Monday, October 31, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking - My Halloween Oops

A brilliant idea came to me Sunday morning as I was getting dressed. In honor of Halloween, I would do a cemetery hop. Maybe snap a few photos with some orbs or ectoplasm. Wouldn't that be exciting? So I started out at the little cemetery a couple of miles from the house. It's called Short Cemetery and even on a sunny day like yesterday, it is creepy as hell. I don't know why, because it's laid out on a nice little hill with some gorgeous old pines and oaks providing shade. A wide cow pasture behind it is scenic, if you like cows. You can see in the photo the t-posts and concrete posts that provide the outline of the original cemetery before it expanded. There are plenty of old graves here, the writing faded from the elements. As I was walking along toward the right hand side, where the older graves are, I heard footsteps and nearly had an accident. Come to find out, it was a fallen oak limb with leaves still attached, rolling along in the wind. It really did sound like footsteps though.

This is an obelisk with a funny top. Obelisks are meant to represent rays of sunshine in honor of the dead. It belongs to Sarah Ann Kerr with the inscription 'gone to rest'. It doesn't look like Sarah Ann and in my hastily typed note, I wrote Sahaha, because that's what it looks like. Oh, time, how cruel you are to everything. But the truly creep thing is--see that tree next to it? There's a little stone right under it that reads. M.A.B.

Oh, look. You can see it right here in this picture. With a tree growing right over it. It's situated between Sarah Ann and B.A. Kerr, who was a soldier for the Union in the 8th Reg. Vol. Cavalry of Missouri. He sounds like a stand up guy, if you read about the Huntsville Massacre. No judgement though. I'm still puzzling through old M.A.B. here. If you match up the names and numbers the author assigned on the link I referred to above to the map here, it just shows B.A. and Sarah, with no one between them. Interesting.

This is an interesting grave as well. It belongs to Mandy Kerr, who died of lung trouble. Once again, time has worn away the inscription, but that's what the link says. Apparently she expressed a wish to have that rock on top laid over her. I didn't stick my hand in that hold to see if anything lived in there or if Mandy wanted an eternal friend.

Then, in continuation of my cemetery hop, I scooted down the road to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield because they have a cemetery. I went inside, got my token to drive through the gate, tried to avoid running over the many walkers enjoying the warm, albeit windy day, and looked in vain to find a parking space by the Edgar Cemetery. There are none. Only a trail that stretches across the park. So, as there are tire tracks on this trail, I pulled my car in beside the sign. This sign. And I step into the cemetery to take photos of tombstones.

When all of the sudden, here comes a white truck with lights on top that parks right behind me. Out steps a park ranger with the expression that read, 'All right, moron, let's hear your excuse.' My jittery brain tried to think of something smart and witty to say. My mouth ended up blurting out, "I'm about to get kicked out of the park, aren't I?"

He said, "Yes. Can I see some ID?"

Baffled, I stood there a second and said, "Sure." I whipped out my wallet, with that doofy picture of me on my driver's license and handed it to him along with my park membership card. I'm not some hobo off the street, after all. I pay good money to patronize that park.

I rambled on about how I do this blog and I thought taking pictures of cemeteries would be a great idea for Halloween. He looked at me like, oh, so you're crazy. Now get off our trail.

I apologized profusely and smiled a lot. I like to think I have a sort of trustworthy face. He handed my a map of trails and parking spaces and said, "We really prefer you use the parking lots." He backed up, waited for me to back out of the trail that is not a parking lot and I proceeded down the road at the proper speed limit. This is the photo I got. One measly photo of some dead guy's tombstone for my trouble. With nary an orb, bit of ectoplasm or Civil War soldier in sight.

So the only thing scary that happened at all was this big park ranger asking for my ID. And when you're me (though God willing you'll never run into that problem), that is very scary. I mean, I really figured the worst he would do was kick me out, but those people carry weapons and the authority to arrest you if it comes to that. Taser burns averted. Whew. Do you see what I go through to entertain the masses?

So, lesson learned. Stay on the designated trails, people! You'd think they'd be used to all those genealogist types running amok. You know how they are. ;)

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Friday Five - If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say

It's hard, being a writer. In some ways, you're awash at sea, like Tom Hanks and Wilson, desperately seeking rescue. In many other ways, you're drowning in a flood of other writers, all fighting for a place at the top. The top is more like a swimming pool in Monte Carlo with endless rays, margaritas and cabana boys fanning your golden locks from your face and rubbing lotion all over your body. For some reason that brought to mind Stephen King. *shudder*

We all want to be petted. It's something that must be ingrained in us. Except for hermits, who prefer to hang out by themselves (I guess. I'm not a hermit... yet). As writers, we're trying to tell a story. We're giving our readers something to believe in. Unless...

Five things people say after reading your book and what they really mean.

#1) They say: It's good. (either said really fast or with hesitancy)
They mean: I read the first page and then decided to clean my house, do the laundry, fix dinner, get the kids ready for bed and I didn't remember your book until you asked about again.

#2) They say: It was good, but you should do this.
They mean: You should do this. Forget that (I'll even burn if for you) and write this.

