Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten Things NEVER TO DO When Writing a Book



10. Never Stop Reading: After a long day of reading your own work the last thing you want to do is pick up someone else’s, but do it! You will stay motivated and learn something, too.

9. Never Rely on Inspiration: The best moments in writing a book come when inspiration finds you working. Sit down, get to work, and inspiration will come calling.

8. Never Neglect Genre: It’s tempting to walk in between genres. What would be better than a science fiction, erotic, mystery right? But remember, if you want to find passionate and engaged readers, you should find the genre that you want to write and stick with it.

7. Never Get Bored: If you’re bored writing your book, chances are that your readers will be bored reading it. If you find yourself becoming bored, or your main character is skating through the plot with ease, throw some roadblocks in the way. Conflict moves stories.

6. Never Rely on Pretty People: Men don't always have to be fearless and women don't always have to be sexy. Your readers will spend a lot of time with your characters so make sure there is something going on in their heads and their hearts. Readers love characters for their imperfections and their shortcomings just as much as their looks.

5. Never Lose the Through Line: Remember what story you’re writing. Be careful of veering off the path because that's the surest way to lose your readers.

4. Never Be Afraid to Cut: Cut close to the bone. Slice away. Make the tough choices even if it means taking out things you really love. They may be great- maybe just not great that book. Know the difference.

3. Never Throw in the Towel: Too many people have unfinished books floating around on their hard drives. The easiest thing in the world is starting a book; the hardest thing is finishing one. 


2. Never Let your Characters Off Easy:   Just because you love your characters doesn’t mean you have to go easy on them. A reader wants to see characters struggle and sometimes fail. Give them a goal to work towards, make it hard to get, and you can’t go wrong.

1. Never Beat Yourself Up: The book isn’t shaping up the way you wanted it to? Someone read a chapter and didn’t care for it? Feel like jumping off a cliff? That’s fine. Those days happen. Every day that you’re thinking, “woe is me,” is another day that you could be spent finishing a chapter or polishing a plot point. You can spend your time beating yourself up, or beating your characters up. I do a lot of the former but I am trying to stop.

Happy Writing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Relive a Night to Remember on the Titanic by Jina Bacarr

Titanic Rhapsody

Crossing the English Channel has always held a wildly mystical attraction for me, whether it was war-weary soldiers returning home from battle or long-suffering French aristocrats escaping Madame Guillotine. There was something brave and noble about standing on the deck of a ship with a fierce wind blowing in your face, angry waves crashing against the hull and sea spray wetting your lips with a briny taste.

Or so I believed. I had my own narrow escape from the ravages of the cold sea on such a trip. I never forgot it.

Boarding the ship at Oostende, Belgium with only my backpack and naïveté for company, I was eager to get to London to visit a friend studying there. So what if the ferry was overbooked and the weather was stormy? I was tough, I could take it.

I nearly froze to death when I lost my balance as the ship rolled on the swell of the sea and I slid across the deck like a greased seal. I ended up cold and wet and hanging onto the rail for dear life.

I never forgot my youthful folly and many times while writing about the sinking of the Titanic, I pulled up those emotions to try to understand what my characters were experiencing on that fateful night, April 14, 1912, when the ship hit an iceberg.

Bitter cold, calm sea and freezing water.

Let me recreate the scene for you at 11:40 p.m. that night.

Contrary to what some films and TV shows have depicted, most passengers were asleep or reading in their cabins when the Titanic hit the iceberg. They were not enjoying a party-like atmosphere in the dining saloons drinking champagne and dancing. The public rooms closed down around 11 pm in all classes. It is true that diehard poker players like my hero in Titanic Rhapsody, Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn, were busily engaged in a game of poker or bridge whist in the smoking room.

The Titanic glided as smoothly as a haughty swan over the sea on that starlit night. No moon. Which is why it has been speculated that the two lookouts didn’t see the one-hundred-foot tall iceberg until the last minute (they had no binoculars—a ship’s officer was transferred at the last moment and took the key to the locker with the binoculars with him).

“Iceberg right ahead!” shouted the lookout into his telephone to the bridge. He rang the bell three times.

