The Question of Balance

Apr 23, 2014, 10:23 am
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This has always been a tricky one for me. I’ve never had hobbies. My entire life, I’ve had obsessions. When I’m interested in something, I invest myself 100%, often to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. I’ve become better about realizing this about myself, and dialing back when appropriate, but I still have an incredibly difficult time balancing multiple interests.

One of the interests that has fallen by the wayside as I stated investing myself in publishing was my art. I went to art school. I’ve done portrait commissions. I was on my way to turning it into a career when writing smacked me in the head and demanded my attention.

I regret that decision sometimes. Not because I don’t like writing, but because I can’t look at my art without feeling a pang of guilt, of desire. I miss art. I would do anything to be able to balance both these interests equally. Instead, I go through these brief flurries of artistic activity before it dies down again and I do nothing for months or years at a time. Simply balancing writing as a career is hard enough, already.

I’m experimenting, though. I’m trying different approaches to my schedule, slipping something in here, shifting my sleep hours there, prioritizing such and such, and seeing how it works. If writing is something I really am going to do for years, decades, to come–and I sincerely hope so–then I need to start that experimentation as early as possible, so I can reap the benefits the longest.

All that is sort of a roundabout way of saying, hey, I’ve been poking around art again, how about that?

One thing I did was invest in new materials. As much as I like digital art, I really want to work with real media more. The problem there is that my areas of expertise are all colorless–cross-hatching, graphite–or with materials that only work on a large size–soft pastels. Solution: try out new materials.

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Oh, just look at them. *swoons* (For the record, these are dual-sided Tombow markers. I’m puttering around with them a little, seeing whether I prefer using them as markers or as watercolor aids, but I have nothing ready to show yet. Hopefully soon.)

Since I have experience with soft pastels, I also want to see if I can draw (heh) on that experience, so I’m also going to see if I enjoy working with pastel pencils on a smaller scale. I have a large set already, and have ordered a bunch of open stock pencils to add to the color selection. Here’s a portrait of a baby cousin of mine I’m working on:

Thalia WIP

Of course, I still enjoy little graphite sketches. Here are a few I did of Marina earlier in the year.

marinas

(Sorry for the terrible quality of those pictures. My scanner is busted so I had to take photos, and I’m entirely too lazy to fix them up.)

Finally, I hope to have a complete set of those OTHERBOUND character portraits to share soon.

This might be another one of those brief flare-ups of art, or it might be the start of something resembling balance. Fingers crossed.

Portraits of OTHERBOUND’s characters

Feb 17, 2014, 7:25 pm
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I’ve often complained about my inability to balance writing and art. Let me do so again: I cannot seem to balance writing and art. This resulted in a whopping zero drawings finished during all of 2013, and only a paltry amount of sketches.

I miss it. I miss it terribly.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to balance the two to the extent that I’d like, but I’m hoping to pick up my sketchbook more often when here’s a lull of any kind in terms of writing. I have a lot of art materials I’ve never used that I’d like to experiment with, there are a number of portraits I’ve promised to do for various family and friends, and I have a minor project that I was hoping to finish during 2013, namely to draw all major characters in Otherbound. Obviously, I did not get a chance to, but I’m hoping to be able to do so in the first half of 2014. If I manage to get to them all before the book actually releases, I’ll be quite pleased.

I already drew the first of these portraits in 2012–Amara, one of the book’s PoV characters. Now, I finally got around to finishing up PoV character number two, Nolan:

I’ve had that drawing almost-finished in Photoshop for ages, so I finally decided to wrap it up and get it uploaded.

On a roll, I colored a sketch from a couple of months ago. This is Cilla, the renegade princess Amara is forced to protect. She is better known as The Love Interest™:

Finally, I looked at the two of them next to that drawing of Amara I did over a year ago, and while I was pleased with the way the approach matched, I was… less pleased with the actual drawing. Looking at it with fresh eyes after so long, I realized it was incredibly wonky, and set out to fix that, as well.

So here’s the updated version of Amara:

Phew.

I’m thrilled to finally make progress, but my hand hurts after all that. Onward to focus on words again!

