Behind The Scenes of Project Sunset – Writing is Rewriting is Rewriting is Rewriting…

good evening, cyberspace!

*cough cough* Please excuse the construction dust around here, friends! I’ve been reformatting some of this blog’s old pages and behind-the-scenes features, so while things might not look too awful different… there are definitely some new things happening here at the Smudged Thoughts headquarters…

One of which being the revival of the writing update series that I created approximately 3,000 years ago and then promptly forgot about! As one does, naturally.

look, I never said I was perfect, okay XD *kicks the amount of times I’ve called myself flawless under the carpet*

Anyway, back when this series first aired, I named it WIP It–a title I have since come to deeply regret. XD I’m still not sure exactly what I’d like to call this series–or how often I’ll even update this–but for right now I’m calling it “Behind The Scenes”. Because it’s… behind the scenes… of the book I’m writing… aha….

(by now it must be obvious that I have no clue what I’m doing.)

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good morning, 2022 – my plans and plots for the new year!

good morning, cyberspace!

Happy New Year, my friends! I can’t believe it’s already 2022–or January, for that matter–but here we are on the cusp of another shiny new year, hoping (I think) that perhaps this one will be just a little less terrifying than the past couple have been…

To be honest, I don’t think ANYONE expected the 20’s to be… whatever it is the 20’s have been lately. But hey! We’re making the most of it! And what better way to focus on the good than by thinking about plans and plots for the oncoming year? and simultaneously kicking all terrible things that have happened underneath the rug, ne’er to be seen again. this is fine. Specifically, of course, ones in regards to writing, reading, and any otherwise creative pursuits!

Goal creation is one of my favorite things, especially at the start of a new year. Not only is it new and exciting–the very fuel this chaotic creative thrives on–but it also helps hold me accountable to the very many things I want to accomplish within a calendar year. At least, it should hold me accountable. As we discovered last week, sometimes I’m not very good about staying true to the goals I’ve set for myself. XD But! That’s all part of the learning experience, amiright?

So this morning, for our very first post of 2022, I’m going to pull back the curtains of my mind and show you all a sneakety peakety of what I’m planning for this year!

What will I be writing within the coming months? Are there any new stories in the works? Do I have a publishing plan(lol wut)? What about secret projects? Are there any of those? (trick question. there are ALWAYS secret projects in the pipeline.) There’s so much to be excited about in the coming months–some of which I’m not even covering in today’s post–so let’s dive right in and take a look!

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2021 Reviews & Reflections

good morning, cyberspace!

Today, as 2021 draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the multitudes of goals I created for myself at the start of the year. January held all the potential a new year can present, and it’s pretty obvious by my intentions for the year that I had… high hopes for how 2021 would progress. XD

Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to forget about these new goals about halfway through the year, but ya know. It’ll be fun to review them and see how many I actually managed to accomplish!

For anyone wanting to read the original post to get a sense of how horribly oblivious Past Kenzie was to the challenges this year would present, here’s a handy dandy hyper link for you to follow through the wormholes of the internet. However, if you’d rather just snatch the highlights and enjoy my PRESENT reactions to such goals as these, keep reading, sailor!

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My Favorite Reads of 2021

good morning, cyberspace!

It’s that time of year again, folks! December is the perfect time to reflect and review the year behind us, and all across the blogosphere, posts are popping up of everyone’s favorite (and least favorite?) reads of 2021.

So naturally I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and join them! I read some INCREDIBLE books this year–one of which isn’t even published yet, and I am MAD because it would SO have made it onto my top 5…–and I just really want to squeal about them for five billion years, okay. XD Don’t judge me, please. But DEFINITELY read these books if you haven’t already, because y’all. They were GOOD.

*while numbered, these are not listed in chronological order of favorite to least favorite. I unfortunately have a painfully hard time choosing among my children, and therefore they are numbered simply for ease of reading

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MY FAVORITE READS OF 2021

THE LIGHTNING THIEF – Rick Riordan

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Y’all. I am so excited to finally be reading this series! I’ve heard SUCH good things about it for years and years, but I never thought it was one that I should pick up and dive into.

