Tag Archives: Vancouver Island

Garden Goodies

We’re at the height of the gardening season now, happily inundated by a flood of fruits and veggies; which only goes to show that gardeners are a bunch of freakish masochists (or maybe that’s just me).

You’d think sane people would avoid a hobby that requires them to go outside during the hottest part of the year and perform vigorous labour, then return to the house lugging pounds of produce that needs to be peeled/trimmed/chopped and then processed in boiling water over a hot stove.  But what the hell; if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a hobby.

I harvested about 150 pounds of strawberries in June, and now the rest of the veggies are attempting to follow suit (though fortunately not quite that enthusiastically).  I’ve picked forty pounds of beans so far, and they’re finally “slowing down” to only about six pounds per picking.

I only planted three zucchini seeds this year, so that means I’ll only be feeding all our friends and neighbours instead of having to make multiple deliveries to the Food Bank as well.  Ditto cucumbers; but we may have miscalculated on the corn.  If you don’t see a blog post for a while, you’ll know we’re trying to dig/eat our way out from under a giant heap of kernels.

The veggies’ success hasn’t exactly been shared by the flower seeds, though.  I optimistically planted the seeds in our perennial beds this spring, but I didn’t take the time to mark their locations — I figured I’d be able to tell which were weeds and which were flowers when everything came up. (You gardeners, stop snickering.)

In fact, I did figure it out. It was quite simple: If it looked pale and weedy and it was struggling to survive, it was a desirable plant.  If it was huge and green and growing vigorously, it was a weed.  But at least our established perennials performed beautifully!

Here are a few of the blooms we’ve been enjoying this summer:
(Click on photos to see full-size versions.)

Dahlias

 

Romneya coulteri (California Tree Poppy – Fried Egg Plant)

 

LA hybrid lily

 

Another LA hybrid lily

 

Gorgeous roses

 

More dahlias

 

Poppies

 

Echinacea x hybrida ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

 

Sky-high sunflowers

 

Echinacea purpurea

 

Here’s our most unexpected summer harvest:  A pineapple.  Two years ago, Hubby potted up the top of a pineapple that I’d bought at the grocery store.  The plant grew, and you may recall that back in April I posted a photo of the baby pineapple that was forming on one of the plants.

Well, it actually ripened; and yesterday we picked it and ate it.  Yum!

Our pineapple harvest for the year.

All my sweating in the garden is rewarded with more than yummy veggies and pretty flowers:  I also get to watch the hummingbirds!  They’re amazing — so tiny, and so fearless.  They do their rounds of the flowers less than three feet away from me, completely unconcerned by my presence.

Sometimes they hover a few feet from my face, staring.  Then they’ll swoop over a few feet to the left, then to the right, studying me from all angles.  I think they’re wondering what kind of non-human creature I am, with my giant broad-brimmed gardening hat.

Anna’s hummingbird with scarlet runner bean blossoms

 

Rufous hummingbird with scarlet runner bean blossoms

What’s new in your neck of the woods this week?

Book 16 update:  I’ve plotted far enough to get started — writing begins this week! Woohoo!

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Tea… Ahhhh. (Or ‘AAAAAAGH!!!’)

After we moved into our new home three years ago, I developed a tea ritual:  Almost every morning I take my mug outside to the front porch.  Even in winter, I wrap up in a blanket and enjoy my tea outdoors. It’s a lovely interlude of peace and serenity… or it was, until last week.

In the summer, my ritual has an extra step: I have to put a hat on Hubby’s car. Not because the car or I care anything about fashion; it’s just that when the sun is at its summer height, it reflects annoyingly off the windshield and into my eyes.  My wide-brimmed hat is always by the door, so that’s my default sunshade.

Last week I carried out my mug of tea and sat down in my favourite chair, only to receive a ‘glaring’ reminder that I’d forgotten to put the hat on the car. I hauled myself up again, grabbed the hat, and plopped it onto the windshield before returning to my chair.

And that’s when everything went to hell.