OTHERBOUND cover & ARCs

Jan 20, 2014, 4:45 pm
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My cover went live at (the faaaabulous) YA Highway today. It’s also the public unveiling of my flap copy and the blurbs I’ve received so far. And there’s an international ARC giveaway.

I thought I’d get that out of the way first. I mean, it’s probably what you came here for.

Are you back? Sweet. In reward, here’s an exclusive detail about that gorgeous cover you just saw: The lettering will be glossy, while the rest will be matte. Can you picture it? I’m picturing it. And I’m liking it. I just love the lettering, and this will make it stand out even more.

I can’t wait to hold the real thing.

I also so so very much appreciate that Nolan and Amara are. not. white. More PoC visibility in the YA section–any section, really–is a very good thing and I’m so happy that Amulet is contributing to that.

On a different note: if you’re attending ALA Midwinter later this week, pop by the ABRAMS booth at #713. They’ll have Otherbound ARCs on hand. (Last time, they went quickly–so don’t wait too long.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a cover to gawk at…

Life Is an Odd, Odd Thing

Jan 19, 2014, 2:23 pm
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On the morning of December 31st, I got a text from my sister.

No. Stop. Backstory: We–my sister, her husband, me–had plans to spend New Year’s Eve at a friend’s house. We were going to have a relaxed night. The friend–Marina–was ill, and didn’t feel up to anything more than having a few friends over, playing games, having snacks. I was going to bring Guillotine, which meant I’d finally get to play it with more than two people–something I haven’t done in years. I had two kilos of chicken skewers in my fridge, and we’d buy oliebollen from near where Marina lived. We’d have to endure the long, long lines that come with getting oliebollen on December 31st, but we were in agreement: we wanted them fresh. It’d be worth it.

Further backstory: Marina and my sister had been friends for eight years. She was my sister’s best friend, you know, the friend we’d invite to family dinners, the one my grandparents had never met but knew all about. I only ever saw her alongside my sister, up until this year, when she’d started visiting my apartment occasionally, borrowing books and DVDs, talking YA. She gushed about Rae Carson’s and Laura Lam’s books.

I’m talking in past tense.

December 31st, morning, a text. Marina had been admitted to the hospital after enduring hellish pains that night. NYE plans were canceled. (Marina was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. Surprise hospital admissions were no longer surprising.) My sister was headed down to Leiden to be with Marina. I spent the evening with my cat, watching Mulan, making emo-thoughtful NYE blog posts. Eating chicken skewers.

I pretty much spent all of that week eating chicken skewers.

The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with Marina. Wait, no, they had a theory–maybe they’d fix it, and she’d be out of here in no time. Wait, no, maybe the theory was wrong. Either way, we’d have to keep in mind that this sort of thing is a sign she may not be with us much longer. (Hopefully she’d improve enough for us to spend more time with her those months. We were supposed to go out to dinner–my sister and her husband, Marina and her girlfriend, my mother and me–on the 19th of January, but we could postpone that.) We’d have to prepare for the end in a few months.

Wait, no.

We’d have to prepare for the end in a few days.

It was Sunday evening, January 5th, when we heard that.

Marina was going to be moved back home the next day. She’d receive end-of-life care. She was too weak to speak on the phone, too weak to receive visitors. My sister reached out to Marina’s friends, saying that if they wanted to do something for Marina, they should look for a photo with them and Marina together and send it to her, as a reminder, a token of love, something fun for her to look at. Marina had so, so many friends. Her mailbox would be flooded.

I didn’t have any photos of the two of us. I looked through my entire computer, all my badly organized photo folders. I had only one photo linking us together: in November, she visited my apartment with her cats. I had a photo of Terra cautiously, warily, bravely approaching the cat carrier in the corner. (At first Marina and I thought she’d been so relaxed about having other cats in the apartment, but then Marina realized that, actually, Terra just hadn’t figured out there were cats there yet.) (She realized it a minute later. We laughed our asses off.)

