Meet Polly Holmes

Can you believe how fast the last quarter of 2020 is passing by? Halloween is over, and plans are being made for that big turkey dinner. And then, with a blink of an eye, we are decorating and planning for the Christmas holiday. Our next award winning author writes in a range of holiday mysteries.

Polly’s cozy mysteries can be found in Kindle Unlimited and at Gumnut Press Bookstore. Now lets find out more about Polly…

Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery?
Living in Australia, Halloween is not as celebrated here as much as it is in the US so I love to immerse myself in creating what could be if I lived there. I love all the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the holiday and the chance to dress up. The holiday gives me so much inspiration to create and imagine what could be.

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In my mind, there is always a little bit of magic that surrounds Christmas. You can’t beat a great Christmas story that takes you on a journey into the world of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop. A story filled with fun, love, excitement and a little bit of mischief. I love writing about Christmas in winter, the snow, a warm fire and hot chocolate. Living in Australia our Christmases are always hot and humid so to create a winter world I can dive into, complete with Santa and the Elves is such as joy.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Writing is my night-time and weekend passion. I am a full-time Drama teacher, but not your normal 9-5 teacher. I am run the Dance and Drama Department at my school, so not only do I have to teach the students, I have loads of admin to do and productions including after school rehearsals. My average day in 7.30am to 6.30pm. As you can imagine, fitting in writing in and around that is pretty hard. Because I self-publish, I also have to try and get promotional time in there which I guess is why I don’t get a lot of sleep.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
If Pumpkin Pies & Potions were made into a movie, apart from probably fainting at the opportunity of having one of my books on the big screen, Emma Stone would play the main character of Evelyn Grayson. At 11, Evelyn’s parents were tragically killed, and she moved in with her Aunt Edie in Saltwater Cove. This is where she finds out she’s a witch and her life is set on a new path of mystery, magic and mayhem. Her world goes haywire and she finds out life as a witch is not as easy as she first thought. Emma Stone is the perfect fit, beautiful, smart and a little on the tough side.
Jason Lewis would play the main character of Tyler Broderick, Evelyn’s best friend. They have been best friends since she moved in with her aunt and while he isn’t a witch, he has mad computer skills which prove useful in solving key clues in various murders.
Emily Blunt would play Aunt Edie. Her vast acting knowledge would bring a maturity to the role without making her too old. She is a hip, young aunt that isn’t afraid to take a risk where needed.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my covers. Whether it be romance or a cozy, I have great cover designers and they provide me with the fuel to create my stories. At the start, I had no real idea what a cozy mystery was until I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s covers and brought 13 in one sale and then a writer friend said they were cozies and I had to learn what they were and how to write them.
Having been an obsessed addict of Murder, She Wrote and Nancy Drew it wasn’t hard to put pen to paper. I can see a cover and then a story begins festering in my mind and I have to just go with it. I had the cover of Pumpkin Pies & Potions designed by Victoria Cooper and she took the exact idea out of my head and created it brilliantly. I often run ideas by my sister and niece, they are great to brainstorm ideas with and they can send me on a whole new storyline with just one discussion. Problem is, once we start talking over the one idea, it soon becomes three or four books. As a writer, a great problem to have.

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What is your favorite childhood book?
It’s not so much a book as a series. I LOVE (and till do) the Sweet Valle High Series. I still have the majority of them, albeit some warn and tattered. I wasn’t a fast reader, but if I had one of Francine Pascal’s SVH books in my hand you couldn’t get me to do anything until I finished it. I received a number of groundings from my mum because I wouldn’t put my book down. I must have read the series over twenty times. They were my first introduction to teenage romance, and I was hooked. I also loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that’s why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair. While I write cozies, I also write romantic suspense and contemporary romance under P.L. Harris. I think the love of reading romance has stayed with me since I picked up my first SVH book.

Polly is also part of a great group of writers that have written the Christmas Anthology, Christmas Crackers.

now available!

Polly also writes romantic suspense as P.L. Harris!

So, there it is; we’ve officially started the holiday book season! Grab you comfy slippers, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a spot in front of the fire place-there are plenty of holiday cozies coming your way!

Victoria LK Williams

Meet Kathy Manos Penn

In my last post, I presented a number of books with a Halloween Theme and next month I will do the same for books with a Christmas Theme. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to down load a couple and start reading. But now I want you to get the know the authors behind the stories. A few of these wonderfully talented wordsmiths have written books for both holidays! Are you ready to meet our first author?

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Kathy is a long-time columnist and award-winning author. Her books are in the KU (kindle unlimited) program. You can find all her books on her Amazon Author Page, connect with her on her Facebook Author Page and find out even more from her Website!