We still don’t have a proper front porch — it’s just a patch of gravel awaiting concrete. We’ve laid a small piece of plywood down so we don’t get our feet dirty, but only the front legs of the chairs are on the plywood. So they’re a tad unstable.  As was I. (I realize the jury is still out on my mental stability; but I’m talking about physical stability here.)

My foot bobbled on the edge of the plywood and I sat down rather more quickly and inaccurately than I’d intended. My hand caught the edge of the little table that held my tea mug, and my butt hit the seat cushion at the same time as approximately a pint of hot tea.

Turns out that our chair cushions are waterproof enough to hold a pint of tea in a convenient butt-shaped puddle for exactly the amount of time it takes for two short messages to flash through my stunned synapses: “Shit, I spilled my tea” and “OH-SHIT-THAT’S-HOT!

I launched out of the chair like it was an ejection seat, then immediately turned my ejected seat into the breeze in an attempt to cool the steaming fabric. Then, standing there plucking soggy pants away from my parboiled butt and eyeing the chair with its wet cushion and incriminating puddle below, I burst out laughing. Not for the first time, I gave thanks that we live out in the middle of nowhere and there were no witnesses.

I always drop a few ice cubes into my tea to bring it down to drinkable temperature, so the only damage was to my dignity.  Fortunately I wasn’t over-endowed with dignity in the first place, so it’s not much of a loss.

But it’s gonna be a while before I can completely relax again with a mug of tea…

Book 16 update:  Everything has been on hold while I’ve dealt with the time-consuming and annoying transfer of my paperback publishing to a new distributor.  It’s (mostly) done now, so I’m looking forward to getting back to Book 16 this week!

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Dishing The Dirt

Wow, the last few months have been so crazy-busy, I feel like I’ve been living under a large rock.  I kinda look as though I have, too.  I’d like to blame the COVID-19 isolation for my dishevelled appearance; but with gardening season in full swing, well… even basic personal hygiene seems a bit futile.

I get up, shower, and sit down at the breakfast table all shiny-clean. Mere hours later, I’m caked with dirt, soaked in sweat, and greasy with sunscreen. My fingernails are pitch-black crescents, and I have hat-head worthy of a clown show or a horror movie.  (Is there really a difference between the two?)

Here’s the embarrassing truth:  I’m perfectly happy like that. What’s more, I love wearing old clothes because I don’t have to worry about wrecking them. I’ve been wearing the same gardening jeans for at least fifteen years. They’ve been exposed to so much sunlight that they’re almost white, except where they’ve been permanently stained by dirt, engine grease, paint, caulking, glue, and/or other unnamed substances. They’ve fallen apart and been sewn back together so often that even their patches have patches.

But they’re comfortable.  And I live out in the sticks so nobody can see me; and even if they do see me and judge me, they’re far enough away that I don’t know they’re doing it.  So it’s all good.

Problem is, that kind of laid-back comfort gets insidious.  If I’m not careful, I’ll become that stinky old lady with the tattered clothes, matted hair, and feral expression, who shows up at the grocery store twice a year to buy staple foods before vanishing back into the dilapidated hovel whence she came.

Fortunately Hubby is much more civilized than I, and he somehow manages to stay clean(ish) no matter what he does.  So I have a model for normal human behaviour; and at least I’m still capable of cleaning up when it’s time for cover photos (albeit with a big assist from Photoshop).

Which, of course, is my ever-so-subtle segue to dishing today’s dirt:

It’s release day for Book 15, A SPY FOR HELP, woohoo!  (And whew.  It’s finally done! But the next book is already knocking at my mental doors…)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

Click here for links to retailers

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Virtual Art Show

Since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, my regular Friday Painters meetings have been cancelled.  We all know it’s best for everyone; but I miss our laughter and camaraderie, and I especially miss the inspiration I gain from being surrounded by such talented and creative people.

Several members of our group had artwork accepted into various shows this spring and summer, and of course the art shows have all been cancelled, too.

