Friday, May 26, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things

Hello Friday! Are you in the mood to celebrate? Huzzahs to our host, Lexa Cain, along with cohosts, L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker! Let's get wild.

African penguins--Ah, the memories.

A few weeks ago we went to the Seneca Park Zoo here in Rochester. I love going to see the animals and it always reminds me of the years I worked in a zoo as a penguin keeper waay back in the nineties. Here's a few tips on zoo etiquette:

1. Hang on to your coins. 

This koi is around 18 inches long!

Have you ever peered into a zoo pond or water feature and seen tons of coins? Before you make a wish and toss one yourself, make sure it's actually supposed to be a wishing well. There should not be any zoo animals in that enclosure. At the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, people would throw coins in the duck pond, and the bottom-feeding ducks would eat them. Several ducks died with a belly full of corroded pennies in their stomachs.

2. Don't feed the animals.

This zookeeper is feeding balls of meat to a young lion. Notice that he is on the other side of the fence and is using a tool to keep his fingers away from the lion's mouth. Do not try this yourself with the burger you got at the snack shop!

Apples are healthy, natural food items, right? Well, I heard a sad story of an ostrich that died with an apple (thrown into the enclosure by a zoo visitor) stuck in its throat. Zoos often have feeding "shows" when you can watch keepers feed certain animals. Sometimes visitors can even feed animals themselves under supervision. My daughters used to hand feed giraffes at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. It was so cool to see these beautiful animals up close.

3. Never touch a zoo animal.

Snowy Owl

Most enclosures make this impossible, but every zoo is different. That beautiful bird behind the wires might look sweet, but many parrots' beaks can go through a human finger bone like it's butter. Some zoos do have petting areas where you can safely touch certain animals. 

Here are some more pictures from our latest trip to Seneca Park Zoo:

Say cheese, Tiger, please!

These elephants were stripping the bark off the log with their tusks and eating it.

We have raccoons in our backyard, but I love visiting the zoo ones too. So cute.

Feeding time at the sea lion exhibit. Would you clap for raw fish?

A lynx, napping. (I'm so jealous.)

A huge thanks to my husband who managed to capture all these wonderful images though various fences and smeary glass. Amazing job! Do you have a zoo nearby? A favorite animal?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things

It's Fabulous, Fantastic Friday! After skipping CTST posts during the A to Z Blog Challenge, I've got so many things to celebrate, it's hard to know where to start. Hmm...well, obviously, I must recognize our wonderful host, Lexa Cain, along with cohosts, L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker. Thank you for running this hop.

Image: marek.sotak

1. I worked on my historical novel this week for the first time in over a month. I want to have it in good shape by the end of July so I can participate in the IWSG Twitter Pitch. One slight problem: I've never sent a tweet. So that gives me about two months to figure things out. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Image: Connie Ma

2. I get to go on vacation soon. Every year my parents rent a house on Kiawah Island, SC. It's about thirty minutes south of Charleston. We build sand castles on the beach, dodge jelly-fish in the waves, and bike all over the place looking for deer, alligators, and the illusive bobcat. As if that wasn't enough, my mom does most all the cooking and it's the best. I'll probably gain at least five pounds, but it will be so worth it. 

3. It's cover reveal time!

MARKED BEAUTY by S.A. Larsen, Digital Cover Reveal Information

Title: Marked Beauty
Author: S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.


About the Author

S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens.

Visit her cyber home anytime at

Connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads


This is a #hashtag giveaway, where two lucky winners will receive a FREE eBook of Marked Beauty upon its release.

To participate:
  • Share one of the premade images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or write up a blog post using one of the images.
  • Include #MarkedBeauty in your description.
  • Optional for extra entry: include Add to Goodreads (with link) in your description.
***Posts MUST contain the hashtag #MarkedBeauty for entry into the giveaway or we won’t be able to find you.

Twitter Image 1

Pre-made tweets (you add the image)

"A lust 4 life energy. An ancient curse. One soul's journey thru death 2 find the cure." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal

"Uncovering some secrets can kill you, or worse ... steal your soul." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

An ancient race. A timid girl. And a journey to the in-between. #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

Twitter Image 2

The giveaway begins May 17th and will be open until May 23rd. Winners will be announced May 24th via social media.

