nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘mystery

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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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

Pareidolia

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pareidolia: the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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When you look at marble, or at clouds in the sky, or bubbles in a glass of milk, do you see faces? Can you see The Man in the Moon? Pareidolia refers to the seeing of human faces or other images where they don’t exist. Pareidolia is a normal human tendency.

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I often see images in the marble patterns of our flooring. It can be quite entertaining. Mostly, I see animals. I think it is the biologist in me!

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Perhaps aliens also have pareidolia. In my upcoming book Meniscus: The Knife, I devote a chapter to this phenomenon. On planet Meniscus, there is a dirth of paper. One of my early characters, Ning, made paper from plant fibres for her girlfriend Kathryn, an artist. By Meniscus: The Knife, Book 8 in the series, (spoiler alert) only three sheets of Ning’s paper remain. Don-est, the alien child, wants to draw, so Kathryn shows her how to draw on the marble walls of the dwellings in the Village.

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Vicki sets her laundry

on the marble floor.

Tries to see

what Don’est is doing.

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As her eyes adjust

to smoky light,

she sees markings on the walls.

Drawings of bug-eyed evernells

and fuzzy elginards.

A slear-snake

with myriad eyes.

A cardoth moon,

slim sickle

of glowing white

in marble green.

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Don’est feels eyes on her.

Swivels her neck.

“What do you think

of my drawings?”

she says.

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“What are you doing?”

says Vicki.

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“I asked Kathryn for paper

but she has only a sheet or two

of the paper Ning made.

“So she showed me

an idea she had.

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“The marble walls,

you see,

have hidden secrets.

Lines and shadows

look like evernells

and Humans and slear-snakes

and grammid trees.”

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Vicki looks

at faint green lines on the walls.

Sees an old man in the pattern.

A thready waterfall.

A leaf-bare tree,

branches reaching for sky.

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“But what are you using to draw?”

she says.

Eyebrow pencil.

Kathryn and Ning

found it on a transport

long ago.”

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All my best,

staying at home,

drawing on the floors and walls,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 5, 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

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

Six requirements for an At-Home-Writing-Retreat

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I planned to attend a writers’ retreat this week, in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. In the end, it was cancelled – too few participants. My arthritis is having a flare-up, so perhaps it is just as well I am at home. But I refuse to miss my creative writing time. So, I will do what I have done before. I will have an at-home-writing-retreat.

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I have done this twice before, so I know what works for me.

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For this retreat I need:

1. A room in my house where I don’t usually work, with a desk and a place to relax. My guest room is clean and quiet, ready for a session each day. Actually, quiet is not necessary … years of working in a big office with lots of activity and other people have made me immune to ‘noise.’

DSCN0923 (3).JPG

 

2. Six days with no appointments or outside obligations. Since I had set aside six days for the Saint Andrews Retreat, my calendar is cooperating. I will also keep my emailing and social media time to a minimum.

3. Six days with few domestic obligations. I already have reduced expectations when it comes to domesticity! To help with the retreat I have planned easy meals and each day I will do one thing to help us keep ahead of the mess … for example, today I filled and ran the dishwasher.

4. A cooperative husband. No problem, he is always supportive!

5. Goals for the week. I am in the middle of revisions for my next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series: ‘Something the Sundial Said.’ I also want to work on the map I include in all my mystery novels. By the end of the week, I want to be able to send for the Proof of the book, complete with map. I also want to create three blog posts, including two new poems.

6. Physical exercise. I do stretches and bike on my stationary cycle every day anyway. This week, I’ll spent some deliberate time walking outside, taking photos and feeding my need for nature, the basis of my creativity.

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Today is the first day of my retreat. I took a walk in the rain and some photos for Wednesday’s blog. I did 70 pages of revisions (17,000 words); this sounds like a lot but this is the final revision before the Proof (will get editing and a beta-read). This afternoon I wrote the draft of a poem and started the map for ‘Something the Sundial Said’ (I use GIMP to draw my maps). The retreat is underway!

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Here is the first draft of the map for my book. The book is set in a fictional community in Nova Scotia.

Something sundial said

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All my best,

Jane

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

New mystery novel – How Her Garden Grew

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Merry, Merry

Quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

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Announcement: My new mystery novel ‘How Her Garden Grew‘ is now available on Amazon in paperback. The Kindle version will be available in a few days.

How Her Garden Grew’ is the first in my series of Kaye Eliot mysteries. Kaye is a busy mother with a business to run, two active children and an accountant husband who can’t seem to get free of tax time! The books will take us back to the 1990’s, to a time before cell phones and computers were a key ingredient of family life.

‘How Her Garden Grew’ is a novel about coping with stress, the strength of family, the problems of community, a century-old garden and a strange character called the Grinning Tun.

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jdb1_1280

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In the 1990s, Kaye Eliot comes to Acadia Creek to spend a quiet summer with her two children. But instead of passing stress-free days of swimming and hiking, she finds herself embedded in mystery after mystery. A missing vagrant and a gang of thieves have the community worried. Neighbours seem determined to occupy all of Kaye’s time and energy in restoration of an old flower garden. To add to the mayhem, Kaye and her kids have stumbled on a century-old legend of a treasure buried on the property, a packet of forgotten letters from a woman named Maria Merriweather and an old map of the garden. And they dig up a sinister sea shell. A sea shell who looks like a grinning skull and will not stay where he is put. Can Kaye recover her calm or will she be the victim of neighbors, vagrants, thieves and a shell called the Grinning Tun? Restoring Maria’s garden seems a great idea, until Kaye discovers how Maria’s garden grew.

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So what or who is the Grinning Tun? The Grinning Tun is a sea shell, plucked from the sands of a faraway tropical shore. But this is a sea shell with a difference. It will not stay put! Shove it in the warming oven and, next morning, it sits on top of the stove. Bury it in the ground and it is found in the root cellar. And it grins. It thinks of the possibilities. And it links a mystery in the 1990’s with one in the 1870’s.

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To get your copy of ‘How Her Garden Grew’, go to Amazon here. If you are in the Fredericton area, I will be reading from the book and signing copies at the Authors Coffee House in Nasonworth later in May (more details soon)!

Hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

April 27, 2019 at 7:13 pm

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