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Archive for the ‘Kaye Eliot Mysteries’ Category

clues in a mystery

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I am still revising my novel, the third in my Kate Eliot Mystery series: Land Between the Furrows.

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A mystery places additional demands on both writer and reader. It is the writer’s job to present the mystery, include clues to solve the mystery and then, work with the reader — ta da! — to solve the mystery. It is the reader’s job to accept the challenge of solving the mystery, look for clues, put them together and work with the writer to solve the mystery. The result is a story and plot where the writer and reader collaborate.

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Mine is a cozy mystery. In this book, there is something to find. At first it is not clear what the something is, but gradually its characteristics are revealed and the location (where the object is hidden) is revealed. The mystery uses a device, a stack of post cards and the messages on them, to present the clues.

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Most of the information is sorted through the gradual telling of the story and by the end of the first draft, I have a rough idea of the way clues will be distributed through the book. But, as for all writing, adjustment and revision is usually needed.

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To do this, I use two tools. One is my Table of Chapters and Scenes. The other is my List of Clues.

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So take a simple mystery. I have hidden an object in this room. There are really two sets of clues 1. What is the object? and 2. Where is it hidden? In a simple, straightforward mystery, the clues should be presented in a logical way and information should be progressive.

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Library

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So, here is the room.

List of Clues

What is the item? the clues are:

  • it’s cold
  • it tastes delicious
  • it’s purple
  • it’s on a stick

Where in the room is the item hidden? the clues are:

  • in the library
  • on a library shelf
  • in a hollow book
  • name of the book: “Warm Day”

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I use the Table of Chapters to make sure the clues are distributed completely and in order. These Table is not complete (there are probably ten chapters in this simple book), but this will give you the idea.

chart

Of course there can be complexities: clues within clues; red herrings; dead ends; twists and turns.

By the time the book is near the end, I want to make sure all the clues have been given.

And Kaye and her kids get the Popsicle.

popsicle

All my best,

staying safe,

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

June 22, 2020 at 7:01 am

dates, days and seasons

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After the first draft is complete, after I’ve done a little work on continuity, I take another step in ordering the manuscript. I assign dates to each chapter and scene of the book. In the kind of mystery story I write, it is useful to the reader to know the date as the story progresses.

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This is important for several reasons:

  1. I have children in my Kaye Eliot mysteries and I want to be certain that student Katie is actually home (and not in school) for her scenes
  1. my characters often interact with government professionals. They don’t usually work on weekends.
  1. my book is set in Nova Scotia where the seasons change; knowing the date gives me information on the likely weather
  2. my protagonist, Kaye Eliot, is a botanist, so from her point of view, the vegetation is an important part of her descriptions of setting. To help with this, I keep a setting journal, so I know that apple blossoms are out around May 30, lilacs are in bloom in mid-June and lupins line the roads from mid-June to early July.
  3. I often put the phases of the moon in night scenes. Knowing the date lets me assign the correct phase of the moon to my settings. Have you ever read a book where the full moon shines all month long?
  4. Knowing the date lets me weave long weekends and holidays into my story.

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My book is set in 1996. A quick Google search will find me a calendar for that year. Believe it or not, most phone books once included a calendar for every possible year. No longer necessary.

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As I said before, my Table of Chapters is a useful tool for keeping track of dates, days and seasons. I can refer to it to get an instant idea of how much time has passed and where I have “time” to insert a new scene or chapter.

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All my best.

Staying home.

Working hard.

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Jane

Written by jane tims

June 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

continuity errors

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As I do revisions of my new manuscript, I find continuity errors in the First Draft. A perfect example cropped up today.

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The story revolves around the clues contained in a shoe box of post cards. About a quarter of the way through the book, someone steals the post cards. In the next chapter, Kaye and her friend Clara make a list of the post cards and a summary of the clues. Hard to do if they don’t have the cards with them! This kind of continuity error is easy to find and correct. Switching the chapters and correcting any new continuity errors is relatively easy.

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post cards

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Fixing continuity errors begins with identification.

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My main tools in this process are the “find” feature of my word processing software and a “table of chapters” that tracks the characteristics of each chapter. The table includes chapter-specific information on scenes, days/dates, setting, characters, Point of View, symbols and so on. This table is a lot of work, but it helps me over and over again during the review process.

