Dance and Sing for Books!

Well, I hope you all had a chance to revisit your childhood over the holidays. I’m talking about the release of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns. Now I don’t usually post my thoughts about movies on my blog, but this one deserves some attention
I have to admit I was skeptical there was no way they could outdo the first. There is no way that someone else would play the role of the ultimate nanny and carry it off the way Julie Andrews did.original_1099048853
But boy was I wrong! I’m in love with the new movie it was everything I hoped for and more. The return of old characters, new characters, song, dance and Disney the way it used to be!
It felt like the movie was made just for me; the writer, the reader, the adventurer.

Big, big, big spoiler alert here!! If you haven’t seen, the movie, you may not want to read the rest of my blog. Or you can go ahead and read, I promise not to give too much away.
The original Mary Poppins had this beautiful scene where Bert and Mary took the kids on an adventure through pictures. They jumped into the paintings on the sidewalk, and the fun begins. Everything that you remember from that scene in the original Mary Poppins– keep that in the back of your head. Because in Mary Poppins Returns they took the same concept, but instead of jumping into pictures they made the emphasis on books.

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Books, books, books! There is a fantastic song, & dance number called ‘The Cover Is Not the Book’ and the song stuck in my head for most of the movie. You can even play it on iTunes.
I think for me as a reader and a writer it felt like the movie was calling out because of the accent on books. It is all about judging a book by its cover, and the lessons that it taught the Banks children through song and dance are excellent.
Now as a writer we know you can and should judge a book by its cover– because the cover is what sells your book. So don’t lose heart to that concept.
The movie was taking an old saying and giving it a new song and a fun visual concept. One that I hope will resonate with every child. Teaching our children to remember that each person is an individual and has their own redeeming qualities. Qualities that you can’t see by looking at a person until you get to know them.
So, thank you to the Disney Company, and the creators and writers of Mary Poppins Returns. You touched my heart and my soul, especially with that song and dance routine.

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PS  I have the soundtrack playing as I’m writing this, and I can’t stop grinning!

Victoria LK Williams

For the Love of Pets

The modern cozy mystery has something that the old traditional ones doesn’t seem to have… 

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Pets!
Now, by all means, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t seem to remember any of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot characters having cat or dog as the main character, but today’s cozy mysteries sure do. Mine included.
Maybe it’s because in the day of Agatha Christie pets did not play as significant a role in our lives as they do now. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that people didn’t love their pets in Dame Agatha’s day. But did they catered to them? Did they dress Fido up in Halloween costumes? Were their pet served gourmet pet food? And I bet they sure as heck didn’t have pet, insurance!
But today’s pets are part of our lives, treated as good (or sometimes slightly better) as our children, and pampered like royalty.
So, it only seems reasonable, if pets are that important in our everyday life that they would also be important in our characters daily life?
Personally, I love adding pets to my stories. They can give comic relief and help the reader relate to the main character. A pet can sniff out clues the main character may not have seen, and they have a sense of awareness that humans don’t.

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For instance, in my Citrus Beach Mysteries, my main character has a beagle named Barney and Barney is excellent at sniffing out clues. In book number two, Scent of a Mystery, Barney is the one that finds the first clue, setting the book in motion.
In Storm Voices, Mac is given a little gray kitten. This kitten seems to have mystic abilities, and she definitely knows that there’s something unusual living in the garden of Mac’s home.
If you look at the covers of many cozy mysteries, you’ll find a cat or dog on it; after all was a witch without a cat. Two of my favorite series are Lauren Carr’s Mac Faraday Mystery books and The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun.
Having a cat, dog, or some other animal in your mystery draws in the animal lover as well as the mystery lover. And let’s face it, an animal can get away with so much more than a human. Nobody is going to yell at the dog or point a gun at him for snooping in the den. And if the cat happens to knock over a valuable clue, it will only seem like her curiosity is coming into play. But if your main character is doing either of those things while searching for clues, then the chances are if they get caught, they will be held at gunpoint by the villain or arrested by the cops.

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Go ahead and include an animal in your story.
Use Fido or FeeFee to your advantage. Let them be the ones to ferret out the clues and warm the cockles of your reader’s hearts.
But be careful-they can easily take over your story, because everyone loves a pet.

Victoria LK Williams

Stop, Look, Listen…Write

Have you ever looked at somebody and just wondered?
Wondered- do I know you from somewhere? Have we met another time and place? Who do you remind me of? Or even more probing questions… What in the world are you doing? Why would you say something like? What an odd reaction! What an exciting job or hobby?

