SpelunkingForFunAndResearch

Spelunking for Fun and Research

SpelunkingForFunAndResearch_pinI have a WHOLE lot more sympathy for Crow’s experience in caves after spelunking (read: “crawling on my belly”) through part of Mammoth Caves…

Last weekend was the annual family reunion. 30 people in a 3-bathroom cabin in Brian Head, Utah. Yikes. Sounds cramped—but what a great group of people for making the best of things! I didn’t hear anyone complaining (except maybe about crickets… and spiders… and perhaps a mattress or two…!). There was bike-riding, hiking, tram-riding, fishing, games, s’mores, great food, stories, coloring, and… spelunking.

Driving to Panguitch Lake on Saturday, we passed the sign to Mammoth Springs. Hubby says, “I want to take you to see Mammoth Caves.”

“Okay. Let’s!” says I.

So we did.

Spelunking01
The big hole. Looks doable, right?
Spelunking02
Standing upright. Easy-peasy. And the colors and textures on the ceiling were really cool-looking.
Spelunking03
Getting a little lower here. Don’t I look fashionable with the head lamp on?
Spelunking04
Wait. You want me to go through THIS??
Spelunking05
Are you sure?
Spelunking06
All righty, then. Better take pictures; we’re going to need proof.
Spelunking07
Almost there…
Spelunking08
Are you coming?
Spelunking
Tada! We made it! (Through that little black hole behind us!)

As I was hitching my not-very-limber self over rocks and trying to avoid knocking myself out on the roof, I couldn’t help but think how Crow and Tanris felt as they made their way through the Ghost Walk. I had it easy. I could actually see a little bit of daylight at both ends of the tunnel—though I did turn off my lamp to experience PITCH BLACK.

If the petroglyphs we went to see the next day had been there on the wall, the setting would have been complete.

Crazy as it sounds, that was one of the most fun parts of the weekend… Whoda thunk??

What fun things are you doing this summer?
Have you ever been cave-crawling? Would you?

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Fix: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love when Chocolate Time rolls around… And guess what?? It’s time. Making up a menu for a Family Gathering (a.k.a. Reunion),  my sister-in-law (Hi, Maren!) and I decided on a breakfast of muffins. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, to be specific.

Mmm… muffins.

Tasty. Portable. Perfect (when they have chocolate in ‘em!).

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups mashed banana (about 6)
½ cup milk
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In large bowl, beat butter until pale and creamy. Add sugar and mix well.

Add mashed bananas, milk, and eggs; beat until well blended.

Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, stirring just until blended.

Add chocolate chips (and nuts if used).

Line muffin tin with paper baking cups, spoon 3 Tbsp batter into cups. Bake for 15–18 minutes. Remove from pans immediately.

YIELD: 2 dozen

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Need more chocolate? Check out other recipes I’ve shared: The Chocolate
What kind of chocolate have you been creating in your kitchen?

Send me your pictures and recipes! There is never enough chocolate.

 

A Drift of Quills

A Drift of Quills: In Search of (Writing) Time

Writers, what do you do to find time—or to make time—to write?

Readers, are you curious how the minds behind the books work some of their magic?

In Search of Writing TimeIt’s the First Friday of the month, and A Drift of Quills is sharing tidbits on their MO (modus operandi). Ooooh, secrets!

Time—we all need more, right? Can I have a secret extra day in the week? Or how about a clone?

I’m one of those blessed souls who theoretically has time. Awesome, right? Mmmmaybe…! Anyone who looked at my life would assume there are great gobs of the stuff lying around, waiting to be used.

I have plenty to do, believe me. There are the regular chores that come with being an adult and the extracurricular chores that spring up when you belong to a group or indulge in hobbies. On top of that, there are the tasks that fall on the plate of any indie author (a.k.a. “marketing”).

And there’s research (a.k.a. “rabbit holes”).

And homework (a.k.a. “reading”).

Quote-IfYouDontHaveTheTimeToRead

So for me, it boils down to making the time to write. Or rather, making myself write. I seem to be most productive late at night, but convincing myself to stay up when my comfy bed is calling and my eyelids are drooping is almost as hard as scheduling dentist appointments.

Okay, not really. I’d far rather stay up late writing every single night than go to the dentist.

But… if when I stick to a schedule and plunk my keister in the chair before my computer every morning, I’ve found I build up steam. I might start small; I’ve set a goal to write no less than 100 words a day. In the beginning, that hundred words can be like pulling teeth. (Ha! Pun!)

