Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring Birds and Summer Challenges

I can't believe we are at the end of May already. The month flew by and, as usual, I have no idea where the time went. To all my American readers, I hope you enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday weekend, and the unofficial kick-off to summer. We certainly have summer temperatures here in Ohio as we turn the calendar over to June.

I met some new little friends in May as a pair of robins built their nest in the forsythia bush in my parents' yard. We discovered the family when my nephew was trimming the bush, and nearly cut the branches that held the nest. Thankfully, he saw the nest in time and quit trimming, but it was a big shock as the parents had done such a great job of hiding the nest, we had no idea the babies were there.

At first, we were afraid the nest would no longer have enough shelter since the bush had been trimmed, but luckily that wasn't the case and the babies continued to thrive and grow. I loved checking on them and watching their progress.

Yesterday morning, my mom saw one of the little birds fly away and, sure enough, by the end of the day they were all gone. When I went to check on them yesterday afternoon, the nest was completely empty, and had the look of a vacant house. No traces of the little bird family remained.

I can't deny I'll miss checking in on these guys. But, it was somehow fitting that as the temperatures soared and the holiday marked the start of summer here in the US, the little birds of spring went away.

As May ends and the summer months begin, I am measuring my progress on some ongoing challenges.

I joined the 400 Mile Fitness Challenge back in February, and I have found it to be very motivating. I love watching my little runner move forward on my exercise ticker, and was excited to see her reach the halfway point last week. I want to say thank you again to Shanae Branham at Triumph and Tears for taking over hosting duties on the challenge, and keeping it going. I'm anxious to continue on, and look forward to staying on track with early morning walks this summer.

Unfortunately, staying on track with my writing challenge isn't really possible, as I'm so far off the track I can't even see it. I signed up for May...You Write Your Novel at the beginning of May, with the goal of writing 1000 words a day and ending up with 80,000 words by July 19th. By now, I should have around 30,000 words. What do I have instead? About 8500.

I can only blame this on my typical pattern of procrastinating until the last possible minute to complete anything. If MYWYN had been an assignment back when I was in school, I would have been up all night on July 18th trying to hammer out as many words as possible. Old habits die hard.

So May was a bust for me on this challenge, but I'm determined to make June better. I still have 50 days to go until the end of MYWYN, so I can start now, give myself a kick in the pants, and crank out those words. I'm turning to one of my favorite motivational quotes to get inspired.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

Happy June, everyone!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Six Month Anniversary Giveaway!

June will be my sixth month of blogging, and I decided to do a giveaway to mark the occasion. I have participated in giveaways on other sites, and had a great time doing it, so I thought it would be fun to host my own. I have enjoyed my time in the blogosphere so much, I wanted to do something to celebrate that. And, this is my way of saying THANK YOU to everyone who has followed, left comments, or visited my blog in the past six months.

I also learned that my first paid article will be published in June, so I'm beyond thrilled about that. I'm just feeling good about life in general, and I wanted to have a little fun with a contest. I hope you'll join me!

Here are the details:

In addition to being a milestone month for me, June is also the season premiere of True Blood, and I decided to tie that in to my giveaway. I am a fan of the show, in large part because I think the vampire Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgard, is to die for. :D

Hello, Gorgeous!

So since I love vampire tales, and True Blood has me in a vampire state of mind, I thought I would give away some vampire books. In addition, I am giving away an Amazon gift certificate, so there is something for everyone, even those who aren't vampire fans!

The prizes:

Grand prize:

A $25 gift certificate for Amazon.com

First prize:

The Sookie Stackhouse TV Tie-In Box Set, featuring the first three Sookie Stackhouse novels, by Charlaine Harris

Runner-up prize:

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

I'm a King fan, and I wanted to include a darker, classic take on the vampire mythology in addition to the more modern True Blood.

So there will be three winners all together, drawn at random.

The books are all new paperbacks that have never been read. As I am new to all this, I don't know if it's necessary to list any disclaimers, but suffice it to say I am not affiliated with Amazon, HBO, True Blood, Ms. Harris, or Mr. King. I just bought the books myself and want to share them, I'm not being compensated in any way.

Entering the contest couldn't be easier. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and you're in! It's not necessary to follow me to enter, although of course I would be thrilled if you did, and I would gladly follow back. It's also not necessary to tweet or post about this contest, but again, I would be most grateful if you want to help get the word out.

