What’s In A Name?

This past April I wrote something a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo. Instead of my usual mystery novels or super-power fantasy novels, I decided to retell my favorite fairy tale.

I wrote The Lost Girl, a retelling of Peter Pan.

First things first, I had to do a bit of research about the time period. Peter Pan takes place in about 1904.

So, when coming up with a name for my lead female character, I looked up the most popular names from the 1900s. Grace was number 42 (according to the list I found).

I chose the name Grace because I think it’s a pretty name. It’s a common name. It’s simple. Even though it was popular way back then, it’s still pretty common.

The name Gwen is number 78 on that list. I like the name Gwen, but it’s never my first choice.

I was also trying to find a name for Grace’s mother as well. I ended up using Grace as my main character and a different name for her mother. Gwen didn’t make the cut at all. And to be honest, if a new female pops up in my story, I will not choose the name Gwen, no matter how big of a character she is.

Because while I don’t mind the name Gwen, there is just something about it. Something I don’t understand.

What's In A Name: Gwen

I’ve read a fair share amount of Peter Pan retellings lately. It’s partly why I decided to write my own. Peter Pan is my favorite and I thought of a great idea from the ABC show Once Upon A Time and from all the Peter Pan tales I had been reading.

If you follow my book reviews, you’ll know I’ve read some Peter Pan tales and I haven’t been a fan of a few of them. More than a few of them, actually. But I still add those tales to my to-be-read list anyway. They all sound good and I love Peter Pan, so why not give them a try?

I’ve noticed that fairy tale retellings have become pretty big lately and a lot of retellings that are coming out are about Peter Pan. This means getting The Lost Girl out in the world will either be pretty “easy” (I say that lightly) or really hard.

But I know there’s one thing my novel has that the others don’t: a different name.

Every time I go to my local bookstore with Kris, we always search through the young adult section. As I said, fairy tale retellings are what’s currently “in” at the moment and there are a lot of Peter Pan stories.

I found the novel Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell through Goodreads. The main character’s name is Gwen.

Then I found The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse at the bookstore. The main character’s name is Gwen.

There was another novel I found at the bookstore, but I can’t remember the name or author at the moment. What I do remember is that the main character’s name was–Drumroll, please–Gwen.

I went back to the bookstore a few days ago and discovered a new Peter Pan story titled Everland by Wendy Spinale. As I picked it up off the shelf, I said to Kris: “I swear, if the main character’s name is Gwen…”

I started reading the summary in the front cover flap and stopped after the second sentence, which read:

“The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey.” (Curtosy of Goodreads).

Why?

I don’t understand why the name Gwen is so popular among Peter Pan stories.

Is there something I’m missing? Is it a coincidence?

What I do know is that if I ended up choosing the name Gwen for my character, I would be changing it right now. Part of me wants to change Grace just because it starts with the letter “G.”

I don’t know if I’m overthinking things or not. I don’t even know if I have the right to be bothered by this. I just think it’s weird. None of these authors could choose a different name other than Gwen? Gwen doesn’t even have a special meaning that has anything to do with Peter Pan.

What’s even more strange is that Unhooked was published in February 2016. But The Neverland Wars was published May 9, 2016 while Everland was published May 10, 2016. All three books were by different publishers.

Weird, huh?

Names are important. And if you want your book to stand out from the rest, you have to give your characters names no one will forget; especially if you’re writing about the same topic as many others.

Have you ever noticed anything strange about different books like this? What do you think about this “Gwen” fad in Peter Pan stories? Let me know in the comments!

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An Hour A Day

If you know anything about me, you know that I work on one writing project after another. I alternate working on multiple projects at once. I get a lot done on these projects. But when it comes to editing, it’s a slow-going process. Sometimes it’s non-existant.

My plan was to have my mystery novel 100% edited by the end of this year and start querying it in January. I did really well working on it at the beginning of the year and then somewhere I got lost along the way. Or my novel got lost. I don’t really know.

