What’s Up Wednesday

Wow, has it really been a week since my last blog post? Clearly I’ve had other things to do–particularly revisions. But more about that in a minute. Today’s Wednesday, and as usual, it’s time for the weekly What’s Up Wednesday catch-up, hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. What have I been up to?

What I’m Reading

I’m still working through A GAME OF THRONES by George R. R. Martin. As I mentioned last week, it’s a long book, and it takes some time introducing the world and the characters. But given it’s a multi-volume series–epic fantasy, I think you’d call it–that’s okay. You might be concerned that it takes a long time to get to the action, but it really doesn’t. It may take a while before you get to the heart of the plot, but Martin leads you there in a way that’s engaging, and with plenty of action. However, given the large cast of characters, I found it helpful that there are lists of the various houses and who belongs where at the end of the book. There are maps at the beginning too for those who like maps.

What I’m Writing

*FANFARE*: I have finished my first round of edits, and I am working my way through my final read-through. I anticipate being done with this read-through by the end of the week, at which point the novel will go to my first reader: my wife. She’ll read it, comment on what works and what doesn’t, and try to spot any inconsistencies or things that would pull the casual reader out of the story. Most importantly, though, she will give me her honest opinion as to whether the novel is worth taking to the beta reader stage. Of all people, she’s the one who cares most about my reputation (probably even more than me!). If she thinks this book is not worthy of me, she’ll tell me, and I value that opinion. If, however, she thinks it’s worth pursuing, then I’ll consider any changes she suggests, make any necessary revisions, and I’ll send it out to beta readers.

I have yet to formally and finally select the beta readers for this project. Some of you have expressed an interest in the past, but this has been informally in the comments of the blog. If you are serious about volunteering to beta read my novel, please email me. If you want to know what it’s about, check out the query I wrote for it HERE. I’d like readers who read in this genre (or thereabouts), and also those who don’t read this genre, but who are intrigued anyway. Thank you!

What Inspires Me Right Now

The thought that this novel is nearly ready to leave my hands, and I can start working on other projects. It’s been a long time since I’ve started something new (aside from flash fiction).

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Nothing strange or startling really, this week. And that’s okay. Having not much else to do has helped me make good progress with revisions.

How’s your week been? If you want to participate in What’s Up Wednesday, check out Jaime’s blog for details.

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What’s Up Wednesday

It’s the first What’s Up Wednesday of 2014! I hope everyone’s keeping warm–especially those in North America who have been through a particularly chilly spell. Even here in Eastern North Carolina, we’ve had sub-freezing temperatures for the last few days. Highs in the 20s (F) may seem balmy to those of you to our north, but when you’re not used to it, it’s not pleasant. Worst of all: no snow! I think we could put up with the cold if it could at least be pretty. Again, I’m sure my friends to the north would be happy to ship their snow our way, so I’m not complaining… well, not too much, anyway. So, what have I been up to?

What I’m Reading

I completed my annual read of Stephen King’s ON WRITING, and was once again inspired and encouraged. It’s a good sign when you can read a book multiple times and never grow tired of it. I’m now working my way through A GAME OF THRONES by George R. R. Martin. I say “working my way through” as if it’s hard work, but really it’s not. To be honest, I prepared myself for a lot of effort because it’s supposed to be “high fantasy” and it’s over 700 pages long. I expected lots of complex world-building, and characters with incomprehensible names (fully accented just to look foreign… except if you live in Hungary or Poland). As it turns out, I’ve been keeping up with the story quite well. Each chapter seems to take the third-person-limited perspective of one of the main characters, which helps develop familiarity with them. I’m sure they’ll all be dead by the end of the book, but so far so good.

What I’m Writing

I’m trying to pick up the pace on revisions to the WIP. Hopefully my first pass revisions will be finished soon, and I can do my final pass before I start looking for beta readers. If you’ve been following my progress on What’s Up Wednesday, you’ll know I’ve vacillated between “I love this story” and “I’m not sure this is worthy of beta readers.” Right now, I’m liking it again. Hopefully it’ll be wonderful by the time I’m through with it.