#3) They say: How did you come up with this idea?
They mean: No, forget I asked. I don't want to hear about the dream you had.

#4) They say: It wasn't really my type of reading.
They mean: It's no one's type of reading. You're not even going to make it to the $1 table at BAM.

My personal favorite:
#5) They say: Nothing.
What that expressions means: Please don't make me say anything. (Or: Are you really sure you want me to comment?)

Just a bit of humor for your Friday. I hope no one has said any of these things to you lately. Or ever.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rescue Me

"If you're holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you'll be in this cabin for a very long time." - Albus Dumbledore to Rubeus Hagrid.

As writers, we all want to be liked an accepted. We want people to gush over the stories we've worked so hard on. But you can't expect everyone to like everything. Case in point: I don't like Regencies. I don't understand the differences between the titles. But that's a blog for another time. There's one exception, I've been reading Julia Quinn lately and she's killing me with those Bridgertons. They're actually funny. I still don't get the title thing, but the writing more than makes up for it. More on that in a minute.

I've been thinking about the first chapter of THL for a while now. First chapters are a bigger bane to me than the middle chapters. Bigger than finding the perfect HEA. Someone (I forget who) said that it was cliche for Abel to save Romy. That whole damsel-in-distress thing. But the damsel-in-distress theme is something that kind of flows along in the book. Our capable heroine finds herself in trouble up to her neck practically from the get-go.

I was trying to think of the beginnings of my favorite novels and movies. How do the hero and heroine meet? Let's look at a couple:

Like I said before, Regency, not my fave. But I literally fell in love with Julia Quinn's An Offer From A Gentleman, a version of Cinderella. The hero rescues the heroine from a trio of men planning to use her for their own amusement. The hero met a mysterious woman at a masquerade and he's in love with her after their first kiss. Unbeknownst to him, the heroine is really the mystery woman.

Gee, a rescue scene. Not quite at the opening, but close. At least the hero thinks they're meeting for the first time.

How about Karen Marie Moning's Fae series. I need only mention the name Jericho Barrens to have oodles of women collapsed on the floor drooling. He was a little lot too alpha for me, but to each her own. How many times he did he have Mac's back? Specifically, the only one I can think of right now is how he helped her after the sex faerie thing, because she was a goner if not for his *ahem* attention. 

I recently tried to convince you all that you're Green Lanterns. So how about Green Lantern? Did he or did he not (hell, how about any superhero for that matter, Peter Parker!) save Carol from being crushed by electronic equipment? When he visits her apartment later, does she not make goo-goo eyes at him until she realizes that he's really Hal Jordan? She did. 

We're women (I'm not saying all consumers of romances are women, because I know good and well that they aren't), but the idea behind a romance is that even if the hero doesn't rescue the heroine physically, he's rescuing her emotionally (and vice versa).

So is it just me, or don't you expect the hero to save the day? Isn't that why he's the hero? I could go off on a tangent and say that it's my novel. I'm right, I've always been right and I'll always be right. But, I could be wrong. Maybe they should see each other across the room and fall madly in love right away until he discovers who she is and she believes he's the bad guy. Maybe they should have met (because their families are acquainted, after all) years ago, but been apart for a long time. Beats me, I just write what the characters tell me write.

What's your idea of the perfect way for a hero and heroine to meet?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking - Fall in the Ozarks

I was all prepared to go walking at the Old Wire Road CA yesterday. Restless was in the backseat, sticking her head out the window, sniffing the warm afternoon air. I turned down the road to get to the CA and there's a truck parked right in front of the gate. Ahem. There's a parking lot for parking, mister! Then I see that 'mister' and 'junior' are practicing shooting targets. With a deer rifle. Oookkkaaayyy. Time to go somewhere else. Not becoming swiss cheese really appealed to me.

So, to bore you, Res and I ended up at the other part of OWR CA, the same part I explored last time. Typically if there's a vehicle parked in the lot, I don't go, but we were running out of options, so we decided to forge on. I figured there were some dudes fishing or maybe scouting for deer. Either way, we didn't see hide nor hair of anyone else.

Ah, fall in the Ozarks. Reds and oranges mixed with a small amount of green. You get some yellows too, but I find the trees that turn yellow lose their leaves first. They're ugly anyway because everyone knows yellow means death to a tree or plant. Heck, even the poison ivy is red in the fall. Here's a landscape with a nice array of colors. Still plenty of green, though the field was pretty brown. There were a couple of fields out there, I'm assuming are wildlife plots, that are still very green, like they'd been cut recently and were growing back. Or perhaps even planted recently. I didn't see any deer sign or even wildlife beyond a squirrel though.
Poor old tree (of unidentified species) has a crazy big knot in it. No telling what caused it. Could be disease or some broken part when it was  younger. It was just very weird to see, when all the trees around it were perfectly normal looking. Also, that squirrel I was talking about is in this photo somewhere. Good luck finding it, because I couldn't. I just saw it jumping around after I took the picture.