The contest is open to anyone who visits and chooses to leave a comment on this post, so you do not have to be a current follower to enter. The only requirement is that you leave me your blog address or a valid e-mail address so that I can contact you if you are one of the winners. Anonymous comments will not be accepted or entered into the drawing.

While I live in the United States, the contest is not limited to those in the US. I am happy to ship the books anywhere, and will send the Amazon certificate via e-mail. I won't take responsibility for any restrictions Amazon places on ordering, but I will be glad to send the certificate anywhere it can be used.

The deadline to enter is Saturday, June 11th at midnight, eastern standard time.

I am very excited to reach this blogging and publishing milestone, and I hope you will help me celebrate! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Ault Park

After the rainiest Spring I can remember, we finally had some sunny days over the weekend here in Cincinnati. So, Clancy and I were able to get our Travels With Clancy project up and running.

We woke up to a perfect Sunday morning, and the temperature was just right for a walk outside. I thought it was a great day to get started on our travels, and Clancy agreed. Since the rest of the weekend had been a bit hectic, we decided to go somewhere local, and ended up spending the morning at Ault Park.

Ault Park is on the east side of Cincinnati, in a neighborhood called Mt. Lookout, and it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. While it's only about a 30 minute drive from where I live, I'd never been there, even though I'd always heard how pretty it is. I was glad to learn that what I'd always heard was indeed true.

As Clancy and I drove into the park, I couldn't help but notice the lush greenery all along the windy, hilly road. If there's a bright spot to all the rain we've had, it's that everything is incredibly green. The sun peering through all of those green, densely packed trees made the entrance to the park quite beautiful, and set the stage for the peaceful morning ahead.

Feeling exhilarated, we parked the car and started walking. The first thing we came to was Heekin Overlook.

We climbed across the stones and looked down on the magnificent views of the Little Miami River valley.

According to a nearby sign, the valley was formed by the pre-glacial Ohio River. I have to admit, geology is not my thing, and I'm generally clueless about it, but I was still interested in reading the sign and getting an idea of how the park developed. But, Clancy disagreed, and made it clear he didn't care one bit about reading that sign when there were so many great smells all around us. He was very anxious to get a move on and see more of the park.

He won out.

We walked a bit, and came to the Ault Park Gardens. With their rows of perfectly trimmed hedges, pink roses, cobblestone pathways, and shaded benches, the gardens looked like an English Garden transplanted into the heart of Cincinnati. For a moment, I wished I could sit on one of the benches and have some tea.

We started to walk along the paths, but were stopped short by this sign.

Clancy was more than a little bit offended, but he didn't push the issue. We said goodbye to the gardens, and went on our way.

Not far from the gardens is the Pavilion, the centerpiece of the park. The Pavilion is an architectural beauty with two flights of stone steps, and a fountain of water cascading down the center.

The view from the top of the Pavilion is spectacular, especially on a sunny morning when the sky was so blue and clear that I could see the faint half-moon in the sky in addition to the bright sun.

After climbing all of those stone stairs, the heat was starting to be a bit much, so we looked for a place to sit in the shade.

As we sat on one of the benches, Clancy's tongue was nearly hanging to the ground. He decided he'd had enough of the heat, and was ready to get back in the air conditioned car.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know there's nothing Clancy loves more than riding in the car. And, he has a special affection for air conditioning.

So we made our way back to the car, cranked up the ac, and headed home, happy and energized for the rest of the day. We enjoyed our trip to Ault Park, and couldn't have asked for a more beautiful Sunday morning.

We're planning on traveling a bit farther next time, so stay tuned for more of our travels!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." ~ Stephen King

I've been taking Mr. King's advice to heart lately, and focusing on reading more. This is not a hardship by any means, as I have always been a bookworm and I love to read, but for various reasons I haven't spent enough time doing it in recent years. It's great getting back in the habit, and to always have a book on my end table and on my nightstand.

I joined Goodreads at the beginning of this year but, as is typical for me, I didn't do much with the site beyond creating an account. As I've been reading more though, I've returned to the site, and am starting to become quite addicted to it. I've already discovered some great new (to me, at least) authors and books, and it's fun to hook-up with others and see what they are reading.

I've also been happy to see that several of the bloggers I visit are Goodreads Authors. Three of these authors have books that will be published this year, and it was fun to add their upcoming books to my "to-read" list. If you don't already follow Samantha Sotto-Yambao, Jennifer Hillier, and Talli Roland, I would highly recommend these blogs/authors. I can't wait to read their books!

