Archive for October 2012

Halloween Memory

October 28, 2012

Scarecrow is ready for Halloween

Is your town doing the trick or treat ritual today? Like this afternoon?

Are you decked out, pumpkins carved, spooky items displayed, costumes at the ready?

Or are you so past that you’ve forgotten Halloween is fast approaching come Wednesday?

When we were growing up, Halloween and trick or treating happened on October 31st. We’d gotout at night—right after supper—not during the afternoon. Our parents established clearly defined territories we could cover. Word of mouth spread the news through our neighborhood as to exactly where the best treats could be found. And when to get there or they would be gone.

For example, one home always had homemade taffy apples. Another very special neighbor made caramel popcorn balls. Those were my favorite, and I always wanted to start there first. A couple others had homemade cookies and fudge.

Sedum set for fall

Usually our dad went with us. Sometimes an uncle or my grandfather went along. Mom stayed home to hand out our treats. However, way too many of our Halloween excursions were hampered by cold weather, or worse, cold rains or snow. But weather didn’t stop us in our search for treats.

When I got older, I often was the designated “oldster” to take out my younger sisters. Again I was expected to follow the rules and stay within clearly defined territories. However, feeling important, I made sure to pass on the information about the best places to get those special treats.

Back then nights were still safe to go out trick or treating. That was still the case when my older boys were young and looked forward to the ritual. They learned the same rules I did. They also found themselves limited to the neighborhood territory.

But the treats had changed. Mini pre-packaged candy bars mostly filled their sacks. Some places gave out nickels, or dimes, or if one was very lucky, quarters. Homemade treats–not so much because moms were working now, and their time for baking very limited.

By the time my nieces and nephews started to do trick or treating, the October 31st tradition had pretty much faded away. Instead cities designated times for the ritual to be done and a porch light on or off indicated a treat might be available. But still adults accompanied their costumed fairies, princesses, warlocks, ghosts, superheroes, or witches. Very often these activities occurred on the Sunday before Halloween and in the afternoon. The afternoon! Kind of takes the spookiness away.

But once the kids returned home, parents had newer tasks: examine all treats before any got tasted, discard what looked suspicious, check cautiously for needles, pins or other foreign objects hidden in the treats. Saddest of all, homemade treats were immediately discarded. 😦

Today many communities don’t recommend or support the trick or treat ritual. Instead costume parties and treats might be available as part of a church’s youth group activities or a school’s planned activities around Halloween. It’s safer and these days with parents working longer and harder, many of those shared activities get dropped. Sad for the parents and the children.

An Alaskan Halloween trickster. Where’s the parent???

Are there still kids that roam the dark during Halloween or the upcoming nights? You bet. But too often it’s the tricks and nasty deeds these tricksters are up to, and responsible adults aren’t necessarily part of their entourage.

So those painstakingly carved and very expensive pumpkins get smashed. Those carefully constructed, well-planned—ingenious sometimes—outdoor decorations lighting up at night and maybe playing spooky music, but delight families driving around to view them like they have done for years during winter holidays–well, those get stolen or damaged. The goblins are wreaking havoc over Halloween.

How sad.

I have many great memories of Halloween, but one that’s been much on my mind as this one approaches is the time my grandson visited us over the holiday. He wasn’t yet 2 and had never been to the pumpkin farms/exhibits such as we have around here. They drew families with all their different exhibits they created from pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, hay bales, and even some farm animals.

Let’s go choose some pumpkins!

On a grand sunny fall day before Halloween, my hubby, my youngest son, my grandson, his dad and I all headed out to such an establishment. We had a lovely day. I bought homemade taffy apples, caramel popcorn balls and homemade fudge. (Reliving my past?) Also some apples. The guy’s got huge pumpkins, all of them heavier than my grandson.

Once we were home, the carving fun began. And so did the eating of all the treats. That Halloween was the only one we’ve ever shared with my grandson since he lives so far away.That’s what I’m remembering this Halloween.

What about you?

