Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Jacqui Murray has put up three new reviews, and Murder in Plane Sight is one of them. Head on over to her site and check them out!

via 3 More Thrillers–Loved these

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No rest for the writer #amwriting #writers

FIRST order of business: A huge hearty THANK YOU to everyone who hosted me for my book release blog tour! You were all great, and busy–holy cow, I think there were three blog tours running at the same time. Bravo and thank you to all those who stopped by mine and the other tours!

Woo-hoo! Finally the weekend! Kids are at school, the weather is spring-like, and I can relax and unwind from–

“A-hem.”

Damn. He’s behind me, isn’t he. Good thing I decided not to do my version of the Snoopy dance.

“Like I haven’t seen it before, love. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.”

Well, now I don’t want to do it. I turn. Sure enough, my Muse is giving me the “are you quite finished” look. “What?”

He leans against the desk in my writing office, all rugged eye candy, especially with those fine-fitting jeans and his burgundy henley, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. He crosses those sinewy arms, which just pulls my gaze to his broad chest.

“You’re not usually so blatant about that, love.”

Damn again. I force myself to focus on his face, with the dimple in his chin and that bare shadow from five o’clock. And those blue eyes …

“Hey,” he barks as he snaps his fingers. “Focus.”

I shake my head to shuffle my thoughts. That was weird.

“Not really.”

“Would you stop that?” I’d feel better if he couldn’t read all my thoughts. Especially those thoughts.

He chuckles, and the room warms. Or maybe it’s just me. “I’m your Muse, love. And it’s flattering.” He raises a finger. “But you need to focus. You have stuff to do before you leave next week.”

“I know. I know. I just finished the blog tour. I think it went pretty well.” Now to catch up on all those other blogs I didn’t get to. Not sure I’ll ever catch up at this rate. “Speaking of, I hope you and Mr. E got your pub crawling done for a while.” I have to get moving on Book 2. For the eighth time.

He smiles that crooked smile that makes the room get even warmer. “You have other priorities this week. Sounds like it’s going to be a grand gathering this year.”

30th-writers-institute-email

April 4-7   Register now, because it’ll be a blast!

Yes! I can’t wait! There is something about being around all those other writers at the conference that stirs up creative energy.

“And you need to get your presentations put together.”

Um. Yeah. “You really know how to crash a weekend vibe.” At least he didn’t remind me of …

“You have cleaning on your list.” He holds up a piece of paper–where did he snag my list from? “Oh, and that can’t wait.” He ticks off an item. “This can wait, but you better do this one this weekend.”

“Where the hell did you get my list? And which one?”

“The dreaded ‘clean the refrigerator’ one.” He sets the list on the desk beside him. “So, can we get the presentations done tomorrow? Then you have the whole next day to clean.”

Oh joy.

This year will be a busy one at the Writers’ Institute, now that I have a real book I can sell at the book sale. And two presentations. And two panels. So, I’ll be getting further behind in my quest to catch up on reading blogs. Next week’s post will go live a day later than usual so I can get all the good stuff in from the big days at the conference. And it’s all good stuff 😀

Enjoy your weekend!

zoey chair

Does this chair make me look fat?

 


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Book Release: Survival of the Fittest #amreading #newrelease #crossroads

Today I’m helping celebrate Jacqui Murray’s latest release, the first book of her Crossroads series.

Survival of the Fittest -smaller

The book is set in prehistory, when human survival depended less on brute strength and more on outwitting predators. Did those early humans have a way to explain their luck when they managed to survive until the next day? 

Survival of the Fittest hints at a spiritual side to man. Is that accurate?

Scientists have no idea when man’s spirituality started. Because 850,000 years ago (when Xhosa lived) is considered prehistory—before any sort of recorded record—there’s no way to tell. Survival of the Fittest offers one speculative theory of how that could have happened.

Short Blurb:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.

Short Summary:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.

Chapter 1 Excerpt:

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

Book information:

 Title and author: Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray
Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Cover by: Damonza 

Available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

Author bio:

JMurray--early for TF interview

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

 Social Media contacts:
 http://twitter.com/worddreams
http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher
http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray
https://worddreams.wordpress.com
https://jacquimurray.net

 


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Welcome to a fresh new year

*waves* I’m back! Didya miss me? (don’t answer that 😉 )

Another year stretches before us. So many of my fellow bloggers have done the “New Year’s Resolutions” post. They are all great posts. I especially like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s post on the Career Authors site.

