Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 11/30/11 & PPW Event

I've been wanting to post this little guy for awhile. He's an Asiatic Black Bear, and I think he's adorable.

These guys are sort of hidden at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but it's fun to visit them. The Asiatic Black Bears climb trees in their habitat, and the zoo does enrichment where they send a snack down in a paper bag on a zipline, which is always fun to watch, because the bears love it. You can visit the bears at the zoo or HERE.

These guys are found in, gasp, Asia! They like honey, just like Pooh Bear. Some interesting bear facts (not just Asiatic): A male is called a boar, a female a sow, and a group of bears is called a sloth or sleuth, which otherwise have entirely different meanings, of course. More info on bears HERE.

I'm a bit behind on responding to comments and visiting, but will catch up this week.

Also, I wanted to let people know about an event for kids and teens at the Citadel Mall, here in Colorado Springs, put on by Pikes Peak Writers in partnership with other groups. There will be crafts and creative activities for smaller kids, Hunger Games activities for teens, and visits from Santa and The Fairy Godmother. More information can be found HERE.

Lastly, I will be posting about a Flash Fiction Contest within the next couple days (Monday, at the latest). Keep an eye out! I'm excited to be helming this project for the Pikes Peak Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. The contest will be open to non-members, male and female alike, which is my favorite part! I'm not a fan of excluding any gender from events.

Any fun activities in your neck of the woods? Ever seen an Asiatic Black Bear? Aren't they the cutest?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter Length: Does it Really Matter? And Other Nitpicky Fears.

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend, got the deals of their lives and didn't get trampled at Walmart (or pepper sprayed)! To you NaNo'ers out there, good luck in the final stretch!

One thing conferences and writer's groups are good for is making a person even more insecure about their writing. What? Yes, it's me, the person who is typically speaking about how great it is to talk to other authors. The person who encourages everyone to do the same. However, it cannot be denied that the inspiration brought on by being around other artistic types sometimes brings with it a sense of failure or panic on your part when you begin to compare yourself to them.

The latest insecurity I'd like to write about is chapter length. This is one of those things I never would have considered as being an issue until I started being active in the writing community. All of a sudden, people are talking about how your chapter lengths should be consistent for more fluidity in your book. Say what? Is that something ELSE I have to stress over while writing and editing? Do I now have to go through and pare down my chapters, or bulk them up, just so they can be a consistent length throughout the book?

You see, I now happen to have been part of several conversations on the topic. There are writers who write down the number of pages and words in each chapter to keep track. They journal the exact numbers in order to be able to edit them to where they need to be to be similar. Others go back through to check how well they kept to the same numbers, but don't necessarily keep track as they go. Still others set the goal for word count in a particular chapter before they even begin. Then, of course, there are those who just keep them consistent without even trying. You know...THOSE.

Where am I in this? I just write! When did that become obsolete? Some of my chapters are a bit longer, while others are shorter. If the scene is completed, why shouldn't I start a new chapter? Now, if it's too long, I'll split it into a separate chapter, so, yes, part of me does think there's something pleasant about there not being too massive a discrepancy, I suppose, or maybe I just don't like super long chapters. That actually sounds more like it.

I'm not just picking on chapter length here, but it's a symptom of something I see all around. We over-analyze when we should just be writing. We look at something someone else points out and begin to question ourselves because it never occurred to us before. Are we doing something wrong? Is our writing lacking something that other person's might not be? Is this something I need to change, to pay attention to, to address? Is this important? Will it cost me a book deal?



It's natural to examine the things you do. It's natural to doubt yourself, to question yourself. It's also natural to compare yourself to others, especially when they seem more accomplished or successful. However, we cannot allow this to get in the way of the important parts. Just create. Worry about the logistics later.

