Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!
To celebrate the upcoming release of my first paranormal cozy, I’m taking you behind the scenes of the creation of Hades’s Haunt. As an additional treat, I’m also sharing with you the first two chapters.
Topics I discuss on this episode include:
- How genre-hopping saved me from writing burnout.
- The emotional toll writing gothic suspense had on me.
- Why it’s important to make writing fun!
- Why I decided against having a pen name.
- The inspiration behind my new paranormal cozy, Hades’s Haunt.
The first half of this episode is my personal reflection on why I stepped outside my usual book genre and the impact it’s had on my writing life so far. If you’re a paranormal cozy fan, make sure you stick around for the second half of this episode where I share the first two chapters of Hades’s Haunt.
Hades’s Haunt will be released on July 11th 2023. You can preorder your copy now from: https://books2read.com/hadesshaunt
If this episode piqued your interest in my gothic suspense novel, Unspoken Truths, click here to purchase as either an eBook or paperback: https://books2read.com/unspokentruths
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review. You can also support the show by buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/jobuer. Your support helps me keep this podcast going.
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Find the full transcript of this episode below.
Read the first two chapters of Hades’s Haunt here: https://jobuer.com/books/hadess-haunt/
Episode 57: Behind the Scenes of Hades’s Haunt
Jo: Hello, my lovelies. Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors. This is episode 57, and it is the 2nd of July, 2023 as I’m recording this
So I have a bit of a different episode for you today that I hope you’ll enjoy all the same. Now, I do have some amazing episodes coming up where I am interviewing just the best guests. Just to give you a bit of a sneak preview, I have the lovely Claire Taylor, who will be coming on the show in the next little while to talk about writing and the Enneagram, and I’ve also booked in Joanna Penn to talk about the often controversial subject of AI, artificial intelligence in the author world, as well as some other really fantastic guests.
The reason I don’t have one of those episodes, today is because I’d mentioned this a little bit in the last episode, but at the moment I’ve got some family things going on where I have a family member who is in the last stage of his life, and although we had expected him to pass a little while ago, he is still holding on. And so a lot of my time over the last few weeks has been obviously saying my goodbyes and supporting my family with that as well. So unfortunately, the podcast, my writing, everything’s taken a little bit of a back seat. So what I thought I would do for this episode is share a little bit about my latest book that is coming out here in a couple of weeks, because the journey to write this book is a little bit different than my previous ones. So I thought this episode might be a bit of a fun way for those of you who just want to see a little bit behind the scenes of what it’s like to genre hop and my reasons for doing so and hear a little bit about my new release, which is called Hades’s Haunt. It’s my first paranormal cozy mystery book. And then after that I’ve actually recorded the first two chapters of the book. So if you are a paranormal cozy fan, or just interested in the types of stories that I write, then you might want to continue listening to the end of this episode where you can get a sneak preview of the first two chapters of Hades’s Haunt. So yeah, so it’s a little bit fun, and I hope you enjoy it. But we’ll be back to having lots of guests and the usual types of episodes going forth from here.
Right. So like I said, I have a new book coming out on July the 11th. It is my first paranormal cozy book, and I’ve talked a little bit about this in my previous episodes. I tend to think of myself as a gothic suspense author, leaning towards literary fiction. My books so far are generally quite a bit dark. I think when I had the lovely Renee Rose on the show a few episodes back, she talked about literary fiction being the types of stories where they’re written with the premise that bad things happen, but you learn something. And that is very much my stories. They all have the shared theme of a bit of a ghost story running through them. I do like dabbling with ideas around the afterlife and what lies beyond, and how the other side of the veil can interact with us here living our normal everyday lives. So I quite often write books that carry those themes.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve really only been in the author world for a very short period of time. I think I had my first short stories published in maybe 2015, 2016, something like that. But my first novel didn’t come out, or my first published book didn’t come out until 2020 I think. So I haven’t really been in this sphere for a very long time, but I have been passionate about writing and books my entire life. And I think you’ve probably heard me either in other episodes or in other podcasts talking a little bit about when my passion for writing really began, and a little bit about that during my childhood and that too, but I can always talk about that at another time.