IMG-20131125-WA0001

I had something else I could maybe show Marina, though. That night, I e-mailed my editor asking her to send the most recent version of my cover. Marina had always been so excited I’d be publishing a book–she’d always asked for updates, cheered when there was something to cheer about. I’d given her an ARC that day in November, but she and her girlfriend were in the middle of a move and didn’t get around to it for a while–she mentioned in her Christmas card to me she was really looking forward to reading it. And that week, she’d told my sister that the book was at the top of her to-read pile and she was so sorry she’d never gotten the chance.

This was supposed to be a very short post.

So I e-mailed my editor. I knew Marina would love to see the cover. To get a last update.

The next morning, I got another text. I was still in bed. I got up and e-mailed my editor to tell her never mind.

Marina Dupré died the morning of January 6th at the age of 28.

I received the card on January 8. (I had two letters that day: that, and a birth announcement.) The card featured a drawing she’d made, and a poem she’d written.

The ceremony was on January 13th. There were so many people they didn’t all fit in the room, and they had to stand in the waiting room, watching the ceremony on a screen. My sister was a speaker, and she shared a story about how she’d paid for Marina to join her on a trip to the US. Afterward, Marina had paid her back monthly, with little hearts in the payment description, and my sister looked forward to that little heart every month, and then when the money was paid off she didn’t have those little hearts anymore. (When Marina heard that, she’d send monthly payments of one cent, with a little heart in the description.)

And Marina’s girlfriend was a speaker, and she talked about how when she first laid eyes on Marina in high school, she thought, That woman will be mine. (Marina had other plans.) (Until a few years later, when Marina sneaked her a note that said, Do you want to be my girlfriend? You know, for real?)

marinasophie

Marina on the right.

Afterward, we went to a café. My sister had arranged for everyone to drink Marina’s favorite drink, prosecco with grapefruit juice. And after that, with a much smaller group, we went to Marina’s favorite sushi restaurant. We put down a photo of her on the table next to us.

As we were sitting down, I checked my phone. My editor had sent my cover.

The waiter hadn’t heard the news yet. He’d known Marina was sick, though. They’d joked about hand-delivering sushi to her in the hospital if she needed it, and he said, I would have, you know. I would have in a heartbeat. He told us about Marina’s favorite sushi, which my sister ordered for both tables. My sister told him about Marina’s leukemia, which mixed both chronic and acute kinds , and which was in her genes so it’d always come back. She could defeat it a dozen times over, and then her genes would get back to work.

That pisses me off. How determined it was.

As we wobbled home later that night–literally, in my case, since I’d had saké and wore pointy heels and those don’t mesh well with downtown Leiden cobblestones–I whispered to my mother, This is weird.

Today is the 19th. We were supposed to go out to dinner. Tomorrow will be the week after her funeral, and two weeks after her death. (And six days after her hospitalization, and . . . )

I put the card with that drawing of hers on top of my bookshelves, and folded her little Christmas card around it.

Tomorrow, I’m going to reveal my cover to the world, and it’s something I so wish I could’ve done two weeks ago. At some point, we’ll have dinner with Marina’s girlfriend, the dinner we’re not having tonight. I’ll get back the books I loaned Marina, and that ARC at the top of the pile, too. My sister might get a tattoo of Marina’s face, or maybe not. I’ll hold my hardcover, and I won’t get to give it to her. I’ll see her new apartment, and she won’t be there. I’ll visit the baby whose birth announcement I got on January 8th. My sister will move into her new house, and her best friend will never see it.

I’m still kind of wrapping my head around it all. I’ve never lost anyone before.

I swear this was supposed to be a short post.

appelsmarinacloseup

My mother, my sister, and Marina, eating the apples they picked from my sister’s apple tree.

I appreciate the kind thoughts people have sent my way via Twitter and e-mail, but I’m turning off comments on this post. I’m posting this because, as infrequently as I update this blog, I do always mention the big things, and this is a big thing. I wanted to share it.

And I wanted to share Marina, too.

The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Jan 01, 2014, 6:45 pm
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I just read the post I did last year and smiled.

2013 has been an odd year. A lot of things have happened: I worked with a publisher for the first time, went through the publishing process from large-scale edits to first-pass pages, held my ARCs, went to a writing retreat, saw my sister get married, spent my first full year living on my own, went to the shelter to choose my first just-for-me pet.