But I’ve never been more happy to say that I. WAS. WRONG.

A very good friend of mine somehow convinced me to give this series a try earlier this year since he was–at the time–re-reading it, and I’ve honestly been hooked ever since. I breezed through The Lightning Thief within a single day, snagged Sea Of Monsters from my friend and devoured that one, too, and now I’m on Titan’s Curse! It took me a little longer to get into the third book with the same enthusiasm that I had with the first two, but I’m happy to say that after reading some other books begging for my attention, I’m fully invested in Titan’s Curse and am well on my way to finishing it before the week’s out!

UPDATE: Titan’s Curse has been completed. I am now resorting to bribery to get the fourth novel from said aforementioned friend.

AN ECHO OF THE FAE – Jenelle Schmidt

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I think I’ve mentioned this book on the blog sometime this year, but since I can’t remember which post it was in, we’re mentioning it again! An Echo Of The Fae was quite honestly one of the sweetest, gentlest stories I’ve read in a really, really long time. It has all the soft magic you could possibly ask for from a Middle Grade, while also diving into deep truths such as faith, family, and never letting go of those we love.

This book is beautiful in so many ways, both inside and out, and I HIGHLY recommend this one to anyone looking for a soft, whimsical read.

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE – Diana Wynn Jones

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I HAVE FINALLY READ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, GUYS!!! I’ve been screaming at myself for YEARS to read this book–and quite honestly I’ve had people (gently) screaming at me to read this, as well–but it wasn’t until this year that I actually picked it up and read it from front to back. And, once again, I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Howl is one of the funniest, quirkiest, cleverest books I’ve ever read. There’s a fantasticalness about the story and its characters that sucks you in and refuses to let go, and even now, months after finishing it, I’m constantly reflecting on bits and pieces of this story. How soon is TOO soon to reread a story which has stolen your heart, by the way? Two months? Three? I’m suffering from Howl withdrawal over here, folks. XD (I mean I know I could read the sequels but it’s not the sammmmmmmeeeeee)

GEMINA – Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

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…I honestly don’t know if I have any words for this book. It was everything that Illuminae was–creepy, horrifying, edge-of-your-seat-and-nail-bitingly soul-snatching–and yet… somehow it was so much more…?

If you’ve never read this series, I literally cannot recommend it enough. It takes a second to get into the swing of the storytelling–especially if you’re not used to an epistolary format–but trust me when I tell you that once the story grabs hold of you, there is quite literally no letting you go. Ever. You’re on the Illuminae ship for life, and there is no better place to be.

Also there’s t-shirts.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Neil Gaiman

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This book has been on my TBR for FOREVER, but I finally managed to get to it this year! And by golly, what a wonderful book it was.

Not gonna lie, the prose was a LITTLE slow at times, making it a little bit of a mellow-paced read compared to, say, Gemina (a.k.a. one that I binged in two days), but the gentleness of this story almost makes it that much more spooky once you start to read it. I absolutely LOVE Gaiman’s writing style. In fact, it’s kind of what I want to do with my own stories. It has a sort of Tim Burton flair to it that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, and the fact that this book was essentially The Jungle Book but in a graveyard just made the whole thing so much better. XD

IT WILL JUST BE US – Jo Kaplan

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This book was… interesting? I never thought I would be a lover–let alone READER–of Gothic Horror. In fact, had you told me five years ago that I would willingly pick up a book that looked like it was going to give me nightmares for days, I probably would have laughed and stabbed you in the toe with a spork. BUT. Here we are.

It Will Just Be Us was–again–a bit of a slower read. apparently 2021 was a year for slow-paced books?The prose was a little too purple for my taste at times, but more often than not, the writing pulled me in and made this eerie hollow tale even more chilling.

Of course, with this book technically being considered “adult”, there was some swearing sprinkled throughout (*insert intense eye roll here*), but for the most part, this book was captivating, haunting, and–more often than not–had me hanging on the edge of my seat. Nothing prepared me for that ending, either. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but it… decidedly was not that. Aha.

