Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Orlando Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 25, 2014

Besides touring the World of Chocolate (see below) on our recent visit to Orlando, we couldn’t be in town without another trip to Disney on our annual passes. We went to Epcot and met fellow mystery author Ann Meier for lunch at Chefs de France. It was a delightful afternoon spent in company of a friend and surrounded by Disney’s lush landscaping.

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Another day, we shopped at The Florida Mall. Our daughter said Nordstrom there is closing so we wanted to get in for their last sale. A lot of construction is happening as the entire mall is undergoing a remodel. The food court is supposed to be revamped and we noticed Saks is gone.

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We still get lost in this place and have to rely on signs to tell us where to go.

Of course, our main purpose in coming was to celebrate our son’s birthday, and we did so at Hannibal’s on the Square in Winter Park. This restaurant is adjacent to Chez Vincent and owned by their chef, so we enjoyed a French menu with excellent service. The dish below is duck a l’orange. Before dinner, we strolled around central park and watched the Amtrak trains go by. Winter Park has its own ambience and we always enjoy people watching and browsing in the stores. Patrons spill from restaurants into the street at sidewalk tables, the aromas from within making you salivate as you walk past.

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Another night we ate at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine at restaurant row on West Sand Lake Drive. The lamb sis kebab was delish. So was the special bread and hummus appetizer. Our dining out didn’t end here. The following evening, we met cousins at Bahama Breeze for a leisurely seafood dinner. All in all, we had a great time and gained a few pounds.

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Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

World of Chocolate

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 22, 2014

On our recent visit to Orlando, we stopped by the World of Chocolate Museum and Café on International Drive. While waiting for our tour to begin, we studied the exotic chocolates offered for sale from around the world and the artistic creations inside display cases.

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We couldn’t resist tasting some of the baked treats. This is our daughter’s portion of chocolate lava cake.

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My husband and I ate our chocolate bombe filled with mousse so fast that I forgot to take a picture. It was heavenly! The café serves desserts along with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. It’s not for calorie watchers by any means. Put on your sweet tooth for this visit.

The guide began his tour amid rumblings of thunder and the pounding of rain from outside. This was appropriate as he led us into a faux rainforest to explain the origins of the cacao plant. Discovered by natives in South and Central America years ago, the plant was made into a drink that was bitter and spicy. Conquerors brought the plants to Spain where the resultant hot chocolate drink was consumed by royalty, and from there it made its way to France.

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At some point, sugar was added to the mix. Cacao eventually made its way to the U.S. where Hershey grabbed onto it. Theobromine is an alkaloid found in cacao that is similar to caffeine. It is usually not present in white chocolate. Dark baking chocolate has the most content.

We saw sculptures made in Europe by artisans and crated to the U.S. for the museum. The intricacy of detail was amazing. You can smell the chocolate as you walk along.

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Next the guide explained the chocolate making process while pointing out various pieces of machinery. They do not make the chocolate in front of you here so don’t expect a demo.

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Finally, we were taken to a room full of display cases showing chocolate bar wrappers from around the world. Then we sampled various bits of chocolate that ranged from bitter to quite sweet.

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Of course, we ended up buying a few bars each in the gift shop. Who could resist?

What is your secret chocolate vice?

 

Posted in Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sunday Blog of the Week – Nancy’s Notes From Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 13, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

Writer Friend Marcia Meara is sweet to feature my blog this week on her site. Follow along to her blog and see what else she has to say!

Originally posted on Bookin' It:

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Nancy J. Cohen

Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style. She also writes the Drift Lords Series, adventures more in the sci-fi romance vein.  Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.

Nancy’s Notes From Florida blog is always a fun and interesting place to visit. I’ve been following Nancy via email for close to two years, and I have learned a lot about everything from her favorite recipes to her advice on writing cozy mystery novels, and the importance of networking via groups like the Romance Writers of America. She also blogs on general writing subjects of interest to authors in every genre. Her experience in the industry is wide and varied, and I…

View original 46 more words

Posted in Appearances | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Proofreading Your Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 10, 2014

No matter how many times you review your manuscript, you’ll always find something to correct. I am reading through Peril by Ponytail for the third or fourth time. And here are the kinds of things I am still finding to correct.

