The Illuminator Rising: Cover Reveal!!!

Book 3, The Illuminator Rising, releases online THIS Friday, June 10th!!!

To celebrate, I’m running a blog tour with the help of some amazing authors/creatives. There will be book reviews, interviews, and guest posts, and some even include giveaways of Book 3!

Here’s the full schedule of hosts and events: 

June 8: Release announcement with children’s author Jenn Castro
June 9: Interview and giveaway with craft author Margaret Bloom
June 10: BOOK 3 RELEASE DAY! Party and giveaway right here on my website!
June 11: Guest post: “Traveling Writer” on the blog of fantasy author Angela Wallace
June 12: Guest post: “Five Tips to Jumpstart Your Creativity” on the blog of fantasy author W.R. Gingell
June 13: Book review and release announcement on the blog of fantasy author Rabia Gale
June 14: Guest post: “Writing to Music” on the blog of fantasy author A.R. Silverberry
June 15: Guest post: “Insanity-Free Revision” and giveaway on the blog of fantasy author D.M. Stoddard
June 16: Author-character interview on the blog of fantasy author Intisar Khanani 
June 18: Radio interview with artist and tech guru Caleb Fong 

Follow along to join the fun and (maybe) win a free book!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…

…the cover reveal for The Illuminator Rising!!!

Book 3 ebook cover, Amazon, medium res

Another awesome work by Jenny Zemanek of Seedlings Design Studio! Leave a comment to tell me what you think! The book releases on Amazon June 10th!!!

Book Launch: The First Chill of Autumn, W.R. Gingell

Hey everybody!

I’m not going to lie–one of my favorite things about being an author, especially an independent author, is getting to meet other authors. Unlike much of the world, I’ve found the book community to be a really team-focused, everybody-can-win environment. Which is how I was lucky enough to meet and interview W.R. Gingell, a fellow fantasy author.

Today is launch day for W.R.’s latest novella, “The First Chill of Autumn.” To celebrate, W.R. has graciously stopped by my blog for an interview!

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Welcome, W.R.! So tell us–how did you first get started writing?

Well, I remember that my first story was written in 1st grade, and was something about a family following a sea-turtle into the sea and having an adventure underwater with mermaids, shadowy, dangerous sharks, and underwater volleyball (?!) That wasn’t really the start of it, though. I wrote that because I was told to write a story. I don’t think I wrote it because I wanted to write it. The second was a 10-page saga (IT WAS A SAGA IN MY TINY MIND, OK?) when I was about grade two, and that was written because it was adventurous and featured my then-best-friend Kylie. It involved lions, tigers, bears, and anacondas (on an Australian mountain, no less. My tiny mind had no idea of geography, just which animals were the most ferocious and adventurous). It was, oddly enough, written from 1st person POV, but with the actual heroine being observed from that POV. I think that shows some greatness of mind…or maybe I was always just a bit weird…

That story was closer to being written because I wanted to write it, but I didn’t really begin to write because I wanted to write until I was about ten or eleven. That was after years of reading and having my head stuffed with ideas that just wanted to come out, and when I began to really write, I never looked back. I started with drawings and character-word lists, but found that stopped me really writing; so I gave up on those and concentrated on getting the actual story down. I don’t think any of those earlier projects were ever finished, but I do remember my first finished book (80k-odd words, I think) at fourteen. It was called Those Mad Bradleys. Since then, it’s seen a complete rewrite, and will see another before it is (hopefully) released next year…

Wow! You got started early! So what draws you to fantasy/fairy tales?

I’ve always loved fairy tales. There’s a magical, dangerous feel to them, and all the earlier ones were written with huge spaces for creative freedom in their plainness. It meant that I could take them and shape them and turn them into whatever I wanted to, while still keeping the magic.

What inspired your current series?

I have two current series. One is the Two Monarchies Sequence, which is one book in (I’m working on the second at the moment); and the other is the Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy, which is being finished May 31st! TMS was inspired by fairy tales (Spindle is a sort of a cross between Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel), and SOABS was inspired by Jack Heckel’s Charming Tales, which are light-hearted and rather hilarious. His dragonish POV and a tickling question or two that his books raised in my mind went on to be the story seeds of two of those novellas.

Did anything unexpected happen as you were writing your new book?

No 😦 I’m such a boring person. Though I did get a resurgence of bronchitis, if that helps?