For thirty-seven seconds the two lookouts waited as the ship appeared to be heading straight for the iceberg. The ship’s first officer tried to avoid the berg and ordered the ship turned to port (left). What happened next no one saw coming…

The Titanic was cruising close to top speed in spite of the iceberg warnings. This was not unusual. According to the thinking of that time, Captain Smith was justified in getting through the ice region as quickly as possible. What he didn’t know was that the ship was on a direct collision course with the berg, a huge mass of ice that had traveled farther south than was ever thought possible.

The cold Labrador Current swirled around the iceberg to form a protective layer, which insulated it from the warming effects of the Gulf Stream and prevented it from melting.

Pushing the iceberg into the shipping lanes.

The Titanic never had a chance.

The White Star Line ship smashed into the iceberg along her starboard (right) side, slashing open a 295 foot gash that doomed the ship. The passengers snug in their beds or enjoying a hot whiskey and water in the smoking room had no idea that five possibly six of her sixteen compartments were flooded.

Or that the mail hold down on G deck was rapidly filling with water. Or that down in the boiler rooms the air was heavy with steam as the engineers tried to pump out the water in boiler room 5, praying the bulkheads would hold. (The hull plates of the Titanic were held in place with 3-lb. rivets—three million rivets total.)

Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer, did a quick assessment of the damage—the Titanic could float with two, three, even four of her first watertight compartments gone, he said, but not five. The ship had an hour, no more than two to survive.

After conferring with Mr. Andrews, Captain Smith ordered the wireless operator to send out the distress signal CQD (the British landline operators’ signal “CQ” was for “all stations” with the addition of “D” by the Marconi company for added emphasis—danger ). He added an “SOS” (adapted because of its distinctive Morse Code pattern of three dots…three dashes…three dots) with the Titanic’s call letters: “MGY.”

Where are Katie and Jack, my heroine and hero in Titanic Rhapsody, when first class passengers feel a “jar” in their staterooms? Or when the steerage passengers are tossed about in their bunks only to find seawater seeping in under their cabin doors?

I wish I could tell you…but I can’t or I will spoil the romance. I will say that Katie and Jack experience all the fear and dread of the passengers that night when the Titanic hits the iceberg.

To give you a feeling of what happened during those last hours, we’ll go through what a first cabin lady experienced, then a second class gentleman, and finally, a family in steerage.

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© Andreas Meyer | Dreamstime.com   

If you’re a first cabin lady, you’re most likely asleep in your cabin where it’s cozy and warm with the electric heater going, the lights dim, when suddenly something jolts you awake. Strange, you think, but nothing to be alarmed about. You try to go back to sleep until you realize the engines have stopped. Here, in the middle of the Atlantic?

You’re curious, but not worried since everyone says the ship is unsinkable. You throw a heavy coat over your nightdress and peek outside, running down the corridor in your soft satin slippers. Others are about, gossiping, yawning, until the bedroom steward in a very nice manner tells you to put on your lifebelt and go up on deck.

In this cold? you ask him. Yes, he tells you, though he assures you it’s merely a matter of precaution. Begrudgingly, you tell your lady’s maid to help you put on your corset, then fasten on the lifebelt made of six squares of cork. All the while the girl frets about, saying you’re all doomed. At the last moment, you grab your gloves and hat and scarf and join the other ladies and gents on the Boat deck.

Ah, there’s nothing to worry about, you decide, relieved. The ship’s musicians are playing a lively ragtime tune and everyone is chatting about the chunks of ice on the forward well deck—then a ship’s officer orders you into a lifeboat. Yes, orders you, like you’re a common servant. Why, the nerve of the man.

Women and children first, he says. What about the gentlemen? You hear someone whisper men are being allowed into the boats on the starboard side, but not here. Why get into the boats at all? you wonder, believing you’re safer on the ship than that small boat.

Then someone says the Titanic is sinking…

It can’t be that serious, can it? you wonder, not believing it possible You wait with your maid on the port side of the ship, watching the ladies being separated from their husbands and put into the lifeboats. Boats not even half-filled. No need to hurry. You hear someone say they’ll be laughing about this over breakfast.

