Archive for May, 2016

Listify Life – Favorite Places on the Internet to Waste Time

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I would argue that for a writer there is no such thing as wasting time on the Internet, because entertainment is fodder for stories, and we use the Internet a lot for research and for planning our writing days, etc.  So this is really more a catalogue of where I am most likely to be spending my time on the Internet. If I weren’t a writer, would I visit Facebook several times a day? I honestly have no idea because I was an author before I joined Facebook.  The Internet, whether you are using email loops or forums or Facebook groups, provides a way for writers to get together and brainstorm and exchange ideas and experiences about publishing houses, editors and agents. It really is an invaluable tool.  So that’s my caveat!

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  • Facebook –  Yes, I do waste a lot of time following links on Facebook that have nothing to do with writing.  I love being able to stalk my kids online using Facebook,  and it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends both old and new.  I spend more time then I should following links to quizzes and news items that I know are just going to irritate me. I could just open up my USA Today app instead.  But of all the social networks out there, Facebook is the one I go to most frequently. I belong to an author support group and also to a group of publishing folks who are really into paper planning, and I  just joined a group for authors who are interested in doing their own formatting.  All that I find absolutely necessary. 🙂 As I look at my list, though, I realize I haven’t even included Twitter.  I have tried really hard to get into Twitter, but it’s just not in my top three. Same with Pinterest.  Unless I’m looking for renovation ideas, which is when I usually visit Pinterest, I don’t go there.  There’s only so much time in the day!
  • Trip Advisor –  When we are planning a big trip I usually start out by buying a Frommer’s book on the country and reading it cover to cover.  But then I follow up with months of research on Trip Advisor. It’s hands-down the best place I know to get advice on where I want to go.  I tend to pay the most attention to reviews from travelers who live in my province or Alberta, because we have similar expectations.  Whereas, folks from Ontario and folks from the UK have different expectations, I’ve come to realize through reading reviews on Trip Advisor. So while I might check those reviews and those ideas, if I really want to know how I might feel about a place, I depend on the residents of BC and our neighbours to the left, depending which way you are looking at the map of Canada.  I consider Alberta to be on the left,  because I am standing inside British Columbia looking out. 🙂
  • Instagram –  This is a new one for me. I discovered Instagram basically because I decided to participate in the spring #listifylife challenge  and Instagram is the primary place where the challenge is occurring.  I discovered that I really like Instagram.  Maybe it’s because participating in the challenge coincided with me blogging about our trip to Patagonia, because I realized I could start posting pictures of the trip to Instagram. 🙂  So, on Instagram, instead of networking really with just other writers, I have started networking with other travellers.  I follow a lot of travel bloggers and photographers on Instagram, and honestly it is what I am mainly there for, the travel photography, not the social networking.
  • Romance Divas Forum –  Easily the best, in my opinion, support and industry and research and brainstorming forum for romance authors on the Internet.  And… It’s how I discovered my paper planning group on Facebook, and that paper planning group is my happiest place on the Internet right now. 🙂
  •  Stock Photo Websites –  This one wouldn’t be on my list if I weren’t an author. What reason would I have to visit stock photo websites?  You would probably more likely find me on shoe buying websites…  But because I am mainly independently publishing right now,  stock photo websites are super important in the book cover brainstorming process. While some book cover artists will look at the stock photo websites for you, others want you to search for your own stock images or at least provide them as an example of what you’re looking for. Believe me, I can spend hours and hours and hours on stock photo websites when I am brainstorming a book cover.
  • Amazon and Chapters –  Chapters is a Canadian online bookstore, and I buy paper books mainly from Chapters or Canadian Amazon.  I buy e-books from American Amazon, and because I am an independent author I am on Amazon a fair amount checking sales rankings, etc. But I also check sales rankings on Kobo, iBooks, and other places. Actually, I don’t really check sales rankings all that much unless I am running a promotion or have a new release, which hasn’t occurred in too long.  But when my next release does come out within the next few months, I know I will be stalking my Amazon dashboard.  Kobo is also easy to stalk,  but I don’t buy books from Kobo. I buy the odd book from iBooks, but I prefer the lighting on my Kindle to reading on an iPad, so therefore I spend the most time buying books on Amazon.  I had a Kindle before the Kobo came out, and I still use my original Kindle (sorry, Kobo,  but as an author I love you!)
  • Cover Artist Sites –  I have used the same cover artist for all my books as Cindy and under my pen name except for two short stories. Even though I keep going back to the same cover artist, I like to visit other cover artist sites just to get a taste for what else is out there.  A lot of cover artists also run their own photography shoots, so I get sucked into those rabbit holes very, very easily. 😉

