Sunday, December 16, 2018

What We're Writing - Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: Technically, what I'm writing is Buried to the Brim, the next London Hat Shop mystery (2020), but I'm also writing the publicity posts for The Good Ones a bookstore rom-com (Feb 2019), finalizing the page proofs on Dying For Devil's Food, the next Cupcake Bakery mystery (May 2019), copyediting Word to the Wise the next Library Lover's mystery (Sept 2019), writing the proposal for One for the Books, the next-next Library Lover's mystery (2020), revising The Christmas Keeper, the second bookstore rom-com (Oct 2019), and working on a top-secret super special project completely out of my wheelhouse. So, what I'm writing is...well, it's complicated!

After much dithering, I decided to share the opener to Dying for Devil's Food, mostly because I just received the cover art, after much angst on the artist's part, and I have to say it is fantastic!

May 2019!!!

As the New York Times bestselling series continues, it's going to take every recipe the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew has to whip up a quick defense for Mel Cooper when her high school reunion goes from a cake walk to a car wreck...

Chapter One

     “Squeee!”
     At the screechy noise, Melanie Cooper squeezed her pastry bag too tight and frosting shot out of the tip into a big glob on top of the cupcake she was decorating for a wedding the next day.
     “Angie DeLaura, what was that?” she asked. She blew her blond bangs off her forehead as she glared at her business partner, who had just come running through the swinging doors from the front of the bakery into the kitchen where Mel was working.
      “That’s Angie Harper to you, and…” she paused to strike a pose and fan herself with a large envelope and fancy looking invitation, before she continued, “to everyone else we graduated high school with fifteen years ago.”
     “Huh?” Mel frowned at her recently married, petite brunette friend.
     “Our fifteen-year reunion,” Angie said. She pointed to the envelope in her hand. “It’s coming up and guess who they want to bake cupcakes for it?”
     Mel stared at her childhood friend and business partner. How could she put this as tactfully and delicately as possible?
     “No.” Mel used a rubber spatula to scrape the glob off the ruined cupcake and flicked it into the large garbage bin to her right.
     “What?” Angie froze in mid-fan. “What do you mean, no?”
     “I have no intention of baking cupcakes for those people,” Mel said. 
     She bent over the cake in front of her. It was a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. She was keeping it simple and working the frosting in a thick smooth swirl that she then sprinkled with small red hearts. Just the thought of going to her high school reunion made her want to mainline the frosting and shove a whole cupcake into her mouth like a boss.
     “But…but,” Angie stammered. It was clear she hadn’t anticipated this sort of response, which boggled Mel, but she continued on.
     “No buts,” she said. “You’re welcome to go to our reunion but I refuse.”
     “Mel, I don’t think you’re grasping the big picture here.”
     “Oh, I’m grasping it and I’m tossing it away.”
     “But look at us,” Angie said. She swung her arms wide to encompass the kitchen and beyond. “We’re hugely successful. We have franchises all over the country. That gives us a moral imperative to show up at our reunion.”
     “No.”
     “Mel, I know there were some people who hurt your feelings back in the day—“
     “Hurt my feelings?” Mel straightened up. She grabbed a pinch of heart shaped sprinkles and didn’t sprinkle them so much as threw them onto the freshly piped frosting. She stared at her friend. “Angie, they called me ‘Melephant,’ they bullied me about my weight, and Cassidy Havers, in particular, wrote my name in all of the boys’ bathrooms with my phone number. She was vicious and mean and cruel and if I never see her again, it will be too soon.”
     “She’s Cassidy Havers-Griffin now,” Angie said.
     “Griffin?” 
     “Yes, as in Daniel Griffin.”
     “She married Danny?” Mel asked. She felt her old high school crush spread its wings and rise out of the ashes of her adolescent heart like a phoenix. “When?”
     “A couple of years ago,” Angie said. “I think you were in Paris at culinary school at the time.”
     “And you didn’t mention it?” 
     Angie just looked at her and Mel nodded. Yeah, she wouldn’t have told Angie if her high school crush had gotten married either. Oh, wait, her crush had been Tate Harper and he had gotten married six months ago. To Angie.
     “But you’re going to marry Joe,” Angie said. “And you had a much deeper and longer lasting crush on Joe than on Danny, right?”
     “Well, of course, but I can’t believe he married her,” Mel said. She shuddered. “I mean he was captain of the basketball team and totally out of my league in high school, and she was the homecoming queen so I guess it makes sense, but I always hoped he’d meet someone…”
     Mel’s voice trailed off. She was not going to say it out loud.
     “More like you?” Angie guessed.
     This was the problem with besties, they knew you too well.