Oh, wait! I rediscovered my love for Owl City and found out that I can write standing up (and dancing), so there’s that…

I think that counts as interesting! So why did you choose self-publishing? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Ah! My creative freedom! My much-larger-cut of the royalties! Seriously, though, I love almost everything about it. I originally chose SP over TP (wait, that doesn’t sound right…) because I loved the immediacy of it, the better pay factor, and the fact that I wouldn’t have to change things I loved because someone else had a different vision for my books. I love being able to choose my own cover artist. I love learning what works and what doesn’t work in advertising. I love the new worlds that have opened up to me, and the new people I’ve met. It gets overwhelming sometimes (especially when I’m sick), but by and large, there isn’t much I’d change about it.

Wow! Especially because you run all aspects of your writing business, you have to be really disciplined. So what gets you into creative mode?

Sometimes it’s music. Sometimes it’s a day-dreaming session. More often, I’m not in the mood, and I have to sit down and write anyway. Sometimes you have to wake up the creative mode before it wants to get out of bed. It’s a moody teenager, but it’s worth making it work for you rather than the other way around.

I love it! What are three books you’d want with you on a desert island?

Oh, so hard! I would definitely have Pride and Prejudice. I would also probably cheat and take my Barchester Chronicles omnibus (thus bringing about six extra books); and I would bring either Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Ruses or The Legendary Inge.

An omnibus is possibly cheating, but since I’d do the same, I’ll overlook it. Which character in your new book do you relate to the most? Why?

That’s also kinda tough. It would be either Aerwn or Dion. Dion for the pure fact that her physical weakness of shaking and throwing up when under pressure or under unpleasant circumstances is something that I struggle with on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I’m used to being forced to do things while feeling awful, just because they need to be done and I’m the one who has to do them. I feel for Dion because she has to do much bigger things than I need to do, while feeling worse.

Aerwn, I relate to because she’s the one looking on. She wants to be the one to do things and she’s impatient, because she knows she’s not the one who has to do the things. She has to sit back and watch, because she’s not the special one. So she has to do what she can in the background. She has to fight and struggle and work, and she’ll never be the hero. But she keeps working anyway, because what she’s doing also needs to be done.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by, W.R.! It’s great to hear about your creative process, and congratulations on your new book launch! 

Here’s where you can find a copy of “The First Chill of Autumn” online. It’s only 99 cents at the moment, so check it out!

Amazon
B & N 
iBooks  
Kobo
Smashwords 

To follow W.R., check out her blog and sign up for her e-mail newsletter! 

Here’s her author bio:

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She loves to rewrite fairytales with a twist or two–and a murder or three–and original fantasy where dragons, enchantresses, and other magical creatures abound. Occasionally she will also dip her toes into the waters of SciFi.

W.R. spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.

And a description of “The First Chill of Autumn”:

Llassar is an occupied country– but nobody seems to know it.

Fae began to filter slowly into the land shortly after the birth of the crown princess, Dion ferch Alawn, supposedly fleeing a dark threat in Faery known as the Guardians. But that was fifteen years ago, and now there isn’t a town in Llassar that isn’t populated by or under the control of the fae.

Smaller, weaker, and less talented at magic, Llassarians are quickly finding out that there’s no fighting the invasion that crept in so quietly and politely. Even the castle isn’t free of fae: those closest to the king and queen are faery advisors.

When Dion ferch Alawn returns from a carefully sanitised tour of Outer Llassar, the most exciting thing she expects from the near future is the present her twin sister Aerwn promised for their seventeenth birthday.

Then her carriage breaks down, and Dion gets a taste of what the real Llassar has become: desperate, enslaved, and ripe for rebellion. Getting home safely is just the first problem she faces: the real struggle begins when Dion returns to the castle. Her new knowledge is inconvenient and unwelcome– to declare it, treason.

 

Coming soon: Book 3, The Illuminator Rising!

Coming June 10, 2016:

Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend: THE ILLUMINATOR RISING!!!

I’m so excited to see this book go live in just 3 1/2 weeks! The second-to-last book in the series, The Illuminator Rising is my longest and most complex book yet. Thanks to my awesome team of test readers, I hacked through a jungle of revisions with a literary machete, all to bring you a story that’s loaded with suspense and excitement. At least, that’s what I hope you think when you read it 🙂

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Hacking through a jungle of revisions.

Here’s a synopsis of Book 3: 

Driven from their home island of Rhynlyr, Ellie and her friends must solve a riddle to find the survivors of the Vestigia Roi. But instead of a safe haven, they discover a hopeless band of refugees paralyzed by fear. Strengthened by new allies and new gifts, the crew of the Legend faces dangers like never before. Can they escape being shot out of the sky, falling over the Edge of the world, or being engulfed by urken armies long enough to rally the Vestigia Roi? And can they rekindle a fire from the ashes of the One Kingdom before Draaken takes over the world?

