A Second Chance

A Look Back at the Last Year

My 29th birthday isn’t until next Saturday, but I think it’s close enough that I can get away with this post.

I have to admit there were times in my teen years that I never thought I’d reach 20, let alone 29, but yet here I am, still going strong, so I look forward to what comes next. I look forward to what my future holds. And I hope the coming year is filled with great moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Each year I take a look back to at the things I’ve accomplished throughout the year. To say this past year has been one of the best, but also one of the hardest, would be an understatement of epic proportions. Those closest to me know the struggles I’ve faced over the past year. Some days have been easier to handle than others, but with the love and support of my friends and family, I’ve made it through another year. And I’ve managed to keep my sense of humor intact, as well as my sanity.

Well, the sanity part is debatable, I suppose. It depends on who you ask. There are a few of my friends that think I’m a little nutty for working as much as I do, but that’s who I am. I don’t do well with downtime. I can’t sit still and do nothing. I feel lazy when I do, so I have to have a full plate at all times. Call me an overachiever. Call me crazy. Call me whatever you want. I don’t care. I’m happy with the person I am. And it’s taken my long time to get to this point, but it’s nice being in a place where I finally know who I am. I’m happy with the person I’ve become. That’s not to say there’s still not room for improvement because I know I can always get better. And I will.

What have I accomplished this year?

A LOT!!!

I released my first novelette A Second Chance back on April 12th, I believe it was. This wasn’t my first time being published; I was included in the From the Dark Side Anthology. However, this time around felt like the first. I was filled with a giddy anticipation that similar to the feeling I use to get on Christmas morning.

A Second Chance underwent significant changes from its original incarnation which was included in FDSA. And whenever I look back on its growth, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I think it turned exactly as it was meant to. There isn’t one thing I wouldn’t change about it. NOT ONE!

In addition to A Second Chance, I also published a short story titled Sacrifice. This is another one that I’m very proud of. Sacrifice forced me to step outside my comfort zone and tackle a pretty difficult topic, and I think I did well with it. I know some have expressed disappointment over the fact it’s not a novel, but I feel like I told the story as I was meant to. And as long as I feel that, I’m okay. It’s when I don’t think I did a story justice that I worry.

This past year also saw the launch of Frugal Maine, a website dedicated towards helping out my fellow Maine residents who are looking for information on frugal and green living, cheap entertainment options in and around Maine, frugal reads, working from home, etc. I did take a hiatus from it for awhile to focus on my personal writing, but I’ve since returned to it. And with the help of one of my best friends, Acadia from Superficial Gallery, I think it’ll get to the point I want it at — a one-stop shop for all residents of Maine.

This year I also appeared on two episodes of Podcaturday, a weekly roundtable discussion between Jennifer and James Melzer and Acadia. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, for me it is. I’m actually incredibly shy, and I have issues with stage fright. Granted, I’m not in front of an audience when taking part in the show, but it does cause the same feelings of apprehension in me. I end up not saying much. My second time around, though, was better than my first, and I know in time I’ll become more comfortable with the entire process. And to be honest, I’m quite anxious to get to that point.

Hm, what else? I did have a few new jobs over the past year that unfortunately did not work out in the long run. But that’s okay because not all will.

I also started a few other side projects that I’m excited about, and I’m anxious to see how successful they turn out.

So that’s it, pretty much, in terms of this year’s accomplishments.

What have I learned over the past year?

This is pretty loaded question because I’ve learned a lot. And some of those lessons were not so pleasant.

  1. Some people will always hurt you, no matter how much you wish it were different. So if you have to stay strong, no matter what, and keep telling yourself that things will eventually get better.
  2. Sometimes you have to guard your heart in order to protect what matters most to you.
  3. Sometimes you can only trust yourself to get things done. And sometimes that means leaving behind those that can’t keep up.
  4. Sometimes you have to trust others, even if you’re scared to because not everyone in life will hurt you.
  5. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and hope and pray that everything turns out exactly as it was meant to.
  6. Some people truly do come into your life at certain times and for certain reasons. (While I’ve always known this, it was reinforced again this year.)
  7. No one can make you feel inferior and not good enough, unless YOU allow them to. So don’t give anyone that power over you. EVER!