What Inspires Me Right Now

ON WRITING was a pretty good kick up the bee-hind. Also I posted a flash fiction entry to the YA Buccaneers “Walk the Plank” challenge just before Christmas that I quite liked. It was fun to write, and that’s always encouraging.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This side of Christmas, not really a lot else. I’m trying to be more focused this year, spending more time on things that matter, and trying not to get sucked into things that don’t. Hopefully this will translate into doing more writing. We’ll see.

How are things with you? Share in the comments, or if you’d prefer, join in the What’s Up Wednesday fun. You can find details on how to participate on Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk‘s blogs.

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Walk the Plank: 2013 Rewind

Time for another YA Buccaneers “Walk the Plank” flash fiction challenge. I’ve done a few of these already, so if you follow the blog, you know the score. The same basic rules apply:

  • Write a piece of flash fiction in 200 words or fewer
  • Make it based on the theme of the month (“2012 Rewind”)

You earn points toward the giveaway for entering, and extra points if you manage to:

  • Use the opening words, “‘Twas the night before…”
  • Use the closing words, “It was the ___ night of all.”
  • Use exactly 200 words–no more, no less.

In the past, I’ve managed to achieve all of these. This time, I’m foregoing points for the closing line, because, frankly, I like the way mine ends. Yes, it costs me some points in the giveaway, but for this month, my writerly artistic sensibilities win over extra opportunities to win a book. Perhaps you disagree and can think of a better ending that uses the words “It was the ____ night of all”–feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments.

Here it is:

The Card

‘Twas the night before Christmas, 2012. I only had ten minutes with the time modulator, but I couldn’t resist. From the shadows of the hallway, I looked in on the den where we sat watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This was the last time I was in Karen’s house. In less than 24 hours, she would disown me. And all because of a card.

The card.

I tiptoed upstairs to the dining room table. There it was, unopened, on top of the Michael Bublé CD I’d bought her. Just seeing the card made my stomach knot. I couldn’t simply write “Merry Christmas.” No—I had to tell her how she was so much more than a friend to me. Big mistake.

“I feel sorry for her, that’s all.” It was her father’s voice coming from their room. My hands paused from making the first tear. “She’ll never know what it’s like to have a guy tell her she’s beautiful. Nothing we can do, though… that’s genetics.”

I felt a surge of anger. But my time was up. I put the card back on top of the CD.

She may hate me for loving her.

But at least I loved her.

Interested in having a go at some flash fiction? There’s still time to enter the “Walk the Plank” challenge. Check out the YA Buccaneers blog for details.

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What’s Up Wednesday

I’ve been on a bit of a blog break for the last week, so I’m taking this opportunity to catch you up on what’s been going on, courtesy of Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk‘s What’s Up Wednesday meme.

What I’m Reading

I’m currently reading THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray, and I can see why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The first part is a little slow as she introduces us to the characters and sets the atmosphere. Personally, I’m enjoying it, and that’s largely due to the fact that it’s well written. She’s avoiding a lot of info-dump but giving a good sense of place and character. And despite the relatively slow pace, there’s sufficient action in the opening chapters to keep the reader interested. I have high hopes this will be one of the better books I’ve read this year.

What I’m Writing

I’m still plugging away at the WIP revisions, and wavering between “this is good,” and “this is not good enough.” But what I think of it isn’t important right now. First, I need to finish revisions. Then I’ll worry about whether it’s worth taking to the beta reader stage. In the meantime, the YA Buccaneers have posted their latest Walk the Plank flash fiction challenge. I’ve had one idea for a story based on the theme and the opening words, but I’m afraid it will take more than 200 words to develop. We’ll see. I have a few weeks to come up with something.