If you're on Goodreads, (or even if you're not!) you can find me here. I'd love to connect there and see what everyone is reading.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Blog Series (Trying This Again)

I posted yesterday about a new project I'm starting, but the post seems to have disappeared during the Blogger service issues. As luck would have it, I don't have a saved copy of the post, so I'm just starting over again. I also want to say thank you to aahsome, L.G. Smith, D.U. Okonkwo, and Kendal. I did not get a chance to reply to your kind comments on the original post before it vanished.

Also thank you to Yvonne and Caren for your comments on the post that ended up being restored. I'm sorry I'm a little messed up here with duplicate posts! 

I had really bad timing as far as the service disruption, as I had fallen behind on my blog visits and was happy to get caught up yesterday. From what I understand though, all of the comments written yesterday also disappeared, so I'm quite bummed about that. I hope to get caught up again over the weekend. 

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

I am starting a new project based on the John Steinbeck novel Travels With Charley. My project? Travels With Clancy. It's not exactly original, I know.

Unlike Steinbeck and his dog Charley, Clancy and I will not be traveling from one end of the United States to the other. Instead, we are going to explore the Midwest. Or at least our little corner of it.

My plan is for Clancy and me to visit parks, nature preserves, and other dog-friendly places here in Cincinnati and the surrounding area, and also to take day trips (as well as a few overnight ones) around Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. I hope to go to a new place each week, although I know weather and time constraints may be a factor. But, I'm hoping to be as consistent as possible, and to explore at least two places a month.

When I first had the idea for this project, I was simply looking for dog-friendly places for Clancy and me to visit over the summer. But as I thought more about it, the project took on a broader scope. For most of my adult life, I've wanted to go somewhere else and be someone else, with no clear idea of where or who that would be. In the past few years, I've made an effort to be more accepting of who and where I am, and to be more appreciative of the here and now. So this series became an opportunity to find and explore the beauty in my own backyard, and, at the same time, to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

I'm also working on learning to view things through the eyes of a writer, and to take the time to pay more attention to the details of what is going on around me. I think this will be a perfect chance to get more practice in that regard, and to view both the new and the familiar from the perspective of a writer.

I originally planned to make this a summer project, but I decided instead to do it for a year, so that I could capture the changing seasons and various holiday activities in the area. So, from now until the summer of 2012, Clancy and I will be traveling.

I've got my notebook and my camera, and Clancy is all set to be my co-pilot. He's so excited about the chance to go on so many car rides, he even smiled a bit for the camera.

I'll be writing about our explorations, and sharing my observations of where we go and who we meet, in a blog series here. I hope you'll join Clancy and me on our travels!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Change in Plans

Even though I just wrote yesterday that I was planning to participate in BuNoWriMo, my plans have changed. A woman has a right to change her mind, right?

Thanks to Rebecca Bradley at Life in Clarity, I learned about the May - you write your novel blog, created by Quillers. The goal is the same as BuNoWriMo, completing a novel, but the challenge lasts for 80 days instead of 30. I'm a little late to the party as it started on May 1, but I still have a good 71 days to work with, so I'm just jumping in and I'm excited to see how it goes.

I was excited to learn of the June challenge, but a bit nervous about it at the same time as it seemed a little overwhelming. I think this extended challenge period will be a great way for me to get my feet wet with novel writing challenges without getting stressed out. Thanks to Quillers for this opportunity!

Now I'm hoping I can keep to this plan for more than one day! ;)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Irresistible Sweetness, and BuNoWriMo

Last week was my week for blog awards, as Katie at Katie O'Sullivan gave me the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award on her blog. I am very grateful to Katie, and happy to be able to add this award to my sidebar. Katie is lucky enough to live on Cape Cod, and she is the editor of Cape Women Online magazine. She is also a fantastic writer. I met Katie during the A-Z Challenge, and I highly recommend her blog to anyone who is not already familiar with it. Huge thanks to Katie for my award!

On another note, I have decided to sign up for BuNoWriMo, hosted by the great writers at Burrowers, Books, and Balderdash. I learned of BuNoWriMo thanks to Laura at Daily Dodo, and I'm so glad I came upon the link when I did.

BuNoWriMo is modeled after the popular NaNoWriMo that takes place each year in November. I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I've read about it many times. I've thought about participating this year, but I hated the thought of waiting until November to give it a try. That's why BuNoWriMo is so perfect for me, as it takes place in June.

