ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 20 October 2014

"Anyone who tells you there's a right way to write is a lying bitch." - Nora Roberts. And Survive and Thrive Bloghop.



Hi everyone!

"Anyone who tells you there's a right way to write is a lying bitch." Nora Roberts

Get the message? Getting sick of those posts that start with..."The Secret to...", whether it's getting published, writing a best seller, formatting the best self-published novel EVER! The only secret to the game is getting it right. But that seems pretty elusive, at least to me.

Nora Roberts -- sitting pretty.
If, like me, you've been studying writing How-To books for years, you probably feel like me--there's so much between the covers you couldn't possible remember/do all that stuff. And some advice is downright contradictory, right? Maybe you pick up a couple of good pointers, but soon forget to actually apply them. And after all that, we're told to ignore all the rules!! Gah!!

How many times have I read--'show don't tell'? What does this actually mean? You can't write a whole book 'showing'. I read recently that all stories use a show/tell format -- (Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon - you can download the pdf by clicking on the link), but this is rarely pointed out. But plucking out all that 'showing' when an editor points it out to you is very demoralising because we should know better, right?

WRITING TIPS THAT MIGHT WORK FOR ME - Keeping in mind I am a contemporary romance writer. Other genres may be different in their application. Enough of my yammering...here's my Secrets to... which are pretty basic, but they may help someone who is sweating over getting a novel finished.
    Image result for image of books and writers
  • Write with the reader in mind 
  • Make sure you have a hook at the beginning of your story
  • Dribble in backstory - no info dumps 
  • Something must happen on every page - what are those characters doing? CONFLICT!!
  • Occasionally surprise the reader - subvert/invert the scene
  • Make sure action comes before reaction 
  • Show, don't tell. (Had to say that)
Really, there are three main things for writers to do, isn't there?
  1. READ. I've got that covered big time. I've recently discovered NetGalley where a prolific reader can apply to read new books as long as they review them. I've just been sent Samantha Verant's Seven Letters From Paris. Can't wait to sink my teeth into that one...and review it. 
  2. WRITE. Oh wow! Really! Whatever works for you. But you can't be a writer unless you write. I've found ways to increase my writing hours per day. My motivation? I want to get my novel submitted before NaNoWriMo in November. I said that last November too! Same novel!
  3. Get meaningful feedback from trusted peers/writers and mentors/professionals. Not so easy. I recently asked several writer blogger friends to critique a chapter which I'd re-written so many times, had assessed at some expense by a manuscript assessor, had a multi-published writer (who is my new mentor thanks to RomanceWritersofAustralia) critique, yet my friends found line after line to pull apart. Very demoralising. Makes me wonder if I'll ever finish this book! 
The most useful how-to I've come across recently is the Margie Lawson DEEP EDITS system. Here is a link to a guest blog post that introduced me to her system. You can pay for several lectures and her system may help you become a NYT best-selling author.  She has many secrets for you.

So my friends, if published, what is your secret?
If not, do you have anything to add to my writing 'secrets'?


As I've travelled around the blogosphere this morning I've been commenting on post after post for the Survive and Thrive bloghop. By now you will know what it's all about--well, it's self explanatory really. I haven't read a post about skin cancer yet, so I thought I'd pop one in. Just in time. Two hours to go...

Australia is often referred to as the skin cancer capital of the world and Queensland where I live, is the skin cancer capital of Australia. Simple, really. We're north, closer to the Equator. It's nearly always sunny. We have a beach culture. We didn't know what damage we were doing to ourselves with long summer holidays at the beach when we were children. Skin cancer awareness is relatively new.

I've always thought I got away with my beach-babe teenage years but it finally caught up with me. One of my freckles started turning a little browner and growing sideways. My doctor sister-in-law saw it and said to have it checked. This is where the scary part starts.

My regular doctor didn't think much of my little old freckle. But I insisted on a biopsy. It came back negative for cancer. I insisted it was removed. They did the procedure reluctantly to shut me up. 

Result: Stage One melanoma! 

They hadn't taken the full freckle off in the biopsy so missed the cancer part. 

Now melanoma is the really, really scary one! It has four stages. Once you get past Stage One, the results aren't so good. If you're at Stage Four--goodnight!

Not pleasant having them cut a huge slice 5mls deep out of my arm, but better than the alternative. I can have plastic surgery if I want, but for now the scar is scarcely noticeable and a good reminder to me that I survived the doctor's diagnosis!

So I had another skin check with my doctor's skin specialist. All clear. I didn't believe it. He just used a magnifying thingo. Have taken myself off to a skin doctor who photographs your spots and blows them up, has a real good look and can easily track changes (ha ha). He picked up two more prospective melanomas and a couple more that will probably develop. So more surgery next week.

