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!

 

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

 

 

Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold means more than the golden Aspens in autumn. To a Colorado writer, it also means the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference in Denver. Held the weekend after Labor Day, it’s the perfect way to get motivated and rejuvenate one’s writing goals and spend time in the company of other like-minded writers while ushering in the fall season. By like-minded writers, I mean those who think it’s completely normal to research how to poison someone without getting caught, which gun is the best to “do the job” and who think sitting in a chair thinking is some of the hardest, yet most enjoyable, work there is.

Some conference highlights:

The view of the Denver skyline from my hotel room was motivating in and of itself.

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James Scott Bell gave a six-hour intensive workshop titled “Writing a Novel They Can’t Put Down.” I’ve read his books on the craft of writing several times over. Some of them (Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing, both Writer’s Digest Books), I’ve marked up, highlighted, dog-eared, and stuck sticky notes to so many pages, that they look a little worse for wear. But I still refer to them often. Hearing him speak was writer’s gold.

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Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, was a keynote speaker and delivered a powerful speech on the birth of his writing career, how Eragon began as a self-published work, growing into the enormous success it is.

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Kate Moretti, author of four novels and a novella (her first novel, Thought I Knew You, was a New York Times bestseller), gave the packed room of writers hope and inspiration regarding her immediate success that led to a series of what most would consider failure. Yet she persevered, something writers all too often need to force themselves to do, and came out on top. It’s that perseverance that makes a writer a winner no matter how many rejections s/he may get.

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Four classes, “The Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty of Making Prose Pretty” and “Strip-Searching Your Prose,” both presented by Tiffany Yates Martin, and “Beyond Goal+Conflict” and “Expand! Contract! The Dance of the Well-Paced Story,” both presented by Angie Hodapp, were by themselves well worth the cost of the conference. Anytime you have a chance to listen to either of these women speak on the craft of writing, I recommend jumping on it! I promise you’ll come out all the better for it. And the class titled “Pique Those Ears! An Author’s Guide to Audiobooks” by Sue Duff has led to a contract with a narrator. My Melanie Hogan series will soon be audiobooks! 🙂

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Another highlight was sharing this phenomenal experience with good writing friends, especially my sisters from writer’s group Sisters in Crime Colorado. These ladies provide support, advice, encouragement, and shared knowledge, enriching the full writing experience.

Colorado Gold? Yes, Please!

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.                       –Francis Bacon