I want him to stop regretting my gender. 

So I decided it today. I will not marry Achille. I will not be a farmer’s wife, or an artist’s wife, or even a doctor’s wife. I will not live in this same town and talk to the same people I grew up knowing. I will go for more. I will say goodbye. Actually, I will say good riddance. If I want it all, I have to give it all up. Isn’t that right?

I’m leaving tonight. I don’t think I need to pack anything. But I am going to be Jocasta of Zeus , great solider in the Zeus army. I will fight for my country. I will probably die for Zeus. But, I will bring honor to my family. I will bring honor to my father. I will be more. And I will be great.

Read more about Jocasta here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Multi Character Books of Lesser Quality?

Last month, I finished reading Greg Iles’ novel “Natchez Burning.” I typically enjoy his novels and have been waiting quite a while for the first book in this trilogy. What struck me as I read it is the amount of character points of view. What I find funny is that, as a read, I never used to notice this. A novel is a novel, who cares much more about that?

The moment I started writing, I began hearing about this idea of point of view. I think that’s because I, like most beginning authors, wrote my first book in the “omniscient” viewpoint. In other words, I had no control over who held the scene and therefore jumped from one character’s thoughts to another. As I developed, I accepted “veteran” authors stick to one or two. But that wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Did something happen behind that character’s back? Then they can’t observe it. Is there a freckle on her cheek? So sorry that can’t be mentioned either unless she’s looking at a mirror. I even got criticized once for saying my character had blond hair because it was “weird” for my character to observe that. 

Anyway, what struck me in Iles’ book is how much he broke this criticism I endured so much during my early years. He bounces from the heads of bad guys: the leader, the “muscle,” the corrupt lawyer, etc. Then he bounces from the good guys: the main character, the character’s dad, the lover, etc. Granted, each switch happened in chapter breaks so he can still call it third person, but I can’t help but wonder if I could get that by an editor unscathed. I can see the point. If there is no set protagonist, then the reader had no clear character to “root for.” But, is there something to be said for the multi character books? 

Another great author who seems to break this tradition is Harlan Coben. What I love about his novels is that they always begin with five different characters with seemingly different plots. Then, throughout the course of the novel, connections are made and the true plot immerges. I tend to “guess” at endings, so I might like this chaotic style for the mere fact that it is hard to predict. 

I think, as in everything in life, there is a delicate balance. I once read a novel that literally had me in the head of every single character at one point or another. I think this can take away from the suspense because authors have to reveal ideas in each perspective. This is actually a slight critique I have with Iles’ new book. Some of the suspense was taken away because I had background from another character.

So, what do you think? Do you like to follow just one character, multiple…or don’t care as long as the story is good? I probably vote for that last one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday's Quote: Anna Quindlen

“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.”~ Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen
Taken from her Goodreads Profile
I think I love this quote because it is a switch from what I usually read. Most of the time, the quotes are talking about novels opening up other worlds. They are adventures into new places most can never dream of traveling (or other dimensions that are impossible to see). The twist here is that a book not only opens up a new world, but can provide insight into my own.

I think this is true. A good book can help me reflect on my own shortcomings (or strengths). For example, one of my favorite children's book is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I remember reading it and asking myself what I would have done. The main character helps hide a Jewish friend's family. It seemed like such a simple task, and yet it was so dangerous and therefore courageous.

I think the best books dig into our soul a little. They examine the true aspect of humanity and cause us to think if we can live up to the potential of these characters.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Character Interview: Hermes

1. What is different about being god-like vs human?

I know many put me on this pedestal of being a demigod, but there exists only one god: Clieto. I am merely a servant to her needs. But I understand the confusion. I am not the “typical” Immortal. I am not human because I have lived for almost a millennium. I am not human because I have a unique gift of teleportation. Yet, I am not Immortal, either. No other Immortal has lived as long as I. Human weapons cannot harm me.  Nor can disease destroy me. As a servant, I am protected by Clieto. She empowers me. So, I guess I am a shielded Immortal. The result, I find, is isolation. I belong to no group. There is none other like me. It gets lonely at times, but it is the sacrifice I make for
my service.

