Friday, September 30, 2011

Coffee Time with Rosalind Adam

If you want to have some fun and also support a great cause, head on over to the wonderful Rosalind Adam's site for Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning.

Rosalind and her sister are hosting the event, and they're serving lots of yummy food and drinks. You can dress up in your coffee time best and hang out with Rosalind and all her guests. The fun is scheduled to go on all weekend.

But it's not just about fun, as the event is registered with the Macmillan Cancer Support Team, and is all about raising money for Macmillan, the team that cared for Rosalind's mother before she passed away from cancer earlier this year. When I visited the blog a little while ago, the coffee party had already raised 112.50 pounds! (Sorry, I don't think I can type the UK pound sign on my keyboard! If there's a way to do it, I sure don't know what it is.)

So go visit Rosalind here for all the info, including the link for donations, and have a great time for an even greater cause. 

I hope everyone has had a good week! I've been busy writing my WIP and am still very excited about it, but I've ended up behind on everything else as a result. I hope to get back to a normal blogging routine and catch up with all the blogs I've missed next week.

Happy weekend, and Happy October, to all! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saturday Writers Writing Contest

I just wanted to spread the word about a great writing contest I learned about when visiting my buddy Becky Povich.

Saturday Writers is a chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, and the group is currently holding their 10th Annual Fictional Short Story Contest!

The contest is open to all writers, and all subjects or genres are welcome. The entry fee is $7 per story, and prizes are $100 for first place, $50 for second place, $25 for third place, and certificates for fourth through sixth place.

The deadline to enter is November 1, 2011, so there's plenty of time to get a story together and enter. You do have to send entries by snail mail, so you'll need to have your entry postmarked by the November 1st deadline. And if you have more than one story, you can enter up to three times.

The Saturday Writers work hard to encourage and support all writers, and this contest is a great chance to support them while also entering your work in a fun contest.

To get all the details on the contest, click here. Good luck to everyone who decides to enter! :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Google Earth and Coldfoot, Alaska

I've been making tons (for me, anyway) of progress on my Polar Night story this week, and a big reason for that is a tip I read on Jacqui Murray's great blog, WordDreams.

Jacqui wrote about using Google Earth to search out the locations she was writing about, allowing her to travel the same streets and towns as her characters. I'd never thought about using Google Earth for this purpose before, but because I am writing a story that takes place in an area I have never been, I couldn't wait to try it.

I have to admit, I've now become a little obsessed with Google Earth. ;) Polar Night is set in Alaska, and I feel like I have spent most of my week virtually visiting the state.

My main character is based in Fairbanks, and being able to travel around the streets of the city was just amazing to me. To "see" the stores and banks and gas stations my character will be passing as he drives around Fairbanks was more helpful than I ever could have guessed, and inspired me to want to write and write and write. And then to write some more. :)

A good part of Polar Night takes place in the Arctic region of Alaska, and I was totally fascinated to be able to view a town called Coldfoot. Coldfoot began as a mining town in the early 1900s, and is now a truck stop on the legendary Dalton Highway. I knew I wanted to base one of my characters in an Arctic region town, and when I discovered Coldfoot I couldn't believe how perfect it was for my story.

I loved looking up Coldfoot on Google Earth, and also found some great photos of the town on TripAdvisor. While I would not want to be in this snow myself, just looking at the photos makes me feel inspired again. I couldn't ask for a better setting for my story.

Pictures of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp, Coldfoot
This photo of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Pictures of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp, Coldfoot
This photo of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I know I still have a lot of research to do in order to be able to understand the culture and feel of Alaska, and I would give anything to actually be able to travel there and see it in person, but for now I am thrilled to be able to virtually explore this amazing state. I'm so grateful to Jacqui for this tip!

If you're not already familiar with WordDreams, I would highly recommend a visit, as I always think Jacqui offers valuable advice and tips, and also great writer's resources.

I'm hoping for a productive writing weekend to close out my productive week. Whatever you're planning for your weekend, I hope you have a great one ahead! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Serpent Mound

Clancy and I took advantage of absolutely perfect weather to get back to our Travels last Saturday morning. Thanks to a recommendation from Amalie at Waxing Lackadaisical, we headed to the Serpent Mound, which is just outside the town of Peebles in Adams County, Ohio.

