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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fun Halloween-Themed Blogfest, and Blogging Troubles

I've been having a terrible time coming up with post topics lately, so I was happy to learn about the upcoming Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by E.R. King at Get Busy Writing,and Deana Barnhart. I love Halloween, so this blogfest seems like a lot of fun to me.

Here are the specifics of the fest, from E.R. King's site:

"The theme is, you guessed it, Killer Characters! Is there a hero who's haunted your dreams? How about a lower-than-dirt bad guy who's made your skin crawl? Or a spunky sidekick who's stolen your heart? Tell us about them!

Join us in three challenges:
1) Oct 24 post about your favorite literary supporting character
2) Oct 26 post about your favorite literary protagonist
3) Oct 28 post about your favorite literary antagonist
All entires should be 250 words maximum, but you may use all the pictures you'd like.

Choose characters you feel strongly about. They don't all have to be
evil—though seeing how it's Halloween, malevolent characters are welcome—but they should be killer (AKA awesome, incredible, terrifying, formidable, etc.). Note: The characters you choose should be famous literary characters. For instance, the Ugly Stepsisters (supporting), Batman (protagonist), and the Wicked Witch of the West (antagonist). Then write concise, clear, and convincing entries. Explain why your characters are the best!"

To make the challenge even better, E.R. and Deana are giving away prizes to three lucky winners. To sign up for the fest, just visit their sites and add your blog to the list!

On an unrelated note, I seem to be having problems with Blogger again, and am unable to leave comments on most blogs at the moment. I am also having trouble just getting pages to load. I have fallen behind in my blogging visits and am trying to get caught up, and it's very frustrating to be encountering these issues again.

Here I am this morning trying to visit some of my favorite blogs:

I don't know if this is an issue on my end, or if Blogger is acting up again, but whatever the reason, I hope it is resolved soon so I will be able to get back to my regular blog visits.

For now though, I hope lots of folks will sign up for E.R. and Deana's great fest. I will look forward to reading all the entries, and will keep my fingers crossed that my current issues will be a distant memory by the 24th!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Kentucky Follies and Delhi Flowers

Clancy and I decided to head across the Ohio river to Kentucky for our latest Travels, and visit Big Bone Lick State Park. That was the plan, anyway. That's not exactly how it turned out.

The morning started out beautifully, as we couldn't have asked for better weather. After an extremely wet spring and a terribly hot summer, we've had the best fall in recent memory, with clear days and seasonally cool temperatures. Now that the leaves have started to change, the days are simply gorgeous.

I'd planned to go to some Kentucky parks over the summer, but a massive construction project along the interstate kept me on the Ohio side of the river. There is still construction going on, but I decided to take the Anderson Ferry across the river to avoid it.

The ferry has been in operation since 1817, and runs daily, going back and forth across the river continuously from early in the morning until late in the evening. The cost is minimal, and you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to catch one of the boats.

Clancy and I drove up just as a boat was loading, so we got on immediately. That was the end of our good luck for the day.

Things started to go haywire while we were on the boat, as Clancy was scared to death of it. Since he loves riding in the car I figured he would be fine with this, as we never left our car during the ride across the river. But, Clancy seemed sure I was driving us into a watery grave from the second we boarded the boat. He wasn't convinced otherwise until we got to the Kentucky side of the river and were back on dry land.

While Clancy obviously wouldn't agree, it was a great morning to be on the ferry. There was fog along the river, and the sun looked gorgeous, and at times a little eerie, breaking through it.

Once we got to Kentucky and Clancy calmed down, I figured we were on our way and we'd soon have a great morning at the park. We drove about 30 minutes from the ferry to where I thought the park was supposed to be, only to find that it wasn't actually there at all. I kept driving, thinking we'd come upon it at any moment, but no such luck. We went on and on along various Kentucky state routes, and finally had to stop and turn around.

I'm wondering now if I was on some sort of unknown hallucinogenic drug last night when I looked up the directions. Maybe someone slipped something into my drink when I had dinner. It's hard telling what I must have entered into Google to get the directions I was following.

After my mishap trying to find the Long Branch Farm, my sister gave me an old GPS she had, so I now have one and could have used it to find Big Bone Lick. But, my fake directions to the park seemed so simple I couldn't see any reason to bring it. I left the GPS at home, and spent most of the morning driving around Northern Kentucky as a result.

When Clancy and I were driving home after I gave up and surrendered to my stupidity, we headed towards the Cincinnati Airport, which is actually in Northern Kentucky, as the road back to the ferry is off the airport road. I got off at the airport exit without thinking that the road off the exit is one way, and only leads to one place - the airport. So, we had to go all the way to the airport and circle the terminals before turning around and going back in the opposite direction, and finally getting to the ferry road.

I knew Clancy was mad about getting back on the Ferry, but I told him we didn't have much choice, as the last thing I felt like doing was sitting in construction traffic. We had to wait a bit for the boat for the return trip, and we ended up the first car on board. I told Clancy I was a little nervous this time too, as this was how it looked out our windshield

Thankfully, my brakes were working just fine.  