I asked each of our authors to select questions from a list to answer (you’ll find out more below) and ask all to answer this…

Why did you write a holiday theme mystery?
The Halloween book simply grew out of the fact that book one was set in September and had ended with a costume party at my main character’s cottage. That was so much fun, I wanted to continue the costume theme with the characters dressing in costume for a Fall Fete in their Cotswolds village.
I LOVE Christmas, and like my main character, I decorate our home to the hilt! Given that Leta has been a widow for 18 mos, her emotional growth and how she deals with the holidays seemed a natural next step.

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How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing cozies only since late 2019 and released Book One in my series in February 2020. For almost my entire corporate career, I was called upon to write. Funny that my fellow bankers, whom I thought brilliant at analysis and numbers, seemed to think the same about my ability to craft a complete sentence, a speech, a how-to guide, or a training course. Long before my official job was communications, I was the go-to person for writing.
As a side job, while still a banker, I began writing weekly columns for a local paper and enjoyed it so much, I also started writing a blog. When I retired, I published a book of my columns, and then my dog Banjo got in on the act. He got all fired up when I had his DNA done and we discovered he’s part Great Pyrenees.  Did you know that Louis XIV declared those majestic animals the Royal Dogs of France? Once Banjo heard that news, he demanded I take dictation and produce a small book in his voice about a year in his life.  He says Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch is NOT fiction, but we have a difficult time convincing readers of that.
It was only after I’d appeased the boy that I could think about what I might want to write.

What is the significance of the title?
Since Dickens & Christie, the dog and cat in my books, are important characters, I find myself wanting to include a pet-oriented word in each title.  Hence, the first book was Bells, Tails & Murder and this Halloween themed book is Pumpkins, Paws & Murder with a fall fête central to the plot.

What book is currently on your bedside table?
Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper. A friend recommended I read it because a cat tells the story. She wasn’t quite sure she was going to enjoy reading my books where Dickens & Christie converse with their pet parent, but after one book, she was hooked. She went in search of other books where the animals talk or at least write and found Love Saves the Day!
And on my Kindle, next up is The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas. I’m an Anglophile through and through, so you can almost always find me reading a book set in England. This one is set just before WWII.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
As an avid reader, I love writing the book club scenes included in each of my books.  The chosen book is always in some way connected to the plot and is always a book I’ve read. I enjoy mentioning books throughout my stories, though I must admit I haven’t read every single book I mention—most of them, but not all. Leta, my main character, was an English major and briefly an English teacher before moving on to corporate America, and her best friend Wendy taught high school English for thirty years. It’s only natural that they talk books.  And guess what, I too briefly taught English, and I’m forever talking books with my friends.

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Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
My friends would tell you it is, that writing has become my full-time second career and that I never really retired. I call it my passion. I find myself going into withdrawal when I don’t write every day.  Fortunately, I continue to write weekly newspaper columns, so when I’m not deep into writing the next book, I can get my fix with a column.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read!  I must read every night and now that I’m retired I stay up way too late doing that.  When I worked, I made myself turn out the bedside light by ten. Much as I say about Leta in my books, I turn into a pumpkin by that time. And so you know I’m not a complete couch potato, I work out several times a week and walk with my sister too. Times were I rode bicycles with my husband, but his health has taken that activity off the table, and I don’t much enjoy cycling by myself. You’ll notice in my books that Leta rides a bicycle.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I followed the adage to write what you know, so my pets are the inspiration for the personalities of Dickens & Christie. Banjo and Puddin’ hang out with me in my office—Banjo snoozes at my feet and Puddin’ is either demanding treats by leaping on the desk or she’s snoozing in my desk drawer. As does Dickens, Banjo loves belly rubs and is always scarfing his feline sister’s wet food. Puddin’? She’s a demanding little thing who rules the roost and thinks she “owns” both me and my husband.
Leta, my main character, is a transplanted Atlantan and is Greek. I only wish I were a transplanted Atlantan!  I doubt I’d ever have the gumption to leave friends and family behind and move to England, but I AM Greek. Leta is known among her new British friends for her Greek salad, as I am here among my Atlanta friends. You can find her salad recipe in Book One and two additional Greek recipes in Books Two and Three.
Beyond that, my bucket list trip to England in 2018 inspired the Cotswolds village setting and much of the literary plot for the first book in the series. In book two, the ladies take a trip to Dartmouth and Agatha Christie’s summer home because I’d visited both. One thing leads to another as I research ideas on the internet, and things move along from there.
Because I took yoga for years, there’s a yoga studio in Astonbury and Leta takes a class several times a week. I’ve long had it in the back of my mind to include a yoga retreat in one of my books. I only need to figure out who gets murdered and why! This idea could show up in book five. You never know.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our first “Holiday Author”! I know I have. And I’m now in the mood to start reading holiday books.

