Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year to All, Happy Blogoversary to Me

Tomorrow is my first blogoversary, as I wrote my first post on December 31, 2010. When I look at the post now, there's not much to it, but I remember agonizing over writing it. Not so much about the content, but about whether or not I should actually do it. I remember my finger lingering over the "publish post" button for what seemed like forever, and I must have hit the "preview" option 100 times.

Looking back on the year now, it's hard to imagine I was ever that nervous about starting a blog. But sharing my thoughts or experiences does not come easily to me, as I have spent most of my life as a closed book. But this blog was all about making changes, and a big part of that was changing what I had always done and always been. So while my first post doesn't look like much now, it was a big first step for me. For that reason, it will always make me smile.

When I started this blog, one of the things that inspired me was this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

That's what I tried to do in starting this blog, and I'm thrilled to have taken not only that first step, but also several others as I've gone through 2011. I'm working on setting some concrete goals for 2012, but I know my overall goal is to continue to make my way up that staircase. I still can't see all of it, but I have a good idea of what I want it to be, and what steps I need to take to reach the top of it. 

I've said it before, but I can't say thank you enough to everyone who has followed my blog, left a comment, or just visited and read a post or two. I'm so grateful, and I hope I have been as supportive and encouraging to other bloggers and writers as so many have been to me. It's been such a joy to get to know so many amazing people over the past year, from all corners of the world, and I look forward to continuing to follow your adventures in the year ahead.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year! May we all continue to make our way up the staircase in 2012 and beyond.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ~ Peg Bracken


To everyone who has visited my little Internet home here, thank you for helping to make this year such a special one for me.

And to those who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas to you! I wish everyone a wonderful and happy holiday season, filled with laughter and joy, and the gifts of time and love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Much of my WIP, Polar Night, centers around the Winter Solstice. I have always felt there was something magical and mystical about this time, and I find it interesting that while the solstice marks the shortest day of the year, and therefore the longest period of darkness, it also represents a turning point and begins the march back towards the light. I find the ancient Solstice traditions so intriguing, and I think it's fascinating that so many of our current winter holiday customs can be traced back to these ancient rituals designed to bring light to the darkness.

My story takes place in Alaska, primarily in Fairbanks and in the town of Coldfoot. The Solstice in Fairbanks will be today at 8:30 PM, while the sun will rise at 10:58 AM, and set at 2:40 PM. In Coldfoot, the day is even shorter, as the sun will not rise until 12:30 PM, and will set at 1:30 PM! I can't imagine a "day" like this. I have enough trouble with our short days here, when the sun sets a little after 5:00 PM. 

But the Solstice worked perfectly for my story, and in fact gave me the kick of inspiration I needed to move forward with writing. When I first started writing for my main character, he lived in Los Angeles, and the whole story took place in California. But I kept finding myself stalled, and I didn't feel like the story was gelling at all. When I transported my character to Alaska, and set the story during the cold and darkness of an Alaskan winter, my imagination went into overdrive and everything seemed to fall into place.

So I'm thinking about my WIP as we mark the Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, and I'm hoping these dark and gloomy winter days will give me the inspiration I need to finish the first draft of my story. While I hate winter weather, the season itself has proven to be an unexpected source of light and inspiration.

Alaskan Sunset

It snowed and snowed ,the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Boris Pasternak ~ Winter Night

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest: Christmas, 1972

For today's Deja Vu Blogfest, I decided to use my Christmas, 1972 post from back in July. I couldn't resist the holiday connection now that we are actually in December, and I also wanted to remind myself that I was complaining about the heat back then. I'll try to remember that when I start complaining about the cold now.

I also realized that this is my 150th post, so that's kind of cool to me. I didn't know if I'd make it to my 2nd post when I first started this blog.

Thanks again to DL Hammons for hosting the fest and coming up with such a great idea!

Christmas, 1972

Over the summer, I've been working on cleaning out and organizing the drawers and closets in my condo. I've only lived in this place for 8 years, but anyone looking at the closets and drawers would think it had been at least 25. I've actually enjoyed the project, as I've come upon things I had totally forgotten about, and I also smile every time I open a closet and see how organized it is.

One of the things I found that made me smile was this picture from 1972. My sister and I dressed in our matching outfit best, and went to see Santa. I was 4 here, and my sister was 8. She was a bit old to be doing this, but I know she did it because I didn't want to go by myself.

This picture brings back great memories for me, as I loved everything about Christmas when I was a kid.

We went to see Santa at a great old department store called Shillito's. To me, visiting the downtown store was almost like going to an amusement park, especially at Christmas time. Shillito's had amazing Christmas window displays, and I loved them. I would stand in front of them and stare, completely mesmerized, like Ralphie and his friends in A Christmas Story. (One of my all-time favorite movies, by the way. My family and I never tire of quoting it.)

Shillito's also had the best Santa displays. It wasn't just about seeing Santa, as you had to walk through an enchanting Christmas display that snaked around one whole floor of the store just to get to him. One year it was the North Pole, another it was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can still remember the smell of the chocolate as my mom and I walked through the display on our way to see Santa Claus.