Oh, I can’t wait to see what Daddy does with these…

Bloopers, Keepers, and Wowsers

October 21, 2012

Midnight sun in Alaska

Last week I posted photos of my plane ride above a glacier and into one of its deep crevasses. I hope you took away from that post and those photos what a beautiful state Alaska is. I hope you also felt the respect and love I have for my son.

But my trips to Alaska left many impressions on me. They helped to shape the setting for one of my books, Fireweed. In Better Than Dessert a good half of the book is set in Alaska. And most recently, More Than A Trifle has several key chapters which are set in that beautiful state.

So today, I’m posting photos—some prompted settings for these books. I hope you enjoy them.

Within the last few months I’ve read that Kodak Corporation has ceased making film which was used to capture sights and scenes that became photos such as the ones I’m posting. Then that film was developed through a process that most people with cameras couldn’t replicate, so they took their film to be developed somewhere the developing process was done.

2 AM Early June

Today we can print up our own photos or have them printed from a digital file.

Today’s process is very different from the “old-fashion” process that produced today’s photo selection. I scanned the original photos into digital files. I’m in the process now of scanning many old photos into digital files, but I’ve really enjoyed going through the albums and looking at the bloopers, the not so greats, and those that become more wondrous as years past.

And of course, the wowsers—those photos that take one’s breath away.

Early morning calm

Which makes me think that perhaps this new age of photo taking photos with its instant replay and delete or keep and print after manipulating them in multiple ways has its drawbacks. Those not so greats, the ones that time makes more charming—those may never be seen again. Lost forever in the trash bins of the computer age.

Maybe this isn’t such a very good thing. For example, several years ago on a trip to Alaska, my hubby and I took our 4 year old grandson to the zoo in Anchorage. I’ll never forget that day. I even built on my memories of that day for a scene I loved writing for Better Than Dessert.

But while I was writing that scene, I hunted up the photos we took that day. Along with the good ones, the wowsers, I had also filed in a separate envelope several that were at best bloopers. But time lent them a charming patina. One in particular our grandson insisted we take because he was fascinated with the elephants, the feeding process we witnessed, the bathing, the process of the elephant eliminating. He wanted that photo of a pile of elephant poop.

I have no idea why I didn’t tear that up when we got the photos from the developer. However, seeing it prompted a detail to add to the scene. I chuckled, smiled, and decided it would be perfect to add to the zoo scene in Better Than Dessert.Readers who’ve contacted me say they’ve chuckled also during that scene.

More Than A Trifle Alaskan wedding scene

Serendipity at work.

Bloopers in photos and in life can be very beneficial. That’s my take-away for readers this week. Don’t dismiss out of hand the bloopers with your photos or your experiences. At some point they may come in very handy.

Have you found this to be true lately?

Alaskan rainy day

Glacial Adventure

October 14, 2012

In Anchorage, getting ready to fly

On my first trip to Alaska to visit my son I fell in love with the state he chose to make his home as an adult. I’m sure several reasons were involved but first and foremost was the fact that he loved the state as much as he loved the state where he was born. Second reason was the spectacular scenery. And on that trip I got a chance to see many scenes and sights that awed me. That awe grew with each visit I made and the special opportunities I got to see sights and places not all visitors might one.

Many of those memories and photos taken on the trips helped me create the Alaskan settings for my book Fireweed which you got a glimpse of in my last post.

Sure, there’s a highway but, flying is faster.

But one special experience is still one I treasure. What might it be you ask?

My first plane ride with my son as pilot. And what a ride we had. Parts of it reminded me of the scene in the first Star Wars movie—now Episode 4—when Luke Skywalker and his group of X-wing fighters drop down into the jagged metal maze in and incredible air duel with the Evil Empire’s aircraft. Since my youngest son—16 years younger than my Alaskan son—watched it all the time, I was quite familiar with the scene. Well, on a portion of that flight I thought I was in something similar though no aerial battle was going on.

How could that be?

Approaching Knick Glacier. Impressive…

Because my son squawked a question over the headphones asked as we approached the Knick Glacier about 50 miles east of Anchorage. It’s located at the northern end of the Chugach Mountain Range. The glacier is quite large and was one of the first I’d seen from the air on this trip.