And when you're hanging out with others of your ilk, take what they say in the spirit they're giving it. Typically, they don't think they're better than you. They have doubts, too. They don't know if everything they're doing is perfectly correct, or even if it will work for others. So they talk about it with you. They throw it out there and see how you respond. Instead of internalizing it, discuss the merits and drawbacks with them, tell them how you do it, what you think about it. Have a dialog, but don't draw it inside you and let it eat away at you. What you're doing is right for you.

What about you? Do you think a book is best when the chapters are equal lengths? What do you nitpick about?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving out to those who celebrate it today! And to those who don't, Happy Thursday and Approaching Weekend!

May this be a weekend of inspiration, family and relaxation (well, for those who don't do Black Friday, anyway).

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 11/23/11

I'm mostly on vacation this week, so here's a wordy [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday entry for you. An image full of words (borrowed from Facebook), but no further commentary from me. You should be able to click on the image to enlarge it. Have a wonderful week!

Which ones really grab you? Any you don't agree with?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cool Places to Visit for Movie Fans

Since I'm currently visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining, I thought I'd list a couple places movie fans might enjoy visiting.

First, of course, I must talk about the Stanley. Stephen King lived in Boulder, Colorado for a time, which is why some of his books are actually set in Colorado instead of Maine. He stayed in Room 217 of the Stanley, at one point, and was inspired to write The Shining, though he only developed the concept there. It has been rumored in the past that he wrote most of it there, but this isn't true. The Stanley was not used in Kubrick's film version of the book, but it was used in King's mini-series version for some of the scenes.

One can't mention filming locations and The Shining in the same post without also mentioning the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon. This is where the exterior shots of Kubrick's version of The Shining were filmed. Stephen King wasn't happy with this setting, but a lot of people have seen the film, so it's worth mentioning. The interior shots were done on sound stages, which Kubrick made to look like various hotels he had visited.

Playing a bit of Six Degrees here, I've mentioned the sign before, but you can visit various places in Oregon where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed. Jack Nicholson starred in both this film and Kubrick's version of The Shining. You can view the duck crossing sign in Salem, Oregon, as well as the Oregon State Mental Hospital it was filmed in. Depoe Bay, Oregon was also in the movie. It's a great little coastal city to visit along the Pacific Coast Highway, especially if you enjoy beaches, whale sightings and kite flying.

Also in Oregon, you can visit the neat little homes from The Goonies in Astoria, Oregon. Several other movies were filmed here, including Kindergarten Cop and Short Circuit ("No disassemble!") Getting back to The Goonies, you can view Mikey's house, still intact. The bridge from just about every movie filmed here is still standing and stretches across to Washington to give you a nice little jaunt across the bay.

Lastly, for you Harry Potter fans out there, how about a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for Hogwarts looking out the window of The Elephant House cafe. The photos are of The Elephant House and Edinburgh Castle, from one of hubby's business trips (No, I've never gotten to go there, but golly gee whiz, I did get a coffee cup from there! phlbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbt!). They were taken by one of his co-workers. I had to edit the hubster out of the castle photo, and the Elephant House photo is the only one he wasn't in to begin with, so they aren't the best:

These are but a very few of the places you can visit to see visible remnants of the movies you love. Feel free to throw out any others you'd recommend!

What would you consider a great place for movie fans to visit?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 11/16/11 & ShaNoEdWriMo Update

First, the ShaNoEdWriMo update:

Out of 5 chapters to edit, I edited 5! Yay! I also edited those five over and over, because I submitted my novel for the Pikes Peak Writer's writing contest.

Out of 5000 words, I wrote...well, not 5000, I'm pretty sure. I think I'm in the neighborhood of 3547 unless I'm missing something, but I'm pretty sure I counted everything.

And I'm okay with that! Not only did I get a piece ready for a contest, but I did so with a nasty tooth ache that ended up requiring "emergency" oral surgery. I put emergency in quotes since they couldn't get me in right away and I got to go all weekend in intense pain when it had already been three days of pain before I went in (which is, of course, my fault). I would say that is not so bad!

And for [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, how about a beach photo?