With the massive heatwave gripping so much of the country, I really enjoyed taking a trip back in time to this winter tradition.

It was also fun to see a picture of my 4 year old self. I couldn't help but think, if I could go back and talk to this little girl, what would I tell her, knowing what I do now?

The first thing that came to mind was that I would tell her to go easy on the student loans when she gets to college! I kid, but there's no question I've made some unwise financial decisions in my life. But of course, hindsight is 20/20.

I think mostly I would tell this little girl not to be so afraid to try things as she gets older. And not to worry so much about what other people think.

But at the same time, I think, I wouldn't tell her anything. Whatever choices I made or whatever fears I had, they are all part of the person I am today. And accepting myself, warts and all, is something I've finally learned to do.

What about you? If you could talk to your childhood self, what would you say? And if you are dealing with the heat where you live, I hope this little trip to Christmas past gave you some relief, if only in your mind.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Would Walk 500 Miles

Do you remember this fun song from the early 90s by The Proclaimers?

I've always loved it, and it's my theme song for this week as I crossed over the 500 mile mark in my walking challenge for the year.

Clancy has been with me for most of these miles, and I figured out that if he and I had walked non-stop, we could have been in Toronto, Canada by now. I visited Toronto some years ago and loved it, so it would be fun to return. But since I hate snow and cold weather, now probably wouldn't be the best time for Clancy and me to arrive there. 

As I wrote when I finished the original 400 Mile Challenge, the ticker where I tracked my progress became a metaphor for my blog as the year went on, and my walking steps came to represent the steps I was also taking in my writing journey. The writing steps were baby steps, but they were steps all the same.

But with a new year on the horizon, I realize that I need to move beyond the baby steps. I'm thrilled by the progress I have made over the past year, but I also know that it's time to up my game.

I'm beyond grateful that I have a job so that I can pay my bills while I work towards my writing goals. But at the same time, I think this has allowed me to get lazy at times, and still treat my writing as more of a hobby. As I want my writing to be more than just a hobby, I think I need to start focusing on it as if my safety net didn't exist. 

For me, this means forcing myself to write even when I am tired and have had a long day, and would rather just collapse on the couch and watch tv. It also means I need to hold myself more accountable, and break my procrastination habit once and for all. 

I was making great progress on my WIP last month, and was very excited about that, but then I hit a roadblock and allowed myself to get distracted, and put the writing aside. I've also thought of ideas for query letters that I wanted to write, and procrastinated instead of actually writing them. 

This is the behavior I feel I need to change if I'm really going to meet my writing goals. It's taken me a heck of a long time, but I've finally figured out what I want to do with my life, and what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. So, it's time to start walking the walk, and stop playing around. 

When I think of people I know or admire who have achieved seemingly impossible goals, none of them did it by being content with merely dipping their toes in the water. They jumped in with both feet. I've had a great time dipping my toes in the writing waters over the past year, and I'm proud of what I have accomplished, but now it's time to take it to the next level, and dive in all the way. 

That's the new challenge I'm setting for myself, and I'm also going to start a new ticker to see if Clancy and I can make it to 600 miles in 2012.

But that's for next year. For now, I'm going to enjoy what I've already accomplished, and the amazing time I've had this year. And, I'm going to go back to singing along with The Proclaimers. :) 

Finally, just a reminder that tomorrow is the day for the Deja Vu Blogfest! If you want to sign up, just head on over to DL Hammon's site and join us. I know it's going to be a great fest, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the "day of the do over" posts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reviews of Semper Audacia, The Christmas Village, and Once Upon a December Nightmare

I've had my Kindle for two weeks now, and I love it even more than I thought I would. I'm totally sold on it. And, just like I'd hoped, the Kindle has allowed me to catch up on the works of some of the great writers I've met here in the blogosphere.

When I first wrote about the Kindle, I planned to start writing reviews of the books I read. But I've since discovered that I really stink at writing reviews. :D When I enjoy something, I find I don't have much to say beyond the fact that it was great and I really enjoyed it. Not exactly scintillating.

So I don't think I'll be writing regular reviews on the blog after all, but I still wanted to post about the first three stories I read on my Kindle, and give a big round of applause to the authors.

My reading list for the last few weeks included Semper Audacia by M.Pax, The Christmas Village by Melissa Goodwin, and Once Upon a December Nightmare by Cherie Reich.

 Semper Audacia is described as a "space opera," and I have to admit that I'd never read a space opera before, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. This story turned out to be an excellent introduction to the genre, and I loved being transported to an entirely different world while I was reading. Semper is a dark and haunting tale, and I was completely taken in by the protagonist Leda and her heroic "last stand" to save her world. When I finished the story, I hated to say goodbye to Leda, as she was such a strong and memorable character.

 It's hard to imagine a better story for this time of year than The Christmas Village. If you have fond memories of an old-fashioned Christmas, or just love the traditions of the holiday, this is a must read. I was totally enchanted by the village of Canterbury and, like the main character Jamie, I wished I could visit there myself. The story also provides a good reminder to be careful what you wish for, and I can imagine that young readers would really identify with Jamie as he learns some valuable lessons about life. The story is full of holiday magic, and is sure to leave its readers smiling.