The Illuminator Rising already received a 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite:

“…a thrilling read…plenty of action…[Sayre] has a flair for being able to capture the interest of a reader and hold onto it.”

Or, in the words of award-winning author Angela Wallace:

“Painted in dazzling and exciting settings that inspire imagination, it is not just the illuminator coming into her own and rising, but the entire epic saga.”

Woohoo! I hope you’re as excited as I am to see this book published! When it releases, please help it take wing by retweeting, reblogging, Facebook sharing, and telling your friends (and of course, reading the book and writing a review on Amazon)!

I’ll be running a blog tour during the first week and a half of the book’s life, so follow along for some fun reviews, interviews, guest posts, and even giveaways! If you’re local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I even have an in-person book tour in the works–sign up for my e-mail newsletter or watch my News and Events page for dates and locations!

While you wait to read the actual book, here’s a mischievous little teaser I made on Wordle, containing the 150 most-used words from The Illuminator Rising. Mwahahaha 🙂

 

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Book 2 cover reveal!!

Happy Wednesday! I have something exciting to show you: the beautiful, second-edition cover for Book 2, The Illuminator’s Test! 

Book 2 ebook cover, Amazon, medium

Ta-da! Isn’t it gorgeous? Another masterwork of Jenny Zemanek at Seedlings Design Studio. I love the way this cover blends together beauty and danger: two elements that intertwine throughout this story.

The new edition features a new map as well as classroom-ready discussion questions and project ideas. It will replace the first edition on Amazon early next week, so if you want an illustrated, first-edition copy for your collection, make sure you grab one right away!

In other news, last week was Children’s Book Week at Village House of Books, and I was one of several guest authors at their Saturday party. I got to read a section of The Illuminator’s Gift to some adorable kids, sit in the Queen Chair (yes, that’s a thing!), sign a few copies, and even get my picture taken with Curious George!

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I also scored a first-edition, signed copy of Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Raymie Nightingalein its special Independent Bookstore Edition! Kate DiCamillo is one of my all-time favorite authors and a personal hero of mine. Coming home to snuggle up with a new book of hers is one of the best feelings I can imagine 🙂 (As of Saturday, Village House of Books still had a few copies left, so call them if you’re looking for one!)

Stay tuned for more news about Book 3, The Illuminator Rising, coming June 2016!!!

Good Books & Good Friends: The Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair

Woohoo! The 2nd edition of The Illuminator’s Gift is now live on Amazon! The old cover may still appear on the Amazon preview, but if you order the paperback or e-book now, you’ll get the beautiful 2nd-edition cover as well as all the new features inside, including a new map and classroom-ready discussion questions and project ideas. Yay!

In other news, last Saturday I had a booth at the Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair in Sunnyvale, CA. In one action-packed day, lots of things happened.

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First of all, my mom and I set up this snazzy booth in less than 45 minutes! Yay us!

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My wonderful teacher friends Jordan and Annie stopped by to hang out and see what I really do in my secret author life. Thanks for coming, guys!

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I also got to meet this amazing young lady. She couldn’t wait for her class to finish reading The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test, so she got her own copies (promising, of course, not to spoil the endings for her class). After finishing the books, she drew this incredible illumination!

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Isn’t she talented? She gave me the drawing, which is now proudly displayed in my office.

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Speaking of talented artists, my mom did hand painting with designs from The Voyages of the Legend. All day long, kids begged her for vines of roses, compasses, and shiny double-colored lightning bolts. She’s the best.
And because I can’t ever leave a book event without buying a book, I met Aaron Safronoff and his team at Neoglyphic Entertainment and bought Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall. It’s a fascinating young adult novel with both black-and-white illustrations and full-spread, full-color illustrations–almost like a hybrid novel/graphic novel. Neoglyphic has spun it off into a video game as well. I’m always really interested in cross-genre projects, so it piqued my interest. Technically the book doesn’t release until April 27th, so I got an early AND signed copy! Next week you can find it on Amazon

So many lovely people and lovely books, all in one short day. And now, because I have used up all my introvert superpowers for the moment, I shall be in hiding for the next few days…getting Book 3 ready for you to read, of course!

Cover reveal!!

Dun dun DUN!

To celebrate the release of Book 3, coming June 2016, Books 1 and 2 are getting a makeover!

These new editions include beautiful new covers, a new map, and discussion questions and project ideas perfect for classrooms, homeschooling, and book clubs.

So without further ado, I reveal the new cover for The Illuminator’s Gift!!!