So that’s my past year in a nutshell. And here’s to the coming year and whatever it brings.

It’s Update Time!

*whispers* For those Jersey Shore fans, I totally just said that like “It’s t-shirt time!” LOL! I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, it’s been hella crazy lately. As some of you know, my mom has been dealing with back issues, which means I’ve been fairly busy helping her out when she needs. That includes physically going into work and covering for her since, as she says, I’m her Mini Me. In fact, next week I’ll be at work while she’s at home getting some much-needed rest. It’ll be a long week because I’ll also be juggling my three other job besides that one. But as one of my astute friends likes to point out, I’m crazy, so that’s normal for me.

For those who don’t know, I recently began working as an IC for Ranker.com.  I have to say it…I LOVE THIS JOB!!! It involves writing and research. The writing part is really fun, and I’m allowed to show my true personality, which is a plus. Sometimes I get the impression that some people think I’m really stuffy, but I’m not, so it’s nice to let my hair down and be Nikki, the slightly nerdy country girl with a quirky personality. (If you’d like to read my first list for Ranker, it’s here.)

Now onto the story writing-side of things.

You’ve probably noticed that I still haven’t published Sacrifice yet. There’s a couple of reasons for that.

Aside from the fact that I’m stretched pretty thin lately and have a lot going on in my personal life, I’ve been busy adding some additional scenes to Sacrifice which are taking me a little bit of time because I want them to be perfect. If I don’t, my internal editor, aka The Bitch, will rear her ugly head, and well, we all know how THAT goes. (See here.)

Those additional scenes I’ve been working on would not have come about without the guidance of my editor, author Nicholas Denmon and book reviewer Heather Faville from Doubleshot Reviews. Their help is appreciated more than they know.

I’m actually trying to focus some of today on Sacrifice, so hopefully I can wrap up the rest of it. *crosses fingers*

Sales Talk Time!

So the other day I noticed an increase in sales. Not an “OH MY GOD, I’M RICH, I CAN RETIRE” increase, but a large enough one that it shoved me into the #84 position on Amazon for occult books. When I saw that on my screen I nearly peed my pants with excitement. I was included on a list with Stephen King, JA Konrath, Katie Salidas and Amanda Hocking. Pretty sweet, right? Seriously, I was so struck with giddyness, I couldn’t hold still. The little kid in me was all kinds of excited. What a great feeling. I hope it’s just the first of many times that happens.

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One last thing before I go. I was interviewed by author Suzy Turner for her website, so please take a moment and check it out. In the interview I reveal who I would cast as Annabelle and Jason. SQUEE!

Have a great and safe Memorial Day, everyone!

A Second Chance: One Month Later

A Second Chance coverCan you believe it’s been just over a month since I released A Second Chance? I know I can’t!

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if this is all a dream…another figment of my wild imagination. If it is, please let me sleep. I don’t want to wake up. Right now, I’m following my dream wherever it may take me. And I couldn’t be any happier. This is one area of my life that I’m completely satisfied with, and that’s a wondrous feeling.

To say this past month has been exhilarating, as well as overwhelming, would be an understatement. I can’t even put into words what this month has meant to me, which is funny since I’m a writer. Words aren’t supposed to fail me, and yet they are. Go figure!

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Would I do things differently if given the chance?

There have been times over the past month that I’ve asked myself if there are things I wish I’d done differently with A Second Chance. Yes, there have been moments where I’ve questioned whether or not I should’ve made this story a full-length novel. Or if I should have written one scene or another differently. But each one of those thoughts was fleeting because in my heart of hearts I truly feel I told the story exactly as it was meant to be told. And when I look at the final piece, I’m honestly happy with it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying A Second Chance is perfect because I know it’s not. I don’t believe that any book is. I think there’s always room for improvement, and I know as time goes on I will make adjustments to the story here and there. But none of those future changes are going to alter how A Second Chance turned out. I won’t allow that.