Instead of resolving to do or not do things over the next year, I’m going to try intentions. Maybe by intending to do something I’ll be less likely to brush it off.

Hey, can’t hurt to try 😀

And I’ll keep my list short. Another way to trick me into keeping my intentions going. Oh, and telling you all. Cuz we all know how much we hate having to say “Er, yeah, about that. Haven’t done that for weeks.”

In 2019, I intend to:

Create a dedicated writing space. My husband has already warned our son (not that we haven’t warned him before) he should probably sort through and box up his stuff so I can start taking over. Oh, it’ll still serve as his bedroom when he comes home, but now that he’s finishing his junior year at college, I suspect he’ll be coming home much less often. Especially if he gets an internship for the summer.

Finish and polish Book 2. If you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, ’nuff said.

Write every day. I can’t accomplish the previous intention without this one. I got back into the habit during NaNo, then the holidays and all the family stuff, and doing all the stuff to prep for when my book comes out (website, teasers, newsletter, etc), I’ve strayed yet again. Another self-imposed NaNo? Perhaps.

Nurture connections with other writers. There is something energizing about connecting with others who are as passionate about writing as we are. Not only can we encourage each other, but we can work with each other as critique partners, beta readers, even network with each other regarding agents, editors, and publishers. First and foremost on my list of writerly connections is my treasured Writing Sisters. I continue to feel blessed to know such awesome women. I have many other connections to incredible writers; I don’t think I could list them all. We as a writing community encourage and support each other, and that helps all of us.

I think that’s enough for now. It is a manageable list, and I think I’m going to have plenty to work on.

What are your intentions for this shiny new year?


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Newton’s Third Law (for writers)

You remember those, right? Okay, nerd cap on for the refresher of Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  • First law: A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion (or simply, inertia). It’s like not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (body at rest), and then the cat (or dog) jumps on you and insists it’s time for breakfast/walk/pee break (an outside force affecting inertia 😀 ).
  • Second law: An object’s force is mass times acceleration. Think of it as the difference between a terrier running up to greet you and a Great Dane running up to greet you. One of these will be like catching a basketball, the other will body-slam you.
  • Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember those experiments way back in elementary school where the same poles of magnets would repel? Yep, kinda like that.

So, what exactly has this got to do with writing? Well, I was thinking (I know, scary 🙂 ) about characters and reactions.

Earlier this week I subbed at the library, because their high school staff member has basketball practice after school. And because it was after Thanksgiving, it was time to decorate for Christmas. Lexy (the high schooler) set up the tree already, so all I had to do was find stuff to put on the walls, etc.

The decorations are stored in the basement. So the staff member I was relieving led me into the basement to show me where things were. And one of the first things I noticed was this:

If you saw this in your basement, what would be your first reaction? Scream? Find something to hit it with? Or calmly say, “Hey, did you know you have a bat hibernating in the basement?”

Because the little guy wasn’t bothering anyone, and I knew it was sleeping, I picked the third option. (Honestly, bats don’t bother me because I know they eat bugs. Lots of bugs.)

Anyway, that (and every Sunday night’s America’s Funniest Videos episode) made me think about characters and how they react to things. A lot of our everyday activity is based on actions and our reactions to them. A character returns home from errands and finds the door to her apartment–that she is absolutely certain she locked–is unlocked. A character arrives after a call from a friend frantic about a break-in, and finds said friend on the floor unconscious and bleeding.

For every situation a character will react in a particular way. Does that character freak out when she finds the door unlocked? What about finding the friend? How does she handle the situation? Does she enter the apartment anyway? Does she run off to find help?

Characters should react the way we expect them to. An exterminator will not jump up on a chair when a mouse scurries across the kitchen floor. A firefighter will not run around frantically when they find their garage on fire.

Then again, sometimes it works to have a character react in an unexpected way. The nurse who retches when a patient vomits. Or, as seen on AFV, the mom who can’t bear to prep a raw turkey without gagging (no, she didn’t throw up, but it sounded like she usually did).

