The 12 Blogs of Christmas – Guest Post by Laurie Boris

18 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Another day, another wonderful post – this one by the incredibly talented Laurie Boris! ( Laurie has a fantastic sense of humor – you’re gonna’ love this one!)

Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris

Hi, everyone! I’m Laurie Boris, and I’m so excited to be part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas with some terrific authors and organized by my friend, bestselling author Martin Crosbie.

 

I’m a freelance writer and editor living in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Also the award-winning author of five novels, including the Trager Family Secrets series, I’ve been writing fiction for over twenty-five years. In my spare time, I like to cook, read, and help other writers as a contributing author and editor for IndiesUnlimited.com.

 

Drawing Breath, my coming-of-age novel about art, love, chronic illness, and human dignity, will be on sale for 99 cents through December. You can check out the rest of my books on my Amazon author page.

 

To: S. Claus
From: Joey the Elf, Vice President and Public Relations Director, North Pole
Re: Christmas 2014 Status Update and Strategic Operation Plan: Confidential
Yo, Santa baby. I know it’s close to go-time and your mental bandwidth must be stretched as thin as the photoshopped spandex in Kim Kardashian’s butt selfie, so I’ll try to keep this brief.

 

First, I feel your pain about Rudolph’s resignation. I’m sure he’ll do the air traffic controllers proud, but promoting Dancer could be a no-go. Seems the headlamp we wanted to attach to his antlers violates some PETA regulation. We’re looking into that. And you didn’t hear this from me, but there’s a rumor that a few elves are planning a sickout. Guess they’re still a little steamed about losing their collective bargaining rights.

 

Read more

The 12 Blogs of Christmas – Today’s Guest Helga Zeiner

18 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Hello again! Here we are, only one week away from Christmas day, and I’m excited to host another author in our Christmas blog project today. I hope you enjoy the following post by globe-trotting Canadian author Helga Zeiner!

Helga Zeiner photo

Brief bio:

Helga Zeiner is a German born Canadian author. She left her home town Augsburg at age 18 to explore the world. In the following 14 years she has lived and worked in Australia and Asia. Her amazing experiences in those foreign countries are woven into all her thrilling novels.
Since 2004 she has lived with her husband on a country estate in the wilderness of British Columbia, devoting all her time to writing.
Helga Zeiner has published six novels in German and two in English. She is currently writing her third English thriller.

 

My Christmas Mistakes

Yes, I admit it, I make mistakes. Rarely, but still. As well organized as I am, it seems ridiculous that slip-ups in my planning might affect the most glorious time of the year, one that needs careful attention to detail and thoughtful consideration of all people involved. Family and friends deserve the best, right?

When my friend, the wonderful writer Martin Crosbie included me in his 12 Blogs of Christmas, I immediately jumped at the chance to interact with a group of great authors, and looked forward to write my contribution. Then… nothing! Words eluded me. Me! A writer! Everything that is nice and heart-warming about Christmas has already been written, I thought. But what about the Christmases (is that really the correct plural?) which didn’t go according to plan?

Read on…

Links:

http://helgazeiner.com/en/blog/

twitter: @HelgaZeiner

Facebook: Helga Zeiner author

Amazon.com links:

Section 132

Birthdays of a Princess

 

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas – Guest Post from Jennifer Ellis

16 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

I’m so pleased to present the next entry in the 12 Blogs of Christmas, from Canadian author Jennifer Ellis, who shares her thoughts on what Christmas did mean (under different circumstances), and what it means to her now. I certainly can relate to this.

Jennifer Ellis photo

Jennifer Ellis Bio

Jennifer lives in mountains of British Columbia where she can be found writing, spending too much time on skis, and working as an environmental researcher. She has two boys, an eighteen-year-old cat and a husband who doesn’t want a dog. She has been known to read tarot cards and spring surprise walks on unsuspecting neighbourhood dogs. She has wanted to be a writer since she first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and did not want to come out of the wardrobe.

Her Derivatives of Displacement series is science fiction fantasy for middle-graders (and adults). Books one and two are available, and book three is coming in 2015. She also writes adult fiction with a dystopic edge including In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation and her upcoming release Reversal, set in the Apocalypse Weird world. She has also contributed to several anthologies, most notably Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, which hit #16 in the Kindle Store.

