Publicity

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On admiration and remorse.

Published July 29, 2014 by mandileighbean

I’m having trouble finishing the margarita my mother made me.

I still haven’t closed on the house I am eager to buy, but I have not lost hope. If I could be patient, which is admittedly a virtue I most certainly lack, then I could see the process through. I long to stamp my feet and pout like a petulant child until I get my way, which is silly for any number of reasons, but mostly because it would not work.

An independent company specializing in literary marketing contacted me via my author page on Facebook. The pricing seems rather steep, so I am going to do some more research. I hope to find similar companies and what services they offer for what prices. I need to market my book if I hope to get anywhere. I was banking on an agent to do that, but that search has been difficult and disappointing. Again, I truly need patience. I find some solace in reminding myself that I am not the only twenty-something (soon to be closer to thirty than not) who has an imagined pendulum swinging above her head, wanting to have so many things before an invented age for reasons she cannot articulate. Such is life.

The novel is coming along, but at a painfully slow rate … unless that is impatience, striking again.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #16: “A con man starts to admire the achievements of the man he is impersonating.”

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Larry sat at the end of the bar that was farthest from the door. The place was dark and cool, and Larry found sitting as far away from the entrance as possible, what with its sporadic bursts of garish sunlight and random gusts of stifling summer heat, kept the establishment as poorly lit and properly air conditioned as most patrons preferred. However, the bar was lacking in patrons at this particular moment, and Larry attributed the absence of alcoholics in varying stages of addiction to the time. Truth be told, it was rather early to be enjoying liquor – at least in public – well before the social norm of five o’clock. But Larry didn’t really give a shit because Larry had endured one hell of a day. He downed the shot of whiskey before him, shuddered, and ordered another.

Technically, Larry was unemployed, but that didn’t mean he didn’t make a living. To the casual passerby, Larry seemed to be a legitimate businessman of sorts. He had the right kind of shiny shoes that looked terribly expensive even though they weren’t. Larry’s pants were meticulously iron and pressed, and kept painstakingly neat so that they were much more impressive than the tags would have the observer believe. Larry’s shirt was plain, just an average button-down with a muted sort of pattern made from a heavy kind of fabric. It was uncomfortable and caused Larry to sweat no matter the temperature. So while each element of Larry’s outfit was subpar, the sum of its parts was enough to impress but not intimidate. Larry looked official yet inconsequential; he was forgettable and that was the point. In Larry’s particular line of work, it was best to blend in, to claim a sort of camouflage among the general public. Larry was an identity thief, and he was damn good at it.

Larry hadn’t worked “on the books” in quite some time. When he was strapped for cash, or forced to lay low, he always managed to pick up odd jobs. With his seemingly limitless set of skills, good looks, winning personality, and luck, he had been living comfortably, even leisurely, for years. Larry had managed to be so comfortable because he shunned guilt and lived by the rules of apathy. He never thought about the people he impersonated and stole from, and only imagined them as fictional roles. Larry was a nice guy – a good guy, even – so there was no possible way he ruined lives, engineered poverty, or tore families apart. Honestly, how could the actions of one lazy, simple man such as Larry, drag someone kicking and screaming back to that proverbial square one, forcing him to start all over and begin again, work twice as hard only to get back to where he was? Larry was not so destructive, not such a monster. He was just a thief and besides, there was more to life than money and possessions, right? Everyone loved to preach about a life of substance. Sometimes, especially when drunk, Larry could convince himself he was actually aiding those he robbed blind, forcing them to experience the spiritual truth that life goes on regardless of what one had in the bank. Unfortunately for Larry, he wasn’t as inebriated as he needed to be and he had realized only a few hours earlier that he was miserable little shit, a parasitic being who had nothing to offer anyone and would die alone; he would leave this world without anyone to noticing, let alone mourning.