And this lovely section of rock is by that cave/not cave I found last time. Pure curiosity got me, so I told Restless to stay and went poking around under this ledge. I was sweating because it was pretty warm out and it was very cool beneath the shelf. The photo doesn't look like much, but it it was pretty wild under there, with years of weather carving out lines against the limestone. Someone had been under there too at some point, because there was a Pepsi can and a beer can (shame on you people. The sign clearly says take your trash with you.) and a shirt or something.
FYI, Restless mostly did stay. She got a little antsy when I got really far back there, but I told her to stay again and she did that time. She's not as dumb as she sometimes pretends.

This is a hole I wouldn't have stuck my hand in for love or money. There were a couple of holes like this and they were dug out enough that you could tell something was living in them. Something that probably possessed a lot of teeth and possibly epizootie*. As I'm in no hurry to develop epizootie, I got as close as I dared, snapped a photo and took off.

*Epizootic is technically a disease that certain number of animals gets at a certain time at a much higher rate than experts expect, but pretty much any time anyone got sick around the house we always claimed it was epizootie. The correct term for humans would be epidemic, but epitzootie is more fun to say and use incorrectly.

Hope your weather is friendly this week because as you all know, we're about to "fall back" and then we're going to have a shortage of daylight. Enjoy it while we've got it. Happy writing and walking!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Friday Five - Taking Care of Yourself

An important topic that bears discussing, especially for writers. Sometimes we forget we're not invincible because we are the masters of realms and kicker of characters. Five things you need to watch out for if you're donning your Wrimo hat next month (or any time you're furiously working on writing/revisions/edits):

Oh, goody! We're having steak.
Right? Uh... right?
#1) A subject near and dear to my heart. As we all know, unless you're on the other side of the world (lucky, lucky you), fall is here. Up next, NaNoWriMo. 30 days of uber-fast writing. Which can wreak havoc on your body in more ways than one. The first is repetitive motion injuries. I don't know if you've ever experienced tendinitis, but I've lived with it since I was a teenager, first in my left arm and wrist, but tendinitis loves for you to overcompensate with the other hand/arm too. Let me tell you what it feels like. Imagine that someone has taken a scalpel and removed your skin like a glove before laying it aside. We'll come back to it, don't worry. Then they've taken a meat tenderizer mallet and beat from your elbow to the first knuckles of your fingers. Just until the bone splinters into unrecognizable, jagged pieces. Don't make them into dust or anything. After that's done, they try to put you back together like a jigsaw puzzle, but there are too many pieces so they stuff them wherever there's a spot. Finally, they take your skin-glove and slide it back over the mess. Congratulations, you still have a hand. One that doesn't work right and every bone and muscle feels like it's on fire and in the wrong place.
Advice: You could complain to your doctor about nagging pain and numbness. And he could give you steroids or cortisone injections, neither of which will cure you, by the way. Or, like my three doctors, tell you to suck it up because it's only going to get worse. Seriously, sometimes I think about complaining to my vet, because he might be more sympathetic. Pretty much all you can do is stretch, change up your patterns, use ice or heat depending on which helps more and chow down on NSAIDs (watch out for your liver, though.) At the first signs of pain, it's probably time to take a long, long rest.

#2) With that fall weather comes cold temperatures. Our bodies are trained to like warmth (you know, to ensure our survival) and we flock indoors. Where other people are coughing and sneezing and spreading their germs to us! Oh, no. You've caught a cold. I don't need to describe this one for you, you've been there.
Advice: Stay home! Do not keep spreading the madness. It's not fair to anyone. I know there are things you have to do. Like attend a four-hour write-in with your Wrimo group, but for the love of all things sanitary, join us in spirit, okay? Drink Gatorade and chicken soup and incinerate your Kleenex's when you're healthy again. Please?

#3) Here's one we can probably all agree on, except those die-hard attention seekers that will never leave us alone. This one involves not getting the ever-loving tar beaten out of you. Because that can ruin your day, or even your life. November plays host to Election Day in Missouri. Leave your political views at home. No one wants to hear it. I particularly don't want to hear it. Like the button says: Everyone poops. Good 'nuff. I try, oh so hard, never to bring politics into my social networking. Sometimes I can't help it. I don't want to defend my reasons for anything I believe to you. I sure don't want to listen to you tell me what you believe. I'd rather listen to the dream you had last night thanks to the 12 tacos you ate and I 100% do not want to hear that (numbers 1 and 2 on the list of things that put me to sleep faster than Ambien). Nothing will get you beat up and/or dead faster than a conversation about religion or politics. Leave that to the people who write that stuff. And let it be known, there is a very slim chance I will be reading any of that. I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors who supports a cause I don't believe in. I almost put the book down. Why, that author's belief in the cause is squashing the little people like me and mine. Then I thought, meh, doesn't affect the way the authors writes. I'll pretend I didn't read it. Not everyone is a bundle of tolerance.
Advice: Let's talk about our novels, okay?