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Sample Table

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In my search for continuity errors, I consider:

1. days and dates: I begin every chapter and scene with a day and date. This helps the reader to understand passage of time and helps me with time-related continuity errors. For example, Katie is in Grade 10 at school. On Tuesdays, she can’t be driving around with her mom looking for clues. The table lets me check on these various characteristics of the story and the time/order when events occur.

2. symbols used in the story: mentioned once in a story, a firepit is just a firepit. Mentioned twice, it begins to resonate; it refers to earlier mentions and takes on metaphorical meaning. Mentioned three times, it is all metaphor, a reminder of family, warm memories of a cold night and gathering. When these symbols are identified in the table of chapters, I can forward search on each symbol and read the context. The progression of meaning should be steady and discernible. Ideas out of order can be identified and their order fixed.

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3. character development: sometimes continuity errors are about an out-of-order character arc. When Clara’s home suffers a break-in, she is fearful and unwilling to trust strangers. When she meets Daniel, she learns to trust again, but the progression of this change must be logical and gradual.

4. gradual changes to setting: sometimes significant changes to setting create continuity errors. For example, in my book, an old road is bulldozed. The first time it is used it is muddy, almost impassible. When cars use the road later in the story, I have to explain the change with a spell of dry weather.

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Continuity errors can creep into a story in so many small ways. Character names, hair colour, vehicle make and model, even community names … everything needs to be checked. In the revision stage, it is important to review the story with intent and focus: continuity errors are most easily identified when the writer’s brain is attentive, alert. Drowsy-minded reviews are for finding and removing adverbs!

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All this effort is needed. Readers can be ripped from the world created by a book if the heroine with curly red hair suddenly has hair that is wispy and blond. Readers can be unforgiving.

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'Odymn and Vicki talk' (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC) (2)

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Have you ever found an unforgettable continuity error in a book?

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All my best.

Stay home, stay safe.

Jane

choosing a title

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The title of a book can be chosen in a great hurry, the product of the first thing that writes itself on the back wall of the author’s brain. Or, it can emerge after hours, even days, of consideration.

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The title is an important part of a book. It is often the first impression a reader has of the story. It has the responsibility of telling the story in a few words without being a spoiler. It must inform and in the same moment ask a question. It can not confuse the reader … it must not promise a mystery by one author and deliver a book about the life cycle of bees by another.

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I am working on the third book in my Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. I first conceived of the book in 1989. The working title flashed before my eyes … No Stone Unturned. Over 30 years later, I have a first draft. Time to move from a working title to the final title.

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blue stone (Jane Tims) (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)

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So, what is wrong with No Stone Unturned? First, it is a cliche. Second, I searched on Amazon books and found eleven other books with the same title.

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So, to come up with an alternative title, I considered the following:

  1. other titles in the series. Other titles in the Kaye Eliot Mysteries are How Her Garden Grew and Something the Sundial Said. These are longish titles and both ask a question. Both start with a pronoun and include a noun and a verb. To continue this pattern, I considered a title like Where the Stone Lies.
  2. what the story is about. This book is about various efforts to find a stone and return it to its home. Finding the Stone. Searching for the Stone. Setting the Stone Free. Hmmmm.
  3. words and ideas that repeat or resonate in the story. Words in this book with symbolic meaning include stone, stone house, standing stone, mill stone, furrow, land, repatriation, betrothal, demographics, house plans, etc. Some of these words can go out right away. Repatriation of the Stone. No.
  4. the book’s genre. I had a look at the book titles of other writers in the mystery genre. The word ‘mystery’ is usually on the cover … I have A Kaye Eliot Mystery on every cover. In this genre I see titles like Cold Earth and Dark Water (Anne Cleary), Candle for a Corpse and Flowers for His Funeral (Ann Granger), and Death in a Darkening Mist and A Killing in King’s Cove. (Iona Whishaw). So perhaps I should choose something like Seeking the Stone or Death by Stone or just The Stone House.

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Perhaps I am drowning in stones, because my choice for a book title at this point is The Land Between the Furrows. It is longish like my other titles. It is a little unfamiliar, to entice a reader. It asks the question “What happens on the land between the furrows,” or “What is the land between the furrows?” The worst thing about the title, it suggests an agricultural theme which is not quite true.

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img_1246

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If you are considering the ideal title for your own book, have a look at https://thejohnfox.com/2016/07/how-to-create-good-book-titles/ for a step by step approach to finding a great title.