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

 
If you’re a people watcher, these are things that often happen, and if you’re a writer, these are potential characters for your stories.
It’s a storyteller’s job to be observant of what’s going on around them, not only current news and happenings but the people who come in and out of our lives on a daily and infrequent basis.
Sometimes those people just skim the outer circles of our day-to-day life. It might be somebody you happen to see in a park or a store. Or perhaps a conversation that you hear, but are not part of. Maybe an interaction between two people that you observe and it makes you wonder.
The sidekicks and minor characters a writer creates for the story can, and should be, just as important as your main character. It would be ridiculous to have your main character have all the action revolve around them. Some vital information, clues or conversations can come from other people within the story. Yet you don’t want those other people or characters to be blah and uninteresting. These characters need to hold the reader’s attention as much as the main characters.

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Because these side characters often don’t play an intricate part in your story, it is easy to use real-life people that you barely know or that you observe just in a casual setting as models. You can take the liberty with what you see and hear and create those side characters into funny, interesting, or evil characters, depending upon your storyline. Take care not to make them more interesting than your main character. Instead, you should be able to make them play off of your main character, making the main character have more depth and interest by how they interact with the people and events around them.
So start watching what goes on around you, regardless of where you’re at. You can hear some of the most interesting conversations standing in line in the grocery store. Waiting for your waitress at a restaurant? Watch how the occupants in the tables around you are reacting to each other. Is there a comradery or tension? Sitting in a park with your kids pay attention to how the other adults respond to children. Some will be loving and giving, possibly because they have children of their own. Others might be more annoyed and feel like the children are pesty, getting in their way of a quiet afternoon.
But don’t limit yourself to just people. Interactions between animals and people can create a release of tension in your story or an “awwwww” moment. These type of moments can easily be used to distract the reader from something in your storyline. A clue in your mystery that was glaring can be softened with the interaction of your main character in the dog. Suddenly that clue has lost its importance, at least for that moment until you’re ready to bring it back out to readers attention.

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The build-up between characters for that first kiss can easily be dragged out by a kid brother or sister interrupting their moment.
These are just a few examples of how you can take online or event or character and use them in your story. Use them to give your main character more interest and more exciting things to do.
Can you think of something you’ve seen just this week that took you by surprise or caught your attention? Can you weave it into your story? Good, I’ve given you something to look for.
Now go write!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Welcome to 2019.
I know I know we’re more than a week into the new year and I’m late on getting this greeting out to you. But I did that on purpose. Personally, I ’ve been bombarded with good wishes to the forms of blogs, newsletters, and podcast. And I’ve enjoyed every one of them and would like to reciprocate to all of those I’ve listened to and read; happy new year to you too.
Like everyone else, the new year means new goals new visions and plans for a better future. Old habits will be thrown out, hopefully, and resolutions for better healthier habits are made.
I’m going to do a little bit of both. Before I could look forward, I need to look back. So I’m looking back at where it all began– that very first book.
The book began as a challenge from a group of friends. I had said I wanted to write a book and they held me to it. To be honest, I never thought I could do it, but once I started, there was no stopping me. To date, I have 15 books published and plans for so many more.

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But to get back to that first book. Everything starts with inspiration, and I’d like to share my inspiration for the first book…
The summers in my small town in South Florida can be pretty quiet. I could go for weeks on my job and not see a customer at their home. It was one of those hot blistering summer days, and I was grateful to be working along the river where, at least, a cool breeze could be found. As I looked out into the intercoastal, I couldn’t help but notice how isolated it felt. The channels that run in and out of the intercoastal take you into different communities or out into the river. As I was doing my job, I noticed a small boat motoring up one of those channels and the idea clicked you could commit a crime in such a location, getting in and out by boat, and nobody would ever know.

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And so began Murder for Neptune’s Trident. As I looked across the water, thoughts quickly came, and the story outline developed in my head. But of course, it took a couple of days before I got it down on paper. I was continually adding to it before I was ready to start writing a book. Don’t forget it was my first one and I was pretty nervous there more than one day that I just put the paperwork aside and thought “it’s a great idea, but I’m never going to pull it off; I don’t have the talent to write it.” But my friends kept after me, asking me how the writing was going, so I dug the outline back out and started writing. And that’s how it all began.