Larry had never been one for enduring an existential crisis of any kind. He assumed he lacked the emotional intelligence for such self-engineered disaster and misery because, given the choice, Larry would do just about anything other than sit and think. He was only participating in the activity now because of Ryan Schmuacher, the identity he was currently employing. Larry had only chosen to become Ryan because of his impressive credit score and substantial amount of money in the bank. He would use both assets to obtain a credit card, replenish the wardrobe, and then take a trip (standard operating procedure at the end of a job because it was best to cut and run before anyone got wise enough to start looking). Larry used a very special, and very illegal, type of software to hack into websites that promised free credit scores for such valuable information and he always followed that internet search up with another one – simply entering the name into a search engine and perusing through whatever materialized on the screen. He had done this a thousand times and never had such a search given him such pause, such hesitation, such … remorse.

Ryan Schumacher had been born into a less than wealthy family in some small, Southern town that become the picturesque setting for dumb oil paintings featuring snow covered barns that sold like hot cakes during the holiday season. His parents had sacrificed everything to help Ryan afford medical school, where he excelled. He specialized in pediatric oncology – kid cancer. He forwent the bar scene, the hookup culture, the flashy cars and exotic trips, to try and save the lives of little dudes and dudettes who were truly innocent victims, who had done absolutely nothing to force their own bodies to betray them, cutting themselves down before their prime. It was a truly selfless vocation, something to admire, and the picture of Dr. Schumacher with a two-year-old boy, smiling despite the chemotherapy treatments and all its devastating side effects, had impacted Larry. He hadn’t been able to erase the vision from his mind, hadn’t been able to lift a single penny from Dr. Schumacher’s account. Larry took everything from everyone to benefit himself and it knocked him on his ass to finally and truly realize that there were people on the planet that gave everything to everyone to benefit everyone.

Larry drained the second shot of whiskey, shuddered, and ordered another. He missed the bartender’s apprehensive gaze because he covered his miserable face with trembling, selfish hands and pondered his life. What had it all been for? What difference had he made? Was it too late?

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On looking for bruises and blood.

Published January 22, 2014 by mandileighbean

This is going to seem like an incredibly odd way to begin this post, but I was honestly shocked by how difficult it is to find a picture of men and women dressed in fancy clothes while displaying bruises and blood. I know that is a terribly creepy image to search for, but when you read this week’s writing prompt, I’m hopeful you will understand.

That being said, I have a favor to ask. If you enjoy these weekly prompts, or read and enjoyed HER BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, please review my work! Add something to Amazon, or Goodreads, or even just leave a post on my Facebook page. The best way for a writer to be successful is to be known, so pretty, pretty please with sugar on top, spread the word if you enjoy my writing! And if you don’t, that’s cool, too! Please feel free to add critiques and tell me how I can get better. Both praise and constructive criticism are always welcome.

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WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #11: “Yes, and that’s why she broke the plate over his head.”

Gerard walked over slowly, limping ever so slightly, with one bottle of beer in each hand. Cold and wet from a cooler, the dripping water exploded against the searing pavement and made Gerard’s movements incredibly easy to trace. Kristen watched him advance with a bemused, bright smile, raising her hand to shield her squinting eyes from the sweltering sun. He offered a boyish, mischievous grin in return and Kristen knew she had to be careful now, because falling in love with someone like Gerard would be foolish, and her mother would be right, and she would most likely end up weird and alone. She shoved all that down and unnecessarily moved over on the second to last stone step of the church. Gerard took a seat and handed Kristen one of the amber-colored bottles. She took it and said thanks. Another moment was all she could stand before she just had to ask, “Why is it that you have cold beer in your car?”

Gerard threw his head back and laughed, not caring who was in ear shot or what those who gazed upon him might think of him, sitting in a tuxedo on the front steps of a church beside a beautiful, young woman in an incredibly expensive dress, drinking a beer. Kristen envied the total freedom he exuded, regardless of whether or not it was authentic. He clanked his bottle against hers, drank from it greedily, and then said, “Weddings are brutal, man. One must always be prepared.”

