Author: Lance

Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than 20 stories published or on the way, and two e-books coming soon: "Thorvald's Wyrd", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.
Writing Report for the two weeks ending 12 August 2018

Writing Report for the two weeks ending 12 August 2018

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I may do a couple more of these weekly just to help establish the habit, but I think over the longer term monthly is better. It’s a nice way for me to catch up, but I want to get as many words into active projects as possible.

During my vacation week, I built the basic set of targets, making things concrete-ish beginning August 2nd but not going beyond the end of the week at that point. Since coming home, I’ve fleshed out a real plan on multiple levels (as suggested last week), and thought I’d list what I’ve managed since starting to use the keyboard for its intended purpose (in my view) again.

Accomplishments:

  1. Finished “Replaceable”, with the first draft coming in at 6,589 words. I’m rather pleased with the result and will probably do the editing job on it sooner rather than later. It uses a difficult theme, but I think builds well to a mostly satisfying ending. ‘Mostly’ because there’s at one aspect of that ending I’d like to make a little more subtle.
  2. Also in the area of short fiction, I added 503 words just yesterday to a story I left hanging a couple of years ago with the unlikely working title of “Space Broccoli”.
  3. I’ve put 10,611 words into Shrine, taking it to 57,628 and with an estimated 18,000 to go it’s going to come in at more than 15,000 words longer than the first draft of Arena. There are some sequences early in the book that can probably be shortened. I have the idea that all four books in the set will be of similar lengths, but I’m not too married to that. The story length for each will be what’s needed.
  4. And speaking of Arena, I’ve done the 3rd draft pass up to the middle of Chapter 10 (quite a long chapter with 4 separate scenes), which puts me about 4k words short of the book’s midpoint by  word count. The third draft is where I make sure that everything says what I want it to say, which I talked about in a more detail last year. (Reference the old post on what each draft means to me).
  5. Completely finished the scene-level plot on 7 Days a King. This isn’t the next long fiction project to go, but I’m glad to have the rough plot done.
  6. 6 blog posts (counting this one)
  7. 4 book reviews
  8. My first journal entry in almost 10 months.

A total word count of 27,723 or about 5k more than the whole year before this two week period. All in all, I’m pretty happy with that.

Significant projects on the horizon:

  1. Next Long Fiction: Star Trek: Fractured Unity. I’m a little over 25k words into something that I think will wind up at about 50k.
  2. After that: Bad Teenage Poetry, which is not speculative fiction and takes place in the mid-1980s.
  3. Editing: once Arena has gone through the last two drafts, I’m going back to Hero’s Life, the sequel to Heroes Inc. Fallen Heroes, the third book in the trilogy, has scene level detail plotted and is on the draft schedule for early next year, I hope.
  4. Short Fiction: 10k or so per month in short stories is the target going forward. After “Space Broccoli”, I have four more I specifically want to finish (none of which is more than 800 words in yet) before I dig into the archives or start on any of a variety of new ideas I’ve got.

And there are other creative pursuits in the offing as well, things that are part of my overall life goals but not necessarily connected direction to my writing goals. As far as the writing goals go, I need to type faster.

Be well, everyone.

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Cottage Life Day 7 – Big Adventure Day

Cottage Life Day 7 – Big Adventure Day

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Or, as I’m also referring to it as: “Trip to the Little Lake on Big Island in a Slightly Bigger Lake”. Another excerpt from last week’s vacation.

Said trip involved:

  1. 10-minute drive to the appropriate boat launch,
  2. 5-kilometre paddle by kayak to the place where I tied the boat,
  3. Safely extract myself from the kayak without drowning or breaking any bones and make sure it’s secured so I’m not stranded,
  4. 40-metre climb that also covered about 20 metres in vertical distance,
  5. 25 metres worth of horizontal-ish bushwhacking without the benefit of a trail or path.

Destination:

On a map (blue circle is the boat launch, red circle is where I stood at the tiny lake on Big Island:

Repeat in reverse to get back to the cottage.