***
So, who gets iced at the high school reunion? Yeah, I'm not telling. You'll have to read the book to find out ;-)         

Now how about you, Reds and Readers, are you a fan of high school reunions, or not so much?


57 comments:

  1. Oh, the angst! I can’t blame Mel for wanting to avoid the high school reunion, but I have a feeling Angie’s going to change her mind about this . . . can’t wait to read the rest of the story.

    You have a killer schedule, Jenn . . . I have absolutely no idea how you actually manage to get everything done on time . . . .

    As for the high school reunions, I’m with Mel . . . count me out. I wouldn’t even consider it . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Joan! On getting things done - I’m not sure either!

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    2. I love your Hat Shop Series,2020 cannot get here quick enough.

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  2. In your case, Jen, I think the correct question is, what aren't you writing? I got tired just reading that list.

    I must admit, I always thought the idea of high school reunions was cool, and I was going to go to every single one of my reunions. My 25th high school reunion was this year. I didn't go. I wouldn't want my streak of not attending them to end. It's not that I'm opposed to seeing my friends from that time again. In fact, I would like to get back in touch with some of them. But they've always been weekends that just don't work for me. I'm either out of town, or out of vacation time to go home or something like that.

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    1. I’m the same, Mark! I’d love to go but I haven’t been able to get my schedule to cooperate!

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  3. I am in awe of all that you are writing, Jenn, and happy that I will have many blissful hours ahead as I read it--or at least try to keep up with it. I love the cupcake series, and the library series, and your rom-coms are always delightful. Somehow I have missed the hat shop series, so I have a lot of catching up to do there. Yep. My TBR pile will be toppling over and that's just fine with me.

    As for high school reunions, I've only gone to one, and I'm very glad I did. I'd just moved out of state when my 10-year reunion rolled around, and didn't want to go back. I think I was unemployed when the 20-year reunion came by, so I didn't want/couldn't afford to go back for that one. But for the 30-year reunion I was newly widowed, and one of my best running buddies called me personally to urge me to come. It was the weekend of my birthday, and I wanted to see my mother and sister anyway, so I said okay. Although there were a lot of people there whom I barely remembered, I did get to reconnect to two good friends, who gave me a lead on where to find a third good friend. I also got to spend a lot of quality time with my mom. Ten months later both my mother and the friend who had begged me to come were dead--both deaths shockingly unexpected--so it was a blessing that I overcame my reluctance and went.

    These days I am connected to most of the people I had lost track of through Facebook, and the friend I managed to track down through that tip at the reunion is the guy who designed my rockin' stained glass sidelight. Many good things came from that high school reunion.

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    1. Gigi, timing is everything, as they say. So glad you went and that it was time we’ll spent!

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  4. Fun, Jenn! The book I am writing opens with my protag's tenth high school reunion, and she's traveled from Indiana back to Santa Barbara for it. My own 50th reunion is in 2020 and I can't wait. A bunch of my former classmates are now fans of my books, too.

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    1. A high school reunion in Santa Barbara works for me!

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  5. Geez Louise, Jen, do you ever sit still or sleep? Not that for one minute would I ever say stop writing all of your fantastic series, but slow down!
    I have never been able to go to any of my reunions. I really am not sure if I would have or not. I was very shy and quiet in school, except in music classes. My 40th was this past September and truly, by the look of what was planned, except for the football game, it would not have been too much fun.
    I going with Mel gives in and bakes for the reunion? The cover says it all! Just hope the wrong person doesn't get fingered for the murder!
    Happy Christmas!

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    1. I don’t sleep much. I’m one of those weirdos who sleeps a solid six and then I’m done - places to go, people to see, etc.
      Yes, what’s planned for the reunion does matter. I know I’d rather go to a football game, too!

