Friday, July 29, 2011

'Cause Guest Blogging Is The Shiz-nit

I'm going to be guest blogging once a month at Nocturnal Nights on the 10th of each month, starting, you guessed it, next month! Like you can't get enough of my mouth here or on Facebook. If you hunger for my insight, you'd better join me over there. I promise to ramble less than I do here. 'Kay?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking - Episode 2

 Unfortunately and like so many people, my brain gets in the way of honest-to-God thinking sometimes. I get so excited about going for a walk that I forget to bring a camera. So today's SIFWIW has photos from last week. But they're still cool pictures, of course.

As many of you are aware, particularly if you're interested in the Civil War, this year is the 150th anniversary of it's beginning. It's also the 150th year since the Battle of Wilson's Creek. The national park is close to my heart as I had relatives living just north of the battle zone in 1861. You can't help but wonder if they listened to the cannons from the front of their porch or if they huddled, fearing for their lives while the Union soldiers marched by, in the confines of their house.
Restless and her doggy-grin
You might remember from last time that I brought a dog with me, a dog who had no name. She has a name now. You can thank the dog formerly known as Daisy, but currently known as Restless, for keeping me safe from vicious squirrels along the trail. That's a picture of her from Hayes Spring CA, but I didn't take a new one, so it will have to do. Look at that smile. So precious. You can almost hear her saying, "Ah chased off a skwerell, heehee."
Osage-orange, not crab apple

Our first item of interest is down the trail marked Gibson's Trail at point of interest #1 on the battlefield map, which you can access at the park's website. It's of tree origin and something I seldom see, maybe because I haven't looked. An Osage-orange tree. I have been mistakenly calling this a crab apple tree for--well, forever. Thank you Wikipedia for informing me of it's real name. You can learn more about the Osage-orange tree there too.

Close up and a stink bug. Eew.
I have to admit, I've had a membership to Wilson's Creek for two years, but never explored any trail other than Gibson's. It's called that because it goes past Gibson Mill and homestead, on the banks of Wilson's Creek. There are horse trails and walking trails, but they prefer you keep your bicycles on the road. I rarely ever see hikers on the little trails, though they follow the Old Wire Road trail on occasion. Most walkers also take the road. It hurts my calves to go very far on the pavement. I don't know if it's because I'm so out of shape or if I'm just whiny. But I do know there's little shade along the road, so I like to stick to the woods.

Tricksy plant.
As we reached the halfway point between Gibson Trail and Old Wire Road, we stumbled upon that cool Osage-orange tree and this rather interesting plant-thing. MDC  tells me it's common milkweed. I was calling it the plant-thing with pointy, furry flowers. Huh. It actually has a name. Hey, I have dog named Restless because she's full of energy. What do you expect?

Last, but not least for your viewing pleasure, my favorite photo of the day: A black-eyed Susan. I love the way it's so yellow against the green and brown grass in the the middle of the path. So refreshingly bright, I just had to snap a picture.
Until next time, happy walking and writing!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Conference Highs

That was one helluva good conference. If you missed the Ozarks Romance Author's annual conference, I pity you. The speakers were amazing, the food was amazing, the raffles were amazing. It was all-around amazing!
If I were you, I would definitely consider getting myself to next year's conference if you can. It's already in the planning stages and set for June 23, 2012. Guaranteed to be twice as amazing. I really don't know how much more amazing I can stand. Is it possible to explode from all the amazingness? I promise to stop using amazing now.

I was running late Saturday. Supposed to be at the registration table at 7:45 sharp to help get those early risers signed in. As per usual, my hair was giving me its 'but I don't want to!' attitude. It really didn't want to do anything except be big. Big is bad when you have short hair. Praying that it will do anything except be big when it's curled is pretty much useless. So I did the only thing I could think of--I pulled it back. God help me if it didn't decide to be flat and uninteresting. There comes a time in every woman's life when she wished she could just shave it and people would accept that as totally normal and not stare at her like she'd gone off the deep end. I have those episodes about two or three times a week.

When I got to the conference center, there was a small, but steady line of people waiting to register. I helped hand out goody bags. They were very darling this year, those nifty reusable bags with our logo printed on them. Don't you wish you had one? Of course you do. I chose red, which looked bright and hopeful in the interior of the atrium. It's a big brighter than almost everything I own. It stands out, to be sure. But it reminds me that I had an awesome day!

My pitch was scheduled at 9:30. I had the official list of pitches and my duty was to tell anyone who forgot in a fit of nerves what time they were scheduled for. I helped a handful of people, which did a little bit to distract me from my own nervous fit. At one point I wasn't even sure how I was standing up, my legs were doing that weird tingly-numb thing again. I couldn't sit down and kept laying my note cards down and leaving them. I got lost looking for the meeting room where they were holding the pitches. Walked right by it. I wasn't expecting a huge sign or anything, but neither did I expect to wander around like a lost--oh, wait this is me we're talking about. I tend to be lost and forgetful sometimes. It's okay, I accept and embrace that. It's quirky.

