Posted in Blog, Writing

Writing process: How to write a novel fast

Crissi vineyardAs I gear up for the release of Hope at the Crossroads (Oct. 24!), I thought I’d take a moment to share about my writing process. I always love reading how other authors crank out their novels, don’t you?

First, I fully admit that I’m not writing any books at the moment. My focus is on college and the Hope series book #2 release, so my main writing is journaling and class essays. However, writing is definitely on the horizon. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner (see more info at the end of this post), and I’m getting ready to start outlining my book project for that month.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what my writing process is like:

Before I’ve even started writing the novel, I have an outline to the story already in front of me, something that lays out every single chapter in as much detail as I can dream up. This outline can change, if the story requires it. But generally, it stays pretty similar. I’ve written books off the cuff, and it can be a truly organic experience. It can also take so much time to do, because there’s plenty of room for writer’s block. I’ve also done it with short outlines. But since I started mapping out each scene and chapter with details, my writing speed has increased a ton. I don’t think it impedes that organic creative flow, as it’s there while I’m writing the outline. Having it all mapped out, I know where I’m going and what it is going to take for me to get there. Then I let my characters fill in the blanks.

Now for my actual schedule. I wake up at 5 a.m. and start the water for a cup of coffee. While it’s heating, I let the dog out to pee, and I do my devotionals. This is my time with God, through both reading and praying. Once I have my coffee and the dog is settled, I finish my devotionals, and then spend about 30 minutes pre-writing. Usually this is just journaling an extension of my prayers or an issue I’m struggling with, or even a character study or scene that I’ll never use in the final draft. Pre-writing is important because it warms up that writing muscle so that when I get to actual novel writing, the first words aren’t those crappy ones we end up deleting anyway.

Then it’s on to the novel. I’ve made it a habit to NEVER GO BACK when I’m writing a book. I do not re-read anything until I’m totally done writing the story, as it will only trip me up. The first draft has a lot of mess to it, and focusing on any of that mess won’t help the forward motion. I do, however, write a paragraph at the end of each writing session to clue me in on where I’m headed. This way, there’s no guesswork. Plus, I have my outline to keep me on track.

My first writing session is about 2 hours, and then I’m off to work for the day. Generally that’s enough time for me to get about 1,500-2,000 words, my goal for the day. I’ll write a little more on my lunch break as well. After work, I often don’t write because I’m busy with family stuff. Plus, my brain stops working in the evening.

When I’m in the middle of a book project, the story is with me constantly, even when I’m not writing. The characters are with me, the scenes, everything. I could drive down the freeway, and I’m stuck in the middle of my world and my character’s world. It’s completely consuming, and I love it. But I can’t stay in that mode forever, because I tend to tune everyone else out. This is why I use seasons for book writing. I devote myself completely to the project, and then detach once it’s done (following the inevitable mourning period after typing The End, of course). I set it down for a month or so, catch up on some sleep, and then pick it back up to re-read and start editing.

And that’s it!

Want to write a novel? Here’s your recipe for success:

  1. Write a details outline of the story, start to finish, laid out scene-by-scene (you may even want to include character studies and scenery. Bonus, some of this can end up in the story!)..
  2. Pick the same time every day to sit down and write. This will strengthen your writing habit, and help your brain settle into writing mode since it’s an expected time to write..
  3. Start with pre-writing. This can be a few paragraphs of what you want to happen next in the story, a character study, or journaling. This is your warmup before you get to the actual story..
  4. WRITE..
  5. Don’t re-read anything, unless it’s just the last few paragraphs to get you reacquainted with the story..
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 every day.

Last year I released Reclaim Your Creative Soul, a book that shares tips and secrets for being the most creative you can be, even when living a full-time life. I included many of my writing tips for writing fast, and ways I’ve used organization to make my writing time the most effective. Trust me, I’m not the most organized person in general. However, I’ve developed a few habits around my writing career that have allowed me to keep writing books, even when I’m also going to college, working full-time, and raising a family.