A Pair of Docks, Book One in her Derivatives of Displacement series is available for 99 cents through Christmas.

You can subscribe to her blog for the latest book news and industry insights at http://www.jenniferellis.ca. She tweets at @jenniferlellis.

12 Days of Christmas Blog – What Christmas Means

When Martin Crosbie first invited me to be part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas with eleven other writers of course I said yes. I love blogging, I love Christmas, and I love other writers.

As the date approached for me to prepare my blog, a few problems emerged: 1) How much can be said about Christmas that hasn’t been said already; 2) How am I going to write an amazing post that compares to the efforts of the other participating bloggers who are also writers; 3) A huge number of work and writing deadlines all packed together like coupled rail cars wending their way through my December; 4) The deaths of a friend’s mother, and a friend’s son; 5) The usual stresses of life and winter—ailing mother, geriatric cat, viruses abounding in my children’s school and in our house; and the more creeping and interesting realization 6) Do I really love Christmas?

I have always had somewhat of a yo-yo relationship with Christmas…

Read More (link: http://jenniferellis.ca/blog/2014/12/13/the-12-blogs-of-christmas)

Links

 

www.jenniferellis.ca

 

Amazon Author Page (with all my books)

A Pair of Docks

In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation

Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel

Manifest (on Barnes and Noble)

Manifest (on Kobo)

Current Promotions

 

A Pair of Docks is 99 cents through the holidays.

 

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas – Today’s Guest Heather Haley

15 Dec

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Today’s guest post is from Canadian West Coast author, Heather Haley!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Here’s Heather’s  Bio:

The Siren of Howe Sound, trailblazing poet, author, novelist, musician and media artist Heather Haley pushes boundaries by creatively integrating disciplines, genres and media. Her writing has been published in many journals and anthologies including the Antigonish Review, Geist, sub-TERRAIN, the Vancouver Review, FORCE Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia and The Verse Map of Vancouver. Haley was an editor and reviewer for the LA Weekly and publisher of the Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines. She is the author of poetry collections Sideways, Three Blocks West of Wonderland, and debut novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter.

 

http://amzn.to/113yB4S

heatherhaley.com

 

A YIN-YANG CHRISTMAS

From Joy to Dread and Back Again

 

‘Tis the season. For melancholy. Haunted by Christmas Past, I get nostalgic for the little girl who believed in Santa. A child’s lament; “Why can’t it be Christmas every day?”, I’d wail at my mother. Because, my parents would rally, no matter how broke we’d been all year, to put up a tree, to fill the house with presents, candy, nuts and booze, to be filled with joy, or at least in a in a good mood, when they weren’t fighting or knocking over the tree.

I have an image burned into my psyche of sitting on the couch next to it, staring at my reflection in an exquisite silver bulb, in a trance of hope and excruciating happiness. That damned tree. Its heady perfume permeated the house, blasting away banality, infusing bliss. Magic. Or madness, I’ve come to realize. The Christmas tree has become for me an emblem of the innocence of childhood, innocence lost, innocence I have finally quit trying to regain.

Light-Dark. Fire-Water. Male-Female. Yin-Yang. Without dread, how can there be joy? Seeking the answer traces my evolution from doe-eyed youngster to jaded diva, but at last I am comfortable with such dualities. I’m not a Daoist but understand that life is an endless cycle, and that opposites are bound together to create a mutual whole.

“Thank God I’m an atheist.” I struggled with that when my son was little, thought that if we were going to observe-after deciding we would honour tradition, albeit our way-that Junior should know about the Christ in Christmas. He learned that Jesus of Nazareth was most likely a rabbi, his teachings were sound and the man must have been a charismatic philosopher, healer or social reformer who many saw as a prophet and the son of God. I’ve also taught my son to be discerning, to consider the source, to put things in relief. In perspective. With healthy skeptiscim comes a certain ambivalence, but he’s a good kid, smart and compassionate.

I refrain from spouting “Bah Humbug,” but don’t put up a tree anymore. Junior, now 20, no longer cares, which is rather sad, considering how much he did care, how excited he’d get, waiting for and believing in Santa. But we share fond memories; one year he, his step-father and I spent Christmas in Hawaii with his godmother and extended family. We met Don Ho, watched a lighted parade in the little town of Waiamea on Christmas Eve, and Junior even went boogie boarding, despite having been afraid of the water.