CONTENT WARNING: If you have a queasy stomach, I would highly recommend letting this one slide. This book is not for the faint of heart, and it definitely made me squirm uneasily more than once. There was also some cussing throughout, which was annoying. But other than that, this book was definitely among my favorite reads of the year, and a huge recommend to anyone who loves creepy mansions, ghosts, and mysteries behind locked doors….

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Despite not making it in my list of Top Favorites, these three Honorable Mentions made my reader heart so happy this year!

ENTWINED – Heather Dixon

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A reread, but still one of my favorite books of all time! I’m obsessed with the Twelve Dancing Princesses, as well as Bramble and Lord Teddy and just ALL of the members of this adorable cast… It’s also equal parts adorable and horrifying, and I love the complexity of that.

ROMANOV – Nadine Brandes

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This was my first Brandes, and, might I just say, I am hooked. Nadine’s writing style picks you up and transports you seamlessly to another world, and learning the true story behind the Romanovs (followed shortly by Nadine’s excellent interpretation of what may have happened later) was both sweet and sad all at the same time. I loved this book dearly, and I’m VERY excited to read more of her work in 2022!

A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER – Holly Jackson

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This book was definitely a surprise for me! I bought it on a whim (yay Barnes and Noble!) and maybe sorta kinda binged it within three days… (oops?) I honestly don’t know where my enthusiasm for murder mysteries and gothic horror came from this year, but I am LOVING the eeriness of it all…

This book, while definitely staying true to its fast-paced, page-turner YA brethren, was a wild roller coaster ride from start to finish, which was just what I needed to get out of my reading slump in October! I also wasn’t able to predict the ending, which was a bonus, AND, despite there being a small romance that blossomed in the middle of the book, IT DIDN’T TAKE OVER THE PLOT!!!

GUYS! FINALLY A YA BOOK WITH A GOOD PLOT THAT DOESN’T GET RUINED BY ROMANCE!! Do you realize how happy this makes my heart? DO YOU REALIZE????

It was incredible. I’m amazed. 10/10. 5 stars.

(actually only like 4 stars, but who’s counting. not me, clearly.)

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talk to me, peasants!

what sorts of stories did YOU consume this year? any genres you weren’t expecting to fall madly in love with? what’s a book you would highly recommend to literally everyone? (*cough* percy jackson *cough*) and most importantly of all…

have you read any of the books on this list?

Specifically Illuminae/Gemina and Percy Jackson. I need people to squeal with, apparently…

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE BOOKISH THINGS! down in the comments below! And until next time…

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

NANOWRIMO, 2021: The Final Stretch

good morning, cyberspace!

Well, friends, we made it! it’s officially December, and NaNoWriMo is behind us once and for all. In case you didn’t notice, I kind of disappeared halfway through the month, but this was less because I didn’t feel mentally capable of writing blog posts, and more the fact that every spare moment I had to write, I was working on my book.

Because by golly, my friends, I was determined to win this NaNoWriMo. Sometimes, however, things don’t go accordingly to plan. Like here. Or right here. Or… ya know, in 2020 when I also failed NaNoWriMo but was wise enough to not document the crippling disappointment. I feel like a constant theme in my life lately is God stabbing a stick of dynamite into my plans before whispering, “Wait. I have something even better planned.”

Except I’m still not sure what that ‘something better’ is, and–though I truly believe He’s right with my whole heart–it’s starting to feel a little bit like clickbait. XD

So when I started off on this NaNoWriMo 2021 journey, I wasn’t holding out that much hope. 15 revised chapters in 30 days certainly seemed like an achievable goal. It sounded easy. But not everything that sounds easy is easy, and nothing is truly quite how it seems.

Which is why I wanted to take this first post of December to recap on what, exactly, happened during those final two weeks of NaNoWriMo.

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WINTERTIDE ALBUM TOUR – Announcing The Release of a Delightful Wintry Album!

good morning, cyberspace!