Really? You start to shiver from the bitter cold…frosty puffs of air come out of your mouth when you speak. Unbelievable noise fills your ears. From the boilers, someone says. Ladies screaming as they’re pulled from their husbands’ arms. Then you notice the ship is listing heavily to one side. Well, what are you waiting for? Get into the damn lifeboat!

You don’t protest when a seaman tosses you into a boat. Then your maid. After all, you’re the lucky ones, you realize as the boat is lowered over the side and hits the water. The lifeboat pulls away from the ship so as not to be pulled down by the suction when the ship sinks…yes, it is true. The Titanic is going down.

You put your shoulder to the oar and row…listening to the whispers that a rescue ship is on the way…the Carpathia. Will it arrive in time?

Will it?

Not if you’re a gentleman in second class…

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© | Dreamstime.com

You’re anxious to get to New York and start your new job—and thrilled to be on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Who would have thought you’d find yourself walking the second class promenade deck late at night, your hands in your pocket, your mind on the pretty girl you met earlier in the day? Still, you’ve no time for romance. You’ve got family back in England needing the money you’ll send home to them. It’s nearly midnight. Time to turn in for the night.

You head for the second class staircase when—

Wait, what was that? Did you feel a bump?

You rush to the starboard side—good God, was that an iceberg? Did we hit it? you wonder. No alarm sounds, though you don’t find out until later the Titanic has no PA system and relies on the three hundred stewards to alert the passengers to put on their lifebelts and go topside.

You wait, noting the other passengers seem calm and no one is in a hurry to get into the lifeboats. Then you spy the pretty girl you had your eye on over on the port side. She’s trying to convince her aunt to get into a lifeboat. She’s grateful when you charm the older woman and talk her into getting into a boat with her niece following her. Then you see the girl waving at you as the boat is lowered over the side. She’s smiling. Tears in her eyes.

You’ll never forget that smile.

No time to waste. The chap you share a cabin with finds you and tosses you a lifebelt. The grim look on his face tells you that you’ll both need more than a lifebelt to make it. No men are allowed into the boats here on the port side, so you do your duty and assist the women and children getting into the boats.

It’s been more than two hours since the Titanic hit the iceberg and she’s listing heavily.

The last few minutes are chaotic. Men rush the lifeboats, then a shot rings out—they’re pushed back. You help a woman get into a boat, then someone hands you a baby. You give it to the woman before the boat is lowered.

No more wooden lifeboats left. You try to help the ship’s officers launch one of the four collapsibles when suddenly there’s a thunderous explosion. You’re blown clear of the ship, but after swimming long, hard strokes, your hands swell up, your legs go numb and your back feels like it’s breaking in two.

Cries, screams ringing in your head, people clinging to you, clutching you around the throat, dragging you down underwater. You can’t breathe, you’re choking. Then the cold…the bitter, freezing cold

The last thing you remember is the pretty girl’s smiling face…

But what if you can’t get topside? It is time to speak of the steerage passengers, who until now have waited patiently for a steward to bring them up on top to get into the lifeboats.

Well, not all the third class passengers have been patient.

How could you be if you’re a good wife and mother and your family’s lot depends on you getting to the lifeboats?

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© | Dreamstime.com

Holy Mary, you’ve had time of it since you boarded the Titanic at Queenstown. Getting the two little ones, Mary and Bridget, settled in their bunks with Danny, a lad of ten, wanting so to follow his da around the ship.

And then there’s Patrick, your man. A strong, blustering bloke with strong hands and a big heart. Him always ready to enjoy a pint after a hard day’s work and eager to give you a hug and a kiss when you’re weary from toiling from dawn till night.

“You’ll have a better life in America,” he promises you, after buying passage on the grand ship. And now look at the lot of you. Huddling in the stairway down here on E deck like drowned rats after the seawater came flooding into your cabin. The ship hit an iceberg, they say, split her open where you’re quartered in the fore part of the ship in the married couples section.

And would you believe the likes of them stewards shouting and hollering to put on lifebelts that don’t exist? Only through the help of the good Lord did Patrick find belts for you and the children. And now they won’t let you through the gate to go topside?