#4) Getting up and getting away from the computer might sound like something scary while you're in the throes of mad writing. But it's very important. I get my exercise, you know that. Walking to me is like bathing, except I bath more frequently than I walk. I can feel the relief rolling off of you. The point is, it's necessary. It relieves tension, helps me clear my mind, gives me stuff to look at. It provides exercise for my body and my mind. Let's don't count the number of times I've come home with scrapes, insect bites and fatigued muscles. Take a break from that novel. Your entire being will thank you. Plus, you can include the family and the pets and score some quality time. You never know, you might find something that will inspire a plot breakthrough as well. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And then a crazy boy who tries to murder his family.
Advice: Live in the suburbs? It's called a gym, y'all. Scared of the meth-head neighbors? It's a gun and a big, mean looking dog for you. Can't walk? Get you some of those little weights and lift them up and down, or try this.

#5) You are what you eat. So... I'm chicken, pasta and french fries marinated in carbonated beverages with a cheese danish on top. Well, that's not a very appetizing picture. Sometimes (and only sometimes. I really want to emphasize that) doctors know what they're talking about. They knew about exercise, right? Occasionally, they recommend (as in every day) eating from all the food groups. If you're like me, you have no idea what the new food group guidelines are. Something to do with a plate. So you're slogging through the second week of NaNo, but ready to give up and go for that walk I was talking about in #4. Just as you close the lid on your laptop and spin your chair around, dizziness washes over you. You spot an orange that your significant other left for you (not that you remember because you didn't take my #4 advice seriously until now). With the last of your strength you peel it and bite into that tangy flesh. The day is saved. You've just eaten fruit, you now have the energy to crawl to the door and summon your loved ones, and later you will have the strength to novel on.
Advice: Pick the healthy options that taste good to you. For example, I'm never, ever, ever, never going to eat anything that has beans in it. I hate beans. My husband is allergic to beans. Beans don't come in our house. So we eat other protein-rich foods, like lean meat (stop looking at pictures of us, we know we're not exactly svelte). Instead of full fat sour cream, I can use low-fat. It's cheaper anyway. Instead of drowning myself in Mtn. Dew, I can make tea without sugar. And I should watch my caffeine intake because I'll probably drown myself in that too.

Good luck next month or whenever you're elbow deep in the guts of your novel!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm A Green Lantern and So Are You

Sorry, I couldn't find a photo from the movie that wasn't copyrighted all to heck and back.

Last year at my NaNo chapter, the theme was Green Lantern. I, being an X-Men girl, was totally clueless. WTH? What is a Green Lantern and why would I want to be one? I've probably already turned people off by even bringing up comic books er, graphic novels. Bear with me. If you're like me, you're thinking what does that even have to do with real writing? Yeah, well, lots of famous authors are doing it (I'm looking at you Janet Evonovich).

I'm not doing it. Oh, ha ha ha, what a good laugh. Back to the point. Why are we (writers) like Green Lanterns? GL is not my thang. I'm still an X-Men girl, but I sat down last night to watch the new GL movie, prepared to be amazed by the goofiness of it (I will debate you all day about why the X-Men are cooler, minus the last movie that came out, because I can tear that one apart in a paragraph). I only watched it because A) it was free and B) it has Ryan Reynolds, so you know it's going to be funny at the very least. Yes, I'd seen it at the cheapy theater and thought it was okay (do I need to mention it's no X-men?)

I don't know about you, but I'm not putting on a green spandex body suit any time soon. Oh, the horror. But I think we can still take a lesson away from GL, provided they didn't copyright the lessons (and they'll let us wear baggy green shirts and blue jeans). Let's discuss the things I learned from watching a movie.

#1) To be a GL, you have to be fearless. 
To be a writer, you have to be fearless. Actually, you don't have to be fearless. You just have to be able to overcome your fear. From the moment you make up your mind to sit down in front of a computer or notepad, ideas whirling around in the giant universe that is your imagination, you must chuck aside your sensitivity and be unafraid. Unafraid of learning new things like formats, grammar, genres, exposing your writing to others, anything that has to do with writing. I'm going to tout the critique partner/writing group things too--let other people read your work and read others' work as well, because that's how you learn. When you've learned and conquered your fears, you may be ready to submit to agents or publishers. Don't be afraid to hit 'send' because it's the only way to stomp out fear.

#2) You have to be willing to defend your planet.
You have to be willing to defend your work--but don't forget that you're going to have to bend to the rules too. Your work isn't perfect (well, maybe it is, mine certainly isn't). There's always room for improvement and you have build your writer muscles and stretch until the work is as close to perfect as it will get. Then, when you get slapped in the face by rejection (see #1), you may come to realize that that agent/editor wasn't right for you. Revise if necessary, repeat the last part of #1.

#3) You have the power of will at your... well, willpower.
Do you know what a great thing that is? Of course you do. That's what you shape worlds out of. That's what you build characters from. That's how you write 'THE END' when you reach your word count goal. Anything you can think of and any way you want to describe it can become a world for someone else on paper (or electronically as the case may be). When you say, "I can't" to those long, horrible edits, that's a lie that fear tells you. Because you can! When you say, "I can't finish this book" that's fear telling you what a loser you are for trying. But you can! When you've been slapped in the face by a rejection (or a hundred rejections) and you say, "I can't do this anymore", you can. Because if you can't, you might as well pack it in now and spend the rest of your life wondering, what might have happened if I did?