2. Do you have the same emotional feelings/needs as humans?

Have you been talking to Nicias? Yes, I feel. In fact, some may say I care too much. It’s hard to go about life watching generations make the same mistakes. It’s even harder to try to share insight from my experiences only to have it discounted. Many don’t want to believe in knowledge, but rather they believe in sight and experience.

As far as human needs, I suppose I don’t. Others are so fixated on love and connections. I guess after watching a few generations die, one becomes a little detached from such needs. But I am alive, so I still need to eat and sleep. My teleportation certainly helps me travel back home in a timely manner.

3. Can you see things in the world we are not even aware of?
Clieto grants me insight into events, but only what she chooses to reveal. Because I can travel, I am also able to pick up a lot of information from all sides of a situation. That helps me analyze how best to guide the Immortals I serve. But I think my biggest strength comes from seeing the world as an outsider. Many discount me. Therefore, I have watched the world develop. I have watch cities rise and then crumble. I have watched nations argue, each believing they are in the right…and each, in some ways, being in the right. I see the world as it is, instead of through the philosophy of how it should be.

4. Do you purposely sneak up on people and why? Or is that just the way you appear?

Sneak up? I don’t sneak!  That is much too devious. People are a scared bunch. They are the top of the food chain and yet act like there is an unknown predator after them. The question should be why people find the sudden appearance of an individual frightening. Besides, you try blinking into a room without startling at least one person.

5. What motivates you to deal with Nicias instead of giving up on him?

Such a good question. I guess it is because I can see his potential. I watched him as a boy, so unsure in situations that no boy should ever face. I watched him finally come into his true calling when he gave up his selfish nature to raise Pandora. But, there is no doubt. The man is flawed. He is stubborn and unruly. He serves his country to the fullest, but he also believes he knows the world better than any other. He is obnoxious and I probably should give up on him. I honestly don’t know why I can’t. Perhaps it is because our paths always cross. Perhaps it is because I want to believe there is good in everyone. Or, perhaps it is because I am waiting for the day he gives up fighting and resisting—the day he drops his defenses and embraces the world—so I can see him truly shine. I know what you’re thinking. I would have to live two millennia and probably still never see it happening. But life is about hope. I choose to live in hope.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writer's Corner: Does Writing on a Schedule Change Writing Style?

Last year was the first time that I attempted the “writing every day” schedule. I talked about the process a little here, I know, so I won’t go too much into the philosophy. It basically has two ideas: writing is a perishable talent and if you don’t schedule it then it won’t get done. The novel I just finished (third in the Atlantis series due out 2016), was completed using a schedule: the first half in 20-30 minute increments, the middle in one hour increments, and closing with weekend benders of eight hours. 

While I see the value of writing every day, but am starting to wonder if writing in tiny sections of time changes the quality. On one hand, writing this novel on a schedule did contribute to finishing it. My life has suddenly got pretty hectic and numerous sources requiring my time. I find myself going months without writing if I don’t set it on the “agenda.” I know I would have still made progress outside of a schedule, but it might have taken me three maybe four years to complete instead of a year and a half. It also kept my writing in the forefront of my mind. Not only did ideas come quicker, but my writing style stayed consistent. In other words, I didn’t have prose that came out horrible and would have to be seriously altered later.

So, what could possibly be the downside? There are two. My writing stresses the emotion of the moment within a scene. For that to happen, I have to be connected. Little sections make that hard. I actually think the one-hour block would be great—two even better. But in 30 minutes, I always felt like I was just getting on a roll and then have to end. I didn’t think much of it, but as I go through edits I am starting to wonder if this impacts the emotion of my scene. Do I pack the same punch? Do I grab the reader just as strong? This is hard for me to answer, so I will have to leave it up to my Beta readers. However, I have a feeling I will need to revise it to add that emotion back in. 