If you’d like to learn how to find more time in your busy life for writing, you can find it on Amazon here, or visit crissilangwell.com/creative-soul for other retailers.

By the way, right now is the perfect time to start planning your novel. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November. That’s only 1 1/2 months away, which is enough time for you to start working on your story outline. Find out more about NaNoWriMo here.

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Posted in Blog, Writing

Take a tour of my new writing studio!

desk

A few weeks ago, my daughter moved out. And I should be sad, but I’m not. I mean, Summer’s not sad, so why should I be sad? It helps that she only lives down the street. She’s renting a room at a family friend’s house, and she still comes over now and then. It also helps that before she left, I hardly saw her anyway, as she works almost full-time and is going to college. With her moved out, I think I still see her just as much as I saw her when she lived her.

But the other reason I’m not sad: I now have my own writing studio!

I haven’t really had a dedicated writing space since becoming an author. For a little while, I used a desk in my bedroom, and even wrote about it in my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul. In that book, I really stressed how important it was for artists to have a space they could use to unleash their creative flow. And yet, my own writing space was not ideal (hear more about it in the video below).

So now, I have a room where I can wake up early and not bother anyone. As I’m writing this, I have an oil diffuser filling the room with a lovely scent of peppermint and lavender, my dog snoring on his pillow right next to me, some soft spa music playing in the background, and ZERO distractions.

Here’s a video tour of my writing studio:

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Writing

The temptation to give up

Today, an author I’m friends with wrote a post about giving up. “It turns out the world does not need my novels,” she wrote. “I have spent thousands and thousands of hours writing and reading about writing, and for what?”

I hate that she wrote this. And I get why she wrote this. And I totally understand why she is ready to call it quits on writing.

I have these arguments with myself almost every day.

In fact, I was just talking myself down today as I drove home from work . It had been an especially hectic day at my day job, and I’d left my desk knowing that if I lingered for even a minute more, thirty more minutes of work would land in my lap. So I raced out of there. And the whole drive home, I questioned what I was doing. Why was I working so damn hard at a job that sometimes feels suffocating, and it’s not what I want to be doing? Why hasn’t my dream of being a full-time author been realized when I’ve worked so damn hard at this for the past 5 years of publishing, and 3 decades of writing? How long can I sustain writing novels, working full time, going to school, taking care of my family, and every other part of my life, all at the same time?

What if….what if I wasn’t meant to be an author?

I’m always stunned into silence when this thought crosses my mind.

I love words. I love the shape of them, the taste of them, and the feel of them. I love the way they look on a page, how they smell in a book, and how they sound in other people’s mouths. I want to spend the rest of my life playing with words, and my dream is that this will always involve storytelling: playing with words, creating words, writing words, and then using them to create books that people love to read.

But what if the people never come?

Today I saw another frustrated post from a different author who had written 20 novels, and she still hadn’t seen any kind of success. Her books don’t suck, either! Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here with 8 books, believing my time should have come. Apparently there’s no number to these things.

It is really, really hard when you want something so bad, and it just isn’t coming to you. In The Alchemist (my favorite book), Paulo Coelho writes, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

But why does the universe have to take so damn long???

Coelho also writes, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

And this, my friends, is the meaning of life.

We all have dreams we wish to fulfill. And when that dream is realized, a new one must be sought after. After all, life would lose meaning if you had nothing to work toward.

Do I want to be chasing success this hard all my life as an author? Absolutely not. But I never want it to get old. It’s always going to be hard, and I’m always going to be striving to make it happen, as this is what I know I’m supposed to be doing.

Now, that’s not to say that my dream won’t one day change or evolve, or that my friend is wrong for “giving up.” Sometimes things just aren’t in the cards, as much as that hurts to write. However, no dream is a wasted dream. I truly believe this. An unrealized dream may just be the bridge you need to set you on the path toward the dream that’s meant to be.

Or, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break so we can rediscover what we loved about our original dream in the first place.

___

SHAMELESS PLUG: My book, The Road to Hope, is still FREE! But only until Sunday. Don’t miss this chance to read the first book in my 3-book Hope series for free!