#4) Fear will destroy you. If you let it.
Hey, you look familiar.
Pretty sure you were
living in my head.
We all do it. We let little yellow threads of fear weave through the squishy fluid that separates our eardrums from our brains. They tangle around our confidence like barbed wire and just like a poor animal trapped in that wire, they squeeze and poke and fill us with doubt. The more the barbed wire hurts, the more the animal struggles. Until death comes. Kind of graphic, yes, but it's true. If you sit down, look at your work and think, this is the worst story ever written, then you're already in the clutches of fear. But sometimes, a kind cowboy comes along with a pair of wire cutters and snips the wire away, freeing the trapped beast. Again, let me point out where some support comes in handy. Sometimes you need someone to grab your bootstraps and haul your ass up. Like the quote from Firefly "The Message" says, "When you can't run, you crawl. And when you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you."

#5) Good always wins.
I didn't learn this from GL. I learned it from almost every movie I've ever watched. Every book I've ever read. Every person just like me who ever won. I learned it from my writing friends who are, or at some point were, where I am. I learned it from my family, who still love me at the end of the day even when I'm totally whacked out with frustration. I learned it from my characters, who beat impossible odds. Good always wins, but it might take some time to get there.

I'm a Green Lantern. And so are you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking - It's A Whole New CA

Gheesh, the weekend just flew by. We had unbelievably good weather this weekend. I'd be so happy if it was always that nice. A little windy yesterday, maybe, but the sun felt so good.

Friday evening my curiosity got the better of me. I turned down a road I usually don't take, though I frequently drove on it in my youth, and pulled into the parking lot of the Old Wire Road Conservation Area. But, haven't I already walked there and posted pictures? Isn't that the same CA where I got lost and thought I'd end up like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon?  Yes and no.

Old Wire Road CA has two different areas several miles apart. The one I went to on Friday is smaller and has better fishing access. They boast blue ribbon trout on a sign. I don't know if that's a type of trout or if they're like award-winning or why they deserve bragging on. Either way, fishing is not my thang.

Here's the PDF map of the area, that little chunk in the bottom right is where I went. They don't even having hiking trails marked on it, but there are two. And it was gorgeous back there. Dummy me, I forgot to wear my orange vest while I was wearing a green shirt (it's that time of year, wear your orange). I figured hunters are smart enough to know turkeys don't wear blue jeans. Or make the racket I do.

Like a multitude of people before me, I saw a creek and I said, "Hey, I want on the other side!" Not because the grass was green, but because there was a photo op. So I looked at this tree stretched across and said, "I bet I can--" and then common sense caught up. "No, no. Don't even step on that." So I stuck to the trail carved out by anglers. Wise of me, don't you think?

So I got to walking along the main trail, away from the water where countless generations of people who didn't have good common sense probably drowned and I found myself surrounded by limestone walls cut into the hillside. I imagine at some point this wasn't a trail, but in fact a road before they built the other road.

And lo and behold, I found this hole in the ground that could possibly be a cave. Is it a cave? Is it a hole? The world may never know because I still don't do caves. It looks like a cave, but I didn't even get close enough to throw a rock and see if anything was going to come screaming out of it. Um, I'll let someone else decide.

And here's a rock, and awesome lone rock at the top of a hill overlooking Crane Creek. I call it The Sentinel because it looks like it's watching something. Maybe some blue-ribbon trout. For thousands of years this rock has watched and guarded the trout. Beware, ye who would harm the trout, for The Sentinel Rock will get you. Okay, fine. It's not a very good super hero. What's it gonna do, wear away? Grow some moss?

And last, but never least because dead things are fascinating, particularly when they're not gooey and gross, I saw an armadillo bone. You know, armadillos, those fantastic creatures that live out fabulously wealthy lives on their home plant and only come to Earth to die. I can safely draw this conclusion from the armadillo husk laying next to it. Remember in school when you learned about how the people of yore used to find dinosaur bones and put them together and they did it wrong? I would've been one of those people if I had lived back then.

So, go new places, climb new heights, don't cross the water where trees have fallen or touch strange bones. But write and explore and explore while you read and get you some fine weather while it's still available. Bon voyage!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Friday Five - Stuff Carved Into the Earth

It was a short week (thank you, Columbus Day, you know, even if you did cause the downfall of millions) that left my blog schedule all a-jumble. You didn't even get a SIFWIW this week. Poor kids. But I'm here to bring good tidings because you are getting The Friday Five. I knew you'd be excited.

Better than crop circles, today I bring you five things carved into or out of the earth.

#1) Cerne Abbas Giant - Drawn about 400 years ago, (gee, that doesn't seem very long ago, does it? Like Pilgrims were trying to forge lives in America then.) Folklore (my fave) tells us that a giant is buried beneath this hill and he may have been beheaded by the good people of Cerne Abbas. The Victorians believed erecting and dancing around a maypole here would lead to fertility. Science tells us that there used to be a severed head under the giant's free hand, indicating victory in war. And yes, that's his weewee hanging out.