A second downside has to do with editing. When I write, I tend to edit as I go. In other words, I read the previous scene, make improvements, and edit. Then I write the new scene. When I had 30 minutes, this obviously couldn’t be done. It didn’t seem like it mattered because the flow didn’t seem choppy, however I wonder how many revisions I could have saved if I had time to edit as I went.

I’m not sure which argument is better, but I want to try a different schedule for the next novel by setting aside one day to write instead of writing every day. I think the important think no matter which method is that I just keep writing!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday's Quote: Dan Brown

“Everything is possible. The impossible just takes longer.”~ Dan Brown

Dan Brown
Photo from his Goodreads Profile

People are always talking about perseverance and desire. Keep dreaming. Keep moving. Keep fighting. What I like about this quote is that it takes this same concept but puts a different spin on it. Some things take longer. Things that are "impossible" to achieve, are actually possible after a long time. I like that idea.

I think I like it especially in the writing field, but it probably could apply to any competitive area. Is it impossible to become a bestseller? Is it impossible to become an Olympian athlete? Is it impossible to become CEO? Yes? No problem. It's just going to take some extra time. I love that!

Remember, nothing is impossible. Everything is achievable with desire, talent, maybe a little luck, and time.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

New Book, New Decisions: anything can happen!

My new book comes out TODAY and I am super excited. (shameless plug: you can get it here) This publication means more to me than the other two because it marks a major decision in my life. I’ve decided not to do the traditional market…and to be okay with that. It was tough to give up the kid dream of agents and publishing houses, but I started to question if that dream was actually beneficial. I don’t think deciding on publishing independently should be taken lightly. It’s a lot of work and responsibility. However, there are three reasons why I chose this route.

1. I’m tired of playing the game. Publishing houses and agents are overwhelmed with queries. They have to weed through the slosh pile of people who don’t do their research and basically spam them. I can see why. I once had a woman say for a not-so-small fee she could query at least 40 publishing houses. My response was that I could, too, but would it be meaningful? 

I sympathize with them. And I know they can’t figure out if I am one of those spammers, but when I do my research and send out query letters with absolutely no response, there is something wrong. I simply got tired of playing. I got tired of sending things out with not even a standard rejection. I got tired of getting nibbles and then hearing nothing after. I just got tired of fighting. 

2. The writing community is filled with authors who have taken their beatings and then made it big. Stephen King was rejected 40 times before Carrie was published. But, I found myself starting to doubt. I started listening to the critique groups filled with other writers proclaiming their opinions were valid. I started listening to my own criticism that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. I started to forget why I liked to write in the first place. The reason was simple: without readers, I was left to listen to only the negative.

3. My main reason is I wanted get back to writing and sharing. I wanted to move forward and not remain stagnant. I didn’t want to play politics. I just wanted to write. 

The book industry is changing dramatically, but there is one thing that stays constant: it’s hard to get noticed. I think it is even harder today with so many platforms. Yet, I choose not to see this as a death sentence to my “possible” career—or even giving up on my dream of stardom.

Instead, I look forward to the control. I look forward to the adventure. But, I am moving with my eyes open to reality. I don’t expect the fairy tale ending, but I think I am happy with sharing my stories with others. That’s what this is really about. Where it goes from there is totally open.

So, I hope you all enjoy the novel. I certainly enjoy releasing it to you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Deleted Scene from My New Novel

When I first thought of the story for Zeus Defended, I knew I wanted it to be an examination of Zeus after the war with Atlantis. The first book watched Atlantis tumble from this event and I knew Zeus would be worse. Some of you may remember it from Atlantis Cursed, except from a different perspective. Please excuse the roughness, it was cut early in the writing process:

The waves crashed crisply upon the shore, water splashing inches from the site. It ran up the bank then quickly retreated back to the ocean. Helios shown down on the beach, it’s rays heating the ground and bouncing off the water. It was early morning, but already warm outside.

