AuThursday – McKenna Dean

GOAC BannerPlease welcome, McKenna Dean to the Clog Blog.   

SignatureLogo_300x218McKenna, please tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’ve done a number of different jobs over the years: worked as a lab tech, in a vet clinic, as a dog trainer, an actress, a singer. I’ve always walked a fine line between my creative/artistic side and my scientific one. When I graduated from high school, I thought I had to choose—and so I gave up writing and focused on my career. Many years later, I discovered online fanfiction archives and I was obsessed! When I began writing again, it was like opening a floodgate. The encouragement I received from fandom allowed me to submit my first story for publication, but no one was more surprised than I when it was accepted!

Since then, I’ve written over 20 stories, but in so many different genres I didn’t have a recognizable brand. In 2017, I made the decision to re-brand myself and concentrate on just paranormal romance.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

I’m a die-hard panster—working from just the barest outline, a faint idea of where I want to go and trotting off in that direction. I love it when my stories surprise me! But the longer I do this, the more I realize I’d be more productive with more outlining. I’m trying to find that balance between outlining enough that it streamlines the process without becoming a story killer by taking all the spontaneity out of the writing.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

I have. Once when I attempted NaNoWriMo—it was a kind of pressure and writing style all wrong for me. But also when I’m too tired and emotionally drained to write. Sometimes a story stalls for weeks. I remind myself of Louis L’Amour’s quote to “Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

What genre do you write?

My focus these days in on paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

What draws you to this genre?

I love the world-building and the way the genre lends itself to political and social commentary. I love the magic of the supernatural, and the power of shifters.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I love snowed-in stories, so I wanted to set up a situation in which my main characters were pitted against each other but wound up having to work together for their survival. An inheritance with conditions seemed to be the ideal way to bring a fangirl with a secret and a shifter whose inner wolf is in hiding together. Add in a snowstorm, a stray dog, and a series of increasingly dangerous accidents, and you have Ghost of a Chance.

How are you publishing this book and why? (Indie, traditional or small press)?

I’ve both worked with a small press and done indie publishing before, and they both have their pros and cons. Publishers typically provide quality covers and reputable editing, and these are major perks when you are looking at paying for those services yourself. But working with a press means working on their schedule—meeting deadlines and so forth. It can take up to a year from the time you submit a story to seeing it published and getting royalties—which means you really need to be producing a new work once per quarter at the minimum.

As an indie author, I’m my only client. Yes, I have to pay for cover art and editing, but I can set my own price and launch dates. The amount of promotion is nearly the same in either case, though a well-known press can give you a leg up there too. Honestly, I like doing both. Sometimes it’s nice to turn over the reins to someone else. Sometimes you want to have total control. With the demands of my current job, indie publishing seems to be a better fit, but I intend to offer my next book to a press.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing is a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Read the kinds of books you want to write. Read good books. Bad books only teach you to imitate them. Don’t read your reviews. I know, no one listens to that one, but if you do read your reviews, try not to let the bad ones derail your process. Keep a folder of all your good reviews—you’ll need them when you are promoting the next book anyway—but more importantly, read those glowing comments when you need encouragement. Read the reviews of your favorite stories too. There’s comfort in realizing there are people who hate a story you know is brilliant.

Follow Chuck Wendig’s blog—he has some terrific things to say about writing. Read about improving your craft, but above all, take what you read with a grain of salt. If advice doesn’t gel with you, no big deal. Do what works for you and ignore the rest.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

The easiest way to find me is to go to my website. There are links to my social media on almost every page, but the most complete line up (including Instagram and Book Bub, as well as my newsletter) is on my blog page: http://mckennadeanromance.com/blog

As a matter of fact, you can just subscribe to my blog there, and you’ll get all the latest news when I post it.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

ghostofachance_finalThe light faded as they approached the dip in the drive leading down to the bridge crossing the creek. Long shadows were cast from the tree line onto the drive, and as they rode into the shade, the temperature dropped as though they’d walked into a freezer. Casey pulled Indy up as he inspected the tracks. He pointed at a trail going off to one side. “Someone made a break for it here. Didn’t want to cross the bridge, most likely.”