What was his question? Well, he asked if I wanted and adventure and did I trust him?

Really…what answer could I give. Yes I wanted an adventure and of course I trusted him. Alaskan glaciers are monstrous, imposing and to be respected. This flight was my first up close and personal experience with one. And we got very close. We flew up to it, low over it, followed it up into the mountains and through one of the passes the glacier has formed. My son told me about and showed me the crevasses which can be very dangerous if one falls into them.

Heading into the crevasse.

Above one which was quite wide and deep with glacial melt rippling down the mountain into the glacial streams of the valley below, my son dropped the plane into the crevasse. Down we went deeper into the depths of the ice. I felt the chill, saw the glacial blue striations of the ice so compacted by time it turned color, other striations of black or dark gray from the bits of eroded rock etched away from the mountains by the ice.

When the crevasse narrowed so the wing tips of his small plane nearly touched, he took the plane upward and we flew until we went through the pass the glacial created.

See the blue tint? Sure hope we don’t meet another plane coming toward us.

Then down the other side where we saw herds of mountain goats some climbing down the steep rocky mountain side to graze and others heading upward to safety after filling their tummies.

That trip through the crevasse was my Star Wars experience. I’ll never have another glacier sighting like that one but it’s one I’ll always remember and who knows, maybe someday I’ll find a reason to use parts of it in a scene in a book.

Out of the crevasse above the glacier.

See what happens when I have to go through photos looking for something specific? I found something entirely different and got a chance to remember an awesome adventure with my oldest son.

Above the glacier and into the high pass

Mountain goats feeding

More goats

Heading back to Anchorage

See you next week.

Look: Gauntlet Thrown

October 10, 2012

For several months now I’ve been following Lorna’s Voice, a blog always humorous, well-written, and showered with many awards. Of course, those descriptions also reflect the blogger. Well, she’s not well written but certainly well put together. 🙂

But yesterday she lobbed a challenge my way. Now this lady was finished a triathlon–something I’ll never attempt much less finish. So when she challenges me at something I can do, well, I pulled up my seasoned woman panties and accepted.

What else could I do??

Anyway, the challenge was for me as an author to comb one of my books for the word LOOK. Then when I found an instance where I thought the paragraphs surrounding that word’s placement would entice readers, I post those paragraphs for my readers. Hopefully, she wrote to me, my choice would entice them to check out my book.

You can see why I had to pick up that gauntlet…

Available January 2012–print and digital

So my choice of book is Fireweed, a mystery/suspense of corporate intrigue and espionage with an Alaskan setting. I have the top level executives on a corporate retreat at an isolated fishing lodge where, death, fire, nature and snipers soon take my characters’ minds off business to focus on staying alive. To read more about it with a longer excerpt, go here.

I also have to tag 5 other writers whose blogs I follow with the same challenge. Here they are with links to their blogs.

Stacey Joy Netzel

Florence Fois

Patricia Yager Delagrange

Donna Marie Rogers

Jamie Kersten

Fireweed: Look excerpt

“Talk, Caitlin, don’t think,” Mike snapped and heaved another rock into the river.

Her visions of a pleasant stroll along the river while discussing his morning phone calls to his brother Brian, Beth, and her friend’s parents vanished. Whatever he was doing, he had a reason. He never wasted actions, especially when fishing was involved. He threw a few more stones into the fast flowing river.

Okay, something had him spooked. Ignoring his singing request, she babbled instead about her breakfast conversation with Charlene. “So I told her I’d make time to talk privately with her when we return from fishing. Oomppph–” She collided with Mike’s broad back. He’d stopped abruptly as he rounded a bend in the river.

“Keep talking…” he commanded as he steadied her with one hand.

Following orders but running out of talking points, Caitlin segued into a boisterous, off-key rendition of “North to Alaska” and peeked around him toward the river ahead. “Sheesh!” she added new words to the lyrics. “Look at that!”

“Yeah, look, but keep singing.”