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This leads me to now and my goals for 2019. I have two different series that I want to start. One, I already have the first book completed and have half-written. The other series? Well, the idea is percolating, and I like where it’s going. I also want to continue the novella series I started in December. It was fun writing a short mystery in between books. It kept the juices flowing and kept me in the practice of writing.
Another goal for 2019 is to format my existing books into large print. The first one, Now Arriving (Sisters Station 1), was published in large print in December.
I’m curious about creating an audiobook as well. I know I enjoy listening to books, especially when I’m driving, so I think it would be a whole new avenue of readers for me.
I love all the new groups that I’ve joined on Facebook. Writers are helping writers, and I’m learning so much. I hope I’m giving back just as much as I’m getting.
Other than this, my goals are to continue to move forward with what I’m doing, exploring the publishing and promotional side of writing a little bit more. One thing I did learn in 2018 is it when I take a break from writing I don’t feel whole. Yes, my gardening business is crazy at the end of the year, and it takes up all of my time. But the writing gives me the creative energy that I need to keep the ideas fresh. And when I have new ideas, everything benefits; my business, my writing, and even my family life–because I feel more alive when I’m creative.
And I’m not the only creative writer out there. Here’s the link to the  Cozy January Book Fair, a mystery promotional going on this month. I hope you’ll check it out. Heck, there’s even get the chance to enter the drawing for $100 Amazon gift card.

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If you haven’t already, be sure to go to my website and sign up for my newsletter. I always include recommendations of new books by other authors and any promotional giveaways that I’m involved.
Until next time, happy writing and happy new year.

Go ahead-walk away!

Hey-You!

Sometimes you need to stand up, push the chair in and walk away from the desk!

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We all work hard, there is no denying this, but at some point the hard work turns in to that phase where you feel like the little mouse on the wheel, running in circles and not getting anywhere. And sometimes, it’s hard to see when you need to take a break from the writing.

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Whether it’s a ten-minute break, or a long weekend, or a real vacation; you need to take time to recharge.
“Oh, no I can’t do that! I’m on a deadline.” (or something to that effect) Runs through your head and you dig in your heels, pulling the keyboard closer, like a security blanket. But even a child has to give up the blanket so it can be washed. Letting go will be equal to washing of a blanket.
Once all the clutter and tangled thoughts are allowed to settle down, it’s much easier to look at them and decide what you need to keep and what should be let go. Walk away and let your ideas slow down. The brilliant idea you had months ago isn’t working, so put it aside until the time is right. Come back and look at it again with a fresh perspective.
I think we get trapped in our writing environment and miss out on so much. How can you write about something when you’re shut in an office for hours, only seeing the screen in front of you? Where are you getting your inspiration from? I don’t mean inspiration for the big picture, but for the details. How do you know what the sound of the wind in the trees, the feel of sunlight on your skin, the smells of cut grass are like if you don’t take a second and actually put yourself in the middle of these things? And it is the little details like this that make your story come alive for the reader.

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By freeing our mind, we are opening it up to the possibilities of new ideas and solutions. That clue you were looking for? Suddenly it’s crystal clear. The conversation you were trying to write, but it was coming off stilted? Now it feels as if your characters are in the room with you talking. The little details are easier to spot and you may not feel so overwhelmed.
I had to be reminded of this just this week. Moaning and groaning, I gave in and went on a day trip with my husband. We visited an old favorite place, enjoying the peaceful walks through the gardens, had a wonderful dinner and talked. And as we talked and laughed, teasing and joking about different things, the ideas began to form. By the time we got home that night, I had the plot for two new books.
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The added bonus; I was able to talk with my husband about the ideas, and he had some of his own. They were jokes at first, but as the ideas nestled into my brain, I was caught up in the possibilities. Now they are written down for future development.
As you can see, taking a break worked out very well for me. And most authors that I talk to agree with me.

Sometimes you need to turn off the computer and let the little grey cells do their thing.

Victoria LK Williams

Writing is Hard Work, not a Hobby!

 

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I love to listen to U-tube as I drive. There is some great information out there that not only educates you, but can also amuse and stimulate your thoughts. Most of what I listen to is about the writing craft; from the words on the page to selling those words. Yesterday I ran across not one, but two hilarious videos  about what not to say/ask a writer. I was laughing so hard, the other drivers around me had to think I was nuts.

I agreed with 90% of what the authors said, but 100% on the question “how’s your hobby doing”. It got me thinking…

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Anyone who has sat down and wrote a book will agree that this is not a hobby. It’s darn hard work. Time consuming, energy draining, mind shattering work! So, I thought I’d share with the potential writer (or the helpful person who just doesn’t get it) my process. There are things I’m sure I’ve missed, and this is a broad over-view. Each item on this list has multiply levels and tons of details that need to be taken care of. Every author has their own process, the things that are important to producing their books.

