Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Archive for the ‘Florida Musings’ Category

Greater Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 23, 2015

Winter Park

On Sunday morning, we strolled down Park Avenue in Winter Park. This broad street is lined with shops and restaurants on one side and Central Park on the other side. We chose Paris Bistro at 216 N. Park Avenue for lunch. This gem is hidden in an alcove off the main street. It’s near the Briar Patch, if you’re familiar with that bustling diner-type restaurant. Paris Bistro is a cozy little place that has a European ambiance. The Sunday brunch menu was great, $12.95 for an entrée and dessert, or you could order a la carte. I had a delicious avocado and shrimp salad. This would be an intimate romantic restaurant for dinner, but be aware the acoustics leave something to be desired. Namely, the noise level can overwhelm your conversation.

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Morse Museum

This jewel of a museum is located in a modernistic building in downtown Winter Park. You’d never guess the Morse Museum was so large from its modest exterior. Inside, various rooms wind around and around, showcasing works by Louis Comfort Tiffany and other American artists. Stained glass windows, lamps, pottery, art glass, jewelry, vases, paintings and more are displayed here. The most impressive site is a chapel that’s as beautiful as it is unexpected in this setting. A couple of hours are needed to do this museum justice. Handy printed guidebooks in every room describe each labeled item.

East End Market

The East End Market is a long interior space devoted to several bars/shops/cafes. You won’t find Farmer’s Market style vegetables for sale here. We decided to have a snack at Txokos Kitchen. Located at 3201 Corrine Drive, this restaurant is a trendy or “hipster” place to dine. Drinks were cheap but the food adds up. I had a cheese platter with fig bread for $15.00 and an olive plate for $6.00. My orange juice mimosa was only $2.00 and a Bloody Mary was $3.00. Chorizo corn muffins costs $6.00, and a bowl of gazpacho soup costs $7.00. It’s a pleasant place to come for appetizers and drinks or a full meal.

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Now I’m back home and trying to lose the weight I gained from all this dining out!

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dining at Disney

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 22, 2015

Downtown Disney is undergoing a transformation into Disney Springs. One of the new parking garages is open, and driving through this cavernous place is an experience in itself. Numbers lit-up at the start of each row tell you how many parking spaces are available. Then as you drive down the row, a green light overhead marks the empty spots. You don’t have to go searching like in other garages. The aisles are clearly marked and escalators take you to the crosswalk level.

I’ve read that Disney Quest will be replaced by a basketball-themed attraction, but we walked in the opposite direction. Construction is evident everywhere, no more so than the former Pleasure Island. This is long overdue, as family restaurants and shops will attract more crowds than an exclusive evening nightclub venue. After walking all around the Marketplace end, we settled for lunch at the cool new Boatyard restaurant. Guests can rent amphibious vehicles here for a short ride around the lake. These look like something out of a James Bond movie.

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The restaurant is decorated in nautical motif. We had a pleasant lunch. The menu has many choices and isn’t unreasonably priced. A couple of indoor bars hosted a lively crowd. This is definitely worth a return visit.

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Coming soon is a themed restaurant next door shaped like an airplane hangar.

Polynesian Resort
Last Saturday evening, we headed over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. We’d hoped to get into the new themed lounge called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, but there was an hour and a half wait. We sat outside on their patio instead overlooking a lake and ordered tropical drinks. Mine came with a straw long enough for a giraffe.

Nancy with drink

We passed on the fixed price menu at Ohana to eat dinner at Kona Café. This casual, family-oriented eaterie has reasonable prices, but we didn’t think the food was that great, and the menu choices are limited. We would not dine here again.

 

Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 21, 2015

We took a stroll this past weekend around Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. It was already mobbed when we got there around ten o’clock. Up ahead, the main stage heralded “Frozen” along with signs from every direction.