If a character reacts in a way the reader doesn’t expect, there must be a good reason for it. Is the nurse sensitive to odor? (of course, if he is, why on earth be a nurse?) Maybe he is going through chemotherapy and is extra-sensitive to odors. Maybe the mom who can’t stand to touch raw meat had to prep the turkey this year because her sister just got a new job and is working over Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a character react differently than expected. It keeps things interesting, but it also has to fit the character. Case in point: I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and the only female aircraft mechanic where I worked. So one night I’m walking across the hangar and someone calls my name. I look, and this thing is arcing through the air in my direction. So I calmly stand where I’m at and watch a dead mouse hit the floor a few feet away.

I don’t know what my co-worker was expecting me to do, but I think he was disappointed, because I didn’t react the way he expected, i.e. like a girl. Another example is when one of the guys I worked with (same place) reacted to a moth fluttering around in the crew van we took to the gate. Imagine a little kid reacting to a moth–they dance around and swat at it. The next night, someone glued a dead cecropia moth to the top of his toolbox. Moral of the story: don’t let your fellow mechanics know you’re afraid of moths.

Make sure your characters react to situations in a way that fits their personality. If they react otherwise, give them a reason to do so. In case you were wondering about the bat, someone came the next day and removed it. And I found out that was the third bat they had found in the basement. Methinks a bat house might be a nice alternative.

And I made it for NaNo! Of course, I didn’t finish the story, but I’m a lot closer to the end than I was before. This weekend is forecast to be snowing and blowing, so I have a great excuse to hunker down and write.

Have a great weekend!

zoey asleep


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Rough cut — plantsing away #nanowrimo2018

Week two of NaNoWriMo. I made week 1’s word count, but so far I’m slipping this week. Phone call with my daughter last night, who hasn’t registered for next semester yet –WHAAAT?! So, that, and reminding her to Do Her Homework before the day before the day it’s due. I know. What a concept.

It’s part of learning to manage time. And she’s trying, but boy, the call of procrastination is strong.

I am getting back into the routine of writing every day, which is pretty much the point, along with finally finishing my rough–really rough–draft of book 2. I’m still planning to work on a new book I plotted out but haven’t really gotten to yet. I did write a really rough draft of it, but that needs to be rebooted.

Anyway, every year around NaNo time there are posts and discussions about plotting versus pantsing, better known as writing “by the seat of your pants”. In other words, planning the story versus just writing and letting the story write itself (you know what I mean, like when the characters take the reins and head in a direction you didn’t intend them to go).

I like to think I’m more of a planner than a pantser. I don’t exactly outline, but I walk through the story. I have a starting point, I have an idea what will happen first, second, third, etc. I know who the characters will be, who the bad guy is, who the good guy is, and who the supporting characters are. This gives me a map, but leaves me room to wander a bit.

So, here I am, writing my minimum 1,667 words a day (ideally, 2k words a day, but I haven’t gotten onto that kind of roll yet), and walking through my path, and the story–erm, the characters started taking a side trip. Which seemed to work. Until it didn’t.

Wait, let me back up. I started with an apparent self-inflicted demise… or was it? The more I wrote, the more it wasn’t quite working. So, I wrote myself an inline note (I do a lot of those to remind me of things that pop into my head). And as I wrote the note, I realized why it wasn’t working.

Hoo-boy. I have a bit of revising to do. But this is a rough draft, right? It’s supposed to be crappy. Onward, ho!

Then I run into a scene that doesn’t quite go as planned. Those darn characters! The change seems to work, but the further I go, the more that change screws up part of the climax.

So, another long inline note about why the change made four chapters back won’t work, and how I can handle the storyline so my original idea will be a logial step in the plot. And now to keep going while pretending the dead end doesn’t happen and my original idea is a part of the plot.

As I’m going through this, I realized something (lightbulb moment!): my rough draft is my way of talking through the story to refine it. Not polish; that comes later. It’s like planning a trip. You check out the map (yes, the old paper ones no one could ever refold right), maybe highlight the route you want to take. Figure where to stop for lunch. How about a stop at a landmark or historic site; hey, you’re going right by the world’s largest wad of used chewing gum. It would be a great photo op 😀

So you head out on your road trip, stop at the chewing gum tourist trap, and hey, a few miles off the road you can have lunch at Ole and Lena’s Homestyle Restaurant, because you can’t go past NorwegianJoke City without stopping for their world-famous lefse.