Posted in Blog, The Road to Hope, Writing

Hope at the Crossroads, and writing my heart

Crossroads FINALThe countdown is on for the release of Hope at the Crossroads, the 2nd book in the Hope series. The book is set to release on Sept. 5, which is only 7 short weeks away. Right now, beta readers are finishing with the book, and then it goes to the editor before it’s finally released to all of you.

This series is one that’s extremely close to my heart. This morning I was thinking about what the entire 3-book series is about, and what it means for me. When I first wrote The Road to Hope, it was only meant to be a stand-alone book. I wrote about Jill’s loss of her son so that I could write about my feelings of losing my own son to stillbirth. I wrote about Maddie’s journey as a teen mom and becoming homeless so that I could write about my own journey as a young mom who struggled through poverty. I wrote about the Wilsons, who took Hope in and gave her a home, because they were like my own parents who nursed me back to health after I left an abusive marriage.

When I ended that first book, I felt like I’d said everything I needed to say. But then I realized, I really hadn’t, particularly through Maddie. That first book, I spoke about loss, about falling down and then getting back up. What I didn’t write about was what happens next. What happens after you’ve turned your life around? I’ll tell you what—your mind plays tricks on you. Your life might look different, but inside, you’re still that same person you were, ready for the deck to fall in your fragile house of cards. When things are great, you question if you’re worth all this goodness. You are prone to turning back to your old lifestyle. You feel inadequate. You may even sabotage everything you’ve gained in your new life.

In Hope at the Crossroads, Maddie is now living at the Winstons’ house with Hope. She’s just graduated, and her future is promising. She’s learning about the winery business with Mr. Winston, and her life on the streets is far behind. Except, it really isn’t. In her mind, she feels out of place. She will always be that rejected teen, the one her parents threw away, and then her boyfriend. She’ll always be that homeless pregnant teen, the one people avoided looking at while they walked by. She battles feelings of unworthiness while trying to move forward—and this affects every single aspect of her life, and threatens her relationships with the people who love her most.

While the 1st book was about falling back down and getting back up again, book 2 is about the inner battle of identity. It’s about life after a dramatic change, when life has changed but the mind hasn’t. It’s about worthiness, overcoming old narratives, and about how we tend to sabotage ourselves because we feel we’re not worthy.

I wrote this series to get out my most personal story of loss, identity, and redemption. But I also wrote it because I’m not alone. I wrote this to offer HOPE to others who have experienced loss, who struggle with overcoming lies about our identity, and about letting love lead us out of the trenches.

Of everything I’ve ever written, this series is the one that’s my heart.

Posted in Blog, Books I Love, News & Events, Writing

Books I’ve published so far

In case you’re new here, or you may have missed some of my previous books I’ve released, here’s a full list of all the books I’ve published over the years. Of note is The Road to Hope, which is the first book in the Hope series. Book 2, Hope at the Crossroads, publishes on Sept. 5.

(All of my books can always be found at crissilangwell.com/books, or in the dropdown menu above)

If you’ve read my books, which one is your favorite? Which one are are you reading next?

BOOKS I’VE WRITTEN

ltw-FRONT-cover-finalAll Tiger Lily wants is to be a warrior and serve as one of the protectors of her people. But there are rules in the Miakoda tribe of Neverland. Girls aren’t allowed to fight or hunt, and princesses are to remain free of danger. However, when pirates threaten her tribe, Tiger Lily is cast in the very center of peril and uncertainty. But it isn’t until she finds herself face to face with the legendary Peter Pan that her true adventure begins.

***Rated G

CLICK here to read more about Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan


If you’re a writer, artist, or musician with a full-time job or young family, you know how hard it is to find time for the creative side of your life. Through tips on organizing your creative space, budgeting your money, getting in touch with your spiritual side, and more, this book promises to help you find time for your craft—even if you can’t quit your day job.

CLICK to read more about Reclaim Your Creative Soul.


cupcake-real-2

There are four things to know about Morgan Truly.