Peace and goodwill toward men. Why should it be seasonal? I do enjoy the time the holidays afford us, the opportunity to get together with loved ones. When we gather with those who are dear to us. If the fates allow. I like nothing better than to cook for my family, as I do each time I’m lucky enough to have them visit throughout the year. That is joy. Time is the most precious gift of all and peace comes from within.

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas with Jamie Lee Scott (Day 2)

14 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Welcome back to my blog. As I explained on my post of Dec. 12th, I am excited to be part of an author Christmas Blog project and I’m delighted to be hosting a post from Jamie Lee Scott. Take it away, Jamie!

Jamie Lee Scott

Jamie Lee Scott is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Gotcha Detective Agency mysteries, and Uncertain police procedural mysteries.

Originally from the Central Coast of California, Jamie was swept off her feet by a dashing Iowa farm boy and moved to the Midwest. After several years of running a restaurant with her husband, she felt the urge to kill people. Rather than going postal, she decided to start writing fiction. No One Knows, Jamie’s short screenplay, was sold in 2012, and made the film festival rounds in 2013-14. No One Knows has been nominated for multiple awards, and won its category at the Bare Bones Film Festival. She lives on a small farm with her family, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 3 horses.
When she’s not reading or writing, she’s riding horses and competing at barrel races.

 

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, NOT!

First, I want to thank Martin Crosbie for inviting me to be a part of the 12 Days of Christmas blog gathering for 2015. It’s always nice to meet other authors, and wonderful to be a part of anything Martin is doing. I have to admit, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about!

I grew up in California. When you grow up with no seasons, you always think how cool it’d be to have snow at Christmas. I was one of those people. Even after my first Christmas in the Midwest with my (soon to be) husband’s family, braving wind chills of -20 degrees F, we dressed up in snow suits and went pheasant hunting. I use the term hunting loosely, as I’d never shot anything in my life. We pretty much just walked around in the snow and corn stalks, birds flew out, and I shot in that general direction. It was an excuse to go outside after being cooped up for days.

More …

All of my books can be found here: http://www.jamieleescott.com/books.html

www.jamieleescott.com

www.facebook.com/authorjamie

www.twitter.com/authorjamie

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to read “Homicide, Life with Nick” novellas for FREE, http://www.jamieleescott.com/newsletter.html

The First Blog of Christmas

14 Dec
RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is the author of the Life First series, a dystopian thriller set in the future, where the government can take your organs if they want, and give them to someone else. Prior to writing Crayton was a journalist and has worked at a variety of publications, including the Kansas City Star, Solid Waste Report and Education Technology News. Presently, Crayton is a monthly contributor to the Indies Unlimited blog and an occasional contributor to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies blog. The first book in her series, Life First, is on sale for 99 cents until December 31.

FROM RJ: 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop – Photo Fun I was so pleased when Martin Crosbie invited me to participate in this 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.  Martin was pretty broad about the topic, so I thought I’d talk about having fun with your photos at Christmas. Not just taking a fun photo (as pictured here), but doing fun stuff with your photos. Back in 2008, when this pic was taken, I started doing a holiday card and website for my family. This was before Facebook was ubiquitous and if you wanted to share digital pics with family members you had to email them around, and hope your email didn’t get blocked because the attachment file sizes were too large. Or you had to create your own website.   Having created a website for my wedding, the task seemed easy enough, and I set up a website where I posted a holiday letter wrapping up our year along with lots of photos.

Read More (link: http://wp.me/p3s5mv-Qb)

Book Links:

Amazon Author Page (all books): http://www.amazon.com/RJ-Crayton/e/B00DFQ5F24/

Smashwords Series Page (all books): https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/10510

Google Play (all books): https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=RJ%20Crayton&hl=en

Barnes & Noble (all books): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/rj-crayton

Itunes(all books): https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/rj-crayton/id666058030?mt=11

Current Promotions

Life First is 99 cents until Dec. 31 (price is at all retailers)

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

13 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Hello everyone! This holiday season I’m honored and excited to be one of a group of 12 authors who have come together to offer you up some great reading. This special project, titled “The12 Blogs of Christmas”, has been organized by my friend and best selling author, Martin Crosbie.