Why, you ask?

To answer that, I’ll ask another question: have you ever wanted to stand somewhere no one has ever stood before?

This is a sparsely populated lake in a sparsely populated area. The island is up a branch of the lake that doesn’t seem to attract much fishing or boating traffic. It’s also completely undeveloped and I saw no evidence of human traffic at all while I was there. The only reason I knew the tiny lake was even there was because I was looking at the geocaching map before we left for our vacation, thinking about what caches we might like to get while we were in the area, and I happened to notice the isolated spot.

No, I’m not fooling myself into thinking that no one has ever been to that tiny lake before. This part of Ontario has been inhabited, if lightly, for thousands of years. The Madawaska River has had cottages on it for decades, and there were settlers in the area by 1800. There are people who live here year round and there are plenty of occasional/summer dwellers, too.

But it’s fairly well off the beaten track and I’d guess the number of people who have seen this spot is very small.

Yes, I left a cache there.

Maybe someone else will want to stand where few people ever have. If they’re a geocacher, they can sign the log book while they’re there. If not, it was a lot of work to get there and they can still enjoy the feeling of accomplishment to take in that quiet scene.

Be well, everyone.

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The New Plan

The New Plan

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So I used a vacation week to try to kick start my writing again. That was after a little bit of reading things I left in progress to focus on the primary career for almost 6 months.

Okay, twelve months.

Fine, it’s been almost 2 years since I got any major writing done.

There have been brief periods of productivity, but they never seem to last very long. A couple of weeks, maybe a month or so at a stretch. Maybe this time I can hold the focus for a while longer. It’s unlikely I’ll get back to the peak writing volume I managed by dictating during my long commutes in 2014 and 2015, but I have a lot of stories I want to tell, and, not to look too closely at the technological curve, it’s not lost on me that I may be as much as half done, or even a little more.

Because of the way my brain works, there needs to be a plan. Actually, by preference, there needs to be several plans: writing, publishing, marketing.

The basic writing plan, with short and long projects, editing goals, plotting, and so on, is the big one. It has daily word count goals for book length projects, short fiction projects, and non-fiction projects

The publishing plan will involve both long and short projects via e-book channels through Amazon and possibly Kobo markets, Watt Pad, potentially Smashwords, and an e-book store hosted on my own website, plus hard copies built through Create Space. It will also involve a submission plan for short work, and an agent or publisher hunt for at least one longer work per year.

Marketing will involve social media, blog posts, contests, giveaways, price leaders once I have enough work in the wild, and probably other things I haven’t thought of yet.

In the tradition of Peter Urs Bender (who first introduced me to the concept), all of these will be SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Bound. Of immediate note is that the social networking part of things will have nothing to do with the number of followers, but rather the number of posts per day, week, etc. That’s something I can control the quantity and quality of.

I’m essentially building these plans on five timelines: the rest of 2018, one year, three year, five-year, and ten year. At this stage, my builds contain the remainder of 2018, and then 2019 with detailed monthly goals and specific projects picked, though with some wiggle room and I can always re-forecast at will. Each of the longer term plans builds in specific projects (long, short, non-fiction) for 80% of the annual word count goal. The remaining 20% gives me space for overflow (because my expectations of what the final word count will be on something are often 10-15% short of what reality turns out to be) and to work on things that have occurred to me in between. Yes, that actually does mean that I have enough novel ideas to carry me through to the end of 2028 on that scale without adding any new ones, which seems unlikely.

There’s a similar plan on the publishing side. Although, the plan for the remainder of 2018 is essentially to learn about how things work again: formatting lessons, self-publishing concepts, physical layouts, potential sources for cover art, and so on. This is reading and experimentation for actually diving in next year. For 2019, I have several novel length projects I have elected to self publish, and one I have elected to attempt to either find an agent for more find a standard small press publisher for. There are also a handful of Novella and novelettes projects I feel are worth publishing as standalone’s, and some Star Trek fanfiction I wouldn’t mind other people reading, though these will be exclusively on Watt Pad and a blog I’m building for the purpose. Try not to laugh too hard, but I put it just as much art and effort into my fanfic as I do my regular fiction. This first group is all (with one exception) actually ready for other readers, it’s all Star Trek based, and it’s all set in the original series era, but I have rough-plotted or ideas for at least half a dozen stories in the Next Generation era as well. For the shorter tales, I like to try to focus on characters who didn’t always get a lot of screen time. Regulars, but not always principal regulars.