 Once Upon a December Nightmare is a spooky, suspenseful story involving four young people lost in the woods on a frigid December night. In spite of the novel's short length, the characters were all very well developed, and I felt for each of them as they struggled to deal with their situation. I read the book in one sitting and did not want to put it down, which is always a sure sign of a great story. As the title suggests, this tale is indeed a nightmare, and quite scary, but it also offers touches of humor by playing with horror movie cliches. It's a fun and atmospheric mystery, with a killer ending.

Kudos to all Mary, Melissa, and Cherie for these great reads! I'm looking forward to reading more from all of them, and highly recommend their work.

It's been fun to finish my first round of Kindle stories, and I'm now moving on to Watching Willow Watts by Talli Roland. This is one I've wanted to read for a while, as I had such a good time participating in Talli's launch party back in September.

I look forward to reading many more books by fellow bloggers in the months ahead, as for me there's no better time to curl up and read than cold winter evenings. I'm so glad again to have this opportunity to discover so many great writers I may never have found otherwise. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Season's Greetings

Clancy and Nate decided to get together to wish everyone a happy holiday season as we move through December. Their pictures are courtesy of Banfield Pet Hospital's "Dress Your Pet", and they're really excited about how the photos turned out.

In reality, I'm certain they would both give me the cold shoulder for the rest of their lives if they could see these pictures, and Nate especially would be livid at the affront to his dignity, so it's a good thing neither of them are computer savvy.

I hope everyone is enjoying the hustle and bustle of this busy time, and I wish you all a wonderful weekend ahead. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Examiner Article

I started writing for the Examiner website as an Animal News Examiner, and wrote my first article yesterday. I had a great time doing it, as it was fun to try something new and have another opportunity to write about animals and support organizations that I admire. And, while I love doing the volunteer writing for Best Friends, it's fun to get a little money for writing as well. :D

I wrote about a dog named Edie who was found as a stray here in Ohio, and now works for the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh. I found her story so touching, and I loved writing about her. I had never heard of Canine Ambassadors for hotels before, but I think it's such a cute idea, and I'd definitely love to visit one of these hotels at some point.

I'm excited to have another "writing first" to add to my list for this year, and I'm looking forward to continuing with this opportunity. If you'd like to read about Edie the hotel cutie, click on the link below to see her story. Thanks for reading!

Kaitlin Bledsoe Photography

Local dog makes good in Pittsburgh

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Deja Vu Blogfest, and A Celebration of Mutts

DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude 2.0 is hosting the Deja Vu Blogfest on December 16th, and I think the fest sounds like a lot of fun. All you have to do is re-post your favorite blog post, or one that you think didn't get enough attention when it was originally posted. It's hard to beat a blogfest where you don't even have to write a new post! Since I have been an extremely lazy blogger lately, this is a great deal for me. :D

I was really glad to come upon DL's site (thanks to a link from my buddy LG Smith) as I have really enjoyed the 7 x 7 Link Awards that have been going around the blogosphere, and this blogfest reminded me of those awards. It's been great to be able to catch up on posts that were published before I started blogging, or just posts I may have missed due to getting behind on my blog reading. So I think a blogfest dedicated to showcasing old or favorite posts is a fantastic idea, and I'm really looking forward to participating.

To sign up, just visit DL's site here. I hope to see everyone on December 16th!

Also, I just learned that today is National Mutt Day, a day created to raise awareness about mixed-breed dogs who are waiting for their forever homes, and to celebrate the awesomeness of mutts. I couldn't let this day pass without honoring the greatest mutt in the world, my Clancy.


Hugs and pets to all the fabulous mutts out there, and Happy Friday to all. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Clancy making himself comfortable after I had just finished vacuuming the couch and fluffing up the cushions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Kindle, Finally!

I'm so excited, as I got a new Kindle yesterday, and I am already totally in love with it. I've been thinking about getting one forever, but for the longest time I thought I would hate it as I was sure I would never want to read a book electronically. I was insistent that I wanted a "real book" that I could hold in my hands.

But then I remembered that I had the exact same opinion when Ipods first became popular. I was certain I would always want cds. Then I got an Ipod, and it became my favorite toy ever. I've always been a music nut, and the Ipod only added to that, as I sampled music I never would have thought of buying otherwise. I have a feeling the Kindle will turn out the same, and will merely add to my love of reading by allowing me to discover authors I may have otherwise missed.

One thing I am very excited about with the Kindle is that I will now have the chance to read more of the works of my blogging pals. Ever since I became active in blogging, I have wanted to be able to read so many of the books I see on blogs, but when I tried reading them using the e-reader on my laptop it just didn't work for me, and bothered my eyes. Now I'm looking forward to going back and checking out all of the books I have missed, and also being able to participate in more book launches in the future. I'm excited that the Kindle gives me the opportunity to indulge my love of reading while also supporting my fellow bloggers!