For Instagram


Have you ever participated in a Twitter pitch? Any advice? Going on vacation this summer? Are you in tune with the emotions of other, a bit like S.A. Larsen's Anastasia?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things

Good Friday morning, everyone! Is Spring springing up all around your yard? What colors can you see from your window? We are lucky to see pink dogwoods, purple, white, and periwinkle lilacs, and yellow daffodils. Thank you to CTST host, Lexa Cain, along with cohosts, L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker!

A weeping cherry in bloom


Our magnolia tree blooms white

This week I'm also celebrating small (or rather short) stories because of the recent release of the IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group) anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life. I've been blogging with several of the authors included in this collection, including Sarah Foster. Today I've got a small interview with her about her short story, The Last Dragon:

1. When I started reading your story with the dragon bones and twins with silvery hair, my brain immediately went to Game Of Thrones. Even though the rest of the tale has no further parallels, are you a GOT fan and did that have any influence on your storytelling?

Was it that obvious?? I was actually worried there were too many similarities—extinct dragons, boy and girl twins (but at least that’s a healthy relationship…). But I think, or hope, at least, that the story went off into a world of its own. Actually, Mikah’s character was a bit influenced by Jaime Lannister. I had this idea that he was forced to kill someone (sort of like how Jaime killed Aerys), and that was part of the reason why he was a lost hero. I think it was a bit harder for Mikah to kill the person he had to, and the guilt of that is something that continues to haunt him, even though he knows he did the right thing.

2. This story is beautifully self-contained. While the reader could imagine what comes next, there is no feeling of an abrupt cut-off at the ending. Also, the backstory is present, but not overwhelming. With the 6K word limit, was this balance a struggle for you or did it come about naturally?

It was definitely a struggle, especially in the first draft. Creating an entire world within a short story is not easy. The only thing Raynor and Illy really know about their uncle is that he killed the last dragon. We have to find out why he left, as well as what is happening and why the twins have been in hiding their whole lives. Plus, learning about a lot of these things from a different character requires a LOT of dialogue—something I tend to overdo. I hope the reader was able to learn everything they needed to without it being too overwhelming.

I think the ending works because we’ve spent the whole story knowing about Illy’s vision and knowing that this battle is going to happen. When it finally approaches, we don’t necessarily need to see the action to know that things will turn out all right. Not to mention the (literal) fire power the bad guys are up against.

3. I know you are working on one or more novels in a totally different genre. How was writing in the fantasy genre? Was it fun? Something you'd consider writing more of?

Actually, fantasy and I go way back. I pretty much only wrote fantasy when I was younger, then switched to poetry for a while before working on my current novel—an LGBT contemporary (maybe YA, probably not—still figuring it out). I know, I make no sense. I don’t really like committing to one genre (plus the stuff I wrote when I was a teenager was just awful). I think I commit more to ideas. If I like an idea, I run with it. I liked the idea for “The Last Dragon” so I tried really hard to get it written, and I really did enjoy it. I have a few other fantasy ideas stashed away in my brain so hopefully someday they’ll actually get written. Maybe jumping genres will make it harder to find a committed audience, but who knows? I actually have to finish writing all those stories first, anyway. 

Sarah Foster is a blogger and an aspiring novelist and poet. She lives with her stand-up comedian husband and an overweight cat in a studio apartment above a movie theater just south of Boston, Massachusetts. When she’s not obsessing over Broadway musicals or baking cupcakes, she is usually working on finishing—and hopefully someday publishing—her debut novel. You can read about her writing adventures (and the love/hate relationships with her characters) on her blog, The Faux Fountain Pen.

Blog | Twitter | Instagram 

The Last Dragon

In a land free from dragons, a new evil rises to take their place. The Gifted—those with special powers—are being collected by a mysterious group with a sinister purpose. With little hope in sight, Raynor and his twin sister, Irillya, seek out their long-lost uncle—a once great warrior who disappeared without a trace or a reason.

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Monday, May 8, 2017

A to Z Blog Challenge . . . Reflections

Today is the A to Z Blog Challenge Reflections post, a chance to celebrate our success, wail about our failures, and tell the hosts what we really think about the missing linky list. So with no further ado, here we go!

Things I liked about the 2017 A to Z challenge:

1. My theme.

I loved researching and writing about conspiracies. It was a little tough to get the letters and conspiracy themes matched, but I could easily use this theme again and not repeat a topic.

