Spambots Ate My Blog or The Art of Second Chances

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Books | 23 comments

If you’re reading this, then the Spambot war I’ve been engaged in is over.

Phew.

My site was down most of last week. It popped back up for a few minutes here and there only to be swallowed again by these guys

spambot attack doodle

 Note: This is not an actual spambot for they don’t show there faces. They like to lurk behind Burberry ads and gibberish disguised as flattery.

 

 

They were ruthless. They got thru Askimet and dumped so many comments HostGator had to shut me down. Finally, thanks to my tech guy (aka my hub), I got my site back.

Fish whisperer ninja

 His other super power: Fish Whisperer ;)

 

Yay! Because I’ve got stuff to tell you all.

I finished my big Photoshop project–the one that required me to take classes–and pull my hair out.

Here’s what I’ve been up to–the cover of my new book:

 

TAOSC 3D

 A visitor from Zac’s past shows up, sending Grace and Zac’s spring break—and their relationship—into uncharted territory.

 

The ebook is available now. You can check out all the details here.

The paperback is almost ready to go live. I got a bit sidetracked with choosing between matte or glossy–and again there was more learning to be done with the fancy Photoshop.

But I did it. It wasn’t easy and I still have lots to learn, but I’m pretty happy with how far I got.  And that I tried. There was lots of mistakes and trying again–which fits nicely with one of the themes in this new book. So there’s that too. :)

 Plus, the companion book, The Art of Chasing Normal, is a Kindle Unlimited book!

So what have you been up to? I’d love to hear! But first…

a teensy, tiny bit of bad news. Unfortunately commenting here now requires a little math. Sorry, I know this is a lot to ask, especially on a Monday. Hopefully I will find a better Captcha setup (I’m open to suggestions).

So because I miss your comments and hope you will tell me what’s been going on with you, I offer you some very pretty cake.

Dessert cake Shyndigz

 Gives new meaning to fruit cake.

Or maybe you’d like a little zen.

Me too. My new favorite thing is this class

yoga garden

Yoga at the botanical garden. :)

 

What’s happening in your world? I’d love to know!

HAPPY MONDAY!

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Historic Weekends, an Empty Nest (and Overripe Bananas)

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Life | 45 comments

college of william and mary

Last weekend was historic.

silly selfies Coleen Patrick

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary (w/ silly selfies, because that’s how we roll)…

on the very same day that we took our youngest child to college.

*sigh*

Thomas Jefferson statue Williamsburg

But seriously, we couldn’t be more proud.

He’s studying at Thomas Jefferson’s alma mater.

(Although, apparently, it’s cooler to mention alumnus, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show)

college goodbye empty nest

This part wasn’t easy though. 

We knew it wouldn’t be, having done the goodbye thing with our daughter only 364 days before.

*sigh*

untethered colonial williamsburg

This pic sums up the strange mix of emptiness and freedom

I think we all felt (not that anyone is a horse in this scenario).

But the whole leaving my youngest at college didn’t really hit me until the middle of the weekend,

at 3am to be exact,

I sat up in bed, in the middle of a the dark hotel room

startled from a dream where I was in a room with doors

running around trying to lock them.

Unsettling.

(Before you think my dreams are visionary, let me add that there was also a gecko in an envelope in there somewhere.)

oar boat drifting

The next day, after one more round of parent orientation, we stopped at a park

and rented a jon boat.

Hub fished.

I read.

We drifted for a couple of hours.

tangled roots growing toward sun

Wrapped up in beginnings and endings

we let our emotions untangle a bit. 

chain heart drifting on boat

And then we headed home. Just the two of us.

*sigh*

But home comforted

colonial williamsburg shops

and reminded us there’s so much more ahead

(and that the bananas on the kitchen counter were going to keep on ripening no matter what)

homemade banana bread care packages

Which was perfect for baking some banana bread for care packages. :)

 

What’s your favorite thing to put in a care package (or to receive)? Anything historic happening in your neck of the woods?

Happy Friday!

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Through the Shimmer of Time with Jennifer Jensen

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Books | 10 comments

Happy Monday!

Please welcome Jennifer Jensen to the blog. Jennifer is the author of  Through the Shimmer of Time, a brand new book for middle grade readers–ages 9-12 (or for anyone who loves a good time travel story!!)

Take it away, Jennifer!

 

First, a humongous thank you to Coleen for hosting me on my blog tour! And second, I recently discovered just how awesome she is in the creativity department—not only her books, but her doodles! Seriously, scroll back through her posts and play “Where’s Waldo?” with her Starbucks cups.

