I met The Bloggess

Me-Blogess cropped

Jenny and me! As she autographed her new book – Powell’s 11/14/2015

I found The Bloggess shortly after I started blogging in 2009. I was looking around this online world to see if it was a venue for me that would benefit my writing. I wanted to see what established bloggers posted.

Jenny Lawson as The Bloggess was wild, ribald, and ridiculous. I was hooked on her voice and in awe of her persona. Her topics are cringe worthy reading that produce guffaws more than snickers, and dozens to hundreds of comments by her followers were almost as good as the posts. I seldom made a comment as I couldn’t add to or improve on anything already in the threads.

Two years ago I featured her and her memoir in the Author Marketing 101 article on nonfiction personas.  Last year I featured Let’s Pretend This Never Happened on my blog.  In April this year, I shared her Bravery by any other name  post on Facebook.

So it was a really big deal for me to spend hours at the Powell’s Jenny Lawson event last night, it’s been on my calendar for months. I would be there no matter what life tossed in my way. And it was Great! A true Fan Girl experience.  And I have the picture to prove it!

However, as much as I admire Jenny as an author and businesswoman, it was meeting her fans that made the biggest impact on me. The event was standing-room-only and the floor roped off, as at the capacity limit, for hours. Jenny’s fans are real people with personal, emotional, and physical challenges who suffer with depression, disorders, phobias and manias. Now they have an example of how to step out of the shadows and help themselves and each other. Through Jenny’s authenticity and humor they have a voice, an advocate who tells it like it is! Jenny’s fans are also the counselors, friends and family who are helping dissolve the mental illness stigma.

There’s a wonderful speech on You Tube as Jenny accepts the “2014 NoStigmas Hero Award” (via skype) on behalf of everyone who shares the battle to be “Furiously Happy” in spite of horrible things.

About Doors

closet doorOne door closes, another opens – or sometimes it’s a window. I’m the type to open and close them instead of waiting for some karmic event to squeak the hinges. Sometimes I’ve had more than one door or window propped open and have been reprimanded for being scattered with too many projects in pfront door-flower potsrocess at a time. However, I’ve been blogging since 2009 so the family events; of two weddings, two funerals, three new homes, and three new grandbabies, are recorded in the posts that also include publishing two books, lots of traveling, a new dog, plus a variety of conferences and writerly business events.

It’s now the first anniversary since I held the author copies of my novel in my hands. Only one year?  It’s two years since it was published in digital but now books get autographed and placed in readers hands! It’s pretty awesome and those years while life was whirling through all those open doors and windows is now research. Plus, we have new doors!

kit doors 002We have new kitchen cabinet doors, knotty pine interior doors, and a lovely new main entrance.  Feng Shui recommends making small shifts to our décor so the chi energy changes its flow gently through our new living or working space, or we can become scattered. But this hasn’t happened for me because I was thrilled to relax and admire all the new doors and décor while working on a strategic plan for my author business.

cabin 002Sometimes doors need to be replaced or re-purposed, like my office door. This door was painted by a teen daughter. Now that full door picture of grass, butterflies and sunshine is the stand-up craft table in my “writing studio” cabin. It rests on two bookcases and I can stand and write while having all type of reference materials spread within easy reach. Having this cabin in the woods behind my home is pretty awesome though it wasn’t built for my use, or as a studio. The hinges don’t squeak when I open the door, which is daily now, and makes me feel settled.

Currently Reading: Wool by Hugh Howey (at the midpoint and it’s amazing.)

Recently viewed: Bridge of Spies (Excellent!)

Tahoe Revisit

Us at Tahoe

A nice man took our picture for us since we don’t have one of those selfie sticks. It’s the way we’ve gotten many pictures together over the years.

It’s time to wrap up this series of trips for the season. The trailer is clean, all water pipes drained, and it is stored for the winter. We’ll have many nice days ahead but not only am I done traveling for a while I’m still processing all the adventures, sorting pictures, and organizing my notes for future novels. I like juggling a full cast of characters in my novels which justifies lots of research trips to write those characters stories.

