Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Saturday sigh

Nope. I got nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I don’t know what to write about this week. No new updates on the manuscript front. No ideas from the writers’ grab bag.

Weeding. Taming tomato plants, picking beans, prolific zucchini (big surprise there–not), and patrolling for cabbage worms. Boooring.

Shameless plugs for writing sisters who have books out recently or coming out soon:

Crossing the Line

St. Mary’s Private Dancer

Progress report? Finishing the last edits on my 20 pages to send to my writing sisters. In two weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin at our reunion. I can’t wait!

Hmm, anything useful for fellow writers? Updates on the publishing journey?

I have been reading some good blog posts lately about writing and how important patience and persistence are. I was thinking about my current adventure I’m taking, courtesy of my agent. She started sending the manuscript out in February. It’s now almost the end of July, and we’re still “pounding the pavement”. There are a handful of editors who haven’t said “yea” or “nay”; actually, they haven’t said much at all.

It’s a waiting game. And even once a publisher picks up the manuscript (crossing fingers here!), I know it’ll be at least a year before release, because that’s how long it takes. This is the patience part.

If this manuscript doesn’t sell, I’ve got another one ready to go. It’s just a matter of whether my agent will like it enough to represent it. If not, I’m working on my old “new” WIP, but that won’t be ready until closer to the end of the year. I’ll talk to my agent about next steps.

And I might have to start the hunt all over again (I hope not, because I really like my agent). This is the persistence part. This business is not for anyone who likes instant gratification. Short fiction would have a shorter timeline, and I’ve had short stories published (B.C.–Before Children), so that’s an option.

Bottom line: Keep writing. Keep learning, improving, practicing. Every draft, every query, every rejection is another step on the journey. Keep moving forward.

Okay, that’s about all I’ve got. Heading to my dad’s to see my sister today. I only see her a couple times a year since she lives in WI, so I’m looking forward to catching up a little with her. Gotta finish my 20 pages, so I’m going to sign off.

Have a great weekend! Wear sunscreen, keep hydrated, and WRITE!


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A summer of distractions

Welcome to the first week of summer–though you’d never know it here in MN. Our temps are in the 70s, when usually we’ve got 80s by now (that’s Fahrenheit for those from Down Under or across the pond). And I’m not complaining. I like cooler rather than the gawd-awful heat they’re getting out west. I mean, over 110 degrees in AZ? OMG.

I’d rather complain about the mosquitos. I was out in the garden the other night (pulling weeds because, well, they seem to think they own the place), and it was like a cloud of tiny vampires. I had mosquito repellent on, plus a long-sleeved shirt, plus a net I wear over my head so I don’t have to put repellent on my face. The air around me buzzed. Ugh. And no dragonflies in sight. With such a feast, maybe the dragonflies were full πŸ™‚

*looks around the writing office* Anyone see my Muse? No? Whew. He’s been threatening to tie me to my chair so I’ll have no choice but to write. I know he’s doing his job, but I’m really having trouble getting back into my WIP. I took a mini-retreat last weekend to my dad’s, since he went to visit my sister. I got through the scene I was stuck on, now I’m stuck again. I’m thinking I need some writing sister help.

Speaking of, I’m starting to count down to our reunion–one month and change. We always have a great time, and so much creative energy!

“A-hem.”

Okay, um, he’s behind me, isn’t he? Damn, I knew if I mentioned him he’d show up. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him, he’ll go away.

“You know I won’t, love.”

Gulp. I’ll update the board. Yep, I was meaning to do that. I rearrange the active and inactive lists. My agent touched base with all the editors who have the manuscript, so there’s eight on the active list. Two of them have been unresponsive, so the inactive list has two entries.

“Now that you’re done playing around, sit down and write.”

I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I turn around. “Oh, hi. I was just thinking about you.” My Muse is rougish today, in an oddly-attractive getup of faded jeans, holey red t-shirt that probably needs to retire to the rag pile, and faded flannel shirt that might have been red and black, but now is reddish and gray. If he’s shaved in the past week, the rough stubble on his face doesn’t show it.