And you can get back to the freeway the short way, or you can go ten minutes the other direction to visit Cousin Sven. Besides, there’s another main road you can take to get back to Grand Highway Junction. Cool. So after you hang with Sven for a few hours, you head out.

And you hit–you guessed it–road construction. Man, maybe you shouldn’t have picked this road. So, do you retrace your steps, or take that other rural two-laner? Hey, two-laner might be fun. So you take that route. Until you hit the cattle drive. You go back the way you just came. Sheesh. Should have stuck to the freeway.

And there is an ugly picture of my writing process. Sort of. I have a plan, take a few side trips, then learn I shouldn’t have taken that detour. Or the detour works for a while, or the detour leads to an even better trip through a state park.

Bottom line, the whole process of writing a rough draft is instrumental in refining the story, so take advantage. And that pesky internal editor can get in the way of the process, so send her on a month-long junket to somewhere. Remember, rough draft = crap, but it also equals an opportunity to make major structural changes before it becomes a lot harder to make them.

Hey, 860 more words for my NaNo count–woo-hoo!

Keep on  writing, and enjoy your weekend! (and remember, less than two weeks until Turkey Day 🦃)


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15 things I learned about book festivals

If you were around for last week’s post, I went to the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato to man the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime (TC SinC) table. Our SinC chapter released an anthology this year (and no, I don’t have a story in it because they were in the final editing stage when I joined the party 🙂 ) called Dark Side of the Loon: Where Mystery Meets History. All the stories are written by TC SinC members and are set during historical events in MN, like the infamous Armistice Day Blizzard or the Jesse James gang’s bank robbery in Northfield. We also had an older anthology to sell.

Bottom line, sell as many books as possible between 10 am and 4 pm.

A few things about the whole situation just made it a rough day. The venue was hard to find–even people using GPS wound up at a hotel down the block. No signage out front to tell people what was happening. And the author area was inside a former restaurant, so dim lighting was the rule rather than the exception.

Since this was my first, I made a few mental notes for the next book festival (hopefully more successful, and hopefully with my very own debut novel!)

So, here are some things to remember (in no particular order) for a book festival, or book fair, or craft fair or wherever you are selling your books:

Mental Note #1: BYOB

Bring water, coffee, or pop (yes, I’m from MN, so it’s “pop” not “soda” or “coke” 🙂 ) to drink. A big room like that, with lots of books, screams “dry air”. I brought a water bottle, but I could have used two. The venue had coffee and water available in the morning, but that was gone before noon.

Mental Note #2: Bring snacks

If the book festival is more than two hours, and especially if it’s six hours like the Deep Valley one, bring something to eat. At our venue, there were no food vendors, so no opportunity to grab lunch. I brought a PB&J along with an apple and banana, plus an emergency granola bar, because I didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad I did. Other authors had family members with them to fetch nourishment, but some didn’t. A mix of peanuts, M&Ms, raisins, candy corn, etc. would be good to have on hand to munch.

Mental Note #3: Bring a battery charger/powerpack for your phone/iPad/tablet

This might seem obvious, but there were very few outlets available. And yes, you might have charged everything up the night before, but it never hurts to have a backup, especially if there is no wifi available and you have to rely on your cellular data connection. Hint: Make sure your powerpack is charged as well!

Mental Note #4: Gotta have some signage

We had a price sheet with the book covers printed on it, as well as a couple sheets of reviews for the new anthology, mounted in those clear plastic holders that stand up by themselves. We also had signage with fold-out stands, made from heavy tag board, so they were easy to take down and put away. Some authors had bigger signs, BUT make sure you have room for the signs along with your books. The table may only be the size of a card table, so there are limits on how much you can put out. I’ve read advice about vertical self-standing easels that you can set beside the table, where it’s like a tripod with a telescoping piece where you can mount a cardboard sign or or unroll a fabric one.

Mental Note #5: Handy-dandy book display easels

You know, the kind where you can set a book on it to show off the cover. Everyone displayed their books face out like that (you know what I’m talking about). In bookstores they even suggest you go through (covertly, of course 🙂 and you didn’t hear that from me 😀 ) and set your book so the whole face is showing and not just the spine. If anyone knows a place to get those little display things (besides Amazon; they’ve got everything, right?), pop it into a comment.