The 2018 remainder marketing plan is similar to the publishing plan: learn. Going along with that, I’m working to reestablishing my presence as an author on Twitter, and Facebook. I’m also investigating the idea of adding a third social media platform as determined appropriate. Right now, that’s looking like YouTube for readings, and I’m not adverse to returning to my love of podcasting, either. Additionally, I’ve roughed out a plan of regular blog posts, 2 to 5 per week, depending on other events.

What can I say, I’m a planner. Lots to do, lots to get done. And it’s very early days.

So, I need to get writing.

Be well, everyone.

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Cottage Life Day 5

Cottage Life Day 5

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An excerpt of last week’s life.

Order of Operations:

  1. Get up
  2. Walk the dog
  3. Breakfast
  4. Write
  5. 3 km Kayak exploratory journey
  6. Martial Arts work out
  7. Read
  8. Lunch
  9. Explore remains of 1800s log cabin farm buildings
  10. Geocaching
  11. Write
  12. Dinner
  13. Do something on the water (swim, kayak, sit on the dock)
  14. Watch the sunset
  15. Hot tub/Lounge on the deck (I’m likely the second one of these. Hot tubs are usually too hot for me.)
  16. Walk the dog
  17. Look at the stars
  18. Read
  19. Bed

Other days have similar agendas, sometimes with a bigger exploration (the Bonnechere Caves and Eagle’s Nest lookout, for example). This just happens to be the day I’m writing on. It also provides something not too far off my ideal existence, giving me a variety of activities I enjoy, things to do with my family, and plenty of time for rest. Alas, the real world must eventually intrude, but not today.

Be well, everyone.

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The Music of Our Youth

The Music of Our Youth

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Often, the music of our youth speaks to us. Sometimes it has specific messages, and sometimes it just reminds us of what it was like when we were young. Sometimes both.

I didn’t do a lot of concerts as a teenager, and I really haven’t done that many as an adult, either, but I enjoy music and I enjoy live music, so there’s really no easy explanation for that, other than possibly budgetary concerns at the times when I’ve felt the desire to go see a particular group or artist live.

But Peterborough does a series of outdoor concerts every year, free to attend, and works to get some significant names to come to them beyond the usual high end tribute bands and lower level professional groups. I only found out about this series of concerts this year, though apparently it’s been a fixture of the Peterborough music scene for several decades.

I found out this year when my wife saw a post for the series on Facebook and sent it to me. Skimming through the list of performers, I was surprised to see Howard Jones there.

Image courtesy of IMDB.

I mostly consider myself a Prog Rock kind of guy. Music is to be experienced rather than danced to. But I’m a child of the 80s and some Synth Pop speaks straight to my heart. There are still four of Mr. Jones’ songs in the rotation on my phone in the middle of 2018, and several more I can still sing along to if they come on the radio.

Part of that is probably that his music was often about something. It still is, really. Synth Pop is often very easy for people to dismiss, but Howard Jones shouldn’t be dismissed easily. There’s a lot of depth in his music.

The New Song is about seeing things from more than just your preconceived biases and actually using your mind to figure things out.

Everlasting Love is about looking beyond the surface to see the real person and make a genuine connection.

No One Is To Blame is about how sometimes there’s nothing you can do to make things work out. To paraphrase Captain Picard, sometimes you can do everything right and still lose. It’s not fair, but it’s very human.

Things Can Only Get Better is about keeping a positive attitude when life sucks, which can be a critical survival trait in the modern world.