He urged Indy in that direction, following the tracks splitting off into the woods. Indy obliged, trudging through the deeper slow, icicles gathering on his feathered legs.

The other tracks crossed the bridge. That way led to the road. The thought of Athena or the other mares potentially ending up in traffic turned Sarah’s stomach. The horses aside, some driver could get killed if they rounded a corner and found the mares in their path.

Sarah closed her legs around King’s sides and urged him across the bridge. He didn’t want to leave Indy and balked at crossing the wooden structure. The bulk of the missing horses had gone that way, however, and Sarah thumped her heels against the reluctant gelding to follow their trail.

Ghost exploded out of the brush to block her path, barking furiously. The Shepherd favored one foreleg, and as Sarah watched, drops of blood flecked the snow around the dog.

King rocked back on his haunches, preparatory for a spin for home. Sarah pulled up on the reins and closed her legs around the spooked gelding. Behind her, she heard Indy crash through the vegetation. Casey must have turned him around.

“Go home,” she shouted at Ghost. “Bad dog!”

She clapped her calves against King’s flanks and the

gelding sprang forward. Ghost scooted to one side as the horse charged, flinging snow behind him in his wake. Sarah leaned across King’s neck as he galloped across the bridge, belatedly considering the slickness of the wooden planks. Too late now. Once they were across, she’d pull up and wait for Casey.

Halfway across the bridge, a terrible shriek rent the air. Wood splintered and failed. Boards separated under the weight of horse and rider and came apart. King screamed as the footing beneath him gave way, and he plunged into the icy stream below, carrying Sarah with him.

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AuThursday – Saloni Quinby

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KateHillSaloniQuinby2017author photoTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a vegetarian New Englander and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My first story, a short erotic vampire romance, was accepted for publication back in the late 1990s. I love working out and watching horror movies.

How do you make time to write?

When there’s something I want to write, I usually set a daily word count goal and stick to it, even if it’s as little as 500 or 1000 words a day.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I think it’s different for everyone. Regarding myself, I don’t really believe in it. If I get stuck while writing a story, I write something else for fun until the ideas start flowing again. If I don’t feel like writing, then I don’t and it’s a conscious choice to stop. It’s not that I can’t, but that I won’t.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

Weapons of Redemption is an erotic paranormal romance collection. I’ve always been a fan of vampires and romance because those genres make me happy to read.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

Weapons of Redemption is published by Changeling Press. I’ve been lucky enough to write for them for many years.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I don’t think I’m either. Sometimes I’m an introvert and sometimes I’m an extrovert. I don’t think it has affected my work, but maybe it has!

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

To be honest, motivational phrases are a pet peeve of mine. I think it’s great if they work for you, but most of the time I find that they annoy rather than motivate me.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write what you love.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

http://www.kate-hill.com

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Yes. Thank you.

weaponsofredemptionsqGuy released a breath as he let his whip fly. It struck his old friend, Ruliff, or Rule, as he preferred to be called. Rule stood, his hands suspended from manacles dangling from chains overhead.

Even if Rule screamed, no one would hear him, deep in the cellar of this mansion owned by their vampiric kin, Ansley and Brayden. Rule wouldn’t scream, though. It wasn’t in his nature to show what he believed to be weakness. To drag more than a groan from Rule, Guy would be forced to practically kill him and his sessions weren’t meant to cause permanent damage. They had already been at it for longer than usual, even for someone with a supernatural constitution.

Five more times Guy struck him with strategically placed blows before he paused and approached Rule. Using the handle of his whip, he traced an especially fierce-looking welt on Rule’s sweat-slicked back. Rule had a tremendous capacity for pain. Always had.

Guy recalled the days when they, along with Brayden, Ansley and the fifth member of their “family,” Bryce, had sailed with Tarun, a genuine monster. The five men had shared a strange and violent past, one that could have destroyed them, but together they had overcome it. Still their days at sea with the vampire pirate — the master who had tried to mold them in his image — had left scars on their souls as well as their bodies. These sessions with Rule reminded Guy of how strong yet vulnerable they all were, even if they refused to admit it.