Here’s how it works: between now and Christmas, each day we will be hosting and posting a different bio, author picture, and a blog post from one of this group of very talented and hand-picked authors: R.J. Crayton, Jamie Lee Scott, Heather Haley, Jennifer Ellis, Helga Zeiner, Laurie Boris, M,L. Gardner, Roberta Kagan, Sarah Lane, and Wendy McClelland, and Martin Crosbie.

I know! What a fab group, right? So here is my contribution. Thanks for dropping by!

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit …

Bah, Humbug!

To steal that popular line, it is Hot Stuff Hubby’s summation of what he also refers to as “a Hallmark Holiday”. The rest of us call it Christmas.

For anyone who has anything for sale, the Christmas retail season is like bottled oxygen to an astronaut in a Space Station – absolutely necessary in order to survive the rest of the year.

Not a particularly religious man, Hot Stuff nevertheless laments the overshadowing of the original intent of fellowship and gratitude of the season, with that of a glut of retail activity.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I think I must have been a magpie in a former life because I love all things sparkly – twinkling lights, reflective ornaments, the ropes of flashy tinsel, diamonds (ahem, are you reading this, Hot Stuff?), and such.

I love Christmas music, especially the more traditional carols and hymns perfectly harmonized and performed by choirs – I feel no shame in humming along out loud as they are pumped out of the speakers in the mall stores; I thrive on the smells of Christmas baking – sugar and cinnamon, butter and raisins, warm gingerbread – and can often be seen hanging out around the local bakery counter until the clerks get a little nervous at my continuous presence; and I take personal pride in decorating my home and yard as though it were a marker for NASA to be easily seen from outer space.

But this year is a  little different.

  • My family is grown and gone and have moved away to the farthest points possible. They won’t be home to appreciate my normal decorative efforts.
  • An early Arctic vortex unexpectedly moved across the Canadian prairies where I live and parked itself over top of my house, and as much as I want to have my yard lit up in a display that rivals a summer fireworks display, I am loathe to be out there in -25, tying strands of lights to my trees.
  • And finally, sinking into a twinkle-deprived depression, I didn’t feel the need to haul my pre-lit tree up from the basement, rearrange the furniture to accommodate it, and transform my living spaces into a picture of perfect Yuletide-ness.

I curled up in front of my fireplace with my own Grumpy Cat, Sergio, for the practical warmth of it, rather than to immerse myself in the contentment of the holiday season.

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

 

Christmas was creeping up on me and I had not done any preparation, including getting my own writing ready for a Christmas push. I avoided visiting the mall and the bakery, and my playlist was a jumble of Country rock and techno.

Until the phone call.

Hot Stuff’s side of the family phoned to say they would be coming to stay the entire Christmas WEEK with us for the first time ever. The parents, their two grown children, and … their two Border collies.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love these relatives. They are FUN people with deadly senses of humor and the week with them will be non-stop entertainment with plenty of culinary pleasures, liquid refreshments, and laughter. I was delighted to hear they were coming, although the news that there would be two hyperactive dogs in my house for the entire week left me a little less joyful (but believe me, I am not as distressed about that news as is Grumpy Cat Sergio…).

TWO dogs?? For a WHOLE week?? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I think I’m gonna be sick…

And so the phone call galvanized me into a furious whirlwind of action. I rearranged my furniture like I was a set of triplet interior designers, I relieved my local hardware store of their entire supply of exterior extension cords with which to light up my house and yard, and I brought in a two week supply of food, drink, and baking goods. I even have my Christmas playlist wired so that the music fills my house AND yard. (Gotta love those wireless speakers.)

I may have permanently injured my Achilles tendon hauling that damned tree up from the basement in such a hurry, but no worries. It’s a small price to pay for having rediscovered my Christmas spirit. The busy preparation is done and I have only to sit at my laptop, rear glued to a chair, nostrils filled with the sweet scent of fresh cinnamon sticky buns baking in my oven, and get to work on my next manuscript in my Quintspinner series. Too late for Christmas sales, but maybe for the post-Christmas slump in late January when there is not so much competition? I’m sure I read a post somewhere claiming that there is such a thing.

