3 Reasons Why Sleuths Can’t Take a Vacation, and a New Release!

Ah, the chance to get away from it all. Our sleuth (amateur or otherwise) is more than ready to leave the bustle behind and relax, dig her toes in the sand, perhaps sip a cool beverage beside the water. Not a care in the world.

Nope. Not gonna happen. The mystery writer is there to ruthlessly yank that illusion away. Bwahaha. 

Why so heartless? Because vacationing is the perfect occasion for mayhem and murder. Here are three reasons why…. Read the rest at Misterio Press.


Announcing a new release!


Missing jewels…a haunted inn…a long-held secret…


Penelope Hamilton Wynch, one of the few female operatives employed at the Pinkerton Agency in 1886, is sent to the Adirondacks to investigate the mysterious happenings at Schroon Lake Inn, newly renovated to cater to New York City’s upper crust on summer holiday. Rumors of ghosts are bad enough, but when expensive jewelry disappears, the owner’s livelihood is at stake. A woman’s touch is needed.


Pen’s boss, William Pinkerton, thinks he has given her the perfect cover. She is to play the part of an eccentric spirit medium, eager to experience the purported ghostly manifestations.


Unfortunately, her cover will not remain intact for long, and there are those watching who do not want the secrets disturbed.

Available for pre-order now, goes live March 1st!

Order for Kindle or iBooks
Until next time,

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The Twelve Days of Concordia Giveaway!

The Twelve Days of Concordia Giveaway!

Only twelve more days until Beloved and Unseemly, book 5 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, is released!



A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….
Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.
Pre-order here for November 1st delivery:

Are you excited? I know I am. To get us all in the mood, I’m doing a countdown promotion that I call “The Twelve Days of Concordia.”



Each day, I’ll post a quote from the book here, as well as on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. For everyone who responds or promotes me – on these or other social media venues – I’ll add your name to a digital “hat” for a prize drawing on November 1st (release day)! Twelve people will win, and current subscribers (as of November 1) will be added to the drawing, too. Commenting and/or promoting the book release on multiple days will increase your chances of winning! If you’ve already read the Concordia books, these make great gifts as well, and can be read across devices.




Winners 1-8: your choice of any ebook or audiobook in the Concordia Wells series (including the new release!)

Winners 9 and 10: your choice of any ebooks/audiobooks

Winner 11: your choice of any 2 ebooks/audiobooks, and a signed paperback copy of Beloved and Unseemly

Winner 12: GRAND PRIZE! All 5 ebooks in the series and a signed paperback copy of Beloved and Unseemly 

**If a winner of a paperback happens to live outside the continental U.S., I will substitute an Amazon gift card in order to avoid the expense of international shipping. Sorry about that.

So, here we go! Today’s quote is the opening line from Beloved and Unseemly:


Can you help me get the word out about Beloved and Unseemly? I would really appreciate whatever you can do! If you are spreading the word on a venue you don’t think I will see, drop me a line here so I can add your name to the giveaway. And thank you so much for your support!

Next quote…tomorrow!

See you then,


Concordia logo FINAL small

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Fun with Fast Draft!

Fun with Fast Draft!

Hi, all!

Today is the first day of a 14-day “fast draft” that several writers and I are doing together. What is fast draft, you ask? The original concept by romance author Candace Havens is a breathless writing pace: 20 pages per day for 14 days, no excuses. By the end, the writer has a complete draft to edit.

fast draft kitty

Why so fast? After all, that’s even more ambitious than National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when you write the first draft of a novel in 30 days.