Needless to say, I’m taking a break with that one. I hate to say it, but I really need to re-evaluate my plan to tackle that novel. There’s a lot more to figure out than just “editing” it as far as research and deeper plot holes go.

Writing mysteries are hard. I love it, it’s fun, but there’s so much information to remember and to figure out when writing each mystery. And since my novel is the first in a series, I feel the need to figure out the rest of the books before I can fully understand the first mystery. It’s a little hard to explain, you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

So maybe that novel will be ready by December 2017. Because I’ve decided that George and Lilah need a vacation. So I’m not going to look at my manuscript until January 2017. If inspiration happens to strike, then I will most definitely put that to good use, but for right now I’m going to take a step back and then look at it again as though I’m editing the first draft in January.

I know I said I was going to have my sister look at it, but I’m not even going to do that just yet. Maybe next summer.

So, the point of this whole post (now that we’re over 300 words into the article) is that Kris and I had one of our quarter-life-crisis-things when it comes to our writing.

I try to make deadlines for myself and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In the end, I know the deadline is “fake” because it was set up by me and I have no one to answer to, except me.

But the reason I do so well with NaNoWriMo is because the deadline is “real.” I have to give my manuscript to someone by the end of the month. That someone being the NaNo validator, but still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Plus, NaNo is kind of like a competition. And who doesn’t like a fun competition?

So Kris and I decided to commit to one novel each. We both have a novel that’s mostly written, but the first draft isn’t quite finished.

For me, it’s The Lost Girl. I wrote 58,000 words of the novel back in April for Camp NaNoWriMo, but the actual story wasn’t complete.

I know I wrote a post a while ago saying my plans were to finish the novel, edit it in the summer, and then post it on Wattpad in November or December. Well, this may come as a shock to you, but I haven’t touched that story since the end of April.

I was focused more on why George and I couldn’t get along and then when I finally threw in the towel for that one, I decided to work on short stories.

Anyway, Kris and I are going to hold each other accountable for our novels. She committed to her fantasy novel and I committed to The Lost Girl. We’re going to work on our manuscripts for at least one hour each day and finish our first drafts by October 1st. Including today, that gives us 32 days, 32 (or more) hours to finish these drafts.

Then, on October 1st, we’re going to write each other letters about our manuscripts, things that we think need work, what we need to edit or research, the works. Then we’ll swap manuscripts and the other will read and critique it. We’ll set a deadline for that and then we’ll go from there.

It’s still a deadline set up by me, but I have someone to answer to other than myself. My manuscript will be leaving my hands in a month even if it’s just going on the desk across from mine.

I think this will work.

How are your writing projects coming along? Let me know in the comments! 

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The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse book review Rachel Poli
Via Goodreads
Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: Fantasy
How I got the book: I bought it

Summary (from Goodreads):

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

My Review:

This book is not what it seems. No, I’m not talking about the magic. I’m talking about the plot. Or, lack thereof.

While the writing style of this novel was very easy to read and the story flowed well, not too much happened. The summary and the even the title itself was misleading. And when I say misleading, I mean it chalks the story up to be much more than what it was.

Neverland was fun to explore, but that was just about it. There was a lot of worldbuilding, but not too much happened in that world so it seemed to be pointless.

I thought the characters were well done and I enjoyed each and every one of them. However, Gwen, the protagonist, is 16 and acts much younger. She could get slightly annoying at times.

Gwen goes to Neverland to bring her sister, Rosemary home. Rosemary is barely in the story as we focus too much on Gwen. So the ending when Gwen finds out whether Rosemary wants to stay or not, is a little unclear because we didn’t get to know Rosemary at all.

The beginning of the novel was strong. So I got increasingly disappointed as the novel continued. The ending was very abrupt and I don’t know if there will be a sequel or not.

If you know me, you know Peter Pan is my absolute favorite. So while it was fun reading about the author’s interpretation of Neverland, nothing else about the actual story was memorable. 

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse gets out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s fun to watch how their imaginations run away with them… And how they sometimes end up running away with their imaginations.” –Audrey Greathouse, The Neverland Wars

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April 2016 Camp Wrap Up

And so another Camp NaNoWriMo session has come to an end.