I had to wait a few minutes because I was early for the pitch, making up for my absence at the reg. table earlier. Then I got the go ahead to move inside and I'm fairly certain I was wearing a psycho killer smile, but at least I was smiling. I pretty well launched into the worst pitch in the history of really bad pitches (the award for worst pitch of the day goes to--Allison Merritt!). Fortunately (for her ears and my mouth) she stopped me. With questions and a few what I'd call well-I'm-not-sure statements. I mean, let's face it. It's set in Australia and while America is chock full of wonderful readers, some of you just don't get Australia.  And it's rather.... short. I've been upping the word count a bit at a time. It's much longer than it was originally, so yay for that. And it is entirely possible to re-set THL, so if that's what has to be done, I'm in. Despite these things, she still said she'd like to see the first three chapters and a query letter. Bye-bye psycho smile, hello genuine happy smile. The pitch was extremely difficult for me. While THL is near and dear to my heart, I'm not good at presenting it. Dazed, stunned and happy, I left the meeting room and didn't get lost on my way back to the atrium.

I sat with Eliza Lloyd at lunch, spilled fruit salad with yogurt dressing down my front (darn it, I was going to eat that!) while attempting to dissect my chicken, and enjoyed the most sinful piece of chocolate cake. After lunch, we listened to the publishing panel answer questions, then broke up into smaller groups to hear a couple of presentations, which was a new thing for us this year.

My second big thrill of the day (yogurt-splattered boob and all) was the breath-holding moment they presented awards for the Weta Nichols Writing Contest. Yes, the one I've been yammering on forever. It was all I could do not to sit there with my fingers crossed and breath held (no, I'm serious) as I waited to hear my name. I wanted my name to be announced. And then it was. The Treasure Hunter's Lady got an honorable mention. So it wasn't first place. Who cares? This lovely, happy story that is notoriously reputed for doing poorly in contests got an award. I was informed that was a mere two points, yes folks, two points from making a third place appearance. I proudly held up my certificate for all to see.

Lovely conference. I'm so tired that I feel lucky to be wearing clothes and at least have a vague idea of where I am today. I'm even certain I brushed my teeth. Wouldn't you just kill to be part of such a wonderful day? Oh, you can, without having to kill a soul. Just come next year. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Top 5 Conference Highlights From Years Past

I only do the one conference a year. You know the one: Ozarks Romance Authors. I'm pretty excited about it because I get to spend all day surrounded by other writers talking about writing. I'm not a big talker (oh, no, I'm a rambler). Especially in situations where I don't know a lot of people. I mostly watch others and listen in on their conversations, which will likely lead to me hearing something bad about myself someday. I like to sit in the back so's I can see everyone, although sometimes people do have big hair.

This will be my third ORA conference, so last night I was thinking about some of my favorite ORAcon moments.

#5 - 2010 - Memories of sitting at the registration table. There was a really pretty pink lily on the table that stank horribly. All day I was going, what is that SMELL? I prayed it wasn't me. I'm pretty sure I even checked the bottom of my shoes just to be safe.

#4 - 2010 - Attending the author's dinner. I had an orange creamsicle drink. Which is made with vodka. I think I was the only person at the table enjoying vodka. Everyone else went with wine. Doesn't take much to get me tipsy, but I managed not to slap the table to bring home a comment, point belligerently at anyone, dance in my seat or on the table, or even walk to the bathroom like a drunken sailor. Hey, I know my limits. (Note to self: avoid vodka. I had a splitting headache when I got home. I like vodka, it doesn't like me.)

#3 - 2009-2010 - Food! I will always go where the food is. The ladies at ORAcon always bring in tons of delicious treats, plus we have a catered lunch. Yummy!

#2 - 2009 - I stopped at Wal-Mart to get some yummy treats. I'm all dressed up in my writer's finery (I was wearing make-up!) and the cashier asks me what my plans are for the day. I told him I was on my way to a writer's conference. He looked up at me, grabbed my hand and started shaking it. "Are you famous?" he asked. Puzzled, I took my change and said no. Then he said, "But you will be!" Hey, cashier man, I'm holding you to that.

#1 - 2010 - Last year's president was looking at me. Remember, I'm sitting in the back by the stinky flower. She says my name. As in, I won an award says my name. Yeah, I caught an honorable mention. Got to walk up the aisle and stand in front of a bunch of people after pretty well hiding all day. A short walk, but a sweet victory. I doubt anyone was as surprised as me. Excellent conference moment.

So, I'm plugging ORAcon one more time. You want to be part of the moment (don't you want to wave at me while I accept my award this year [that's the power of positive thinking talking]?). We're having great speakers such as published authors like Shannon Butcher, Eliza Lloyd, Shannon Vannatter, and Leigh Michaels. We're having an agent, Louise Fury from L. Perkins Agency. We're having an editor, Lea Brown from Avalon. We're having yummy treats and catered lunch. Hopefully no one will have to sit next to a stinky flower this year, but don't count that out. It's all part of the experience.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking

*Gasp!* Can it be? She's starting a feature that could occur on a regular basis? With photos? Oh, golly gee, don't you feel special?