So yeah. I have a handful of short stories published by literary journals. I have a couple of collections of short stories that are quite gothic or literary fiction in genre. And I have a couple of novels and a novella as well that was out earlier this year. So my novels, Rest Easy Resort is a bit of a gothic thriller, I would probably say it’s one of my more fast-paced books. Unspoken Truths, which is a novel that came out in, I think, I want to say 2021, is much more of a gothic suspense mystery. It has dual timelines and two casts of characters as well, whose lives intersect. And then I have a more recent gothic novella, Between, that was out I think in April this year. Look at me losing track already.
And all three of those books are a little bit darker, a little bit spookier. And often get quite emotional reactions from my readers. Emotional in, I’d like to say a positive way because my books are generally really well received. But I do get emails and that from people who are like, your books made me cry, or, I got so angry at this character, they’re so horrible. And all that, which actually secretly thrills me because if we can as writers move people with our words, then I think we’re hitting the nail on the head. Right?
But my last novel, Unspoken Truths, was a real passion project for me. And in writing it, it was the most difficult book I’ve ever written. It has quite a complex plot and storyline, and was set in pretty much present day and 1939. So I had dual timelines there as well. And a lot of it was inspired from some previous traumatic experiences that I had had myself. And if anyone’s read that book then I just want you to keep in mind the experiences in the book are not exactly what I experienced, but the emotions that my characters felt in the book for various reasons, and the events that happened to them, were very real emotions that I had felt in the not too far past with some ugly drama in that, that I was going through in my own life.
And so in writing that book, it, I would like to say it was cathartic. I cried a lot when I was writing that book. It did bring up a lot of things for me, and it was a way to kinda rid myself maybe of some of the trauma that I had been through in various ways. But what that meant is, although I love the story, love the book, and I had always intended there to be a sequel, Broken Lies, I found it near impossible to get back into writing, and particularly to write the sequel. The reason being, after writing Unspoken Truths, I felt incredibly burnt out. The emotional toll that I guess it had taken on me was much deeper than I guess I had realized when I was writing the book. And I had a few false starts with writing the sequel, Broken Lies, and for whatever reason, I just like, I, I love Broken Lies. I love the story. I, you know, like I’m excited to write it, but I just couldn’t do it. Every time I went to write it, I felt this resistance of like, Oh my gosh the recovery I’m going to need at the end of this book, if it’s anything like it’s precursor, is just too much. I just don’t even wanna think about it. So therefore I just don’t even wanna start.
So yeah, so it was kind of funny. Every time I tried to start Broken Lies there would be some kind of drama in my life that would make it all that much harder. Because I dunno about you, but I am the type of person that if there is any kind of emotional drama going on in my life at all, I just, I, I don’t have the energy, the juice, the mental space to put into creativity or writing of any kind. Like I just can’t, all my energies go to dealing with whatever emotional turmoil is going on in life at that time. So that was really frustrating. And for myself, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever really had writer’s block. I don’t believe in writer’s block for myself other people’s experiences can be quite different, but I did feel a whole lot of resistance.
And so after almost a year of trying to get into Broken Lies and trying to move on from the writing experience of Unspoken Truths, I was getting incredibly frustrated that words were not getting down on paper. And on top of that, I had started a new job that was amazing in so many ways, but the workload was incredibly intense. And as I was trying to find my feet in the job, I was also struggling with the overwhelm of learning new things and having less time and less energy to put into this new book, Broken Lies that I knew was gonna require a lot from me.
So this is when I decided to rethink things a little bit. I knew I wanted to put out another book. I was kicking myself that my output wasn’t as much as I had hoped it would be. And so I needed to rethink about maybe just putting Broken Lies aside for a while.
Now, way back, oh, I don’t know, maybe three years ago, it might’ve actually been in 2020. On a whim, a complete whim, uh, right at the very beginning of my proper author career here, I purchased a set of three pre-made covers from I don’t know. I think it was maybe just a random email that arrived in my email box or something like that. And there were these beautiful covers. They were sold as a set of three. They were on sale at the time, and they were completely out of my genre. They were paranormal cozies with this black cat on the front cover, and they were whimsical, and something about them just appealed to my inner child. It just took me right back to my days as a little kid wandering into a library and seeing all these amazing books with all these fantastical covers, that just made me believe in other worlds and magic and all that cool stuff.