  1. She is not thrilled to have moved back to her seaside town of Bodega Bay.
  2. She’s falling for a handsome rugged seafarer.
  3. She’s discovering that she loves baking.
  4. But with that discovery of baking comes a dark secret.

***Rated PG-13+

Read more about Come Here, Cupcake.


The Road to HopeTwo mothers. Two different roads in life. Two unimaginable events.

The Road to Hope paints a portrait of grief and affliction, opening the wounds of life’s calamities before shedding the light of hope on new roads to travel. This is the story of Jill and Maddie, the trauma they experience, and how life’s twists and turns can have an impact on who they think they are, who they’re bound to become, and the lives they touch in between.

***Rated R

The Road to Hope is now the first book in a new series! Find out more about the HOPE series here.

Read more about The Road to Hope and where you can find it.


Forever Thirteen

What would you do if you died before you could ever really experience life?

After a terrible car accident with his mother, 13-year-old Joey is stuck in the afterlife, just like he is wedged forever at the awkward place between childhood and teenager. That fact alone seems overwhelming as he mourns the life he lost. But it’s the utter despair of his best friend left on earth that pulls him in and gives his in-between life a purpose to have died for.

***Rated PG

Forever Thirteen is the follow-up novel to A Symphony of Cicadas.

Read more about Forever Thirteen and where you can find it.


Rachel Ashby is on the other side of life, looking in. Her fiance is trying to live without her, and failing. Both are left clinging to a path that no longer exists, blind to the bridges they’re burning along the way.

A Symphony of Cicadas shares the surreal story of two worlds held together by the fragile strings of love, the grief in letting go, and the spiritual journey on the road towards healing.

***Rated R

Read more about A Symphony of Cicadas and where you can find it.


“It was two lifetimes ago when I left my husband, the

father of my children. The next lifetime was spent recovering from the aftermath. But it wasn’t until after that first year – when I woke up into my third lifetime – when I realized I could actually survive being a single mother.”

And so begins the book of stories from our single-parent family.

***Rated G

Read more about Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows, and where you can find it.


Before Crissi Langwell wrote fiction, she needed to find a way to create prose in her storytelling. Through poetry, she found it. These verses travel through emotions of love, heartache, joy, and despair. Some of the poems are true, many were poems wished to be true. And all of them are words that led to love, brand new worlds, and stories that needed to be told.

These are the poems that helped the ink start flowing.

Read more about Everything I Am Not Saying, and where you can find it.


COMING SOON

The Road to Hope is becoming a series! Books #2 and #3 focuses on Maddie and Hope, and will release in 2017.

Sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any new release.

HOW TO REACH ME
Facebook: facebook.com/pg/CrissiLangwellBooks
Instagram: instagram.com/crissilangwell
Twitter: twitter.com/CrissiLangwell
Snapchat: @crissitherese

Happy reading!

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, Writing

Running, writing, and changing your thoughts

running

This morning when I woke up at 6 a.m., I had a choice on how I could spend the next 30 minutes before I had to start getting ready for work.

I could go for a run.

I could sit and peruse Facebook and email.

I could cram in some editing.

I could close my eyes and get 30 more minutes of rest.

My preference would have been to lounge in bed, scrolling through social media. I’ve made that choice many times. But this morning, knowing I was due for a run, I got out of bed and put on the workout clothes I’d set out the night before. And then, before I could talk myself out of it, I walked out the door and hit the pavement.

Let me confess here that I am not a natural runner. Before I even start running, I HATE running. I’ve learned to just not think about it too much beforehand, because if I do, I’ll talk myself out of it every time. Instead, I have to set myself up for success by laying out my clothes the night before, and set the coffee so it’s brewed by the time I’m done running.

Once I’m running, the first few minutes are spent getting over the shock to my system. Remember, I’ve only woken up about 10 minutes earlier, so my mind is generally cussing me out. Not my body, mind you. My body is still unsure what’s going on, and is just going with the flow. But my mind is well aware that I traded scrolling Facebook for heavy sweat and aching muscles.

Here’s where the shift comes in. It’s up to me to pull my mind out of the mental gutter and focus on what’s going right.