The idea is to get ahead of one’s Evil Internal Editor, that inner voice that criticizes what you’re writing, and bogs you down. With Fast Draft, you do NOT re-read what you wrote the day before. Since you’re spending every day writing (over multiple hours), it’s fresh in your mind anyway. Personally, I prefer it to NaNo because it’s not in November (any time you want, actually), and I figure I can do anything for only 14 days. *wink*


It’s incredibly helpful (I’d say absolutely necessary) to be working with a team of fellow writers who are all going through this process at the same time. After all, writing so much while putting the rest of your life on hold can be daunting. It’s wonderful to have one another to cheer each other on. This time around, we have the following fab writers participating:

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Melinda VanLone

Rachel Funk Heller

Kassandra Lamb

August McLaughlin

Lena Corazon

Dawn Hobbie Sticklen

Marcy Kennedy-Saylor


Here’s what some of them have to say about the process:

“The benefit of Fast Drafting is that you get to see your story play out in your mind’s eye in real time. This is where your plot ideas finally gel into a complete narrative. But to get the biggest payoff, you need to be prepared. You want to have the big moments set up, the opening, the ending, and hopefully the worst moment from the middle. This process will help you fill in those big chunks in between. ~Rachel Funk Heller

I’ve never signed up for anything like this, but it feels like a perfect fit. I’m working on a project that’s exciting and a bit scary (okay, borderline terrifying) and can really use others’ support. Knowing we’re in this solitary-work-called-writing thing together, cheering one another on, is golden. I’m already inspired and it hasn’t even started yet — HA! ~August McLaughlin

The benefit of Fast Drafting is it allows one to outrun the inner critic, to avoid the research rabbit hole, and the word search trap. The story telling takes over, filling in the gaps in the outline, and leaving the editing for a later draft. ~Elizabeth Anne Mitchell



Getting the most out of fast drafting requires some advanced planning. Even for pantsers (writers who prefer to write “by the seat of their pants”), an exploration of characters, theme, and plot is needed. No one wants to stare at that blank screen and blinking cursor without some idea of where they are going!

writers coloring bookOne of my favorite resources for preparing to write the first draft (whether you are doing it quickly or more sedately), is Rachel Funk Heller’s The Writer’s Coloring Book. The workbook helps writers explore the story’s theme, character profiles, and scene dynamics in both analytical and creative ways. Dig out your colored pencils!

Available here on Amazon

Another resource I love (I’m a plotter at heart) is Author Jami Gold’s worksheets for writers. These are available in MS Excel and Word, and provide useful ways to structure your story.

Jami is an avid fast-drafter, too. Here’s her take on why fast drafting works:

For me, when I write, I’m always struggling to get outside of my writerly head–the doubt of whether this sentence is good, that word choice works, or even whether this plot event will lead to where the story needs to go. Fast-drafting is a shortcut for tapping into our subconscious and getting beyond all that chatter. It’s about getting deep into our characters and the story, becoming immersed in the experience, and finding our “writing zone.”

In addition to writing prep, there are some practical things to plan for in advance, especially if you are the primary meal provider and your family has this thing about not going without food for 14 days (the cat is especially vocal). The crockpot becomes my best friend during this time, along with convenience foods such pre-cooked chicken and pre-cut veggies. Having a supportive family (my guys are great sports) is awesome. I try to get ahead with the laundry and grocery shopping beforehand, but 14 days is a long time, so they pitch in when needed.

So, wish us luck! For you readers of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, I am hard at work on book #5 of the series. Somehow, the lady professor always finds a way to get into trouble….

Interested in my previous experiences with fast drafting? Check out these posts:

Fast Draft, by the numbers

What do a crockpot, a mad bluebird, and Earl Grey have in common?

What projects do you have going on that require major planning and support? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


P.S. – Be sure to check out the following post for my giveaway and flash fiction fun! Entry deadline is January 31.

You tell the story!

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Oh, that explains it: she’s a WRITER

Oh, that explains it: she’s a WRITER

coolerWelcome to Watercooler Wednesday, where the water is above-average, the topics are bubbly, and the company is sparkling. Today’s topic:

Writer Weirdness

Writers and the writing process have been on my mind lately, with National Novel Writing month now upon us. Many of my writer friends are participating, challenging themselves to write 50K words (the length of a short novel) during this time. (I just published a novel and am plotting the next, so the timing didn’t work out for me).