And after a bit of humming and haaing, I was like, oh, I need these covers. And so it was a bit of one of those impulsive buys, but I purchased these three covers and I was really excited about them and had no idea what I would do with them. They certainly didn’t fit my genre of gothic fiction or literary fiction or anything like that, and I wasn’t really inclined to write children’s books, which they might have been able to lean themselves towards. So instead I just sat on having these covers and didn’t really know what I was going to do with them.
Until, of course, and I think you can probably see where this is going, when I needed to rethink the fact that Broken Lies was just in the too hard pile, I decided, well, I wanna be writing, but I need to fall in love with writing again. Like I love writing, but I need it to be easy, because writing Unspoken Truths, it was not an easy book to write at all. It was tough. It was hard work. And of course, you know, having this podcast and everything, I believe that the things are not supposed to be as hard as we sometimes make them. We can allow ourselves to have things easily. We can enjoy the process. In fact, I want people to enjoy the process. And I’ve said this on episodes before, if you are an author and you are writing and you’re not enjoying it, why are you doing it? Like, don’t, I, I just, we shouldn’t be making ourselves do things that we don’t enjoy. So I knew that to get my writing mojo back, I needed to do something a little bit different. Hence I took another look at these covers that I had purchased and was like, right, okay, I’m going to write a book. It’s going to be paranormal cozy mystery, because that fits with the covers and I read a little bit of paranormal cozy mystery, and I always enjoy them because they’re light-hearted. They’re just, they’re fun. You don’t need to take them so seriously. But they’re so much fun. So, I wanted to have fun writing again. And so that’s where those books came in.
So, coincidentally, near the time that I decided to start writing these books, we got a little black cat to add to our brood of three other cats who were all gray, and we had named him Hades, and he is a rat bag. I will say that. He’s the youngest of the four and the most extroverted, outgoing, a real rat bag of a cat, that I love to death, of course. And so I wanted to do something fun and I thought, well, the first book in this trilogy has gotta have some ghosts in it because that’s what I like writing about, is ghosts. And so I named the book Hades’s Haunt for a couple of reasons, and you’ll find out in the book why it’s called that. It’s got a bit of a double meaning to it. And so I had the cover. And I had the title, and then it was up to me to write the book.
And so I kind of gave myself some guidelines. If you’ve listened to this, you’ll know that I love the idea of being able to plot out a book. I am very much a discovery writer. Sometimes I’ll have a few scenes, a character or something like that, or will know what’s gonna happen at the end, and then I write to just fill in the gaps. With these books I had the cover, I had the title. I knew my main character was going to be based on a character that I had originally wanted as a secondary character in an urban fantasy book that I had played with way back and has never and will never see the light of day. So I knew that my main character, Alice, was going to be based on this character that I’d already thought long and hard about years before. From there, I thought I knew who the murderer was gonna be, and I thought I knew who was going to be the victim. As it turned out, when I was writing the book, neither of those came to be. My murderer changed and my victim changed as well, or victims. So that was kind of fun.
I also laid down the rules that I was only allowed to write this book to have fun. I had to make every moment of it so that I enjoyed it. I did what I always do whenever I start writing a book. I created a playlist on Spotify. I had lots of fun music on there that reminded me of witches and ghosts and I don’t know, the supernatural, that was just kind of fun. Like, uh, some of the music from the movie Hocus Pocus, for example, which is one of those movies that I’ll just watch every now and then just for a little bit of fun.
And so I decided that it was going to be fun. It was going to be clean. There was not going to be any sex or swearing or blood or guts or anything kind of on screen, which if you’ve read any of my other books is very, very different than what I normally write. And in real life I tend to swear a lot. And in my books I definitely have some cuss words as well. So this was a little bit interesting. I actually recruited some of my students and that, my 12, 13 year old students to come up with some non-sweary swear words for me. That was a fun, that was a fun task. They enjoyed that as well. They’ve used a lot of those in their own writing. And yeah, I allowed myself to just have fun. I allowed myself to be silly in the story. I allowed myself to add a little bit of humor. I allowed myself to just be more whimsical with things. Like my normal writing is so serious and dark and with deeper themes and is meant to stay with the reader well after they’ve finished reading and get them contemplating life death than the afterlife and what it all means. And I wanted, this book Hades’s Haunt, just to be a fun, relaxed read, that was just easy, and people got a chuckle out of, and it just allowed you to forget about the sometimes tough things that go on in the world around us and in our lives and things like that.