“What happened to Indiana Jones? Did Harrison Ford call and ask for his fedora back?”

He crosses his arms on his chest and shoots me a stern look, the one that says “don’t give me any bullshit”, a distinct lack of humor in his eyes. “Har, har. Maybe I should take a page from the Hell’s Angels instead. Would you listen to me then? Biker leathers and chains?”

Puke. Not a fan. “No, no, this is fine. I’m good with rough and outdoorsy. It is outdoorsy, right? Not ‘I lost my construction job and I’m sulking in front of the TV’. By the way, don’t do the beard thing. Not a good look for you.”

He frowns. “You’re planning on writing this weekend, right?”

“I always plan on writing on the weekends. I’ve got my cousin’s graduation today. We’ll be gone all afternoon. And if it stays dry, I’ve got a jungle of weeds to pull. It’s summer. C’mon, this happens every summer.”

“And every summer I have to bust my ass to get you to sit down and write. Your reunion isΒ  coming up. You have to send the first 20 pages of your WIP to your sisters in a couple weeks.”

“I think I need their help with this one. I’m not feelin’ it. There’s something missing.”

“Yeah, you at your desk, writing.” He heaves a sigh, like this is a burden he has to put up with. Come to think of it, that’s probably accurate. “Please?”

Wait. What? “Did you just say ‘please’?”

He takes another step closer and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Tell you what.” He squeezes my shoulders. “You sit down and write, and I’ll get a new bucket of ideas to toss at the brainstorming wall.”

That’ll work, I think. I’ll have an hour and a half drive to my cousin’s house and another hour and a half back today to mull over ideas. I’d include a few pics here, but I haven’t taken any new ones since it’s been so wet outside. We did let the chicks into the bigger pen now, but when I tried to take their picture, they were really shy and stayed in the coop. And I tried to get a good pic of our nightly visitor, but the lousy lighting doesn’t help. I’ll try to get a better pic and tell the story next week.

Until then, have a great weekend and WRITE!

 


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Revise or redraft?

I’ve been struggling with my WIP revisions. Granted, this would technically be called the second draft, but dammit, I’m just not feeling it.

Then I read Janice Hardy’s post on shifting between drafting and editing. (BTW, if you haven’t spent any time on Janice’s blog, head on over. She’s got an awesome site for writers.)

Aha. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe I need to start over, do another self-imposed NaNoWriMo.

“Maybe you just need to sit your ass down and write, love.”

I turn. Gulp. My Muse is in full ass-kicking mode, complete with Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip, arms crossed on his chest, his blue eyes cutting into mine like lasers. “Ahh, hi there.”

“Sit.” No room for argument.

I sink into my writing chair. I’ve been staring at the screen for the past, well, I’m not sure. I made an inline note in the scene I was having trouble with (a new scene, too!) and moved on to the scene I realized I needed. I thought I had it figured out.

Turns out I thought wrong. “You know, you could break out a new bucket of ideas to throw at the brainstorming wall instead of channeling Harrison Ford. You’re my Muse, so do your muse thing.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk, bullwhip curled in one hand. “I have been doing my muse thing, as you call it. Hell, I’ve be trying to shove as much creative fecking energy into you as I can, and what have you been doing? Playing in the dirt.”

“Hey, I’ve got to keep on top of the weeds or I won’t be able to find my vegetables in a couple weeks. They’re way easier to get rid of when they’re two inches high instead of six. Besides, I had to rabbit-proof my garden. Did you see that rabbit waltz right in? Through the fence? I think they chewed that hole. It was like the damn thing thought it lived there.”

“So don’t use a plastic fence.”

“It worked fine last year. And the year before. What happened, did the rabbits have a confab to Ocean’s Eleven my garden? They still got to two of my pepper plants. I think I need a BB gun instead of my slingshot. The damn things don’t even spook when I hit them with a rock.”

“So you got over-confident rabbits.”

“I’ve got oversized, fuzzy, cotton-tailed rodents. And no dog or cat that bothers to chase them. I think we need to get a terrier. They were bred to hunt rabbits.”