Looking west from the deck of The Dixie II

Looking west from the deck of The Dixie II

It’s only 18 days since our return, and not only do we have another grandson already but there’s been a plethora of changes and activities in my home and with my family, near and far, that are claiming my attention as fodder for novels and more! I love when using the word “plethora” is the right word.

The tea house on top of the island.

The tea house on top of the island.

Lake Tahoe is still abundantly scenic as the water is pristine and the shoreline dramatic. During our visit in 2003 we were amused that the south eastern section (in Nevada) was like a tiny version of Las Vegas with casinos, tall hotels, wedding chapels, but also with mountain ski resorts. Back then, as soon as we crossed Stateline Road into California the street surface narrowed and was more worn. The buildings were suddenly only one or two stories and surrounded by trees. The roadside/lakefront motels and inns were aged and rustic. It amused us every time we crossed from state to state because we stayed in CA for the night but our activities were in NV.

Maria at Tahoe City shows the water level is down about ten feet. It was lower at the northern end of the lake.

Marina piers at Tahoe City shows the water level is down about ten feet. It was lower at the northern end of the lake.

Now there is no drastic difference as to which part of South Lake Tahoe is part of NV or CA. This was explained to us as the area is now governed from a national parks/politics level so neither the gambling laws or water resources are subjected to a potential feud between the states.  It caters to international tourism and is a stunning place to visit for the architecture and landscapes, even for us who don’t gamble or ski.

Tahoe City is charming with shops and street dining. It smelled really good but all we ate was heavenly ice cream.

Tahoe City is charming with shops and street dining. It smelled really good but all we ate was heavenly ice cream.

We now have two photos of us taking the lake cruise on The Dixie II, a dozen years apart. We still look the same, except we were both wearing sunglasses and darker clothes the first time. Our visit in 2003 was about seven months after Ed was in a nasty auto accident and he was still on meds that messed with his personality almost as much as the impact had misaligned his body. As his caretaker and pack-mule at the time it was during that trip when I began to doubt his potential for recovery. There was a dark cloud hanging over us at that time so revisiting Lake Tahoe this summer was significant. We made fun new memories that override the old ones and without it being planned, the pictures reflect the difference and smiles and eyes are bright now.

We watched this Chinook helicopter with a full fire fighting bucket of water from the Deschutes River during our final lunch before heading home. I’m glad I had a camera!

For our trip home we didn’t have a reservation anywhere but knew we would have to stop at least one night so would be open to whatever looked interesting. Our route was farther east in CA and OR than our trip south and we had a list of potential places to explore if they looked interesting. Alas, the years of drought meant we passed by deserted resorts along dry lake beds and extremely low reservoirs. We just kept driving until we got to Sunriver and the same resort we’d been to in May as our first full trial trip before Yellowstone. Our traveling really had a full circle finish this way.

We took an extra day clearing out the trailer before heading for home. It was amusing to see how we over-prepared and over-stocked as novices for these RVing adventures.  We’re already discussing destinations and events for next year.


Reno and Ribs

Reno signOur travel adventures are probably done for at least a few months but with this Reno-Tahoe trip we realized how much we like it. As we planned this trip I looked through our map cupboard (I love maps) and pulled out the Drive America road atlas. This is three books featuring maps for the entire country, separated by East, Central, and Western states. The date on the copyright page is 1981 and the Eastern book is a bit tattered as we lived in NJ for 15 years. Now we’ve creased the binding of the Western a bit more.

We quickly visited Reno and Lake Tahoe about twelve years ago and decided it was time to do so again. Our first stop was Ashland, OR and the biggest change, since daughter #3 attended college there ten years ago, is the air quality. Students and artisans tend to gather on the streets as the town is vibrant in the evenings, and recreational marijuana is now legal in Oregon. All smoking is banned in buildings and city parks but there are plenty of public smoking areas.