But the more I stick to the schedule, the more I write.

You’d think, with such a reward, the sticking would be easy. Inspiring. Exciting!

Quote-WithoutConsciousAndDeliberateEffort

It is exciting. It’s also challenging.

So what helps me?

  • Joining a writing challenge (x-number of words per day)
  • Having someone to be accountable to
  • Giving in to my competitive side (trying to beat the high word counts in the above-mentioned challenge)
  • My awesome writing partner, Kristie
  • Reading
  • Music
  • Letters, comments, and reviews (especially reviews!) from my readers

I don’t list these in order of how well they work, it depends on the day and it depends on my mood (and health). The more of the items I employ, the more likely I am to sit down and write.

And apparently writing about writing helps, too. Bye, I’m gonna go practice being a fictionista!

Patricia RedingPATRICIA REDING

Author of Oathtaker and Select
Patricia’s website

 

Time in a bottle.

Time will tell.

A time to love, and a time to hate.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .

A time for every purpose under heaven.

Time flies.

The time is right.

Time and tide wait for no man.

Hey! Have you got the time?

This is the question we Quills consider with our post for July 2016.

Most would agree, I think, that there never seems to be enough time to go around. So how, in a life filled with family, friends, day jobs, and more, do we find time to write?

I recall as a child, my mother saying that it annoyed her when people asked her how she found the time to do things. With eight—yes, count them, eight—children, she was a busy woman. She always said: “I don’t have time, I make time.” I guess… (Read more!)

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How do you find—or make—the time to write or read?
What would you like to see us talk about? Let us know in the comments below!

Image: “Clock” via StockSnap.io is licensed under CC0 1.0
Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday: Tuck

So. Tuck, by Stephen R. Lawhead. Book three of the so-far amazing King Raven trilogy. It took far longer to finish book 2 than I planned—and then I remembered that I have to read a book a week to get through everything in my TBR stack. And, well, insomnia. At least it’s good for something!

I think I enjoyed book 1 better, but only barely. I love the history, the setting, the very real situations, choices, and setbacks the characters face.

There was a spot in Scarlet that had me surreptitiously teary…

It’s funny, but when I’m all by myself I have no trouble bawling my eyes out over something that happens to a fictitious character.

But I wasn’t alone! And I feel silly being sappy in front of other people!

Anyway… Book 3! I can’t wait to read about Tuck’s antics; he’s such a fun, sweet character. And, of course, I must find out what happens to Rhi Bran and his merry band!

My Teaser

Teaser Tuesday: Tuck, by Stephen R. LawheadTuck by Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (December 14, 2009)
Find the Author on Twitter and Facebook
Available on Goodreads and Amazon

“He picked up the dead man’s sword and stuck it in his belt. ‘You can stay if you like, Abbot, but they are probably watching from the forest.’

Casting a hasty glance over his shoulder, the abbot hurried to rejoin his bodyguard and scuttled back to the abbey in undignified retreat.”

~Page 76

Description

King Raven has brought hope to the oppressed people of Wales–and fear to their Norman overlords. Deceived by the self-serving King William and hunted by the treacherous Abbot Hugo and Sheriff de Glanville, Rhi Bran is forced again to take matters into his own hands as King Raven.

Along the way Friar Tuck has been the stalwart supporter of the man behind the legend–bringing Rhi Bran much-needed guidance, wit, and faithful companionship.

Aided by Tuck and his small but determined band of forest-dwelling outlaws, Rhi Bran ignites a rebellion that spreads through the Welsh valleys, forcing the wily monarch to marshal his army and march against little Elfael.

Want to Play Along?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

What are you currently reading? Share below—and be sure to join my TBR Challenge!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
TBR Challenge 2016 — Enter to win a free book!

TBR Challenge Invitation

TBR Challenge 2016 — Enter to win a free book!Ooh, the challenge of the TBR…

Everyone knows what that little acronym means, right? TBR=To Be Read.

Do you, dear readers, have a bunch of books on your shelf, your e-reader, or wish-list that you are just jonesing to read? I do. I always do!

I popped over to ReadItForward to calculate how long it would take me to read all the books on my list (not even counting those on my bookshelf that I haven’t read yet!).

TBR Challenge — Enter to win a free book!And that’s: a) if I don’t acquire any more books, and b) if I read about one book per week.

Clearly, I need to up my game.

A while ago, I posted about my own TBR List and issued a challenge, and I thought it was (past) time to wave that flag again.

I’d love for you to join me. We’ll do it together!