Your mileage may vary on any of these interpretations, but listen to the lyrics while you’re bouncing along to the song.

So, Howard Jones is playing in Peterborough, for free, and I live an hour and forty minutes (or so) away. What to do?

Well, it seems obvious, but didn’t used to. Road trip. The kids I still have living at home are entirely old enough to take care of themselves for the afternoon and evening, so we did a few chores in the morning (yeah, adulting sucks sometimes) and set out on a leisurely drive to Peterborough.

Road Trip!

On the way, we found a couple of geocaches,

No really, it’s a snake.

Decided we didn’t have enough time to go through a reptile museum, but stopped for a couple of photos,

Big scary dinosaur!
Who’s really just a big suck.

Watched an engineering marvel lift a tour boat and thousands of litres of water dozens of metres into the air from a spooky tunnel,

Where no one can see you.

Ate delicious, but probably not as healthy as it should be at my age, food,

Mmmm… tzatziki.

And bought t-shirts,

Of course we got t-shirts.

Just before watching the concert itself.

And enjoyed the concert immensely.

Audience participation is a big thing for Mr. Jones, and it was a lot of fun. The man gives good concert, and I’m very glad we went.

Spur of the moment road trips need to work their way into my life a little more often.

Be well, everyone. And do something spontaneous.

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Return to Writing

Return to Writing

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So as the complete lack of content on my blog might indicate, I’ve been very focused on my primary career so far in 2018. To be honest, I could say that about 2017 and the end of 2016, but it’s paid off. I’ve had a couple of promotions, raises, and significant increases in responsibility and freedom, to the point where I now have the ability to take the largest department in my building and start to mold things into the shape I’d like instead of merely following the direction set. All of which are pretty cool, but taken together mean that a lot of other things in my life have had to give ground.

I’ve had to rearrange schedules and family items and work hard to make sure that the kids I still have living at him still feel like they have a father who lives in the same home. Not always easy, and one of the girls does occasionally remark that I work a lot, generally a clue that I need to reign in a bit, and I’m glad for the reminder. I think I’ve done okay by the family, and the latest job change has made up for some of the wacky schedules I’ve had to put up with over the past year and a half or so.

But my writing has also suffered a bit.

A lot.

To be completely honest, the sum total of my writing in 2018, from January 1st through July 29th, was barely more than 22,000 words, counting everything, and the bulk of that was in January. This year’s original goals are completely toast. But that’s okay. Really.

When we started planning a week-long summer getaway, writing was on the top of my list of things to get back to. Even taking the first full day just to enjoy the scenery and the local outdoors, here’s what I managed for the week:

  1. 4 blog posts, including this one.
  2. Dusted off the outline in progress for Seven Days a King, read through it, and added chapter-level detail for Chapters 21-31 of 40.
  3. Took a 358-word story fragment, hashed out a plot, and added 2,160 Working title is “Replaceable”, and it’s a science fiction tale that is probably about 40% done at 2,518 words. Maybe 35%. A couple of the scenes are not quite developed in my head.
  4. 2,502 words on Shrine, though only after being disturbed out how horrible the last couple of chapters I wrote were. Not going back. They can be fixed in later drafts.
  5. 5 chapters of the third draft of Arena.

Grand total, 9,106 words contributed to the writing gig across five of the six full days we spent at the cottage. I’m not willing to say they were all good words, but I do think they were all coherent words. And that was in among all of the cottage-y activities of the week.

The trick will be rebuilding a daily habit that my primary job doesn’t interfere with. Right now, this level of word count isn’t maintainable, but it would be nice to build up again.

Stay tuned and be well.

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Writing Report for 22 January 2018

Writing Report for 22 January 2018

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When I’m on day shift, as I am for most of January, I have a hard time sitting down in front of the computer for more than a few minutes. For some reason, it’s easier when I’m on nights. I’ve made some progress, but not as much as I wanted to overall. Which is okay. I’ll keep this brief so I can maybe get a few more minutes into a draft in progress.