 

Starbucks doodles

 

Now, a confession: I’ve had a good number of short stories published, written several novel manuscripts that will never see the light of day (rightly so), and just released my first middle grade novel, Through the Shimmer of Time. And yet I’ve never considered myself creative.

I enjoy crafts, but can’t come up with the ideas myself.

 

Quilled_flowers_sample_quilling_picture

Quilled flowers:  photo by Inna Dorman, via Wikimedia Commons

 

I like to sew, but I’m lost without the instructions (unlike my daughter, who ought to be on Project Runway).

2976659233_8910ac5ba8_z

Fashion Sketch:  by Damien Chandra via Flickr (creative commons license)

 

I have an idea of what looks good, and that’s slowly showing up in my house and my garden, but I can’t look at colors and make definite decisions on what will work, even white paint! Help!

 

porch flowers Jennifer Jensen

Porch flowers: by Jennifer Jensen

 

Sometimes I wish my creativity was with artsy stuff. I could decorate my home, wow my friends, and spend all my money at hobby stores. Instead, I deal with words in my mind – fun, dangerous or lonely, depending on the day.

Most of the hours spent at my computer are spent on the craft of writing, as you’d expect. But I’ll tell you a secret about the imaginative side of my writing: much of it takes place in the shower! (Longer and longer showers, in fact.) Plot lines. Scene snippets. Conversations between characters. Not to mention envisioning book signings and best seller lists! See, I am creative!

Unfortunately, this writer’s creativity has a few drawbacks:

• It’s a solitary activity, not something you can do with friends or family, having fun while making something beautiful.

• You don’t really have anything to share until you’re done, which can be months or years.

• When you live in your story, you’re not particularly living in the moment with your family. Spouses and children are known to give you odd looks when you say, “I don’t hold with no snake-oil medicines.”

• There’s no hot water left for anyone else.

Someday I might be able to doodle on coffee cups like Coleen. Until then, I’ll have to stick with words and a few time travel adventures.

What’s your favorite way to be creative?

 

Jennifer Jensen photo

Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days.

Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce.

She’s a longtime member of SCBWI and has received two Indiana Arts Commission grants for her fiction. Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, Surrounded by Story, through Facebook or on Twitter @jenjensen2.

 

Through the Shimmer of Time

THROUGH THE SHIMMER OF TIME

By Jennifer Jensen

 

A mysterious pottery shard . . .

A haunted cabin . . .

A shadowy stranger . . .

And no way home

Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?

1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.

Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time. It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

 

You can find Through the Shimmer of Time here: Amazon

 

 

 

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Photo Essay: Something to Make You Smile

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Photography | 29 comments

 

 Sending out a little “Instahappy” from my Instagram account.

 

bouncy house basketball

Cousins playing bouncy house basketball

 

summer rain macro

Summer raindrops

 

family love donuts

Donuts! 

By the way, my hub’s t-shirt says, I know the muffin man. You know, the one who lives on Drury Lane?

 

 

Farmer's market tomatoes

 Farmer’s Market tomatoes (for after donut cleansing)

 

yellow wooly caterpillar

Something cuddly.

Actually, I don’t know what kind of caterpillar this is, so I probably wouldn’t suggest getting too close. 

 

blue heron james river

Blue heron waiting patiently for dinner at the James River.

I was surprised at how close she (he?) let me get.

Guess I’ve got street cred now.

 

duck dive

Duck snack rush at Byrd Park. 

Getting eats in the animal world sure doesn’t look as easy as walking up to the donut truck.

 

drawing colored pencils

Drawing time.

I’d totally get excited over a colored pencil/Sharpie truck!

 

world earth love doodle

 Sending love and hugs.

 

What makes you smile? And is it something that can be sold in a truck?

Wishing you a peaceful weekend.

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The Strength that Lies Beneath

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Life | 32 comments

At some point during the car trips of my childhood, my sister (the one who’s closest to me in age), would invariably stop to point out the creepiest, oldest, abandoned house on the side of the road and say,

 

There’s your dream house.

old abandoned barn
I’d wrinkle my nose. We’d laugh. Then resume singing, You’re a Grand Old Flag or the oh so monotonous, Five Hundred Miles, until inevitably I’d poke her in the ribs and say,

Look! It’s your future home.

old barn abandoned

It was a funny dig. A kinda two steps forward, two steps back exchange. The sisterly cha cha that we danced many times over the years we lived together.

Today, I still look for those houses. Still smile.