Y’all, I have some INCREDIBLY exciting news to share today! Recently I was contacted by a dear friend to help spread the news of a brand new Christmas Album, WINTERTIDE, which released just last week! Ever since the album dropped on Friday, I’ve been streaming the music on Spotify and falling absolutely in love with the beautiful guitar and vocals… It’s honestly the perfect wintry backdrop to the cozy snowfalls we’ve been having here in Michigan, and I could not be more excited about sharing this release with you all!

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NaNoWriMo, 2021 – Week Two

good evening, cyberspace!

It’s currently the evening of Monday the 15th, and I’m sitting here trying to type up an accurate summary of the past week with an insane amount of difficulty.

The goal? Get this post drafted and posted by the end of the night.

The struggle? This week was a blur and I don’t even know what timeline I’m living in anymore, let alone what happened within the past seven days.

But alas! We are officially entering the third week of NaNoWriMo, and I must not let it slip past without acknowledging the week that came before it! So Week Two Recap, here we come!

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Know The Novel – Part Two: Within Project Sunset

good morning, cyberspace!

And we are back with another episode of Know The Novel!–the monthly writer’s linkup hosted by the inimitable Christine Smith! Last month, I talked about the (non-spoilery) details surrounding my current WIP, Project Sunset. This month, we’re going to take a deeper look into the process behind the writing!

If you’re a writer participating in NaNoWriMo–or even just a writer working on a book–I would highly recommend checking out this linkup. You can find the questions to Part One here, and Part Two right here! This linkup is such a fun way to connect with other writers, as well as a much-needed gentle reprieve from the absolute chaos that is writing a book in one of the craziest months of the year, so if you’re not participating already (or if you’ve never read Christine’s blog before), do yourself a favor and check both of them out immediately.

Or, ya know, after you finish reading this post. Because I’m also cool, apparently. XD

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NaNoWriMo, 2021 – The First Week

happy november, cyberspace!

I was going to do a whole introduction post for the first day of NaNoWriMo last week, but alas alack, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

Whoopsies Oops GIF

The past two weeks have been silent here on my end of the blogosphere, but let me tell ya, folks: that time away was used for some much-needed rest. I have exactly 0 regrets. XD I’ve definitely missed being present on the blogs, though, and now that I’m back, I thought it would be fun to jump back in with a Weekly NaNoWriMo Recap! It’s crazy to think that we’re already a solid week into November, but I guess time truly does fly when you’re having fun! *awkward laughter*

Let’s take a look at the first week of NaNo, shall we?

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PREPTOBER 2021 – Behind The Scenes of The Project Sunset Playlist

good morning, cyberspace!

And welcome back to the 2021 Preptober series! Today’s post is a little more on the lighteared and fun side, which I feel provides a nice little relief from the nitty gritty topics we discussed last week. This particular idea wasn’t voted on too heavily during the Instagram polls, but some of y’all really wanted to see what I had up my sleeve in regards to my Spotify playlists! And who am I to tell you no? If it’s behind-the-scenes content you want, it is behind-the-scenes content you are going to get!

So without further ado, let’s dive into my playlist for Project Sunset!

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BEHIND THE SCENES OF PROJECT SUNSET – THE PLAYLIST

Not gonna lie, this playlist was one of the highlights of drafting Project Sunset. I absolutely adore creating playlists, specifically ones with themes or inspiration for character casts, and this one is by no means an exception. The creation process of this playlist was a labor of pure and intense love, and I am so excited and proud of how it turned out. (and since we’re only just beginning the second draft, I have a feeling it’s only going to grow as time progresses.) However, since this is a Behind The Scenes sort of deal, I feel it is not only necessary, but my duty to share the nitty gritty details behind some of the song selections. Because there is a LOT of thought that goes into choosing a song for a story playlist, my friends. A lot of thought.

And at the forefront of my mind at all times, no matter what song I’m listening to, there are the characters.