Whether we’re in the midst of speed writing or more sedentary plotting, it’s so easy for us writers to be humming along with our day-to-day lives without realizing that, maybe, we’re not quite normal.


It's kind of a chicken-or-egg conundrum

It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg conundrum

Oh, sure, we joke about working in our pajamas until the kids come home from school, tell stories of coffee shop conversations overheard that we might be able to put to future use, and even wonder if we’re on some NSA watch list because of our web searches (my poor hubby was wringing his hands over my research into 19th century bomb-making, for example, since he has a security clearance).

meme by Kristen Lamb, at warriorwriters.wordpress.com

meme by Kristen Lamb, at warriorwriters.wordpress.com

Check out the rest of Kristen’s post, where you’ll get writer tips on unconventional uses for Febreze, and the upside of natural disasters, among other gems: You Know You’re a Writer When…

But we’re not always aware that this weirdness begins in our own heads. YA author Julie Glover reminded me of this important fact in her funny-but-ouch Facebook post:

julie glover

Julie isn’t the only writer to use pain and physical misfortune as fodder for writing. Here’s another tale of woe and oddity from Misterio Press mystery author Kassandra Lamb:

writer weird2

Pretty neat when you can get your spouse to drink the Kool-Aid, too. 😉

Basically, writers make up lies for a living. Sometimes it’s a challenge to extricate ourselves from the worlds of our creation, even when we aren’t in front of the keyboard.

writer humor1

Those scenarios above? All me.

Mystery writer Janice Hamrick certainly danced the fine line between writing and reality (with great hilarity) when trying to break into her own house:

I was in the back yard when my daughter poked her head out the door to let me know she was leaving and by habit (and a very good habit it is) locked the door. Twenty minutes later, I turned the door knob to go inside and found the deadbolt doing the job for which it was designed. My first thought was a fairly standard, “Oh, no!” However, my second was…and I’m not kidding here… “I’ve always wanted to break into a house.”

The top half of my back door has one of those large windows with nine panes, and I had a toolbox on the porch. It seemed like Fate. In a flash of inspiration, I conceived the brilliant idea that I would break through the lower left pane, reach through the gap, and unlock the deadbolt.  I even decided to time myself so I’d know just how long the hapless homeowners had between the first tinkling of shattered glass on the concrete floor and the inevitable brutal entry. Using a pair of sunglasses as eye protection, I placed an old towel over the pane and swung the hammer with a certain amount of trepidation.

It bounced like a superball off a brick wall.

Undaunted, I swung a second time. Once again I achieved only a bounce of the hammer and some seriously undamaged glass.  Mildly annoyed, I dropped the towel, which was obviously  providing too much protection, and tried again. The bounce, if anything, was higher. I gritted my teeth, widened my stance, and narrowed my eyes. Then, I lifted my arm and struck like a snake, assuming a snake had a hammer and the upper body strength of a toddler.

Absolutely nothing. I was pretty sure the door was mocking me.

Completely annoyed, I gripped the hammer with both hands and began pounding with all my might. And finally – triumph! The glass broke.

Sort of.  A single crack ran from the lower left pane all the way to the upper right pane. That’s when I realized that the “panes” were simply slats of wood across a very large single sheet of glass.  I also realized that the repair was now going to be seriously expensive, but I’d already crossed the glass Rubicon so to speak. I hammered away until the glass finally crazed (it was safety glass and there would be no tinkling), and I was able to break out enough pieces to make a hole large enough for my hand.

Only my hand wouldn’t go through. After all that effort, my questing fingers stubbed against a second undamaged pane. Foiled by the curse of double glazing!

Want to know how it ends? Did Janice wander forever in her backyard, living the life of an itinerant writer/camper? Did the neighbors call the police? Did feral cats adopt her as one of their own? Read the rest of the story here.

image via wnyc.org

image via wnyc.org

I want to thank Julie, Kassandra, and Janice for their gracious permission to post their stories here. I’d like to especially thank Janice, because now I won’t be tempted to wreck my own windows to see if I can break into my house. Though I’m thinking, on a nice day, the screen might work….