Sometimes I think it’s strange to smile at something so dilapidated.

So abandoned.

This week, after hearing how Robin Williams died, I found myself flipping through old journals, looking for the poem I wrote when I was 18. The one where I tried to understand why my sister had attempted suicide (the first time).

It’s an angry poem.

Why did you try to steal the time when we were little?

Now I’m almost embarrassed at my anger. Did I have any compassion? I hug you anyway.

I’m nervous talking/blogging about this subject. I feel it’s not my story to tell. My sister and I haven’t talked about this. Not now, not ever, that I remember. We (as a family) just didn’t. Even though all of us struggled with our own darkness.

On the other hand, I’ve made it a point to talk about depression and suicide with my children. I’ve even probably gone a bit overboard at times, carting my thirteen year old daughter off to a therapist when she dramatically screamed, I hate you, I want to die.

Hey she was my first teenager…and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Depression can be dangerous. It’s dark, often hidden. Oh and how it thrives in those secluded corners.

Depression I understand. That’s part of my story too. But it’s hard to talk about.

It’s a disease. There shouldn’t be shame attached to something that happens with our brain chemistry. Hey, did anyone shun me when I blew up the sulfur in chem lab my junior year? No, it was a mistake. Even the intimidating Sister Dolores didn’t yell at me.

It sucks to feel your lightness abandoning you. And it feels even worse when you think that because it’s in your thoughts, you ought to be responsible for pushing that darkness out.

Ask for help.

My sister and I may have joked about those dilapidated, abandoned houses. But maybe now I smile because I see them as hope. There’s a strength that lies beneath.

And they’re still standing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

xo

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Climb Every Mountain with Courage (and Cookies)

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Life | 31 comments

true life dreams

 

Three years ago today I crossed the bridge from blog reader to blogger.

 

covered bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire

Cornish-Windsor covered bridge, Vermont (and New Hampshire)

 

I was scared, but I had a plan when I published my first post, There’s No Place Like the Prairie.

I wanted to create my author-ly space here on the internet (aka author platform),

A place to hang my quirky creative brand hat

not that I could define it at the time

baby bonnet

Mini me wearing one of my first quirky hats 

 

Oh and I didn’t have expectations

or, if I did, I didn’t know what publishing my thoughts, my books, my photos (hey an audience that doesn’t require a family room and a slide projector!) would actually feel like.

Some of my 1,095 Hey I’m a writer! days were pretty awesome

garden stowe vermont

Flower garden at Trapp Family Lodge (the family that inspired The Sound of Music!!)

Stowe, Vermont 

Trapp lodge flower garden

Others, kinda droopy. Seriously.

 

I like how Kate over at 4amwriter summed up the droop-tastic feeling:

“The bottom line, I discovered recently, was that I never told myself what I would do when I got rejections. I knew I’d get them. What I didn’t know is that they’d lay me out flat. And because I didn’t set myself a specific battle plan, it was easy to turn tail and run.” ~4amwriter

 

Enter courage (well, after some tears, some dessert, and a perusal of the classifieds).

Stowe Sound of Music

The Trapp Family lodge in Stowe, Vermont makes an impressive first impression.

 

Okay, so courage doesn’t always make a dramatic entrance. Some days courage is one word, one tiny doodle, one smile.

And some days it’s just not quitting.

The creative life needs courage.

Our heads are not just in the clouds, we’re weaving fluffy, silver lined couture garments.

Right?

Yeah. Vulnerability is NOT EASY.

In fact, the image from my blog that has been pinned the most is this one:

pinterest courage quote

 

Oh and my mom’s cream cheese cookie recipe is not trailing far behind.

Some of you may have guessed barns.

New England barns

Barn nestled on mountain overlooking the village of Stowe.

By the way, thanks to Clay Watkins for tweeting me about his own barn finds!

 

But I’ll take courage and cookies (and supportive friends like YOU).

They’re great companions for climbing mountains.

 

Stowe Vermont mountains

Even if you can’t quite make out the mountain. Yet.

 

Climb every mountain, 
Ford every stream, 
Follow every rainbow, 
‘Till you find your dream.

~Rodgers & Hammerstein, The Sound of Music

 

How are you mustering courage, or climbing mountains? Or just tell me your thoughts on cookies. I’d love to know.

Happy Weekend!

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Photo Essay: Vermont Farm and City Life (and Tall Stuff)

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Travel | 36 comments

Vermont cow

Got milk?

