Monday, July 6, 2015

First Impressions - DreamKatcher

Welcome to our second and last First Impressions for July. Today we have the first page of Stacie Dempsey's  YA SF/Fantasy novel, DREAMKATCHER. Stacie is an elementary school teacher and you can find her at Smocussmocus or on Facebook


DreamKatcher - Chapter One

I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity. My heart pounds as I try to make my way back in. Heat sears my cheeks just as tears come flooding down to cool them. Their trapped cries resonate in my ears as a lone thought repeats in my head… I have to save them.

This dream clings to my consciousness, hanging like a low fog. A fog that a thousand suns couldn’t lift. There’s only one way to rid these terrible thoughts from my mind, something I should have done last night. I reach for the BAND on my wrist, knowing what I will find before I see it there. Blank screen, battery dead.

As I stumble across the room, limbs still heavy with sleep, my body begins convulsing with sobs. Overwhelming pain takes over and threatens to pull me back into the abyss of depression. It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze. Wrapping my arms around myself I attempt to pull the pieces of me back together long enough to reach the port.

Racing the last five feet to the wall, I hold my wrist against the port ready to evict the nightmare from my mind. The glass panel glows red, confirming it’s dead battery and my failure to sync. As the BAND charges the panel slowly changes from red to yellow and finally green. The sync begins and I can feel my thoughts flowing out of me like a stream. It’s as if a dam has been released and is washing away these painful memories that infest my sleep.

Four years later and still the same nightmare plagues my thoughts. The same feeling that I should have done more, I should have tried harder to get them out. The same feeling of guilt for having survived.

This latest episode marks the second time this month I’ve forgotten to keep my BAND charged. Gram will be furious when she finds out. “Our BAND’s are meant to relieve the burden the day’s thoughts have on our soul. Without a proper sync each night we won’t be able to make it through the day”. It won’t be the first time I’ve received this lecture. Taking one last deep breath, I pull myself together and head downstairs to face Gram.


My thoughts: In the first paragraph there are some changes in tenses that make things a little confusing:

I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was (past tense) a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see (present tense) the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity" I might suggest changing it to read thus: 

"I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I could see the outline of an old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows." and matching the sky’s intensity. I think shorter is a little sweeter here.

After this it gets interesting regarding the BAND, setting up all kinds of questions. What exactly is the BAND? Why do they need it? Where do these dreams come from and why do they affect these people the way they do? Why does our narrator keep forgetting to charge hers, knowing the consequences? And why does she (I'm guessing) keep having the same dream? Or is it a memory?

Readers, what did you think of this first page? Would you have turned to the page to find out what happens next? I would've.

And I almost forgot! To see what Dianne and Kristin thought about this page head on over to their places: Kristin @ See the Stars and Dianne at her blog.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Award and News from the Trenches...

The Armchair Squid Nominated me for this sweet award 

The rules:

1. Thank and post the link of the person who nominated you.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers.
3. Nominate 10-20 blogs and notify them.
4. Pass on the rules.

Thank-you Squid! And if you don't know the Armchair Squid, he has a great blog and runs the Cephalopod Coffeehouse at the end of every month in which we share the books we've read.

Five Facts:

1. I love looking at the real estate section - always have, ever since I was kid. I get my fix through the NYT Real Estate section and Julia at Hooked on Houses.
2. I also love my dog, Jonah, even though he does naughty things sometimes.

3. I find shelling extremely relaxing - especially on Sanibel Island, one of my most favorite vacation spots.
4. I think History is pretty neat.
5. Oh, yeah, I wrote a book! West of Paradise :)

My nominations - and for those listed, please feel free to accept or decline as time and/or interest permits!

1. Krystalyn Drown @See the Stars
2. Ivy @The Happy Whisk
3. Liz @ Laws of Gravity
4. Liza @ Middle Passages
5. Huntress @ Spirit Called

And whoever else would like a pretty award to hang on their wall!

Lastly, News from the Trenches:

If you've been following my progress with GRIMOIRE you'll see I'm around 94% complete - only two chapters left...

Have a wicked good weekend, and for my fellow US residents, Happy Fourth and have fun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Impressions - Temple Beyond the Sea

 Welcome to First Impressions for the month of July. Today we have an NA Historical Fantasy by Mark Murata titled, TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA. Mark blogs over at Suburban Fantasy if you want to say Hi.


