Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Man's Love

After nearly two weeks of silence, I am back to the world of blogging! I feel refreshed and rejuvenated from my weekend in Yosemite National Park, and I feel incredibly honored that I got to be with two great friends during the festivities of their recent wedding day. How can you NOT be inspired in a place like Yosemite, and how can you be anything but humbled by the love radiating from both Mary Schwab and her new husband, Scott Siner?


During the ceremony, I had a great view of the groom's expression. From my vantage point in the back of the bridesmaid line--as one of two 5'8" bridesmaids in the midst of a 4'10" to 5' wedding party--I was absolutely overcome by the love and adoration I saw glowing in Scott's often-moist eyes.

It got me thinking... A man's love is so different from a woman's love, yet it is truly one of the most powerful forces on the planet. Strong and protective, loyal and self-sacrificing, it is the type of energy that can--and often does--move mountains.


I think this experience--and its resulting burst of inspiration--is exactly what I needed for my current work in progress. The project I'm working on is the sequel to the manuscript I'm currently shopping to agents, and this time, I'm writing from the male protagonist's point of view.

The prospect of writing as a male has me both excited and terrified. I've never written as a guy before, so I'm a little worried I'm going to make a mess of it. However, this weekend DOES leave me feeling a little more confident, and I think I'll be fine if I can just remember to make my characters love each other THIS much:


I'd also love YOUR help. Have you read any great romances--particularly YAs--from a male point of view lately? Have you ever switched genders in first-person? And do you have any tips or tricks for a first-time gender bender?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

Yay!  Holy crap, I am now the proud recipient of THREE new blog awards!  Sophie Li just bestowed me with an adorable strawberry shortcake, recognizing my "Irresistibly Sweet Blog."  (What can I say?  It's obviously those cuties in my right margin...  They're the real crowd pleasers here, not me! :))

If you haven't visited Sophie Li's blog, The Wordsmith Apprentice, you really ought to.  Not only is Sophie the most adorable Army vet and ex-parachuter you've ever seen, but she's also in the process of finishing her first manuscript, raising two kids and generally being fantastic.


My second blog award is from Pam Asberry, and it's so chic and svelte that I don't know what to do with myself!  My brand new "Stylish Blogger Award" proves once and for all that hiking boots and dirty clothes CAN be trend-setting!

As a disclaimer, take a stop by Pam's blog, Sometimes It's Cloudy, Sometimes It's Clear, to see what REAL style looks like!  Not only is Pam a writer, piano teacher, jewelry designer and single parent, but she's also an incredibly classy lady, and I'm honored someone so chic chose to give me this badge.


Last but certainly not least, Alison Beightol just bestowed me with my third honor, the "Versatile Blogger Award."  Wow, I looove this award; we are all juggling multiple paths as aspiring writers, so it's amazing to be recognized for my little corner of the world.

Alison's blog, Adventures of the Cautionary Tale, is a wonderful place to visit.  Not only does she jazz it up with hilarious pictures, but she provides tons of fun content, and she never fails to make me laugh.  If you don't know Alison yet, you really, really, really need to swing by and say hello!


Thank you SO much, ladies!  You have truly made my day!

After doing some soul searching, I am ready to pay my gifts forward.  Here are a few rules before I announce the recipients of MY blog awards:

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.

3. Pass the Sweet Blog Award to 15 blogging buddies. 
4. Pass the Stylish Blogger Award to five new-found blogging buddies.
5. Pass the Versatile Blogger Award to five fellow bloggers.
6. Contact the winners to congratulate them.


Without further ado, here are my winners (in no particular order).  Some of you I've known for awhile, and some of you I've just met, but I've been touched by your kindness, style and humor, and I'm so pleased to be able to show my appreciation for you with these awards.

IRRESISTIBLY SWEET BLOG AWARD
1. Anita Howard
2. Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC
3. Lydia K
4. EEV
5. brenda
6. Marewolf
7. Charlee
8. K. Syrah
9. Girl Parker
10. Dawn Brazil
11. Deirdra Eden-Coppel
13. K.C. Blake
14. Bethany C.
15. Jennifer Snyder

STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD
1. Rebecca Dupree
2. Moonlight Gleam
3. Talia Jager
4. Kimberly Spencer
5. Eliza Faith

VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD
1. Kalen O'Donnell
2. Katherine Jenkins
3. Coral
4. Beckah-Rah
5. Anna L. Walls

Now, on to my seven random facts.  Compiling these was great fun; I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

1. My original career goal was to be a garbage man. People think I’m kidding when I say this, but I absolutely wanted to be a garbage man when I was five or six years old. This was back in the days when garbage men actually stood on the back of the garbage trucks, and I used to stare longingly at those dudes, wishing there was some way I too could someday get paid to hang on the back of a moving vehicle. (The whole disclaimer that you actually had to stop and pick up trashcans every few feet obviously didn’t make a dent in my childhood brain.)