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Don’t forget, you can get my books at a discount when you buy direct from my website. And to help you start start preparing for the holidays, check out the cute designs below!

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Some hashtags aren’t true.

By now, most of us know what a # (hashtag) is for, and I would hazard a guess that a good percentage of us have used a # (hashtag) or two.

There’s one # (hashtag) that I’ve seen, and I have to admit I’ve even used it. But I just can’t wrap my head around its use, because it certainly isn’t true, at least for me.

That hashtag is #WritingWithCats.

Now, I don’t know about you but writing with cats is impossible. You either write around a cat, in spite of a cat or trick a cat. But in my opinion, there is no way that you can compose a complete sentence with a cat around. And anyone who has tried knows what I mean.
Writing with a dog is a lot easier. They obey you, they don’t blatantly move things around, and a dog would hardly ever sit on your keyboard. The old saying of “give a dog a bone” works perfectly here. A couple pats on the head, a treat, and a kind word and your dog is perfectly content to curl up at your feet and let you do your work.


But not the cat. At least not my cats. I sit down to my desk and it’s like a signal goes out. They could be sound asleep in a closet with the door closed, but somehow they know I’m getting ready to sit down and try and do some work. The next thing I know they’re crawling all over my desk. Miss Marble sits on my hands if I ignore her for too long, waiting for attention. Fletch isn’t so subtle, if I ignore her for too long, she will start knocking things off my desk. Then it becomes a game, and the harder you try to work the more persistent they become.

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Finally, just when you’re ready to give up and walk away, my kitties will settle down in a nice sunny spot, stretch out, and take up as much of the desk area as they possibly can. Even if it means sitting on your paperwork, you’re outline or your research. They’ll be content for ten or fifteen minutes, but if you move the wrong way or do something that’s not in sync with what they have been listening to, then look-out. They’re wide awake again, ready to inspect and put their stamp of approval on what you’re doing. Then the process begins all over.

But I’m persistent, and I don’t give up easily. I’ve even found a “babysitter” to keep them occupied while I work. I put Alexa on the job, asking her to find cat videos to play on a small screen that sits on my desk. My girls will sit there, entranced, watching the birds occasionally growling at the chattering birds. And if a squirrel happens come in on the screen, their haunches are up, their ears are back and they’re ready for action. Occasionally one of them will tap at the screen, then look at me, confused as to why they can’t grab hold of that pesky squirrel. I know it’s a little devious, but you gotta do what you gotta do when work needs to be done.

And when you and when you finally finished your goal for this writing session, you reach for the cat, pet and scratch her behind her ears while picking her up for a cuddle. And that’s when she jumps down, no longer interested in what’s going on on the desk, or you for that matter. Now Miss Marple and Fletch will find a quiet place to curl up and take a nap. I sit in my chair with empty arms and watch my two cats walk away, their tails swishing. They know perfectly well what they’ve done and I can only shake my head. There’s no sense getting upset with them because I love them. Besides, a cat is a cat, and they live by their own rules!

Victoria LK Williams

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Cozy Mysteries with a Tropical Twist!

Series or Stand-alone?

Why do I write in series rather than standalone books?

 First off let me say I love to read standalone books. They draw you in and they complete all of your questions in one sitting, but my true love is book series. It is much as I like to read series, I love to write them as well.

 

 Let me give you some of the reasons why I love to write and series.

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 I love my characters. They become friends to me, and I don’t want to see them leave at the end of the book. I can think of so many other things that they can get into, so many new mysteries for them to solve. When I’m reading, I don’t like to see a ton of characters in book one. Which is great, because when you’re writing the series, you can add characters as you go along. I’m not talking about the main characters, they should be consistent from book to book, but it’s the back story; the characters that live in the town with your main character and interacts with them daily. The characters that come and go could be the villains or just townsfolk that are only needed for one story.

 When I do my character casting, I have MAIN CHARACTERS, usually three or four; and one is always an animal. Then I have SECONDARY MAIN CHARACTERS. These are the glue to the story. These characters are the ones that help move the main character in the direction they need to go or point out things they may miss; they add interest. There’s nothing more annoying than reading a book where the main character has all the action. Having a sidekick, a doting relative, or even a love interest will add more interest and meat to the story.

 The next group of characters I have used are the RETURNING CHARACTERS. These are the characters that I build on as the series grows. They can be shop owners, friends, and family, townsfolk, or resources for the main character. These are the characters that add to the back story, making your book feel more in-depth and realistic. Here’s where you can have some fun. You can let one of your returning characters be an oddball that people shy away from or the opposite; somebody that everybody graduates gravitates to because he is so loving. They’re not main characters, but they play an essential role. And you want to bring them back, book after book.