I think it turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself.

camp nanowrimo winner april 2016 rachel poli

Word Count

Day 27: 0
Day 28: 0
Day 29: 0
Day 30: 0

Overall Total: 58,159

I made my goal of 50,000 words on April 22. I wanted to complete the whole story and I knew 50k just wasn’t going to cut it. So I planned to write until the bitter end, but I stopped with four days to spare.

I knew what I wanted to happen next, but was unsure how to go about the whole thing. I decided to give myself a break from the story, which isn’t a bad thing.

No matter whether it’s Camp NaNo or just regular NaNo, no matter the month whether it’s April, July, or November, my stats always come out weird. And I mean weird.

My goal is always to write 2,000 words a day. I often try to get 4,000 words a day on Saturdays and Sundays since I don’t have work those days. It never ends up like that.

I do well the first week and then get burnt out. If I get really ahead, I get cocky and decide not to write the 2k words. I’ll write a little less or worse, skip the day all together. If I make my goal, I’ll just stop writing. It doesn’t matter if the draft is done or not. The pressure is off, the challenge has been won, it’s time for a break even if there are still five days left in the month.

I mean, just look at what happened in April 2015:

camp nanowrimo april 2015 stats rachel poli

As you can see, there were plenty of days where I skipped writing. Maybe I was ahead, maybe I was busy, maybe I was just lazy. Who really knows?

I made it to 50,000 words on April 23. I don’t really know how I managed to finish early, but if you look close enough, you’ll notice that my count on April 22 was 45,000 words. So I wrote 5k on the 23. It must have been a Saturday.

You’ll also notice that as soon as I hit 50k words, I stopped writing.

Last April I wrote Anonymous Tip, which is a book in my George Florence detective series. I did not finish the draft.

April 2015 looks like a hot mess. But oh, what’s this?

Let’s take a look at this year’s stats…

camp nanowrimo april 2016 stats rachel poli

Stairs!

The only way I would be able to make this look any more perfect was if I wrote 2k even every single day. But in order to do that, I would have had to stop mid-sentence. Or interrupt a great dose of inspiration.

I don’t know what it was about this month, but I did really well and I am proud of myself. This has probably been one of the best NaNo sessions I’ve ever had.

Maybe it was because I was in a slump all throughout March so my mind was raring to go again. Maybe it was because I was writing a retelling of my favorite story ever, Peter Pan.

Whatever it was, it worked.

I didn’t bother trying to write 4k on the weekends, I just solely stuck to my 2k a day. Some days I ended up writing a bit more, but that was just fine with me.

I never got bored of the story, I was excited the whole month long. I came up with new ideas and even started planning the editing process.

Overall, it was a fantastic month.

How did Camp NaNoWriMo go for you? Or are you working on a project at the moment that has you really excited?

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Camp: Week Four

camp nanowrimo update week four rachel poli

Just a few more days left!

Here’s an update of my third week of Camp NaNoWriMo and my novel, The Lost Girl.

The Ups

I completed the challenge with a total of 50,103 words on April 22! I stuck with my 2,000-words a day goal and it really paid off. Some days I even reached above 3,000. My stats look pretty steady, which is satisfying to look at.

I never got tired of the story. Even now, I’m still writing to complete the draft and I’m still very much excited for what will happen in the next chapter and the next and the next.

I think this has been a successful Camp!

The Downs

The only “down” I can really think of is that I’m not finished with the whole draft yet. I knew the story was going to end up over 50k words, but I’m beginning to wonder when it will actually end… Especially since there were a couple of scenes that I meant to add in and should have. I don’t really want to have to add anything during the editing process.

I’ve continued to write 2k words a day even after I hit my word count goal. I currently have 58,211 words. That’s not including today because I haven’t written anything yet. So I guess we’ll just have to see how long the novel goes.

I was really hoping to finish the whole draft by the end of the month, though.