Photo Courtesy of California Cthulhu (Will Hart)
2. I am too tall to be Cinderella. While I attended college in Orlando, one of my dreams was to become a Disney princess at Walt Disney World. Utilizing the behind-the-scenes knowledge of some acquaintances who worked at the park, I actually managed to maneuver my way into a casting session. Upon my arrival, I was floored to learn how specific Disney’s princess requirements are. Princesses, apparently, should be between 5’4” and 5’7”, and their feet should be no larger than a size 9. (Sad news for my 5’8” and size 9.5 self!) Although I tried unsuccessfully to slouch and scrunch in my toes, I was quickly dismissed, and that was the end of my Disney princess dream. As a parting gift, however, I was cast as a dancer in Epcot’s Tapestry of Dreams parade, and I spent the next year and a half dancing, sweating, and smiling my gold-painted face off!

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

Summer 2003: That's me!!
3. I’m a crappy surfer, and I apparently don’t have the sense to stay out of shark-infested waters. I lack upper arm strength, but that didn’t stop me from really, really, really trying to pick up surfing during the six months I lived and worked as an apprentice chef in Australia. (I know, random, right? I’m almost as bad at cooking as I am at surfing.) The crowning jewel of this failed attempt at greatness took place off the coast of Adelaide when my friend Simon and I spent an afternoon surfing on a fantastic, hidden and remarkably empty stretch of beach just south of wine country. Upon our return to town, a few locals stopped us. Seeing our boards, they asked us where we’d been, and their jaws dropped when we told them the name of the beach and remarked how unusual we’d found it to be so empty on such a beautiful day. Yep, you guessed it. The beach was renowned great white territory, and none of the locals were stupid enough to step foot in the surf. (I still get the willies when I tell this story!)

Photo Courtesy of Terry Goss, Wikimedia Commons
4. I once lived in a tent for four and a half months. I spent the summer of 2004 living and working in Yosemite National Park, and my assigned employee housing was a 10’ x 10’ tent with canvas walls, a wooden floor and a pair of creaking, rusted army cots. (Did I mention I SHARED this 10’ x 10’ tent with a roommate??) Despite this rustic housing, I truly view those 4.5 months as an amazing turning point in my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. By living simply, I realized how much crap I actually didn’t need in my life. My summer in Yosemite also cemented my love of the outdoors, and I don’t think I would be where I am today if not for the lessons I learned while hiking, biking, stargazing and floating down the Merced River. (I will actually be returning to Yosemite next week to be a bridesmaid in my Yosemite roommate’s wedding. Mary Schwab, you are an angel, and I can’t wait to be part of your big day!!)

Photo Courtesy of Rainer Marks, Wikimedia Commons
5. The tattoo my left foot depicts the footprints of my six favorite animals at the Alaska Zoo. When my husband and I made the difficult decision to leave Alaska after nearly four fantastic years (see Thoughts on Leaving the Last Frontier), I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my job at the Alaska Zoo without taking along mementos of my six favorite animals. The result was this tattoo, which symbolizes (from bottom to top) Knobby the Bactrian camel, Elf the moose, Tracy the mountain goat, Mac the red fox, Max the raccoon and Peabody the great horned owl. (I have many more zoo loves, but these six animals in particular touched my life in so many ways that I’m ecstatic I get to carry them around with me every day.)

My bony feets!
6. I survived a horrific car crash last October, and nothing has been quite the same since. During my husband’s and my exodus from Alaska last October, we ran into a patch of black ice on a remote stretch of the Alaska Highway just south of the town of Fort Nelson in northern British Columbia. (See The Product of Post-Crash Insomnia) Our truck flipped six times and one of our two dogs was tossed out the back window, but we all miraculously survived. (My husband, our boy dog and I suffered only minor scrapes and bruises, and our girl dog suffered a hairline fracture on her pelvis, which healed after six weeks or so.) Although we walked away mostly unharmed, I couldn’t sleep for weeks, and I was haunted by the idea that the sum of our lives—our memories, our relationships, our goals and our dreams—could have been extinguished so easily in that split-second. The accident taught me many things, and the strongest of these is that we should ALWAYS tell people how we feel about them. If they are important to us, they should know that, because we might never get a second chance to express that. (On that note, thank you—ALL of you—for stopping by to visit me here. I know I’ve never met most of you in real-life, and I know I don’t know most of you very well yet, but our commonality and purpose as aspiring writers {most of us, anyway} is so powerful, and I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve found all of you to share in this journey with me.)