The men walked to the lonely table standing in the middle of the beach. There were twenty of them, ten on each side of the table. The men stood tall and proud, but they all looked drained from the long war. On one side, the men wore dark blue dress uniforms with silver embroidery, their matching hats placed under the right arm. On the other, the men wore scarlet with gold embroidery, their matching hats also placed under the right arm.

Two men continued on while the others stopped several feet from the table. The Atlantis General looked up at the sky. “Beautiful day, isn’t it,” Scopas said, trying to break the ice between them.

The Zeus General gripped his red hat tightly. “Not from this side of the table.”

General Scopas nodded. Slowly, he placed his hat on the table, leaned down and picked up the pen lying beside a white scroll covered with black lettering. At the bottom, he signed his name, title, and country in one sweeping stroke.

When he was finished, he laid the pen down and sighed. Slowly he turned the paper around and slid it across the table. Standing up straight, he grabbed his hat and placed it back under his arm. “At one time, we were joined in an honorable friendship. Where one stood, the other was close by. I pray we will find ourselves friends again someday.”

The Zeus General looked up from the paper, the pen dangling inches from the page. His eyes held a look of hate and pain. Slowly he whispered, “Once the blood has been shed between two countries on a battlefield, they may never be the same again. Especially not two countries that loved each other, for it had to take much strength to break that love.”

They held each other’s gaze for a long time before the Zeus General looked down at the paper and pen. It was the hardest thing he had ever done. The pen seemed so heavy. He took a deep breath and quickly signed his name, title, and country; each stroke stabbing at his gut. When the surrender was finished, the General laid down the pen that robbed him of his dignity and raped him of his pride.

The Zeus General tore his eyes from the disgraceful page and looked into the eyes of his enemy. This man had killed his brothers, his boys. They may not have been of the same blood, but they were Zeus. This man could never be forgiven and neither could this war.

Atlantis and Zeus had the strongest armies of the world, but Zeus’ was the stronger. That didn’t seem to matter. Their strength couldn’t compensate for Atlantis’ good luck.

It sickened him to think that just a few months ago they were winning. Then they tumbled from the throne in front of the entire world. All that was left to do was humor the Senate’s request for peace. His king had no other choice.

The two leaders had signed the peace last night on Zeus’ shores, now it was his turn. Slowly, bitterly, he pulled out his dirty sword and laid it on the table. It was a ritual performed at every surrender ceremony. He had served in his position for thirty years, his sword remaining by his side.

It didn’t hurt too much to give it up after all this time; he wouldn’t need it anymore. He could be expecting a visit from his king’s men once his boat returned home. After all, the Zeus never fail.

The Zeus General turned on his heels, making an indentation in the soft sand. he walked briskly past his officers and down the beach to his ship, the others following with bowed heads. They reached their boat and boarded for the long journey home.

The General watch the shores of Atlantis grow smaller as the hours passed until it could no longer be seen over the horizon. He sighed, turning his back to the sea. As he stood there, he began thinking of what it would be like to die. It was a reality he would face once he returned. He had disgraced the country of Zeus, and that was unacceptable. At least he wouldn’t be around to see the effects the war would have on Zeus. Atlantis had their curse to overcome, and Zeus will have their own.

Zeus Defending will be available through Amazon this Friday! In the meantime, you can catch up with Atlantis Cursed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday's Quote: Charlotte Bronte

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”~ Charlotte Bronte

Photo taken from Goodreads Profile

I think I like this quote because I tend to be a loner. I have never minded silence. Growing up, I was either in my room reading or writing...and loving life. I think this is a necessity in some ways. Writing is a solitary profession. In fact, if too many people are around, it becomes too much of a distraction for me. But, it took until I was well into my twenties to realize that life is not worth living if done alone.

I love sharing my joys with someone. I love sharing my sorrows with someone. It enriches my experiences. To have someone to laugh at a joke or to encourage me...I don't know what I'd do without it. With how well I can tear myself down, I think I would be very depressed.