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We veered left, past the Theater that now holds a Frozen Sing-Along show. Jedi action was in full swing at Star Tours, with little kids learning light-saber fighting skills on a stage front and center. Having been on the ride before, we dipped into the shop to see what was new. Merchandising for Disney’s Star Wars acquisition is evident throughout the park. You can even buy a Jedi robe for a Halloween costume. I resisted the urge, however, and moved on toward the backstage sets. We like the Writer’s Stop, where you can buy coffee or a snack and check out the books and videos for sale in a cozy atmosphere. Both stunt shows are still viable, Indiana Jones and the race cars. But the Backstage Studio Lot Tour is closed. The attendant said it will be torn down for a new attraction. The park will be renamed as well. Meanwhile, The Great Movie Ride supposedly has new narration and scenes added to the finale movie clip. I wish they’d updated some of the sequences in the ride itself, but I suppose it retains classic value.

We ate lunch at the 50’s Prime Time Café, which is always fun. The menu is mostly dinner-type choices with not a sandwich in sight. I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes. My husband had chicken pot pie that wasn’t baked in a crust but had a flaky pastry on top. As before, the waitress admonished us “children” to eat our vegetables.

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Over by Tower of Terror, it got even more crowded. Dark clouds scudded overhead. Sensing a thunderstorm about to invade, we hustled to our car. We’d had our morning walk, indulged in a hearty lunch, and were ready to return to our condo for a nap.

 

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Marco Island Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 14, 2015

We spent a pleasant three days on Marco Island in the southwest portion of the state. Just south of Naples, this island has a tranquil atmosphere. From uncluttered beaches to gourmet restaurants, you can relax and unwind amid this tropical oasis.

Dinners

The first night, we ate at Marek’s amid its historical ambiance in an old house. Our meal began with Duck and Vegetable Egg Rolls followed by a Caesar salad. The entrée that we shared was fresh grilled grouper topped with rum banana puree and lemon butter drizzle. This was deliciously done. It came with rice and vegetables. The lively bar attracts a crowd.

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At Snook Inn, we ordered Shrimp DeJoghne which were coated in bread crumbs and sautéed in a garlic butter sauce. This came with a salad bar, soft bread, and a choice of potato. It was a tasty meal at great value with a water view of the Marco River. This place is popular with families.

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We ate our final meal at Café de Marco. I like the elegant atmosphere here with its white clothed tables and candlelight. We began with seafood stuffed mushrooms then progressed to house salads. We shared mahi mahi de Marco in a signature mushroom garlic sauce. It came with potatoes au gratin and plain green beans. The latter were chewy and not appealing. Broccoli would have been a better choice. But I still like the romantic ambiance in this place next to the historic Olde Marco Inn.

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Next time, we’d like to try Bistro Soleil attached to the inn. The hotel itself was built in the late 1800’s and is inspirational for a mystery or romantic suspense story.

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Hotel

As in the past, we stayed at the Hilton on Marco Island. It’s a good thing as the Marriott is closed for extensive renovations. I really like the Hilton though. From spacious rooms with a gulf view to comfortable beds and pillows, this hotel has nice amenities. There’s even a shower mat in the bathroom, handle bars so you don’t slip, and plentiful toiletries. Our room came with slippers and robes but that may be because we are Hilton Honors members. As far as dining, the  lounge opens at 5:00 pm. That’s one complaint. I wish they opened one hour earlier. And the Starbucks coffee bar in the lobby opens early in the morning but closes shortly after noon. So there’s nowhere to get an afternoon cup of coffee. Rooms do come with coffeemakers but you only get enough packs for the morning.

The hotel has two restaurants, a formal one called Sandpiper and an informal overlooking the beach called Paradise Café. We like to eat breakfast in the latter but be prepared for a $40 bill. In contrast, other days we ate breakfast at Ne Ne’s Kitchen not far along at 297 N. Collier Blvd. I had their cornflake crusted French Toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Or try Susie’s Diner in Marco Town Center. Dinner is also nice at Paradise Café.