Final ebook cover, BN, smallest

Eee! This cover totally takes my breath away. It’s the work of the immensely talented Jenny Zemanek at Seedlings Design Studio. She worked with me long and hard, bringing to life the flying ship Legend and the magical feel of this book series. I couldn’t be more dazzled.

And while we’re looking at pretty things, here is the new map of Aletheia, designed by Brian Garabrant of Brian Garabrant Illustration. I love the way he made my flying islands fly!

Map 1 White

These fabulous new editions (print and e-book) will be available on Amazon.com starting next Monday, April 18th (assuming I don’t get eaten by the Technical Difficulties Monster). They will also appear in bookstores shortly thereafter. You can get a signed copy at one of my upcoming events, including Children’s Book Week at Village House of Books or the Bay Area Book Festival in June. (If you’re looking to snag a first-edition copy, the Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair this Saturday, April 16, is your last chance!)

I hope you love the new look as much as I do!

Introvert Superpowers

March has been a busy month for school visits!

Early in March, I visited the HEART for Christ homeschool support group. One thing I love about homeschool groups is the mixture of age ranges. These students ranged from 4th-8th grades, and their questions were deep, varied, and fascinating.

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Photo credit: Paty Sayre

Last week, I was the author guest at Allen At Steinbeck Elementary School. They hosted a schoolwide event called Story Fun Night, and it was just amazing to see so many kids and parents turn out to support literacy. The crowd was huge and I was recovering from a bout of laryngitis, but we had a blast anyway.

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Photo credit: Paty Sayre

I love visiting school groups and helping students get excited about reading and writing. But I wouldn’t always have said that. If you’d told my 13-year-old self I would one day be talking in front of dozens, sometimes hundreds of people, the shy, awkward teenager I was would have crawled under the nearest table (probably with a book).

I’m an introvert to the core. No work has better helped me understand that part of myself than Susan Cain’s amazing book Quiet. (It’s also an incredible resource for parents and teachers of introverted children, by the way.) Introversion can be a strength–it’s linked in many cases to traits like creativity, empathy, and a strong sense of conscience–but it can also be a hindrance to doing things like speaking dynamically in front of a crowd.

Unless passion is at stake.

Cain writes that (some) introverts have a special ability–call it a superpower–to temporarily act like extroverts for the sake of “core personal projects,” subjects they care about deeply.

For me, that subject is books.

When I’m talking about literacy, I’ve found that I can get up in front of people, speak with energy, and actually enjoy it. I get energized when I’m listening to students talk about their questions, their roadblocks, their story ideas. Because it’s about books. And kids. And putting the two together. And that matters to me.

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Photo credit: Paty Sayre

So yes, I thoroughly enjoy the solitude that a writing life entails. And yes, after speaking, I usually disappear into a book or take a nap. But I’ve also, surprisingly, come to love the part of my job that involves talking in front of people. I love the connection that reading offers us. I love the conversations that develop at the book signing table or over e-mail. I’ve discovered it’s actually pretty fabulous to love doing more than one thing.

So to all my fellow introverts out there–you’re okay. You’re doing fine. Follow your passions. They just might lead you to your superpower.

We Interrupt This Program To Announce…

I am not dead. That is today’s announcement.

Actually, today’s announcement is (possibly) even better than that.

The reason for the last few months of blog silence is…(drumroll, please)…

Book 3 is almost done!!!

In fact, this announcement is being made in a quick escape from the writing cave. Then I’m back to moving paragraphs, analyzing character motivations, and wondering how on earth I got so many prepositional phrases into that one random sentence. And how on earth to get them out again.

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Yes, those are peanut butter cups in the corner.

But all YOU need to do is get excited for Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend, coming early summer 2016!!! 

This will be second-to-last volume in a projected series of 4 books. Writing it has been a journey, but I hope you’re really going to love this new story.

To celebrate the release of this book, I’m also excited to announce that Books 1 and 2 are getting a new look! These second editions will feature exciting new covers, an awesome new map, and even some bonus features, like discussion guides for easy use in classrooms or book clubs. The first editions will be retired when the second editions go live (hopefully near the end of this month), so if you want a first-edition copy, don’t wait! You can find one in select Bay Area bookstores or on Amazon.com.

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Wondering where to get your books signed this spring? You’ll find me at the Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair (Silicon Valley edition) on April 16 and the Bay Area Book Festival on June 4-5: both of which are amazing events and free to the public. Keep an eye on my News and Events page for even more upcoming fun. There are also still a few more months left in the school year, so if you’re a public, private, or homeschool co-op teacher interested in an author visit, send me an email!

And now…back to the writing cave.