That’s just sad, so today I’m doing a Virtual Art Show featuring the work of some of my very talented Friday friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Joanne Ayley
joanneayleyart.com

“My House” $150
Acrylic on deep Canvas 12” x 12” x 1.5”
© Joanne Ayley

 

“The Lookout” $250
Acrylic on Canvas 24” x 12”
© Joanne Ayley

 

Deborah Glover

24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas
© Deborah Glover

 

“Portrait of Tim”
11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas
© Deborah Glover

 

 

Vanessa Lambert
I enjoy working in many mediums including Pen/Ink, Graphite, Charcoal, Watercolour and Acrylic.

“Stairway to Heaven, Judges Row, Qualicum Beach”
© Vanessa Lambert

 

Joanne Nemeth
joannenemeth.com
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/joanne_nemeth/

“Spring Revival” $250
17” x 14” acrylic, framed
© Joanne Nemeth

 

“Crimson Rising” $175
11” x 14” acrylic, framed
© Joanne Nemeth

 

Lynne Rattray

“Boldly Go” $75
9″ x 12″ Multi-media acrylic on deep canvas
© Lynne Rattray

 

“The Road Not Taken” $95
12″ x 12″ Acrylic on deep canvas
© Lynne Rattray

Amazingly, I’ve done a couple of paintings, too. I know my Friday friends are chuckling at this because I’m a VERY slow painter — these are the only paintings I’ve done since we started last September, and the second one’s still not finished.  But for what it’s worth, here they are:

“Rathtrevor Beach Campground”
Watercolour, 9″ x 16″
© Diane Henders

 

“Cameron Lake Log”
Acrylic 16″ x 20″
© Diane Henders

Book 15 update:  At last, a release date!  “A Spy For Help” will be released on May 27, 2020.  I’ll be sending out preorder links via my New Book Notification List soon — if you want to get on the list, click here.

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Dwindling Time; Shrinking Pants

I can’t believe 2019 is gone already — I honestly don’t know where the time went.  My theory is that aliens have been abducting me for several hours every day, and they’ve masked their nefarious activities with false memories of working at my desk.  Either that, or Dr. Who is hovering above our house and altering time so that I’m working at half-speed relative to the rest of the world.

I’m sure there has to be some sci-fi explanation, because I’m not fond of the thought that I’m working as hard and fast as I can and still falling behind.  So, aliens it is!

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s tackle the conundrum of why pants shrink in December.  I’m sure it must be the shorter hours of daylight and cooler temperatures that make the fabric fibres contract.  (Or maybe that’s caused by aliens, too.)  It can’t possibly be related to that box of chocolates I can’t seem to pass without nibbling.

Speaking of shorter days, we’re in the gloomy depths of winter rain here, which is actually a bit of a relief.  I’m not fond of dark days, but it was a dry autumn and water reservoirs were low, so it’s good to know they’re being replenished now.

I’m ready to look at something besides grey clouds, so here are some cheery views from 2019.

(Click on photos to see a larger version.  Depending on your browser, clicking again on the larger photo might give you a closeup — worth doing for the little pollen-coated bee.)

Ahhhh, beach and blue sky!

 

Happy garden plants soaking up the sun

 

Bees hard at work – look at the pollen on this little guy!

 

Colours so vivid they almost hurt your eyes

 

Sunny rudbeckia. This is ‘Goldsturm’.

 

And our tiny rhododendrons bloomed heroically! This is ‘Lee’s Best Purple’, only about 2 feet tall but with flower trusses the size of basketballs.

 

Ah, I feel better now.  It might be a while before spring gets here, but at least I can happily anticipate it.

And hey, maybe my pants will stretch out by spring, too!  I can always hope.  (I could also exercise more and diet a bit; but that would imply that those shrinking pants are somehow my fault.  Perish the thought.)

Happy New Year!

Book 15 update:  Just when I think I’ve got everything figured out, another wrench appears in the works.  But I did some excellent plotting and lots of research over the holidays, and I’m bombing ahead with Chapter 26.  Things just took a turn for the worse for Aydan and the boys, and they’re scrambling!