I already downloaded a few last night, including Semper Audacia by M.Pax, and, in the spirit of the season, The Christmas Village by Melissa Goodwin and Once Upon a December Nightmare by Cherie Reich. I can't wait to read all of them.

In honor of my new toy, I decided to start writing reviews here on my blog, hopefully once a week. I've been wanting to try my hand at book reviews, as I thought it would be a great chance to sharpen my own writing skills while at the same time supporting other writers, so I feel like now is a great time to get that started. I hope to start sharing my reviews this week.

I am hoping that writing reviews will also help me to get back on track with regular blogging, as there is no question I have neglected that this month while I have focused on my WIP. I'm still thrilled to be making progress on that front, but I have missed blogging.

I only hope that now I don't end up spending so much time with my nose in my Kindle that I end up neglecting writing and blogging both! I need to make sure that doesn't happen, but I can't deny that organizing time is not my strong suit. I'm almost as bad at organization as I am at following directions. ;)

I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving had a wonderful holiday, and I am looking forward to catching up with all the blogs I have missed this week.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

Image courtesy

I didn't intend to take a blogging break last week, but that's exactly what happened, as I've still been wrapped up in my writing cocoon and working on my WIP. November has turned out to be a great novel writing month for me, even though I didn't sign up for NaNoWriMo!

I have the good fortune to be off work this week, thanks to a combination of vacation time and the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. I'm going to continue to take a bit of a break from blogging while I focus on writing, and move closer towards my goal of a completed first draft by the end of this year. 

Best wishes for the week ahead to everyone, and, to the NaNo participants, best of luck as you sprint towards the finish line!

To everyone celebrating the holiday, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and a wonderful time with your loved ones. 

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seven Days

That's how far I made it in the NaBloPoMo challenge this month. That's actually worse than my previous record of eight days when I first tried this daily posting challenge back in January. If I ever find myself signing up for one of these challenges again, I need someone to slap my hand and remind me that this kind of challenge is simply not for me.

I actually have a great excuse for my latest NaBloPoMo failure though, as I got a burst of inspiration for my WIP, and have been writing every day this week. It's a little funny to me, as when I tried a daily writing challenge back in May, I froze up and didn't write anything. Now when I try a daily blogging challenge, I go blank on blogging, and end up writing more steadily than I have in months.

It's backwards, but that's fine with me as I'm really excited about my writing progress, and I feel more on a roll with writing Polar Night than I have since I started writing it back in the summer. I was wrapped up in a writing cocoon this week, and it felt great. I wrote nearly 5,000 words, and managed to cross over the 27,000 word count on my ticker.

In addition, my jumble of ideas for the story seemed to come together as I was writing. A writer friend of mine talks about the moment when you can feel your story coming together as similar to when you are working on a jigsaw puzzle and suddenly see how all the pieces are going to fit together. That's how I feel about my novel after this week. The puzzle pieces have fallen into place.

I'm not sure what got into me this week, but I also wrote a query letter to Fido Friendly Magazine about a dog story I am interested in writing, and I wrote and submitted an essay for the upcoming Chicken Soup For the Soul book, "I Can't Believe My Dog Did That." Of course, I have no idea if either of these submissions will be accepted, but it felt great to send them. This is the most productive week I've had in ages.

So while my seven days of NaBloPoMo posting fell well short of what I intended, my past seven days of writing have been totally exhilarating to me. I guess it just goes to show that, to paraphrase one of my favorite songs, you don't always get what you want but, sometimes, you do get what you need.

I got what I needed this week, and I am excited about continuing on this writing high. My goal was to have the first draft of my novel done by the end of this year and, for the first time, that goal actually feels within reach.

I am anxious now to catch up on my blogging, and I hope everyone has had a great week. To all the NaBloPoMo participants, I wish you the best of luck in finishing the challenge!

Happy Friday to all, and best wishes for a great weekend ahead! :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

The Humane Society of the United States

The first week full week of November is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, an annual event that was launched by the Humane Society of the United States in 1996.

The celebration is designed not only to spotlight shelters and rescues across the country, but also to increase awareness of animal welfare issues. I'm happy to have the opportunity to participate in this special week, as both my dog Clancy and my cat Nate were rescues.

The HSUS site lists special events every day this week to help spread the word about animals currently waiting in shelters for their forever homes. Today's focus is on the Shelter Pet Project, a fun site that collaborates with to help pet lovers find adoptable dogs and cats. 

If you're interested in finding shelter pets in your area, all you have to do is click here, and enter your zip code and whether you are looking for a dog or a cat. If you want to do an advanced search, you can limit your criteria by age, sex, breed, and size. It couldn't be easier, and just one search will introduce you to loads of lovable furry friends who want nothing more than to be part of your family.

Visit the National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week site here to learn other ways to help homeless animals and spread the word about this important week. In addition to helping shelter pets across the county, you may just find a new best friend of your own.