So if you live in a hot climate, be on the lookout. Don't listen to your doctor if you feel suspicious of a mole/freckle. Get a second or third opinion. 

Thanks to Doctor Covey, sister-in-law for saving me from moving past Stage One melanoma.

Don't forget to click on the link to read more potentially life-saving posts.


100 comments:

  1. Great advice! It is confusing with so much mixed information out there. I agree with the read and write method. Read a lot. Write a lot. There will never be a true guide that will tell you how to write a bestseller. It's not possible. Thanks for the info.

    Peace & Love
    Crystal @ YA Society

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  2. My fourth book comes out next year. Only secret I know is write the story you - and others - would want to read.

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  3. Write and write some more and enjoy it, that is all I got haha the rest will come

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  4. I saw the title of your post, and thought - YES!

    There's no right way, there are just ways that work for you, and ways that don't. Although there are rules I prefer to honor simply because they are good pointers to good writing, nothing is sacred. The only rule I hold dear to my heart is "Do what works!"

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    1. Just finding what works is the thing. Thanks Botanist.

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  5. I'm a sponge: I soak up everything and eventually it all dries out, lol. Your writing points to remember can go for any genre, IMO anyway.

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    1. Like that D. I'm certainly a sponge too.

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  6. I am so with you. I also think that so many of the messages out there are contradictory. I say just write with proper grammar if you can help it (unless it's in dialogue that isn't meant to have good grammar, anyway :P ), try not to leave in too many typos, and make sure your plot doesn't have huge potholes in it. ;)

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  7. I completely agree about so much of the advice out there being contradictory. Makes it difficult to figure out which tips will actually be helpful sometimes!

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  8. I don't have a secret, but I would say to write the story you want. I agree with the quote by Nora Roberts. So many people tell us there is a secret and right way to write and honestly, I have never found it. I have yet to be published and am constantly bombarded by new info promising to help me be a better writer, but after critiques I am always back to square one.

    This was a really great post. Thank you for saying what most of us were thinking.

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    1. Frustrating Murees. I hope you find your way.

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  9. I think your writing secrets really hit the important ones. They are all so true. Loved your post.

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  10. True about the mixed messages. If there is a secret, no-one is giving it away :) Your tips are handy for genres other than romance.

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    1. I think every editor has their own secrets.

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  11. Just keep writing is my motto. And keep reading. I like to read inspirational writing books, not so much the how-to ones although I've read a few that I really like.

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  12. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite is what helped me get published. I read, went to workshops and learned how to make my writing better. And I'm still learning.

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    1. I don't think it's something you ever perfect, although that would be nice.

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  13. I enjoy reading about the craft of writing but once i have the information (assuming I understand it) the next step is deciding if it's useful for my writing and more often than not it isn't. But once in a while I find something that fits my approach and that always give me a boost.

    mood

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    1. I think that's a good point. Not all advice is good advice.

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  14. Best advice I read here Denise is-write with the reader in mind. Great post.

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    1. Yep. I didn't get that for awhile. There's a school of thought that says write whatever you like and sod the reader!

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  15. There are no secrets, only hard work and trial and error. That's my pontification for Monday.

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  16. Great quote. I think I love Nora Roberts! Good advice. I'd like to know more about "subvert/invert the scene".

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    1. I must write about subvert/invert soon.

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  17. It was a good thing you insisted on the tests.
    Also, I love your writing advice.

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  18. i agree with your three big things....read, write, get crit...i know many writers that i have seen nothing new from in a long time or that are afraid of crit, i love crit...it makes you better (as long as the intentions of the crit partner are in the right place, smiles)...

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    1. Yes I think those three things are crucial but getting the right kind of CP can be a problem, or so I've found.

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  19. Hi, Denise,

    Thanks for joining the hop! I am SOOOOO GLAD you had that taken off. Imagine if you didn't. You are not the first person that insisted on having it taken off. Julie Pick had a similar experience. Her first was benign but it came back as melanoma. You don't want to fool around with cancer. That's for sure!

    We need to keep vigilant with ourselves no matter what the doctor's say. We know our bodies and gut feelings.

    Such good advice here. Lord only knows HOW MANY rewrites I've done my my two novels. Still am. But I'm hoping the second is done. But I'm sure when it gets picked up, the rewrites will start all over again.

    Our journey's can be long ones. Sadly writing is subjective and not all our work will hit home. Timing and luck is everything. Look at some of the MEGA writer's out there. So many just happen to fall into it. Take Stephanie Meyers. Need I say more.