And that was in itself incredibly freeing because I had no real expectations for this book and no rules other than let’s have fun. I felt like I could experiment and I felt like I could try things I hadn’t tried before. And my writing style, I’m still pretty high on the description, setting is always really important to me, I don’t think it’s going to change. But if you’ve read any of my other books and then if you ever decide to read or, uh, hang on to the end of this episode and listen to the first couple of chapters of Hades’s Haunt, you’ll see that it’s very, very different than my usual style of writing for sure.
And then I had these other crazy ideas that I was going to write it all in American English. I am in New Zealand, so we tend to use British English and British spelling and all of that. And so in my other works, I’ve kept to that, but as my audience is, majority of my readers in that are American, I’m like, well, I want to do that. And yeah, that was interesting and fun and required quite a bit of research. Fortunately, I have an amazing American editor, which is cool, and some of my ARC readers who just went above and beyond with correcting some of the little grammar gremlins and that that snuck through anyway. Yeah, so that was really cool. So I hope I’ve done justice to that.
And of course, even though it’s more of a fantasy, you know, paranormal book, and I allowed myself to get a little bit free with the, you know, it’s got magic in that, which I had to establish rules for it, and this world building. And that was quite fun and required a different sort of research for me, because you know, I had to go back and I looked at some of the ideas around how different herbs have been used historically, and read up some books on Wicca and witchcraft and in modern day. And, and this book definitely takes a little bit from those ideologies and things like that. But it’s definitely not true to form of what Wicca or anything like that looks like today. I just want people to know that, it’s definitely a creative endeavor on my part just pulling a little bit from here and there.
And because I decided to write it in American English, I also, you know, did my research and had in mind an American location, which is never stipulated in this story. I wanted to keep it just free and in case I mucked up. You know, I don’t want to be fact checked too much in this story. But I did set my mind on a location where this might be based, if it was a true place in the US and look at, you know, what birds and plants and what their seasons were like and everything like that. I haven’t lived in the us. I’ve, uh, traveled there a little bit, but not too much. But I lived in Canada, which I know, a completely different place, but there’s some similarities as well. So I was able to draw from that a little bit too.
Now there are always in any kind of writing forum, or anybody that’s been, you know, in the author sphere for a while, will have usually a strong opinion on whether you should or shouldn’t genre hop. Now, I’m pretty early on in my career and I have a full-time job doing something completely else, so I’m not dependent upon this for money. So I feel like I was able to take the risk out of genre hopping by doing that. Because there’s always this idea that you should, if you want to make a living or want to make money from your writing, you need to kinda niche down on a genre and stick to that and put out a whole lot of books. And then if you’re going to, uh, do another genre, make sure that you have a different pen name so that you don’t mess with the algorithms. Amazon doesn’t get confused and all that good stuff. Maybe consider having different social medias, different websites, and all the rest of it. I would say I spent far too long down the rabbit hole of looking at all the pros and cons of having a pen name or a different set of you know, a different website or different social media and everything like that. And I was swayed backwards and forwards all the way through. I looked at a lot of amazing authors who genre hop who have several genres that they maybe work in and see how they worked things. And much like what is said from many of my guests that have came on this show, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. And so in the end, I wanted to keep things easy for myself and I decided not to have a pen name. Yes, I know it may mess with my algorithms a bit. But with a full-time job and a busy family life and all the rest of it, and a podcast, I also wanted to keep things simple for myself.
And so at this point, early on in my career, I’ve decided not to go with a different pen name for my paranormal cozies. On my website, which I’ll need to ramp up shortly here, I will probably separate things out at least on there so you can very clearly see what are my gothic fiction and what are my paranormal cozies cuz they’re very different in tone. And of course with Hades’s Haunt there will be more books to come. It’ll be at least a trilogy, if not an entire series. We’ll just see how it kind of goes. Like I said, I’m a bit of a discovery writer, so the best laid plans don’t generally turn out for me. They usually change over time.