What Inspires Me Right Now

You people! I really needed to take a blog break over the past week, and didn’t have time to visit many blogs for What’s Up Wednesday a few weeks ago. I thought that would mean no-one would visit my blog either (seems fair). But no! You lovely people still stopped by, commented, visited, and so on. Thank you so much. It’s nice to know you all still check in on me even when I’m not around the blogs for a while. That encourages me to keep this blog thing going. I’ll try to do better over the next week or so to stop by your blogs.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This past weekend, my oldest turned 20. She got a lovely swanky new camera, so she’s now the official family photographer. Aside from reading and writing, there’s buying Christmas gifts, and the various activities around that. I’m also trying not to get sucked into playing Doctor Who: Legacy on my iPad (also available for Android). I warn you–it’s very addictive. And speaking of Doctor Who… only one week until the Christmas Special, and the regeneration, the end of Matt Smith’s era… yes, it’s a huge deal for Whovians. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas would be awesome even without Doctor Who. The Christmas Special is the cherry on the cake, though. If you like cherries–which I do.

What have you been up to this week? Don’t tell me in the comments–blog about it! See Jaime’s blog for details on how to participate. Meanwhile, tell me what’s your favorite (or favourite for my Commonwealth friends) thing to do at Christmas?

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What’s Up Wednesday: Book of the Month for November, 2013 Edition

I missed last week’s WUW so I thought I’d give you all a quick update on life. My Mum’s here from the UK, and will be until Friday, which is why I haven’t been as engaged online as usual (and I’m not normally as engaged as I probably should be–sorry!). Anyway… here’s what’s going on with me.

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Stephen King’s NIGHT SHIFT, a collection of short stories written between 1970 and 1977. The ones I’ve read so far are dark, as you would expect from Mr. King, but what interests me is the way he runs with an idea. Behind each story there’s a “what if…?” What if trucks came alive and started attacking truck stops? What if a mangler came to life and terrorized laundry workers? What if toy soldiers took on a hit man? Some of the ideas may seem a bit wacky, but King gets away with them by the fact he writes so well. Some have a conclusion, some he leaves open ended–with a twist, even. I’m not into the macabre, but it’s a good read anyway.

What I’m Writing

Aside from a couple of Janet Reid contests, not much, and that’s okay. Time with Mum is more important. The writing can wait until next week. But then it has to be full steam ahead to get revisions done and have this manuscript ready for beta readers. I’ve got busy days ahead.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I guess NIGHT SHIFT is inspiring me not be be afraid to grab an idea and run with it, see where it goes. Especially for short stories. That format, like flash fiction, is excellent for experimenting with those odd ideas you don’t know would work as a novel, but you kind-of want to try out anyway.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This year’s Thanksgiving was particularly special because my Mum was here to celebrate with us. She contributed an apple crumble, which was delicious, especially with FirstBorn’s made-from-scratch custard. We also tackled a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, watched some Marx Brothers movies, and have been generally hanging out with the family.

Book of the Month for November, 2013

I haven’t gone through many books this month, but I don’t think my pick of the month is a “default” choice. It really is a great book, and worthy of the accolade. So, my Book of the Month for November is… THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore. The novel consists of two murder-mysteries, one at a gathering of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, and the other at the turn of the century featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. For those who want to know more, I reviewed it on Goodreads. If you enjoy murder-mysteries and/or historical fiction, you’ll love this book.

So, what have you been up to this week? Find out how to join the What’s Up Wednesday fun by visiting Jaime Morrow’s blog. You’ll also find a linky list of all the participants there.

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Clive Staples Lewis: November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis–professor, writer, theologian. Lewis is probably best known for his Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s stories that have been made into radio plays, movies, and have remained in print for sixty years. My brother had a copy of the first in the series, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and though I remember seeing it on the shelf, and was curious about it, I never once throughout my childhood picked it up and read it. I read JENNINGS, and GRIMBLE, and history, and a variety of other things, but I avoided Narnia. Did I think it too “childish”? Did the title put me off? I really don’t know. Maybe, like many things, I just never got around to it.