“No, they were bred to chase prey into burrows. Rats, not rabbits.”

“How do you know?”

He gives me his crooked smile, and I fight to hold back a swoon, because that would just encourage him (not that it’s a bad thing; I could use a little eye candy about now). “I’m a Muse. Google has nothing on us.”

I almost sprain my eyes from the roll. “Humble much?”

He leans over, inches from me. “You don’t have anything going on tomorrow, and you won’t want to go outside in the tropical heat, so I expect you to get through at least two scenes. Complete scenes, love. I will be right here, so I can keep an eye on you.”

Before I can respond, he waved a finger. “Ah ah. If you behave, I might even dig up some Schell’s Firebrick lager.”

Not as good as Moon Man, but hey, it’s incentive. “You know, you sure can be annoying.”

“You should know all about annoying.”

Ugh. And of course he’s right. I’ve been having a tough time focusing, and tomorrow will give me a good excuse to stay in the house (yep, 96 degrees with a 72 degree dewpoint. Ick.). I went out to the garden tonight, and wouldn’t you know it, a rabbit was sitting near the garden. I tried to spook it, but it pretty much ignored me until I started chasing it. Then it ran right into my garden. Through the fence.

Seriously. WTF? So I spent an hour adding chicken wire to the side of the fence that had the most rabbit-sized holes. *grumble* Oh, I suppose you’d like to see how things are coming.

The potatoes and tomatoes are looking good, and the onions are starting to take off. Most of the peppers are still intact, thanks, I’m sure, to the tomato rounds I added to protect them. The Brussels sprouts are doing okay, but I found cabbage worms on one tonight. I’ll have to start patrolling. Or cover them, but the trick there is anchoring the netting. Might have to try that this year.

I also promised to show you what asparagus looks like once it grows out. Here ya go:

mature asparagus

It has feathery fronds and tiny yellow flowers. Later in the season those flowers develop into little berries that start green and eventually turn bright red.

And as I was weeding tonight, I ran across a couple fat toads. I love seeing toads in the garden.

toad patrol

The chickens are still in the “nursery” pen, but we need to move them into the bigger enclosure, hopefully this weekend, then I’ll try to get some pics.

Instead, I’ll close with Zoey chillin’ outside.

Zoey chillin’

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing–I know I will πŸ˜€


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Gardens, retreats, and updates–oh my!

I add the new publishers from the second round of submissions to my list on the whiteboard in my writing office. I sense my Muse behind me, his energy radiating into me like a heater gone all psychic-creative vibes in place of warmth.

He settles beside me, his arm a solid line along my own. “What’s the tally, love?”

I add a footnote below the list and mark two entries with an asterisk. “Six passes, five radio-silent but could still be interested, and seven active.”

“What about these two?” He points to the marked entries.

“Those are ones who asked for the revised manuscript when my agent nudged them and offered it. So, crossing my fingers they’re still interested.”

“Hrrumph.” He rocks on his heels. “What does your agent think?”

“She thinks my latest revisions are good, and that might be the clincher.” Hoping. Searching for that damn leprechaun who’s supposed to grant wishes … wait, no, that’s a genie.

“So,” he slings an arm around my shoulders, “writing retreat to your dad’s this weekend.”

“And next weekend.”

He nods. “Does that mean you are going to stop procrastinating on that second draft you keep promising to work on?” His arm tightens around my shoulders.

Almost like a warning.

“Yes, after I get my promotional plan and three-to-five page synopsis done for my manuscript. One of the publishers my agent submitted to is asking for them.” I know he’s aware of that. I suspect he wants to remind me I’ve been dragging my feet and he’s done watching me do it.

Gulp.

“It’ll be a dreary weekend, and you’ll have all day Saturday to work. On writing,” he adds, an edge to his baritone voice. “Right, love?”

“That’s the point of going to my dad’s while he’s away. No distractions.”

“Uh-huh.” He squeezes my collarbone. Hard. “Just remember that.”