The mound is about 80 miles east of Cincinnati, and the majority of the drive is along Ohio State Route 32. As it was such a clear and beautiful morning, Clancy and I really enjoyed the drive through the rural counties of Clermont, Brown, and Adams. I love the convenience and speed of expressways, but I couldn't help but think while driving along 32 that if I had all the time in the world, driving along old state routes would be the way to really see the country.

We saw some funny billboards for upcoming events, such as an Old West Festival that looked like it would fit perfectly in an old-fashioned cowboy movie. We also passed a turn-off with a sign pointing to "The Land of the Singing Coyote." Clancy really wanted to stop there, but he was over-ruled.

As we got into Adams County, we saw street signs for Tranquility Pike and Unity Road. Apparently the people in the area are a happy and peaceful bunch. I considered going on Tranquility Pike to see if it lived up to its name, but I decided to keep going to the mound instead.

The Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the United States, and it is a National Historic Landmark. According to the Visitor's Guide that I received at the Museum, which is run by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System, it is also the largest surviving example of a prehistoric effigy mound in the world.

The mound sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Brush Creek Valley, and it is in the shape of an uncoiling serpent. There is a paved trail that goes along the length of the snake, so Clancy and I set off along that trail when we got to the site.

We couldn't have asked for a better morning to be there, as the sky was so clear and blue that the moon was still visible in the sky even though the sun had been up for a few hours.

As we we walked along the trail, I was intrigued by various signs marking the Winter Solstice sunrise, the Equinox sunrise, moonrise, etc.

The sign at the head of the serpent notes that it is aligned with the Summer Solstice sunset.

The original purpose of the Serpent Mound is unknown, but its alignment with the cycles of the sun suggests a possible connection to ancient sacred traditions. It was so fascinating to me to try and imagine the mound builders lining up the serpent to such exact points. According to carbon dating, the mound was likely built around the year 1070 by the Fort Ancient culture, but its origins will always be shrouded in mystery.

As the Visitor's Guide put it, "mystery, rather than certainty, remains this site's greatest gift to present generations." I liked that!

There's no question that there is a palpable sense of mystery surrounding the mound. For one thing, I can't begin to imagine how it was ever built. At times, it is a good three feet tall, and it is perfectly shaped and rounded. Its width ranges from three feet to twenty feet.

As Clancy and I continued on, we came to an overlook of the Brush Valley below. This may have been my favorite part of the morning, as the valley was simply beautiful, and the epitome of rolling farmland. I loved the white farmhouse, and the bales of hay dotting the landscape.

We kept going on the trail, and came to the tail of the serpent, where Clancy posed on the stone steps. He wasn't particularly thrilled to do so, but finally consented to at least sit there, even if he wouldn't look at the camera.

After we finished the paved trail, we headed to the Ohio Brush Creek hiking trail, which runs along the creek that borders the park.

This was a narrow and uneven trail, so my klutzy self had to be very careful, but it was worth the extra care. 

Clancy loved the creek trail, as he much prefers the shade to the sun. Even so, he wasn't any happier about having his picture taken.

By the time we finished the hiking trail we had worked up an appetite, so I was glad I had packed a lunch. We headed to the picnic shelter adjacent to the mound.

It was great to be able to sit and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the park while we ate lunch. And, when he wasn't begging for part of my sandwich, Clancy was happy to have a long cool drink of water.

I think the Serpent Mound is my favorite of the places Clancy and I have visited, as I was fascinated by both the history and the mystery of the place. I'm a history buff, and always find the study of ancient civilizations to be very interesting. I am also always intrigued by ancient religious traditions and sacred sites, so the Serpent Mound had plenty to keep me interested.