Happiness unshared is not happiness. I would have to agree.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

In honor of the holiday today, I'm going to spend the day with my family. I wish everyone a wonderful weekend and will be back online Monday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Author Interview: Mystery Novelist Tara Majuta

At the start of every month, I thought it would be fun to interview people I know in the business. I find so much inspiration and advice from various sources. I wanted to take the time to highlight these people on my blog. I hope you enjoy.

I want to first thank Tara Majuta for being my first guest. Tara was born in the dusty sands of southern Arizona. She enjoys cooking, dancing and storytelling. She is lucky to have a talented husband who not only supports her writing career, but also does her cover design. Having someone in my family who helps with this, I know how valuable that is. Her first novel is "The Fascinating Files of Claudia Broadstad" and is available where books are sold. Tara is actively writing both mystery and dark romance novels, so please check out her website for more information.

Without Further Ado, here's Tara's  interview:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a storyteller when I was five years old. I liked telling stories and entertaining people. When I was ten, I had an idea for a fantasy novel about an evil witch and a beautiful princess (Sounds familiar). Fast forward two decades and I have fully conceptualized the idea and have started the process of creating it into a ten book series. Stay tuned for that one!
2. What is your writing process like? Do you have to have a certain setting in order to write?
In the past I've tried to figure out what my writing process is but it's very complicated. I liken it to creating a painting. First I start with dialogue to set the tone. Then I go back and add some scenery so I know where my characters are. Next, I add details and personalize the characters. Finally I add the action so the book will have a nice steady pace. I like to write scenes that move fast so my readers aren't bored during any part of the story.
Normally I don't need a specific setting but lately I've been drawn to the living room and NetFlix. I turn on the TV for background noise, pull out my files and go from there.

3.What was the number one thing that you learned about the writing process while finishing your first book? 
I learned that I'll always feel like it will never be finished and that's okay. I always wanted to go back and add more to the book even though it was 88,000 words. It took me awhile to realize that the book was done, completely finished. For the second book I don't have that issue. I've accepted that the first book had everything it needed to create a great second book.
4. What made you choose the murder mystery genre? Is that the genre you read?
I chose the mystery genre because I love watching crime and investigation TV. Also, I liked the idea of creating puzzles within the storyline. Most mysteries are story driven but I've tried to make my books character driven as well. Claudia and her best friends have their own stories to tell within the world of the crimes that are being solved. I like the mix.
Most of my books are mystery/suspense but I also write fantasy and dark romance novels. The first book idea I had was fantasy but it was easier to create Claudia's mystery world first. My dark romance series, an idea that stemmed from the Claudia Broadstad series, will be out in early 2015.
As far as reading goes, I prefer to read romance mostly. Strange as it is, I usually don't read books unless they are reference books or authors who I personally know. I plan to start reading more mystery in the future though!
5. Looking back, what is the biggest thing you learned while publishing/selling your novel?
I've learned that publishing/selling your books is about branding yourself. I have a degree in business and I actively use it for my book projects. Most authors don't view themselves as business owners but they are. It's important to make monthly, quarterly, and annual goals for marketing, budgeting and writing.
I, the author, am the only person who will sell my books. I have to use every part of myself and my story to get readers to like me and give my work a chance. I tell fellow authors to work smarter, not harder; work with a branding/marketing coach who can help you find your target market and get those books out there.
6. What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to write/sell a book.
I start my advice by asking, "What do you want out of writing?"
If someone wants to write for pure enjoyment I say, "Work hard on your craft and continue to write." Learn as much as you can about your topic and enjoy the process!
If someone wants to make it into a career, and that is my path as well, I say, "Understand that you are a business owner and that's going to be hard sometimes." Your book project is a business and it will cost money to keep your business profitable. It takes time to build a following so don't expect to make any money at first. Take your time and enjoy the prospects of dreaming big!