This story was a labor of love. I dug down deep and used many personal experiences and emotions to create a character that was believable and relatable to others. I cried more tears than I could count while writing it. There were even times during the most emotional of scenes I even felt my heart break.

I didn’t just type empty words onto a blank screen, hoping and praying they’d resonate with readers. I actually allowed myself to become Annabelle. I allowed myself to connect with her and feel every single heartbreaking moment that she felt. I allowed myself to feel all of my old fears once again, and that took a lot out of me, but it was all worth it in the end.

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Let’s Talk Sales

I don’t know about you, but every time I see a new sale show up, I let out a squeak, and I get a rolling feeling in the pit of my stomach similar to the one I get when I ride a roller coaster.

I’ll be honest, my expectations for sales for the first month were low since I didn’t know what to expect. I can say, though, that I’m not disappointed with the final total. Sure, I could have done much better; we all could our first month out. However, I didn’t expect huge sales to begin with. I knew going into this that it would take time to build up momentum, and I was okay with that, so I set my goal low. I wanted to sell 10 books for the month. And the good news is that I did. Between free copies and sales, my total for the month from Smashwords and Amazon was 40. I know 40 doesn’t sound like a lot to most people, but to me it is.

Yes, I admit I could have promoted and guest blogged more, but I work THREE jobs, and I’m a mom to two children under the age of 10. I also help out my mom a lot since she is going through some painful back problems right now. My extra time is very limited, so taking all of that into account, I did damn well this month. I honestly cannot complain.

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Reviews: Yes, I Caved

Prior to the release of A Second Chance, I said I wouldn’t read any of my reviews, but I caved, as do many authors. I wanted to know if the words I wove together made an impact on anyone. I wanted to know if people were able to see the emotions I poured into every word in the story. I wanted to see if people got the message I was trying to share, so I started reading my reviews, and I’m glad I did. It seems like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

Almost every review I’ve read up to this point has made me cry. To know that I’ve affected people in the ways they’ve stated in their reviews makes me happy. I am so grateful that people have taken the time, both in public settings, as well as via private messaging, to share with me their thoughts on this story. As an author you want to know when your work connects with others, so I truly cherish every review and message I’ve gotten. There are some people I’m still waiting to hear opinions from because their thoughts matters to me. And hopefully one day I will hear that A Second Chance touched them in some way, too, because that’s what I want. I want everyone to take something away from it, just like I did.

Well, that’s it for now. Here’s hoping my second month ends on as high of a note as the first one did.

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If you have not purchased a copy of A Second Chance and would like to, it’s currently available at Smashwords and Amazon for $.99. It will be available at Barnes & Noble, as well as other various sites in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned.

My Reaction to a Refunded Copy of A Second Chance

Up until the other day I didn’t realize readers could ask for a refund on eBooks they’ve purchased. I was quite surprised when I saw others mentioning it on the Kindle Boards. I then felt a sick sense of dread.

“Your day is coming,” my internal editor maliciously whispered in my ear.

I then told her to shut up. I wanted to believe when it happened to me, I would handle it well. HA! Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Today started out wonderfully. I managed to accomplish a lot, as well as spend some time with my brother, which is rare. When I got home I checked my stats on Amazon and found that another copy of A Second Chance had been purchased. YAY!A Second Chance cover

Then my eyes moved to the right and I saw Units Refunded – 1. And my head imploded. Well, not really. But it felt like it was going to. I felt like my entire body was about to collapse in on its self. My self-confidence was crushed.

And of course my bitchy ass internal editor couldn’t contain herself. She gleefully jumped up and started in on me because, you know, kicking someone while they’re down is just too much fun to pass up.

Her choice of words:

“You suck!”

“Give up while you’re ahead.”

“Keep your day job.”

“Did you honestly think you were any good?”

“What were you thinking? You shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Who are you trying to fool?”

“What made you think you’re talented enough to do something like this?”

“You’re a stupid bitch.”

And on.

And on.

And on.

Needless to say, she made me cry, which made me want to punch her in the face.

Let’s just hope next time I don’t get so worked up. I know there’s a strong possibility that someone bought it by mistake when they meant to sample it, but I can’t say for sure. And that’s what really bothers me…the not knowing. Did I do something wrong? Is it really bad and no one’s told me the truth? Is there issues with formatting? If at least knew the problem, I could try and fix it.