But beyond all that, it is simply a beautiful place, and Clancy and I were fortunate to visit on the most gorgeous day we've had in months. I'm hoping the rest of our fall outings will be just as successful!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sample Sunday: Polar Night Prologue

Ever since I had the dream that inspired me to take my suspense novel in a totally different direction, I've been thrilled as I've been able to make more progress on it in the past two weeks than I previously had over the whole summer. I thought I would share the prologue I wrote to start the novel. My hope is that sharing part of it will help me to keep going at this pace, as sharing the story somehow makes it feel more "real."

The prologue is quite short, but I hope that it captures both the atmosphere of the story and the interest of readers. The working title for the novel is Polar Night.


He loved the cold.

Raw, icy, bone chilling cold. It reminded him of home. Of February. Of her.

Most couldn't tolerate the harsh Alaskan winters. But he wasn't like most. He didn't fear the cold. He embraced it.

He stared out at the barren white landscape in front of him, and brushed a strand of straight blond hair from his forehead. He shook the snowflakes from his long, gloved fingers, and put his hands back into the pockets of his black coat.

He loved the cold, yes, but he loved the night even more. His first winter in Alaska had convinced him to make the state his American home. He knew he had found the right place.

He lived for the night. And it was coming.

It was almost December, and the darkness was coming.

When it came, she would be his again. He felt a rush of anticipation as he turned to go back inside.

The darkness was almost here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watching Willow Watts Launch Party: If I Could Be Anyone I'd Be...

Congratulations to Talli Roland on her new novel, Watching Willow Watts! Yay, Talli!!

I'm excited to be participating in Talli's launch party to celebrate the new book. I have to admit, it was kind of hard to pick a celebrity I would be for the party today, but I finally decided on:

When I first read about Talli's party, my first thought was that I wanted to be an athlete. I have absolutely no athletic ability at all, and from the time I was a child I've wanted to know what it's like to be a great, or even a passable, athlete. I'd love to know how it feels to be able to move with so much power, speed, and grace.

I don't have an athletic bone in my body, and I always consider myself fortunate if I can walk across a room without tripping or turning my ankle. If there is anything to trip over within a 50 mile radius of where I am, I will find it. I've also been known to trip over carpet. It's amazing how many times a piece of carpet has jumped up and tripped me when I'm just walking along minding my own business and trying to get from Point A to Point B.

I spent every summer with skinned knees as a child, because if I wasn't tripping, I was quite good at falling off my bike. I used to watch Fantasy Island back then, and I thought if I went to the island I'd ask Mr. Roarke to turn me into an athlete for my stay. Now all these years later, I finally have my chance to be an athlete, thanks to Talli's party!

I'm not a tennis fan, but it seems to me that tennis is the only sport where female players get as much attention as male players. So when choosing my athlete, I decided to be a tennis player. From there I figured, why not pick a tennis player who also looks like a supermodel? If I'm going to be someone else, I might as well go for broke. :D

So I'm Ms. Sharapova for today, and I'm sending a HUGE round of applause to Talli! I can't wait to read her book, and I wish her tons of success with it. You can order the book on here or on here.

I'm looking forward to checking in with all the other partiers as the day goes on. Cheers! :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Awards Round-Up and Overdue Thanks

This week I've managed to miss the first challenge of the Platform-Building Campaign, and the first meeting of the Insecure Writers Support Group. Since August, I seem to be stuck in some kind of fog where I can't accomplish anything I intend to do. But, I feel like I might be coming out of that fog, as I managed to finally make some progress on my WIP, and write 2500 words yesterday. It wasn't a pretty sight, but I was totally doing the happy dance around my condo yesterday. :D

So, in the spirit of continuing that progress and getting out of my slump, I want to send out some LONG overdue thanks to blogger friends who were kind enough to share awards with me back in August. I also want to pass the awards on to some wonderful bloggers, some of whom I have known for a while, and others that I have just had the good fortune to meet thanks to the Campaign.

First up, L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets shared the 7 x 7 Link Award with me at the end of August.

I think this is a great idea for an award, as it asks recipients to share seven of their own blog posts. I've really enjoyed reading the responses to this award around the blogosphere, as it's fun to read older posts I may never have seen otherwise. So, here are my own choices in the seven categories:

Most Beautiful: I chose my first A-Z in April post, A is for Aquinnah, as I think Aquinnah, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, is a beautiful place. And, I love the photos of the beach and cliffs.