Where do you waste time on the Internet? Is it time wasted? Or is it…a necessity?

A Note About Comments

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

My delete finger has been a little trigger-happy with comments on my blog lately. Sometimes I empty the spam folder before I realize that a comment might not really be spam. And once I’ve accidentally deleted all the spam comments, I can’t get back to them again.

So if you have left a comment on my blog lately and you come back and don’t see it, that is why. Sorry, it got caught in the spam filter and something about the dashboard on WordPress must’ve changed, because I am losing those comments before getting a chance to check out if they are really spam or not.

The best way for me to realize that you are not spam is to mention in your comment where you saw the link to the post on which you are commenting. If you came to my blog from Facebook, let me know that. If you came to my blog through Twitter or Instagram, let me know that.  You are much less likely to get lumped into the spam category along with all the comments from SEO website engines.

Apologies to anyone whose comments I may have inadvertently deleted. Practically nobody comments on blogs anymore, so it is easy to get trigger-happy. 🙂 But I do welcome comments, if you wish  to leave them here rather than on Facebook, for example.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Date Explored: February 15th

Day 3 of our Australis Cruise was pretty much the reason FOR the cruise. Overnight, the ship makes its way around the western end of Tierra del Fuego and into the Ballenero Channel. It’s pretty exciting to look out your cabin window and see bits of ice beginning to show in the water. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience in colder months (but I’m a wimp so we went during their summer). The closer the ship cruises to Pia Glacier, the more you can feel excitement mounting on-board. Pia Glacier is one of the few glaciers accessible to humans that is not in retreat, but instead is advancing (this is when a glacier grows faster than it’s melting, whereas the Columbia Ice Fields in my home province are melting faster than they are growing, hence they are in retreat).

When Pia Glacier first comes into view, it is just breathtaking. It’s surreal to be among such beauty, and in today’s day and age there is a pretty somber realization that seeing a glacier calve (which we did, several times) as the ice pushes from the back and huge chunks split off into the ocean is a rarity. You truly feel like you are at the mercy of Mother Earth.

When you visit the glacier, you can choose to just stay at the viewing area or to hike to gain “better views.” The hike was pretty slippery, over large boulders, and it was muddy. They warned us it would be muddy, and it was! I had rain pants and gators. We were in Chile and Argentina for a month, so I didn’t have space in my luggage for hiking boots. You can borrow gumboots off the cruise folks, but I thought they would be too slippery on the rocks for this excursion. I just used my hiking runners with the rain pants and gators, and that combo worked great.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

I am "enjoying" a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a "better viewing area," which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the "easy" landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I'm proud of myself that I made it! But I'm not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn't, on the slipperiest area.

I am “enjoying” a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a “better viewing area,” which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the “easy” landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I’m proud of myself that I made it! But I’m not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn’t, on the slipperiest area. But at least I didn’t fall off the path like I did hiking down from a volcano in the Galapagos four years earlier.

I had to put quotation marks around “enjoy,” because I am not a scotch drinker. I just wanted my picture taken like everyone else.

See the blue area of the glacier to the left? That’s where Pia Glacier was calving during our visit. We didn’t think it was going to calve at all. Then we started our hike and as the day warmed, you could start to hear the rumblings of a potential calve. Once we returned from our hike, I forgot about taking pictures or even attempting to get a calving on video. I just stood there and watched in awe. A couple small chunks calved, and a big one calved. See that icy water just behind me up above? As the glacier calves and drops into the ocean, it creates this “down the sink” effect, which shoves and swirls the water just beyond our viewing rock. The force of nature is awesome.