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I Think He’s Happy To See Me…

This week a few things have popped up and surprised me.  I’d tell you to stop snickering and get your mind out of the gutter; but you know me too well.  So snicker away — I did.

It all started with a pop-up man…

(And now I want to write some flash fiction beginning with that line. That would be ‘flash fiction’ as in ‘an ultra-short story’, not as in ‘fiction about flashers’. And that’s not even a digression, because the pop-up man started with flashers.)

It was dusk. The lights were on in our house and the yard was cloaked in near-darkness. We live in the country so I don’t worry too much about privacy, but I do draw the blinds at night.

So I was heading for the window when I noticed a truck with its flashers on, backed into our driveway outside the gate. I wasn’t unduly surprised because sometimes people do pull into our driveway when they’re lost and need to check their GPS.  (Which does them no good at all because we’re out in the middle of nowhere and our road isn’t on any GPS map; but anyway…)

I stood at the window watching the vehicle for a few moments.  Then as I reached for the blind cord, a dark-clad man popped up out of the gloom, staring in at me.

He waved. His hand, fortunately.

I must have looked utterly dumbfounded.  He gave me a conciliatory smile and waved again, pointing to his clipboard. Yep, the UPS guy had let himself in our gate and come to the front door (which we never use).

I felt more than a bit awkward as I opened the door and stammered a half-assed explanation as to why I’d apparently been standing there gawking brainlessly at him.  He seemed happy enough to complete the transaction, but he probably went back to the depot and regaled everyone with the story of this weird creepy broad who stood there staring out at him instead of answering the door.

Next, we were digging the last of our carrots when this popped up:

Hubby speculated that the carrots were mutating into some sort of new ambulatory vegetable. Then we turned it around:

I think he’s happy to see me; in a twisted sort of way…

My last surprise was this guy (or gal — who can tell?):

S/He doesn’t look particularly happy to see me; but since I don’t think eagles are capable of looking pleased, I’m going to pretend s/he’s smiling.

I was sitting outside with my tea when this eagle flew by about ten feet away from me, and only a few feet off the ground. Wow, what a surprise!  I’ve never been that close to a wild eagle before.  (And after a glimpse of those vicious talons and beak, I don’t want to get much closer.)

Any surprises popped up in your world this week?

Book 15 update:  An excellent plotting week!  I have the story almost all mapped out now, and I’ve written up to Chapter 18.  Aydan just got a big (and pleasant, for a change) surprise!

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More Juggling (But Not With Fish)

September is shaping up to be a crazy month!  (Lucky I’m crazy enough to deal with it.)  I’m still picking piles of fruit and veggies from the garden, and we’re busily socking it away to enjoy throughout the winter.  The considerable overflow goes to our friends and neighbours as well as the Food Bank.

We might have been just a teeny bit over-enthusiastic when we were planting the garden, but… look at all this glorious food!

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

A single picking of tomatoes. (I pick a couple of times a week.)

 

Ten gallons of chopped carrots all ready for the freezer.

 

50 pints of pickles, 22 pints of jam, 7 pints of salsa, 28 pints of beans (another 20 pounds frozen), 24 pints of tomatoes and lots to go, and still a bit of space left for the rest of the beets and tomatoes and pickled hot peppers. YUM!

 

But our autumn isn’t only about food.  The flowers are still gorgeous, too, and the bees and other wildlife are hard at work stocking their own pantries:

This little black bear has been feasting on the wild cherries only a few hundred feet from our house. Don’t be fooled by his casual pose — he’s actually about 30 feet up a tree. (He’s a little blurry because Hubby took this shot using a LONG zoom — we have a healthy respect even for small bears!)

 

This little guy has been hard at work snipping off pine cones and stashing them away.

 

I’m not sure whether it was my camera or the tiny white spider (near the centre of the flower) that chased this bee off the zinnia. Either way, he’s buzzing off.

 

The snapdragons are still putting on a show.