The Humane Society of the United States

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

I'm distracted by football today and don't have a post prepared, so I am cheating a bit here in order to keep going with NaBloPoMo. I don't want to think about the fact that I have not even made it to the one week point and I'm already cheating! 

I just wanted to share one of my favorite pictures of Clancy, taken last month on his birthday. I made some doggie cupcakes for him, and he was completely fascinated by them. He made us laugh as he was totally serious about the whole business, and sat at attention while we sang Happy Birthday.

For the record, I blew the candles out for Clancy before I gave him his cupcakes. He's a smart dog but I don't think he would have managed that too well. :D

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Favorite Thing About Writing

 Tuesday, November 1, 2011
"What is your favourite part about writing?"

This was the prompt for the first day of NaBloPoMo, but as I had already written a general post for Tuesday I didn't use it at that time. I was thinking more about the question though, and decided to go back to it today, as I came to a realization this week about what I love most about writing.

Except for the daily blogging, I didn't do much writing this week. In fact, I managed just one day of work on my WIP, Polar Night. I only wrote about 2,000 words, but the time I spent doing so brought me to this post.

In recent years, I've struggled a great deal with anxiety. This is primarily because of real life issues that are stressful to me, but in addition, I think it is just part of the way I'm wired. I'm prone to anxiety in the same way I'm prone to motion sickness and skin allergies.

At any rate, this week was a difficult one for me on this front. But as I looked back on the week today, I realized that the time I had spent writing had been the time that I could best banish the anxiety, and feel the most relaxed and content.

I've tried all kinds of things to deal with managing stress, and I have found that exercising regularly is a great help to me. But nothing works as well as writing, and somehow just sitting down with my laptop and putting words together helps me relax in a way nothing else does.

This realization reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite books, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

"Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."  ~ Bird by Bird, page xxvi

This was the case for me this week. While I didn't do a large amount of writing, what I did was indeed its own reward.

Writing is the best antidote for anxiety that I've ever found, and I don't know of a better way to take a break from the inevitable stress of the "real world" than by sitting down and simply writing.

I'm looking forward to a weekend of doing just that, and I know that even if I get stuck on a chapter or struggle to find just the right words, I will still feel the reward that comes from the act of writing itself.

That is my favorite thing about writing, and the reason I'm so glad I discovered, however late, the joy that it can bring.

Happy Friday to all, and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend ahead. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A-Z Challenge Blog

I've been meaning to give a shout-out to the new A-Z Challenge blog, and I figured there was no time like the present, as participating in NaBloPoMo has reminded me of the crazy (but fun!) blogging days of April. In addition, I'm thrilled to have another posting day under my belt. Three down! :)

I can say without a doubt that the best thing I have done in my first year of blogging was to sign up for the A-Z in April Challenge, hosted by the wonderful Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out. Thanks to this challenge, I felt like I started to find my place in the blogging world, and by the end of the month I was significantly more comfortable about blogging. Even better, I met the majority of my blogger pals as we all went through the letters of the alphabet together.

I know April, 2012 is a long way off, and if you're like me you're thinking more about the upcoming holiday season than you are about spring time, but I still wanted to post the news that the A-Z Challenge now has its own blog!

Arlee set up the blog to share news and information about the challenge, and to give all the bloggers interested in participating a place to congregate. The challenge was extraordinarily popular last year, and I've no doubt 2012 will be even bigger.

It's never too early to follow the blog and make sure you are up to date on all the challenge goings-on as we close out 2011 and head towards 2012. If you are interested in sharpening your blogging and writing skills, meeting tons of great bloggers, and having a great time being creative, I can't recommend the A-Z Challenge enough.

Go HERE to follow the blog, and help spread the word around the blogosphere. The April flowers will be here again before we know it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last Meal?

This is NaBloPoMo writing prompt for today:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be? 

My first thought when I read this prompt was that whatever the meal, I would want to have a perfectly made gin & tonic with it. Bombay Sapphire Gin, tonic water, lots of ice, and just the right amount of lime. I can taste it now just writing about it.

When it comes to the meal itself though, it's hard for me to think of a specific food. I think for me, it would be more about where the meal would be, and who else would be there.

I love eating outside on my sister's back deck on summer nights, enjoying good food while my dog Clancy runs around the yard and plays with the neighbor dogs. I also love sitting in my other sister's basement watching football and eating party food, my favorite autumn tradition.

For food, we could have something yummy on the grill, or take-out Chinese, or we could just fill up on snacks like chips and salsa. We could have pizza and beer while we cheer for our teams, or my favorite party munchies like taco pie or chicken dip.

When I think of the meals I enjoy the most, they are the meals when I am relaxed and content, and enjoying spending time with people I love. I'd want my last meal to be that kind of experience, whatever I had to eat. I know that's a little sappy, but it's the truth. The food itself doesn't really matter.

The gin & tonic, on the other hand, is essential. ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy November!

November is here, and I know tons of writers are participating in NaNoWriMo this month. I'm not one of them, as I discovered when I tried to do May - You Write Your Novel last summer that those kinds of challenges don't work out well for me. I seem to end up unable to write a single word, and respond by hiding in my closet, shaking and muttering about word counts. ;)

But for everyone who is participating, I wish you all the best of luck, and I am looking forward to cheering you on as you write your novels!