The first C. S. Lewis I remember reading was not long after I became a Christian when I was 13. My uncle, a Church of Ireland minister, bought me a copy of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. That book made me a fan. It was witty, and thought provoking, and so beautifully written. After that, my mum picked up a copy of MERE CHRISTIANITY from a used book shop. In fact, up until my mid-twenties, I only knew C. S. Lewis the theologian. And while I didn’t agree with him all the time, I couldn’t avoid the way he crafted language, and formed his arguments in such an engaging way. Whether or not I liked what he said, I loved the way he said it.

I discovered Narnia when my wife bought me a set of the books for my birthday. I don’t remember the exact year, but I remember starting on the series and going through a book a day for a week. I was enthralled, and amazed that books for children could appeal to an adult. The way Lewis effortlessly brought his Christian worldview to bear on the stories without being preachy particularly impressed me. Encountering these familiar points of theology was like meeting beloved friends at a fancy dress party. There was joy at the recognition, and marveling at how well they concealed themselves from all but those who knew them. I often credit J. K. Rowling for giving me the kick up the backside to return to fiction writing; but I’m sure during that week, C. S. Lewis planted a seed. Christian theology wasn’t the only friend I encountered in Narnia; I also heard the call of the story-writer I had long left behind.

I have gone back to Narnia many times since, and frequently venture back to Lewis’ other writings. As a theologian, I would call him my Christian brother, though we still have important areas of disagreement that I’m sure will be settled in Eternity. As a writer, I consider him second-to-none. If at some point in my writing career–whatever becomes of that–I manage to attain some measure of his clarity of thought, and beauty of expression, I will consider myself blessed.

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What’s Up Wednesday: Doctor Who Edition

This coming Saturday, Doctor Who, the longest-running sci-fi series, and the only reason for having a television, turns fifty. So there’s a distinctly Whovian turn to this week’s WUW, if you don’t mind. For those who don’t know, What’s Up Wednesday was devised by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk as a way for reader/writer buddies to keep up with each other. Find out how to join in the WUW fun and visit other WUW participants on Jaime’s blog (Erin’s taking a blog break for a while).

What I’m Reading

I finished the Doctor Who book I was reading, and I reviewed it on Goodreads. It was a good story, but the writing left a bit to be desired. I contemplated diving into another Doctor Who book, but in the end I chose NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King. I’ve been saying for a while that I need to write some short stories that I could submit to publications and/or competitions, which is primarily why I picked this as my next read. NIGHT SHIFT is a collection of short stories, written by King between 1970 and 1977. The first, “Jerusalem’s Lot,” appears to be a prequel to ‘SALEM’S LOT. Again, horror’s not my genre of choice, but King is an excellent writer, and I hope to pick up some tips on how to structure a good short story.

What I’m Writing

Again, work on the revisions is slow, but while my Mum’s here, that’s fine. I wrote a piece of flash fiction for the YA Buccaneers’ “Walk the Plank” challenge yesterday that was fun to do. While revisions are slow, it’s good to do things like this that stir the creative juices and remind me that I can still write.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Doctor Who. What particularly inspires me about Doctor Who is how this show that I remember watching as a child on TV in England is still going, and has become such a worldwide phenomenon. The 50th Anniversary Special is being simulcast on television stations in at least 75 countries. It’s being shown in 3D in movie theaters around the world (including this little corner of Eastern North Carolina!). And the Eleventh Doctor graces the cover of this week’s TV Guide magazine here in the States. For all the Radio Times covers the Doctor has appeared on over the years, to land a place on the US’s most prestigious listing guide just shows how far it’s come.