July 4, 2009: Milk Glacier, Girdwood, Alaska
7. A snake took a ride on my backpack this Tuesday. Now that I’ve gotten all “Debbie Downer” on you, I’ll end on a funny note. I’m currently working as the Director of Education at a nature center in Denver, and I had a huge field trip group out at the site this Tuesday. As I was wrapping up their field trip program, I set down my backpack to say goodbye to the teachers and pass out evaluations and whatnot. After leaving the backpack unattended for no more than five minutes, I picked it up, slung it over my shoulder and headed back to our educational shed to put my gear down. As I turned a corner, I caught a flash of movement at the corner of my eye, and THIS SNAKE fell off my backpack and hit the ground at my feet. WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? I’m not really allowed to be afraid of snakes in my line of work, and I’ve worked with enough of them that I’ve kind of gotten over my girlish fear of them, but OH MY GOD. How are you supposed to NOT freak out when a 16-inch bull snake falls off your backpack and lands on the ground at your feet??? The best part, of course, was the fact that I had to grab a stick, pick this guy up, and run him to a safe place before the kids found him. Yikes!!!

Photo Courtesy of Antonio Muniz
That's all from me...  I can't wait to hear YOUR seven facts!! :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taming the Wild

Photo Courtesy of Todd Huffman
I’ve been saving this article for awhile because it’s kind of a long one, but I’m absolutely obsessed with it, so this week seems as good a time as any to share it.

For more than a half century, researchers at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Siberia have been studying the process of animal domestication through research with a large breeding group of red foxes. With each generation of fox kits born at the facility, biologist Dmitry Belyaev and his colleagues have selected the most approachable babies, and these foxes have been bred with other approachable foxes for the next generation. By the mid-1960s—after only a few generations of selective breeding—the experiment began working beyond what Belyaev could have imagined. The new generations of fox kits were not just unafraid of humans, but they were actively seeking to bond with them. Their appearance was also changing, and the new “domesticated” foxes began showing floppier ears, curlier tails and mottled, unique coats of fur.

The experiment is kind of wacky—in a “Big Brother” sort of way—but it also demonstrates how the process of domestication has shaped the lives of many of humankind’s most familiar animals, including dogs, cats, sheep, llamas, goats, pigs, etc. It also proves that domestication takes place on a molecular level.

(And now that I’m done nerdin’ it up for you, here’s the article, "Taming the Wild" by Evan Ratliff.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! :))

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Alaska Zoo's Newest Baby!!


The Alaska Zoo just rescued a baby polar bear! Check out this article from the Associated Press, take a few moments to enjoy this wonderful video by zoo photographer John Gomes, and then read on to see what Executive Director Pat Lampi has to say about the zoo's newest orphan. (Here are a few more photos, also courtesy of John Gomes: Orphaned Polar Bear Cub.)  Apparently, this baby will be on "Good Morning America" tomorrow morning, so you can say you knew her before she was famous!

The Alaska Zoo is pleased to work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and to provide temporary care for this orphaned, female polar bear cub. The Alaska Zoo already has two adult polar bears and does not have additional permanent exhibit space at this time.

AK Zoo staff has cared for 45 orphaned or injured bear cubs over the past 25 years: eight polar bears, 32 brown bears and five black bears. This polar bear cub had spent at least two days without her mother’s care in the Arctic, with temperatures dipping well below 0 degrees F.

The cub’s wellbeing is, of course, everyone’s foremost concern. She needs time to regain her health and some of the weight she lost. The polar bear cub will not be on public display any time soon. Changes to this status would be determined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, if they deem it appropriate. USF&WS will also be determining the permanent placement of the bear. AZA/Polar bear SSP officials have been contacted so that they may make their recommendations for permanent placement.

Thank you,

Patrick Lampi
Executive Director
Alaska Zoo


(P.S.- How jealous am I right now?? I helped raise many of the zoo's baby brown bears, but a POLAR BEAR shows up the second I leave the state! ;))

(P.P.S- John Gomes just shared another video with me! See it here first!!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The First Bi-Annual Wonderland Bloggy Awards!

Let's face it, Mondays are generally the very worst day of the week--especially for those of us currently in the midst of the horrible literary agent submission process. Not only do we have to wake up early and drag ourselves to work, but we also have to check our email for rejections.

Agents seem to work in a flurry on Mondays, so we cross our fingers that our query letters haven't been dumped into the "let's clear out this inbox and fire off some rejections!" Monday slush pile. We hold our breath as we watch our emails download, and we feel a pit in our stomach every time we see the words "Re: QUERY" appear like magic between letters from friends and advertisements for 1-800-Flowers or WeightWatchers.com. Could it be a partial or full request, an offer of representation, or is it simply a "Dear Author" form rejection letter? Sometimes, I don't even want to click and find out.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I checked my email and realized I actually had some good news waiting for me instead. The lovely, positive and always amazing Anita Howard actually spent her weekend creating beautiful badges for her Blogger friends, and she was generous enough to give me my very first blogging award: her Inspirational Blog Award. I almost melted, and look at the beautiful badge my blog now gets to wear!


If you haven't found her already, I'd HIGHLY suggest getting to know Anita through her blog, "A Still and Quiet Madness" and through her thoughtful posts (as raven1) on QueryTracker.net.  Here's the link to her First Bi-Annual Wonderland Bloggy Awards, and I'm sure she'd appreciate it if you visited her.  Thanks again, Anita; you have truly made my day! :)