***

Mind: @*#%@*&

Me: I’m not sure you should be using that kind of language.

Mind: Fine. This sucks.

Me: No it doesn’t. I’m powerful.

Mind: No, I’m slow.

Me. But I’m learning to be fast.

Mind: Everyone thinks I look stupid.

Me: No, everyone thinks I’m amazing for even being out here running at this hour. Besides, why do I care what people think?

Mind: I don’t even know why I’m doing this. Eventually I’m just going to give up and stop running. Then all this will be for nothing.

Me: I’m not worried about tomorrow, or any other day. I’m worried about right now. And right now, I’m running. And right now, this feels easier than it did yesterday, and the day before that.

Mind: Actually, that’s true.

Me: Yup. And I’m almost done running.

Mind: Wait, that was fast. And I kind of feel amazing. And powerful!

Me: See?

Mind: Still, I’m going to have to do this again. And it’s taking forever to make progress.

Me: But each step forward brings me closer to my goal. So I’m not giving up.

***

And you know what happens after my run? My calves ache. My body sweats. And I feel incredible. In fact, I feel like I can take on the world. Just 30 minutes earlier, I’d been filled with doubt. But once I pushed through it, not only did I feel amazing, but I felt triumphant to have accomplished today’s challenge. It was only 30 minutes, and I got it done and out of the way before the day even started.

This is the trick with any goal, and the exact way I tackle my writing career. Do you think I always wake up ready to write when I’m in the middle of a book project? No. That’s a big fat NO. There are some days when I just want to sleep in or take a day off. But if I do that, I know I’ll lose the motivation I need to finish my book. So every day, I wake up at an ungodly hour and I start writing. To ensure success, I always leave myself notes during the previous writing session so I know where I left off. And I make sure my writing station is (mostly) clutter free, all my materials are within reach, and the coffee pot is set to brew. Every morning I have the same choice of options as I do on my running days—waste time on social media, sleep, or write. To keep from making the wrong choice, I don’t even check my social media or email until after my writing time is complete. Then I dive right into my book project. I don’t even worry if it sucks (rather, that voice does come up, but I push it out of the way). I know I can fix it later. I don’t bother with necessary research, I just make a note to check it later. I write, going through the motions until I get in the groove, and I change my thoughts every time I start to get down on myself.

Regardless of the goal you’ve set for yourself, you have to change your mind’s thought process first. If you’re telling yourself that you suck, encourage yourself instead. If you tell yourself that you’re going to fail, focus instead on what you’re doing RIGHT NOW to succeed. If you’ve become buried under negative thoughts, find positive ones to take their place. Speak to yourself as if you were one of your friends. Leave inspirational notes around your bedroom or in your car. Read inspirational books that uplift you and make you want to strive for more (I recommend Man’s Search for Meaning, The Alchemist, and A Return to Love, to start). Keep yourself surrounded by the positive so you can chase away the negative. You might have to force it, at first. But do it enough times, and that voice of positivity might sound more and more like you.

Stay tuned, I have another blog coming on how to make goals and stick to them.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

 

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Writing

Focusing on one thing at time

busy

This morning, I found myself in between the craziness of finals. I have no more homework left to do, I have enough time to study for my next final, and the essay I’m working on for English needs a day of rest. My morning was free and clear to spend on the other things I have been wanting to do. Naturally, I picked up my manuscript for Hope at the Crossroads, and resumed editing it. I haven’t been able to work on it for weeks, so this was a rare opportunity.

But guilt and distraction reared their ugly heads, and they started whispering in my ear. What about those short stories you promised to edit? You really should be taking the time out to study. You sit all day, why not go to the gym? I know, write a blog entry!