#2) The Uffington White Horse - Anyone who's a western fan will tell you the good guys wear white hats and ride white horses. This has always been the case because during the Bronze Age, people were drawing white horses in the landscape in England. Or, well, probably because they were drawing it in limestone and limestone is white. The drawing of horses in landscapes is referred to as leucippotomy and sometimes done to draw people to an area, as was the case for the Folkestone White Horse, designed in 2003.

#3) Nazca Lines - Carved into the desert in Peru (there's desert in Peru?) between 400 and 650 A.D., there are images of that scary monkey on the left, llamas, birds, spiders, whales and geometric shapes. Huh. Whatever for? I mean clearly these aren't spots where giant-slayers reigned or heroes cantered around on ponies. Some scientists believe the geometric ones were used the same way Stonehenge was: For cosmological reasons. Others think they might've been used to attract the attention of the gods.

#4) Not everything can be an awesome picture of something. (Creepy monkeys are not awesome. Just sayin'.) The Grave Creek Mound is one such thing carved into the earth that's not a picture. It's one of the largest burial mounds in America. It was discovered in the late 1700's and most of the items inside were destroyed while the land owner poked around trying to figure out what it was. Even more mysterious, the Grave Creek Stone is a flat sandstone rock with 23 or 25 characters engraved on it and was discovered in the mound. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (if you're from the Ozark Mountain Region, you ought to be at least passingly familiar with his name as he was a big explorer and historian around here) was the first person to extensively study the stone. Per Wikipedia, "His correspondence with “noted antiquarians” leads him to the conclusion that inscription contains “four characters corresponding to the Ancient Greek; four Etruscan; five Runic; six ancient Gallic; seven old Erse; ten Phoenician; fourteen old British; sixteen Celtiberic, with some resemblance to the Hebrew.”" The stone is widely regarded as a hoax.

#5) Yonaguni Monument - A diver discovered these odd, temple-like rock formations in 1994. There are claims that this is man-made and claims that it was natural, but used by man in the past. The photo is of the "turtle" a star-shaped formation. Others include the "stage", a series of steps, a straight stone wall, and a boulder on a platform. The sharp right angles make people believe that this must've been done by human hands with amazing technology. You know, the kind that no one in 9000 BC would've had.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Official The Treasure Hunter's Lady Word Search Puzzle

The Official The Treasure Hunter's Lady Word Search Puzzle*. 

Largely because I'm too distraught to bring you a real blog post (today is not my friend). I have the key to this too, I really did put some effort into it. And as it's raining, you don't want to go outside today anyhow, so sit back, do a word find. The words are diagonal, horizontal, backwards and that funny thing where they slant. Possibly backwards. 

*All others are imitations.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Friday Five - My Favorite History Mysteries

By George, it's Friday and you're going to learn something! Or, I guess you could replace my URL with the one for LOL catz instead, but I'd prefer you learned something. Those furry little balls of cuteness aren't going anywhere.

Today, because I just cataloged a book about Roanoke, I'm going to talk about great mysteries in history. Great mysteries that would also make awesome novels, if you need a poke in the right direction. Not that there haven't been a lot of stories already done about these things, but hey, what's a few more, right?

#1) Roanoke - Oh, I love this one! Nothing pleases me more than an afternoon spent speculating what could've happened to the occupants of the Roanoke Colony. They settled here, the first Englishmen, in August 1585. In July of the following year, some of the settlers went home to get more supplies. Fifteen men stayed behind. They were never heard from again. They disappeared without a trace. The next batch of settlers arrived in August 1857 and cheerfully started rebuilding Roanoke. Good plan, y'all. Build where others mysteriously vanished. Because when supplies dwindled again, Governor John White went back to England and got waylaid for three years while England fought with Spain. When he got back, there wasn't a soul to be found. Only two mysterious carving in trees. One said 'Croatoan' and one said 'Cro'. Some speculate that the settlers moved inland to winter with the natives. Some speculate the settlers died at the hands of natives. When John Smith came over a handful of years later, Chief Powhatan admitted to murdering the settlers, but there's no conclusive evidence of this. Around the time of the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare (the first English child born in the new world), the Dare Stones were 'discovered'. They were carved with messages from Eleanor Dare to her father explaining deaths, plans to move to Chesapeake, and attacks of the tribes. These have never been proven to be real.
What I think happened: I think they just wandered off. They vanished in the manner that we'd all sometimes like to make idiot tourists vanish in. No, really. One time when I worked a theme park, I was on my last break of the day. These tourists asked me where the park was. All I could do was stare at the sheer ignorance. These colonists got the asking annoying questions, the Indians said, "Over there" and the whole lot of them wandered off to their deaths. (Or the assimilated into the tribes, like this theory says.)