To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside. 
At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.
The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.
Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.
The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore
Silence greeted the words. If any worshipers had been present, they would be murmuring in awe and fear. As it was, only two guards from the palace stood in the place for worshipers—no one else occupied the temple grounds, bordered by sharp cliffs that dropped off on either side to the sea below. Beyond a heath a few young women watched in rapt fascination, hoping the distance would keep them from being rousted out by the spear butts of the guards. 

My thoughts:  In the first paragraph there is this: "...the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood." I want to know how Iphi feels about this. The fact that she thinks about it at all tells me she has feelings and I want to know what they are. Then there is the walk, the perfect walk of a priestess. "Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect..." This makes me feel distant from Iphi. I would think she'd be thinking how she was walking perfectly, exactly as she's supposed to. I also wonder about the word 'victims.' Does Iphi consider them victims? Or sacrifices, which is used later. There's a big difference.
In the second paragraph I get the sense that Iphi enjoys appearing foreboding. Is this intentional? Lastly, when Iphi pauses to contemplate this last thing she has to do, this might be a good place to tell us how she feels. Is she nervous? Confident? Excited? This will help the reader bond with Iphi and thus want to turn the page to see what will happen next...

Readers what do you think? Any comments or suggestions to help Mark? And do go see what Krystalyn and Dianne had to say about this first page if you have the chance.We will back with our second First Impression the month on Monday, July 6. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - Eleanor & Park

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

This month I'm going to tell you about Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I was convinced to buy it after reading an article from the Bent Agency (which I would link to if I wasn't such an idiot and deleted the message AND emptied my trash.) which talked about characters and how to deepen them, give the reader more. Eleanor & Park was given as an example and this prompted me to click buy.

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I loved this book. I loved Eleanor (who happens to have my favorite name) and Park, both of whom embody all the awkwardness of being a teenager combined with being different. Eleanor might be white, but she's poor white trash (and I mean poor, like she has to hold her bra together with a safety pin), overweight, with bright red completely unmanageable hair. Park is Asian (Korean actually - and I totally would've fallen in love with him, too) and perhaps the only person of color in their homogenous high school. Somehow they fall in love. And that's all I'm going to say except that I adored them both. Also, Park's parents were totally awesome.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Surprise

I hadn't heard of this movie but my son started to watch it and then insisted I watch with him. I'm glad I did because what a little gem of a movie!

The Premise: A group of people are trapped in an elevator and the Devil is mysteriously amongst them.

Story by M. Knight Shyamalin
Screenplay by  Brian Nelson.

If you look this film up on IMBD or Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn't get a very good rating, but all I can say is that those people are wrong, wrong, wrong. I loved this film. It did everything right. Solid performances, great music, just the right amount of creepy, and a perfectly surprising ending.

Anyway. I just had to share, it was that much fun.

Have you watched any movies lately that have surprised and impressed you?



(screenplay), (story)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Freud and Changing Gears

This is one of those things I'm always reluctant to do. Mainly because I think if I keep changing gears then nothing ever gets done. So I have to rationalize to myself why it's okay to work on two things at the same time (more or less). It's totally Freud:

According to his model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop one from doing certain things that one's id may want to do.

It's sort of like this constant war between three parties: the one who wants to sit on the couch and watch Netflix and eat cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, the one who's industrious and constantly cites the dangers of not following her advice - exactly, and the one who mediates between them.

Anyway. A compromise was reached between the parties in which it was agreed that if we weren't going to work on RUN (my YA/NA Apocalyptic), then it was okay to finish revising GRIMOIRE (my witchy regency romance). Out of everything, it's the most revised piece of work I have, and all I had to do was fix the ending, a mere fifty pages. As you can from my progress on my sidebar, I'm at 92% which is a pretty nice number to be at. Almost done. I can do this. Then I can figure out the character issue I'm having with RUN. But that's another story...

So, do you argue with yourself? Who wins?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Pawn Shop Files

As many of you recall, I took a job last year at a Pawn Shop, which has turned out to be the funnest job I've ever had (and yes, I know funnest isn't a proper word). We see a lot of interesting people - characters in the truest sense of the word - and even more interesting stuff. Some of it is pawn, which goes down into the special 'pawn' room to stay until the people come back and pay for the item. The rest of it is stuff people bring in to sell outright. Like the Frankenstein Machine. That's what its owner called it but it's really a shock treatment machine and as soon as we get the plug and cord back from being rewired, we'll see if it works.

Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Apparently I'm a Redneck

The other day my son saw a plaque at someone's house that said:

You know you're a redneck if you have to move a cat in order to have a meal. 

Damn. Who knew?