There’s nothing I can do now, though, other than find a way to deal with the next one that will inevitably pop up at some point.

The Soundtrack for A Second Chance

Most writers that I talk to have some sort of soundtrack for each story they write. I’m no exception. I always try and find songs that encompass the emotions within a story. By doing so, I help myself get into the right mindset for whatever story I’m working on. A Second Chance was no different. In fact, there are a ton of songs that would have worked well for this story, but there were several that I felt worked best — that I felt truly embodied all the feelings in A Second Chance. So here they are:

  1. “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Aaron Neville
  2. “Unbreakable” – Westlife
  3. “I Won’t Let Go” – Rascal Flatts
  4. “Stand” – Rascal Flatts
  5. “Unstoppable” – Rascal Flatts
  6. “Time for Miracles” – Adam Lambert
  7. “I Will Not Say Goodbye” – Danny Gokey
  8. “One More Day” – Diamond Rio
  9. “Annabelle” – Lee DeWyze
  10. “If This is the Last Kiss (Let’s Make it Last All Night)” – Meat Loaf
  11. “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” – Patty Loveless

Now that I’ve shared my soundtrack for A Second Chance with all of you, please feel free to leave your own.

 

An Excerpt From A Second Chance

Today I thought I’d share an excerpt from A Second Chance with all of you. I know you can download samples at Amazon, but for those who have not installed the Kindle computer software, this is for you.

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A Second Chance coverThat Friday in mid-September dawned bright and hopeful for Annabelle Dixon. The air’s crispness marked the arrival of fall. Even the leaves on the trees in Annabelle’s front yard were beginning to change, transitioning from vibrant green to hues of orange, brown, yellow and red, preparing everyone for autumn’s cooler temperatures and flaming foliage.

As a child and teenager, Annabelle had always looked forward to the changeover from summer to fall, for it signified the start of a new school year and new beginnings.

Fall also meant hours spent outdoors, raking up the fallen leaves that littered the ground, carving jack o’ lanterns with her parents, and drinking ice cold apple cider from a local orchard, traditions she now practiced with her own children.

That morning, Annabelle sat on her front porch steps, drinking a cup of coffee before her doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day. While she sat there, her hands wrapped around the steaming mug, she watched a blue butterfly dance from bush to bush in front of her. The sight of the butterfly struck her as odd. It was unusual to see butterflies that late in the year.

It wasn’t long before the butterfly’s waltz was interrupted by the arrival of her parents as they pulled into Annabelle’s driveway and parked beside her car. They waved to her as they made their way up the walkway.

“Morning, Mom. Morning, Dad,” she said as she scooted to make room for them both to sit down beside her.

“Morning, Anna,” her mother, Evelyn, said as she lowered herself down next to her daughter, her bones creaking and protesting loud enough for Annabelle to hear. “How are you doing this morning?” she asked her daughter.

“Maybe I need to ask you that question,” Annabelle joked.

“Oh, hush. I’m fine. Seriously, how are you?”

“I’m a little tired, but that’s okay. It’s expected. I know I’ve got a long way to go before I’m 100 percent again.”

Her mother smiled and patted her on the knee. “You’ll feel better soon. The past few months have been rough, but you’ve pulled through. You’re strong, Anna. You make us proud.”

Annabelle’s eyes misted over. “Thanks, Mom. That means a lot to me.” She stood up and looked around her. “I guess I should head to my doctor’s appointment now that you two are here.”

“Okay, sweetie. We’ll be here when you get back,” her father told her as he took the empty coffee mug from her hand.

“Thanks. The kids are inside watching the television…cartoons.” Annabelle rolled her eyes. “Tell them I’ll be back soon.”

“We will. Drive safely.”

She nodded. “Will do.”

Before climbing into her car to head to her doctor’s appointment, she paused to turn her face to the sunlight beaming down on her from above; its rays warmed her inside and out. At that moment, her life felt almost perfect. She had two happy and healthy children and a husband who was everything she wanted in a man and more.