And I think my Christmas spirit may be infectious. Hot Stuff Hubby has mentioned that the tree does look kinda empty, that maybe we should go shopping, and oh-by-the-way did I know that there are a couple of neighbors who will be spending Christmas alone – do we have room at the table for a few more?

You bet.

I love Christmas. Best wishes to all of you. May you be filled with the feelings of joy and friendship that is Christmas, however you see it. And in case you need a cheap-like-borsch last minute gift for a loved one, well there you go. Hit that link.

Merry Christmas! Ho, Ho, Ho!

Blog – Adventure #3 – Is that a Snake you’re wearing?

19 Oct


When I was still in High School, I volunteered to be the biology lab assistant. Our biology lab was an interactive one and hosted many animals such as a rabbit, cages of white mice, aquariums full of tropical fish, salamanders, mealy worms, and most notably, a cage for a 6 foot long snake.

 
A six foot long Bull Snake to be exact.

 
Bull snakes are members of the constrictor class of snakes and therefore not poisonous. This snake was pretty docile (read: well fed) as far as snakes go, and she would routinely completely ignore me as I lifted the lid of her cage to lift her out and put her in another container while I changed her water source and dumped clean wood chips into one corner of her cage. In reality, I had no idea if she was in fact female, but I nicknamed her Heidi because for the most part she liked to burrow under the wood chips and thus was completely camouflaged and hidden for most of the time.

 
On another biology corollary – stay with me because these two plot lines are going to intersect – one day, I decided to impress a boy who had caught my eye. He was, in my teenaged eyes and opinion, a ruggedly handsome fellow with a bad-boy personality that I found irresistible. I needed something to catch his interest. Something that would make me stand out from the crowd of the much more physically attractive females that flocked around him. And before you judge me, let me point out that this desire to be attractive and noticed is a pre-wired, basic biological reaction in all juveniles of all animal species, humans included, so lacking a pretty plumage or beautiful singing voice, I substituted.

 
My idea: I would “wear” the snake around my waist, and casually walk past the object of my intended affections as he was at his locker which was conveniently situated right outside the door of the biology lab. How cool would that be??
Heidi co-operated and wrapped herself a couple of times around my waist. I think the warmth of my midsection was attractive to her and once in place, she traveled contentedly there without any further movement from her. Thus wrapped and strapped with said fashion accoutrement, I casually strode out into the hallway and past Bad Boy at his locker.

 
Heidi had the intended effect.

 
Bad Boy spun on his heels as I walked past and called out to me. I stopped. I turned. I smiled. He smiled back. We talked. He was visibly impressed. We made plans to meet in the biology lab the next day after classes.

 
Hoo boy! This was gonna be good. As I returned to the lab to continue with my animal caretaker duties, my head was swimming with romantic thoughts. I was daydreaming so hard that lust had made me careless.

 
I was in the mouse room, chopping up cheese and chunks of apples for the mice when a piece of apple shot away across the counter. As I reached out to grab it, there was this blur of movement and color that snaked out (bad pun, I know) across the counter in pursuit of that same piece of apple. It was Heidi!

 
In my mind it happened in slow motion but in reality, it happened in a micro second: I reached toward the piece of apple and she sprang towards it, her mouth unhinging and opening clear back into her body, fangs poised. Although non-poisonous, constrictors of all sorts still come equipped with a set of fangs for capturing and holding their prey while they first constrict and then devour their meal. She and her fangs reached that piece of apple a fraction of a second before my fingers did.

 
It was with shaking hands that I unfurled her from my waist and deposited her back in her own cage.

 
Although I’m pretty sure bull snakes don’t eat apples, I had completely forgotten that I still had her wrapped around my waist there in the mouse room, and as anyone who has ever been close to many mice can attest to, there is a definite STRONG mousey smell around them. The combination of intense mouse odor and the sight of a small object skittering across the counter had activated her hunting reflex. My hand had nearly become her unintended target.

 
The next day, Bad Boy showed up, but I could not bring myself to handle Heidi, and without my snake fashion statement, my attractiveness was lost upon him. Just as well. Snakes smell, too.