Route 66 was our choice to take from Ashland and as we started east on that historic road there was a warning for vehicle limits, and images of trucks and hauling trailers where banned from the road ahead. We calculated the length of our truck and 30′ travel trailer and were well under those limits, but the warning was enough to know to expect lots of tight turns ahead. That those turns skirted the edge of cliffs, on roads that were very uneven, meant that after a few gasps and comments about the contents of our drawers and cabinets shifting, we were rather silent for miles until the road leveled, widened, and had well marked lanes. There were quite a few vehicles using that road but for us it was a once in a lifetime experience.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain and the desk he used as a reporter, before he became famous.

The road on the OR/CA border was flat, level, wide and straight and  we arrived at the lovely Eagle Lake Resort early in the day and thought we’d have a chance to boat around the lake.  Except the lake has been drying up for the past five years and the view of water from the end of the dock was about a mile distant. We were assured the south end of the lake was large, deep and great for water sports but we just couldn’t get there by boat. This meant we relaxed instead as it was Monday and we were the only campers. The managers, Gary and Vicki, were very friendly and we had a lot of fun with them that evening. We left there expecting to be in Reno in two hours but chose a delay when we saw a Les Schwab in Susanville, CA. Ed wanted the trailer brakes checked and adjusted after our experience on Route 66. As we waited, Gary and Vicki arrived as they had tire issues and we had more fun visiting with them. I love when things like this happen!

Silver mine construction under the down of Virginia City. All lumber was transported from Tahoe.

Silver mine construction under the town of Virginia City. All lumber was transported from Tahoe.

When we arrived in Reno with the intent to explore for a few days, especially Virginia City, we learned our trip was timed with the opening days of a tenth annual week long Nugget Rib Cook-Off. This was a succulent bonus! We were at one of the top five RV resorts in Nevada bike, swim, and explore the history of silver mining and visit the Mark Twain museum but also sampled award winning ribs and sauces.

Reno Stead TowerOur final tour before we left Reno for Lake Tahoe was of the Reno-Stead Airport. This is where the Reno Air Races take place every year and Ed plans to attend that event someday. It is scheduled for this week, but we are home and “back to work” while also anticipating the birth of another grandbaby. However, for Ed, visiting the Reno-Stead airport was enough for now.

From there we only had a few hours drive to Lake Tahoe, and more days of fun.

Touring Coos Bay

Sunset Bay at low tide. There are two kayakers in the distance and numerous coves and bays around those cliffs and rocks.

We’ve recently returned from a few days in Coos Bay/North Bend, OR. We left the kayaks at home for this trip as it was more a nostalgic revisit and research trip. It was while kayaking at Sunset Bay about eight years ago that Ed realized the marine mammals in ocean bays are larger than our crafts. First there was a seal sighting and the realization the beach was a long way back, with only paddles to get us there. We’re familiar with the size and antics of seals from a few trips to Newport, OR and observing seals at sea level, in watercraft smaller than they are, is different than being on a tourist bridge while seals bark from the docks or rocks…

Then we looked out to sea and a humpback whale breached above the surface, rolling so the large fin created quite the splash. There was no more discussion, Ed has never paddled so fast for the beach.

This is only a small section of this massive event taken from the parking lot at the lighthouse.

This is only a small section of this massive event, taken from above. We had pulled into the the parking lot at the Umpqua River lighthouse on a whim, but got a whole lot more than a view of the ocean.

However, there were things about that trip to Coos Bay we wanted to revisit. We had no idea our spur of the moment trip coincided with Dune Fest, an annual event that features drag racing, motocross, and every type of all-terrain-vehicle designed or modified to race around and over the sand dunes. It was really loud but as it was the midpoint of the event when we discovered it, we didn’t have traffic issues and instead toured throughout Winchester Bay at its busiest weekend all year. Our youngest was into motocross for a few years and our grandsons are into dirt bikes, so we had a great time being spectators for this huge event. We know a bit about these vehicles; the motors, the wheels, the rider’s gear. I’m curious and Ed likes to figure stuff out, so we’re a good team when on an adventure.

We also sampled award winning clam chowder at a tiny deli in Reedsport.

Our lifestyle has been turbulent in recent years and it is significant for us to dwell on these changes because we’ve been married for 35 years. We’ve been through some major life events and now face choices of – what do we want to do now? Who do we want to become now?