Er, o-kay. At least I managed to get the garden planted before the cool, rainy week set in. Needless to say, it’s been too wet to do much outside, although when I checked the garden last night between rainshowers my onions were still looking good. Whew! Those are the ones I worry about the most, because they’re just tender seedings about 5 inches high and about as thick around as the wire from a coat hangar. Once they’re strong enough to stand up, I can stop worrying about them.

No pics this week since it’s been so icky outside and the garden looks way too forlorn. I imagine by the time the rain finally stops and it dries out enough to work in the garden that the weeds will have a decent head start. Sigh.

Hey, since I’ve got you here, anyone know of any good blogs aimed at middle-grade readers or writers? One of my writing sisters is looking for opportunities to guest; her next middle-grade book is coming out this summer.

Enjoy your weekend–stay warm, stay dry, and WRITE!


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Painting the Idea Wall

One wall of my writing office is covered with a smooth, glossy surface, currently home to a Rorschach test of various colors. An indigo splotch is running down over a yellow stain to meet a red splat.

I stare at the chaos. There’s an idea I can keep. But that orange one over there is a dead end, I think.

“You know, love, you’d have better luck if you focused more.” My Muse closes the door behind him with a quiet snick.

Of course, he’s right. I drop the powder blue goop in my hand into the bucket of discarded ideas at my feet. It lands with a satisfying bloop. “It’s spring.” ‘Nuff said. The grass is getting green, my tomato plants are outgrowing the nursery “pots” I started them in, and it’s just plain nice outside, at least for the weekend. Sunny and seasonal.

I turn to see my Muse staring at the whiteboard. He’s tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, drawing my attention to his admirable backside. “No news this week?” he asks as he half-turns in my direction. An eyebrow arches. “What?”

Er, ahem. I hope my face isn’t as red as it feels. “Nothing.” I move up beside him. “My agent is on vacation for the next two weeks. Besides, I’m waiting for my readers to send me feedback.”

He crosses his arms on his chest and scans the multi-colored wall. “This looks good.” He points to a somewhat coordinated section of wall. “You can use this.”

“I know. I just need to refine it. I think it’ll jack the danger for my main characters if I go this direction. I just don’t know if I should keep this or not.” The area I indicate is a nice pattern, but I’m not sure if it’ll help the plot.

“It’s only the second draft, love. See how it works.” He settles into one of the recliners facing the wall, examining it like an art appraiser. He scoops a glob from the idea bucket and juggles it in his hand. “What if the drug lord grew up there? What if she knows the chief? Or the victim?” He flings the glob.

It lands with a splat beside the indigo. He picks up another handful. “That way no one would suspect her of doing her illegal business in town.”

Hmm. I draw my finger through the fresh goop and smear it across the indigo. “Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“You need to do more than just think about it, love.” He chucks a bright fuschia blob. It lands with a squish, then rolls down the wall in a thick, slime-like mass, leaving pink in its wake.Β  “You need to work through this plot sooner rather than later. The more you can get done sooner, the farther along you’ll be once you need it.”

And he’s right, of course. I drop into the other recliner. It’s coming together. I realized the other day how I can up the tension and conflict. Sort of.

While these ideas ferment, I’ll leave you with a few pics (because I know someone is expecting them–you know who you are πŸ™‚ )

Remember those fuzzy chicks? They’re not so fuzzy anymore. They’ve got real feathers now. And they’re starting to hop-flap, so we need to be careful when we feed them.

chicks 2_cr

And one of my favorite parts of spring is finally here! I can’t wait until they’re big enough to pick. Can you see the asparagus spears just coming up?

aspargus2

And I’d hate to leave you without a cat pic, because, you know. Some days I wish I was a cat. All I’d have to do is sleep all day long πŸ˜€

zoey1

Enjoy your weekend!


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Roughing It – 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating, writing, bringing characters in your mind to life on the page. When the energy propels you to get the words out, that story in your head takes shape. You can see the unfolding of the plot, the characters, the setting, every bit that is part of the whole. You can’t refine your work until it’s in front of you. Enter the first draft, better known as the rough draft.