So Here’s the Big TBR Challenge:
  1. Join the Goodreads “2016 Reading Challenge
  2. Create a challenge of not less than one book per month (for a total of 12 which, technically, you could read in entirely in December if you want!)
  3. Link me up to your challenge page in the comments below OR on the original TBR Challenge page.
  4. Complete your challenge

At the end of the year, those who finish their challenges will be entered in a drawing for my upcoming book, The Sharpness of the Knife (Working title!). I’m also casting around for some other fun prizes. This may include Amazon gift cards, more books, bookmarks, and more…

Ready? Set! Go!

Please share this page with your reader friends! The more the merrier! And the more entries I get, the more prizes I can add!

P.S. Feel free to comment below with the book you’re reading and what you think of it!

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday: Scarlet

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Scarlet, by Stephen R. Lawhead…

You may recall that I talked about re-reading Hood (Book 1 of the King Raven Trilogy) not too long ago. Once again, I loved it. Lawhead sets the tale in Wales and in an earlier time period than our current translations—and gives a fantastic explanation of why he did so. He is one of the few writers who can wax lyrical without losing my interest. He writes beautifully: the people are fabulously characterized, the settings are beautiful.

Rhapsodizing over one of the lovely paragraphs populating the book, I considered tossing away my own keyboard.

But then I didn’t. I’m still trudging along with my own story. I may have to reread the entire series several times. Education, yanno…

It was with a sense of keen anticipation that I began the next book in the series: Scarlet, which is, of course, told from the viewpoint of the famous Will Scarlet (one of my favorite characters in most interpretations of the story). This one is told from the first person viewpoint, and I’m so looking forward to how he handles that!

Scarlet, by Stephen R. LawheadMy Teaser 

Scarlet: by Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 8, 2008)
Find the Author on Twitter and Facebook
Available on Goodreads and Amazon

“My leg is on fire again today. It pains me ferocious, and I am in no mind to suffer Odo’s irritating ways. I watch as he bends his nose to the scrap of parchment and scratches away for a moment. ‘So now,’ I say, ‘while we’re about it his name is not Robin, as you would have it. His name is Rhi Bran—that is, King Bran, to you.’”

~Page 65

Description

After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest–and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion–Will joins the heroic archer and his men.

Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging—unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.

That, of course, he will never do.

Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.

From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.

Want to Play Along?

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Tell me—what are you currently reading? 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Landscape Elves Garden Gate

A Visit from the Landscape Elves

Landscape Elves are awesome.

Let me tell you, today has been one of those days. I’ve been thwarted at every turn!

There were the bed sheets that don’t actually fit; we have to tie the bottom sheet down with sheet fasteners and even that doesn’t really work. The sheets have developed strange runs in them. I have been cursing the darned things since the day we bought them. What the heck are they made of, anyway?

Cuisinart Ice-Cream MakerThere was the ice cream. We are big into homemade ice cream and this batch is the first one we’ve made this year. However… the recipe makes a little more than fits in my very beautiful Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker. I held back some it but, as you can imagine, it still overflowed. I had a mess to clean up, and they don’t make the beater very easy to lick! (Wasn’t gonna waste it, yo!)

There there was the hose. We have some frustrating dry spots in our yard where apparently the grass isn’t getting enough water. Someone stole our hose last year and the replacement doesn’t reach all the way across the yard. Oops. So I have to hook one up in the backyard and run it under the gate. A nuisance, but not impossible. Unless I’m feeling really lazy. Well… the sprinkler absolutely refused to stay flat.

Crazy WomanAnd then there’s the computer which, because I have a lot to do today, ran more slowly than cold tar. Even after I restarted it and (reluctantly) shut down some a few applications. Am I the only one to have five or six apps open? And 15 or 20 tabs in my browser? And this stuff is important, I tell you!

This kind of nonsense continues throughout the day. So right when I am thinking about throwing a temper tantrum, the doorbell rings.

It’s my son…

With hugs! And help! It was a good break. 🙂

BUT, I bet you’re wondering about the Landscape Elves, right…?

Wall-to-Wall Grass, or A Dreary Yard

When we moved into this house two years ago, we moved onto a blank canvas. Seriously. There was a tree in each corner of the back yard (still fairly young) and one tree on the side of the backyard. And two weeping mulberries—also in the back yard, and not centered on anything. There’s maybe twenty feet between them. About every other day, my husband threatens to rip them out. “But sweetie, they’re actually grown! They take up space in the utterly flat green carpet of fence-to-fence grass!”