The pool area is attractive. Chairs are free here and at the beach but umbrellas cost money. There’s a catamaran that leaves directly from the beach if you want a boat ride and tour to a private island for swimming and shelling. The water is clear with no seaweed or other debris. The powdery white sand is good for walking, and schools of fish might keep you company in the water. During our stay, the Gulf was very calm. I could sit in it like a bathtub and didn’t even have any swells come by.

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Besides dining and beach activities, there’s little else to do here. You can visit the shops in one afternoon. Sunshine Booksellers has the monopoly on bookstores. Or just laze at the beach or by the pool.

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See all photos on my Facebook page. Look for the Marco Island July 2015 Album and please Like my page while there.

Booklover’s Bench Contest: Enter to win $25 Amazon/BN Giftcard: http://bookloversbench.com/july-2015-contest/

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Epcot at Disney World

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 19, 2015

We discover something new each time we visit a Disney theme park. On this occasion, we were strolling by Test Track at Epcot when I noticed a new kiosk selling a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato basil soup, and salads. My mouth watered, but it was too early for lunch. Test Track is on the side to the left when you enter the park. It’s near Mission: SPACE and Universe of Energy.

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So we headed over to The Land and one of my favorite rides. Living with the Land is sedate but educational as you learn about agriculture and modern methods of growing crops. Their vegetables and fruits always look perfect in the greenhouse section.

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The fish being farmed in tanks is what inspired me to learn about tilapia for Body Wave, book #4 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries (soon to be available in a revised Author’s Edition). Marla visits a tilapia grower who is a suspect and lives near Tarpon Springs. This was based on my visit to the Nova Southeastern University Aquaculture Research Center in Davie, FL. Now tilapia is a staple on my home menu.

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It’s amazing how vegetables can be grown using drip methods of irrigation. But what I miss the most is the “Listen to the Land” song that was eliminated from this ride. I wish they’d bring it back.

From here we ventured over to Imagination, where we discovered a sneak preview of the upcoming film, Tomorrowland. This was in the theater that formerly housed Captain E-O. The Kodak pre-show was gone as well. I wonder what they will replace these with when Tomorrowland debuts in theaters. The snippet was awesome and I can’t wait to see the movie.

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We walked around World Showcase, admiring the flowers and plant displays, and eating lunch at the Japanese grill. The chicken teriyaki dish was tasty but it was mostly chicken and rice and not much vegetables. We walked from here toward Norway. The new Frozen ride to replace Maelstrom isn’t open yet. Looks like it’ll be a while as there isn’t any signage. It was too hot out for much else so we headed back to our condo to rest. That’s the advantage of being annual passholders.

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Contest Alert!
Enter May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Tupperware Headquarters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2015

Do you remember Tupperware Home Parties? On our way into Orlando, we visited Tupperware Brands Global Headquarters at 14901 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837.

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We’d passed the campus innumerable times, and I’d always been curious to stop by. We entered through the impressive front entrance into one of several white buildings, gave our purpose to the receptionist, and received visitor passes. From here we entered a modern museum section that describes the history of Tupperware and the people who made it happen, including inventor Earl Tupper. One of the first female business executives, a woman named Brownie Wise, arose from this company that originated in 1946. A panoramic screen shows historical images while display cases highlight past products. Lo and behold, I discovered my green bowl inside one of them. I still have it, and it’s in great condition. Yes, this stuff is durable. It might be expensive, but it lasts for years.

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After passing through the museum section, we entered the store with its array of colorful products. I bought a set of bowls to replace my ancient ones and some other doodads. Tupperware even sells cosmetics now. This is a fun excursion if you’re in the area and looking for something new to do. And it’s just down the road from Gatorland.

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Contest Alert!
Enter May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

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

Power Outage

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 20, 2015

Are you prepared for disaster? The other morning, we were taking our daily walk when we heard a series of explosions. Then I noticed sparks from among the trees. Getting closer to the source, we noted the disturbance came from a utility pole on our community’s main street. Upon rushing home, our fears were confirmed. The power was out.