At the same time, a lot of things haven’t happened. I haven’t finished any new books, nor sold any. I’ve barely done any art. I’m still single. I don’t have a cover for OTHERBOUND yet. I’ve just spent several weeks getting punched in the gut by my mental health, and watched my happiness and productivity drop accordingly.

I don’t know what to expect from 2014. In less than half a year, OTHERBOUND will be out in the world. Already, the first very kind reader-writer responses are starting to trickle in, and it’s so fascinating to read what other people noticed, what stood out at them, what they related to. It’s too early for professional reviews, but I did discover–by complete accident–that it’s a Junior Library Guild selection, which I was a bit confused about at first but rapidly discovered is a Big Deal and a Very Good Thing.

As I said on Twitter, it’s the perfect end to 2013, and the perfect start to my debut.

I know I’ll have my cover before too long. I know I’ll turn twenty-five in April. I know the book will be out. I know I’ll be in the United States that month, although possibly not during release day itself. I know I’ll attend a big publishing conference for the first time.

Those are the things I know.

What I don’t know is how it’ll go. I don’t know if people will love it or hate the book, what my sales will be like, whether I’ll be overwhelmed or underwhelmed or if nothing at all will change. I don’t know if, on my release day, I’ll be surrounded by friends and colleagues and family, and I’ll feel like I’m walking on clouds, or if I’ll be sitting silently in my apartment and watching the Twitter responses. I don’t know if my mental health will improve or deteriorate. I don’t know if I’ll finally finish the Dead Horse Sci-Fi book; I don’t know if I’ll sell it. I don’t know which other books I’ll write, or if I’ll finish them, or if I’ll sell them. I don’t know if this is the start of my first real adult career, or if it’s just another one of my obsessions that’ll fade away as the years go by.

I don’t know if next year’s New Year’s Eve will be like this one–me, an empty apartment, heating up glühwein in the microwave because I might as well–or if I’ll spend it with friends, or with family, or with a partner, or who knows who else, if I’ll look back on 2014 with a feeling of accomplishment or disappointment, if looking on the hardcover with my name on it will make me feel giddy all over again, or if it’ll remind me of failures I don’t want to be reminded of.

There’s a lot I’d like to get from 2014. There’s a lot I’d like to do in 2014. There’s a lot I’d like to be.

But mostly, there’s a lot I don’t know.

I wasn’t going to do resolutions. Then a friend asked me to contribute to a resolutions video for YA Rebels, so I thought about it, and I did. I sent her the following photo:

NYE

Keep myself happy.

Keep my words honest.

It’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got, and it might be enough.

Happy 2014, everybody. May you discover all the things you don’t know yet, and may they be good.

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Crossing the Finish Line & OTHERBOUND ARC Update

Nov 24, 2013, 5:16 pm
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I won NaNo last night! \o/

I should have won back on Wednesday, but writing has been going a bit choppily, since this book is so differently structured than what I’m used to. I think it’s got potential, though, and I look forward to wrapping up the draft in the next week or two and brainstorming edits.

In entirely different news . . . As I mentioned in my previous post, OTHERBOUND ARCs were available at NCTE Boston this weekend. I wanted to inform anyone who might’ve missed that update to go to the ABRAMS booth post-haste to pick up an ARC . . . but as it turns out, they’ve run out. A good 250 ARCs with my name on them are now out into the world. This may be a normal number in the world of ARCs and cons and promotion–I seriously have no clue–but it sounds intimidatingly high to me. It’s freaking exciting. Go out into the world, my pretties! Fly!

If you missed out on getting an ARC at NCTE (or were never there in the first place!) you can still get one over at Tumblr, where I’m running a contest. Just reblog this post with the 2014 YA release you’re most excited about, and you’re in.

I’ll quiet down on the OTHERBOUND front soon; we’re still over half a year out from release. I’m just giddy.

OTHERBOUND galleys, Boston, Catalogs, and One Extremely Shiny Blurb

Nov 06, 2013, 6:32 pm
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Hello! I come bearing news.

NEWS THE FIRST: The ABRAMS Kids Catalog Spring 2014 is out, and would you look at that, OTHERBOUND is in it.