In other news, I totally forgot to announce the winner of West of Paradise last Friday so, without further ado, Congratulations Sheri! Shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll send your prize out asap :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

First Impressions - Silhouette

Here we are back again with our second and final installment of First Impressions for this month. Today we have the first page of SILHOUETTE, from Shannon Cortazar, a YA Fantasy. You can also find her on Twitter @SLCortazar. Authors Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown will aslo be critting this first page so hop on over to their places to see what their thoughts were. My thoughts will be at the end.

We were invaded the day we buried my brother. It was autumn, crisp and bright. “A good day for a burial” I heard someone say behind me. A tragic death, such a shame, the voices went on and on. Clucking their tongues as if rationalizing his death would make it okay. The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist when I took a peek at him lying still on white satin.
They’d sent a note thanking us for our cooperation in these “changing times”. It was signed by Elin Grayl, the new leader of our Nation.
The coffin was a token of their gratitude, to ease our financial burden, they said. I thought it was ironic, since they’re the ones who killed him.
A few hours later chaos broke out. From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion. They were herding everyone they could find. Before I knew it I was sitting between my parents tearing through town in my dad’s pickup truck, heading for the mountains flanking our crumbling community. And it’s here I sit, waiting for the next onslaught.
I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. One, focus on my target. Two, steady my breath. Three, account for the wind.
Four, don’t hesitate. Aim between the eyes.
I don’t worry about the snap of the bow, just the direction which the arrow will soar. If it were an animal, I’d quiet my release. But the human boy daring to enter our village is too dumb or too careless for me to bother. He’s just another threat, I tell myself. One I won’t think twice about killing.
I wait, watch him. He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist.
But they’re clever, so I wait.
To my left I can see a lone magpie land on the thin branch of a birch tree. One for sorrow, I think it goes, the rhyme I learned years ago. It’s appropriate; since we live in a suffocating state of sadness. Tufts of snow fall to the frozen ground below him as he sits perched with his eyes darting around. Until they land on me. I refocus and clear my mind, ease the tremors in my arm.
“You have to kill him Noelle.” A voice behind me whispers.


My thoughts: Having read this through more than once, I really want to know more about the invasion in more detail and with more clarity. I'm also confused by this: "From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion" Who are the legion? I want to see them and the invaders, even if it's just a glimpse before our narrator flees. Give me a hint of what sort of invasion this is. Aliens? Outlanders? Foreigners?
Second thoughts: "I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill." I love this transition to the now and what follows but, is this true: "One I won’t think twice about killing."? Just asking...I also love the subtle hints that this world is different than the one we know, like this: "The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist..." and this: "He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist." Maybe he/she's (I get a sense it's she but could go either way and I'm ok not knowing - for now) right not to hesitate...And of course the last line, which begs the question, is she going to kill the boy? Should she? Plus a whole host of other questions, like what's going on here?!
Final thoughts: One idea would be to begin with the now, and then have the narrator recall the past and how they all got to where they are now. The other option would be to insert a little more back story into the beginning. I know a lot of people aren't big fans of back story but one advantage here would be to show who this character was at the time of the brother's death in comparison to who the character is now, however many months/years it is after the invasion. But, these are just my thoughts and Dianne and Krystalyn may have something completely different to say...
Bottom line: Would I turn the page? You betcha.

Readers, any thoughts?

Monday, June 1, 2015

First Impressions - Wild Ginger

Wow, here it is June already and the warm weather has finally arrived. I finally got to wear shorts again! Anyway, it's time for First Impressions and today we have WILD GINGER from Valerie Hobbs, an adult contemporary. Authors Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown will also be critiquing this fist page so do go see what their thoughts are. My thoughts will be at the end, mostly.

There were times living with her parents when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lessing has had to be the grownup, or at least feels as if she does. Like right now on the Big Island of Hawaii as their tiny rental car passes a sign on the side of the road. “Hey, you guys,” she says. “We’re driving into a volcano. Did you see that sign?”
Her mother laughs. “Not into it, honey. Not exactly. Nothing to worry about.”
Lizzie thought about the day her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Sylvester, did his amazing volcano imitation. “Kaboom” he cried, leaping into the air, sending them all into shrieks and fits of laughter. “Is it active?”
Lizzie’s father, too big for their rented car, hulks over the steering wheel. “Kilauea is an active volcano all right,” he says. “If we’re lucky we’ll get to see some lava.”
Her parents are crazy. Always chasing after some new “folly,” Lizzie’s grandmother says. But nothing seems to work. Lessing Cake and Coffee had attracted only flies. Lessing Laundry went belly up when a fancier one opened on the next block. There were penny stocks and bubble gum machines, a dog washing service and Mack Of All Trades home repairs. Her father finally took a job as a manager at Burger King but lost it in a week. 
And now there is this new thing her mother had spotted on a real estate flyer. “Old plantation house surrounded by  lush vegetation, perfect for a bed and breakfast”. The flyer had no picture.