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  6. Jenn, you amaze me with all the writing that you are doing. How do you keep from getting confused as to what characters are doing what?

    Never been to my high school reunion. I often find out about it after it has happened.

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    1. Hi, Dru! I’ve only mixed up Mel and Lindsey once that I know of - LOL! Social media does take the pressure off from attending stuff, for sure. You can be there without being there.

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  7. Love this so much ! Wonderful! I had an absolutely terrible high school/—I was weird and unpopular and geeky so this opening is my life! And I have to say my 40th reunion, whenever it was, turned out to be the BEST thing ever. :-) Triumph is sweet. And as a result, all my high school trauma is now gone. Um, most of it. Cannot wait to read this!

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    1. I can’t even imagine you as geeky or weird, Hank! So glad you went back and triumphed!

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  8. Jenn, now that you have thoroughly worn me out maybe I should go back to bed!
    Class reunions - I don't know. I was terrified but 2 years ago I finally went to my first one, more than 50 years after graduation! Then this past year I went to another one. The plan is an annual low key picnic in the park. No pressure, but lots of fun.

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  9. I think Jenn wins for busiest JRW writer.

    As for high school reunions, I have no interest in them at all. Most of the people I knew in high school, I didn't want to know in the first place so there's no need to bring them back into my life now.

    As for those from high school that are in my life, those are usually the ones that have been around the entire time. One is a friend that owns the record shop I hang out every so often. And the others are people I mostly keep in contact with via Facebook.

    I did try dating three of the women I went to school with over the last few years. They are now collectively known as "The Disaster", "The Aftershock" and "The Regret" so you can guess how those attempts went.

    Tying into the holiday season, you can call me the Scrooge of high school reunions because when they come up in conversation my reaction is "Bah Humbug!"

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    1. Hi, Jay, My agent keeps saying I need to work smarter not harder but I’m too paranoid. Your dating nicknames made me LOL! So funny - although, I feel for you. Dating is brutal.

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  10. No high school reunions for me! Jenn, did you attend yours for "research"?

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    1. Sadly, I have not made it back. The writing/family schedule and being 3,000 miles away makes it tough. Also, my high school crush was in the grade ahead of me so I’d have to crash my older brother’s reunion to see him, assuming he goes, which would be my biggest motivation to go.

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  11. Must...take...a...nap.... How on earth do you keep up with all your series, the Hooligans, etc., etc., Jenn? If I had a tenth of your energy, I could rule the world, never mind my high school reunion! Of which I've been to exactly two. Low key picnic? Yep. Bay cruise with dancing and booze? Not on your life.

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    1. Cofffee, Coffee, Coffee! With a dash of workaholism and publishing anxiety - that’s how I get it done. Oh, and I reward myself with copious baked goods :) Yes, a picnic is ideal!

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  12. What a yummy cover!

    I've been to two high school reunions. This isn't easy because I grew up north of Kansas City and seem to have livee on either coast most of the rest of the time. The reunions were fun, and guess what! Everyone else had grown older and fatter too. The ones that were still alive anyway.

    I'd do it again, but I'm getting so ancient that I might be the only one attending.

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    1. I have found most of my classmates that are active online really are lovely people! But I don’t remember high school being full of angst. I was very involved so mostly I remember laughter and good times and plenty of shenanigans! Shocker, I know!

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  13. Thanks for the updates Jenn. I've added them to my upcoming release list and will update again when you post the pub dates. Happy Holiday to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you, NoraA! Holiday blessings to you and yours as well!

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  14. Jenn, your writing schedule makes me dizzy! You're a beast.

    My high school years were like Hank's, abysmal, and best left to the dim recesses of time. But... I've been to most of my reunions, go figure. My darling husband has attended many of them with me (I call him my arm candy), and has made some connections of his own over the years. On the way home from my 40th or 45th, we were doing the usual post mortem of the evening, and I said, "You know, none of those people remember me from high school." When Steve expressed surprise, I said, "They remember me from reunions." I think it's possible to rewrite our own history.