“Isn’t that the motto for the Boy Scouts?” Kristen asked,

Gerard nodded, taking another long drink. “Indeed it is, but my intentions were never so honorable or innocent.” He shot her a playful wink and she blushed appropriately, playing the game and being as coquettish as anyone would expect. Inside, though, it was murdering her and humiliating her. She wanted it to be more, to be substantial, to be the beginning of everything important, but she was terrified it meant nothing more than sharing a beer to Gerard, and all the conflicting thoughts and emotions and desires only served to make her nauseous. So she turned away. Gerard noticed and asked, “Is it that bad? Am I that hard to look at?”

Kristen turned back towards him. She understood that he was referring to his swelling bottom lip and left eye. The skin was puffed and quickly discoloring, turning from a normal kind of cream color to a gross, rough-looking black and blue. Blood was dried and flaking at the corner of his mouth, and it trailed down to his chin. She ran her fingers along the outside of her bottle, ensuring they were wet, and gently rubbed Gerard’s chin clean of blood. She let her fingers trail the lines of his jaw for just a second before coming back to herself and reality. She shrugged. “It’s not so bad. You definitely have a black eye, but girls are into that, especially if you make up a really cool, heroic story. Say you beat someone up because they said the kitten you rescued from a tree was stupid.” She gulped at the alcohol in the bottle, hating herself just a little more each time she opened her dumb mouth.

Gerard laughed. “Oh yeah, because that’s totally cool. You’ve always had your finger on the pulse of incoming trends, Kristen; that’s you all over.” Coming from anyone else, the sarcasm would have stung. But when it came from Gerard, it felt safe and warm, like belonging somewhere or being accepted. Kristen should have been happy, but she was never one to leave well enough alone.

“So what did happen? Why did Mark start swinging on you?”

Gerard immediately dropped his gaze, suddenly unwilling to look Kristen in the eye. He cleared his throat and swallowed hard, depending on his body to stall for time. He shifted in his seat and readjusted his grip on his bottle, so that the thumb of his right hand covered the circular opening. “Well,” Gerard began but wet his lips to pause, “it’s complicated. I’ll tell you everything later, especially if we’re drunk, but for now, let’s just say I was trying to encourage Mark to behave in a certain way, and he literally fought me on it.”

Kristen nodded and then dropped her gaze as well. What was that supposed to mean? If it was vague enough to be infuriating, but she supposed that was Gerard all over. He was enigmatic, but it was now at the point where it was no longer exciting. It was tiring and confusing. She rolled her eyes and drank. Gerard had seen. He had, in fact, been watching Kristen’s reaction very closely, eager for the blind loyalty she had always displayed, but expecting and dreading a negative judgment. He knew it was only a matter of time before she caught on to his bullshit and faded him out. “What the hell was that?” he asked, hurt and unable to keep it from his tone.

“What?” Kristen asked, honestly surprised.

“You just rolled your eyes at me. What gives?”

“Oh shit,” Kristen groaned. She covered her face with her hands, still holding the bottle. “I didn’t think you were looking.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Gerard’s voice became higher the more offended he became.

“No,” Kristen said, sounding miserable. “I just wish you would just tell me the truth, you know? I don’t need the games or intrigue, man. Just tell me what happened to your face.”

Gerard stared at Kristen, open-mouthed, while she stayed as she was, eyes closed and face covered. He was about to answer when one of a pair of bridesmaids, wearing dresses identical to Kristen’s dress, said, “Yes, and that’s when she broke the plate over his head!” The women laughed and continued on, apparently oblivious to the fact that they had just passed the topic of their conversation. Gerard shrunk as if the blows had been physical rather than of the verbal variety. Kristen let her hands drop and she turned back to Gerard, watching him suffering. A smile that honestly lacked amusement draped itself across her mouth.

“Gina did that to you? Not Mark?”

Gerard nodded.

“Oh my God,” Kristen laughed. “Why? And why did you lie?”

Gerard took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and spoke very quickly, as if rushing through it would minimize the consequences of revealing what had transpired. “I told Mark about how Gina had been sending me crazy text messages and how she had been trying to get me to meet her alone, but he didn’t believe me, so when he asked Gina about it, she flipped and attacked me, and said I was the crazy one, that I was stalking her, and what a mistake it had been to ever invite me.”