In Which I Rave About A Bookstore

Last weekend found me in Seattle for a friend’s wedding. Weather forecast: Rain. As usual.

While there, I accidentally stumbled upon something amazing: the brand-new Amazon Books bookstore!

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Little did I know, the store had opened up just over a month earlier, representing Amazon’s new experiment in brick-and-mortar book sales.

Why was this cool, other than the fact that it’s a bookstore? After interrogating a poor unsuspecting bookseller, I found out. In Amazon Books:

All titles are displayed face-out. This means a smaller inventory, but it also means you’re much more likely to stumble upon a new read you didn’t know you needed in your life. Face-out titles=easier discovery of new books=more love matches made between books and readers.

All titles are listed with a plaque featuring a review from Amazon.com–so you can basically ask another real human being, “How was this book?” and they’ll tell you. No filtering through publishers, professional review companies, etc. Just real people telling it like it is.

No fixed prices are listed on the shelves. Instead, the bookstore has price-scanning machines. The price of the book is whatever it’s selling for on Amazon that day (usually a significant discount from the list price). Discounted books=yay!

Best of all: Amazon Books stocks top-selling books from Amazon.com, regardless of whether they’re traditionally or independently published. That means readers, not publishers, are deciding what gets displayed and sold in this bookstore. Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle platforms have already democratized publishing; now Amazon Books is democratizing the bookselling supply chain as well. As an independently published author, I personally think that’s fantastic–not only for me, but for readers who get to see more of the books they want on the shelves.

Amazon sometimes gets a bad rap for being a big company, and a big company it is. I sincerely hope the success of this new bookstore doesn’t come at the expense of smaller, independent bookstores. However, Amazon’s existence also nurtures the success of other little guys, like small presses and independently published authors. It gives us a platform from which to send out our voices. And more voices in the book arena=more ideas and stories circulating=happier and better informed readers=hopefully more understanding and compassion in the world. I’d call that a win-win.

So did I come home with a book from this bookstore? Why yes, I did. For some time I’ve been wanting to read the bestselling I Am Malala, memoir of the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, and I found it at Amazon Books (for less than $10). Malala’s story of courage is truly inspiring.

What do you think of Amazon’s new bookselling experiment? 

Good, Not Perfect

Two years ago today, something little short of miraculous happened.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

I witnessed the launch of my first published novel.

It wasn’t the first book I’d ever written. I started my first novel when I was fifteen and labored over it lovingly all through high school and part of college. Then one day, I knew I’d outgrown it. It was crushing to realize that it wasn’t my magnum opus, and that it wasn’t going to be published. I lovingly, sadly filed it away in the proverbial drawer. And I started work on a new book. That one ended up in the drawer too. And the next one.

And then came the book that would become The Illuminator’s Gift. Five years of writing and rewriting–by the shores of an English lake, in the middle of the night, in bed with whooping cough, in fingerless gloves on bitterly cold mornings. A book whose first draft was 100,000 words long. A book that went through at least three titles and about thirty secondary characters, half of whom never made it into the final. A book whose story I didn’t know until I finished it. In some ways, it came to me like a gift.

As I was getting close to finishing, I held long debates with myself over whether this was The Book That Ought To Be Published. I studied literature and writing in college, and I knew enough to see that this was not a perfect book. Should it end up in the drawer with all the other defunct novels? Should I wait to publish until I wrote Something Perfect?

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Well, I decided to go for it. Because I knew that this book had come to me like a gift, and a gift is meant for sharing. I also had the sneaking suspicion that if I chickened out on this book and hid it away out of a sense of fear and rampant perfectionism, I might never work up the nerve to publish anything. After all, when am I really going to write Something Perfect? When is anybody? (Okay, Tolkien excepted.)

And there’s a time to let go of Something Perfect and go forward with Something Good.

This was it.

Not that I don’t still sometimes wonder why on earth I decided to share this imperfect book with the world. (Especially the first time someone found a typo in the book.)

But when it comes down to it, I’m awfully glad I did.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Because it started me on a path of saying yes to projects that are Good-Not-Perfect. Stuff like taking a solo roadtrip to a monastery (and nervously checking my tire pressure approximately 954 times). Like signing up to take graduate-level seminary classes. Like speaking in front of 200 fourth-graders. Like writing, editing, and publishing a second book within a year of the first (and writing a third, due out next year).

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” And as one Good-Not-Perfect project–writing, relationships, teaching–leads to another, this paradigm is shaping my life. With practice, I’m becoming better able to accept what is good in life, even if it’s not perfect. And for this life I am most deeply grateful.

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Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

What are some of the good-not-perfect things in your life?