    Several friends, who shared my teenaged misery, refuse to go to any of our reunions. I feel this way: at some point it's okay to get over high school. And that applies equally well to the classmates who DID have fabulous years of popularity and lots of friends. Some of them have never left town, have never expanded their circle of friends beyond the cliques they were in fifty years ago, and still wear an invisible prom queen crown or football shoulder pads today. I actually feel more sympathy for them than I do for those of us who skedaddled and never looked back at the wreckage of our formative years.

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    1. I love this post, Karen. It’s pretty much what Mel realizes in the book - you aren’t your past - and it doesn’t impact who you are later...unless, you never let go of the past!

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  15. Jenn, I thought I was a hard worker, but you make me look like a slacker! I'm so glad the hat shop series is continuing. I really enjoy those

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    1. Ha! Rhys, you are just as busy as me! I’m just in a glut right now.

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  16. Jenn absolutely wins for most productive JRW writer. With me bringing up the rear. And she's SO GOOD! This is a terrific opening. And that thing about high school? The truth is you NEVER outrun whoever you were in high school, and going to a reunion just reinforces it. I suppose this is a good thing if you were homecoming queen or a cheerleader...

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    1. After writing this book, I am determined to get to a reunion. I bet I’m still the tallest (with my pal Amy) girl in school! LOL!

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  17. Wow you are writing a lot these day. How you keep it all straight is unbelievable. Can't wait to read all the books. I can't wait to see what trouble Mel and Angie are going to get into at the reunion. Yes I think they are going to the reunion and making the cupcakes. Not sure about high school reunions. I went to our 20th reunion but have not been to any since. Next year it will be 50 years for me. Hard to believe. That makes me old. lol

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    1. It’s weird, isn’t it, Lois? My 30th just passed and I’m bewildered by how this can be so! What the what? I’m only 35! Right?

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  19. Jenn, thanks for the list! I didn't realize how MANY series you have going. More for me to read. Yipee!

    As for high school reunions...nope!

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  20. I have no idea how you're keeping all those projects straight. As for high school reunions, I went to one. It was good to catch up with old friends. I haven't been to the others only because it's so far to travel. Looking forward to reading Dying for Devil's Food!

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  21. I love high school reunion stories, and Dying for Devil's Food sounds like it's got some powerful feelings involved in its reunion. I'm guessing that those feelings are powerful enough for a murder to occur. And, the cover is amazing. My high school reunions over the past fifteen years have been loads of fun. We're all past the age where there's any feeling of the need to impress each other. Well, there is the one guy, a really nice guy actually, who surprised me by showing me a picture of his house on his phone, and he even said "All of that is my house." He's done well for himself, and I'm happy for him, but I thought he still must have had some insecurity if he needed to show me his large house.

    Jenn, I think if I were to look up the word "busy" in the dictionary, there would be a picture of you, along with your name and all your book titles. I'm delighted to have the titles and dates of your 2019 titles so that I can add them to my New Books 2019 list. I so want to read your Library Lovers series, and I do have the first two waiting on my TBR table. They've been patient, but I don't want to keep them (or me) waiting much longer.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy! I love reunion stories, too. There’s something powerful about revisiting your old self.

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  22. Jenn, you are absolutely amazing!!! And you know how much I love the Hat Shop books so will be eagerly awaiting--maybe a sneak peek next time??

    As for reunions, since I dropped out at the beginning of my junior year, I don't have great high school memories. I've been to one--my 14th. Go figure. That said, I don't have any negative feelings about them. Most of the kids from my high school class I went all the through school with, so it would be fun to catch up. I'm friends on Facebook with a couple of people from elementary school, and I talk to my best friend since third grade nearly every day. Maybe one of these years I'll make it to a reunion. (Oh my gosh, I just figured out that my 50th is coming up. How did that even happen????) Until then, I'm happy to read about Angie and Mel!

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    1. LOL - let fiction do the work for you! I dig it.