Kristen dropped the bottle she had been holding. It did not shatter, but rolled away quickly, leaking suds and foam and alcohol as it went. Kristen used her newly free hands to cover her mouth and stifle the inappropriate gales of shocked laughter that were threatening to overcome her. Gerard popped one eye open and chanced a glance at Kristen. When she didn’t seem completely disgusted, he relaxed. “Do you believe me?”

“It’s a weird thing to lie about,” Kristen said. “And it was kind of a dick move to wait until the wedding day, don’t you think?”

“It just started happening!” Gerard retorted defensively. “I thought it would be laughed off, chalked up to cold feet! I didn’t know I’d get roughed up and kicked out!” He ran a hand across his wearied face, but then stopped suddenly, as if something had just occurred to him. “Why did you follow me out of the church, by the way? No one was mad at you; no one was kicking you out. Why disgrace yourself by aligning with me?”

Kristen shrugged nervously wiped her palms against her dress, which was spread smooth across her thighs. “Well, it’s complicated. I’ll tell you everything later, especially if we’re drunk, but for now, let’s just say I was sending a message to everyone, you especially, but naturally, you missed it.” She stood and began walking away.

Gerard panicked. “What? Where are you going? You’re coming back, right?”

“I’m getting another beer,” Kristen called over her shoulder. Gerard asked her to bring back two and patiently waited.

lonelybestman

On personally defining success and nostalgia.

Published November 17, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was exciting as far as my blossoming writing career goes.  I had an author event on Thursday, November 14th at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.  The event was sponsored and essentially put together by the Literature Club, specifically because of Sara Pease, who is a former student of mine and a simply wonderful human being.  There were about twenty people in attendance, most of whom were attentive and asked the best questions I have had the privilege of answering.  I was able to sell seven books and talk to some truly interesting and supportive young adults.  It was a wonderful experience and it made returning to work on Friday SO HARD.

Last night, which was Saturday, November 16th, I was able to occupy a vendor table at Ladies’ Night Out at the Manchester Firehouse in Manchester, New Jersey.  I sold five books and was able to engage in highly entertaining conversations with fellow vendors.  I shared my table with D.O.V.E., which is an organization that helps to empower female victims of violence.  It was a serendipitous pairing, considering the content of Her Beautiful Monster.  It was a great evening, and I was truly humbled by my friends Heather, Ali, Kasey, Melanie, Marie and Jenna who showed up and have done so at every available opportunity.  Though I only sold a total of twelve books and minimally increased my audience, everyone has to start somewhere and these experiences helped to confirm for me that I need to be a writer.  It is a goal I need to work harder towards, because it helps to me to feel fulfilled, complete, and just plain happy.  In the following months, my goal is to be interviewed by a newspaper that serves a large population (like the Asbury Park Press) and send queries to agents, who would also help in marketing.  Speaking of marketing, my friend Kalie invited me to attend an event with her on Wednesday that provides ideas for marketing in viral markets and on social media sites (I believe).  She brought up the important point that networking is key.

Wish me luck, and enjoy this week’s writing prompt.  🙂

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6: “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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I am a sad, silly and lonely girl.  I imagine a woman would be wiser and stronger, and refrain from indulging in simple fantasies she plans on forcing to be recurrent.  The latest is this: graduation night will be a beautiful night near the latter part of June.  The moon will be full and bright and hanging high in the sky.  Its beauty will be lost on me, unfortunately, because I’ll be inside the high school, dutifully stationed at my classroom door.  I’ll be stuck handing out official, important-looking, white, large envelopes to the robed miscreants, academics, athletes, everyone in between.  The envelopes will contain various certificates and documents that become so much useless paper in lieu of graduation itself, and of all the accompanying promises and freedom and optimism intangibly included therein.  As such, students will not be rushing to obtain the envelopes and will have to be reminded and redirected several times by the faculty members in attendance.  Blue and gold robes will whip and ripple around sneakers and outrageous heels, slapping and clicking respectively through the hallways as sloppy hugs, final goodbyes, and well-wishes are doled out.  As it grows late, the number of students whirling about in flurries of excitement lessens considerably and the building borders on being empty and desolate and lonely.