My thoughts: The first paragraph starts out,  "There were times living with her parents when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lessing has had to be the grownup, or at least feels as if she does." There are three different tenses being used here, past-tense, past-perfect, and present. I found this confusing and might consider changing this sentence so: "There were times when Lizzie Lessing felt she was the only grown up in the family." I might then launch into the explanation as to why Lizzie feels this with the brief description of her parents' failed enterprises, before finishing up with the last sentence: "And now there is this new thing her mother had spotted on a real estate flyer. “Old plantation house surrounded by  lush vegetation, perfect for a bed and breakfast”. The flyer had no picture." I'm guessing this is what the story is going to be about so the sooner we get to that the better. I'm also a little curious as to Lizzie's age. Is she still in sixth grade or older now? Lastly I'm going to question whether present tense is the best tense to tell this story. It feels/sounds awkward but maybe that's just because of the beginning paragraph or maybe it's because I'm accustomed to present tense stories told from a first person pov. That said, I'm very intrigued by the old plantation house - in Hawaii no less! Readers, what do you think?

A huge thank you to Valerie for submitting her first page and I'll be back on Wednesday with another First Impressions :)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cepalopod Coffehouse - The Prince of Tides

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

This month I'm sharing The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I had seen the movie ages ago, so I had a pretty good idea of what happened, but I certainly wasn't prepared to enjoy the writing so much. Maybe I was able to enjoy it because I did know the basic plot:

In which Tom Wingo travels to NYC in order to talk to his twin sister's psychiatrist. His twin, Savannah, has tried to commit suicide again and Lowenstein (the psychiatrist) thinks if Tom can help her understand Savannah, then maybe she'll stop trying to kill herself. The scene switches from Tom recalling his and his sibling's growing-up years on isolated Melrose Island, South Carolina to present day Manhattan. At the heart of the tale are two terrible secrets. One is the fate of older brother Luke, who we know at the beginning is dead, but not how. The other is even worse, but revealing it just might save Savannah.
What was missing from the movie was the gorgeous language Conroy uses. I was in awe of his powers of description and the way he could tell this type of story (basically a drama) so well. In fact, I was so caught up in the story that I did what I only do with a very few books, the ones I am most invested in. I stop reading at the worse part because I'm afraid of what will happen to the characters I've grown so fond of. I always go back, of course, usually within a day or two, but it's almost like I have to prepare myself for what's going to happen next.

Also missing from the movie are the secondary characters. I vaguely recall the mother, but that's about it. In the book, the mother is this fabulously magical cruel person, while the father is mean and violent, horribly so. But he also instills this love of country in his children and that theme permeates Tom's recounting of his childhood. Plus there was a host of other characters like their religious grandfather (loved him), their grandmother (her, too) who left him and came back, this awful snooty rich family (hated their guts), not to mention all the things that happen to bond the three kids together. I was never so interested in a family's life.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Year Anniversary

Okay. Actually it's been more like a year and two months but hey, who's counting right? Anyway, I try not to shove my book under your noses too much but I always meant to celebrate the one year anniversary of its release and how better to celebrate than to give away a copy?

Now, don't let the cover fool you. As one reviewer so aptly said:

"If you look at the cover of this book, and assume it's a standard run-of-the-mill cliched cowboy story, you'd be waaaaaay wrong. It isn't a standard run-of-the-mill cliched ANYTHING. It's fresh and imaginative, well-written, and a thoroughly enjoyable tale from start to finish. Matter of fact, I'm not sure, but I think the author may have invented a brand new genre. A hybrid, and a darned good one.

Whether you're a fan of well-researched historical fiction, of the Old West, of time travel, adventure, or romance, you'll find something to rave about in this book. A brilliant scientist owns an exclusive island getaway, and he invites some of his guests to reeeeeally get away... by traveling into the past through his secret invention. (Not a big deal is made about this... it just IS. And somehow, the author makes it seem totally acceptable and plausible.) Our get-away-from-it-all hero precedes our heroine into the Old West, and establishes a new life for himself there. By the time she arrives, he's become a bounty hunter. The trouble is, our poor unsuspecting heroine is the spitting image of the thieving murderous woman who darned near killed him five years earlier. And so it begins. The question is: where will it end? But um, don't be in too big of a hurry to get to the end, because the journey is delicious ... whether it's on horseback on a miserable rainy day, or in a hot overcrowded train, you'll feel like you are there. Total immersion

But it wouldn't be fair if I only shared the good reviews, and I actually found these one and two-star reviews quite helpful:

"I got half-way thru it, and then just gave up. I didn't read anything happening except traveling from town to town. thought it was suppose to have romance? where was it? might have been to someone's liking but wasn't to me."