So, do you think writers are born this way, or are their eccentricities an occupational hazard, like asbestos exposure or fossie jaw? Writers, any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, wave your freak flag proudly!



…and in case anyone missed it:

Just Released: a new Concordia Wells Mystery!

Unseemly Ambition: book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries


cover by Melinda VanLone

cover by Melinda VanLone

Murder aboard the Overland Limited…

It is the summer of 1898. Professor Concordia Wells is eager to accompany her friend, Pinkerton detective Penelope Hamilton, on a cross-country train trip to San Francisco. Breathless vistas and exciting locales will be a welcome change from a fiancé impatient to set a wedding date and the threat of revenge from the remaining Inner Circle members back in Hartford.

But Concordia should know there is no such thing as a free ride. When the Pinkerton Agency switches assignments at the last minute, she and Miss Hamilton have their work cut out for them. Fellow passengers prove to be both help and hindrance: a lady reporter in hiding, a con man…and a corpse or two. Then there is the handsome gentleman with the dark hair, green eyes, and a secret agenda of his own. Good thing Concordia is an engaged lady. Or is it?



Start reading at the click of a button:

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Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

bouchercon raleighA couple of days ago I returned from BoucherCon. With an attendance of 1500, it’s considered one of the larger mystery fiction conventions out there. (For those unfamiliar with the name, BoucherCon was created in 1970, in honor of mystery writer/editor/critic Anthony Boucher).

It appeals to every mystery fan along the continuum: authors, readers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers. The location changes each year. This year it was in Raleigh, NC.

This was my first BoucherCon. As an introvert who is most comfortable in my writing cave, I knew it was going to be exciting and challenging at the same time.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. I hope these will be of help for those new to the convention experience. I’m specifically targeting fellow authors, but many of these elements apply to anyone attending a large event of this kind.

Before the convention:

bouchercon11. Determine your goals. 

What do you want to get out of this experience? An agent, a possible contract? Connections to fellow writers, potential readers, booksellers? Spreading the word about your new release? A chance to meet well-established authors you’ve always admired? Learning from the panel discussions?

Clarifying what you want will go a long way towards helping you decide how to spend your time at the convention and how you prepare. For me, I wanted to make connections with fellow authors and readers and learn more about this crazy process we call writing novels. And meet Laurie King. (Photo by fan-girl K.B. Owen).


Read the rest of this post at Misterio Press.

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Behind the scenes: my un-writerly workspace

Behind the scenes: my un-writerly workspace

Happy Friday!

inspiring spaces

Earlier this week, freelance writer and creativity coach Cate Russell-Cole tagged me and others in her post Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop: Share What Ignites Your Creativity, where she invited us to share our “creative” spaces. I decided to do it in the form of a video log…hope you enjoy it! (Psst…it’s the “makeup-free” version. I wanted to give you the authentic experience, LOL).


In the spirit of keeping the inspiration going, we are to tag more writers to share their inspirational spaces with you.

I tag Piper Bayard, Susan Spann, Jill Kemerer, Debra Eve, and Diane Capri! Let’s see your writing caves, ladies! (and apologies if you’ve already been tagged).

Before they respond, I’m going to play “detective” and speculate about what these gals will show you, based on my Facebook interactions with them. Hmm…I’ll bet for Piper, cool weaponry is involved; for Susan, I seem to remember there’s a great outside view of bird feeders (I’m envious of your hummingbirds, Susan!); for Jill, definitely coffee and maybe a stash of M&Ms; for Debra…perhaps some cool archaeological artifacts and pics of stunning ruins; and for Diane, well, she’s a snowbird for part of the year, but I know her adorable little dog will be there (a min. schnauzer, I think), no matter what her location.

How’d I do? 😉

No matter what your profession, what things do you like to keep in your workspace that inspire you? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,



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Bulwer-Lytton and Purple Prose, part 2

Bulwer-Lytton and Purple Prose, part 2

Well, we missed the June 30th deadline for submitting long-winded prose loaded with hackneyed, trite expressions, otherwise known as the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (they haven’t announced the 2014 winners yet, so maybe you can slip in your entry).