Mental Note #6: Rolling bag, collapsable cart, or collapsable two-wheel dolly

Nobody likes dragging a box full of books any farther than they have to. I saw authors with rolling cases, one with a cool collapsable cart like a wagon, and TC SinC has a neat collapsable two-wheel dolly. This venue offered volunteer college-aged muscle, but by closing time most of their volunteers had left.

Mental Note #7: Promo stuff like business cards, bookmarks, magnets, notepads, pencils, etc

And yes, just like at any other promotional event, people go around and gather goodies. Anything that reminds them of your book is good, right? Remember, this is a book festival (this one included over twenty authors), not an author event like a signing gig, authors panel, or launch party, so you could get away with no candy Edit: yes, goodies are advised, as I’ve learned from other authors. So lure them with sugar 🙂

Mental Note #8: Card reader–Square, PayPal, or other

The chapter prez, who signed up for the event and asked me to help man the table, forgot the Square, so we restricted payment to cash or check. A caveat, though: make sure you either have a reliable internet connection or that the reader can process cards while offline. Another caveat: With so many credit cards having chips in them now, if your reader can’t read the chips, you have to type the card number into the app.

Mental Note #9: Price books for least-complicated change (and make sure you have enough change)

Seems logical, but it’s a good reminder. Price books in whole dollars, and an amount that’s easy to give change. We priced the anthology at $17. The prez had an envelope of change: groups of three one dollar bills paper-clipped together so it was easy to pull out change for a twenty. One author priced her books at $15, which again is easy to make change. Another author priced her books at $15 for cash or check, and $16 for credit card. When you use a Square or other card reader, the card processor takes a small percentage of the charge, so it made sense (like gas stations giving you a discount when you pay with cash). Don’t forget to include sales tax in the price!

Mental Note #10: Keep a tally sheet, also good for notes

We had a tally sheet to track how many of each anthology we sold, which makes it easy to know how many books are left, and how much money you should have (and change left over). We used a small notebook, handy because one of the patrons who stopped at our table works in the archive section of the MNSU-Mankato library, and they collect books from MN authors. We got contact information, and a possible opportunity for some sort of author panel in the future.

Mental Note #11: Network!

Yes, I know, writers are introverts, and crowds make us twitchy, but make connections with both readers and writers. Yes, this means you have to talk to complete strangers. I found out the author at the table next to us is also with my publisher, so we could compare notes. I met a reader who read historical stuff, and her friend reads mysteries, so I suggested she would enjoy the historical stuff in the anthology. She bought both anthologies, so they could read and swap. I also met a vivacious reader who, once I told her about my own book (she asked), got super excited about it. And when she told her husband, he got excited about it. I wrote the title and release date on the back of one of my business cards and gave it to her. If half her enthusiasm rubs off on a handful of her friends, that’s six more readers than if I hadn’t talked to her at all.

Mental Note #12: Pay attention to venue notes

The venue should make you aware of things like no outlets and no wifi. Our venue also suggested battery-powered lights. Huh? When we got there, we saw the dim lighting. One author brought a battery-powered camp lantern–great idea. Take-away: if the venue suggests something, there’s a reason, so plan accordingly.

Mental Note #13: Bring something writerly to work on

The crowd isn’t steady, so there’s time when you either talk to the writer next door, or take the opportunity to do some editing, or outlining, or something you can do in short bursts.

Mental Note #14: Check out the other tables

Venues often have volunteers who can watch your table when you have to find a restroom or just stretch your legs. Take some time to check the other authors out. You might find books you are interested in. See how other authors have their tables laid out. You can get ideas for your next event that way, like the battery-powered lantern 🙂

Mental Note #15: Feedback

Most venues will ask for feedback or suggestions. Take them up on it–nicely. Someone spent a lot of time organizing the event, getting sponsors, volunteers, authors, etc. The prez mentioned to them the difficulties people were having, and we learned why they used that venue (cost, of course). But maybe next time they can do a few little things differently that might make the event more successful. And let them know what they did right, because we all like good feedback. Just like a critique, it lets them know what they are doing well.

And that is the end of a very long post. There are veterans of book events out there that skimmed the headers and skipped to the bottom (yes, you did! 😉 ), but hopefully this will help others who are thinking about or planning to sell at an event like this.

Have a wonderful weekend–enjoy it, because the colors are fleeting, and the white stuff will be here before you know it! (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s spring where you are, and I’m jealous because you’re done with winter 😀 )

Write on!