 

One of our newest rhododendrons, Medusa, is a bit confused as to whether it’s spring or fall, but she’s beautiful anyway!

 

We’ll have a couple more rounds of houseguests this month, so maintaining my writing schedule for Book 15 will be a juggling act.  (Fortunately not with fish.)  To salvage some time I’ll dial back my blogging schedule to every second week for the month of September, so my next post will be September 18.

How’s your September shaping up?  Are you harvesting any goodies from your garden?

Book 15 update:  I’m bombing along on Chapter 4!  Hellhound would normally be voted “Most Likely To Get Arrested While On Vacation”, but Aydan’s the one who’s ended up in handcuffs…

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A Fishy Tale

I seem to end up looking like a doofus in public more often than most people. I prefer to think it’s sheer coincidence, and nothing to do with me personally.  (Denial:  Not just a river in Egypt.)  Last month it was my disintegrating shoes.  This week I entertained the crowd by juggling a dead fish at the pumps of a PetroCanada gas station.

It could only happen to me:

We had driven down to Victoria, and on the way back we stopped for gas. As I was fuelling up, Hubby’s uncle drove in beside me. That was an unlikely coincidence, since neither of us lives close to that PetroCanada station.  Also coincidentally, he was returning from a fishing trip.

“Hey, I’ve got a fish for you,” said he. “Do you want it now?”

Ordinarily I would have declined, since I have no way of carrying a gutted and beheaded fish home in my car without causing grievous harm to upholstery and equanimity.  But (another coincidence) I had taken a load of vegetables down to inflict on share with our friends, so I had a large empty cooler with ice packs.  I also happened to have a plastic bag, so I could put the fish in the bag and tuck it tidily into the cooler. Easy-peasy, right?

Not even close.

Hubby’s uncle was on his way to the ferry and I didn’t want to delay him, so I hustled his catch-bag over to where Hubby had helpfully opened our cooler.  I grabbed my plastic bag with one hand.  I grabbed the salmon with the other.

You’d think that very little could go wrong in the few inches between fish and bag; but you’d be oh-so-sadly mistaken. Freshly dead salmon are slippery. I had grabbed it just above the tail, and (being fish-shaped and all) it tapered considerably at that point.

That fish shot out of my grip like it was jet-propelled.

I made a panicked grab for it, which accomplished nothing except to add a tumble to its trajectory. Fish-slime flew in all directions, splattering my shirt, face, and sunglasses.  The fish did a belly-flop into our cooler, where it spitefully rubbed its dead self all over the ice packs and the inside of the cooler.

And there I stood in the middle of the PetroCanada station:  be-slimed and befuddled, with the empty plastic bag dangling impotently from my hand.

Then came a short ridiculous scene in which I juggled the frictionless fish a couple more times before finally cramming it into the bag.  (Don’t ask me why putting the fish in the bag still seemed important, since the cooler and ice packs were already thoroughly slimed.  By then I wasn’t thinking straight due to a severe case of the giggles.)

I scuttled into the station to wash my hands and clean my sunglasses, then hurried back to the car and drove away without looking around to see how many people had witnessed the debacle.  I didn’t hear anybody laughing; but I wasn’t listening too closely, either.

I did manage to get the salmon filleted and into our freezer without further mishap, and soon we’ll eat the evidence.

But I might not go back to that gas station for a while…

Book 15 update:  I’m back in action after last week’s hiatus, and looking forward to a good writing week!

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Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I mentioned that in addition to my shoe breakdown, my deodorant had also failed. That got me thinking about sweat and its associated etiquette. (Sweatiquette?)

I lived most of my adult life in Calgary, where it’s so dry that your sweat glands have to work overtime just to keep you from shriveling into a desiccated mummy. Perspiration was never a problem there.

But it’s humid here on the West Coast, and now I get clammy clothes and a sticky sheen on my skin just from strolling down the sidewalk.  So here’s my dilemma:

When you a meet a friend you’d normally hug, is it more awkward to say, “Don’t hug me, I’m gross and sweaty”; or to go for the hug and subject them to full sweatitude with a bonus whiff of gamey armpits? (And why don’t I have friends anymore?)