For my own November challenge, I decided to sign up for NaBloPoMo, which stands for National Blog Posting Month, and post every day in November.

I tried this way back in January when I first started this blog, and only made it about five days. But now that I have more blogging experience under my belt, I thought I would give it another try. We'll see if I can make it past the first week.

I thought this would be a great time to try NaBloPoMo again, as the site has moved to the BlogHer publishing network, and there will be a party going on all month to celebrate NaBloPoMo's move. The theme of the month is "blogging for blogging's sake," and I thought that sounded like a fun theme to try. There will also be writing prompts and, best of all, prizes! :D

I also thought the timing could be good for me, as I have been so scattered and unorganized lately with my blogging that I hope this will help me get back to more of a regular pace and schedule. Last week's great Killer Character's Blogfest reminded me how much I enjoy blogging and how much fun it can be, so I want to continue with that spirit.

So I'm jumping in to NaBloPoMo with both feet, and we'll see where I'm at when it's time to turn the calendar over to December. I think this is going to be a fun month.

One post down!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Back to Kentucky

Clancy and I took our travels back across the Ohio river to Kentucky last week, and this time we succeeded in our quest to find Big Bone Lick State Park.

I realized as we were making our way to the park this time, and following the instructions from our gps, that I had turned left where I should have turned right on our previous trip. It's amazing what a difference that can make. ;)

When you turn the correct way, Big Bone Lick is not hard to find at all. And, I actually really enjoyed the drive. We traveled along US 127 in Boone County, a lovely road lined with beautiful houses and old-fashioned farms. I enjoyed seeing the cows and horses grazing in the fields as we drove along.

We made our way to the park, and were greeted at the entrance by a sign that included a picture of a mammoth, a clue to how the park got its unusual name. Apparently, the name comes from the Pleistocene megafauna fossils, or very big bones, that were found there.

In prehistoric times, mammoths and other creatures were drawn to the area because of a salt lick. Once I learned all this, the name of the park made perfect sense.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning when Clancy and I visited, with a dense morning fog that quickly burned away in the bright sun. We drove into the park, and stopped at the visitor center, where we found a boardwalk that circles around a re-creation of a prehistoric marsh bog. The bog includes a mammoth, a mastodon, and a ground sloth, among other creatures.

I have a soft spot for elephants, so I found this interesting.

I also learned something, as I always thought that mammoths and mastodons were pretty much the same thing. Now I know better.

Clancy did not share my interest in the elephants, and was in a hurry to get going, so we headed off down the Big Bone Creek trail.

At this point, I was really wishing I had thought to wear my gloves, as the temperature was downright cold. I also kind of wondered where the creek was, as we seemed to be going quite a ways without a creek in sight. I didn't have to wonder long though, as the trail led us right to the edge of this creek.

Clancy liked the area.

The creek was intriguing to me as the water seemed almost completely still, and I loved the huge old trees along the banks.

I couldn't help but be mad at myself for my inability to follow directions a few weeks ago, as I know the foliage at the park would have been gorgeous at that time. By the time of our visit, most of the leaves were on the ground. While I would rather have seen them on the trees, we still enjoyed crunching through them as we walked along the path.

We followed the trail back to the visitor center, where I remembered that one of the main reasons I had wanted to visit the park was because of the herd of bison that live there. I hadn't seen any sign of the bison, but fortunately came upon this sign on the opposite side of the visitor center. 

I was sure that even I could follow the arrow and find the bison.

I started to worry that I may have been overconfident, as it seemed like Clancy and I walked a heck of a lot farther than .2 miles. But to our relief, we came upon yet another sign.

At long last, we made it to the bison area.

This was the first time I'd ever actually seen bison, so that was pretty cool. But I have to say that the reality didn't quite match my expectations, as once we got to the fence, there wasn't much to keep our interest, as the herd seemed to be completely focused on eating their breakfast. 

None of them would even look in our direction. Clancy tried to paw at the fence and get their attention, but they wouldn't give him the time of day.

He made it clear he found the herd boring, and wanted to get back to the car as he'd had enough. I couldn't really disagree.

As we were driving out, we passed a line of twenty or thirty corvettes, clearly heading to a meeting of corvette enthusiasts. The line of cars reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books, Go, Dog. Go! I loved that book, and used to read it over and over again with my mom.

I asked Clancy, "where are all those dogs going?," but he didn't get the reference. He once again looked at me like I was nuts, and settled into his navigator position for the drive home.

I'm glad we finally made it to Big Bone, and I enjoyed our travels around Northern Kentucky. I'm also glad I brought the gps with me this time, and I've no doubt Clancy agreed!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Antagonists

The final day of the Killer Characters Blogfest is dedicated to the characters every good story needs - the villains who are up to no good, and the bad guys/girls who make the lives of our protagonists miserable. Today is all about antagonists.