Two cubs and a huge brown bear sow were lunging at the salmon swimming upriver. The cubs weren’t very successful, but mom was dead-on accurate. Getting lunch was on her mind. That and feeding her cubs.

“You think my singing will keep them away?” She dropped the fishing rods and rummaged in her fanny pack for her camera.

“Talking lets them know we’re here.” He shot her that grin that deepened the laugh creases at his eyes and the corner’s of his mouth. “Your singing should keep them from our section of this watery restaurant. Most of all, we won’t scare them. That’s the worst, according to Gus. Except for getting between a sow and her cubs.” He scrutinized the bears as she snapped photos.

“So we fish here and be watchful.”

“Yep. But only one of us will fish at a time.” He picked up a rod and handed it to her.

“And the other?” She grabbed her rod and stuffed her camera into her pack.

“Will stand watch on shore, near the gun, and keep talking.” He waved his hand, motioning her to throw her line downstream in an area of riffles and a decent distance from the feeding bears. “Gus says they eat their fill, then go off to sleep.”

“Suppose another bear family steps up to the river for lunch?” Caitlin grumbled as she selected her lure.

“That’s possible.”

“Squelching any quality time alone with no one around to interrupt us,” she grumbled as she finished attaching her fly.

“Don’t blame the bears. I suspect Gus will be leading the others here later so we won’t be quite so vulnerable or alone. Or we could head back…if you’re really concerned.” Mike watched the bears while he talked.

Stepping gingerly into the water, she turned from him. “Not on your life. Protect my back, Rafferty, and yours, too. It’s precious to me.” She found her spot and cast perfectly into a riffle of fast moving water near some partly submerged boulders.

Autumn Chill

October 7, 2012

A favorite fall color and tree.

We’ve had to turn on our furnace.

I’ve broken out the sweat pants and sweatshirts to wear while writing. The winds are cold and howling off the lake. The vibrant color of the leaves which turned quickly are dropping just as fast.

October is here.

It slipped in with a fantastic event for me as a writer. I was able to break away for a few days to drive to Green Bay and participate with other writers as part of a Book Fair and Sale. So much fun to interact with other writers of all types and talk writing and book plots. I’ve missed that terribly. But I treasure each of the hours I had doing so. As a result on the drive home I decided on my next projects which will likely take me most of next year and what’s left of this one.

On the way home I pulled off the road…

Plus, I had the pleasure of talking with readers, avid readers, who talked about how much more they’re reading with their digital devices though they still treasure the feeling of holding print books with great covers in their hands. I had one reader who bought a print copy of Seasons of Wine and Love to put in their vacation home in the wine country where this book is set. She also downloaded a digital copy to read. She loved the gorgeous cover which doesn’t give as much pleasure to the reader in digital format. (Thank you, talented cover artist) Also check out my Seasons page on this site.

And my newest, just released book, More Than A Trifle, also got picked up and admired a lot. Comments ranged from “Oh, this looks delicious. I’ll bet the story is too,” to “Wow! That makes me hungry for dessert.” (Again, thank you very talented Elle) Trifle also has a page on this site; check it out.

Different tree but still my favorite color.

I treasure most though the hours spent chatting with my writer friends and wishing as we all do that writing isn’t by necessity more lonely than we’d always like. Especially as we see the winter creeping closer and the weather becoming less likely to predict which makes traveling dangerous.

But this coming week is back to reality and normal daily patterns. And thinking about those few days I skipped away from daily life and recharged my batteries so to speak. And as I enjoyed the vibrant colorama of the trees as I drove, I pondered how autumn resembles my life at this present time. Nature’s winding down in a flourish of beauty, wondrous colors, and times of deep sadness as we watch summer’s brilliant blooms shrivel and die quickly while hardier ones fight to the very last moment.

I acknowledge I’m now in the autumn of my life. I glory in the gifts of joy and brilliance. I hold steady against the chilling winds of fate, bad situations, deaths, and illness that have filled my life and the lives of those I treasure. I’m hoping my autumn lasts a very long time.

October Sunrise

So what season are you in?