Image via wikimedia commons (public domain).

Image via wikimedia commons (public domain).

The contest was named after Victorian novelist Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, (1803-1873). His writing style reflected the triple-decker novel conventions of his time: excessive, flowery prose riddled with sentimentality and melodrama.  Our slang term for it is “purple prose”:  that which is excessively descriptive, and/or aiming to manipulate sentiment in the reader in an exaggerated manner. To read more about Bulwer-Lytton and the contest, click here for my earlier post.

Since there are no announced winners yet for 2014, let’s get to a sampling of the winning entries (including “Dishonourable Mentions”) from 2013. Sometimes it’s good to be bad!

From the historical category:

General Lee arranged for the dreaded surrender, yet capitalized on his opponents’ weaknesses to the very end, striking a tiny parting blow for the Army of Northern Virginia (chuckling to himself) as he remembered from Academy days how many Union commanders had struggled with spelling even common words, and so ran his finger along the map and settled on Appomattox. ~Randal Pilz, Milton, FL

And here are two of my faves from the “purple prose” category:

He had a drink in his hand and a hole in his heart, a hole big enough to drive a Honda Odyssey minivan with satellite linked navigation and a multi-angle rearview camera down the anterior vena cava, execute a three-point turn at the atrioventicular valve (thanks to the rear view camera), then exit the pulmonary artery without ever once scraping the Celestial Blue Metallic finish that comes standard on the EX-L. ~Mark Schweizer, Tryon, NC

He had a way with women that was at first endearing, then gradually engendered caution and finally outright rejection, like potato salad at a summer picnic. ~Paul Sutcliffe, Pittsburgh, PA


For the complete list, spanning 1983 to 2013, click here.

Want to see a spoof story of mine, written in the purple prose style? Here are the first two paragraphs:

private eye2

“A Date with Death”
by Mickey “Quick Gun” Marlowe, P.I.

She had legs that could stop a freight train, and not some pokey, lumbering CSX kind of train, either. More like one of those super-sleek, Japanese bullet trains. Those silky gams of hers went all the way up to her – well, where legs usually stop, you know – and then they went right back down to rest in a pair of glistening black patent-leather what’s-your-hurry-bad-boy stiletto heels. I let my eyes travel up and down those legs a few times, just to make sure I knew their destination.

Her flaming cherry-red lips – red like the tip of your finger would look if you carelessly caught it in the deli-slicer behind the meat counter – framed a gleaming set of pearly whites that she flashed my way, sure to make a man weak in the knees and grovel like a Mexican bad-guy from one of those grade B westerns when he’s about to die.

If you want to torment yourself with the entire story, click here; it’s guest-posted on Laird Sapir’s site (and yes, she’s still talking to me). 😉

Have you read or written purple prose? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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Waiting for the paint to dry…

Waiting for the paint to dry…

As some of you may know, last week I finished my polished draft of the latest in the adventures of that intrepid 19th century lady professor, Concordia Wells. I’ve just sent it off to the beta readers to shred to ribbons critique. While that’s going on, I’m taking a break from writing to catch up on all those little “life things” that my family members insist on having in their day-to-day existence: clean dishes, clean clothes, food in the fridge, and a path to the bathroom at night.

In addition to those, there has been one house project that we’ve been putting off for much too long: repainting the bedroom of son #2, soon to be a live-at-home college student. It has been 18 years since we put up a cute, kiddo-oriented jungle-print wallpaper border, in what was then son #1’s room.

I’m lousy at remembering to shoot “before” pics, but here’s an early photo of son #1, at 3 years old, just when the wallpaper border was brand-new:

Pat Wallpaper 1997 (1)

Cute wallpaper…for a 3-year-old…

The general consensus is that we’ve all outgrown the “jungle” theme, not to mention the holes/scuffs/dings and other indignities the walls have suffered that need attention.