Here it is: Stuff I Find While I'm Walking. Because I "claim" to be a wilderness adventurer. Never mind that the whole eco-adventure thing didn't go over for me. Ask me to regale you with that story. I will cheerfully oblige you another time.

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking is pretty cut-and-dry. It's pictures of stuff on the ground or in the water or wherever nature lays something interesting that I feel like snapping a shot of. For your viewing pleasure, I give you the first Stuff I Find While I'm Walking photo buffet.

Dog, or fearsome beast from the deep?
This is a collection (ooo, I like that word) of photos from Hayes Spring Conservation Area outside Hurley, MO. It's a lot of former pasture land that's, frankly, pretty boring. It reminds me of the jungles of 'Nam. Okay, I've never been to 'Nam, but I've watched lots of war movies and the way the weeds and grasses are grown up, well over my head, it's kind of scary. It's also got some decent forest for shade and the best part is: After you walk through the creepy grassland where those grass-beasts called scrunts from Lady in the Water might snatch you, you cross Crane Creek, icy cold  and refreshing, especially if the day is hot. But probably you shouldn't drink it because scientists are pretty adamant about not drinking creek water--with good reason. I happen to know there are some cows upstream so, ick. I have no idea where it comes out of the ground at because while you're driving to get to the CA, you cross a dry creek bed and also walk past it on the trail. Trails, BTW are clearly marked with little signs nailed to various trees that have a picture of an ugly little stick man on a brown background. Anyway, if you're bold enough to get your feet wet, you run into the best part of the trail. Walk a little further and you come to a white shed where they presumably keep some kind of equipment. Walk a little further still and hang a right at this big ol' pine tree and you find the source of Hayes Spring.

Not the cave where bats live.
A little cave tucked back in a limestone hulk of a mountain, it spews forth some of the clearest water you'll ever hope to see. A little sign warns you not to enter the cave because of some virus the bats might get. I have yet to figure out where the bats are because as far as I can tell, the cave is submerged. Allison don't do no caves. Ever. For any reason. But yesterday's jaunt was all about walking down the creek. Here are some more photos of along the way.
In the crystal clear water of the creek, which is supposedly dry, you'll find an array of wildlife. Mostly minnows, shiners, crawfish, water bugs and darters. Interesting fact: darters can't live in polluted water, so you know the water pouring out of this awesome place can't be too dirty. I still don't recommend drinking it. I have more photos and my browser is working on uploading them, or rather downloading them from Facebook, but it's not working right. So you can friend me (provided you're not a stalker creep-o who wants to find me alone in the woods and murder me for my enormous *snort* amounts of cash. Beware, I have a dog [see inserted photo] that might, um, lick you to death before she lets you lay a finger on me) and see the photos there too.
A blue flower, despite that it looks purple.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

So who's in? Thinking about your first novel? Second, third? Hundredth? Camp NaNoWriMo started this month (without my knowledge and I'm miffed, seriously, there was no update on FB, no e-mail when I usually get all kinds before regular NaNo). It's also going on in August, so I didn't totally miss my chance. You can still jump in or you can just fill out your profile, which is what I did. I guess I'm writing the third story in my fantasy Victorian/steampunk romance whatever-you-call it series. I feel guilty because The Sky Pirate's Wife need so much work on the plot.

I haven't done much writing this year. Last year I wrote three books, although two of them were pretty short. This year I've added 30k to THL and written a short story. Sometimes you just feel guilty about things. Like I knew THL needed a lot of editing and some revising and that meant there wasn't going to be much writing. I gave it six months to get the edits done. I'm really close to being done now. I want to write, but that guilt-schtick is making it difficult to formulate a proper plot. When I think about how poorly the plot turned out in SPW, I start to wonder if doing NaNo is even a good idea. I didn't have time to work out all of it and it suffered.

Don't get me wrong, I think novel in a month is a great idea, especially for writers who tend to drag. It forces you (as long as you feel really dedicated) to get a set number of words out a day. That's a really great goal. Even if it's pure crap, hey, at least you're getting something done. Somewhere is a good place to start.

Also, for giggles, let me remind you that the Ozarks Romance Authors annual conference is *gasp* a mere two weeks away. Sorry, kids, you missed the deadline for the reduced ticket price, but hey, what's five bucks either way, really? Because I guarantee you'll have fun and learn lots of interesting things and you'll meet lots of people with the same interest as you--writing. What's more fun than sitting in a nice, air-conditioned conference talking about your awesome book or your awesome ideas for a book with other people who "get it"? Okay, besides eating a great catered lunch and getting cool goody-bags. So go, sign up now! Hurry!