Favorite Quote

“How in the world are we going to do that? Keep in mind that Mr. Smee is still hiding behind a tree somewhere.”

Word Count

Day 20: 2,121
Day 21: 2,393
Day 22: 3,445
Day 23: 2,017
Day 24: 2,042
Day 25: 2,018
Day 26: 2,031
Total for the week: 16,067
Overall total: 58,211

How are you doing with Camp?

The Lost Girl: Excerpt 2

We’re nearing the end of Camp NaNoWriMo so I thought I would share one last excerpt of my novel, The Lost Girl.

This is a short excerpt from the middle of chapter thirteen. This is first draft material, but proofread for typos.

Enjoy!

The Lost Girl excerpt

“Now think of the happiest thought that you can think.” Peter ordered.

“The happiest thought? Like a memory of some sort?” Grace wondered.

“It can be anything you want, but it has to be something real.” Peter explained.

“So a memory…” Grace concluded. She put her hand up to her chin as she thought looking up at the sky. “Okay, I think I got one. That’s easy.”

Peter smiled. He took Grace by the hands again and led her to the edge of the cliff. “Now think of that thought and keep thinking about it!”

“What are you doing?” Grace frowned at the edge of the cliff.

“Are you ready?”

“Not really…”

“Go!”

Peter shoved Grace off the edge of the cliff. She tried to hold her balance at the very tip, but fell anyway. She flailed her arms and legs as her body accelerated faster and faster the closer she got to the water. She screamed knowing that this was going to be it for her. She covered her eyes with her hands bracing herself for impact with the water. If she didn’t die on impact, she would certainly drown.

Grace jolted when she was suddenly lifted back into the air. She dared to take her hands away from her eyes. Peter was holding onto her in his arms and they were heading back up to the top of the cliff. Through the air.

“What is going on?!” Grace panicked wrapping her arms around Peter’s neck tightly.

“Ouch,” Peter winced. “You just pinched my neck.”

“You just threw me off a cliff!” Grace shouted.

“Yeah, I don’t know why it didn’t work.” Peter muttered in sincere confusion.

“What didn’t work? I almost died!” Grace panicked as they made it to the top of the cliff.

“Yeah, sorry about that. Were you thinking about your happy thought?” Peter set Grace back down on her feet and folded his arms his chest deeply thinking.

“No! I was too busy thinking that I was going to die!” Grace yelled.

“You’re going to disturb the whole forest if you keep shouting like that.” Peter said glancing over at Tinkerbell on his shoulder, who was covering her ears. “Besides, you’re upsetting Tinkerbell. Human voices are extremely loud to them. It’s kind of like when you tap on the glass to a fish tank. It disturbs the fish.”

Grace stared at Peter with her mouth gaped open and her eyes wide. He pushed her off a cliff, she almost died, he began to fly, and he was making fish metaphors.

Camp: Week Three

camp nanowrimo week three update rachel poli

There’s only about one week left… This month is flying by.

Here’s an update of my third week of Camp NaNoWriMo and my novel, The Lost Girl.

The Ups

 

I’m still very much into my story. I think it’s going really well. I’m already coming up with editing ideas for it, but I’m sticking to just writing for now. I think it will be a pretty decent first draft when it’s all done.

I have less than 10,000 more words to write to hit my 50,000-word goal for Camp. Though I think the novel is going to turn out a lot longer than that. I’m just now getting to the “climax” of the story. I don’t know whether it’s a little late or not, but I guess we’ll figure that one out when the first draft is done.

The Downs

I think Grace’s character (and Peter’s, actually) is going to need some spiffing-up. Both of their personalities switch back and forth making them both seem like each of them are two different characters within themselves, if that makes any sense.

Though like I said, I’m just going to keep writing. Maybe it will work itself out. If not, that’s what editing is for later.

Favorite Quote

“That’s the funny thing about stars. They’re always there no matter where you are.”

Word Count

Day 14: 2,061
Day 15: 2,187
Day 16: 2,588
Day 17: 3,056
Day 18: 2,011
Day 19: 2,034
Total for the week: 13,937
Overall total: 42,108

How are you doing with Camp?