As Halloween is right around the corner, I decided to choose characters with a scary or supernatural element for all of my killer character picks this week. My choice for antagonist is a mixture of both and, while I can't say these characters are among my favorite antagonists of all time as I have just discovered them, they are definitely my most recent favorite. They are the White Walkers from the tv show Game of Thrones, and the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin.

I absolutely love Game of Thrones, and the White Walkers both intrigued and frightened me from the very start of the series. The first episode opens with a trio of watchmen who have the misfortune of coming upon the mysterious White Walkers.

That scene scared the heck out of me, and what was most frightening to me, besides the violence that made me hide my eyes, was the fact that we really didn't see the White Walkers. I often find the unknown much more frightening than what is known and seen.

Throughout the season, viewers never do know who the White Walkers are or what they want, but the references to them and their connection to the upcoming winter scared me to no end. The old woman heard here talking about the fear of winter and the White Walkers sent a chill up my spine.

As I have purposely avoided the books so that I won't be spoiled for the series, I still have no idea who or what the White Walkers are, and I love it that way. I am both anxious and scared to find out!

The White Walkers are the newest additions to my list of chilling and scary antagonists, and I can't wait for the return of Game of Thrones next year so I can learn more about them.

Thanks again to E.R. and Deana for hosting this fun fest! I had a great time! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Protagonists

Today's Killer Characters Blogfest is dedicated to our favorite leading characters, the protagonists.

I chose everyone's favorite boy wizard, Harry Potter.

When I first started reading the Harry Potter books, I didn't expect to love them. I normally don't care for stories with children as the main characters and, at that time, I didn't have any interest in reading fantasy or supernatural stories. But there was so much buzz about Harry Potter, I couldn't help but be interested. I wanted to find out what I was missing.

I started reading the series at the time the fourth book was published and, from the start of the first book, I was completely caught up in Harry's world.

By the time I finished the fourth book, I thought I would go mad waiting for the next to be published. I devoured each book as soon as it came out, and I was truly sad when I came to the end of Book 7. This from a girl who never had the slightest interest in reading fantasy stories.

My tastes have changed now, and I love stories that are about magic or supernatural beings, or that take place in worlds different from our own. I have Harry to thank for my broadened horizons.

Given all that, Harry seemed to be the obvious choice for my protagonist. From his beginnings in the Dursley cupboard to his final showdown with Voldemort, Harry kept me turning pages, and wanting more.

When it comes to memorable protagonists, it is hard to top The Boy Who Lived.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Supporting Characters

Today is Day One of the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by E.R. King and Deana Barnhart, and it's all about killer supporting characters.

I am cheating a little bit, as the characters I chose are primarily known as movie characters, but since the movie was based on a book I figured they could still qualify. They are so memorable to me that I couldn't resist.

I picked the velociraptors from the first Jurassic Park movie, as I think they definitely fit the bill for scary, awesome, and killer (literally!) characters. Jurassic Park (the original only) is one of my all-time favorite movies, and the raptors are a big part of the reason why.

They had me on the edge of my seat whenever they were on the screen.

I was a nervous wreck when the raptors opened the door and came inside the kitchen where the children were hiding. That remains one of the scariest and most intense scenes I've ever watched.

The raptors rocked, not only because they were so evil, but also because they were so smart. I loved their tag-team ways, and their facial expressions when they were plotting their next moves were totally awesome. 

All of the dinosaurs were great, but, to me, the velociraptors stole the movie. When it comes to memorable supporting characters, they will always have a spot on my list.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ten Random Things, and an Unusual Coffee Date

I was tagged by Lisa L. Regan for the "10 Things" posts going around the blogosphere. I'm tardy with my response as usual, but here are 10 totally random things about me. 
~ I'm an introvert by nature, and I hate talking about myself. But it's much easier and more fun to write about myself! ;) 

~ I’m a graduate of Ohio State, and I am a Buckeye to the core. Sadly, the football Buckeyes are not being kind to me this year, and have a feeling that their upcoming game against Wisconsin will make me feel like a masochist for watching it. 

~ I started my second blog, The Pet Parent Diaries, back at the end of August. It didn't take long to realize that writing two blogs is a heck of a lot harder than writing one. Yikes! 

~ I am not in the market for a new car, but if I were I would love to get a self-parking car. I long for one every time I see the commercials, as I am the worst parallel parker on the planet.

~ I used to be a social worker, and I worked as an emergency clinician for a psychiatric hospital. One night while I was on call, I was called to an area jail to assess a mentally ill inmate. He was in a completely psychotic state, and nearly strangled me. Thankfully one of the guards intervened before I was truly hurt, but it remains the most frightening night of my life. It's probably not a surprise I didn't remain a social worker for very long!

~ I am a total tv junkie. My all-time favorite shows are The Shield, The Wire, Arrested Development, Seinfeld, and the UK version of The Office.  At the moment, I can't wait for the totally addictive Game of Thrones to return. I’ve also been catching up on the UK show Torchwood, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, and Itunes!