We put in some Spartan Junipers, and they’re growing wonderfully fast. It won’t be long until they’re actually providing privacy, but they no longer look like funny little dots of afterthought. We also installed a couple of yews and put two trees in the front yard: an Autumn Blaze Maple (reputedly good in alkaline soil) and a Shademaster Honeylocust (ditto).

Landscape Elves to the Rescue!

This year, the Landscape Elves have been so busy! They added a lovely new flowerbed to the front of the house.

Landscape Elves 01
Before (March 2016)
Landscape Elves 02
During (April) — The elves hard at work.
Landscape Elves 03
After (Jun 2016)

There is a lot more we want to do, but it will have to come in stages. It is amazing how much this single flowerbed changes the feel of the house. Curb appeal increased by about a million percent!

The bed goes around the side of the house, where we transplanted some mums we rescued from the pathetic little bed near the front door. There’s now a lilac in the corner with lily-of-the-valley planted beneath. Every time I see them I think of my sweet mama and how much she loved them…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What outdoor projects have you been working on this year?
What’s your favorite plant, and why do you like it?

photo credit: Magic gate via photopin (license) and photo credit: Hahaaa via photopin (license)
Research: Half a Library-Samuel Johnson

A Drift of Quills: Research or Treasure Hunt?

Does the word “research” give you the shivers? Dark memories of term papers or visions of endless numbers and figures? Well, it’s the first Friday of June (already!), and A Drift of Quills  is here to show you what research means to fiction writers!

A Drift of Quills

“My name is Robin and I am a member of Researchers Anonymous…”

I blame it on my mother. I read a lot when I was a little girl. When I’d come across a word I didn’t know, I’d ask Mom what it meant. She invariably sent me to the dictionary.

A hundred years later (okay, not quite a hundred…) I find myself somewhat suspicious of her motivations. Did she actually (sometimes) not know the definition? Or was that just her way of making me an independent, curious wordie?

Either way, what happened was an addiction.

Oh, it started innocently enough. Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Research or Treasure Hunt?

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday: Hood

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

I read Hood: Book 1 of the Raven King, by Stephen R. Lawhead a while back, loved it, and soon had books 2 and 3 added to my shelves—but I never read them!

Hubby did. Ever since then, he’s been pestering me to read them. And I wanted to! I just had other commitments to read first. And now I don’t. Yay!

It’s been so long since I read the first one that I’ve decided to read it again so that I can enjoy the full, wonderful flavor of the entire series.

My Teaser

Hood: The King Raven Trilogy – Book 1 by Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 3, 2007)
Find the Author on Twitter and Facebook
Available on Goodreads and Amazon

Hood, by Stephen R. Lawed“Am I to kneel and kiss the rosy rump of that usurping knave? And me a king in my own country? Let me be roasted alive before I stoop to pucker!”

~Page 195

Description

Robin Hood: The Legend Begins Anew

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Hunted like an animal by Norman invaders, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne of Elfael, has abandoned his father’s kingdom and fled to the greenwood. There, in a primeval forest of the Welsh borders, danger surrounds him–for this woodland is a living, breathing entity with mysterious powers and secrets, and Bran must find a way to make it his own if he is to survive.

Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Stephen R. Lawhead conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare yourself for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.

Want to Play Along?

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

What are you currently reading? Share below!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Cover Candy #06

Cover Candy #6

There’s nothing like looking at some good Cover Candy to get me inspired to read! I have to be careful, or I’ll end up with even more books in my TBR Pile.

The ones I’ve chosen this time are wildly different: gritty, whimsical, and classy. They’re all dark-colored (does that make a theme?). I like them for completely different reasons, but I find each of them intriguing.

As usual, I can’t vouch for the contents of the books represented below. We’re only here for the eye candy!

Cover Stars

Cover Candy #06

ACID

~Emma Pass~
Kindle, 386 pages
Delacorte Press
March 11, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, YA
Artist: Larry Rostant

Cover Candy #06

The Chaos of Stars 

~Kiersten White~
Kindle, 293 pages
HarperTeen
September 10, 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Artist: (unknown)

Legacy of Kings, by EleanorHerman

Legacy of Kings: Blood of Gods and Royals #1 

~Eleanor Herman~
Hardcover, 432 pages
Harlequin Teen
August 18, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Myths and Legends
Artist: (unknown)

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Which cover is your favorite of the three?

Share one of YOUR favorite covers!

Do you have a favorite cover artist?