 Then I have a fourth set of characters, and they are the characters it will only appear in the book I’m currently writing. I call these my THROW-AWAY CHARACTERS. These will usually that involves a villain, his minions, and a couple throwaways that are added just for interest or to move the story along without the help of a major character.

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 But writing a series is not just about the characters. For me, it’s also getting to know the SETTING of the story. My settings are all tropical. I live in the tropics, and I love it. After living up north in the Buffalo area in my youth, I have no desire to ever be cold again, and that includes writing about being cold.

 My settings are built on from book to book, just like the characters are. One book may future a specific setting and it may not be mentioned again for one or two books, but it’s always there, and it’s often referred to by the characters. By creating my settings in detail, I can give the reader a sense of the community my main character is revolving around.

 Another reason I like to write a series is to develop RELATIONSHIPS. Whether it be of a love interest that starts out as the first meeting in book 1 and ends up in marriage in book 10, or “frein-enemies” that end up helping each other at the end of a series.

 I could go on and on. But I’m giving you three reasons why I enjoy writing in a series; the Characters, the Settings, and the Relationships. That, to me, is a solid base to start and continue my series.

 I currently have for series written, adding new books to the series as time goes on. I’m also working on two other series and will release them at a later date. For more information about my series, check out my website.

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Victoria LK Williams

 

Killer Focus ( A Mrs. Avery’s Adventure, #1)

The first book in my new series will be available on 6/27/19!

Mrs. Avery’s Adventures
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A pink slip, a birthday card, new neighbors…Piper Avery thought her week was bad-then she found the body on the beach!

Preorder your copy and save!

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Below is a review from the blog the Owl’s Book Nest

via Killer Focus ( A Mrs. Avery’s Adventure, #1)

It is also available in both Print and Large Print

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!

It’s a Mega Sale!

Good morning! It’s still dark here in south Florida, but I wanted to get this info to you early so you don’t miss out.

I’m thrilled to be part of the ” Cozy Mystery Mega Sale” and am so very thankful for all the hard work Ava Mallory did putting this together. There are over 100 books and all of them are $.99 or free!

With fall almost here, the nights will be long and perfect for reading, so stock up now. This is the perfect opportunity to try out a new author. (Remember to leave reviews for the books you read, please.)

You will find two of my Citrus Beach Mysteries included: Murder for Neptune’s Trident and Trouble has a Tail.

 

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click here to go to sale!

It’s a short sale, so don’t miss out!! I won’t hold you up any longer; there’s a lot of books to look over.

Happy Reading!

Victoria LK Williams

It’s all about the Cozy Mystery

Can you believe this weekend is Labor Day weekend, where did the summer go?
This is the time when most people start to plan for their fall/winter season. Down here in the South, the winter season is crucial because it is our tourist season. And the tourist will want to visit the beaches, and in their beach-bags will be books; light beach reads. This means more books will be purchased!

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I’ve thought about my fall/winter objectives as well. I decided my books are going to be more consolidated into one generic. And the genre is COZY MYSTERIES. It’s what I love to write, what I love to read; it’s even what I love to watch on TV. So, why not stick with what I love?
Because I’m consolidating and aiming more towards cozy mysteries, my blog is going to   have one post per month dedicated strictly to cozy mysteries. I’ll be talking about the genre, some authors, the type of settings, the characters and doing a few book reviews. My regular blog posts will continue the other three weeks of the month , but I thought it might be fun to change up.

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What is a Cozy Mystery?
Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote. This is one of the best examples of a cozy mystery. The series has all the elements found in a cozy; a small quaint town, amateur sleuth, and a cast of characters the reader can get to know. Sometimes the main character is a bit nosy, or sometimes they are in the right place at the right time. But the main character always is compelled to investigate a crime (usually a murder) and put the wrong to right.

One of the first writers of cozy mysteries was Dame Agatha Christie. Her cozy mysteries that started it all was the Miss Marple series. Miss Marple was a elderly lady, wise about human nature. And she sure knew how to solve a mystery. Dame Agatha was a master at leaving false clues, red herrings, and wonderful characters that you loved. She could paint a picture with her scenes, pulling you into the mystery and then leaving you with unexpected results.

Cozy mysteries today are tamer, often glossing over the evil of the crime; becoming a bit sweeter, than the mysteries of Agatha Christie. There is usually no swearing, no gore, and any sex happens behind closed doors. Good always wins, and the mysteries are always solved. Whether it’s a series, are not, you are never left hanging, wondering what really happened.

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Sounds simple right? Now try writing one!
Next month I will start going over a few details involved when writing a cozy mystery and review a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed.
Let me know what you think cozy mysteries and share some of your favorite books!

Victoria LK Williams
Writing Cozy Mysteries with a Tropical Twist.

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