The goal, like NaNoWriMo, is to write a novel in a month. I have no idea if I will be able to accomplish this, but my primary goal is to get a workable first draft written. I have been kicking around ideas for a mystery/suspense novel that I want to write, but I am terrible about just writing a draft without worrying about editing. I edit so much, I end up not getting anywhere. So I'm hoping the fast pace of the novel writing challenge will allow me to get a first draft finished, as I won't have time to edit and obsess over each paragraph.

I needed a break this month after completing A-Z in April, but I'm looking forward to giving this new challenge a try in June. If you're interested in getting involved, you can learn more about it here, and here.

It all starts on June 1st, and I can't wait. I'm very excited to see what I'll have to work with by the time June 30th rolls around. Here's hoping for a coherent, or at least semi-coherent, first draft!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I was thrilled to receive the Stylish Blogger Award last month from two wonderful bloggers, Julie B (AKA ladydragonfly) at The World of Julie B and Muruji Angela Njehia at Her World. I am so grateful to both of them, and I was very happy to discover their fantastic blogs through the April Challenge. Julie blogs about all kinds of fun topics, from writing to crocheting to just enjoying life, and Muruji shares amazing photographs and travelogues that make me feel like I have taken a trip to Kenya each time I visit her blog. I would encourage everyone to check these ladies out if you are not already familiar with their blogs!

The rules of the award state that I should share seven things about myself, pass the award on to 10-15 other bloggers, and notify them of the award. Since I am doing this for two separate awards, I decided to combine the two, and pass the award on to 25 bloggers that I met through the A-Z Challenge. I met so many great bloggers in April, it was impossible to limit the list to 15. Honestly it was next to impossible to limit it to 25, but I had to stop somewhere!

So, to start off, here are seven things about me:

1) My favorite dessert is chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and coconut.

2) I work as a librarian for a small liberal arts college, and I have had a love of libraries since I was a young child.

3) My dream job is to be a full-time writer, and I would love to move to the American Southwest someday.

4) My favorite painting is Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Photo credit

5) I'm an '80s girl, and my favorite '80s movie is Say Anything. I've had a schoolgirl crush on John Cusack ever since I first saw that movie.

6) I have always been a music nut, but I can't sing to save my life. If I do sing, people react by grimacing and covering their ears in horror. :D

7) When I was a kid, I totally loved Paddington Bear. When I went to London in 2002, I couldn't resist buying a stuffed Paddington when I took a train out of Paddington Station. Even though it made me look like a very silly tourist, I still love the bear. :)


Now I'm very happy to pass this award on to 25 bloggers that I discovered through the A-Z Challenge.

Thank you again to Julie and Muruji for giving me this award!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A-Z Reflections

"I'm not creative enough for that."

"I'll never be able to think of a post for every letter."

Those were the thoughts that ran through my head when I first came upon the A-Z Challenge back in March. I was browsing through writing blogs and stumbled upon a link to Tossing It Out and the Challenge. I read about it, thought the above, and clicked off the page.

The next day I decided to go back, and signed up on a whim. Although I didn't intend for this to be the case, the Challenge ended up fitting in to the overall theme of my blog. When I read about it, my first thought was the usual for me. Impossible. But then I remembered that the whole point of my blog was to try things I had previously considered impossible.

So I tried it and, as it turned out, completing the Challenge was not just possible, it was a blast. There were some tough letters, but on the whole I was surprised how easily the posts came, and how fun they were to write. As the alphabet progressed, I felt a little overwhelmed at times, but my enjoyment actually increased. I really enjoyed visiting other blogs and seeing what others came up with for each letter. The variety was amazing, and very fun to read.

One of my goals in signing up for the Challenge was to become more comfortable blogging, and I definitely think that has been achieved. I'm at four months and counting now with this blog, and I no longer feel like I'm just testing the waters with it, always ready to pull back. I've found myself becoming attached to the blog, and to the blogging community, especially through this A-Z month.

So now that I know that, contrary to my initial thoughts, completing the A-Z Challenge was in fact possible, I'm back to the question I had when I started this blog. I'm wondering, what else is possible?

I'm excited to find out.

Thank you again to everyone who visited my blog, read my posts, followed, or left comments. And thanks to Elizabeth Mueller for creating this awesome A-Z Award!