Camp: Week Two

camp nanowrimo week two update rachel poli

Two weeks down, two more to go!

Here’s an update of my second week of Camp NaNoWriMo and my novel, The Lost Girl.

The Ups

The story is continuing at a nice pace. I’m sticking to my original ideas and plan for the story. And the characters have (so far) been cooperating.

I ran out of outline (I never finished it before Camp started). This isn’t necessarily an “up,” but I’ve been continuing to write the outline before I start writing for the day. It’s been helping me keep the flow going as I write. So that’s been working out well.

The Downs

I’ve started thinking about the editing process. Already.

I haven’t actually edited anything, but I’ve started thinking about how I want to edit the story and I know what I may leave in, take out, or add later on. This isn’t really a “down,” but I do want to just focus on writing the actual first draft before I go in over my head with thinking about the edits.

Favorite Quote

Tinkerbell flew off of Peter’s shoulder and landed on Grace’s.
“What is she doing?” Grace asked eyeballing Tinkerbell with caution.
“She’s going to help you do something incredible.”

Word Count

Day 7: 2,220
Day 8: 2,066
Day 9: 2,037
Day 10: 2,018
Day 11: 2,073
Day 12: 2,013
Day 13: 2,049
Total for the week: 14,476
Overall total: 28,207

How are you doing with Camp?

The Lost Girl: Excerpt 1

We’re almost halfway through April 2016’s Camp NaNoWriMo session. I can’t believe it!

I’ve been working really hard on my novel, The Lost Girl, and so far it’s coming along quite nicely. In my opinion.

I thought I would share a quick excerpt with you guys from the story. This excerpt is the beginning of chapter four, where Peter Pan first joins the party.

This is first draft material, but I did proofread it to clean it up just a bit.

I hope you enjoy it!

the lost girl excerpt rachel poli

Grace looked over her shoulder as the elf-boy led her away from the rest of the boys. She couldn’t see anyone anymore leaving her to believe that they obeyed their leader and had in fact gone back to their duties—whatever that meant.

She looked back ahead of her and stared at the back of the boy’s head. He hadn’t said a word to her since they had left the other boys behind. Where was he taking her? Was she in trouble? Or was he going to help her get out of the forest?

Before Grace could open her mouth to ask, the boy swiped a tree branch out of their way and held it aside for Grace to walk through. He let go of her hand and waited for her to walk through. She slowly took steps on her own afraid of what was going to be on the other side of that tree branch. Yet what she saw in front of her was unbelievable and she stared at it in awe.

“Welcome to my Treehouse.” The boy announced with a smile.

“It’s… Huge.” Grace said softly.

A giant tree stood before. The base of the tree took up space in more than half of the clearing. The trunk was as thick as a ship and seemed to be as tall as the sky. She placed a hand over her eyes shielding her sight from the sunlight as she tried to see the top of the tree. Branches stuck out in all sorts of directions, the branches being about as thick as a normal tree trunk.

“Is this…? This is the Tree of Life, isn’t it?” Grace couldn’t help but ask.

“Huh?” the boy raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“I read about the Tree of Life in school.” Grace explained.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“I read it in my history class textbook.”

The boy blinked at her.

“A book,” Grace stated.

“Oh! You mean stories. I know what a story is. I like stories.” He grinned.

Grace shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah, I guess history class is kind of like telling one big story.”

“Anyway,” he patted the base of the tree trunk, “I don’t know what this Tree of Life is that you’re talking about, but this is my home.”

Grace pressed her lips together thinking. Then she pointed to the tree. “So… When you said, welcome to my tree house, you meant an actual tree house?”

“Well,” the boy looked the tree up and down before settling his gaze back on Grace. “It’s my house and it is a tree, so… Yeah.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Grace nodded her head not knowing what else to say. She wrapped her arms around herself holding onto Curly’s cloak again. Sure enough, this all seemed to be happening in real life and not a dream.