“Have you no heart, man?” Patrick yells to the steward, asking him to let his family through. No, he tells him, you have to wait. Then you put your hands over the girls’ ears when Patrick lets go with a barrage of expletives and his fists. He pushes the steward aside and bangs on the barrier. With help from the other men, down it goes with a loud crash.

Then Patrick picks up the girls, one in each arm, and orders you to grab Danny and go ahead of him. Up the stairs you go, the companionway taking you up to the next deck. Then someone says go through the second class door and somehow through Divine grace you find your way up on top.

Oh, such chaos you’ve never seen. People yelling and rushing about like frightened mice with their tails caught in the jaws of a hungry cat. Patrick, good man that he is, doesn’t stop. From boat to boat he goes until he finds one that will take you and the girls. And Danny.

But not him.

“Women and children first,” orders the ship’s officer, shaking his head. Patrick nods. He knew all along there’s no place for him, but he didn’t let anything stop him until his family was saved.

God bless him.

“A kiss to you, lass,” he says, brushing your lips with his, then he tosses you into the boat and it’s lowered away. You huddle in the lifeboat with your children close to you. The sea is so calm, so smooth, the piercing screams and pitiful pleas for help sound sharp and clear in your ears, but you can’t cry. That will come later. Now you have to be strong. For the girls and Danny.

Patrick would want it that way.

And there you have it. A trio of passengers and how they fare on that fateful night. Then at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the Titanic breaks in two and sinks into the North Atlantic, a pale gray vapor hanging like smoke over the spot where she disappears.

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© Igokapil | Dreamstime.com
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 © Igokapil | Dreamstime.com
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© Igokapil | Dreamstime.com


For the passengers and crew, cold and freezing in the lifeboats, it will be hours before the rescue ship Carpathia reaches them. Then it’s on to New York. Between twenty and thirty thousand people crowd Chelsea Piers when the Carpathia steams into New York Harbor around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, 1912.

Even the aftermath of the Titanic is dramatic. Reporters hire their own tugboat to try to get to the passengers first and buy their exclusives stories; the newspapers blast the headlines for days about the society folks on board (third class passengers don’t fare as well—they’re sent to homeless shelters and their names don’t appear on the survivors’ list); and the U.S. Senate subcommittee holds hearings at the Waldorf-Astoria, interviewing first class passengers and crew.

We’ve come to the end of our journey on the Titanic and a grand tale it is. Before I go, I want to take one last look at the ship of dreams.

I want to take one more walk down her sweeping Grand Staircase with the great glass dome overhead like Katie O’Reilly, my heroine, does in Titanic Rhapsody. I see the stars peeking through, heavenly witnesses to all that is elegant and romantic.

A place of enchantment where everything is unique to this time, this place. Katie can’t believe she’s really here and neither can I.

I quicken my pace and leave the ship, knowing the Titanic will stay with me always.

============


Titanic Rhapsody from Jina Bacarr on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My Results Using Ads and Specials by Kitty Bucholtz

Most writers are curious about what is and isn't working for other writers when it comes to selling books. I'm grateful for what others have been willing to share, so it's only fair to share in return. Even though my results are a bit embarrassing.

I've only bought ads three times. I bought an ad last year with The Wordsmith Journal Magazine (online) for Little Miss Lovesick. After one month, I had zero new sales. Ouch.

In August, while Unexpected Superhero was enrolled in the KDP Select program (meaning it was only for sale on Amazon for the first 90 days), I took advantage of the program's free days option and made the book free for five days in a row at the end of a conference I was attending. I also bought an ad from BookBub that appeared on the first day of the promotion.

There were a whopping 17,561 free downloads during those five days! Over 10,000 copies were downloaded the first day, which I attribute primarily to the BookBub ad. During the next two weeks, I sold only 24 more copies when the book went off sale (back to $3.99). Then the sales dropped back to the 0-3 per week average that has been more common for my books so far.