But yeah, so I will say with the genre hopping though, I think it was the best thing that I’ve done. And I say that mainly because writing this book was so freeing. And my expectations, I had none. You know, I just wanted to have fun. It has given me more energy that I’m actually feeling ready to just dive back in and write the sequel to Unspoken Truths, which is Broken Lies, my more serious, darker gothic fiction, and I’m ready for it now. I’m ready to tap into that slightly darker side of myself and have some fun with that, knowing that at the end, if I’m feeling a little bit again burnt out by it and the emotional load of it, I can go back to writing the next book in the Hades, the Widdershins Mystery series, which begins with Hades’s Haunt, and the next book will be Hades’s Hex. So, I actually really love the idea of being able to bounce back and forth between these two genres. And I think what will happen with it is it’ll actually keep me feeling fresh and my writing feeling fresh too, because I’ll be able to dabble into two different genres that I really love and really enjoy, and I get to challenge myself. Because these stories really do draw on different parts of me, and I like that. I like having a bit of a challenge. So yeah, regardless of where you are on your author journey, I would love to know your thoughts on what you think about genre hopping if you have several genres that you write under and how you manage that, or if you are of the belief that you kind of need to niche down and stick to just that. Or if you are maybe considering trying another genre as well. I will say again that just in regards to keeping my creativity high, I think this is what is gonna work really well for me.
One of the challenges I have had with it, I will say, is that from the beginning of 2020, I started my author newsletter, building that. And I use all the things, Book Funnel, Storyorigin. I reach out to, you know, other authors and that, that I know, and swap books and do newsletter swaps and all that good stuff. But I had quite a curated newsletter list of people who of course are fans of horror and gothic fiction and a lot of the darker stuff. And so, as to be expected, not everybody is a paranormal cozy fan. So when there was a call out for like ARC readers and all of that, despite having a decent size newsletter list, in my mind anyway, it feels pretty decent. It hasn’t necessarily transferred over so well. So that will be something that I will have to contemplate on a little bit more, whether I do establish, or segment my newsletter list a little bit more for those people that prefer paranormal cozies or those people with just zero interest in that as well. I will have to think about that. Although very, very different, I guess my overarching theme is that all my stories and books, are gonna have a little bit of that supernatural, uh, paranormal, maybe ghostly theme to them. That’s just what I write, whether it’s more serious and more dark, or more light-hearted and clean. So that will be some new territory that I’ll have to think about how I’m going to navigate in the future as well.
Yeah, so I just wanted to share a little bit of my journey with writing Hades’s Haunt. Now I’m quite excited for this book to go out in the world. Like I said, I didn’t have a huge amount of ARC readers for this book, and being the first book in a new genre, I didn’t actually put a lot of like I didn’t reach out to different ARC reader networks or invest any money in that. I will probably have a bit of dabble with a bit more marketing later on this month, anyway. I’m pretty laid back with my writing career overall in that as I’m just starting to establish myself, I am not wanting to overinvest into things where there’s not enough follow through. Like for me to invest a huge amount of money in Hades’s Haunt for marketing and advertising purposes doesn’t make too much sense right now when I don’t have the next book’s written. So that might be something that I play with a little bit more down the line. But I have had great feedback from my ARC readers about Hades’s Haunt, which I’m really excited for because like I said, I wrote this book is a pure experiment, very different style of writing than I’m used to. And so I didn’t really know what to expect as far as what my readers would think of it. And yeah, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s been really nice, really fun.
I will share, my father, who read my book quite early on, it’s quite funny. He reads all my books and he’s my dad. He’s always gonna be biased, you know, like, he has to, he’s my father. And he likes my stories, some more than others, of course. But when he was reading Hades’s Haunt I’ve never heard him rave so much about one of my books before. It was crazy. He was just completely besotted with this book. He loved the humor, he loved the reactions of Hades, the cat in the book. He, I think it just appealed to his inner child. And the whimsy and everything in it. It’s, he’s like, this is so unlike the other stories that you’ve written, and I think it’s the best book you’ve ever written, and it’s gonna make you famous and make you millions of dollars and you know, because, you know, he is my dad. And so prone to that kind of exaggeration of course. But that was really cool. So for me it’s about, if I can write a story that appeals to anybody, that even one person gets some entertainment or enjoyment or can think about things a bit differently from, or some kind of emotional response from, then I have done my job as an author and yeah, that’s what fills me up inside, so that makes me really, really happy.