Ariella (a six year old Brown Swiss cow at Shelburne Farms in Vermont) does…

…about eight gallons a day.

vermont sheep

This is a sheep, but she was a total ham. #smile

vermont goat

Oh that moment, right before you leap.

Chickens Vermont

At Shelburne Farms they let you lead the chickens back to the coop.

I could use some corralling when it comes to hanging out on the Internet.

Vermont chicken

Someone takes their job seriously. This chicken probably never procrastinates.

Chicken coop Vermont

Back stage after the show. 

Americana Vermont

On the road again. So many barns…

Burlington Vermont people

But this was something new! 

According to a friend on Instagram, this is a lamplighter bicycle.

How do you stop without falling??

Tallest filing cabinet Vermont

Burlington, VT also has the world’s tallest filing cabinet.

Takes organization to new heights.

lake Champlain earth clock

Tall rocks make up Burlington’s Earth Clock

Lake Champlain Burlington Vermont

We saw beautiful views of Lake Champlain (and the Adirondack mountains in the distance).

We did not see Champ, the lake’s resident monster. 

Oh well, maybe next time.

 

Have you seen (or been on) a lamplighter bicycle? What interesting roadside attractions have you found? 

Next time: The hills are alive in Stowe, Vermont!

Happy Wednesday!

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Photo Essay: Summer Road Trip Fun (New York)

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Travel | 39 comments

Coleen Patrick road trip

My road trip smile.

Statue of Liberty setting sun

First stop: Staten Island, NY to visit dear daughter. This is the view of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry.

Frugal road trippers take note: the Staten Island ferry is FREE!

 

brooklyn bridge

We dodged lots of tourists and bicycles walked the Brooklyn Bridge with our daughter.

road trip NY

After a night as guests in our child’s teeny tiny but oh so cute studio apartment, my hub and I headed north. 

hudson valley new york

 If my phone’s camera could roll its eyes (lens?) it would’ve after the many shots I took of barns and silos.

copake falls new york

 Copake Falls, New York.

This is where the northernmost section of Taconic State Park is located.

NY MA border Bash Bish Falls park

 You have to walk to Massachusetts to get to Bash Bish Falls.

Note to frugal walkers: this is 3/4 mile from the New York (Taconic state park) lot. 

dragonfly bash bish falls

 Lots of dragonflies at the falls. Always nice to make new friends.

Bash Bish Falls above

There’s also lots of stairs. :)

Bash Bish Falls–the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts.

Bash Bish Falls MA

 Bash Bish–try to say that three times fast.

Bash Bish Falls

ladybug Bash Bish falls

Another new hiking pal.

Vermont barn

Stayed tuned: Next up, more barns Vermont!! 

Happy Friday!

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Summer at a Snail’s Pace

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Life | 37 comments

Snails Crabtree Falls

Meet my new guru!

 

 Virginia waterfall hikes

We met last weekend at Crabtree Falls in George Washington National Forest.

 

Just in time, because tomorrow marks the summer solstice here in the Northern hemisphere.

For me, June has always meant it’s time to slow down a bit. Maybe because the majority of my years have been defined by school and summer break. I realized today, that there’s only been a handful of summers that were not sandwiched between school years (either for me or my kids).

Anyway, it’s summer, and I’m back in snail mode.

snail cllose up photo macro

 

Snail mode is not really a physical pace (although it can be). Here it’s more of a mind-set.

 

brain out to lunch tweet

 

I’m going to be less concerned with the overwhelming, the never-ending measuring stick, and more in tune with

family

nature

road trips

reading

summer book crush Collage

The Art of Chasing Normal and dozens of great reads are only .99 this weekend! Just click on the image to get to the Summer Book Crush site. 

 

snail reading doodle

doodling

joy

intuition

Oh and forget perfectionism. I’ve got more important passengers.

watermelon passenger

So yummy pretty.

 

And I’m taking a deep breath of gratitude for where I am right now.

snail macro photo

What does summer (or the change of seasons) mean to you?

Happy Weekend!

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Photo Essay: The Time Machine on My Front Porch

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Life | 43 comments

love who you are owl drawing

kindergarten and first grade G

 first day school photography

first day of school photography ideas

 

photography ideas first day of school

first day of school photography idea

school photography ideas

first day school photography ideas

K through senior photography ideas

 

For more proof of my porch time machine, check out my daughter in last year’s post: The Quickening: From Baby to High School Graduate in Sixty Seconds.

happy graduation

Now I’ve got two happy graduates. :)

What’s your best advice for graduates?

Happy Monday!

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