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All my best.

Stay home as much as possible

and stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

first draft

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This past weekend, I finished the first draft of the third novel in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. This is my favorite part of the long process of working on a book.

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I plan my novel to an extent. From the beginning, I knew the basic story: Kaye Eliot finds a packet of old postcards and is set on a search for a valuable stone. The idea for the story was sparked way back in 1989 when I first saw an abandoned stone house during field work in Nova Scotia. I also had most of my characters to work with: Kaye and her husband and two kids. And Daniel Cutter, a stonemason, a character introduced in Book Two of the series. To read Book Two (Something the Sundial Said), click here.

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As I write, I let the characters and story take me where they want to go. Sometimes this takes me in unusual directions. Unless an idea is ridiculous, I usually run with it.

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The props I encounter in the story have their own push and pull. The stone house, the postcards, a stone chimney, a set of architectural plans. When these objects are repeated in the story, they become symbols of ideas in the book.

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stone house Upper Canada Village

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The next stage in writing is the revision. This means reading the book, cover to cover, over and over. I will fix the misspellings and grammar, I add some description. I polish the dialogue. I adjust the story points. I fix the names of villages and bridges and social groups in the story. I do some research. Revision takes the bulk of the time devoted to writing the book, probably 80%. I do at least ten revision sweeps.

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I love the first revision. Although I wrote the first draft, reading it for the first time, cover to cover, is like discovering a new book.

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stone wall

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Next post, I will talk about choosing a title for the book, not as easy as it may seem.

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All my best.

Please stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

writing the next mystery

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Although I am working to assemble a new book of poetry this week, my mind is straying to my next novel, mostly unwritten. This book will be the third in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. The title, ‘No Stone Unturned.’ It may seem odd to already know the title but I usually start with a title in my head. I also know the general progress of the story.

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'pebbles and stones' paperback (3)

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Kaye Eliot, my main character, is on the track of another mystery, this time the whereabouts of a lost gemstone. She and her kids have found the ruins of an old stone house on their property, Daniel the stonemason is romancing Kaye’s friend Kelly, and a visitor from Ireland is asking a lot of questions about the community.

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This is the point in a new book I most love to be as a writer: filling out the story, imagining the dialogue and building in a few twists and turns.

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The story and its title began, for me, 40 years ago when a colleague and I were doing a study of hardwood growth in the Poplar Grove area of Nova Scotia. At that time there were the remains of an old stone house in the community and my love of story started the wheels turning. The stone house in Poplar Grove has since been restored by a well-known photographer and has been in the news. To read about the real stone house, check here: https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/news/provincial/the-mystery-of-the-hants-stone-house-255258/

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If you haven’t read any of the Kaye Eliot Mysteries, there is still time to catch up!

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How Her Garden Grew takes place on the north shore of Nova Scotia, and explores the mystery of a sea captain who once lived in Kaye’s old home place, keeping a garden and a lost collection of seashells. Kaye and her kids try to solve the mystery, thwarted at every turn by nosy neighbours and a local gang of thieves.

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07RTMN6WD

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sss cover image corner

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Something the Sundial Said takes place on Nova Scotia’s west coast. When Kaye’s family buys an old estate, they also gain a mystery. They find an old diary describing a century-old murder beside a missing sundial. When Kaye and her kids try to solve the mystery they encounter a local genealogist who will do anything to protect her great-uncle’s good name.

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B085QQ3RGF

I’ll keep you up to date on the progress I make writing the new story!

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

‘Something the Sundial Said’ — a new cozy mystery

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Now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon – the next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series: ‘Something the Sundial Said.‘ This book follows the adventures of Kaye and her family after they buy a new house in rural Nova Scotia.

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sundial and lupins paperback

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In 1995, Kaye and her young family attend a country auction, never dreaming the stone sundial in the garden is the site of a century-old murder. They end up buying the house and property but someone else buys the sundial. Then Kaye finds a diary written in 1880, chronicling the days leading up to the murder.

When Kaye reads the diary, she decides to search for the sundial and return it to the property. And she follows clues in the diary to discover who shot Rodney in the sundial garden.

At every corner, she is outmaneuvered by a local genealogist who is anxious to obtain the diary and keep information damaging to her family hidden. The woman will go to ridiculous lengths to obtain the diary, even stalking Katie, Kaye’s teenaged daughter. As Kaye discovers someone is entering her house at night to find the diary, she wonders who she can trust.