(This cover is not final.) (Neither is the description.) (The cover and description on the ARC will be way different.) (… though even the cover and description the ARC won’t be final.) (More on this later.)

And what’s this we see on the catalog page? A blurb? A blurb by Margo “I Will Scar You For Life and Soothe Your Wounds With Delicious Prose” Lanagan?

“OTHERBOUND is a web of spells and counterspells, but Corinne Duyvis never loses sight of the bodies, minds and all-too-human emotions that absorb the impact of the magical power-plays. It’s an action-packed tale of passion, possession and hair-raising leaps from world to world. As you read it, remember to keep breathing.”

It makes me all kinds of happy.

I’ve got other blurbs to share as well, but those will have to wait for a later date, when the cover and description are more official. There are some delays on that front, which means the ARC will go out with a temporary placeholder cover. The good news about that sentence is in these words . . .

NEWS THE SECOND: The ARC will go out.

This. Month.

I haven’t seen them myself! I don’t even know if they’re printed yet! But they will exist. For proof, you’ll have to attend NCTE in Boston this November, where you can pick up an OTHERBOUND ARC at booth #1033 with your own two hands. (And maybe take it home. And read it. I dunno, if you want to, I guess.) For deets–including info on the ABRAMS authors attending the event and a list of all the galleys you can find (which includes STEERING TOWARD NORMAL and HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL by my delightful OneFourKidLit sisters!), check out this ABRAMS blog post.

(Oooh, look at that at the very end of that post. It’s a tiny tiny temporary OTHERBOUND cover . . .)

NEWS THE THIRD: I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time in years. (This is much less interesting to all of you. I realize that.) I started a week early, but I still intend on writing 50k this month, so I figure it counts. I’m neck-deep in the new book–24k and going, and I’m slowly rediscovering the drafting love. The book I’m writing is the Dead Horse Sci-Fi I mentioned in an earlier post. Writing an autistic protag is proving to be both challenging and fun. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes the rest of the draft will go as smoothly as it’s gone so far.

All The Updates, Ever

Oct 04, 2013, 8:09 pm
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I don’t think there’s any way to return from an absence such as this one without the use of a list.

Here’s what I’ve been up to since my previous post:

  • My sister got maried! It was only the second wedding I’ve ever attended, made extra special because a) sister, duh, and b) I was one of the witnesses. Ee! Here’s me signing the document, and my sister and her new husband being cute as heck together:
    Wedding Nic

    As you can see, the wedding was orange-grey themed. It was a beautiful sight, and I hope to share more photos later down the line.
  • Before the wedding, Helen Corcoran and Laura Lam came to visit (though not simultaneously). I adore these two ladies. <3
  • After the wedding, I went to Portugal for the weekend with a number of the guests. Not bad!
  • A few weeks after that, my mom and I headed off to Cyprus for the week. I read a lot, basked in the sun, and cuddled with very cute Cypriot cats. realize I’m extraordinarily lucky, yes.

In writing news:

  • Otherbound has a release date! As with all things in publishing, nothing is final, but Amazon lists it as releasing on June 17th, 2014. It’s gonna be a good day, people.
  • Oh, did I say Amazon? I meant Book Depository, Powell’s, Books-A-Million, IndieBound… (Oh my god people can now actually pay money for my book oh my god. *fans self*)
  • I’m currently in the middle of the first/second pages stage of things. Exciting! I’ve also seen a cover mock-up, but it may be a while yet before anything final exists, let alone before I get to share it with the world.
  • And we went out for blurbs! I’ve been looking forward to that basically since the book sold, and I’m still excited about it. We’re not yet done with the process, but right now I have three blurbs by three fabulous authors. I’m waiting to share them until I have flap copy to go with the announcement, but the waiting isn’t easy…
  • In non-Otherbound news, I’m about to start on a new book. It’s not The Shiny Book Where People Die a Lot, although it’s a bit tricky given that this new book is also shiny (as all new books are) and characters also die a lot (as all characters should). I shall call it Dead Horse Sci-Fi for now.

Now, on to the link portion of the program:

I suspect I’m missing a couple of links, but such is life. Mostly, I’m just recovering from a busy few weeks/months, and looking forward to spending some time at home, reclaiming order in my life, and finally, finally, finally

FINALLY

… cranking out a new book.