When I consulted the internet (about sweatiquette, not my social problems), I was confronted by an ad demanding, “Are you a heavy sweater?”

I blinked away the mental image of a bulky cable-knit pullover.  Nope, last time checked I was still a regular-weight human.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

‘Sweater’. It’s kind of an icky word when you think about it. I mean, I guess it’s descriptive enough:  When you’re cold, you want something that might induce sweat; so you put on a ‘sweater’.  But, ew.

Our friends in the U.K. more politely call them ‘jumpers’; but even though there’s a lower ick-factor, the word makes no sense at all. What does jumping have to do with a garment you pull over your head?

Although I guess it makes as much sense as our North American ‘jumper’: A sleeveless, collarless dress worn over a T-shirt.  (As opposed to a ‘jumpsuit’, the one-piece coverall worn by skydivers who jump out of perfectly serviceable airplanes at high altitude. At least the terminology is logical even if the sanity is questionable.)

And that reminds me of a joke:  “Parachute for sale.  Used once.  Small stain.”

Which brings me full-circle to sweat and other bodily emissions:  If anybody ever forced me to skydive, I guarantee the stain would be a large one and the parachute wouldn’t be salable afterward.  The person who coerced me probably wouldn’t be in great shape, either.

And that’s the bottom of this week’s rabbit hole.  (Should I mention that a rabbit is also a ‘jumper’?)

Happy landings to all!

Book 15 update:  The first words are on the page, woohoo!  I’m thrilled to be writing again — I’ve missed Aydan and the gang. 🙂

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Bird-Brains, My Butt

I love living out in the country where the air is a tapestry of birdsong and our little feathered friends forage busily in our gardens.  We have everything from the drab but melodic Hermit Thrush to the brilliant Western Tanager; the giant and crazily prehistoric-looking Pileated Woodpecker to the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird.  But unlike my blogging buddy Elephant’s Child, I don’t have any beautiful bird photos to show you.

And that’s my beef, right there:  No photo ops.  In fact, half the time I can’t even get to the binoculars.

I’d comfort myself with the knowledge that they’re wild birds so they never stay in one place for long; but that’s not actually true.  They’re not flitting around, alert to the slightest threat.  No; they’re flaunting themselves within full view of my windows, sitting there only a few yards away and preening.  Even the hummingbirds perch for minutes at a time.

But no matter whether they’ve just landed or they’ve been snoozing there for five minutes, the instant I head for the binoculars, the birds fly away.

One might argue that they’re getting spooked when they see my movement through the window.  I’d like to believe that… but I don’t. I can walk over and stand inches away from glass watching them, and they never ruffle a feather.

But just let me reach for the binoculars that live permanently in the corner of the living room, and the birds zip away, never to reappear until I’m at least ten paces away from the optics.

Reaching for the camera is even more futile.  That doesn’t even require any movement on my part — all I have to do is think about the camera and the birds take off.

So not only can they tell the difference between me casually crossing the room on my own errand, and me crossing the room to pick up the binoculars; but they can also read my mind.

Bird-brains, my butt.  Those little suckers are smart, and probably telepathic.  I just hope they don’t decide to organize and attack like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

But if there’s no blog post next week, you’ll know what happened.

*

P.S. Speaking of bird-brains:  Last night I had a great time presenting Write Your Book At Last at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.  But… at the end of my talk, I forgot to ask if anyone was interested in more in-depth workshops.  I’ve posted topic outlines on my Workshops page, but I won’t set dates unless there’s some interest.  Please drop me an email if there’s a workshop you’d like to attend.  Thanks!

Exciting news:  The audiobook for Book 2, The Spy Is Cast is now in production!  Its tentative release date is in October, and the rest of the series is scheduled to follow it into audio format ASAP.

And… I’m starting Book 15 this week!  Hooray!  🙂

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