A month or two ago, I dropped the price of Unexpected Superhero from $3.99 to $2.99 to see if I could see a change in sales. There might have been a slight increase. At 0-3 sales per week, it's a bit hard to say. :)

My third promotion-with-paid-advertisement was last week. I dropped the price on Little Miss Lovesick and promoted it with 19 other lovely romance authors and their books last Friday. I also took out a then-free ad from eBookSoda, a newer email list like BookBub that advertises free and reduced-price books. (The ads were free, then $5, and I'm sure they'll keep increasing in price as they grow their list. The problem with this ad is that I don't know if it went to 100 people, 1000, or 20,000.)

I dropped the price from $2.99 to 99 cents a week before the promo with Smashwords so it would be 99 cents at the other outlets by the day of the promo. I decreased the price on Amazon two days before, and it went into effect the day before. I saw that I sold one copy on Amazon a day or two before the promotion, then two more copies total during the weekend of the promotion and ad.

That's it - 3 sales. At the high end of "usual" for me.

Little Miss Lovesick got a new (second) cover a few months ago, but it's barely changed the sales. Unexpected Superhero got a new (second) cover at the end of March, too early to tell if it has affected sales yet. I took out another eBookSoda ad (the free ad that went to $5 when I did it this time) for Sunday, May 4 (my third choice date, Fantasy category, same as last year's BookBub ad). I'll leave Superhero at its current $2.99 price and see if anything happens when it's not on sale but advertised.

And that's about all I know so far. My second superhero book was to be ready next week for WonderCon, and which I expected to help sales of the first book. But my husband's motorcycle accident and injuries trumped anything and everything that used to be on my To Do list. :)

I'll keep you updated so you get a well-rounded view of self-publishing and advertising. (It's less embarrassing to write about your successes, so there are a lot more of those stories out there.) It would appear that my experience underscores what other successful writers have said about success coming after you have several books out. Unfortunately, "life" has thrown a wrench in making that happen soon, but as the Brits (used to) say, Keep Calm and Carry On.

And keep writing! :)


Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick and Unexpected Superhero, and the free short story "Superhero in Disguise," are now available at most online retail sites. Superhero in the Making will be released this summer.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books


by Linda O. Johnston

I'm sorry to say I won't be at the OCC meeting this month.  But I'm happy to say that the reason is an event I really enjoy: the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

 
The LATFOB is a two-day event.  This year, those two days are Saturday, April 12, and Sunday, April 13.  I'll be there both days, which means no OCC meeting, and, as it turns out, no Los Angeles Romance Authors meeting either, since it was changed to the second Sunday of the month rather than its usual third Sunday, which this month happens to be Easter.
 

I often try to schedule everything I want to do at the LATFOB on the same day, but that didn't work out this year.  I'll be signing at two mystery booths and helping to staff the Mystery Writers of America booth, and the schedule worked best for me to do some on Saturday and some on Sunday. 
 

Fortunately, I live not far from a Metro stop, so I can take the subway and train to the USC campus, where the festival is now held.  It was at the UCLA campus for many years but that changed a few years ago.
 

I keep hoping for more of a romance presence there, too, but sponsoring booths is expensive.  Harlequin had a presence last year but I don't see them on the list of exhibitors this year.  I know there was some talk of a bunch of us contributing to sponsor a booth, but I don't think that materialized, at least not this year.
 

Even if you'll be at OCC this month, come to the USC campus on Sunday and say hi and check out the many wonderful booths.  There are also speakers, although you generally have to sign up in advance for those programs.  But why not plan ahead?  And, yes, there is a romance panel on Saturday that includes some OCC members!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Convesations with Barb and Jann


 
 