The amazing thing, though, is the fact that all this success is not just due the show itself (though, of course, that is a big factor–it’s an awesome show), but the incredible, loyal fandom the show has. There are people watching today who were sat in front of their TVs that Saturday night in 1963. The people who make the new, rebooted Doctor Who are among some of the biggest fans of the show, and watched it religiously as children. The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, was (and still is) a complete Doctor Who geek, as is the actor who will become the Twelfth Doctor at Christmas, Peter Capaldi. Even the team of sound and video engineers who restore classic Doctor Who stories for DVD release are all long-time fans of the show. There is such a lot of love for this program both inside and outside the television industry, it’s breathtaking. And that’s the power of a great idea, and what can happen when great ideas capture the imagination. You see a similar kind of thing with the Harry Potter fandom, and I don’t doubt in 2047, people will be celebrating 50 years since HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE was released in the UK.

You might be interested in the following list of celebrities who are fans of Doctor Who (pulled from Wikipedia)–some of these names surprised me!:

  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • The Prince of Wales
  • Mark Gatiss
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Stephen Fry
  • David Duchovny
  • Tom Hanks
  • Eric McCormack
  • Simon Pegg
  • Rob Lowe
  • Anthony Stewart Head
  • Steve Martin
  • Scott Bakula
  • Noah Wyle
  • Simpsons creator Matt Groening
  • Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini
  • Firefly creator Joss Whedon
  • Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer
  • Horror writer Stephen King
  • Graphic novelist and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman
  • Star Trek star Patrick Stewart
  • Craig Ferguson of the Late Late show
  • Author Rick Riordan
  • Director Peter Jackson
  • “Star Wars” creator George Lucas
  • Director Steven Spielberg (at least a fan of the classic series)

What Else I’ve Been Up To

This past weekend, SecondBorn turned 18. I am now the father of two adult children. I feel old. We had a fun time celebrating, though. And, of course, this Saturday, we’ll be joining with friends to watch the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. FirstBorn says she’ll make Dalek cupcakes, and wifey’s trying to think of an appropriate supper to fix. We’re all looking forward to that.

If you’re not a fan of Doctor Who, or have heard of it but never watched it, and you feel like you’re missing out on something… well, yes, you are. :)

What’s your week been like?

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Walk the NaNo Plank

For this month’s Walk the Plank flash fiction challenge, the YA Buccaneers are celebrating NaNoWriMo by offering participants the opportunity to either write something original, or share 200 words of their current NaNo project. Since I’m not doing NaNo this year, I have a story to share. Here are the rules:

  • It must be 200 words or fewer
  • It must start with “I walked as quietly as I could into the room …”
  • It must end with “That’s when I realized he knew …”
  • Bonus points for using exactly 200 words

Here’s my response to the challenge:

I walked as quietly as I could into the room. It was after two in the morning, and Zack’s head was slumped back on the pillows that propped him up, his laptop nestled in the bedcovers on his legs. As I slid in beside him, I couldn’t resist. With the same care I used to pry toys from our sleeping daughter’s hands, I took the laptop from his legs and rested it on my own. Only this morning Zack had said how close he was to 50,000 words. He was so excited about his NaNo project, but he refused to tell me what it was about. Here it was in my lap. Temptation called to me, and I fell.

From the opening paragraph I was riveted. It was very good. Even as his devoted wife and number one cheerleader, I was surprised. The characters came alive, especially the jealous friend. The one who killed her best friend by spiking the casserole with peanut oil, just so she could steal her fiancé.

My heart raced; I could feel the cold sweat on my forehead. Propped up on his bedside table was a picture of Laura. That’s when I realized he knew…

Flash fiction is a lot of fun, and if you’re a writer, it really helps hone your craft. If you’re wanting a little diversion from your NaNo project, or perhaps something to kick-start the creative juices, why not Walk the Plank? Details on how to participate are on the YA Buccaneers blog.

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What’s Up Wednesday

This is just a quick WUW post to keep you all informed about life with me–that’s what WUW’s for, after all!