When we finally made it back to Ohio, I really didn't want to waste the beautiful weather by just heading home after driving all over creation for no reason. Plus, I knew Clancy was fed up with being in the car and wanted to get out and actually do something. So, I drove to our local park, in Delhi Township.

Clancy and I walk at this park regularly, so it is not exactly something new for us. But, the park has a lovely flower garden that is always a pleasure to walk through, so I decided to try and salvage our morning by at least enjoying the flowers.

The garden is maintained entirely by volunteers, and I think they do an amazing job. We did have a great walk, and Clancy enjoyed smelling around and checking to make sure everything in the park was still the same as the last time we'd been there. He seemed satisfied that all was in order.

We had a really nice walk, and got to enjoy the beautiful weather. But I'm not sure I'll ever live down the fact that Clancy and I rode a ferry back and forth across the Ohio river, drove for a solid hour around Northern Kentucky, and went to the airport, only to end up at a park that is less than two miles from our house. I know Clancy was worn out, and no doubt thought I was completely nuts by the time we finished our trip.

It's taken several brick walls to fall on my head, but I've finally learned my lesson. I won't leave home without my GPS again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finishing the 400 Mile Fitness Challenge

Back at the end of January, I signed up for the 400 Mile Fitness Challenge, then hosted by the Books, Fitness, and Other Stuff blog. The challenge was to reach 400 miles by the end of this year, either by walking, running, or bike-riding. I've been walking, and I was excited to reach that 400 mile goal this morning. :)

I had only been blogging a month when I decided to sign up for this challenge, and I had doubts about whether I would ever have any success with this blog, or be able to maintain it. The challenge was the first thing that really helped me to start meeting other bloggers, including the very kind and supportive Lynn Marie at Life through Bifocals, and it was also the first time I started to feel a connection to the blogosphere.

As the year went on, I realized that my little runner moving along the exercise ticker represented more than just my exercising goals. She had also come to represent my blog and my writing journey as well.

The blog was in its infancy at the same time she started on the ticker. Now that she's at the finish line, I can't help but look back on how the blog has changed during the journey to 400 miles.

The post that announced my participation in the challenge was my 16th post. This is post number 129. Back in January, I had maybe 5 or 10 followers, most of whom were friends and family. Now, I have 301. Back then, I had never heard of a blogfest or a blog hop, and I had no clue what on earth a blog award was all about. Now, I've been fortunate enough to both give and receive awards, and I've participated in so many fun blogfests and hops, where I've met some amazing blogging friends from all over the world. I've published two articles, been honored to write a guest post for another site, started a second blog, and even overcome my fear of sharing my work publicly.

It's been a good year, and it's safe to say that it all started with this blog. I am going to keep my 400 mile exercise ticker, as it will always be a reminder to me of what you can accomplish when you commit yourself to a goal. And, that you never know what else will come your way while you're on your journey. 

As the ticker has been such a great motivator for me, I've decided to start a new one for my biggest goal, completing my novel Polar Night. I know that 60,000-80,000 words is considered an average word count for a novel, so I'm starting a ticker to track my progress towards 80,000 words. I'm hoping this will be as motivating for me as the exercise ticker was, and I also hope it will be inspiring to track my progress publicly. 

The word count ticker is only at 12,892 words now, and 80,000 looks a long way off. But, I'm confident that I'll get there. And, I'm anxious to find out what new and unexpected joys I'll have as I travel along on the journey.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? ~ Vincent van Gogh

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cat Fancy Article

I got such a thrill this weekend, as for the first time (and hopefully not the last!), I was able to go to a bookstore and buy something that contains a piece of my writing!

Back in June, I learned that a query I sent to Cat Fancy magazine had been accepted, and just signing a writing contract was a dream come true for me. I knew my article was scheduled to be published in the November issue, so for months now I have been dying for that issue to hit the stands. Sure enough, now it has!

The articles are not online, but I could not resist taking a screenshot of the table of contents on the magazine's website. If you look closely, you'll see my name under Rescue of the Month on page 10!

This article means a lot to me, not only because it is my first paid print publishing credit, but also because it is about Tabby's Place, a cat sanctuary I learned about through Best Friends. I totally fell in love with the sanctuary when I wrote about it for the Best Friends site, and I'm thrilled to have the chance to give Tabby's more publicity through this article, as I think they do amazing work.

I have to admit I've been on a high all weekend since I saw this magazine on the stands, and I hope I don't come down any time soon. :D

I'm so grateful to have the chance to share this publishing milestone with so many wonderful blogger buddies. It's a great thing to be able to travel on this writing journey with all of you, and I hope we all have many successes to share in the months and years ahead! :)

And speaking of successes, my friend M. Pax is throwing a party today to celebrate the publication of her novelette, Semper Audacia!!  I'm sending huge congratulations and giving her a standing ovation, and I can't wait to party with her later today. Woo-hoo Mary!