 
There have been a few times, while on holiday with my family, that we have come across photo ops to handle exotic animals. When it comes to having a large constrictor in the picture, I prefer to be the photographer.

My stepson and snake; I'm the photographer...

My stepson and snake; I’m the photographer…

 

Oh yeah, and for those of you still reading this far, I used that close-up-and-personal experience of a snake attack in my second novel, DEADLY MISFORTUNE, with the event expanded to be bigger and badder, of course. Curious?

You can get a copy here: http://authl.it/B00KYUAZCY

Deadly Misfortune

Blog – Adventure #2 – Operation Sting! (Jelly Fish Sting, that is…) or Up Close and Personal With Creatures of the Deep

6 Oct

Taking a shortcut and drifting through a Mexican Mangrove-like swamp, the eight of us (yup – same family of mine, that by now you’ve probably come to know reasonably well), were boating over to a neighboring beach, the sun splashing down on our shoulders like warmed suntan oil. It was early December – shoulder season meant no crowds – and it was blissfully perfect.

 

Arriving at our destination, we were delighted to see that, except for a half dozen fishermen who were working their fishnets in the shallow waters, we were the only ones on the beach. There weren’t even any customers lounging on the patio of the tiny traditional Mexican restaurant that sat just back of the soft strip of sand that rimmed this little bay.

My family in Mexico - all 6 kids. (Not a typo - count 'em!)

My family in Mexico – all 6 kids. (Not a typo – count ’em!)

As we strode into the warm waters, the fisherman yelled and greeted us in Spanish, waving their arms in an enthusiastic fashion. Speaking no Spanish, we grinned, waved back and plunged into the waves.

 

 
Within seconds, the entire underside of my body exploded in pain, feeling akin to what I imagine it would be like to have five thousand elastic bands all snapping against my skin at one time. Staggering from the water, I was nearly stampeded and pummeled into the sand by the rush of all other family members in their efforts to clear the water as well. Our combined screeching, however, was topped by the shrieks of my 14 year old daughter. A raised crimson welt slashed down the length of her thigh. Something had stung us all, but only she had any mark to prove it.

 

 
Somewhere in my panicked brain, my EMT training took over. A thought rose to the forefront. A very logical, extremely scientific thought. Something about either vinegar or concentrated urine salts changing the ph or cellular barrier of the ocean dweller’s venom-filled cells to stop or reverse the expulsion of the venom out of the deposited cellular cysts. So I did what any scientist would do.

 

 
“Boys!” I bellowed in my most motherly commando-sounding voice. “Get over here right now and pee on your sister’s leg!”

 

 
Well, I can tell you that I got no co-operation from either side.

 

 

By now the fishermen had hustled over to us and had already enlisted the assistance of the senora, owner of the beachside restaurant. This angel flew to our rescue with a huge bowl of sliced up limes and began to squish vast amounts of lime juice all over the welt. Plenty of it. And it seemed to work. Within minutes, my daughter’s wails had downgraded to a few shuddering sniffles.

 

 
“Why you no listen, Senora?” the puzzled fisherman asked.

 

 
“Listen to what?” I asked, slightly annoyed to being grilled like this while the lime juice application was continuing. This woman was using copious amounts.

 

 
“Medusas peligro!” he replied.

 

 
Peligro. Danger. That much Spanish I knew. But what kind of danger? My confused look brought only a snort from him, and he grabbed a glass from his satchel, strode into the ocean and scooped it full of water.

 

 
“Medusas!” he exclaimed upon returning, and he held the glass up for me to see.

 

 
I squinted and then I gasped.

 

 
Suspended in the water-filled glass were several tiny almost transparent Jellyfish! The “friendly” hand waving and shouts from the fishermen had been words of warning to the crazy Canadians who were blindly romping into the infested waters. We later heard from another bilingual tourist that there had been some kind of overnight underwater storm that had stirred up and brought into the shallow waters, a bloom of – given the size in the glass sample – baby jellyfish. Oh yeah, and one humongous one, as my daughter would have you believe.

 

 
Later that evening, as the sun set over that expanse of mysterious ocean, I made a journal entry of  our day’s adventure, filing it under “Quintspinner Research”.  It was shortly after that,  that I got around to  treating my still-slightly-burning skin with a lime juice/tequila concoction of my own. Taken internally. And plenty of it.