Rule could be stubborn to the point of stupid.

Guy tightened his hand around the whip and struck Rule again with a blow that would have had most men screaming. A strangled groan escaped the tall, dark-haired man and Guy curled his lip in disgust.

He loved the whip and was an expert with it. Like his vampire kin, he had taken what he’d learned about pain and battle from their hated master and made it a form of expression. They had ultimately used their

skills to fight back, not only for themselves but for victims who crossed their path. Each of the five men had mastered certain weapons. Guy’s obsession was the lash. From bullwhips to floggers, all were slaves to him, bringing pleasure or pain as he saw fit. His love of leather had melded into every part of his life, including sex. He used his floggers to pleasure and punish, sometimes separately, sometimes both at once.

Long ago, Guy had honed his skills on his willing brothers, except for Bryce, who refused to submit to anyone, even for fun. Only Rule to this day came to Guy for regular sessions. Guy decided this one had gone on long enough. He knew Rule would push himself past his limits. He needed a strong but sensitive Dominant who knew when to stop.

Glancing at Rule, Guy noted that he seemed to be in a trance. His blue eyes were narrowed to slits, his lips parted and his breathing shallow. Wet black curls clung to his perspiring forehead and neck. Blood trickled from his lower lip where he’d pierced it with his fangs.

“Our session is over for today,” Guy said without room for argument.

Rule ignored his authoritative tone and said in a deep, hoarse voice, “More.”

“Your name might be Rule, but you don’t rule here,” Guy said.

“Fine. Release me then.”

“Not until you calm down.”

“I am calm.”

“You forget how well I know you.”

Rule’s cool facade snapped. Bellowing, he yanked at his bonds.

Now he screams, Guy thought, but he knew it was probably a good thing. Rule wouldn’t allow Guy to comfort him like some clients enjoyed after a session. Guy worked mainly with supernatural beings — vampires, wizards, and even an occasional werewolf paid well for him to tease and torment them with his leather and chains. But even those creatures had a tender side. Rule’s was buried deep and Guy hoped that eventually someone would reach it.

Despite Rule’s impressive strength, he couldn’t break the chains. Guy’s survival often depended on knowing how to properly bind supernatural beings.

Guy placed his whip next to a heavy purple flogger on a table covered in red plastic. He’d clean his tools later. He was about to clean Rule’s back when his cell phone rang.

He knew who it was by the ringtone.

He picked up the phone and said, “What’s up?”

“It’s Bryce. I need your help. It’s business.”

Although the five men had different careers in the human world, their true purpose was to protect those in need. The weapons they had once used as criminals were now their means of redemption.

Bryce worked as a police officer in the city. Sometimes he called upon his brothers to help him resolve crimes in which the human world could offer no justice.

“What does he want?” Rule asked, having ceased his rampage when the phone rang. “Is there a case for us? Let me go!”

“Do you have Rule strung up in the dungeon again?” Bryce asked.

“Yes. I’m putting you on speakerphone.”

“You don’t have to. I can hear him quite well,” Rule said, straining to look at Guy over his shoulder.

Though keen senses were an advantage of vampirism, the speakerphone would make a three-way conversation easier.

“I’ve been working on what we believe are serial killings,” Bryce said. “You’ve probably heard about them. The media calls them the Bodybuilder Murders. We’ve found a common denominator and, Guy, I believe you can get the evidence I need. Will you help?”

“You have to ask?” Guy said.

“Can you use me?” Rule asked.

“Right now this is a one-man job,” Bryce said. “But thanks.”

Rule looked a bit disappointed, but with all the trouble in the world, he was sure to have another case to work on soon.

“Guy, can you meet me in an hour?” Bryce asked.

“Absolutely. Where?”

“Stay put. I’ll come to you.”