And yet, as I type this with paint-stained fingers (and stained elbows, knees, and even a foot), I can’t seem to get away from seeing the painting process in terms of my writing journey.

Want to hear what they have in common? I thought you’d never ask! 😉


Kathy’s analogy of how writing is like painting:


paint1Step 1: Picking the colors.

Our son likes red. That’s the color he originally wanted. Every wall. *shudder*

Finally, I talked him out of turning his bedroom into a CSI snowglobe. We settled on pale gray for the walls, with red trim. The mantra: “a little red goes a LONG way.” I think we’ll all sleep better now.

WRITING PARALLEL: There are features I love adding to my stories: feats of derring-do, snarky characters, handsome love-interests, clever puzzle-twists in the mystery…a little of each goes a LONG way. Don’t get too clever, Kathy. Your readers will fling their Kindles across the room and rain down ancient Egyptian curses on your head.

paint2Step 2: Prep work.

As we all know, this is the worst part of painting. Even folks who like to paint hate this part. First, you have to take everything out of the room – except the big furniture pieces, which makes you wonder how they got in there to begin with.

When you’re dealing with the assorted property of an 18-year-old, it’s sort of a Hoarder’s Anonymous moment, where every pencil sketch since the age of two and every Lego set from the age of four are crammed in drawers along with Air Force recruitment keychains and Old Spice antiperspirant.

And then there’s the TAPING and DRAPING, a real necessity in our house when we paint. Let us just say I am not a dainty painter. Read: klutz. But I’ll get to that in step 4.

WRITING PARALLEL: Now, this is just me, so you pantsers out there, don’t grab your pitchforks and lynch me…when I start a novel, I have to PREP. Big time. Outline, Story A, Story B, Story C, research…some of it’s fun (definitely more fun than TAPING & DRAPING), and all of it is time-consuming.

paint3Step 3: You missed a spot (or a LOT of them).

Paint looks different as it goes on vs. when it’s dry, and looks really funky in-between, like the wall has a disturbing skin disease. I try not to watch paint dry for many reasons, but that’s one of the biggies. Today we had plenty of sunlight, a blind-less double window, two wall lamps…and we still missed lots of places where the roller didn’t cover evenly. We’ll be touching up tomorrow. Sigh.

WRITING PARALLEL:  You know what I’m going to say, right? Yep, EDITING. Sometimes you even need a “second coat,” aka a “total rewrite.”



paint4Step 4: Stepping in it.

This may not be a usual painting “step” for most folks, but it seems de rigeur for me. This could also be called: “You’re not as skinny in getting around furniture as you’d like to think.” I started today by falling off a stool, and by mid-afternoon, while trying to climb over furniture, I’d spilled a cup of trim paint all over my foot. Sort of a cool, slimy sensation, in case you’re wondering. Since everything was draped within an inch of its life no harm was done, although my 18-year-old had to rescue me with paper towels and help me hop to the bathtub to wash off my foot.

WRITING PARALLEL: Sometimes you’re going to get into a tight spot that you can’t write yourself out of, without some help. Editors, beta readers, and fellow writers can be of fab support in those moments.

Got any paper towels? I’m running out…

paint5Step 5: Waiting for the paint to dry.

You’re tempted…oh, so tempted…to go back in there before it’s dry, just to see how it’s turning out. Don’t. Do. It. It’s not going to look good at all. Some patches will be darker than others; there will be weird streaks; and you’ll probably brush up against a spot that’s still wet and mess it up. Let it be, and then look when it’s dry. You’ll be better able to see whatever needs touching up.

WRITING PARALLEL: Right now, this is me with my current book. While I’m waiting for the readers to get back to me, I’m so tempted to look it over again. But I won’t, because I need time and the feedback of others before I touch it up. It’s not dry yet. 😉

Besides, I have to get back to painting…

Do you have painting projects around your house? Do you make weird analogies between your life’s work and mundane tasks you have to do? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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