The sole dark spot in her life was her own health. But that Friday morning promised a new start for Annabelle and her family, a fresh start, which left her with the same giddy anticipation she’d felt when she was younger. She was confident her doctor would tell her that her cancer had finally responded to treatment and that she was well on her way toward being cancer-free, something she’d hoped desperately for since she was diagnosed with the ravaging disease many months before.

As Annabelle drove to her doctor’s office, she turned her stereo up and tapped her fingertips on the steering wheel to the beat of the music pouring from the speakers. Before climbing out of her car, she adjusted the baseball cap covering her pale, bald head. She couldn’t wait until she had long hair again. She missed washing and brushing it. She missed its softness. But she knew in time it would grow back, so she remained patient.

* * * * *

Inside the doctor’s office, soft music drifted out from behind the receptionist’s desk into the waiting room where Annabelle sat, her hands clasped between her knees, waiting to be called in to meet with her doctor. Several minutes ticked by before Dr. Lucas’s nurse entered the waiting room and gestured for Annabelle to follow her.

Annabelle stood up and beamed a grin that reflected the happiness and contentment she felt inside.

As she stepped into her doctor’s private office, the first inklings of doubt began to play along the edges of her mind when she noted her doctor’s somber face. He didn’t return her smile, which struck her as strange because even through her darkest hours, he’d been filled with encouragement and a dogged determination to help her get well. Was something wrong or had his morning gotten off to a bad start, she wondered to herself. She hoped it was the latter.

As she sat down in the old wooden chair in front of his desk, she pushed the unease from her mind and sat on the edge of her seat, waiting to hear the verdict on her latest test results.

Dr. Lucas’ steel-gray eyes met hers for a brief moment before he spoke. “I’m sorry, Annabelle. There’s just no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll get right to it. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments haven’t worked. They didn’t stop the cancer from spreading.”

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If you’d like to read the rest of A Second Chance, please visit Amazon, Amazon UK or Smashwords to download your copy.

The Soundtrack of My Life: Do I Make You Proud?

One of the most important things I wanted to accomplish with A Second Chance was to make my parents proud of me. I’ve said before I wasn’t an easy child to raise. I was a handful, and I put my parents through a lot.  I caused them to cry. And I even had them praying for a miracle when I got sick at 16.

When I look back at where I was all those years ago in comparison to now, I can see that I’ve grown by leaps and bounds. I’m still not perfect. I’ve never claimed to be. But I am proud of the person I’ve become. I’ve worked REALLY hard to get here. It hasn’t been an easy road; it’s been filled with many bumps along the way, but I know every single moment that I’ve experienced has made me into the person I am today. Those moments helped make A Second Chance into what it is.

So back to my original point. All that I want is for my parents to look at me and be proud of the person I’ve become. I want them to know they never failed me in the parenting department. They did a fantastic job raising me. All of the good traits I have inside of me come from them. They laid the foundation for the person I would one day become.

Now that I’ve shared one of my hopes with you, I want to share something my mother said to me this morning before work.

Last night, I sent my mother a link to a review written by Heather Faville of Doubleshot Reviews. She told me this morning that she read it and then had to read it to my dad in the middle of the night. He then had her forward it to him at work. (I had already done that, but he didn’t know. LOL!) She told me that he’s “pretty damn proud of me”. And I told her that that’s what I wanted, to make them proud, so to know I have makes my heart swell up and tears run down my face.

Before I close, I want to leave you with two songs I consider to be my life’s soundtrack. Both of these songs sum up my life perfectly.

“Do I Make You Proud” – Taylor Hicks

“I Did it For You” – Westlife

*A Second Chance is now available for purchase on Smashwords, Amazon and Amazon UK.

A Special Thanks to Those Who’ve Helped Me

A Second Chance coverLast night, after many months of hardwork, I finally uploaded A Second Chance to Amazon, Smashwords and PubIt!. As of right now, it’s available on Smashwords for $.99.