Moustache or mustache? Both spellings, according to the dictionary, are correct. But I use the first variation 5 times and the second variation 3 times. I changed them all to “mustache” because it seems to be more common.

Nightstand or night stand? I have these both ways. Which is it? Considering that my editor did not correct the first usage, I changed the second one to match.

Consistency is the key. A particular word should have the same spelling throughout the story.

I also am looking to reorder sentences for better flow of logic, like these passages:

Original:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. What’s going on, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?”

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner staff door. “You’d better ask your husband, hon.”

“Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is our Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“This way,” Carol said when he’d finished. She led them through a door marked Private.

Revised:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“What’s happening, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?” Carol asked.

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner door. “Ask your husband, hon.”

“This way,” Carol told her guests. She led them through a door marked Private.

I felt Carol would more logically introduce her guests right away then ask about the sheriff.

Go for more precise wording, like in this example. I also changed swarthy to sinewy to avoid stereotyping:

From:

The swarthy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as they approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to a window trim. She was careful to sidestep past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

To:

The sinewy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as she and Dalton approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to window trim. She sidestepped past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

Here’s a sentence that needs completion to improve clarity.

Original:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s not possible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would let his caution slide. Hopefully the sheriff will investigate and determine what really happened.”

Revised:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s impossible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would be so careless as to fall off a ledge. Hopefully, the sheriff’s office will investigate and determine what happened.”

One must have sharp eyes and an alert mind to inspect your own work. Eventually, we get too close to the material. We send it off to our editor, who hopefully picks up any errors we missed. We’ll get back the clean copy for another read-through and then it’s done. If anything slipped past, it wasn’t due to negligence on our part. We tried to catch everything. But no matter how many times we scrutinize our work, the editing process is never done.

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 18 Comments »

Amazon Author Central

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 9, 2014

Amazon provides opportunities for authors to have input on their book pages through Amazon Author Central. Watch out that this opportunity doesn’t bite you.

Recently, a reader emailed to say that when she went to order one of my earlier mysteries, two author names showed on the page. I should notify Amazon that the other person wasn’t me.

Actually, I replied, I am Nancy Cane. That’s the pseudonym I’d used for my earlier romance novels. However, this name does not belong on my mystery titles.

I went to the URL the reader had sent me, and sure enough, when you scrolled down, both Nancy Cane and Nancy J. Cohen were listed under Authors.

Accessing my account at Amazon Author Central, I clicked on Books, selected this title, and requested a correction. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because each title has several editions. I had to request a correction on each edition by filling out a form.

All was fine until I got a response from Amazon that they’d made the corrections I had requested, totally removed my Nancy Cane author page and merged it into my Nancy J. Cohen author page. However, this author page had a TOTALLY DIFFERENT URL and was missing 4 of my videos, my 400+ Likes, my events, plus it had an outdated bio.

All over the web (and in my ebooks), I have given this link as either http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-J.-Cohen/e/B001HD1ELI/ or https://www.amazon.com/author/nancyjcohen. Now this link goes nowhere.

Panic set in. I spoke to a rep on the phone who said he’d notify the technicians to see if they can restore my original page. This can take 3 to 5 days, if they ever respond. I hope they fire the guy who misread my corrections and totally screwed things up.

If they can’t restore it, I have to go around to my numerous sites, including any self-published works on Amazon, and change the URL. I’ll also have to campaign to readers like yourselves to Like my page again, add in all my lost videos and events, etc. Let’s hope they can restore the original. What they can’t restore in my faith in them. I don’t dare request any more changes through Author Central or they might mess up again.

I’ll let you know what happens.

 

 

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Brisket with Prunes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 3, 2014

I made this recipe over the past weekend. It’s enough to last us most of this week but likely serves a family of 6 to 8. I tossed in some extra red wine and cooked it for ten more minutes until it was fork tender. We eat it with a salad as potatoes are included in the meal.

BRISKET WITH PRUNES

3-1/2 lb. flat cut beef brisket
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup Marsala wine
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 3 large potatoes)
1 cup pitted prunes
6 oz. package or 1 cup dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim fat off brisket. Heat oil in heavy Dutch oven and add meat, browning on both sides. Remove brisket. Add onions and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix beef broth, Marsala wine, vinegar, honey, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon in a bowl.