~ I can’t read a map to save my life. Truly, if I was threatened with death unless I figured out directions from a map, it would most likely be the end of me.

~ My favorite place that I’ve ever visited is San Francisco. I loved everything about it.

~ I love peanut butter, and I could probably live on it if needed. I never tire of it, and I can eat it on just about anything. But only if it is Jif Creamy. I accept no substitutes.

~ I hate winter weather, but I love cold weather clothes. I’m much happier in jeans, sweaters, or sweats than I am in shorts and tees. This is probably because I am so fair-skinned I look like Casper the Ghost, and I have no ability to get a tan. I either remain a ghost, or burn to a crisp. 


Thanks to Lisa for tagging me for this list! If you are not already familiar with Lisa's blog, I highly recommend checking it out!

Now I get to tag five bloggers myself. These are bloggers I have just discovered in recent months, and they all have great blogs. I would enjoy learning more about all of them!

On a totally unrelated note, Clancy and I were featured on the coffee with a canine blog earlier this week, and we had a lot of fun participating. If you'd like to read my interview, you can find our entry here.This was the first time I've ever done an interview of any kind, so it's one more thing I can add to my list of firsts since I started blogging. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome Guest Poster M. Pax, author of Semper Audacia!

I am excited to have my friend M.Pax, author of the just-released Semper Audacia, here as a guest today. This is the first time I've hosted a fellow blogger, and it's an honor to have Mary as my inaugural guest poster. So without further ado, please welcome M. Pax and her traveling, sci-fi loving kitties!

Travels with Makayla and Nini
by M. Pax

Makayla and Karenina [usually shortened to Nini], came to me at seven weeks old from a neighbor who had taken in a pregnant cat from a friend who had to move abroad. We lived in Fairfax, Virginia at the time. They were two years old when we moved from Northern Virginia to Portland, OR, from the east coast of the US to the west coast.

I flew with them from DC to Portland. They hated every second of it. My girls glared at that carrier and hissed at it whenever they saw it afterward. I had to throw it out, there was so much hate for it.

Almost four years ago now, we moved from Portland, east over the Cascades to Central Oregon. Kayla and Nini hate the car. Really hate it. Maybe not at much as airplanes, but close. All the way up Mount Hood, all’s I heard was their yowling. They’d crawl over me and scream in my ear, just in case I hadn’t heard. They wanted to be certain I did.

At some point past the summit, Nini got bored and went to sleep in the back of the car. Makayla has always been neurotic though. That’s how we ended up with Nini [which I’m very glad of]. Makayla would cry if I left a room. So, we got her some company, one of her sisters.

Anyway, so I ended up having to hold Kayla on my lap. I had to hold her up so she could see out the window. She wouldn’t sit by herself. Yeah, neurotic. She liked seeing the cows, horses and the other things, but she shook and stuck to me like glue. For several days she did. But she soon fell in love with the sunnier side of the Cascades as much as I did and she adores the bigger closets to play in.

I avoid traveling with them if I can. They’re terrible travelers. They’re also critics. They like to help me with my reading skills. If I start reading one of my stories aloud, they usually come into the room to listen. If I flub some words, they make faces of disapproval, ears flickering, eyes narrowing. If I read with spirit, they pay attention as if completely engrossed. If I read with less animation, they lose interest and may wander off. With their feedback in mind, I practiced at open mics held at my local library and at events held by my local writing group in front of people. Last time I pretended the audience was my cats. It was my best reading ever. Everyone agreed, an A++. So, they did help me hone my skills.

My cats also enjoy science fiction. If we pop in a Star Trek or Stargate dvd, they’re usually both down on the couch within a couple of minutes. Makayla really liked the Star Trek episode with Joan Collins when Spock built a radio. For some reason that really fascinated her. She doesn’t like to be petted when Spock is on. The pointed ears maybe?

So make believe traveling is all we do these days, which is fine. There’s little screaming involved, except for my grunts of frustration. Whenever I’m working, they’ll come hover at my feet. I think they’re asking me, “Any cats in this one? It’d be a better story with cats in it.”

There is an alien cat-like thing in Semper Audacia. Although, they thought the alien cat should have won, because cats are naturally better than everybody else, they loved that story and thought I should share it with the world. So, I did. They’re the best fans.

Do your pets help you write?

 About Semper Audacia:

Description: Alone. Leda is the last living member of the brigade, the sole defender of her world. War took everyone she knew, leaving her in the company of memories and ghosts. Or is it madness?
The siren blares. The enemy is coming. Or is it? The approaching vessel isn't a friendly design, but it answers with the correct code. Leda must figure out whether the arrival is reinforcements or the final assault. In an aging flyer, she ventures out to meet her world's fate, the last stand.

Details: 99 cents. Space Opera. Novelette. 13,200 words.

About M. Pax:

Inspiring the words I write, I spend my summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where I live with the husband unit and two loving cats. I write speculative fiction mostly and have a slight obsession with giant, man-eating reptiles and Jane Austen. I know, they don’t really go together, but it’d be interesting to insert Godzilla in the middle of Pride & Prejudice.