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  23. I finished high school and never looked back. Except in the past 15 years, the internet happened. I reached out to some but very few reached back. Some folks reached out to me on Facebook but frankly, I don’t really remember any of them from high school. Someone organized an upscale reunion at a nice hotel which I have stayed at many times over the past 30+ years. That was this past August. I seriously thought of attending but at the last minute, I decided I couldn’t afford the expense. Apparently, some folks had similar feelings and they organized a free reunion right on the beach where we all lived. Classes from 1945 through 1978 were represented. It was in the daytime and the venue was a large sandwich shop on the now concrete boardwalk. You could buy drinks and food. The only downside was that to buy anything you had to wait on a half-hour long line. I didn’t know anyone except a few from Facebook. We had beautiful weather. A woman my age, not part of the reunion, happened by and sat down, introduced herself to me and we sat and talked for almost two hours. Traveling, it took me almost 3 hours on the bus and subway to get there and a similar ride home. I hadn’t been back there where we all grew up for almost 50 years. They are doing it again next year. I probably will go.

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    1. I love that! I’m eager to see a few people not in my class so this would work much better for me!

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  24. Nothing stirs controversy like the threat of a high school reunion. I went to 3 different high schools so have no real connections to any. I did go to a 40 year reunion for the school I went to the longest since it happened a few months after I returned to Houston. It was disappointing as no one I used to hang out with attended. I swore them off after that.

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    1. Yeah, I’d want my squad to go but we’re all so scattered. *sigh*

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  25. Jenn, I love the cover for Devil's Food novel! I look forward to the new Hat Shop novel in 2020.

    Haven't attended high school reunions because we did not have high school reunions for my class. The vice president of our Senior Class killed himself several years ago. His wife was pregnant with their first child when she was killed in an auto accident. He killed himself within weeks after his wife died. He was a brilliant person. I think we lost heart in organizing high school reunions after he died.

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  26. Oh my, such a tragedy. I am so sorry.

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  27. Well, I’m another person whose head is spinning from reading Jenn’s schedule! Jenn, I’m amazed that you sleep at all, never mind six hours!

    Two years after I graduated from high school there was an all-class reunion. It consisted of dinner at a local restaurant. We were told we could bring “a female guest”. (Yeah, it was an all-girl school.) If there have been any reunions since then, I never heard about them. I graduated fifty-one years ago and thought there might possibly be announcements somewhere about a reunion as we approached fifty, but there was nothing. I doubt that I would have gone, though. Still too shy! I’m happy with my circle of friends in the town where I live now!

    DebRo

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    1. I've always wondered what life in an all girl's school would be like. I was such a tomboy - it might have killed me.

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  28. At first I didn't go to my reunions because my mother had some bad experiences with hers. Also, I was literally the shiest girl in the yearbook so I didn't know everyone in my class. A classmate from my church convinced me to attend two, and I had a good time. Maybe because we were older, everyone talked to everyone. Our 50th is next year, and I plan to go.

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    1. Good for you, Sally! I think humans (most) improve with age. Life has a way of bringing out the kindness in people.

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  29. Great sample! But I have to ask - how do you produce so many books in so many series so often? What is your writing schedule? How many hours do you write per day, and how many days per week do you stick to that schedule? That's just an amazing number of books, it seems to me. If you'd be willing to share I would love to know more about how you actually accomplish this amazing feat. I'm imagining you working around the clock, waving to your kids as you run past them to your writing room (pretentious, obviously), eating via IV so that you can hydrate and fuel while writing...am I close? :)

    As far as reunions go, with social media I keep in touch with those I want to already. I don't know that reunions have the same shock factor they used to, where you showed up with literally no idea what had happened to your classmates (friends and otherwise) since graduation. I've declined reunions to date, but maybe some day I'll want to attend.

    Thanks for your time responding, and for all of your hard work writing all these series!

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    1. Hi, Katherine, I write 10 pages/day every day. Like any habit, I’ve gotten really good (after ten years) of sharpening my focus so I can get 10p out in about four - six hours. Then I reward myself with something I want to do (eat cookies!) so I stay motivated during the four hours. The big thing is not getting distracted (curse you, Internet)! And on days when I’m at the kids’ school doing the PTO thing or chaperoning whatever, then I have to work in the evening to make up for it. My laptop goes where I go, so if they have a two hour guitar lesson, I am nearby in Starbucks working. Mostly, I take advantage of every second that I would otherwise be stalking old boyfriends on Facebook to write. :)

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    2. Amazing! You work hard and it certainly pays off. :) Thank you!

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