  1. I added exactly 0 words to Shrine. It’s the first drafts that suffer when I’m on days.
  2. I’ve gotten fourteen scenes (of a planned forty) into the scene-level part of the outline for Seven Days a King.
  3. The second draft of Hero’s Life stands at 63% complete.
  4. Continue plat brainstorming for Speculative Emotion, in case this is something I want to do on my own.
  5. I’ve finished listening to the end of Series 3 of I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again (ISIRTA), finding that a surprising amount of it holds up very well. There are a few cringy things that don’t really fit with a current sensibility, but most of it is good. The puns are certainly there, but there’s a lot of grammar play that goes by quickly unless you’re paying attention, even if some of it is designed to be obvious to get the laugh.

Primary focus projects remain the same for the moment, so I’ll leave things there until the next update.

Be well, everyone.

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2018 Reading Goals

2018 Reading Goals

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Stacks of books

In the last few years, I’ve stepped up my reading. There was a time in my life when I read as many as 150 books per year. Those days are gone, consigned to my life before children and real career, and probably won’t come back unless I ever manage to retire (which isn’t in the cards for a lot of members of my generation). But I do have a little more time, and there are options beyond paper these days, so I should be able consume more books than I did when the kids were smaller. In 2017 my official count is 88. My Goodreads count is a little higher, but not everything I posted a review for actually qualifies as a book in my mind.

I break things into categories every year, and this year is no exception. Targets are:

Historical Award Winners Quest: 22. I’m on a long term quest to attempt all of the novel category winners of the Hugos, Nebulas, WFA, and Auroras, chronologically give or take and giving myself the freedom to say no or not finish a book. Putting this at 22 will take me to the end of 1990, with 2 I’m skipping this year for reasons.

Last Year’s Award Winners: 6. There are 8 major English-language awards in speculative fiction, if I leave out Horror, which I do. I try to hit the 4 biggest every year (Hugo, Nebula, WFA, Aurora), and at least 2 of the others.

Cultural Breadth: 6. Because there’s more to the world than just the English speaking world, I look to broaden my experience in the genre and find interesting things in translation.

Friends’ Books: 2. So far as I’m aware right now, I have two friends who have a published novel in the last year or so and I haven’t read them yet. Time to take care of these before they publish more.

Anthologies: 6. I still love short fiction and this will help me keep reading it, new and old. There are quite a few in the house waiting to be picked up.

Non-Fiction: 15. This goal seems to grow a bit each year, and is spread across 8 different subject areas. More of the world interests me.

Martial Arts: 6. Separated out from the rest of my non-fiction reading, to further the intellectual side of my martial studies, I’d like to read a book every two months here. And the books already on this reading list will keep me busy for the next seven or eight years at that rate.

Other Fiction: 17. This looks like kind of an arbitrary number, but it’s designed to take the overall total to 80. These are books I already have or might buy just because they look like I’ll enjoy them. I never let having too many books to read stop me from bringing home more. It’s not hoarding if it’s books.

So, 80, as I clearly telegraphed under “Other Fiction”, is the target for this year, and I’m well on track so far. Of course, we’re barely half-way through January.

Be well, everyone.

And happy reading.

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2018 Writing Goals

2018 Writing Goals

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For 2018, I actually have two sets of writing goals: the publicly stated goals, which will be listed here, and the “Stretch” goals, which I’ll be keeping private until/unless I actually hit the public goals. The list follows, but I could really have split this into several different lists by category. You’ll notice a progression: novels drafting, novels editing, short fiction, non-Fiction, Year of Trek.