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AuThursday – Dana Marton

TOD DM Banner

DM author photoTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I like putting plenty of romance and suspense into my stories, including my current release, a second-chance love story about a kickass Hollywood stuntwoman and a former Navy SEAL turned bestselling thriller author. In real life, I try to have the same ‘never give up, never surrender’ attitude as my characters. It took me thirteen years of trying to finally get published. I’ve written over fifty novels since! All while moving across the Atlantic Ocean five times. I swore never to move again with a ship—and have my furniture broken because the ship got into a storm. I cope with life’s constant changes by hanging tight to those closest to me: my family, my dog Toby, coffee, and chocolate. I’m a great fan of all things sugar, which is why Threat of Danger is set on a maple syrup farm in Vermont. I love chatting with readers, so if you’re on Facebook, look me up and say hello.

How do you make time to write?

I prioritize writing over everything but family. If dishes are not done, I can live with that. Right now, the weeds are about knee-high in my garden. I’ll deal with that once my edits are done for the book I’m currently working on. Very early in my writing career, someone said, What do you want to see in your obituary? She was a New York Times bestselling author, or she was the best housekeeper ever? I decided then and there that I wanted to be a bestselling author. So I schedule my time accordingly.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I have the opposite problem. Way more ideas than I’ll ever have the time to write. I have a giant folder of book outlines. If I’ll get to write a third of them, I’ll be happy.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I LOVE romantic suspense. I like action/adventure type of stories. There is just that extra oomph and excitement, that pulse-pounding thrill that makes you hold your breath. The stakes are high, and I believe that character is revealed in hardship. Any hero can say “I love you” to the heroine. But will he step in front of a bullet to save her?

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I publish both as an indie author and with a publisher. My current title was released by Montlake. It’s lovely to have that larger team around me, to be able to bounce ideas off my editors.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Write the best book you can, then study the craft of writing and make the book even better. If you write a story that connects with people, readers will recommend it to their friends. That’s the best promotion any author can hope for. There used to be a lot of pressure to put out a book every ninety days. Then people started putting out a book a month. Now some authors put a book out every week. I didn’t have a single new release last year. I still did okay, because my readers kept recommending my older books to others. My readers are still with me. Make those connections, build those relationships. If you want writing to be a long-term career, don’t set up a schedule that will cause an early burn-out. This year is my 15th anniversary of getting my first publishing contract. Slow and steady can be a wonderful thing.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.danamarton.com

www.facebook.com/danamarton

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Absolutely! This is the intro to the book, the hero and heroine heading into danger.

tod“Hurry up!” Derek drew Jess forward on the narrow path in the woods.

Jess didn’t need urging. She couldn’t wait to be alone with him at the cabin. Her heart drummed: faster, faster, faster.

The two eighteen-year-olds dashed through the undergrowth, breathless with laughter. Winter sunshine gilded webs of branches, the sky the most innocent shade of blue, each gap between the tree trunks a stained glass window. The trees—mostly maple—reached up and up, as tall as church spires. Within the magnificent cathedral of the Vermont forest, the joy of young love sang.

The patches of shadows seemed far away. Jess barely even noticed the dark spots. Each step they took was into light, each breath of crisp air a thrill.

They jumped a log together, strong and nimble. Jess thought of nothing but the old family cabin, the two of them alone, Derek’s firm and eager body all around hers. Desire tingled through her, her fingers tightening on his as he pulled her forward.

“We’re almost there.”

Derek Daley—crush of her life, boy next door, every girl’s dream—wanted her. Finally!

Jess had pined after him all through high school and would have handed him her heart on a platter, if he’d only noticed her. He hadn’t then, but he did now, home from college on break. Nothing else mattered. He’d noticed her and he’d kissed her, and then he’d asked if she would go out to the old cabin with him.

Jess knew what boys did with girls at the derelict cabin off the abandoned logging road. That knowledge burst through her in a shower of sparkling light.

“What’s with the crows?” Derek jerked his head toward the treetops, but he didn’t slow for a second, as desperate for the cabin as Jess.

His eagerness tasted sweeter on her tongue than maple candy.

She glanced up, dazed. What? What did anything else matter beyond how fast they could be in each other’s arms? They had the rest of the day, hours and hours, just the two of them, together, but she didn’t want to waste a single moment.