 
Au naturel                
 Most of you probably don’t have this issue, but I know many do. We will not go out in public without makeup, perfect hair and the right clothes. Now, I’ve been known to occasionally leave the house to pick up a quick item hiding under big sunglasses, my Sedona hat and wearing a pair of slightly worn sweats, but today I woke up with a different attitude.
After over forty years of avoiding au naturel in public, I decided to do the unthinkable. I got up, showered, dressed in yoga pants and T-shirt, tossed my hair around, grabbed my laptop and headed to Corner Bakery to write. I didn’t want to stop the freeing feeling I was experiencing of just get up and go. I didn’t want to take an hour to get ready, read emails or answer questions from family that would start a “to do list” and clutter my mind before I even got out the door.
So, I arrived, no sunglasses or hat, casually dressed. People in the parking lot and patio area outside CB didn’t turn into stone, leaving a garden of statues in my wake, as I made my way to the entrance. I was shocked. Customers inside didn’t gather together to point and whisper. The girl at the counter didn’t look at me with sympathy wondering why “I didn’t look in the mirror before I left home.” Instead, I ordered my coffee, found my perfect place to settle in (with electrical plug close by) and got started. My mind free and clear - open for inspiration. It was a beautiful day outside and I felt the same way myself.
Have a beautiful day, 
Jann
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Meeting Features Shannan Albright & Saranna DeWylde

OCC/RWA Meeting Reminder

OCC/RWA Chapter Meeting: Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where we meet: Brea Community Center 695 Madison Way, Brea, CA 92821

First-time guests are $10; all visits after are $20

Doors open @ 9 a.m.

Ask-an-Author:

Skylar Kade & Jewel Quinlan

Author First Chapter Critique:

Linda Carroll-Bradd & Skylar Kade

Morning Session: 

Shannan Albright “Foray into Worldbuilding”

Shannan Albright takes you on an interactive journey of worldbuilding. For both plotters and pansters, worldbuilding can be simple, or as complicated as you wish. For writing in all genres from elaborate sci-fi sagas to sweet hometown contemporaries, you will find worldbuilding as integral as GMC and Character Sheets.

For more information on Shannan, please visit her website at www.shannanalbright.com

Afternoon Session:

Saranna DeWylde “How to Craft Compelling Villains”

Villains seems to be a common theme among workshops that many industry professionals have in their arsenal. So what makes mine special?

Perspective.

I am a romance writer, but I’m a former corrections officer and I worked with the baddest of the bad day to day. The prison is where they lived, so you could say I was in their home every day. I observed their behaviors and interactions with other predators and those they saw as prey. So come learn what makes a villain and villain, why we need to give them voice and how to do it in such a way that makes the reader root for them just enough to keep turning the pages. 

To learn more about Saranna please visit her at http://sarannadewylde.com


Order lunch from the Corner Bakery-Brea


Online Class: “Social Media for the Confused and Terrified” with Elena Dillon April 14 – May 11, 2014 click here for more information.


Hope to see you on the 12th!

Monday, March 31, 2014

OCCRWA's April Class: Social Media for the Confused and Terrified, with Elena Dillon

On April 14th we'll kick off an online class taught by our own Elena, Dillon, and she's with us here today to talk about the class. Take it away, Elena:

So, I’m a little bit of an information junkie. I love technology. I love gadgets and I love learning new things. When Social Media came about I knew I’d found a new love--all the stuff I’m enamored with in one place.
When a new Social Media platform launches I want to check it out. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. My kids are horrified. “Mom, that’s not for you. That’s for young people.” Hmmm. Not so much. Really the only new one I haven’t started using is SnapChat. I value my sleep and I know my children will be sending me SnapChats all night if I get an account there. 
Besides I really don’t have time for any more, I have books to write!
This April I’ll be teaching a class for Orange County RWA called “Social Media for the Confused and Terrified”.  If you couldn’t tell by the title it’s for anyone who is a beginner at Social Media, anyone who has been putting it off because they don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring it out, and anyone who isn’t tech savvy.
The class is geared for Romance Writers but anyone can use it. I have tons of resources, videos and podcasts to learn from step by step. I will be teaching as much as I can about as many platforms as I can fit in.  The class is going to be more of a workshop format. None of this "sit back and just absorb the information"! We’re going to be doing. We’re going to be helping each other and building our audience.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Don’t be scared. If you need to learn how to manage your Social Media marketing and platforms, this is the class for you.
We will be using each platform but we’ll be doing it together. So sign up. No excuses. I’m going to make it easy. And we’re going to have fun doing it.
Thanks, Elena. Sign up, everyone! No excuses, it's easy, just go here.