End of a Day in Paradise

A Peaceful End to a Day in Paradise

Now go and see where in Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest, part of this little true story was adapted to fit into the plot. I’ll give you a hint. It involves the character, Mr. Lancaster. He was fond of liquid medications taken internally. Believed they did more good that way….

 
For those of you needing to acquire your own copy of the Quintspinner adventure to find the answer, you can net one right here: http://amzn.to/1kLuqi9 .

 
And stay tuned for the next adventure installment: Um …  is that a snake you’re wearing?

Work, Work, Work … (or “Getting Research Material For Your Novel – Part One”)

25 Sep

Hiya! Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, here on this blog, or who have read my novels in my Quintspinner series (you’re my – ahem –  favorites by the way) will know that the series is set in the historical setting of the West Indies of the early 1700’s.

Tropical sunset - Romance at its best.

Tropical sunset – Romance at its best.

Tropical islands. Shipwrecks. Pirates.

All of those things that bring to mind to romance and excitement of Pirates of the Caribbean or of the old Errol Flynn movies.

 
When I considered writing the series, that’s about all that I had in mind. I didn’t realize that the historical genre is considered by many in the writing sphere to be one of the hardest genres to write in, as it requires not only a great story and captivating characters, but also an accurate portrayal of life in the time era in which the writer has chosen to set his/her story. And what did a prairie girl like me know about sailing the seven seas? Well mostly that I liked being on the water and that I wasn’t particularly prone to sea sickness. However, it did soon occur to me that I had had more than just a few real-life adventures of my own to draw from, and since I am frequently asked about such events, I’m going to share these stories in a mini-series right here!

 
ADVENTURE #1 – THE ORCA ENCOUNTER (Or “A Whale of An Adventure!”)

 
“Whale Watching off the Sunny Coast of Vancouver Island” the glossy brochure proclaimed. I thought that sounded like the perfect blend of holiday and excitement, and of course, it promised to provide the mandatory (in my mind) educational component. Our family of eight and a friend of my stepson’s were all going to be on Vancouver Island for a week in July, and I was looking for quality ways to spend our time there.

 
“Quality,” in my mind, meant something new and different, usually something that the kids would never have done on their own. Whale watching from a dinghy seemed to fit the bill.

 
Pods of Orcas, commonly known as “Killer whales,” swam around the tip of Vancouver Island, a few miles off shore, every summer, and enterprising sailors turned the opportunity into a summer tourist bonanza. Pictures in the brochure showed a boat tethered at the pier, full of smiling people looking up at the camera — it certainly was no action shot, but it was something that all of us could do together, given that there was a wide range in the children’s age from eight to sixteen.

 

 
My sons groaned and rolled their eyes when I handed out the tickets. “Do we have to do this?” they whined, “Couldn’t we just meet you back here in a couple of hours? What fun is sitting in a smelly boat all afternoon going to be? I betcha’ it’ll stink like rotting fish. You won’t like that, Mom. And look, it doesn’t even look like there’s enough room in it to get up and move around.”

 
“Attendance is not optional,” I replied, “These are not ordinary whales, you know. These are Orcas.”

 
“Yeah, but there’s no guarantee we’ll even see any,” my son pointed out, “It says so in this stupid pamphlet right here.” And he stabbed his finger at it.

 
“I don’t see why we had to get up so early just to come here,” my stepson complained, “when we’re just going to fall back asleep during the boat ride anyway.”

 
“If nothing else, time together in this small, smelly boat will allow all of us to bond, my darlings,” I replied with a tight smile, hoping that the look in my eyes would tell them that the discussion had ended.

 
At the dock, the oversized Zodiac raft looked safe enough. It was no more than a glorified dinghy with a couple of small motors attached to the back and four wooden seats spanning its width. We were fitted with bright orange full-body life preserver suits by the “captain” and his helper.

The family gathered to embark on "Whale Watching. " The body language just screams "excitement " doesn't it?

The family gathered to embark on Whale Watching.
The body language just screams “excitement”, doesn’t it?

“Phew!” my daughter gasped, “These smell worse than the boat, and they are way too hot!” She pulled hers off her shoulders and peeled it down to her waist.