"This book was free and I am relieved! I lasted 4 chapters but could not stand anymore. Combinibg romance, western and time travel is just too much."

"Deleted without reading."


I have no idea what 'ok' means but I'm perfectly happy with my 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Amazon! 

As for winning, anyone who comments is eligible, and I'll announce the winner on Friday when I'll be back with The Cephalopod Coffeehouse, in which we discuss books and invite you to join us :)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ca' d'Zan

I am happy to report that I'm on to Chapter 21 of RUN, in which there will be a town meeting and the unpleasant person who recently arrived will be touted a hero - much to my main characters' dismay...

If anyone is remotely interested, the first chapter is available to read in my static pages beneath my header.

But I suspect that what you really want to hear about is Ca' d'Zan, which I mentioned on Friday as John and Mable Ringling's winter home. John Ringling, in case you forgot, was part of the Ringling Brothers Circus. He and his wife chose the site of their home because it reminded them of the lagoon of their favorite city. The name of the house is Venetian for House of John.

"Cà d'Zan in 2007". Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia -

Inside looking out - God, don't you love the stained glass...

The ice box, I think.

The Range

I wouldn't mind this sink in my kitchen...

The servants' stairs

Sadly there was a chain preventing people from going down (we might be idiots and jump off and drown ourselves, after all), but this was the dock...ayay...

And that's me, enjoying a bit of sun on that fabulous patio.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Progress and The Ringling Museum

First off, in regards to my WIP, working title RUN, I've been fairly productive since I got back from my vacation. I finished up chapter 19, which I'd been stalled on, and wrote a whole new chapter. There's some fun stuff happening. The town got a delivery, someone unpleasant arrived with it, and my main characters have just learned that the power will be going out soon, leaving them all in the dark. Oh, and it's winter. Good times.

As for The John & Mable Ringling Museum, this was the other place we visited in Sarasota, and it was so huge we didn't have time to see everything. We focused our visit on the Circus Museum, and Ca' d'Zan, John and Mable's winter home. John Ringling, in case you didn't know, was part of the Ringling Brothers Circus, which by 1889 was large enough to need to travel by rail. There's a whole diorama of the trains and then the depot and then the circus spread out over a large area with tents for everything. It was so cool and I took lots of pics. Next week I'll show you Ca' d'Zan, but today, it's the Circus!

I'll leave you with this last pic of a monkey statue that there's no way I'd have in my house. He's wicked cool, but oh, so creepy...

Have an awesome weekend :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Impressions Announcement

As most of you know author Dianne Salerni and I have been teaming up the last few years to bring you First Impressions, whereby we critique your first page. Starting in June, First Impressions will be even better, because now your first page will get three critiques instead of two. Krystalyn Drown, author of Legasea, Spirit World, and Tracy Tam Santa Command, will be adding her opinion to the mix, and let me tell you, she's an awesome critiquer (I know, that's not a real word - but it should be!) and Dianne and I are thrilled that she's joining us.

As it stands, we still have one slot open for June, so if you'd like to have your first page critiqued by three awesome authors, just send it to any one of us ( my email address is with First Impressions as the subject. A page is usually 300-400 words and we will happily link to your blog, website, twitter, whatever. We also like to have a pic (of you or something appropriate to your submission) that you have the rights to.

Interested? I hope so, cuz we love to crit!

See you Friday with more fun pics from The Ringley Museum...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sanibel Island - The Bailey Tract

One of the things I love about Sanibel are the bike paths. They go just about everywhere and one of the first things we did was rent bikes. It's easy to get around that way because there are no hills and it's a great way to see the island. Another cool thing about Sanibel is that more than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges, the largest being the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Bailey Tract was much smaller, but a very short ride from our condo.

 There were lots of birds

 A turtle (actually there were two but the other was fast and scurried across the path into a little stream), and then this surprise...

I was glad he was across the water. But then we saw this guy...

He came out from beneath the walkway which we had to cross to get back to the way out. I was a little nervous, I admit, and at first I didn't want to cross. But he was much more interested in getting where he was going than in anything I was doing. I still didn't get too close, though! We went back there a few more times but didn't see any more alligators.