Put brisket on top of onions in pot. Pour broth mixture over meat.

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Cover and bake for 2 hours.

Then add sweet potato chunks. Scatter dried fruit on top. Cover and bake for 1 more hour or until meat is tender.

Transfer meat to cutting board, and spoon out fruit with slotted spoon. Cut meat thinly across the grain.

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Serve with potatoes, fruit and pan juices.

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**Another version of this recipe appeared in Hanging by A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

 

Happy Independence Day!

 

 

 

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Agents and Editors: Do Your Due Diligence

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 1, 2014

 Do Your Due Diligence

My husband and I have been investigating local contractors prior to doing an update on our three bathrooms. Here are the results of our search. Stay with me, and I’ll relate this process to your writing career.

Contractor #1 has a modest showroom that offers a variety of product choices and designs. Their rep came to our house, took measurements, and made knowledgeable suggestions. He pointed out the electrical outlets that he said needed to be updated to code, and that would cost $150 for an electrician. He gave us a written estimate, and the pricing seemed reasonable.

We got the name of this company through ads in the unsolicited home circulars we receive. I looked the company up online. Bad reviews. Then I called an electrician as one of those outlets he’d mentioned failed. The electrician found the fault in the overhead light wiring, fixed it, put in a new dimmer switch at my request and charged only $85. He said the other outlet was fine and neither needed to be changed to be brought up to code. Uh-oh. If Contractor #1 wasn’t telling the truth about one item, what else might he suggest that would inflate the price? My husband was turned off by the negative reviews.

Here is what we have:

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Contractor #2 has a ritzy showroom with high-end sinks, cabinets, toilets and accessories. A receptionist greeted us upon our entry and asked if we’d like coffee or a soda. Then a salesman came to guide us around and ask about our needs. Right up front, without viewing our measurements, he quoted a remodeled shower at $10-15,000. This wasn’t for anything else we needed and seemed extraordinarily high, nearly double what the first guy had quoted. We weren’t changing the configuration, just redoing the walls and fixtures. Glancing at our casual clothes, he didn’t bother to have us fill out a customer form but gave us his card.

How did we learn about this company? It was recommended by a friend, who knew another friend who’d used them and was happy. They lived in a waterfront condo on the Intracoastal and no doubt had funds to spare. Clearly this company, with its high overhead, catered to wealthy customers. My husband didn’t care for their arrogant attitude.

Here is what I want:

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Contractor #3 has a showroom in a quiet back street downtown but not in a great area. The office is tiny with a few choice cabinetry samples as well as a narrow choice of hardware and sinks. You have to order your own tile but they would install it. We were referred to the owner by a friend who’d used her services and was pleased with the results. The lady in charge wouldn’t give us a quote until we gave her our measurements and picked samples of styles we might like. Her base quote was within range of what we’d like to spend. When I looked them up online, I found a basic website but not much else.

Contractor #4 we discovered by viewing their name on a truck in the neighborhood and seeing their workmen in action. I found their website and got the address. Where was it? It turned out to be a mail box in the local UPS store. No physical presence. As I walk around the block, I see their logo trucks in front of the neighbor’s home. They’re obviously working there. But no physical office or showroom? That’s always a warning sign for me.

So what’s our choice? We’ve asked Contractor #3 to come out with her installer and see our layout before giving us a more accurate quote, and that won’t include the cost of the tile. But so far, she’s the best of the bunch.

Which one, if any, would you choose?

So how does this lengthy dissertation relate to writing? You need to be just as careful when researching agents and editors. Do they work for a reputable firm? What can you find out about them online? Can your fellow authors provide recommendations? Who’s worked with this person or publishing house, and were they happy? Check over at Editors and Predators for warnings about unscrupulous persons to avoid. Google them online and see what pops up. Look for them on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. In other words, do your due diligence. Don’t accept someone who looks good, like that company with the ritzy showroom. They might be perfect for certain clients but not for you. Check the approved publisher list of a professional writing organization in your genre. And determine your criteria before starting your search. If you get any negative vibes, listen to them. Here are some additional resources:

http://aaronline.org/
http://www.agentresearch.com
http://www.agentquery.com
http://pred-ed.com/
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com
http://www.querytracker.net
http://www.savvyauthors.com
http://www.sfwa.org/Beware


Tomorrow I’m at the Kill Zone speaking about “Avoiding Info Dumps.” Be sure to visit!