 

I will sigh and fall back against the classroom door, keeping the door open while lazily allowing the door made of composite wood to support my weight rather than my understandably aching feet.  I pray I will have lost the weight and that my skin will be clear, or at the very least, clearer than it is now.  I’ll be observing the few remaining students and faculty members milling about, a mere observer whose mind is one million miles away, on to the next silly fantasy as the last thousand never ever came to fruition.  Someone will approach from behind, out of my view, to unintentionally capitalize upon the element of surprise.  He will gently clear his throat and simultaneously become unexpectedly and wildly unsure of himself.  To release the building nervous energy, he will shove his hands deep into the front pockets of his worn jeans, covered in orange-colored dust from fascinating roads less traveled in America, so that his calloused fingertips (worked to the bone, strumming guitars and banjos, gripping the wheel too tightly) bend against the fabric of the lining.  He’ll gently clear his throat, embellishing the strong and solid muscles of his masculine neck and jaw, and say, “Hey Andrea.”

 

Startled from my reverie, my closest and most constant companion, I’ll turn quickly but it’ll feel like slow motion, like trying to move fast in a dream, once my eyes take in his image and my brain comprehends who is standing there.  I am certain I will feel fifteen.  Breathless and deliciously confused, I’ll smile and lamely offer, “Hey.”  In a moment or so, I’ll (hopefully) come back to myself and break out with a radiant (well, as radiant as a smile can be when it’s caged by braces) smile and ask how he’s been.  I’ll already have some idea courtesy of creeping on Facebook and the gossip of mutual acquaintances.  I’ll know he’s been living a bohemian life I’ve always dreamed of, that he’s braver and more wonderful than my adolescent self had ever even dreamed of, even though he had been my schoolgirl obsession for years.  He won’t go into all of that, though.  He’ll keep it politely simple and appropriately simple and only say that he’s been good and doing well.  He’ll ask me how I’ve been and I’ll answer in an extremely similar fashion, lifting my upturned palms as a sort of half-hearted shrug and to indicate how absolutely bizarre it can be to work in the same high school we graduated from.  He’ll smile and let his gaze fall to the floor beneath us, seemingly perfectly content to stew in the impending awkward silence.

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I, on the other hand, have never been so suave or comfortable in my own skin, nor will I ever be.  I’ll need to smash it, to break it, so I’ll do what I never wanted to and bring up the past in all its embarrassing nostalgia.  How could I not, given the present company, our history, and current setting?  I believe he’ll only laugh and shrug it off.  His cheeks will color slightly, resulting from excessive, juvenile flattery and perhaps guilt stemming from the playground torture and adolescent cruelty he inflicted upon me.  Indeed, his grin will ultimately fade and his eyes will rise to meet mine.  His face, so uniquely handsome and so simultaneously beautiful in its stoic sorrow from many troubles and burdens I only ever guessed at among whispering girlfriends, will be set.  He’ll ask, “Do you remember what I wrote in your yearbook?”

 

Shock and nausea will be my immediate response.  My mouth will go dry and I’ll choke and sputter when I ask, “Do you?”

 

He’ll smile, but it will be so muted that I will doubt its authenticity.  “Of course I do!  I didn’t write it lightly.”  There will be a gut-wrenching pause to allow the tears to gather and prick at my eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he’ll say.  “And I didn’t ignore the e-mail you sent me, either.  I’ve just been busy and then I thought –“

 

“Stop,” I’ll command and demand.  “You don’t have to, you really don’t have to.  It’s whatever; I mean, it is what it is, and I don’t know why I sent that message.  Did it completely creep you out?  I’m sorry.”