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn't use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say "egotistical twit."

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn’t use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say “egotistical twit.”

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, just in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and others' attention was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened. All I could get out was a "Holy crap!" and before the camera could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and the attention of my zodiac mates was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. All I could get out was a “Holy crap!” and before the massive cameras could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Sometimes it pays to just enjoy the moment instead of recording it for posterity, you know?

GlacerAlley3

After you return to the ship, the boat cruises through “Glacier Alley,” which features tidewater glaciers coming down from the Darwin mountains and the Darwin Ice Sheet. Most of these glaciers are named after European countries, and the ship serves you a drink reminiscent of the country as you cruise past a glacier in question. Excuse my photos, because I took them through the window. It was quite blustery outside by this point. So I can’t tell you if this glacier is France, Holland, Germany or Italy, but I can tell you I enjoyed sips of champagne and beer (I think I ran out of steam after that).

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

More glaciers!

More glaciers!

During the cruise along Beagle Channel (beagle!!!) and through Glacier Alley, my sea-sickness was taking its toll. This was the night before we would reach Cape Horn, another reason to take the cruise – a chance to disembark at Cape Horn!! The success of the landing depends entirely on what the weather is doing around midnight to 2 a.m. the night before. The ship guys (captains, whatever) are in contact with a weather station that alerts them to the probability of landing at Cape Horn. But of course they don’t tell you whether you’ll land or not until the next morning, because how else will they get the entire boat into life jackets otherwise?

Did we land at Cape Horn? Did I fall overboard and need to be retrieved? Or did they toss me a rope and allow me to barefoot water-ski through ice chunks? These and other questions will be answered next week on another installment of Cindiana Jones Does Patagonia. Stay tuned!

Listify Life – What I Splurge On

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Welcome back to Listify Life! This week’s theme is What I Splurge On/My Indulgences. Caveat: I am not really a splurgy person. I am very practical and hate shopping for clothes, for example. So this is the best list I could come up with:

Listify_indulge

I should splurge on Lessons on How to Take Centered Pictures.

  • Massage Therapy. Okay, I splurge on this. I go every other week, but really I consider it a necessity because I work at a computer for long hours at a time. Also, I couldn’t run three times a week without someone to fix me up. When my husband retires and I no longer have his medical benefits to help me out, I don’t know what I’ll do! I usually run out his benefits by October. My only excuse is that I was in a major five-car pile-up 24 years ago and have had troubles off and on since. But really it’s because I don’t like being in pain. Why should I b*tch and moan about my aching shoulders and hip or rotator cuff or whatever when I can do something about it and NOT be in pain? I honestly think massage therapy should be a write-off for writers. It’s a business expense, not an indulgence!
  • Shoes that Don’t Kill My Feet.  I no longer buy cheap shoes. I developed a problem in my foot from running and ran in pain for two years. It took a few years WITH orthopedic arches to overcome the issue. My shoes might not be the prettiest on the planet, but I have learned I have really high arches and that’s part of the issue.
  • Running Gear. Once I discovered the arch issue, I also discovered that I “pronate.” Especially with my floppy right foot (I swear someone put it on crooked before I was born). So I now buy my runners every year or two (I really only need new runners every other year) from an actual Running store. This led to buying actual “running socks” (good quality) and running tights/pants/gloves/water bottle, etc. The only thing I don’t splurge on is running hats. I steal golf hats from my husband.
  • Chocolate. I don’t feel I need to explain this one.
  • Take-Out. As in food. I also don’t feel I need to explain this one. I am also quite willing to sit in a restaurant. I’m a writer, not a chef. I get quite irked when I have to “cook too much” (like three planned meals a week). Luckily my husband adores Kraft Dinner. I should note that I made an honest attempt to learn to cook when we got married, but as soon as I learned he doesn’t like leftovers it was ALL. OVER.
  • Multi-colored pens. This is a new indulgence which sprang from beginning to use a pretty paper planner this years. I try to color-code different to-do lists, but really I just wind up writing in whatever order I like, the colors I like. I love pens in general but we don’t live in a town with a good pen store or I would be in serious trouble. As it is, I have to order refills for my “best” pen from a shop in Montreal.
  • Travel. I love to travel, and I would rather travel than have a new car (hence the 1999 Altima I drive) or a new house (hence, we live in the first and only house we have ever bought; been here since 1990 and have no plans to move). I guess I can add “renovations” onto my list of Indulgences, because we have done a lot of that (and all the DYI has contributed to my need for Massage Therapy).
  • Office Supplies. Yes, I adore buying computer ink and computer paper, Post-It notes and whatever else might be handy around the office. I also like collecting writing software, whether I use it or not….