She wanted his lips back on hers. She was dying for another kiss.

Derek must have felt the same, because he halted and dragged her into his arms in a wild move that almost toppled them. He kissed the breath out of her before spinning away to run again. Thank

God he was holding her hand or she would have stumbled. When it came to Derek’s kisses, Jess’s schoolgirl fantasies paled compared to reality.

The black dotting of crows watched them from the trees. They didn’t see the humans as two lovers flying to their nest, but merely prey as yet unaware of the hunter. The same small, sharp eyes that trailed Derek and Jess from above also trailed the hunter who closed in, moving faster than his prey, eager on the scent.

The birds knew the hunter. He always fed them well.

Down below, everything was movement.

Up in the trees, the crows perched still and waited for the bloody bits.

Then the story cuts to 10 years later. To escape the memories of what had happened to them in the woods, Jess had gone to Hollywood and became a top stuntwoman. Derek joined the Navy and became a SEAL. Then they suddenly both find themselves back home and have to deal with their shared past at last. They’re surprised to find that the love and attraction between them is still there. But so is the killer who is itching for a second chance at them.

Writer Wednesday – Conferences – Are they worth it?

My general viewpoint on conferences is that they should be viewed as a working vacation.  Part of this is because of what I write and what my expectations are.

The big conferences for Romance writers are RT (Romantic Times) and RWA National (Romance Writers of America).   They serve different purposes.

RT is geared mostly towards readers, although they do have some writing classes.  I’ve attended this conference as an aspiring author, published author and a reader.  I’ve always viewed this particular conference as a working vacation.  It was a chance to visit my author friends, Lyn Armstrong and Debbie Cairo.   It was a chance to see a new city, visit friends and attend parties.  I always attend writing classes there and go to publisher spotlights.  I actually met both my publishers (Liquid Silver Books and Resplendence) at RT.

RWA is geared mostly to the business side of things.   I’ve yet to attend this particular conference, even though I’m a member.  I have attended regional RWA conferences including Midwest Fiction Writers and WisRWA.  I found both beneficial to my writing career.  Classes tend to revolve around business, craft, and publishing in general.

Some other conferences I’ve attended are Lori Foster’s RAGT (Reader and Author Get Together).  This is also a reader geared Con, unlike RT it is much smaller and there are about ten readers for every published author.   Lori keeps the author roster small so readers can interact.   Maddy Barone introduced me to this Con and we’ve traveled the last two years together.

I’ve attended two local Sci-Fi con’s since I write Paranormal Romance.  CoreCon and ValleyCon.   I highly recommend if you write in a genre that falls into the genre of SFFP (Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Paranormal) that you consider attending a local or regional Con.  It is a great way to meet readers and I find the communities, in general, to be very supportive of creatives.

There are also many Romance Reader Cons popping up.   I ran across this website that might be helpful for those of you writing in the Romance Genre.

http://www.romancerefined.com/list-of-romance-conventions-and-conferences.html

I usually attend RT when I can and if I can rope someone into going with me.   RWA is still on my bucket list.   I’ve attended Lori Foster’s RAGT the last two years.  This year, due to my job loss,  I’ve cut back on my conferences.  I will likely only attend the local sci-fi cons and my annual writing retreat at the end of September.

Overall I love conferences and attend as many as my budget will allow.  If nothing else I get a few classes in, meet a few new authors and network.   That’s a win in my book.

 

Writer Wednesday – Put a Fork in my novel, I’m done.

when-im-done-im-done-and-today-is-the-day-i-have-made-that-decision-bc8b7There comes a time when you have to quit editing and declare a project done.  Move on to the next one.  I’ve reached that point with Courtesan.

I’ve done all I can with the novel.

I’ve layered and cut producing a novel of 54,333 words.

Does it mean there aren’t corrections to make?  Of Course not but I need another set of eyes at this point.  I’ve asked for some BETA help, to get that big picture feel, but I can’t continue edits without wrecking voice.