 
“No one goes,” the captain bellowed, “until everyone has their suits on, right up to the last snap and zipper!” My daughter reluctantly pulled hers up again.

 
“Thank God, no one will see us in these things,” my stepdaughter, pouted.

 
This “Whale Watching” expedition was quickly turning into a teenager’s nightmare – being forced to wear really uncool clothes, having a crabby guy in charge who yelled at them, and having absolutely nothing to do but sit still, crammed together shoulder to shoulder while listening to him for the next two hours.

 
The nine of us, as well as three strangers, climbed into the boat, all decked out in the snazzy, tangerine full-body life preserver suits. We joked about being “astronauts” and “Pillsbury Dough boys in Hallowe’en costumes,” and the boys jostled for the outside seats on the benches.

 
Outside the harbour, the captain opened up the motors and we tore into the ocean waves, all of us bouncing wildly about in the boat. This part of the ride was exhilarating enough that even my teenagers, who were usually too “cool” to get excited about much, hung on for dear life.

 
We were about a half an hour into our boat ride, with the shoreline having disappeared from sight, when our captain yelled, “There they are!” He pointed to the ocean horizon where we could just make out several spouting geysers amid tiny points of black dorsal fins.

 
He carefully maneuvered our boat through the four-foot waves, to a spot just ahead of the traveling pod and then killed the motor. He explained that it was provincial law that boats had to maintain a certain distance from all known marine life when their motors were running. Sitting with “dead” motors allowed us to be legally closer to the whales.

 
Even the boys were paying attention now. One Orca surfaced about 20 feet from our boat, spouted and dove. Everyone in the boat cheered with excitement. Even from 20 feet away the Orcas looked enormous.

Whale #2
It dawned on me that Orcas were fierce carnivorous predators, known to hunt in packs, and here we were, sitting a mere two and a half feet above the ocean’s surface in an inflatable boat!

Without warning, our boat shuddered and the starboard side shot out of the water. Grabbing the seats to keep ourselves from sliding sideways, we screamed as a mountainous wall of glistening black dorsal fin rose out of the water, tilting our boat and pushing the starboard side even higher.

One second later, a waterfall of freezing ocean water crashed down upon us, nearly swamping our boat, as the huge Orca spouted and then dove under the boat, bumping it again as it passed beneath.

“BAIL! For God’s sake, BAIL!” the captain roared at us, and we desperately grabbed for the plastic containers tied to the seats. Ocean water sloshed up to our knees. The captain started the motors and we bailed as fast as we could.

He steered the boat back in the direction that we had come from and we roared away from the spot. We were all still shaking from the adrenaline rush when, a few moments later, the motors whined, sputtered, and died.

“Oh no! We’ve sucked in kelp! The motors are plugged!” the captain yelled. He radioed our position to the coast guard while we continued to madly bail out the boat.

Drenched as we were, and in the ocean wind, our hands soon cooled to the point that it was difficult to hold onto the bailing containers. The orange suits that we had earlier joked about were now conserving our body temperatures, as we sat huddled together, awaiting rescue.

As the captain continued to work feverishly on the motors, we were blown towards a rocky crag that rose out of the water. Land! Even though it was covered in sea bird droppings and smelled horrible, it looked good to me, but not so to our captain. “If we hit that, it’ll puncture the boat and likely capsize us,” he warned. “Be ready to jump into the water!”

As we veered towards its edge, a seeming miracle happened: one motor sputtered back to life. Ever so slowly, we made our way around the rocky crag and back towards the shore.

An hour later, we spilled from the Zodiac and onto firm dry land, our eyes stinging and our faces coated white from the ocean salt. Back at their office, as we wearily hung up our orange suits, I noticed their motto printed in large black letters on a wall poster. It said, “Our Adventure Tours – More Than You Could Ever Hope For!” No kidding.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment:

Up Close and Personal With Creatures of the Deep

 
(Ahem, attention please: the above is a true story. You’ll find several similar adventures in my Quintspinner series, most of it fictional, except of course, for the parts that are real. You’ll have to figure out which is which for yourself. And you can get started on that adventure right here! http://amzn.to/1kLuqi9

G’wan. You know you wanna’. It helps me fund my next fishing trip. Thanks for reading.

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