“Follow me.” The boy prompted her. He began to climb the tree.

Grace stood where she was and watched him climb a little higher. She had never climbed a tree in her life before, especially not one as big as that tree. Even though he wanted her to follow him, she was going to be perfectly fine standing on the ground and watching from afar.

Then he looked down and slid back down the trunk as soon as he realized he was climbing alone. He walked over to Grace taking her hand in his once more and smiled at her. “It’s a lot of fun. You’ll see.”

Grace wanted to protest, but she couldn’t get her voice to work. Curiosity was taking over again. She should have learned her lesson from the first time, but she was too interested in the tree to mind.

The boy led her to the base of the tree and began to climb once more. He let go of Grace’s hand, but only for a moment so he could get a firm grip on the trunk himself. Then he looked down over his shoulder and reached out to her again. Grace took his hand with a short hesitation and began to climb the tree behind him. Though she wasn’t sure how she was going to climb such a massive tree in a skirt.

He kept leading the way, higher and higher. They dropped each other’s hands once in a while to get firmer grips on their climb. Then Grace would stumble and grab onto his hand or foot or whatever was closest to her.

“You’ve never climbed a tree, have you?” he asked with a smirk.

“Not one this big.” Grace grunted in response. She glanced down over her shoulder and shivered at the height. She was getting tired. Just how far up were they going? And how were they going to climb back down?

“We’re almost there.” He assured her.

Grace looked straight up and narrowed her eyes. They weren’t even halfway up the tree! How were they almost to the top?

It was just another couple of steps when the boy sat down upright on a branch. He reached down, grabbed Grace’s hand, and pulled her up. She sat on the branch in front of him breathing heavily. She gripped the branch as tight as she could; her knuckles began to turn white.

“Okay, now how do we get down?” she asked quickly.

The boy smiled. He reached over behind her and opened a small hatch in the neighboring branch, which looked as though it had been cut off to create a hollow hole. Grace peered down the hole looking into the abyss.

She suddenly felt afraid again. And she wasn’t nervous because of the height.

“It’s fun, I promise.”

Those were the last words Grace heard before the boy pushed her down the hole.

The Lost Girl Cover

Pretty much since I started writing I always wanted to create my own covers for my novels. I never knew how–what programs to use, how to get the pictures legally, etc. So I never bothered… Or I would, but I just wouldn’t show it to the rest of the world.

Yet, whenever I can, I try to take pictures of nature or other things that strike me at the time. I tend to use the camera on my phone, which takes great pictures. However, when I learn to use my real camera then I’ll start bringing that with me to places.

I recently got Photoshop and while I took a class on it in high school, it’s an updated version… and I probably still wouldn’t remember how to use it even if it was the same version.

But I did my best and creating graphics can only get better with practice.

So, lo and behold, here is the cover to my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, The Lost Girl.

the lost girl cover peter pan rachel poli

It’s simple as I have to work with what I have and what I know. Though I think it came out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

The background was taken from the backyard of the family I babysit for. I took the picture myself with my phone.

I had other ideas for the cover, but as I don’t have a model to act as the protagonist for the cover, I decided to go easy and simple.

Sometimes I think simpler can be better.

I hope this cover does the novel justice!

I would like to say, “It’s not like I’m going to publish this or anything,” but I do plan on putting this story on Wattpad when it’s edited (hopefully by the end of 2016 or very early 2017).

I made a Wattpad account a while ago hoping to get more of my original work out there other than just quick Short Story Sundays. I still haven’t posted anything on there, but I think The Lost Girl will be the first one.

I don’t really think The Lost Girl will be publishable by a traditional publisher and I don’t have the desire to attempt to self-publish it. So I think Wattpad would be a great fit. It would be like the next step up from my blog. Of course, I’ll still continue to give updates on here and let you all know when the next chapter is up.

But that won’t be for a while, so don’t worry about it.

That’s where I stand at the moment. I hope you like the cover. I’m looking forward to actually writing the story in two days!

Good luck to those who are participating in Camp!