#2) Mary Celeste - A merchant ship en route to Italy was found abandoned on December 4, 1872. The weather was favorable for sailing. The belongings of the crew were found aboard, including valuables. There was six months worth of food on board. One lifeboat was missing. Mary Celeste was carrying about $35,000 worth of alcohol and insured for $46,000. Some speculate that it was the gas fumes from the alcohol that vaporized the crew. Pardon me while I sneeze--bull&$!%. Oh, I feel better now. It appears as though the occupants of the ship bailed in a hurry. You know, unless aliens got them. In which case, the aliens probably hauled them in in a hurry. They towed Mary Celeste to Gibraltar and an inquiry was done. They found no signs of foul play, so she was sailed back to America. All in all, she changed hands 17 times before she was run around and set on fire in an insurance scam that didn't work.
What I think happened: Gnarliest trick ever pulled. Someone was passing around a hallucinogen and the whole crew goes overboard. Or in a Winter's Bone-esque disappearance, the good captain owed someone money and it was time to collect. I only say that because when someone "disappears" in this neck of the woods, that's usually what happened. Mr. Woodrell was not kidding in that book.

#3) The Antikythera Mechanism - Reputed to be the world's first computer, the Antikythera mechanism was designed to help mankind chart the stars. Now we have TMZ and People Weekly to--no, no, wrong kind of stars. Carbon dated all the way back to the Hellenistic Period, this "computer" was lovingly crafted and highly advanced, which suggests that it's not the first of its kind, but probably one of the best working. You know, for back then. The movie made for TV movie, The Last Templar suggests the mechanism was used to find the lost scrolls of the Bible, hidden by (if I remember correctly, but I probably don't) the Knights Templar. Or the Catholics. I forget. Um, it was okay movie. Anyway, according to scientists, real ones, not the TV kind, one could input a date on a lever that's lost now, and calculate where the stars and heavenly bodies would be. It has over 30 gears and possibly a lot more, just like watches of the 19th century. Fall behind the times much? You know what, if it can't tell me the time, make a phone call, keep my blog and grammar check my latest WIP, it's not a whole lot of help to me.
What I think it is: I'm sure there are parts and pieces my eyeballs aren't privvy to. Or I didn't look hard enough for pictures. It looks pretty decrepit. How do they know for sure that it ever really did anything? Looks like some gears to me. But then, I'm not mechanically inclined. At all.

#4) The Carnac stones - What the--? A bunch of rocks in straight lines. Wow, that's helpful. What is the obsession with people from days of yore stacking or lining up rocks? This just me thinking and gathering from what I've read, but they're probably tombstones of a sort. Most of these rocks stacked on other rocks are tombs or over burial mounds. So probably it has something to do with dead people. For all we know, they say, Here lies Joe, victim of being eaten by a bog bear (are there bogs in France?). And people (I'm talking about modern people here) are too concerned with building roads and using these rocks for sheep sheds to care that poor ol' Joe is probably moldering away under there. Well, since some of them were put up around 3500 B.C. he's probably not moldering anymore. In thousands of years, our descendants will look at our cemeteries and go, what the--?
What I think it is: Tombstones. End of story.

#5) Atlantis - If Plato says it's true, it must be true. Except for that whole women aren't as good as men thing. Not cool, Plato. That aside, he wrote about the subject of Atlantis, the mysterious, purportedly sunken country that had technology of which we could only dream of way back when. There's a cool map on the Wikipedia site that shows the Atlantean control way up into the Midwest. Yes, of America. And even some parts of what appears to be Canada. They were a force to be reckoned with, rumored to have one heck of a navy as well as advanced technology. Plato believes the Atlanteans got a little too powerful for their pants and sank into ruin when they tried to attack Athens. Geologists say there can never have been any such place as Atlantis because of the shifting of the plates. They'd be able to see a sunken island. But... the technology thing kind of makes sense when you think about the Baigong pipes and the Baghdad battery.
What I think happened: They got too big for their ancient britches. It happens in history. Over and over again. You can be the biggest, baddest power going for centuries and then boom, you make one little mistake somewhere and it sets of the butterfly effect. There's no telling what kind of civilizations rose and fell that we don't even know about. Atlantis got smote by a bigger, badder force, sucked into their culture and forgotten about or died off in a manner so horrible the world chose to forget it. Or Plato was totally off his rocker to begin with.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Current Obsession With Hats

I think I felt the need to don hats after the Royal Wedding. I saw how smashing the English looked in hats and I said, "Hey, I can do that." Only in sort of a redneck-ish way. Sporting goods stores are the perfect place to try on hats. Unless you happen to be best friends with a milliner. Which, I'm not, so sporting goods stores it is!

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

Yep, that hat completely screams "Gilligan's Island!" I feel more tropical already. If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.... Um, yeah. Wrong song. But if you have half a brain, you'll keep reading.

Yes, it would kill me to smile. Because I won't be smiling while I'm riding the range and prodding little doggies. Or something. This was a pretty cool felt hat, but someone hadn't been kind to the wire brim. It was bent and out of shape. Retail price: $34.95. Price is should've been after someone messed with the brim: Free. Personally, I want to be the one to mess up the brim. You know, on those hair-raising rides when the horse decides heading through the trees will be fun. Hee hee, let's see how fast she bails! What? You've never heard a horse say that? You're missing out. We're burnin' daylight....