I’m working on the first draft of my next novel, and hitting a stretch of frustration that my mental picture of the story wasn’t complete enough to make the draft a smoother ride. It’s not the characters; the book my agent is shopping introduces the characters. It’s not the setting, though I think I’ll have to do a road trip (twenty+ years since I’ve been there). It’s the plot. The timeline. The guideposts along the way.

I tried to outline, but I don’t think I had a clear vision of the story. With most of my other projects, by the time I got to the point of writing the first draft, I had a pretty good handle on them in my head. This one, not so much.

It occurred to me as I was trying to hit my word quota last night that I’ve learned some things over the course of thirteen novel first drafts. I figured I’d share them (don’t worry, there’s pictures at the end–but not of my cat πŸ˜‰ )

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts:

  • I’m a novelist. Not that I can’t write short stories–my first publishing credits were short stories–but the stories in my head tend to be novel-length: 80,000 words or more. It took me over five or six years to write the first draft of my first novel (not counting the trunk novel I wrote in elementary–jr. high school). I knew I wanted to write a book–actually, rewrite that first book–after my kids were born, but I didn’t want it to drag on until they graduated.

When I learned about NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days), I knew that was my ticket to finishing a book in a reasonable amount of time. The key to “winning” at NaNo? Kicking the inner editor into a cage and locking it (that’s besides the 1,667 words a day). I learned I need to treat a new project like I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, no matter what time of the year. It’s only with that 30-day deadline and a restrained inner editor that I’m able to put myself into the frame of mind to just write. It also seems to be the only way I can get back into the habit of writing every day.

  • I outline, in a loose-ish sense of the word. The outline is not the only route from beginning to end for me, but it gives me an idea of the journey. With my current project, I struggled with the outline. I came up with characters, conflict, and setting, but the path through from beginning to end was fuzzy, and it shows during my writing sessions. I’ve learned my draft goes much better when I have a good idea of the story (outline), BUT
  • I’ve learned the process of writing the first draft actually helps bring the story into focus. As I’m writing, I make both inline notes and off-line notes. This particular draft looks less like an actual book and more like a scriptwriter’s attempt to put a director’s vision into some sort of storyboard-in-words. The story is more clear to me now than it was when I started. Maybe that’s because my NaNo-style first draft method is a lot like free-writing. No takebacks, no revising, no editing, just inline notes and writing forward.
  • I’ve learned first drafts are called “rough” for a reason. It’s less like a rock you can polish into something to put in a ring and more like deadwood turned into a functional piece of furniture with class. Rough drafts are UGLY. At least this one is. I mentioned it to some online friends as “sucking like a lemon soaked in turpentine”. Yep. Pretty much. I will never be like George R. R. Martin, with a first draft that’s ready to publish right off the finish line. Then again, my draft takes 30 days to finish, not five or six or more years.
  • I’ve learned to trust my method (your mileage may vary). This project taught me that skipping steps in the beginning (I didn’t lay out a timeline, or figure out the major plot points (just thought about the general direction), or fill out my storyline worksheets from Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days) results in uncertainty and missing my word quota.

When I work through my process, I can often exceed my word count because I can just write. I don’t have to think about where I’m going next. I know I’m headed in the right direction because I plotted my course (heh, see what I did there) ahead of time. It’s like planning a route when you drive to a writers’ conference or retreat. You know pretty much how to get there, even if there are detours along the way. My process has changed over the years (more free-writing, less fill-in-every-entry-in-the-worksheets), but it works for me. This is the first time I got lazy (or uninspired) about planning/outlining, and boy, do I know it.

I’m on the home stretch. One more week (and I get an extra day this month because March has 31 days–heh), and I’ll have 50k words and a complete or almost-complete first draft for my next book. Then the scramble to prep for hosting the fam for Easter in — OMG — two weeks?! I’ve gotta get moving on that.

SO, I might miss my mark in the interest of not embarrassing myself with my in-laws. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a peek into my garden this summer.

IMG_0023_cr

onion seedlings

IMG_0022_cr

tomatoes and a few peppers

Have a great weekend!