Most Helpful: This was a hard one for me, as I don't feel I have any helpful advice to offer anyone when it comes to writing, and I'm much more likely to be seeking out advice myself. But, I was surprised at the response I received to my Weekend Inspiration post, where I shared a quote from Shel Silverstein. The quote seemed to strike a chord with others who were needing inspiration just as I was, so I think it was a helpful post, and hope it will continue to be.

Most Popular: In terms of page views, my most popular post is another one from the A-Z Challenge, U is for U2. I think perhaps U2 fans have stumbled across the link to this page while searching on Google, as it has considerably more views than any other post I've done. That's fine with me though, as it is one of my favorite posts that I've written. Although I was bummed to see that the Red Rocks video has since been removed from youtube. :(

Most Controversial: I don't really write about controversial topics on here, so I had trouble thinking of a post for this category. But, since Michael Vick is an extremely controversial figure, I decided to go with a post I wrote way back in my first month of blogging called  The "Vicktory Dogs." I wrote this post after seeing an article in Best Friends Magazine about the dogs Best Friends had rescued from Vick's dog fighting ring.

Most Surprisingly Successful: This was an easy one, and another A-Z post, V is for Von Count. I consistently get a laugh whenever I look at the top page views for any particular week, as I'm pretty sure The Count has been in the top 5 every week since April. It's also funny to look at the Google searches that bring traffic to my blog, as I always find searches like "Sesame Street Vampire," "Von Count," and "Vampire Count." I never realized The Count was such a popular figure, but there's no doubt he is an enduring star.

Most Under-Rated: I chose another post from back when I was still quite new to blogging for this category, not because I think it is under-rated, but just because I hardly had any readers at that time, so I thought it would be worth sharing again. The post is called Too Late?, and is about my ongoing fears that I am too old, and too late to the party, to ever get this writing goal off the ground. I found the article I linked to in the post to be very inspiring, and I think others will too.

Most Prideworthy: I chose my recent flash fiction post, Miss Mary's House, for this category, because I am proud of the fact that I actually shared a story I wrote. Putting my work out there for anyone to see has been a big fear of mine, so this post was a way for me to start overcoming that fear. I lived through it, so it didn't turn out to be nearly as scary as I had always thought it would be. ;)

Now that I've blabbered on far too long, I want to pass this award on to seven fabulous bloggers:

Shannon at The Warrior Muse
Rebecca at Life In Clarity
E.J. at The Open Vein
Tim at Life of Riles
Hilary at Positive Letters...inspirational stories
Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry
Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs

Thanks again to LG Smith for this fun award!

Up next, Rebecca at the above-mentioned Life in Clarity shared the Liebster Blog award with me back in mid-August.

This is a super-sweet award designed for new, or at least relatively new, bloggers, and the rules are as follows:

The Liebster Award (meaning “friend” in German) is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

So, here are my five picks for this great award:

Julie at Empty Nest Insider
Abby at Something to Write About
Amalie at Waxing Lackadaisical
Lynn Marie at Life Through Bifocals
Mark at Mark Noce Stories

Thank you again to Rebecca

Finally, my most overdue thanks go to Julie at Empty Nest Insider, who shared the Seriously Cute Blogger award with me way back at the beginning of August. The picture for this award is so precious, it's fun just to be able to share it on the blog.

In addition to passing on the award to five other bloggers, the rules for this award require me to list a recent book that I would recommend. That's an easy one, as I am happy to recommend Samantha Sotto's Before Ever After, which was released in August. I'd encourage everyone to pick up a copy if you haven't already! 

And now for my seriously cute bloggers:

Misha at My First Book
Nutschell at The Writing Nut
LG at Bards and Prophets
Carol at Under the Tiki Hut
Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow

Thank you again to Julie

My apologies to LG, Rebecca, and Julie for my tardiness in accepting these awards. I hope I really am out of my fog now! 

Happy weekend to all! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Long Branch Farm & Trails

After hitting some roadblocks in August, Clancy and I decided to get our Travels project back on track again with a visit to Long Branch Farm & Trails in Goshen, Ohio. While we did make the trip, I'm not sure I would say that our experience got us back on track.