I'm thinking this is the perfect vacation hat. And I could use some lipstick, but anyway. Is is a sombrero? Is it a goat herder hat? Is it something in between? I don't know. I'm not even certain it would make  good sun shade because it's pretty upturned. But if you wanted to put fruit in it, you'd have one heck of a good basket. Makes me want to break out into a stirring rendition of 'Seven Spanish Angels'. Get my classical guitar, Pablo.

Here's a floppy bucket hat, perfect for sticking fishing lures in when you're not using them. I know. I've seen people do that. Also, not sure it's going to do much in the way of sun protection except right on top of your head. Floppy brim doesn't really make sense. I remember when I was in high school, bucket hats were all the rage among track athletes. I ran track, but I never had a bucket hat. I didn't get it. I still don't get it.

And now I bring you the masterpiece of the day: My favorite, well it's not a hat, but face covering, um, creation let's say. Yes, I'm aware it looks like a chicken face. The cardboard flap on top looks like a cock's comb. This lovely item also comes in white for that added chicken look. Perfect for hunting, Halloween or bank robbing. Your choice. Probably wouldn't do to use it for all three. Good thing it's not blue, or you'd probably get mistaken for a turkey out in the woods. Seriously, what is with the nose part?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking 9 - Landscapes & Animals Edition

So I didn't go for the customary long walk yesterday or Saturday. Actually, Saturday was an ORA meeting, so I didn't do a whole lot of walking then anyway. Ah, comfy sitting. How I enjoy thee. But I did get some super-awesome hat pictures I will share with you later this week. I also got a new phone and these here are the tester photos on the phone. Yes, Overmaster Allison is pleased with the quality. Carry on with the photo taking! There is one I can promise you will love. And just in time for Halloween. So what did I do, if not walk a bunch?

Why, I got you pictures that don't include all those scary spiders I talk about all the time. Like this one: A beautiful landscape at Big Cedar Lodge near Ridgedale, Mo. Yes, the same guy who owns Bass Pro Shop owns this resort. Which tells you the kind of money he makes. I want to find him, run up to him, throw my arms around him and say, "Grandpa, I've missed you my whole life. I'm your long-lost granddaughter!" Heh. Like that would ever work.

The second waterfall in the photo is a bridge that you drive across with water flowing merrily across it. I didn't go wading because ballerina flat and water, um, yeah not a great idea.

We also went to the Branson Landing. From my understanding it is a poor imitation of the Plaza in Kansas City. Having never been to the Plaza, I can't say. I can't figure out why it's not covered like the Bayside shopping mall in Miami, FL. But they do put on a nice water/fire show three times a day. So I got you a picture of some water. I got one of fire and water, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as this one. Easily my favorite photo of the day. Especially with the little rainbow in the middle that just screams, "Cheerful!" Behind the really expensive and somewhat gaudy fountain, is Lake Taneycomo. Remember, you're here to learn and gape a photos, so go read the Wiki on the lake. Or else, I'll get a really big photo of a spider for next time! (The Wiki has some good photos too, but the one of the bridge is old because there's a new bridge there now and they're restoring the old one.)

Not only did we patronize Big Cedar, we visited not one, but both Bass Pro Shops this weekend. Imagine the lack of enthusiasm in my voice. Right. There isn't any. Ugh, it would be like if I dragged my husband to the bookstore every weekend. Seriously, the stock doesn't change that much. But I did manage a couple of good photos. Like this one, from the Branson BPS. Of an angry, angry chipmunk. Don't worry, it's dead. Which might be why it's angry. The chipmunk in front of it (also dead), was sitting on its haunches and missing one hand. Ouch. So why are you so mad, little chippy? At least you have all your appendages.

And now I bring you real live animals! Yes, live. Fantastic, huh? This is an aquarium in the Springfield BPS. That ugly creature to the right is a big blue catfish. And according to Wiki (learn, dangit!) they get very, very big. But more interesting is the critter to his left. A giant alligator snapping turtle. They have the same amount of bite pressure in their jaws as humans do, so don't go putting your hands around his mouth. Because you might lose a finger. Not that you can get to him or anything. I Googled him on the internet and someone said in '08 he was around 75 years old. I'm not sure how accurate the info is. All I know is, if he was on dry ground and so inclined to walk (he usually doesn't move much), I could ride on his back, he's that big. Also pictured, the tail of an alligator gar. Johnny Morris (or whoever does his decorating) has recently become obsessed with filling his Springfield location with alligator gar and swamp creatures (seriously, the boating/fishing section are full of swamp deer, black bear, gators [yes, even a real live gator named Al] and wild boars). Um, we're in Missouri, not the swamp. Where's our native wildlife? Oh, wait. Lots of turkey and whitetails. Whoopee.

But it was good weather for not walking so very far this weekend. They're predicting excellent weather for the rest of the week in our neck of the woods. Get outside, before it's wintery anyway! Get some fresh air. Sit on a bench. Do something! Or take a nap, dream of crazy-big turtles and cats and angry little stuffed chipmunks.

Happy walking and writing!