  1. Completed outlines for three novels to be drafted in 2019: the third book in the Destiny trilogy, the final book in the Troll World Quartet, and a sequel to Draugr Rising that may involve some transplanted Japanese mythology.
  2. Finish the first draft of Shrine. Fantasy, and the second book in a set of four.
  3. First draft of Bad Teenage Poetry. Historical fiction set in the 1980s. May or may not be reflective of some experiences I actually had, plus others. Using poetry I actually wrote in the 1980s as a teenager.
  4. First draft of Fallen Heroes. SF, sort of. Third book in the Heroes Inc
  5. Arena to final draft status.
  6. Hero’s Life to final draft status.
  7. Shrine to third draft completion.
  8. Bad Teenage Poetry revision notes.
  9. 24 short stories, length and genre unspecified. These may or may not be built into a themed collection that I may or may not do. Anticipated length range 2-7k words each.
  10. Editing on all of the Undead stories and turning this into a collection.
  11. Photography and design elements for my small haiku collection.
  12. All of the remaining Year of Trek planned projects so I can actually do this. In no particular order:
    1. USS Marathon logs recording.
    2. The rest of the “Season 3” audio drama scripts.
    3. Fractured Unity novel completion.
    4. Pointers to a lot of great fan production.
    5. Nostalgia book, comic, and merchandise reviews.
    6. Finish my favourite Star Trek meme collection.
    7. A small group of media ideas I’m keeping secret.

Seems like a lot, maybe, especially considering the trials and tribulations of last couple of years, and these are the public goals. Think about how steep the stretch goals must be.

Be well, everyone.

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Writing Report for 15 January 2018

Writing Report for 15 January 2018

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Settled down after much holiday travel, much holiday work business, and a family issue or two. I’m actually making a little progress. Blogging has been lighter, but I’ve managed to get some work done on a few projects that are easy to carry with me and don’t require a flat surface to work on. Accomplishments in the last week or so (well, let’s say since the calendar year started and give it two weeks):

  1. I actually put in a little over 3,700 words on Shrine. Setting a goal going forward of 5000 words per week, rather than a daily goal, although if I manage 715 words per day, the weekly goal takes care of itself. I have about 47% of the plot left to get done on what was originally supposed to be about a 60,000-word story and is currently sitting just a few words over 47,000.
  2. Finished the outline on Palace, the sequel to Shrine and the third book in the Troll World Quartet. Not exactly sure when I’ll get to the point of writing the actual first draft, but it’s ready when I do.
  3. I’ve also managed the outline of Seven Days a King, which will be near-future SF, if that isn’t clear from the title, to the point where it’s outlined in broad strokes and I have the scene-level detail left to go.
  4. The second draft of Hero’s Life stands at 31% complete, which sounds impressive until you understand that the second draft for me is just about addressing the notes I made of issues as I read through the story again. Third draft is the one that takes the most effort, maybe including the initial brain dump to get the story out of my head.
  5. And I did finish the final read-through draft of Draugr Rising, just before Grav-mass.
  6. Short fiction, I’ve started the basic plot brainstorming for a themed short story collection I’m labelling Speculative Emotion for the moment. The problem here is that I’m torn between writing this myself and trying to do it as a multi-author thing where it actually gets published in some fashion.
  7. On the non-fiction side of things, I’m toying with the idea of a project that looks at I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again (ISIRTA), a BBC Radio comedy show that ran from the mid-1960s into the early 70s, which I discovered on PBS in the late 80s and found online again in the last few years. Pun-filled and absurdism-riddled, this is some classic comedy history and a lot of it (but not all) still holds up fifty-plus years later. I’ve gone so far as to put together a basic outline and structure for the project.

Target projects that will get at least some effort (and remember that I’m happier working on several things at once rather than one thing at a time):

  1. The “properly” drawn and then ink versions of the strips for Star Trek: The Badly Drawn Stick Figure Comic. Yes, I still haven’t gotten to this.
  2. Finishing the outline for Seven Days a King. First draft to follow at some point.
  3. Completing the first draft of Shrine. My current projection shows that, if I can keep on track with the weekly goals, this will happen at the end of the third week of February.
  4. Finish the last few reviews from my 2017 reading and turn that into the same document I’ve done for 2015 and 2016 reading lists.
  5. The second draft of Hero’s Life.
  6. Make decisions on what I want to do with the Speculative Emotion and ISIRTA

And, you know, take care of the rest of life, too.

Be well, everyone.

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