 

 

Posted in Business of Writing, That's Life, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Follow my Guest Blogs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 25, 2014

Please follow me this week around the blog sphere in these locations:

June 24, Tuesday, The Write Chris – Author Interview “From Fantasy to SciFi to Mystery”
http://thewritechris.blogspot.com/2014/06/from-fantasy-to-sci-fi-to-mystery.html

June 25, Wednesday, Writing Novels that Sell – “10 Tips To Make Your Cozy Mystery Sell”
http://writingnovelsthatsell.com/10-tips-to-make-your-cozy-mystery-sell/2014/06/
Commenters on this blog will be entered into a drawing for an ebook copy of Hanging by a Hair.

June 27, Friday, Femmes Fatale – “Giving Back to the Writing Community”
http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/2014/06/giving-back-to-the-writing-community.html

 

Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dinner Menu Chicken Tenderloins

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 23, 2014

Here is my dinner menu for tonight:

HORSERADISH-CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS

1 pound chicken tenderloins
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat free plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. skim milk
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise and 2 Tbsp. horseradish in small bowl. Dip chicken in mixture and then roll in bread crumbs mixed with parsley. Place chicken tenders in greased baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the next 6 ingredients for the sauce and put aside. Serve baked chicken with sauce.

Chicken Tenderloins

 

I found sweet potatoes in a bag at Publix that you can microwave, so we’ll try these, and they should last a couple of nights. Fresh asparagus will round out the meal.

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I’ve been keeping busy working on my dad’s travel adventure journal and planning for my two upcoming summer releases. I’m scheduling a blog tour to celebrate the debut of Warrior Lord and have the paperback version of Shear Murder coming out in August as well. Plus I’m occupied with duties as President of the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. Save the date for SleuthFest: February 26, 2015!

Thank goodness some of my favorite TV shows are back on the air. Covert Affairs restarts soon, and I have to watch Falling Skies and The Musketeers (on BBC channel) that we recorded last night. I got hooked on Crossbones, too.  And Royal Pains is a favorite that’s back on. What are you watching?

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 20, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Once you leave mainland Florida, it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Traffic travels at a speed of forty to fifty-five miles per hour through two lane or four-lane roads. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way.

Key Largo is the first big island after you drive a long and boring stretch through swamp territory from the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is a good place to stop, stretch your legs, and use the bathroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack and use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. The Fish House, Snook’s Bayside and Snapper’s Waterfront restaurants are well advertised if you’re looking for a more substantial bite to eat. Or you can take Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s. Resorts here include a Hilton and a Marriot, among others.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. We stopped by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway to schmooze with owner Cathy Keller and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants hail their claim to fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven Sports Bar, Loralei Cabana Bar, and Shula’s 2. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center here as well.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center. Many of the islands have marine attractions or research facilities for sea creatures like dolphins and turtles. State parks are prevalent if you want to stop and stretch with a water view.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks. It’s nearly around the corner from Key West.

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When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left or south will take you to a slew of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and shops and is liveliest at night. During the day, it’s fun to stroll and soak in the tropical atmosphere. Nearby are a host of tourist attractions. You can visit Hemingway House, salvage museums, the Little Truman White House, and more.

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Or take a trolley ride or the Conch Train Tour. If you wish to ply the waters, various boat tours are available. Or stroll to the end of Front Street for waterfront dining where you’ll find a choice of restaurants. At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset.

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We dined our first night at Louie’s Backyard. This popular restaurant used to be an old house. It sits by the sea near Southernmost Point and is a great place to relax, have a drink, and gaze out at the ripples on the water.

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There’s a wine bar upstairs where you can just get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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The next day, we lunched at Alonso’s Raw Bar at Harborside. We viewed boats at the marina as we ate an excellent coconut-crusted grouper.

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When you’re in the Keys, your worries drift away. The laid-back pace and ocean views sap your energy and bring a sense of tranquility. It’s hard to leave, but the drive north offers more spectacular scenery.

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Relaxing in Key West   Richard and Nancy

Scenes from Doubletree hotel:

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Doesn’t this make you want to visit?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | 2 Comments »

 
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