We’ll be off again, on another adventure soon. I was raised under the Armageddon umbrella of Apocalyptic destruction. I never bought into the defeated-at-birth mentality. The future is yet to be written and I will write the stories I want to read.

Writing Tools

Visit his website at http://www.matthewlieberbuchman.com/

Visit his website at M. L. BUCHMAN

Yesterday I attended an amazing workshop by M. L. Buchman called “Series Thinking in a Hybrid World.” Hybrid is the term authors now use to explain their publishing options, especially in the genre fiction world where fans want lots of books, now. Some readers want all the books in a series to be available before they begin the series so they will not have to wait months (or years) for the next installment.

A few years ago, M. L. Buchman (Matt) and his wife, a librarian, were facing tough times. With a sense of determination (and some desperation!) he began writing romantic suspense novels. His first series The Night Stalkers was created. Matt has published some of his novels with a traditional publisher (digital and mass-market paperback) and other novels in the same series through Indie venues so they were available between the traditionally released stories. Readers liked having more books, now, and that they are able to get those books in the digital format of their choice.

Matt now has published over thirty novels and has a variety of other publications. I haven’t read any (yet) but some of my writer friends are his fans and his books get 4 & 5 star reviews, and have won reader awards. He also writes nonfiction and short stories.  This was his first workshop on this topic and he’s planning to streamline it and present it at future conferences.

Aside from presenting great information on writing, how-to craft characters in a series to be unique, and a wealth of business insights, Matt also shared his writing process. He will choose a storytelling or writing technique like “cliff hangers” or pacing, or voice or non-verbal dialogue, and make that the primary writing practice for a whole novel or series. This is his method to assure he’s always improving as a writer and bringing something fresh to his readers.

The timing for me to attend this workshop was perfect as I am making solid progress on future novels that will make the currently published one as part of a series. I now have lots more insight into how to turn the organized chaos in my files and writing room into a solid series bible. This will serve me well for more than the projects in process.

I’m also grateful for all the talented authors who share their tools!

On Jackson Lake

We left Yellowstone and less than two hours later were setting up camp at the edge of Jackson Lake in the Grand Tetons. On first glance we wished we had cut our Yellowstone stay a day shorter to spend more days on this lake. We were thrilled we’d brought our kayaks on this trip and we launched before noon. The water was pristine, we could see the colored river rock and larger stones on the lake bed when the water was too deep to touch the those rocks with our paddles.
Ylstn 301

Ylstn 295Ed likes having Arkkade with him and I was taking pictures, but then we swapped so I could have proof that I was on the lake too. We toured the bays for a couple hours and were sad to realize a return trip was a long way from home.  But if we ever choose to travel this far again, we’ll know to also plan time to visit Jackson Hole.

Our first day in Yellowstone before we set up camp at Fishing Bridge.

Our first day in Yellowstone before we set up camp at Fishing Bridge.

When we got our travel trailer it was not because we planned to do a lot of camping but then we decided to take this Yellowstone adventure. We expected to be done with traveling by the time we got home after almost two weeks on the road. Now that we’ve tried the RVing way to travel, we like it and are comfortable with our home on wheels. We’re even planning another week long trip in September. We’ll soon be off to Coos Bay and we will revisit one of Ed’s favorite kayaking stories, it was on Sunset Bay and it included a seal and a whale, which is why we prefer fresh water inland  lakes and quiet rivers.

More than wilderness

Ylstn 246

The Old Faithful Inn from the walkway around the geyser. That looks like a safe distance, but the Snow Lodge is really close that I wonder if the foundations rumble.

Here’s a few more pictures from our adventure in Yellowstone. The buildings and architecture were amazing, so much so that I didn’t take many pictures.

The entrance of the Inn brings the wilderness inside.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the interior of Old Faithful Inn but this representation of the balcony supports does give a flavor of grandeur to be experienced.