I’m also excited to see, and I might have to do a follow up on this episode later on in the year, if you remember back to just a few episodes ago when I had the lovely Renee Rose on the podcast and she was talking about manifestation and abundance and that within the author life and how to achieve that. One of her top recommendations was to love your book. And it was something that really blew me away because with most of my books, you know, I, I love them when I’m writing them. I had my moments where I hate them and I’m over them, particularly during the editing stage. But, you know, I, I love all my books, otherwise I wouldn’t write them. But I have always had this thing that once they’ve written, edited, published and out in the world, I tend not to look at them again. I’m a little bit nervous of looking them at them again. I don’t wanna find any mistakes that have slipped through the multitudes of editing or, yeah, I don’t know. I get a little bit cringy about looking at them again. And yet with my book Hades’s Haunt I’m still not bored of reading it. Like I have had to do multiple edits and everything, which has required me reading it through quite a few times, and it’s the type of book that I can easily forget that I’ve written it, and I can sit down and I can reread and reread and still just get those kind of happy vibes from. So I am excited and curious to see how that might impact its sales out in the world despite not a huge push really on my side for marketing and that. So we’ll see if maybe the power of love for a book can yeah, give it a little bit more of a boost out in the real world. We will see.
But anyway, I just wanted to share a little bit about that, a little bit of behind the scenes, which I thought might be of interest, particularly if you are kind of new to writing books or new to the author journey yourself. You might want to hear a little bit about some of the behind the scenes of yeah, how these things come about. If you’ve been on the fence about maybe trying a different genre, then maybe this will inspire you to give it a go. Make it fun. Have fun with your writing. If you’re feeling a little stale or burnt out, or if you’re feeling a little blocked or something with your writing, like the story that you want to write, it’s just not happening. Then maybe you need to cut yourself some slack and find something fun. Find something fun that you can write about without expectations. And just, yeah, enjoy it and see where that gets you because it might pleasantly surprise you.
So yeah, that is my little spiel for this week. Like I said, I’m going to have some amazing guests on Alchemy for Authors in the near future. So do stick around for that. I apologize I didn’t have something a little bit more substantial this week. I think you can all understand though sometimes, you know, life happens to all of us and sometimes our energies are just needed elsewhere. And that’s been me for the last few weeks. But yeah, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this little episode, and if you are a fan of paranormal cozy or just want to have a sneak peek at my new book, Hades’s Haunt, then stay tuned. Listen to the end of this episode. I’ve got the next two chapters coming up here for you to hopefully enjoy.
So again, I would love to hear your experience with genre hopping, if you’ve done it, if you’ve changed genres or if you write under a couple of different pen names or different styles, what your experience has been. I would love to hear that. So do feel free to connect with me on social media or flick me an email at email@example.com.
If you are enjoying Alchemy for Authors, and I hope you are, and I do appreciate you sticking around, thank you so much. Please do tell a friend, leave a review, rate, any of those amazing things just really helps me out. There’s also, there’ll be a link in the show notes if you want to buy me a coffee. That helps to just keep this show rocking on. If you’ve got an amazing guest that you would like to hear me interview on the show, or if you are an amazing guest who would like to be on the show, also reach out to me. I love to be chatting with other authors on a range of subjects, so that would be really cool.
If you are interested in any of my books, you can check out my website https://jobuer.com or of course you’ll find me across most platforms, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Google, Apple, you know all of them as well. And if you are interested in pre-ordering Hades’s Haunt, which will be available for sale on the 11th of July, then you can check out books to read. That’s https://books2read.com/hadesshaunt Hades’s Haunt is spelled h a d e double s h a u n t. Link will be in the show notes, and that will have the links to pre-order my book. If your favourite storefronts not up there for pre-order yet, just hang on I’m doing my best to get the manuscript perfect for different platforms and it will be there shortly. Otherwise it’ll be for sale as an eBook on July the 11th and with a paperback and maybe even a hard cover not too far behind. So yeah. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today, my friends. I hope to have you back here in a couple of weeks time.
So, until then, have a wonderful writing week ahead. Bye for now.