    You have a lovely writing style and draw the reader in.That is what writing is all about. Entertaining the reader and making them FEEL. Emotion is everything...it's a major part of being human.

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  20. Great advice! A lovely shout-out! And a safe skin care call! What a fantastic post, Denise!!! Thank you!

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  21. I'm glad your sister-in-law had you go in! I've had two pre-cancerous moles removed from my arms. I hated those scars at first, but now only one of them is noticeable, and only because the nurse removing my stitches botched it, cut it back open, and caused an infection. So it's worse than the other two (I had one removed from my leg that was not pre-cancerous.) Better to be safe. Good luck on your upcoming procedure.

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    1. Thanks Shannon. Looks like this will be ongoing. Fun, isn't it ?

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  22. This was very informative. Liked the great writing advice and hopefully, will help me with mine. Thanks Denise!

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    1. I do hope there's something here for you Anne.

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  23. I'm so glad they caught it early! Wow. Scary stuff.

    And on writing... So how do you know when you're ready to go? Good question. I was worried with my second book that my editor was going to come back with a billion things that needed fixing, because the draft was still so new to me. When she only came back with a couple minor issues, I freaked out, worried she was just holding back because we had deadlines to meet. And the conclusion? Reviews have been excellent. It's taken about fifteen people telling me how much they adore the book to shut up my worry.

    The short answer: you'll never feel like your work is good enough/ready. Someone will always be able to point out weaknesses, but at some point you will know it's the best you can make it, and that's where you step back and watch it fly.

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    1. Thanks Crystal. Lots of good stuff here.

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    2. And thanks for the awesome article and thoughts. Did I forget to say that?

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  24. Good answer all the way around. I've worked with a couple of people who've developed melanoma up here in Northern Ontario - thankfully both were successful in their dealings with it too. Scary stuff!
    Great advice on writing too. My biggest challenge in the conflict - too much of a mediator in real life :)

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    1. Me too on the conflict...MAKE YOUR CHARACTER SUFFER! Gotta work hard at that.

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  25. I share writing tips, but I make sure to say it's up to the writer and that the tips I share are things to keep in mind. Nothing is law. Not even those writing rules like "Show, don't tell." I once wrote a post called "Show AND Tell", because (like you said) you can't write a whole book showing. I've learned that writing "rules" are one writer's opinion, but not everyone has to follow it. And I'm talking about some silly rules I've heard like not showing a character crying because it's a cliché. Really?

    There is no one way to write or to get published. BTW Nora Roberts is my idol. ;)

    And thank goodness you insisted your freckle be removed. Hugs!

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    1. She's an idol of mine too. Sassy lady who knows a thing or two. Yeah, everything is a cliche, isn't it ?

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  26. Those are great tips, and I love Nora Robert's quote!
    So glad you caught your melanoma early!

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  27. I'm sorry about the surgeries, but very glad you caught it.

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  28. Wow! Thank God you insisted on getting that thing removed. Really, you have a guardian angel! Nora Robert's quote is fantastic and thanks for all those tips. I'd be lost without some fantastic CPs

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    1. Yes, we need those CPs for sure, but we also need to know when to trust ourselves.

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  29. Great advice about the mole, my sister was diagnosed with melanoma this last year - has me checking too! She's doing fine, thank god!

    Loved Nora's advice - I just heard from my favorite editor and love her feedback - she really inspires me to pushing forward! And yes, each day my to do list has on it the words - WRITE - WRITE - WRITE!
    Back to it! LOL

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    1. Great that you took the time out to visit Yolanda. Glad that you're in touch with such a great editor!

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  30. Keep on writing, I believe in that ~ Whether just a phrase or verse, it keeps me going though I am never going to be a novel writer, smiles ~

    Thanks for the writing tips and the motivation to have a check up regularly with my doctor ~ Am happy to see that you are fine ~

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    1. Thanks Grace. Happy to see you are fine too.

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  31. Thanks for posting about skin cancer. What you went through had to be scary--esp. when you knew you were right & the doc just did a procedure to shut you up. Keep advocating for yourself. Best wishes.

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    1. Hi Diane. You know what it's like. Can't muck around. It's not the doc's life at stake.

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  32. I'm sure that where I live, here in Perth, the hole in the ozone is bigger. :P We get so much damn sun, and as skin cancer runs in my actual genes, I really have to be careful. I wear a hat at all times, unless I am willing to cover my face with my own hands while walking along. And it's not just direct exposure to sunlight, either - the sun bounces off walls and hits you that way as well!

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  33. I just read the rest of your post as well, re: the melanoma - shockingly scary!! So glad you went with your gut!

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    1. I remember my trip to Perth. At least when you hid under a tree it cooled down. No such luck in Queensland. Wonder how the melanoma rate compares?