Okay, so I folded on that last one. However, I’m going to make this short. There are always going to be other things you *should* be doing, or *could* be doing. But you can’t do everything at the same time. Right now (after this blog entry), I am working on my manuscript. Just my manuscript. Tonight I will work on my short stories. Everything else will have its time, but it’s not right now. If I keep focusing on everything I *should* be doing, I’m doing a crappy job on the one thing in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time is faster than trying to do all the things at once.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, Writing

Being too busy to write, and why it’s ok (for a season)


I’m in the final weeks of my 2nd semester of college, and it’s kicking my butt. Any quality time I have to devote to something substantial is spent on studying and doing homework. The manuscripts I’d rather be editing are pushed to the side. The book ideas I want to write are put on hold. The books I want to read for fun are saved for later. All creative projects, besides my morning journaling, are not happening right now. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated. My creative soul is screaming to stretch and grow, to create something – anything! – just to release some of this pent up creative pressure. However, it just isn’t the time. 

In my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, I shared the secrets to making room for your creative endeavors, even with a busy life. However, I also talked about those times in your life when things are so busy, it’s near impossible to find room for creative time. This includes times when your kids are small, when you have a big project at work, when your focus is needed on something huge, and when you’re in the middle of midterms and preparing for finals. If trying to fit creative time into a mandatory busy time is going to make you go insane, it’s ok to put creativity on hold for a time. 

But that’s the difference. It’s just temporary!

While I’d love to be more creative right now, my schoolwork is demanding my attention. Writing and editing will have to wait. I have only 2 1/2 more weeks left of this semester, and then I can dive headfirst into my creative life. Until then, I’ll have to be patient. 

If you’re experiencing an overly busy time in your life, give yourself some grace. If this is becoming the norm, you may need to shift a few things so that you don’t completely lose your motivation to be creative. However, sometimes we need to focus all of our energy on things other than our creative projects just so we can clear them off our plates (and then have the room to create). We just have to ensure it’s only for a season, and not forever. 

Posted in Blog, The Road to Hope, Writing

Hear about ‘The Road to Hope’ and upcoming series at Copperfield’s Books April 25

This week, the Argus Courier, my town’s local newspaper, featured me as their Petaluma Profile. This was a complete honor because A) it’s really hard for smalltime authors to get any kind of significant coverage in their local newspaper, B) it’s near impossible to get any kind of coverage if you actually work for the newspaper (I work at their sister paper, The Press Democrat), and C) I got to talk about my upcoming book series and my appearance at the Montgomery Village Copperfield’s Books next Tuesday.

If you’d like to read it, click here.

I should let you know that while book talks are absolutely vital to an author’s career, I’m always a bundle of nerves before these events. It doesn’t help that I’m struggling with an unrelated essay I’m writing for my college English class, even though I know I need to prepare for this upcoming author event. Or maybe it’s better this way — it means I don’t have time to stress (fat chance on that).

What I am excited about is knowing that there will be so many familiar faces in the audience next Tuesday, along with people I know have read the book. These are the people who likely have the inside scoop on why this book I wrote means so much to me.

For those of you not in the know, The Road to Hope was the first book I ever wrote (though the 5th I published). Because this is what a lot of new authors do, I ended up writing many true things within the fictional stories of Jill and Maddie. However, I embrace this fact, and have used this series as a way to cope with some of the things I’ve grappled with in real life, unapologetically telling the truth with fiction. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to writing a memoir (no promises), and has been a true therapeutic release.

That said, the events in these stories are completely made up. It’s the feelings behind them that are real. For instance, when Jill loses her son in the second chapter (this is not a spoiler, it’s one of the main themes of The Road to Hope), it’s based on how I felt when I lost my infant son to stillbirth. When Maddie is kicked out of her parents’ home after she reveals she’s pregnant, it’s based on how I felt to become pregnant at a young age, experience poverty and figure out my place in the world (for the record, my parents are awesome and never kicked me out!).

I wrote the upcoming books, Hope at the Crossroads and Hope for the Broken Girl, with the same theme, as I follow Maddie’s story. The second book in the series has Maddie grappling with self-worth and a new romance. The third book has themes of domestic violence and poverty.

If you’re in the Santa Rosa area this coming Tuesday, I’d love to see you at the Montgomery Village Copperfield’s (even though I’ll likely be nervous!). Come and say hi. The event is 6-7 p.m. See all of the event details here.