My sister decided to accompany us to the Farm, so we had a visitor along for the ride again. Long Branch is part of the Cincinnati Nature Center, and is open only to members. As I had joined CNC back when Clancy and I visited Rowe Woods, I was all set and had my membership and guest cards ready to go. We set off early Sunday morning, and headed for Goshen.

Long Branch is about an hour's drive from where I live, so we were prepared for a fairly long ride. But, that ride turned out to be a great deal longer than we planned, as I missed the turnoff to Long Branch and ended up at least 30 minutes out of our way, on a country road that seemed to be leading nowhere. By the time we realized we had missed the turn, there was nowhere to turn around for what felt like 100 miles. Even Clancy the car-ride junkie got sick of the drive, and stretched out on the back seat with an irritated harrumph. In addition, the winding country road made my sister start to feel car sick. It wasn't a pleasant morning drive, to put it mildly.

At long last, we finally reached the Farm, and set off to walk on the trails, anxious to put the irritation of the drive behind us. We chose the Salamander trail, which was a 1.6 mile loop around the farm. As was the case at Rowe Woods, the trail was clearly marked. Thank goodness, as I'd already been lost enough for one day.

The trail was quiet and quite peaceful, and Clancy and I enjoyed stopping to sit for a picture on some old logs. As is often the case, Clancy refused to look at the camera.

He had no problem looking towards the camera a few moments later, though, when we reached the trail overlook, and my sister held his leash while I look a picture. As he had when my brother was with us, Clancy once again acted like a lunatic, crying and carrying on as if he was frantic to get to me, even though I was only standing a few feet away. He's known my sister since the day he came to live with me, so his behavior was truly ridiculous.

The overlook was a pretty scene though, and we were much higher up than we would have guessed while walking towards it.

After leaving the overlook area, we hiked down a fairly steep descent, and ended up in a creek bed that was filled with more rocks than water.

We climbed around on the rocks, which, based on my limited memory of high school geology, I would say were probably shale. I can't even call this an educated guess though, as my memory is so limited in that area that it's more like a shot in the dark.

We hopped around on the rocks, then made our way back up from the creek bed, where we found our friend the Salamander. We followed him back around the loop to the Farm entrance.

Unfortunately, our drive to the Farm had been so muddled that we couldn't remember which way to turn to get back to the main road. We debated, and I'm sure it's no surprise that I chose the wrong way. Fortunately, it didn't take us long to realize this, but we did spend more time than I would have liked on yet another windy country road with no street signs or markers to be seen.

This debacle is probably enough to get me to finally buy a GPS. I don't know why I've resisted it, as I am among the most directionally-impaired people on the planet and a GPS seems like it was made just for me. I think I am finally going to have to break down and buy one before I head out on any more country roads.

Long Branch is a nice place for a quiet and undisturbed walk, but I can't say I will have fond memories of this trip. With a new month and a new season in front of us, I'm hoping Clancy and I can really get back on track for the next installment of our Travels. I think a trip to Best Buy is in order so I can get that GPS installed before we venture out again.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Party Time At Coming Down the Mountain

Karen at Coming Down the Mountain is hosting her Second Annual Labor Day Blog BBQ, and the fun starts today!

It couldn't be easier to participate, as all you have to do is share what you are bringing to the BBQ, and hang out with Karen and all the other partiers.

Since I'm a terrible cook, I'm bringing my favorite snack, tortilla chips and salsa, and also sharing my favorite summer drink, the Mojito.

Apparently the Mojito is the official drink of Miami, but all I know is that it's a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Mojitos are made with Rum, lime, club soda, sugar, and mint. There's also a non-alcoholic version, which uses sugar syrup in place of the Rum, and it's equally yummy.

So, I'm sharing Mojitos and snacks with everyone this weekend, and looking forward to meeting new and old friends at the BBQ. Thanks to Karen for being such a great host!

To all my American friends, Happy Labor Day weekend, and to everyone outside of the US, I hope you have a fabulous weekend as well! :)