The Old Faithful Inn is an impressive complex of sleeping, eating, shopping, and more (Huckleberry Ice Cream!) with an attached museum and discovery center. It’s built to withstand brutal winters, thousands of international tourists, and constant geothermal activity. I am fascinated by historical and innovative architecture and love that the collection of structures are famous more for their design than because they are located within an active volcano.

You can see professional photos of the park and buildings on the main website. My brother didn’t bring a camera to specifically buy books at the park that include stories. Still, his wife and daughter took hundreds of photos with their phones.

This picture of a clock on the rock chimney was a delight because it’s really artistic and a bit dramatic in its representation of linear time.

This picture of a clock on the rock chimney was a delight because it’s really artistic and a bit dramatic in its representation of linear time.

We learned that many of the staff are in some type of National Park Employee service organization and can choose to return for seasonal jobs or even go to other parks. It sounds like a very efficient system and many have made it their career, even as retirees. We chatted with rangers and restaurant servers who have chosen to dedicate their lives to their tasks because of where they get to live.  It’s awesome to chat with people who are clear about their life purpose no matter how long it may last, or how old they are to be doing their jobs.

Ylstn 257The Lake Yellowstone Hotel was built in a different decade and with the objective of a summer resort. It’s over 120 years old and has a historical and current list of world leaders and celebrities that have enjoyed the views and suites. To eat in the famous restaurants requires making a reservation for dinner when you book the room, or hope for an open table around nine or ten at night.

Courtesy of Melissa M

Courtesy of Melissa Markert

The pianist favored classics and show tunes. The acoustics were great for this grand piano and the singers didn’t need microphones. That’s my niece, who is a professional singer, and her brother. They had fun and other guests in the room had a great time. One was a photographer who gifted us with a group shot, of our family with the pianist, in thanks.

There’s a few more pictures I’ll share soon. The adventures have continued yet we are all trying to return to our normal routines. I expect that we’ll frame some of our life stories to be “before Yellowstone” and “after Yellowstone” because events like this trip do have ripple effects.

Geysers and hot springs

Old Faithful - Of Course! But a picture doesn't add the pressure pops as the water spews high, or the thumping of steaming drops as they pour onto the rocks.

Old Faithful – Of Course! But a picture doesn’t add the sound or pressure pops as the water spews high, or the thumping of steaming drops as they pour onto the rocks.

Mammoth Hot Springs was impressive and the steam rose off the creeks and puddles.

Mammoth Hot Springs was impressive and even the run-off creeks were steamy. As the weather was awesome our whole trip, the mineral stains and crater edges were very colorful.

We crossed the continental divide a few times but only took a picture after kayaking on Louis Lake.

We crossed the continental divide a few times but only took a picture after kayaking on Louis Lake.

The Firehole Lake Drive pavement was melting and crumbling, and the wooden bridges sinking. These views may  soon be inaccessible to tourists.

The Firehole Lake Drive pavement was melting and crumbling, and the wooden bridges sinking. These views may soon be inaccessible to tourists.

Great Fountain Geyser is also taking over the surrounding safe zones.

Great Fountain Geyser is also taking over the surrounding safe zones. A picture may represent a thousand words but for these natural wonders a picture lacks odors, heat, or the vibration under our feet.

This was a well names spring.

This is a well named spring.

The roiling steam and popping noises really made it sound like a dragon within. :D

The roiling steam and popping noises really made it sound like a dragon within. 😀

Arkkade was interested in the SMELLS - sulfur surrounded us. But the sights were too cool (hot!) to pass.

Arkkade was interested in the SMELLS – sulfur surrounded us. But the sights were too cool (hot!) to pass. This was just one of those side-of-the-road things.

There was more star holes and rainbows around Old Faithful.

There were star holes and rainbows around Old Faithful. This blue star hole is deep, very blue, bubbling and steamy. It’s also crystal clear and the edges looked fragile and transparent like they were made out of sugar.

The bison and wildlife weren't as big a deal to us as knowing we were high in the wilderness on top of a caldera.

The bison and wildlife were – okay – just not as big a deal as knowing we were high in the wilderness on top of the world and within a caldera.

There’s still more vacation pics and a story or two to share…

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