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Writing and waiting

Today I use a green dry-erase marker for my writing office whiteboard. You know, for St. Patrick’s Day (even though St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish to start with). Three more publishers off the list as passes, but I add a new one to the bottom. The editor reached out to my agent, so of course she pitched my manuscript, and the editor asked to see it.

Yay! I mean, anytime another editor gets eyes on it is another chance an editor will love it, right?

My Muse arrives in full regalia: well-worn (in every sense of the word) jeans, tennis shoes, a bright green Guinness t-shirt, and a green hat with the requisite “Kiss me, I’m Irish” motto in shiny gold letters. I’m almost surprised he didn’t do a temporary dye job and go red- or green-haired for the day. Almost.

He hands me a mug of steaming coffee. “With Irish Creme, doncha know,” he says with a grin and a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent. “It’s too early fer green beer, but I’ll bring that along later.”

I feel my eyes narrow and a wince escape my control. “Dude, you’re Australian. You’re not even very good at American accents. Gonna have to work on your Irish accent.”

He sips his own coffee with a loud slurp. “So you say.”

“Seriously. When have you ever had to do an American accent? I mean, outside of a Southern accent, and you slip with that. I can’t think of one project, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of them.”

“You’re going to blow my cover, love.”

“Phhfftt. Like anyone’s going to know.” I sip the coffee, and suck in air. Woof. Cough. “Holy crap. Just how much Irish Creme did you put in here?”

“Enough. I added a little Jameson to even it out.” He takes another horrendously loud slurp and evaluates the board. “Three more passes.” He points to the new addition. “How does this one look?”

“They’re an independent. They’ve got a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and such on their list.” I wander to the window and look out.

A path covered with bark mulch wends into the woods. A white guidepost stands at the end just outside the office. Another appears beside the path around the first bend. Beyond it, fog hangs thick, obscuring the path and the next guidepost.

My Muse stands next to me. I notice now the rainbow and pot o’ gold motif on the mugs. “What’s up with that?” he asks, lifting his mug to point.

I brace myself for another sip of altered coffee and wonder if the caffeine will counter the Jameson. “My new draft.” I sidestep until I can see a guidepost beyond the fog bank. “I kinda know where I’m going, but I’m not sure how to get there. I’m missing a lot of stuff I’ll have to go back and add. I’m still a day behind in my word count because of it.”

“Or are you behind because you missed another day this week?” At my questioning look, he raises an eyebrow. “I’m watching you, love. Are you going to make your NaNo?”

“Yes, I’ll catch up. I’m taking Monday off from the day job.”

He tsks. “And how much writing do you suppose you’ll put in tomorrow? You’re going to be ‘out’ all day.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s a writers festival.” A local one I’ve never heard of before. Apparently the group has been doing an annual gig in Bloomington. This is their first year in Rosemount. I found out about it through the local Sisters In Crime newsletter. “It’s not downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul. It’s for writing. Not a substitute for the super-awesome UW Writers’ Institute in Madison, but it’s something.”

“Then you’ll have to buckle down, love. You’re going to miss your mark otherwise.”

Yep, I know. And I still haven’t started getting ready for the family Easter gathering. Sigh. I need to start getting the house cleaned (ugh) and organized (double-ugh), since we’re celebrating the weekend before Easter.

The publisher news is disappointing, but I expected to get passes. And there’s still nine publishers who haven’t reported in, including the new one. There’s still opportunity. I haven’t talked to my agent about what happens if none of the publishers like the manuscript. I expect she’ll pick another bunch of publishers to try. The feedback we’re getting is more “we like this part a lot, but this part doesn’t resonate with us” than “thanks but no thanks”. The brief critiques aren’t particularly useful, but it’s nice to know why they passed, and what they liked. It’s kind of interesting when one passes because of something they didn’t think worked for them but others really liked.

So, off to a writing thing tomorrow, then hammer away at the draft. Have a Happy St. Pat’s Day for those who celebrate. Also, Happy Vernal Equinox a few days early πŸ™‚

Write on!

IMG_0017_cr

Don’t wake me until the weekend!