Vacation in Birch Haven

Birch Haven, MN

I’ve been spending November in Birch Haven, MN. And it’s in the dead of winter there. Never heard of Birch Haven? There’s a very good reason for that.

It’s fictional.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where literally millions of people commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I’m happy to say I’m on track with writing book five in the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, Shear Fear. In fact, I’m a wee bit ahead so I’ve got some breathing room. Whew!

One of the best parts of writing a novel? You get to create any setting you want and spend all the time you want there. It’s truly magical. You get to create characters you like, people you don’t mind spending all of your free time with, protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast, and they become your friends. That probably sounds a bit crazy to non-writers, but to all of you writers out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And with that, short and sweet as it was, I have to hurry back to Birch Haven before the portal closes to see what Melanie and her friends will get into next.

See you next week, with thousands more words under my belt.

Write On

Bye Week

No post this Wednesday due to keeping an eye on the election results and keeping extremely busy with NaNoWriMo. Back next week. Until then…Happy writing to all of the NaNo participants out there. Write on!

NaNoWriMo

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Writer’s Joy

Happy November!

November is shaping up to be a busy month in my writing life. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. There’s something about fall (and November is still fall, although late stages) and the  holidays that follow, that brings renewed energy and enthusiasm. And when anything having to do with writing gets thrown in the mix…well, it’s the perfect recipe.

For me the moral of the story is this: A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life.  Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve decided in the 11th hour to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Since I discovered Camp NaNoWriMo a few years ago and fell in love with it, I let NaNoWriMo fall to the wayside. Until this year. The differences between the two?

Camp NaNoWriMo: Takes place in April and July; campers are in virtual cabins with people who cheer each other on; we have virtual bonfires, s’mores, and all things camping; campers set their own goals, whether it’s word count, page count, hours/minutes; and there’s the opportunity to choose what to write–a new project, short stories, poetry, revisions on an already-written piece, etc. It’s flexible, a bit more relaxed, and so much fun!

NaNoWriMo: Takes place in November when the weather usually isn’t quite as nice so it allows for more writing time, not to mention the holiday weekends giving those of us with day jobs a couple of extra days off; the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days so one’s social life is pretty much put on hold for the month; the project? A new novel. Not one that’s already started, but a fresh, new novel waiting to be written, and will be written (at least the first 50,000 words of it) by November 30th at midnight. NaNoWriMo is much more intense than Camp, but the level of enthusiasm from the thousands and thousands of participants around the world, is infectious. The extra time spent in my home office–one of my favorite places to be, the sense of community, and the feeling of success, whether you’ve reached the 50,000 word goal or not, is an experience you’ll never regret. So this year, it’s on! I’ll be creating the first draft of book five, Shear Fear, in my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series.

The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.  Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month

In addition to NaNoWriMo, the audio book of Shear Madness, book one in the Melanie Hogan Mysteries will be released. I’ve finally gotten on the audio book train. Better late than never. And I really enjoy my narrator with ACX, Shelby Forbes. Shear Deception and Shear Malice will be soon to follow. Book four, Shear Murder, is due back from my copy editor any day with a release soon to follow.

Happy

And last, but not least, is the Harvest Fellowship Church Craft Fair on Saturday, November 17th. I participate in it each year, usually do pretty well, but more importantly have fantastic time with all of the vendors and the buyers. It’s a time to get in the holiday spirit, begin my Christmas shopping by supporting local businesses (in between people shopping at my booth), and to just have fun.

What does your November bring?

Annnndddd…Have a happy and SAFE Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

 

What is Minimalism–Really?

The Things You Own

The past couple of years have brought with it a desire to live fully by minimizing not only my possessions, but other areas of my life as well. With that desire came the discovery of The Minimalists. I’ve listened to numerous podcasts and read articles galore and always come out on the other side with a better, deeper understanding of life, happiness and contentment, these leading to a better life.

I’ve learned that minimalism isn’t about depriving oneself of any “thing” or it’s not about getting rid of everything except one utensil, one pair of pants, one shirt, one book…you get the idea. It’s not even about buying the cheapest of something or spending a minimal amount of money. It’s about only buying–or doing–what adds value to yours or someone else’s life. Minimalism keeps me aware of what I’m buying and why I’m buying it; what I’m doing and why I’m doing it; who I’m spending my time with and why.

For me, minimalism has never been about deprivation. Rather, minimalism is about getting rid of life’s excess in favor of the essential.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, A Day in the Life of a Minimalist

New things are always fun, but will it still be fun and add value to your life once the newness wears off? It’s not wrong to buy that new dress, that new car, or even that ATV, just know why you’re buying it. If the reason for the purchase is because so-and-so has one or because you want to look good, there are deeper questions to ask yourself. Such as:

  • Why does it take a new dress (or whatever the purchase would be for you) to make you feel better about yourself? Maybe some time for self-reflection would be a better option.
  • A week from now, a month, or even a year, whatever length of time it takes for the newness to wear off, will the item still add value to your life or just become another useless item on the shelf?