WHAT I’M READING

I’m currently reading LEGACY OF THE DALEKS by John Peel, the next in the BBC Books Eighth Doctor series I’m working through. Given this is Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary month, I thought I ought to read at least one Doctor Who novel. And while I have some gripes with the writing, this is a pretty good story so far. I finished up THE SHERLOCKIAN, and posted a review on Goodreads, so go there to get my thoughts on it. Summary: Five stars–I recommend it. (BTW, in case you missed it, I posted my review of ALLEGIANT on Monday. See HERE.)

WHAT I’M WRITING

Still working on revisions to the WIP. As I explained last week, I don’t have much time for writing at the moment, but I did manage to get some done. I’ll continue to find a few moments here and there, just to keep things moving. After this month, I plan to push hard to get revisions done by the end of the year.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

This past weekend there was another Janet Reid contest, and I got another nod for my work. It wasn’t a win, but it was “Special recognition for entries that weren’t quite stories but had lovely writing.” One could quibble over whether my entry was or wasn’t a story, but that’s not the point. As a writer, to have a respected literary agent compliment your writing is encouraging and inspiring. Once again, the finalists were awesome, which is why I never feel slighted for not being selected as a winner. Fellow writers–if you aren’t participating in these contests, you really should. They are a great way to hone your craft, and challenge your creativity. I usually Tweet when Janet’s running a contest, so if you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll find out about them. Or you can just follow Janet, or follow her blog.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

This past Sunday was ThirdBorn’s fifteenth birthday. He holds the distinction of being the only male child of our six, the only male grandchild, the only male cousin, and the only nephew. That’s quite a lot for his young shoulders, but he bears it well. Quite unlike his father and his siblings, he loves numbers and mathematics. He also enjoys strategy games (e.g., chess), so we bought him the board game “Risk” (yes, board game–i.e., you don’t play it with a console or a computer, but with bits of plastic, and cards, and a board) and played it on Monday. It’s been at least twenty years since I last played, but it was fun. No, I didn’t win. SecondBorn, who also enjoys strategy games, won.

What’s up with you? To participate, see Jaime Morrow’s blog for details.

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What’s Up Wednesday

I debated whether or not I’d do a WUW today, but decided to go ahead, just so you know I’m still here. What’s up with me?:

What I’m Reading

Despite the votes for THE DIVINERS last week, I decided to read THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore. My wife recommended this book to me a while ago, so I decided to go ahead and read it (I’ll get to THE DIVINERS soon–promise!). I haven’t finished THE SHERLOCKIAN yet, but I’ll say this much–it’s good. Very good. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not, but like a good mystery, you’ll probably enjoy it too. The novel consists of two stories running parallel to each other: one involving a murder among a group of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts in 2010, and another that has Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker investigating a murder case in 1900. They are related to each other in at least one sense that I’m aware of at the moment–they may well end up being related more deeply as the story progresses. We’ll see. I’ll post a Goodreads review when I’m finished, but perhaps that’s enough to encourage you to check it out yourself…

By the way, I know I said I’ll post a review of ALLEGIANT soon, and I will. I just haven’t got around to it yet.

What I’m Writing

Not much aside from blog articles at the moment. With my Mum in town for the next month, I’m trying to make the most of spending time with her. I do need to find some time to make progress on the WIP edits, even if it’s just the odd 10 minutes here and there–just to keep up the momentum. That’s my challenge for this week.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I don’t remember the exact context of the comment–something to do with being able to afford things–but my Mum just casually mentioned the extra income I’ll make when I publish a novel. How can you not be inspired when your Mum a) considers becoming a published writer a reasonable goal, and b) believes it’s something you can (and will) achieve? This is not to say no-one else in my family believes I can and will be published–I know my wife shares my Mum’s conviction. But it’s very encouraging to hear these things from those closest to you.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

As you can guess, largely hanging out with Mum–shopping, catching up, lots of family time. I’m also trying (and not always succeeding) to convince Mum that she’s on vacation, which means she doesn’t have to help with the housework!

How’s your week been? Check out Jaime Morrow’s blog to find out how to join in with her What’s Up Wednesday meme.

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