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Not to worry. We kept the blinds closed along with the refrigerator. I shut down our computers as they still were running on battery power with my backup APC unit. And it was daylight, so we could see just fine. I decided I’d read newsletters on my iPad. And so I got the reading done that I’d been postponing.

At 11am, I had a hair appointment. My husband and I were starting to get restless. He’s used to running out on errands while I get my writing done. But as we attempted to manually lift the garage door, we failed. It was incredibly heavy and required both of us to shove it upward. I wasn’t tall enough to push it over the edge. And then it came crashing down if we didn’t lower it. It wouldn’t stay in place. I got out the manual for our hurricane-proof steel door. From the instructions there, it appeared our springs were not working properly. We’d need a service call.

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Fortunately, we still had landlines. Our portable phone units didn’t work, and I wanted to save my cell phone for checking email and doing posts on my social networks. So we called the garage door people. A breath of relief. They’d send someone out later that day.

More time passed. Another call to FPL said the power wouldn’t be restored until 1 pm. There was damage to the main line. Great. I cancelled my hair appointment. We couldn’t go out for a second walk in case the garage door guy called. So there we were, trapped in our house. We ate snacks from the pantry, not wishing to open the refrigerator and raise its temperature. It was relatively cool in the house, being partially cloudy outside and not the summer heat, thank goodness. It gave us the opportunity to test our flashlights and battery-run radios. We have a solar powered/hand crank device that has a searchlight, radio, and cell charger. And I have a portable cell phone charger as well.

Without a laptop, I couldn’t do any writing, but I’d already finished my task for the day before we’d gone out earlier. Finally, just around one the garage repairman came. He adjusted the springs and lubricated the joints. Lo and behold, I was able to easily lift the door myself thereafter, and it stayed open. We pulled out both of our cars. And right after the serviceman left, the power flickered on.

The outage had lasted six hours. It had made us do garage door maintenance, which we’d needed and wouldn’t have known otherwise. And it made us take stock that we really weren’t prepared for hurricane season. But at least for those storms, you have advance warning.

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Vizcaya

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 6, 2015

Vizcaya was built in the early 1900’s for James Deering. The mansion, located in Miami, is Italian Renaissance style. You can tour the house and gardens and lunch in a pleasant café adjacent to the gift shop.

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We began our stroll outside to take advantage of the cooler morning air. Surrounded by a lush tropical forest, the estate borders Biscayne Bay. We passed a swimming pool on the east side that’s partially under cover. Facing the water at the back are boat landings where guests arrived by boat at the property. This was actually the main entrance back in the day. A replica of a barge sits in the water to stem the tide. Note the little tea house gazebo in the distance.

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From here we entered the formal gardens via steps made from coral. Hedges, quaint grottos, and a maze of paths take you along this tranquil garden. Statuary draws attention as do fountains and secret little nooks.

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We headed to the house next and were informed photos were not allowed inside. On the ground floor, we viewed the library, living room, music room, reception rooms, open-air loggia facing the water, and a formal dining room with a serving pantry at its side. Tapestries, huge paintings, and silk panels decorated the walls with lots of gold trim and marble columns. Fancy chandeliers have been converted to electricity but still maintain their historical design.

Upstairs are the bedrooms, a breakfast room, and the kitchen—which always fascinates me in these historical homes. There were bathrooms as well. We didn’t get to see the servant’s quarters because they’ve mostly been converted into offices.

After getting our exercise climbing up and down stairs, some of which were narrow spiral staircases, we aimed for the gift shop and café. Here we ate a substantial lunch (self-service only) and then left to return home. It was wonderful to imagine what it must have been like living in such a big house. I’d call it Downton Abbey – Florida style, except Mr. Deering was a bachelor and his nieces inherited his property. They donated it to Miami-Dade County, which opened the house and grounds as a museum in 1953. http://www.vizcaya.org