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  34. Hi Denise! Sorry for the long absence. The past two months have been a whirlwind of moving and starting a new job.

    This is a great post. I get tired of reading "sure fire ways to get published". The best advice I ever read was from Stephen King: learn the rules then break them. HA! It seems like every best selling novel I've ever read does just that!

    Cheers,
    Jen

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    1. Spot on Jen. It always amuses me to see the truckload of adverbs, adjectives and telling that is contained in any best-seller, while we little writers slavishly delete all such from our mss. No wonder we never get it finished! Yep. Break those rules!

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  35. Gee, Melanoma?

    I like your advice on writing!

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  36. Now I'm inspired to see a dermatologist and have a full body exam of my skin. You never know when something like skin cancer can occur. Early detection is the key.

    Love Nora Roberts quote hahaha!

    Thanks for participating in the Blogfest. Hope to see you again for next year's event!

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  37. Hahaha you and I are in the same school of thought when it comes to writing. :-)

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  38. Very, very good post. I throoughly enjoyed it. Especially the beginning. There's no such thing as a way to write. We are all individuals so that comes out in our writing, too.

    Greetings from London.

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  39. I'm coming by late, Denise, but I totally agree that one doctor's opinion isn't always enough. I have tests where they aren't sure, and we are the ones who suffer. I haven't had any spots, but my sister and a co-worker have had them. I quit sunbathing at 25 since I have Scottish skin, delicate and sensitive and growing up in the South, I had many sunburns as a child. I'm glad I stopped frying my skin. Thought I'd start a new trend where pale is beautiful rather than the 'healthy' tan. Friends of mine also had spots from tanning booths, which I warned them about.
    Great idea for the blogfest.

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    1. PS - also like Nora's attitude. There are too many teachers and not enough students on writing. . .

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    2. You are spot on D.G. I like that...too many teachers, not enough students.

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    3. And tanning booths are banned in some places. So they should be.

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  40. Hi Denise,

    Hugs on the skin cancer scare. I just read this...so scary.

    Yes, the Margie Lawson deep edit system is really worth its weight in gold.

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  41. Hi Denise ... so important: having lived in South Africa - I keep an eye out for 'things' ... so far I've been lucky. Interesting about the 4 stages though ... and how they need to scrape and scrape at times ....

    Good luck with those surgeries and how lucky you have a doctor SIL ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I thought I got away with it, so do take care Hilary. I dare say Africa is like Australia in severity of sunshine.

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  42. I just came here to say that I liked your new banner, but my god, Denise! So glad you got screened in time. My family had a similar experience with my mum many years ago, though a different type of cancer. I can relate to how scary it is.

    Wish you the very best for the surgery and quick recovery.
    Hugs.
    Nila.

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    1. Thanks for liking my new header Nila. It was time. I've got your 2 Indian posts up, waiting for a good time to finish reading.

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  43. Read, write, rewrite and then rewrite some more, but never give up! That's what I keep telling myself. Great advice, thanks, Denise.

    Skin cancer is a scary one isn't it? So glad you caught yours in time and are now much more aware of other freckles and moles. A reminder for us all to be more vigilant.

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  44. So true! I found that you have to spend time learning as much as possible about the craft and then take that knowledge and put it to use. Those "don'ts" can really add up and interfere with your ability to write if you aren't careful so you have to use it as a foundation but not spend your life focusing on it. Congratulations on your clean bill of health!!! So glad they caught it and could stop it from getting worse.

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  45. Denise, I'm not a romance writer, but I think your tips are good advice for all writers. I think that the don't tell what you can show thing is another way of saying don't over describe things but create scenarios that do that for you. I'm so happy for you about the skin cancer. What a relief and thank goodness you didn't take no for an answer! Having lived in Africa for so long and also spending a lot of time outside on the boat, I watch my freckles pretty carefully too.

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  46. Val told me that you also wrote about skin cancer, so I wanted to see how you're doing. I'm so glad your SIL saw your suspicious freckle, and that you insisted on having it removed. I'm sorry you still have to undergo more melanoma surgeries, and wish you all the best.

    Julie

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    1. Hello Julie. I must visit and check out your post.

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  47. Thank heavens you did not take the doc's word for it. It's mind bogglindg the way things happen so fast. I've been reflecting on that over the last two weeks! All the best for tomorrow. It will all be well, Denise. Hugs & Kisses.

    Adura xoxo

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  48. Great post! I'm stopping by from the "Who's Your Hero" blogfest. Your blog is full of wonderful things! :)

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    1. Hi Margo. Sorry. My name was supposed to be taken off the hero blogfest list.

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