For the new writers-I hope this helps guides you through the process. For the friends and family looking in from the sidelines, I hope this opens your eyes to the reason we spend so much time on each book. And I thank those of you on the sidelines for all your support-we need it to keep going.writing process for me

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Victoria LK Williams

Ready, Set, Binge!

Have you noticed how we’ve become a society that loves to binge?
We think nothing of spending hours doing the same thing repeatedly. It starts with food and drink. Come on be honest- how many times have you sat in front of the TV with a bag of chips and been shocked to look down and discover the bag was empty? And you can’t even remember eating it?
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Our society has  always indulged, or binged, on drinking; some to the point of becoming addicted to the drink. And it doesn’t always have to be alcohol. Have you ever seen somebody that wakes up and grabs a soda first thing in the morning, filling up a 16 ounce cup? A cup  that never seems to empty all day?
As kids we binged too. That’s what Halloween is for- a time for eating as much candy as we could.
But it’s not just food we binge on. With the development of sites such as Netflix, Hulo, Amazon Prime (just to name a few) you can pick a TV series you haven’t seen a long time (or never) and watching entire series in one sitting. One season at a time. Do you realize that can be 8 to 12 hours just sitting there watching TV? We’re all guilty of it, even though we tell ourselves we’re not.shutterstock_1062695225
Even I do it. I may not watch eight or nine hours at a time, but I will watch more than one episode in a row. And I find that when I’m trying out a new series, I look to see if there are multiple seasons so I can watch them all at once rather than having to wait from one week to the next for each episode.
Our favorite movies are not excluded from this either. We will watch all the episodes one right after the other. Be honest how many of you done that with Harry Potter or Star Wars? Especially when the next movie is getting ready to hit the big screen. We hurry and grab all the other movies in the series, watching them so we’re ready for the new movie, that we have all the details in our minds of what happened and what might happen.
As readers I think we binge too. When we know there’s a series of books, we download all the books available and read them one right after another. Often we may not even buy the books unless we’re sure there’s more than four or five in the series so we can read each book in order, not having to wait months for the author to write the next one.
Is  this is healthy, I don’t know. Probably not. But it shows we can get caught up in the story the writer is creating; whether it is on the movie screen or pages of our book. And for the author that can be a fantastic thing.
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And even as a writer we binge. A prime example of that is the National Novel Writing Month. We force ourselves to write an entire book in 30 days. For some authors that’s normal. But for others, like me, we’d rather  write our book over three or four months. Or longer. (There is nothing wrong with publishing at your own pace.) Yet we accept the challenge and we binge; writing the words until we have over 50,000.
We’re always in a hurry to get things done and sometimes I wonder if we were to take it slower we might enjoy it more, savoring the writer’s words or the taste of those chips longer. And as a writer-enjoying the process of creating our characters and worlds.
Well July 1 is almost here, and I start binge writing again. This month is Camp NaNo. A new book, new series, new characters and settings. With the outline done, I’m ready to write!
So binge away!
What are you binging on? Is it a new movie series or a book series?
What’s your guilty secret?

https://VictoriaLKWilliams.com

A little Insight

Do you see me?
I think every author puts a bit of themselves somewhere in their story. Something as simple as a location you’ve been, to a favorite object, an irritating habit or secret longing. These things seem to find their way into the storyline.
Even fantasy worlds are based on something that the author knows or is familiar with. It could be something in your everyday life or something from your past but it’s hard not to use your personal experiences into your story.
Here, let me give you a couple examples from my writing…
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In the Citrus Beach Mysteries it’s obvious. Megan the main character is heavy into gardening, creating private landscape designs for clients. I own landscape company, also creating private gardens and planting container gardens. (visit my gardening blog! www.gossipfromthesoutherngarden.blog) What you may not know is that Megan’s dog Barney is based on our family’s beagle we had when my son was growing up. He’s in puppy heaven now, probably still stealing pizza.

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Storm voice reveals my love of nature and how mystical I think it can be. The combination of Storms and creatures from folklore along with and an ability to hear what others can’t gives my main character, Mac, a different take on a mystery. Add in an all-knowing cat, and I’m happy.

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Sister Station is written out of my childhood memories of living in upstate NY. My father was a railroad man for years, giving me the inspiration for this series.

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Finally, in my new series I am writing, the main character is a photographer. Now I am not a professional photographer, but I love to take pictures. And I live in an area where there’s more than enough scenery to keep me occupied.