Even though my baby is out of my hands now, there is a huge part of me that is still scared beyond belief for how it’ll fair, even though many of my friends have told me it’ll be fine and to stop worrying. Deep down inside, I know they’re right, but that nasty internal editor of mine just won’t shut her mouth. She’s been quite boisterous over the past couple of days. So much so, in fact, that I found my pointer finger hovering over the delete key at one point. She almost had me convinced that I shouldn’t put my work out there. She kept telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I’d fail, etc.

Thankfully, I was able to ignore her with the help of my friends. Without them cheering me on and encouraging me, I wouldn’t have made it to this point. They’ve been my cheerleaders and my confidants. Whenever I’m feeling frazzled or at wit’s end, I know I can turn to them for advice and a shoulder to lean on. Or for a swift kick in the butt, as was the case last week.

I owe each one of them a HUGE thank you for sticking by me and believing in me, even when I had days when I had a hard time believing in myself. So, before I close, I’d like to thank the following people for helping to make my dreams a reality. (And yes, in typical Nikki fashion, I’m crying.)

These are not the only people that have helped me along the way. I’d also like to thank my mom, dad and brother for sticking by me throughout everything I’ve put them through over the years. They’re not only my family, they’re my best friends. They’ve accepted me, quirks and all, and I love them for that.

And last but not least I have to thank my sixth grade teacher Ms. Clarrage for encouraging me and for helping me to realize just how much I enjoy writing. When I look back on my school years, she was the best teacher I had, hands down. She made school fun while still teaching us what we needed to know. I know that had I had not had her for a teacher, I wouldn’t be where I am. So thank you, Ms. Clarrage, for everything.

Each and every person I’ve mentioned here has played a crucial part in getting me to this point. I can’t thank them all enough for everything they’ve done.

THANK YOU GUYS!

Writing Update – March 14

It’s been five days since my last writing update, and there’s definitely been quite a bit of progress.

You may recall that I mentioned in my last post that my editor thought I should try and get my word count for Second Chances up to 11,000, which is about 4,500 more than what I started out with. I actually broke 11,000 just minutes ago. Yippee!

I still have several pages of edits to go through, as well as one more readthrough and edit before sending it back to my editor for another editing session on her end. So, I’m hoping I’ll hit about 12,000 words by the end.

Other Changes

One of the ideas I’ve been playing with for about a week is changing the name of my story. I wasn’t sure that was the right move to make, at first, but I finally decided that it was necessary to change the title a tiny bit. I’m changing it from Second Chances to A Second Chance. I think the name change is a more accurate reflection of what the story is about.

I’m also having my editor create me a new piece of cover art. Some of you may remember the original cover art. If not, it’s right here ————->

The reason I’m having Jenny design me a new one is because of the additional scenes I’ve added to the story. There’s one scene in particular that I feel would make a great cover. I have a very detailed image in my head of what I want it to look like, and I’d really like to see Jenny make that happen.

I’m a huge, HUGE fan of Jenny’s coverart for her novel The Goblin Market. There’s something about it that speaks to me. And I know Jenny will create a new one for me that is just as great as that one. I have faith in her abilities.

One other area that I’m going to be working very hard on is promoting. I’ve seen what Jenny has done with guest bloggers on her site, as well guest blogging on other fellow indie author’s sites. I admire all the hardwork she’s put in, and I’d like follow in her footsteps. I’m actually hoping to have some fellow authors stop by here, including Jenny and maybe even her sidekick James. Who knows!

Other News

There are a few other pieces of news that I’d like to share before closing.

As I mentioned in the second half of my interview with Amanda Rosenblatt, I had the chance to talk to Josh Gates on Thursday night. If you’d like to listen to the show, you can find it here.

On Sunday, I made an appearance on a special voicemail edition of Podcaturday. It was a twofer this week. It was my first time stopping by, so I didn’t contribute much. However, I did laugh a lot, which is not hard since Jenny, Acadia and James are HILARIOUS! (If you’d like to listen in on Sunday’s edition, please visit one of their sites.)

I also had the chance to discuss my conversation with Josh, which is great. I’ll jump at any chance to talk about one of my favorite TV personalities.

And last but not, a new Destination Truth post will be up at The Superficial Gallery within the next day or so, so make sure to stop by and check it out.