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

Venice Book Fair

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2015

On Friday, we took a ride over to Venice, Florida in preparation for the big Book Fair the next day. This charming seaside resort is on Florida’s Gulf coast just a bit below Sarasota. After checking in at our hotel, we drove to the fishing pier for lunch at Sharkey’s. This highly popular restaurant also has an upper level, but we chose to dine downstairs with a lovely view of the beach. The New England clam chowder was thick and creamy, just the way I like it. But the coconut shrimp didn’t compare to the ones at Bahama Breeze. These tasted greasy fried and the sauce had no flavor. I recommend you avoid this dish here. The stuffed mushrooms were good. These two appetizers and the soup were enough for lunch. From here, we strolled down the fishing pier but not to the far end as storm clouds were moving in. By the time we drove to downtown, it was pouring.

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Nonetheless, we gamely took out our umbrellas to stroll up and down the street lined with outdoor cafés and gift shops and bordered by majestic date palms.

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The deluge kept us in our hotel room for the rest of the afternoon until we met some of our gang at Left Coast Seafood, recommended by FMWA member Nancy Gazo. Nancy and her husband joined us along with Alison McMahan and her spouse. This restaurant is hugely popular and the food was worth the wait. I had grilled salmon with hush puppies and a vegetable medley. It was cooked just right.

The next morning found us all at Centennial Park for the Book Fair. While Nancy went to set up our exhibit booth, Alison and I met another FMWA member, Randy Rawls, who was our panel moderator. We were joined by thriller author Leo J. Maloney, whose experience as a black ops agent had us enthralled. Our panel went well and we proceeded outside to man the booth.

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Aside from a strong breeze, it was a lovely day to be outdoors with cooler temperatures and sunshine. We represented our Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, gave out brochures, and acquainted passersby with our books. All too soon, it became time to leave. Many thanks to Nancy Gazo for organizing these events for us. See you at the next one!

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Back home, we took advantage of the cool weather the next day to take a walk at Tree Tops Park. Little did we realize when we entered the path for the Pine Island Ridge section that we’d be in danger of getting lost! The trail wound around with no maps to tell us where we were. It seemed to go on for miles. Finally, we turned back and asked other walkers which way would take us into Tree Tops again. How scary to be lost with only a cell phone for communication with the outside world. What if there wasn’t cell service? Should we have marked the trail so we’d know the way back? I can just imagine Marla and Dalton getting lost with a killer on their tail.

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Okay, back to reality. Murder by Manicure (Bad Hair Day Mystery #3) is now available in a Print edition as well as for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks (See previous post for links).

Spring Into Summer Contest—March 24 to April 3
Enter to win a signed hardcover Shear Murder and $10 Starbucks gift card or one of two ebook copies of Hair Raiser http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Florida Musings, Food, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Secret Woods

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 23, 2015

On Saturday, we heard bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan give a talk at the monthly meeting of Florida MWA. Joanna gave pointers on how to be a good speaker but the best example was her own talk that kept us fascinated for an entire hour. I hope I can utilize her tips during my forthcoming speaking engagements.

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Sunday found my husband and I at Secret Woods Nature Center for our afternoon walk. We’d been here years ago, and it hasn’t much changed. We walked down various trails, enjoying the natural vegetation, the mangrove swamp, and the view of the New River. From here, we went for ice cream. After all, it was ninety degrees out and we were pretty steamed after that walk.

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Today I finished Facials Can Be Fatal and sent it off to my agent. Yay! Another book in the bag. This one will be Bad Hair Day Mystery #13. It’s always such a relief to send a book on its way. I still have to work on things like back cover copy, promo blurbs, blog topics, and more, but the creative work is done. Those will come under the auspices of marketing.

Here’s a reminder to sign up for my newsletter to hear all my book news, contests, and more: http://nancyjcohen.com/contact-nancy/newsletter/

And speaking of marketing, tomorrow I’m launching the reissue of Murder by Manicure. So reserve the date for my online launch party: March 24, from 2-4pm EDT https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty Guest Authors & Giveaways!

So what’s your favorite nature park to visit?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, Florida Musings, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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