I’ve mentioned multiple times that I’m a character-driven writer, so it’s by no means a surprise when I say that my playlists are typically driven by my characters, as well! One of my favorite things to do when learning the “voice” behind the cast of my novels is to find songs that perfectly match their unique personality. And since Project Sunset has so many characters, I have quite a few songs that are character specific.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE CHARACTERS

ED WHITTAKER

As the Main Main character of Project Sunset, Ed Whittaker’s main theme is technically double-sided. Not only is it his theme, but it’s the Main Theme for the entire novel as a whole! He also has two theme songs in particular, whereas the majority of other characters only have one–thus is the curse of being a side character.

behind the scenes: this is Ed’s Main Theme song, and also one of the very first songs I chose for this playlist! When drafting the first scene of the novel, Song For Ten was the track I listened to in order to orient myself into what I wanted the vibe of the book to be. I still use it to reorient myself into the novel, even, and when I switch over to re-outlining later today, this will be the first song I play before working on my outline.
behind the scenes: this particular song has a very specific part to play in the story of Project Sunset, and I have listened to this track a LOT during the first drafting process! There’s something about the guitar in this song that gets me every time. XD

SHELBY WESTBURN

As the other main character of Project Sunset, Shelby’s theme song is, once again, directly integrated into the plot. I discovered her song while listening to Pandora one day, and it immediately stuck in my head. I knew that it would play during a pivotal scene for Shelby (one that I had planned since the very inception of this novel), but trying to find the song after it stopped playing on our Alexa was nothing short of a nightmare. (curse you, lyric-less music XD)

behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the scene this song was chosen for may or may not have brought tears to my eyes when I drafted it. I’m… not exactly excited to get back to it during the second-drafting process. (even I’m not proud of my Vulcan soul sometimes, friends.)

LIAM FITZ

Not necessarily a Main Character, but still one of my favorites–Fitz’s theme song is one that I still jam out to to this very day… I even went so far as to add it to my work playlist so that all of my coworkers could jam with me. (it’s fine. they love me. kinda.)

behind the scenes: I actually used to HATE this song, and I’m not entirely sure why. Thankfully, I wizened up, because holy guacamole, this song is a bop. Now I can’t help but think of Fitz every time I hear it, and it makes my heart weirdly happy. Any day where Fitz pops into my head, I know it’s gonna be a good one.

CARLOS & JUANITA GUTIERREZ

Not gonna lie, these guys impacted the playlist a LOT. XD Carlos and Juanita love music–particularly songs they can dance to–and there are at least two or three songs on this playlist that they directly influenced due to their passion for dance. However, the song that I’ve chosen to highlight was their “first dance”, if you will. It was also my initiation into actually enjoying some of Michael Buble’s music, which I still blame Carlos and Juanita for to this very day.

behind the scenes: this song is what I envision to be playing in the very first scene in which Carlos and Juanita are introduced. It makes my heart happy to listen to this song now, because all I can see are these two characters being absolute goofballs. (also, a bit of a side tangent, but one time I was working at my old thrift store job, and a guy with the same last name as these characters came through my checkout line. I was so excited I might have fangirled for a moment…and then they never came back.)

BONUS TRACK!

behind the scenes: Another song that is specifically Carlos and Juanita! This song used to come on ALL THE TIME at the thrift store, and I would dance through the aisles, hanging up clothes and trying not to look like the delusional psychopath that I definitely am.

EUGENE CRANDALL

To be honest, this guy is such a minor character that he probably shouldn’t even have his own theme song. But one day my mom started playing this randomly during dinner and… well, honestly the rest is history.

behind the scenes: to be perfectly honest, I have no clue why this song reminds me of Eugene, but if you know the character and his personality… it just… it just makes sense, okay. Trust my word on this one. XD

SAM PLINKETT

Similar to Eugene, this is another minor character who somehow managed to get his own theme song! I can’t really complain, though, because Sam was one of my favorite characters to write during this first draft. He was unpredictable and chaotic, but with a soft heart of gold that made my own Vulcan soul melt. If I’m excited about anything when it comes to this novel, it’s for you guys to meet Sam Plinkett.

behind the scenes: I first heard this song on The Blacklist, which is–oddly enough–where a few of the songs on this playlist came from. XD (tbh, The Blacklist had a BOP of a playlist, so if you haven’t checked that show’s soundtrack out yet, I highly recommend it.) It wasn’t until much later that this song would appear on this playlist, but I love that about music. It’s eternal, in a way, and sometimes the songs you heard a year ago won’t click until they’re meant to.