By cutting out the things that don’t add value to your life, you’re making room for those things that do, whether it’s “things,” people, time, etc.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more, more, more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment—and more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Essential Essays

One of the men from The Minimalists team packed up all of his things into boxes and for the next several months only unpacked those items he needed for that day. Only a small percentage of things were unpacked at the end of those months. Take some time to ponder what you really use–what things, friendships, activities, etc, you have/do that truly add to your life rather than take away from that which does add value. Take some time to explore minimalism and see what it looks like for you. I believe it looks different for everyone.

Minimalism

Fabulous Fall, Amazing Autumn

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I’m back after a week off. Not “off,” really, but last week all of my spare time went into getting my manuscript, Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, finished and off to the editor.

And now for this week’s post…

Whether you call it “Fall” or “Autumn,” the message is the same…

Beyond Beautiful!

When I first moved to Colorado from Minnesota 22 years ago, I’d heard so many exclaim about the beauty of the Golden Aspens of Colorado. I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed. The autumn colors in Minnesota (yellow, purple, red, fire orange, pink, browns that are beautiful, gold…you name it) are unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

However, I now see the beauty of the Golden Aspens and, yes, it takes my breath away. And there are other colors, as well. But I think the real beauty comes from the bluest skies I’ve ever seen and the majestic mountains along with the Golden Aspens. The beauty in Colorado has captivated and caught me in its grasp. Below are some photos of Colorado’s beauty. Enjoy!

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Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Diverse, Unique Taos

 

Beautiful Taos

Last week I shared photos of old cemeteries we visited in Taos. This week I want to share some photos from our time there that are not cemetery related. I am enamored with this city of all things art. However, working in the law enforcement arena, I chose to research the crime rate. While I was there, no less.

Yup, I just had to go there, because that’s how I roll. And I was totally shocked.

Neighborhood Scout shows that across communities of all sizes, the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation. By “violent crimes,” they’re including rape, murder, manslaughter, robbery, and assault. Property crime is even higher. To put things in perspective, they state that the chances of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime is 1 in 11. Ninety-eight percent of the communities in New Mexico have a lower crime rate than Taos. Yikes!

Bestplaces.net ranks crime from 1 to 100, the higher the number, the higher the crime. Below is where they rank Taos:

Taos County violent crime is 53.9. (The US average is 31.1)
Taos County property crime is 49.9. (The US average is 38.1

Yet with that all being said, and noted, I still can’t help but love the place. It’s filled with art, diversity, culture, and character, like no other place I’ve visited thus far. Below (and above) are some photos of the beauty.

The below two photos are of the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed. Every afternoon they have Tea Time when they serve just that–tea–and so many delightful goodies! The 2nd photo is the dining area where they serve breakfasts that are out of this world!

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The next two photos are of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Just a tad frightening. But the beauty was breathtaking.

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After looking at the next two, you can guess that I love to photograph doors. I’m not sure if there’s more to that than I’m aware of or not. 🙂

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Below is a trail we hiked in Carson National Forest, named after Kit Carson.

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Below is a stream that ran along one of the shops in Taos Ski Valley, followed by a photo of some low-hanging clouds on mountains colored with golden Aspen trees. The scenery there is stunning!

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As you grow older, you learn a few things. One of them is to actually take the time you’ve allotted for vacation.  –John Battelle

 

 

A Grave Interest

My husband and I went on our first vacation in three years (other than visiting family). Destination? Taos, New Mexico. Between the arts and the history, it fed both of our interests. Of note was how often they go hand in hand.

Something I’ve taken a particular interest in is old cemeteries. I love the architecture, carvings, and creativity in the headstones. I enjoy reading the names and any identifying information written there–or lack thereof. Taos had several cemeteries to feed this interest of mine.

With Taos known as the art community it is, I was elated to discover the grave of the woman who helped establish it as such. This particular cemetery is very old, as can be seen in several of the other photos, but it’s apparent that Ms. Luhan has had many recent visitors.

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Kit Carson’s headstone (below). He’s buried next to his third wife, Josefa Jaramillo, with whom he had eight of his ten children.

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The headstone below was a little confusing. Given the fact Kit Carson had been married three times and had ten children in all, I spent some time trying to figure out why it said he only had one grandson. Until I realized the correct message is “Only Grandson Serving WWI and WWII.” Now that made a lot more sense!

Of special interest is the different opinions people there hold of Kit Carson, whether he was good or bad. I personally believe it’s not that black and white and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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The grave below, neglected as it is, saddened me. It made me wonder if their extended family even knows they’re buried here.

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In the photo below, notice the urn sitting on top of the ground, the thin slab of marble simply leaning against the tree.

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This was perhaps the most unique headstone. Unfortunately, the engraving was too faded to read.

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The simple crosses were eerily poignant. Many of the burial sites were bordered with concrete or individual fences.

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Any other Cemetery Tourists out there?

The richest person in the cemetery is the one who left the most happy memories.
― Matshona Dhliwayo