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If you love cozy mysteries, this book is for you!

To get your copy of the book, click here.

For people in the Fredericton area, I will be launching the book in April.

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cover SSS scaled

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All my best,

Jane

https://www.amazon.com/Something-Sundial-Said-Eliot-Mysteries/dp/1700091344

Written by jane tims

March 10, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Something the Sundial Said

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The new book in my Kaye Eliot Mystery Series will be released in a couple of days.  Something the Sundial Said features the main characters from the first book How Her Garden Grew. The Eliot family, Kaye and Michael, and their children, Katie and Matthew, have moved to a new home and discovered a new mystery to solve.

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The Eliots are a typical family: they have trouble communicating at times; they squabble; they keep secrets from one another. But they also work together when they face danger and they love to go on adventures together in Nova Scotia’s countryside.

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As in the first book, I have included an inanimate ‘character’. In How Her Garden Grew, it was the Grinning Tun, a seashell from tropical seas. In Something the Sundial Said, yes, you guessed it, it’s a sundial.  After the Eliots move into their new home, they discover the sundial in the garden is missing. And they find out the sundial was the setting for a murder a century ago. Of course they are going to search for it and try and bring it back home.

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sundial and lupins paperback

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Sundials are one of the many ways we have used to tell time. Using the shadow cast by the sun, a sundial counts the hours. Kaye and her kids find lots of sundials in their search for the Carmelwood sundial …

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At the end of the path, before it exited to a back yard, were three sundials. Odd to keep, indoors, lawn furniture that craved the sunlight.

The first was made of plastic. The circular, numbered dial perched on a curvy pedestal and the gnomon was a triangle, moulded to look like iron.

“A no-sun sundial.” Even Matt was not impressed.

The next was made of metal, perhaps copper. The flat plate was made to sit on a wall or railing. The designer had tried to appeal to a wide range of tastes and ethnicities. The outer rim was marked in Roman numerals. The inner rim was a decorative chain of Chinese characters. Beside the gnomon was a moveable dial showing the sun. In the small remaining space were words. “Others may tell of storms and showers. I only mark your sunny hours.” Matt was beginning to read and I sounded out the words for him.

The next sundial was made of grey marble with a wrought iron gnomon. It was perched on a slender metal stand with clawed bird’s feet. The caption on this one read “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”

I looked at the three sundials. Our only clues to the Carmelwood sundial were the brief glimpse we’d had and the small grey blur in the oil painting, but I was certain none of the three was our sundial.

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I hope you enjoy Something the Sundial Said. Look for it here early in March.

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cover SSS scaled

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

February 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

coming in March: next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series

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The next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series will be released at the end of March. Something the Sundial Said continues the adventures of Kaye and her family, first seen in How Her Garden Grew. To catch up, get a copy of How Her Garden Grew (click here).

Something the Sundial Said:

“In 1995, Kaye and her young family attend a country auction, never dreaming the stone sundial in the garden is the site of a century-old murder. They end up buying the house and property but someone else buys the sundial. Then Kaye finds a diary written in 1880, chronicling the days leading up to the murder.

When Kaye reads the diary, she decides to search for the sundial and return it to the property. And she follows clues in the diary to discover who shot Rodney in the sundial garden.

At every corner, she is outmaneuvered by a local genealogist who is anxious to obtain the diary and keep information damaging to her family hidden. The woman will go to ridiculous lengths to obtain the diary, even stalking Katie, Kaye’s teenaged daughter. As Kaye discovers someone is entering her house at night to find the diary, she wonders who she can trust.”

Here is the cover art for Something the Sundial Said:

sss cover image

Cover art for How Her Garden Grew:

jdb1_1280

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

February 20, 2020 at 12:51 pm

a reading and signing of my new book ‘How Her Garden Grew’

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Have you ever seen a Grinning Tun? He is the villain of my new mystery story How Her Garden Grew.

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grinning tun.jpg

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I will be reading and signing books at our Authors Coffee House on Thursday, May 30 at 7 PM at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Nasonworth (1224, Highway 101). A portion of book sales will be donated to the Fredericton Hospice. There will be refreshments!

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Jane Tims poster

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How Her Garden Grew is available in e-book and paperback formats here and will soon be available at Westminster Books in Fredericton.

Hope to see you at the Authors Coffee House!

Jane

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