It’s about damn time.

The Art of Falling in Love

Aug 12, 2013, 9:57 pm
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… with one’s WIP, that is.

(Why would I write about anything else? Jeez.)

These past few weeks, I’ve been trying to return to work on the Shiny Book Where People Die a Lot, which is proving more difficult than I anticipated. This summer has been the first time I’m dealing with proper publishing deadlines; I’m also still getting used to living on my own. Add that to my sister’s wedding in ten (!) days, returning to krav maga, and refreshing last year’s Dutch Sign Language words/grammar in preparation for the next course, and I’m realizing I need to learn to manage my time better. I need to learn to slide from one project into the next.

For me, this entails falling back in love with a book. I know I can write and edit very, very quickly if I’m in the right headspace. Getting into the right headspace–the headspace of luuurrrv–is not too hard when I have a draft written and need to do revisions; it’s very, very tricky when I’m in the middle of a draft and struggle to see beyond the flaws.

(Guess where I am?)

Here’s what’s making the Shiny Book Where People Die a Lot extra difficult:

  • It’s a trilogy. The first book is fairly isolated, but other PoVs, characters, plotlines, and settings appear over the next two books, and I’m realizing that I’m more excited about and focused on those other two books than the book I’m working on now. I’m seeing if I can tweak book one to fix that, but it’s not clicking yet.
  • Related: my soundtrack–see more below–is largely composed of songs relating to the sequels. It gets me into the mood for my WIP, all right, but the wrong part of the WIP!
  • Normally, I blaze through a draft in a month; this book, however, took ages to plot, was then written 2/3rds and scrapped, then I wrote a bit, put it on halt, wrote a bit more… It’s hard to regain the same burst of enthusiasm I normally have when drafting. While the how of getting from A to B is different in this rewritten version, I’ve still seen both A and B already in different format, so when writing, I constantly feel like I’m repeating myself.
  • SHINY. NEW. IDEAS. (Anyone surprised?)
  • See above re: different obligations than I’m used to.

Blah blah blah, whine whine whine. The good news is that I finally, finally managed to get some new words written today, and hope to continue tonight. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Soundtrack, soundtrack, soundtrack. I always create one in the earliest possible stages of a project. I avoid listening to this soundtrack as simple background noise. Instead, when doing dishes, laundry, groceries, I put on the soundtrack and take that time to think of my characters or work through plot problems. I basically train myself to associate the songs with my WIP.
  • Re-read. This doesn’t work for everyone. I tend to use it as a last resort. Yesterday, I finally re-read the most recent two chapters, though, and it helped me more than I’d expected. I remember why I like the characters, and where I want this off-hand mention and that plot thread to lead, and that gets me excited about the rest.
  • Re-read the synopsis/plot cards. This only works for plotters. For me, it’s similar to the above point in that it helps me get excited about the upcoming scenes.
  • Think about the next scene. In detail. Either I’ll get excited about writing it, or I won’t, and I know I’ll need to make it more exciting some way or another.
  • Baby steps. Once I’m on a roll, I can write quickly. For me, it helps to set small goals I know I can manage, and ramp it up exponentially. I just need to get the ball rolling.
  • Artwork. Visual representations of my characters help me fall back in love with them.

It took me a while, but I’m getting there.

… and hopefully this post will help keep me accountable. If I don’t have a couple thousand new words by the end of the week, kick me. ;)

Website tweaking

Aug 11, 2013, 2:26 am
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While I’ve loved the WordPress template I purchased for years, I’ve also changed so much of the code that it was barely usable anymore–the downside of only vaguely knowing what you’re doing.

So, I ended up scrapping my website and starting anew. Hopefully, this version will be more professional, more streamlined, and more accessible. (As a side effect of all the tweaking, it’d become nearly impossible to increase the text size. Good job, Corinne!)

I still have more changes to make to get it to where I want, and have to re-upload all my blog images so until then you’ll see a lot of broken pictures around here, but the site should be usable. If you spot anything broken, I’d appreciate it if you could let me know.

Thanks!