 

Kindly, he will smile and say, “No, it didn’t creep me out, not at all.”  Another awkward silence will descend and though I will positively squirm, screaming inner, secret prayers for it to end or for me to just die, he will be graceful and effortless in his charm when he says, “You look good.”

 

My face will flush and I will find a spot on the floor incredibly interesting suddenly, and concentrate my gaze there.  It will be in an attempt at being coy and feminine and flirty, but I will be too chicken shit to meet his gaze, so I will be unable to determine its effectiveness.  The lack of eye contact will by no means be a lack of attention.  He will undoubtedly captivate me and rob me of my breath, the way he always did and, most likely, always will.  Grinning, I’ll thank him for the compliment and eagerly return it in a fashion more embarrassing than charming or even sincere.  He’ll nod his head in a charming, gentleman’s way.  “Thank you,” he will say with a slight Southern drawl he never had before that I will suspect him of faking for the moment.  After all, I won’t feel so guilty or so lame if him and I are nothing more than a couple of liars.

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The inability to know what to say next will become unbearable for the both of us.  He’ll hurriedly mumble that it was good seeing me, that it was good to catch up, and he’ll hope to see me around, and then he’ll be gone.  Nothing ever really changes, not even within my precious illusions and foolish fantasies.  But, I’ll shut my eyes tight and envision him somewhere down the line, embellishing the encounter more so than I’ve done in creating it.  He’ll tell of an imagined conversation which lasts and lasts until we’re actually asked to leave by the custodial staff.  He’ll say I suggested moving the conversation to a local, popular restaurant where we stay until we are again asked to leave.  We’ll say our goodbyes beneath unforgiving fluorescent lights in an empty parking lot.  I smile when I think of how he’ll lie and tell his attentive listener that he reached out to touch my face and I yielded completely to the touch, a victim of parting and sweet sorrow and all that ancient, literary jazz.  He’ll say, “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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On celebrating being happy.

Published February 3, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another week over, another four pounds lost!  I literally could not be happier right now!  All the denial and all of the grumbling are paying off!  I am not sure where that leaves me in the standings of the competition at work, but honestly, who cares?  I don’t need the money if I lose the weight!  Also, I’ve purchased an Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer, as suggested by the LA Times article, “52 ways to leave your blubber.”  Ideally, the average human being should get up to between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day.  I think I can meet the goal, especially when I start introducing brief intervals of jogging to my walking regimen.

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This week’s theme seemed to be self-improvement as I found myself at the dentist, too.  It had been the first time I’d been to the dentist in well over a decade.  The sterile smell of the office clashed terribly with the sleek, technologically advanced atmosphere; for a moment, I could have believed I was walking back to a tanning bed rather than a leather chair.  I had a full set of x-rays taken and my teeth were cleaned.  Good news: minimal tartar buildup and only one cavity!  I also can have braces put on that cannot be seen even though I don’t qualify for Invisalign.  Bad news: I have a baby tooth that never fell out so that has to be pulled, and the dentist mentioned removing my wisdom teeth, but wants to wait until I meet with the orthodontist because there is a slight chance that might not be necessary.  All in all, the appointment was not as horrifying or painful as I had imagined.

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I also purchased a car this week!  It is a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible.

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It runs great, the heat works, and the inspection is good until May of 2014!  The airbag light started coming on today, but my dad (who has been a mechanic for years and years) does not think it’s anything to worry about.  I hope he’s right; I tend to have bad luck with cars, as previous posts can testify to.  Last night, my family and I – minus my little brother who is at the age where he would rather be with friends than family – celebrated my new car at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!  It is nights like those that help to remind me how blessed I am to be surrounded with love and support, and reignite my desire to be a part of such a loving support system for others.  That sentiment goes hand in hand with the Gospel reading from Mass, which I attended earlier today:

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My friend Eric and his mom enjoyed my novel!  Eric sent me a message to let me know, which was sweet.

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I have compiled a list of local booksellers to begin visiting in April, when the weather is warmer and the school year is winding down.  I want to set up book signings and readings and whatnot.  Wish me luck!

Love and be loved.  Love and life are all that matter. ❤

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