The good news.  This is ready to get looked at by an agent or editor.  In my opinion, any changes that need to be made will be to satisfy the readership, not me.  And that’s okay, I’m used to working with editors to make appropriate changes.    That’s part of meeting reader expectation.

Now its time to move on to Book 2: The Alchemists of Archangel.

Hopefully, The Courtesan of Constantinople doesn’t sit too long on my virtual shelf, trying to find a home.~Tina

 

 

Writer Wednesday – The Holidays

X-mas WritingI’ve returned from a holiday  in early December and now Christmas is fast approaching.   I’ve gotten most of my shopping done, and need to mail presents.

My goals for the month of December were small.  I knew with NANOWRIMO behind me and Thanksgiving being the sign that Christmas was fast approaching, I would feel the rush of the season.

So I put my submissions to agents on hold until the new year. When I do my goal setting for next year, I’ll review whether I still want an agent or if I want to navigate on my own.  I’ve been slowly writing during the season to maintain momentum.   But if all I do is my Morning Pages, so be it.

I also set a goal to read during the season.   I’m a fairly avid reader anyway, but I wanted to look at the season as well…holidays.  I’d lost my job and I didn’t want to stress about writing when I might be blocked because of stresses I hadn’t anticipated.

My goal – to keep the season simple and enjoyable.

Tina

Writer Wednesday – Finding Balance

It happens to every writer,  a life event of some form or another.   Some are joyous like weddings, babies, new puppy, new home, etc.   And of course, there are those that are not; death, illness, injury and job loss.

There are also Life Events that don’t fit into either category but cause chaos.  I’ll give you an example.

In 2014 I was part of a team that helped implement a new software throughout my company.  It involved training, travel and late nights.   This proved to be a wreckage on my writing habits, which were modest at best, and I can’t say I’ve fully recovered.

About this time my family dynamic had changed as well.  I went from a mom of two at my peak of productivity to an empty nester.

I thought both events would be advantageous to my writing.  I’d have all this time alone while traveling for my job to write.   I didn’t factor in the pure exhaustion I would feel when I hit the hotel room and how appealing a bed would be.

I thought once my children moved away I would have the weekends and really add to my productivity.  I didn’t factor in how much I would miss them or how their homework and sleep habits played into my writing time.

Life events have an impact on our writing because they affect us either emotionally, physically or both.   And often create a rather large writing block for us.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are suffering from a mental illness or trauma, please seek professional help.  As someone who has loved ones with SAD and PTSD, these life-altering events should not be taken lightly.  They require sensitivity and care, and left untreated they can have devastating effects.

Because of my experience, I look for ways to achieve work/write/life balance.  I do this by setting goals.  Not just around writing but around my life too.   Granted I make more allowances for life because its mine and I can. 🙂

Here are some:

  1. Writing – Minimum writing of 200 words a day.   Mostly because I find once I start writing I usually go to 500 or 1000.   But at a minimum, I do 200.  This is 200 on anything including this blog. 🙂
  2. Sleeping – Sleep at least 8 hours a night.  Sometimes this means going to bed early, or sleeping in on the weekends, but I try and stick to this as a goal.  I find I’m well rested and generally feel better.
  3.  Bum Day – Because I have a day job still, I find Sundays the best day to do this.  I stay in sweats all day and generally watch movies or read.  Then I feel more like I had time off.
  4. Date Night –  My husband and I try and go out one night a week.  Middle of the week works best, but last week we did a play on Saturday, so that was nice. It’s not always so formal.  Sometimes its Pizza and TV or a campfire and s’mores.   Sometimes we count breakfast after a trip to the Gym, mostly to sit and talk.  Reconnect in a way that is important to us.
  5. Reading – I actually still read romance fiction.   I think reading is like filling the creative well, and generally, I prefer a good book over a good TV show.   I’ve just started Books on Tape for my commute and I really love that.
  6. Learn new things – I’ve got a passion to sew my own clothes though I haven’t done it in years, so I bought a book to relearn the skill.

These are just a few suggestions and what works for me right now in my current life.   If I have a life event that changes things, I’ll reevaluate what will work then.