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There are other things woven throughout all of my stories reflect my day-to-day life or something from my past. As you read my stories, you might find more things about me. Things I might not even realize I’m revealing.
It’s almost impossible not to have parts of your life and personality creep into your writing. It’s up to you to decide how much you let the reader see. I believe the more of yourself into your story the more real it will seem to your reader, pulling them deeper into your tale.
Now I’ve shared with you some of my secrets, probably more than you wanted to know. It’s your turn; tell me—what secrets do you share with your readers? 

 

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Paint a picture with your words.

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The air was motionless, and it wrapped around you like a warm wet blanket, making you gasp for every ounce of air you could drag into your lungs. A woman stood by the edge of the lake, still, in the early morning hour. She looked across the water noticing a  great egret flying low. If he tilted his head, he could admire his reflection from the clear water, as he glided silently over it. Turning her head a little to left, she noticed a kayak paddling in silence; the paddle making soft ripples on the water. The ripples extended out, hardly disturbing the calm still water.
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Looking down at her feet she saw the tiny dots on the water as small bait fish came to the surface to grab air, barely moving the water. As if they wanted to inhale the air before sinking back down into the cool water, away from the heat.  Even though it was early, the temperatures were building. The sweat dripped down the back of her cotton shirt into the waistband of her cut-off jeans. The hat on her head did nothing to protect her from the glare as the sun kissed the water good morning while it crested over the horizon.
Days like this caused temperatures to rise both in the air and in the people trying to live through the sweltering heat of summer. Emotions would be sure to heat up as the mercury swelled up the narrow tube of the thermometer. This was a perfect day for murder.
I don’t know about you, but this sounded a lot better than saying ‘it was a hot summer day at the lake where a murder would happen’.

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As a writer it’s our job to paint a picture with our words.
Our readers can’t be where we place the characters in our story. This is why the details about the settings and the characters surroundings are important to the tale. The reader needs to see this through your chosen words.
 (There are writers who excel at this, one of my favorites is Nora Roberts.)

The words you use can set the tone for something sweet and funny, or dark and ominous. The same scene I described could’ve easily been the setting for a holiday picnic about to begin. But because I chose words to create a darker tone, you pictured a different meaning. Simply by my adding those last seven words, I confirmed your interpretation.
But it’s easy to overdo the words, And I came close. There’s no reason to describe in minute detail every little thing happening in the scene.

Your readers possess an imagination, let them use it! Often it is the things left unsaid that create the most impact.

Read over what you wrote, read it out loud. Do the words do more than give the reader the facts? They should. Your words should cause an emotional reaction. Laugh, cry, cringe, gasp-make those words do anything but create apathy and boredom.

With that being said, I rather like the words I strung together for your example…   I think I might have a beginning for my next book; a scene with a murder on the lake.
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How would you write your next scene?
Who are some of your favorite writers that can paint a picture with words?

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, be sure to click the follow button. And comment-I love to hear your thoughts.

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Are you a gardener? I have another blog called Gossip from the Southern Garden.
Stop in and see what’s growing. 

www.GossipfromtheSouthernGarden.blog

Hidden Talents

I bet you didn’t know…

Anyone has ever written a book knows it’s hard work. Talent must also come into play.  Most of the writing is a combination, with an emphasis on diligence and comment. After all anyone can start a book, the glory comes by finishing the book. But a writer’s talent turns the hard work into something special and uniquely theirs.
You would think authors would exhaust all their talent into the writing. But there are hidden talents among a lot of art writers I know.
It never fails to amaze me when I see some beautiful artwork other writers create with things other than words.

I have one writer friend who is also an artist-she paints beautiful scenery.

Custom-Covers-ExampleAnother one does fantastic book covers, they take your breath away.(http://www.llynara.com).

Basic RGB Karen Kalbacher is my cover artist, and she is a writer.

Another mentor who has guided me from the day I first started writing has enough talent in her words she not only writes for herself, she’s a ghostwriter. Plus, she paints.

Not all talent involves painting. There are fantastic types of crafting out there from woodwork to stitchery to creating gardens. A sweet friend and mentor does wonderful crafting, enough that she’s getting ready to open her own shop! Everybody has their own niche of what they do best couple, using these talents as a release from the stress writing can bring.

I also have a few hidden talents. I love to do needlepoint.20180526_091940 When I’m not fighting with the cats over the colorful yarn, I can create nice pictures. Of course, that’s more patience than talent.

 I think most of you know I garden.ad 2016b This is my ‘real’ profession- and as the designer I use with flowers and foliage to create beautiful displays that people can enjoy. The mixing of textures using life plans to create a garden is very relaxing and rewarding for me.

And these are just a few of the many talents I’ve heard of other authors doing!

Chime in and let us know what your talent is.

It’s always fun to get to know each other, isn’t it?

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com