(Chem Trails would have made an excellent C-conspiracy. Maybe next time.)

2. The new posting method.

Picking which topics to read about rocked, since most people included this information in their comment.

I was able to figure out how to leave an active link in the comments to my blog without too much trouble, but left a simple (www.blahblah) link as well just in case.

(I'm sorry ma'am, you skipped P and Q. Drop that mouse and step away from the computer. You're under arrest.)

I liked that there weren't any A to Z "police" out there ready to drop my name if I happened to miss a few days. Participation wasn't mandatory. You could do as much or as little as you wanted.

I also didn't miss being one of the blog police as I did in the last two years. I could spend my time visiting who I wanted instead of an assigned set of blogs.

3. Success!

I posted every day, got a ton of comments, got several new followers, and met some awesome bloggers that were new to me. My favorite posts were the funny ones, like my A (Apollo landing) and D (Denver airport) posts.

Image: tonynetone

(Remember Mankind, who leaps extra high for bacon?)

Things I did not like about the 2017 A to Z challenge:

1. I failed to write my posts beforehand and was always under the gun to get things posted. My bad.

2. My daughter was sick the entire second week with the flu. Both kids were home the entire third week for Spring Break. I couldn't keep up with comments or visiting. I didn't have time to infuse humor into my posts the way I did the first week.

(Hang on, Sweetie. Just one more image to find before I get your medicine, I promise.) 

3. Second guessing. I have a ton of writing projects that were completely neglected during the month of April. I wondered why I was spending so much time on something "just for fun". I wasn't even using this challenge to promote anything.

Suggestions for future challenges:

1. If a lot of people are upset about the missing linky list, include it, but don't monitor it. That way, it's there as a resource, but no one has to spend time keeping it "clean".

2. This is for me personally: Make an effort to write posts beforehand, so when things go wrong (like sick kids) you don't get overwhelmed and frustrated. Have something to promote, so you feel the time is well spent. If you fail on one or both of those, then drop out or cut back. It's okay to stop or skip days, especially with the "new" posting method.

How did the challenge go for you this year? Do you think you will do it again in 2018?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWGG and Celebrate the Small Things

After 26 posts in 30 days, returning comments, reading my eyes bleary, just when I thought it was safe to leave the blogospere--dun, dun, DUNNN! It's time to cohost the IWSG! Yay?

I may have some insecurities on whether or not I can pull this off, but I am sure of one thing: host Alex J. Cavanaugh and my fellow co-hosts rock the house! So go visit them and say howdy:

Nancy Gideon,  Liesbet @ Roaming About,  Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone

So did you do the A to Z blogfest this year? Did you miss the linky list? There will be a reflections post on Monday, May 8th to discuss how things went.

The IWSG question for May is a lively one: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you've ever had to research for a story?

Hmm. I spend so much time on research this is going to be tough. How about edible car parts and the damage mice can do? Turns out environmentally friendly "green" cars are absolutely delicious to Mickey and his friends. Or hunting regulations in Maine? You can't be within a 100 meters of a residence when firing a gun, unless you have the homeowner's permission. Or that an acrophobia study involved infants encouraged by their mothers to crawl onto sheets of clear plastic raised high above the floor? On the bright side, if the tikes did get too frightened, at least they were wearing diapers. ;)

On the serious side, a rare complication of untreated strep throat can damage a person's heart valves necessitating surgery. I used this tidbit in the novella Heart Stopper.

This is a big month for the IWSG! Be sure to check out the new anthology Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life. Congrats to the authors: Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.


This is another regular blog hop that I missed while floundering through the hustle and bustle of the A to Z blog challenge. If you enjoy celebrating anything and everything, no matter how big or small, stop by and see Lexa Cain. She, along with cohosts, L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker, have created a super fun community.

We had buckets and buckets of rain on Tuesday, so I didn't bother putting out new birdseed for the birds and squirrel. Then my husband spots this poor little squirrel scooping yesterday's leftover seeds out of a dish full of water with his paws. Please, sir, can I have some more?

After we shot this video, I took out a dry pan of seed and a bowl of peanuts and put them under a tarp for our waterlogged Oliver Twist. The squirrel and several buddies feasted happily in the drizzle while our cat drooled at the window. Please, mom, can I have a squirrel? 

Do you feed any critters around your yard?