What do you splurge on?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Australis Cruise, Day 2

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Date Explored: February 14th

Our Australis Cruise, “Fjords of Tierra del Fuego” on the Stella Autralis, departed Punta Arenas on February 13th, “Day 1,” but we didn’t have any excursions on that day. You’re led to your cabins, settle in, then assemble for an intro talk, drinks, and decide which expedition excursions to sign up for the next day, Valentine’s Day for us! The morning excursion featured two levels of difficulty for hiking/walking. We signed up for “Difficult,” but they also offered a Moderate or Easy route (I can’t remember which). Let me say, if you can’t hike up a slippery path, even with a rope to guide you, you have no business signing up for Difficult just so you can get a “better view.” I guess you don’t know until you try, but if you don’t hike in your regular life, opt for the Easy or Moderate outings. Opting for Difficult when you can’t handle it just takes the guides’ attention away from other guests. And I say this fully knowing there are times I shouldn’t elect the Difficult hike myself.

Saturday morning, when we departed on the zodiacs for Ainsworth Bay, was chilly but sunny. The afternoon was overcast. I want to show a photo of the Stella Australis. It’s from the afternoon excursion, thus the clouds:

AinsworthBay_Ship

Can you see that little craft to the very left of the shot? Those are the zodiacs, on which you travel for your excursions.

Here is a shot of our zodiac traveling to Ainsworth Bay, off the cruise ship:

AinsworthBay_Zodiacs

Isn’t that beautiful? You can see two more zodiacs in front of us. Luckily, even though I get seasick, going on a two-week Galapagos expedition-style cruise in 2012 taught me how to handle myself on a zodiac, and it all came back to me, like riding a bike. 🙂 So this time I could be brave and sit on the edge without death-gripping ropes, and take whatever pictures I wanted.

Note: If any rapids were around, I would have been hanging onto the ropes with the aforementioned death grip.

Travel Tip! If there are rapids, you are likely on a river.

Cruise Ship Tip! We selected deck 3 of the Stella Australis, and it was perfect. I don’t like to be too far up, because it’s better for motion sickness to be a bit further down, and mid-ship is also advised. We were in room 327, beside the stairs, and we had no issues whatsoever.

The view from our hike at Ainsworth Bay, along the glacial moraine (returning from the hike):

AinsworthBay_AMHike2

So beautiful and peaceful! That’s the Darwin mountain range in the distance. Remember, we went during their summer.

The weather can change quickly in Patagonia. We had a wonderful lunch back on board the Stella Australis, sailing west along the sound before traveling via zodiac again in the afternoon to the Tucker Islets, where we saw lots of sea birds and cormorants nesting, but, really, everyone’s there to see the penguins!

TuckerIsletsZodiac

En route to visiting the penguins. You can see there are four zodiacs ahead of us.

After traveling to Galapagos, where we saw cormorants drying their wings in the sun, seabirds weren’t really on our agenda. We did see a couple of penguins in the Galapagos, and unfortunately we didn’t book ahead enough in advance to see the Magdalena penguins on a day trip from Punta Arenas, but none of that mattered now, because we saw penguins galore at Tucker Islets.

Penguins for your perusal (this one guy wanted to pose for us very badly!):

TuckerPenguins1

The giant penguins are at Antarctica. I don’t know if we’ll ever go there. I love expedition-style cruises, where you launch daily on zodiacs to view wildlife, but there are a lot of other places in the world to visit, and I’m happy we chose the Patagonian fjords. Leaving you with my favorite penguin until next time, day 3 of the cruise….