CASEY CRAWFORD

And last, but certainly not the least, on the flipside to Ed, we have our antagonist–Casey Crawford. And if Ed, our hero, has two songs dedicated in his honor, it only makes sense for the villain to have two songs, as well.

Parallels between Good and Evil and all that.

And that, my friends, is exactly why Casey has two songs! (that, and two songs claimed him organically, so it only made sense to feature both) The songs I chose for Casey are not only ballads, but by one of the greatest musical artists of our time… The man. The myth. The legend. Scott Sterling! Freddie Mercury.

behind the scenes: I’ve always loved Queen, but it wasn’t until Project Sunset that I was finally able to give one of my villains the Queen ballad that they truly deserved. XD I don’t know what it is about this band, but there is ALWAYS a Queen song on each of my story playlists. Always. It literally makes no sense.
behind the scenes: not to give away any spoilers or anything, but the selection of this song was pure genius on my part. Once you know, you know.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE BOOK

Despite the fact that there are about a gazillion characters in Project Sunset, not all of the songs on my playlist have a specific character to correspond with. Sometimes, a song makes it through simply because it matches the vibe of the book–that particular blend of guitar riffs and vocals that takes you away from this mortal plane and deposits you swiftly into the world of your story.

So while the next few song highlights may not be driven by any character in particular, they are still driven by the story as a whole, and without them, I could never have captured the sound of Project Sunset.

behind the scenes: once again, this song was added very early on when creating the playlist. I knew right away that I wanted Istanbul to be a main staple for this book, and this song along got me through many a tough scene when first drafting.
behind the scenes: if you’ve ever watched a movie in which this song played, you will know the impact it can have during a critical scene. I don’t pride myself on my action/fight scenes. In fact, I think they’re one of my greatest weaknesses as a writer. But this song pushed me through the difficult battles and helped me keep writing, even when my brain was screaming at me to quit and become a goat herder.
behind the scenes: …yeah. I got a lot of my music from The Umbrella Academy. I mean, can you BLAME me? XD That soundtrack was a BOP. But also, I’m just eternally in love with Fitz and The Tantrums. They’re incredible, and they’re music has been used in many of my playlists–both writing and personal.
behind the scenes: I have used this song in almost every single project playlist I have ever made. There’s something about the vibe of this song that just screams “found family”, and I’ve been in love with this track ever since the days of everlost.
behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the only reason I’m including this song is because it reminds me of my one eternal love, Jim Moriarty. That’s it. That’s the Behind The Scenes information. XD

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THE PLAYLIST

And lastly, in case you just wanted to take a peek at the playlist as a whole and listen to it for yourself, I’ve included the entire thing right here for easy access!

Of course, please keep in mind that this playlist is still very much a work in progress, and I’m constantly adding and removing tracks as I see fit. Some songs help me write for a little while before I realize they don’t match the specific vibe I’m going for, and then I’m forced to remove them to make room for the tracks which do fit the vibe. But all in all, this playlist has been–and will continue to be–my constant companion when drafting Project Sunset. And as I prepare to head into this story’s second draft, I expect it to continue morphing and changing with the theme of the story.

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talk to me, peasants!

Okay, y’all! It’s time to talk about one of my favorite topics–MUSIC!

do you create specific project playlists for your stories, or do you prefer to work in silence? if you’re a music listener, what kinds of songs do you typically listen to when writing? and for my non-music friends, do you create playlists to listen to when you’re NOT writing, or do you prefer other methods of inspitation–such as pinterest or aesthetic boards?

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below!

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *