Monthly Archives: August 2015

Reflecting on NOLA – Oh My God… I’m a Hippy!!!

Actually, I say that jokingly, as I already knew that I fall into the ‘tree-hugger’ category, and have for many years. What makes it so evident to me is that while visiting the Big Easy, the place I chose to visit FIRST under my limited amount of time to sight-see, was in fact… the Swamp. I have to say that it was about three or four hours well spent, and I loved almost everything about it. So, let me tell you a bit about this incredible nature walk far different from my home in the desert of west Texas.

First, we rode on a bus, and our very knowledgeable driver shared with us a bit about the local history and recent events. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and I recall vividly when that devastating event took place. The mix between the newly rebuilt portions and the gutted structures that have yet to be restored is astounding. The destructive forces of nature are beyond words, but in the end, it was our (man’s) failed attempt at controlling it that led to the flooding there. If the levee had held, Katrina would have been just another storm; and oh, how things have changed because of it.

I found the bus ride to be particularly exciting, and in a way comforting, in light of my recent releases in the Irrevocable Series. I included many references and aspects in that story that were driven home for me on the tour, seeing it all first hand. On that note, I will say that I stand behind everything I said in my ‘fictitious’ story, which is as real as it gets without ever actually happening (yet), and the tour felt very reaffirming in that respect.

On we go – and the second thing that happened on the tour was our arrival at the small tour center, where literally hundreds of people are bused in and dropped off each day to take part in the tour. I had experienced this type of setup last year while vising Las Vegas and taking a bus tour to the Grande Canyon. Here I want to insert some praise, because this is a fabulous way to enable MANY people to go and experience what could be a once in a lifetime activity. The outhouses / bathrooms were hot and muggy, and the store small and quaint for such a large number of customers, but they were well organized and I applaud them at the over all ease and convenience of the entire experience – loved it!

Now for the exciting part – Johnny took us out in a large flat-bottomed boat and the first thing we saw was a HUGE grasshopper that had landed on our canopy. No, it was really called something else, but like I’m going to remember what. He caught it for us and passed it around. Then, a few minutes later, we were farther back into the marsh, and ALLIGATORS started coming right up to the boat. Our guide had joked earlier about having marshmallows and hotdogs in the back, and at this point he pulled them out and began spearing pieces with a long stick.  I was flabbergasted, and in my best My Cousin Vinny voice, I could hear myself say, “You were serious about that?”

Oh, he was very serious, and used his treats to lure numerous animals up for us to see (pics posted at the bottom), including raccoons and wild pigs. The snake we picked up from another boat, and also passed it around. Believe me, these animals are well trained, and react to the sound of the boat, and many even come when called (yup, they even have names). It was an amazing experience, as he slowed down and stopped often to share and show, including a few awesome giant spiders that use their legs to fish for minnows (holy crap!). Over all, I loved the tour and would not trade the chance to see those huge old trees and all the wildlife for anything.

But, there is a catch. I really hated to see them using Marshmallows for this, and felt a little sad at the whole circus feel of how things went. Sugar isn’t good for us, and it’s certainly not good for animals, and they have introduced it into their diet. I found it amusing to see that some of the gators liked the hot dogs, while others preferred the white sugary goodness, but again, it really shouldn’t be done, and I would have felt better if all their offerings had been more ‘natural’. I can see why they did it, and appreciate that we were able to enjoy the experience, even with this one dark blot upon it.

Overall, a fantastic adventure. I learned so many things and was thrilled to be there. I love the world, love seeing new and wondrous places, and can’t wait to visit my next destination that will be new and exciting – I am taking my son to Washington, DC, before we hit the signing in Pittsburgh, PA next March, and I cannot wait to get there!

giant bugaligator temtingaligator treatpigsraccoonspidertiny snake

FITNESS TEST

Have you ever wanted to start over and get fit? Wished that you had eaten better or been more active when you were younger? Well, we can’t fix the past, but we can always work to make the future better in that regard. This is a little of my journey to be a healthier individual…

My first changes came after I had pneumonia eight years ago, and was chronically ill afterwards with sinus and chest infections. No matter what I did, as soon as the weather got colder, or the dirt blew, or spring came; I got sick. I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without rest. I was miserable.

After two years of struggling with those illnesses, I quit smoking, which was six years ago. Immediately after that, I started drinking water, and my tastes changed. Today, I drink a cup of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the time, and other drinks just don’t taste right anymore. Ten years ago, I drank a six pack of cokes a day; every day. Man, I never would have guessed that change would have come for me. But it did, and now I encourage my son to drink water and NOT struggle with that battle.

Once I got on the water kick, other things began to change. As many of you know, I have been a member of crossfit for several years. I joined for the exact reasons most people do – to feel better, be stronger, and have a longer healthier life. However, being a teacher meant that I wasn’t able to go on a regular basis, so my attendance and results had been pretty haphazard until this summer. However, I have never given up, and stuck to the diet the best I could, even though I wasn’t able to get in there and do the work out.

When this last year ended, I made a promise to myself that I would do a better job of going and putting my best effort into improving my overall health and abilities in the gym. So far, I have stuck to it, and am a little sad that school is starting back in two weeks. No, I’m not teaching this next year, but I have agreed to cover 2 of my friend’s classes this next semester while they have their babies (one first six weeks and one third six weeks) so I will still have a few time constraints thrown in.

I’m going to make my best effort to not let that stop me – and one of the things I want to do towards that goal is to SHARE my results from our fitness test YAY!!! Now, for those of you who are already in top shape, my results are not going to be impressive. In fact, they’re pretty sad. But when I think back to my foundations class, and that I could not hang from the bar because it hurt my belly too much… or that I could not lift myself for a push-up on my knees… what I scored today is damn good.

8-17-15 Fitness Test Results (no modifications, 3 mins for each AMRAP, 1 min break between in order…all this AFTER the warm up exercises)

Push-ups – 11

Pull-ups – 0

Air Squats – 55

Burpees – 10

Run 400 meters – 3:38 timed (when I started, I never ran; period)

So – what does all this mean? It means that my progress is coming, and I should see some better scores when we test again on Nov. 15th. We are also starting a 90 day challenge on Sept. 1st, and that’s another thing that I am going to do to help me stay motivated, because having support helps. Until the next Fitness Test, I’ll keep you post on how things are going now and then.

 

FORGOTTEN ANGEL – Joy of Release Day

Wow – this summer’s finale is finally here! And what a wonderful little adventure this has been. I started rereading Summer Angel (book 1) in the series before bed, and am swept away once more into the second plane, where guardian angels reside.

While I was reading, I noticed something interesting; how bits and pieces have seen their way into other works of mine. You have not seen The Wicked Awakened, since it is not being released until Halloween, but it also has magic in it, and I have discovered that I LOVE writing about mystical beings.

In the Summer Spirit Novellas, the angels use magic extensively. It permeates every part of their lives, and is completely part of who they are. In Dark Angel, Clarisse no longer has her powers, and even comments how difficult it was to adjust to being ‘normal.’

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will tell you instead where this series came from. In actuality, it was written to be a standalone – and each book has a definite conclusion to the problem at hand, so there are no cliff hangers. The idea for it came from a day I spent with my soon to be thirteen year old son, a portion of which appears in Summer Angel. I told him his little idea would make a good story, and of course, then I had to write it for him.

However, as soon as my girls got their hands on SA, I began getting requests for a sequel, as the characters were too compelling to leave them where I had… sigh. And thus, another series was born. Not that I’m complaining – these books have been so much fun to create.

I have kept each novella length, compressing all the important parts into the story, while maintaining a length that can be read in a couple of hours, so they make good travel books, for a car or plane ride. I have also kept them very clean, with the naughty parts and violence mild or hidden… you know it’s there, but it’s not in your face, so to speak. Again, good practice for me, I think. My first series is 7 connected books long… almost half a million words of dark, violent and graphic material, so this is definitely something different.

Anyway, I have ideas to continue, more or less, next summer, with a new set of three novella stories. Whether or not it will be the same story line or not, I have not decided. I guess I will know when it gets to be closer to time to write them. Until then, all 3 are on sale for only 99 cents each, as of today, so please enjoy my little magical creation.

Reflecting on NOLA – 5 THINGS Authors Should Know

This past week, I flew to New Orleans for a book signing that was held there – ARC NOLA. Jamie, one of my fangirls, administrators, and dearest friends, met me there, and we spent nearly three days hanging out and experiencing the city. Over all, we had a great time, and I have several posts in mind regarding some of those things that happened outside the event process itself. For this post, I would like to reflect upon and share some of my discoveries about signing events in general.

5 Things AUTHORS should know…

#1. YOUR PA – If you can take a helper, do so. Although this signing was less busy than some that I have been to, I was alone at my first one. You do NOT want to feel overwhelmed, and having an assistant can make things so much nicer, both when it’s busy and when it’s not. That way they can watch the table for you, run errands, or what ever you need. So choose your helper with that in mind; you will be glad you did.

#2. EVENT PLANNING – When preparing for the event – get into the planning group or what ever is going on beforehand. The organizers should be doing this, and communicating what is going to take place well in advance. If they are not, or if you don’t like what is going on, cancel your table and save yourself the expense of the trip. Well, unless it’s a cool location you want to visit anyway, and then by all means, go and enjoy. The odds are good that the event itself will go about the same as the planning did. If you can’t see any evidence of preparation, the attendance at your event will probably be very small, and you are essentially ‘on vacation’.

#3. SHIP IT OUT – When packing for the event – and I learned this the hard way at a previous signing – shipping things to the Hotel can be great, but only if you have a PLAN for getting ALL of the items home. Otherwise, DON’T DO IT! Only take what you can carry comfortably both ways,. The last thing you want to do is find yourself at an event that flopped for what ever reason and you suddenly have a case of books or a huge sign you have no way to transport.

#4. GETTING THERE – When booking airlines – they are NOT all created equally, and reading the fine print is tedious and often difficult. I have come to dislike booking through money saving sites as well, as there are often things that you don’t see until after you have made the purchase. From now on, I plan on passing them over, and going straight to Southwest when ever possible. Why? First, I get two checked bags for free with them, and this last trip I flew with someone else, where my bags turned out to be the biggest hassle of the trip. Second, their planes are all pretty much the same, so I know what to expect every single flight. Find one that you like and use them; and don’t worry about the cost – if you are going, you might as well suck it up and make getting there and home enjoyable and hassle free.

#5. WHEN TO FLY – This is one that I have been looking at, and I have heard that flights on the weekend are more expensive. If you can afford to stay an extra day to fly out on Monday and can fly in early, that may be a place that you can save money on the trip. Of course, being there extra days adds to the hotel cost, so it is something you can play with and look at the options side by side. I can tell you from my experience, getting there a day early and having time to hang out and relax before the event was very nice and reduced the stress a great deal.

There you are – the first five things that leap into my head about going to a book signing. Of course, there are others, and I may follow up with another five later on. I will definitely be sharing some of the extra curricular activities that we did while at NOLA, as it was a great place to visit and we had SUCH a wonderful time.

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