TuckerPenguins4

TuckerPenguins3

TuckerPenguins2

Penguinnnnnnnn….out!

Listify Life – The Top 3 Books in My To Be Read Pile

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

I usually have a mix of books on the go. While I write contemporary romance, I don’t have a CR on my TBR pile right now because I’m waiting for a fave author’s book to release before I get my next mass market delivery. I like to read outside of genre a lot, and I like to read books on craft of writing, plus I’ve gotten back into reading some biographies, which I used to read all the time when I was younger.

Here we go:

Listify_TBR

I just finished UNSAID by Neil Abramson. There’s a chimpanzee named Cindy in the story. My BFF lent me this book last week while she was in town. In exchange, she’s supposed to read MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger, which I loved.

UNSAID is a great story if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary. I would read more from Mr. Abramson (it looks like he’ll have a new release this summer).

To Be Read, Fiction:

  • THE SEVEN SISTERS by Lucinda Riley. I have never read this author. I am pretty sure my daughter-in-law left this book at the house before she and my son returned to Shanghai for another year of work. So I better get reading, in case she wants it back. 🙂
  • COLD, COLD HEART by Tami Hoag. I’ll either read that or THE BONE GARDEN by Tess Gerritsen. I haven’t read Hoag in a very long time, but saw CCH in the drugstore so picked it up awhile ago. Plenty of folks have recommended Gerritsen. I haven’t read her before, so I’m eager to get to THE BONE GARDEN. Which of these two I choose to read actually comes down to how I feel about the books when I hold them in my hands when the time comes to choose. Don’t ask. Yes, it’s weird. So what?
  • AVENUE OF MYSTERIES by John Irving. Irving is an auto-buy for me, and this one has been “gelling” on my nightstand for awhile now (books need to sit on my nightstand or in the drawer for an undetermined amount of time before they “gel” enough for me to read them). Don’t ask. Yes, it’s weird. So what?

Oooh, interesting note, I attended a reading of John Irving’s on Granville Island in Vancouver with my BFF many moons ago. He read from A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, one of my favorite of his books, and he signed my copy (the poor guy was swamped by folks after the reading, swarming around him; it was crazy; yes, I was one). I’ve been collecting his novels in  hardcover since THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP.

Recently Finished:

THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood, another of my auto-buys and my all-time favorite author, although sometimes she writes a book I don’t like (don’t ask me where she gets the nerve). Loved it! Ms. Atwood, I truly regret that I was too hung over to attend your reading of BODILY HARM at the University of Victoria in the 1980s. I meant to bring my copy and get your autograph. I think I purposely drank too much the night before because you’re one of my idols and I was just too shy to attend the reading. Yeah, it sucks I’m writing you from my blog and you’ll never see this note, but I just wanted you to know I regret my actions, but at the time I thought I could have a fun night out and still make it to the reading. Apologies.

I have also been collecting Ms. Atwood’s novels and short stories in hardcover since BODILY HARM. I have her novels from before BH in paperback.

To Be Read, Craft of Writing:

  • ROMANCING THE BEAT: STORY STRUCTURE FOR ROMANCE NOVELS by Gwen Hayes. A friend mentioned this book on Facebook the other day, and Gwen belongs to Romance Divas, an online romance writers forum I also belong to, so I bought a copy for my Kindle and can’t wait to dig into it.
  • WIRED FOR STORY: THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO HOOK READERS FROM THE VERY FIRST SENTENCE by Lisa Cron. This book has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. I’m sort of saving it for when I begin brainstorming the next book on my To Be Written pile.

To Be Read, Biography:

  • THE DUCHESS by Amanda Foreman. My mom picked up this book without realizing it was a biography, so she passed it along. A few years ago, a movie with Keira Knightly came out called The Duchess, based at least in part on this biography, so I’ll give it a whirl.

What’s on your To Be Read pile?