This photo was taken at Beverly Beach in Oregon, north of Newport (where Keiko, better known as Willie of Free Willie fame resided) and south of Astoria (where the Goonies was filmed.) I regret to say that, despite a childhood spent in Oregon, I don't believe I've ever been to the Goonies beach in Astoria. Sad, I know.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing about anything interesting happening at Beverly Beach. You can see the Yaquina Head lighthouse when you look down the beach, and the beach, itself, is gorgeous. There is a camping area right outside the beach, surrounded by these giant ancient trees. I felt like I was walking with dinosaurs when I hiked through the trees, and I got a ton of photos, though they were all point-and-shoot camera photos. I hope to go back and photograph with my SLR in the next year.

I will say, for those of you who like sea life, you can see whales, great white sharks, sea lions, and pools of sea urchins and starfish along this and adjacent Oregon beaches. I used to love watching the whales go by, though I've never seen a great white (fortunately or unfortunately?).

The photo's dark because it was night, but I liked how moody that formation was in the low light. Even though I can't see the water, I hear the waves, feel the breeze and smell the fresh sea air when I look at that picture. Those waves used to lull me to sleep at night when I stayed at my grandmother's house, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to go visit for awhile and write in the little loft to the the crashing of the waves and the the call of the seagulls.

The beaches in Oregon are unusual compared to beaches on the east coast (though my experience of each is limited to a few beaches). While there is fine sand at some of the Oregon beaches, there are also massive black rocks and large, rounded black pebbles at others. The water was always super cold, the wind a constant companion. Thanks to the heavily treed coastline, there were always bleached tree corpses littering the beach. You can see some less weathered trees in the photo above.

Ever been to Beverly Beach? Another Oregon beach? Do you enjoy the beach? Find it inspirational?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Photo Usage Legalities for Bloggers

For the longest time, I refused to post any photos here that had not been taken by myself. Then I decided that if I did a proper source attribution it must be fine, right? Wrong. In looking at the issue again, I've discovered that, without proper written consent from the owner of an image, even proper attribution will not protect me if someone decides they didn't want me to use their images. Which, of course, would be well within their rights.

Written consent is not required in cases where the photos are clearly labeled as public domain, such as if they mention a Creative Commons license. More information can be found at I've linked you to the FAQ page.

Since I don't want to merely be bursting people's bubbles, I thought I'd pass along a few sites that have free stock photos. You can also find sites that charge a small amount, if you would prefer going that route. You will typically find better photos there. However, I've used some of these sites for good, useful photos, as well. Here are the free sites I know of: (Which also has pay photos; be sure to read the requirements for photo usage from the site) (You must create an account, but it is free of charge)

You may also have luck by searching for "public domain images," "free digital images," "creative commons photos," or something similar. I have not yet used all of the above sites, but have come across them in searching for photos in the past.

I intend to go back through my posts this week and remove any images I used without first attaining permission or that I didn't get from a free stock photo site. I figure better safe than sorry.

Do you know of any other free photo sites, especially ones you have used personally? Any input on the photo rules for bloggers?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feature Friday Features: "Cowboys and Dragons at the Cafe" & a Blog Fest

Feature Friday is a meme hosted by The Warrior Muse that encourages you to feature a blog of your choice each Friday to introduce others to blogs you enjoy. Anyone can participate. You can choose these blogs however you like and spotlight them in any way you please. Be sure you include a link in your post to the blog you wish to feature, copy the button above, and enter your blog on the linky list at the end of this post. I hope to see some others joining in so I can discover new bloggers!

Today, The Warrior Muse is featuring Cowboys and Dragons at the Cafe, a blog with multiple posters, all writers who belong to a critique group. If you live on the Western Slope in Colorado, they're holding NaNo writing meetings, as three of them are participating. Check out Mike and his fellow writers for varying viewpoints, genres and discussions on writing.

Also, a quick mention of a new blog fest coming up. Shelly, of The Life of a Novice Writer is hosting her first blog fest: The Crazy Alternate Reality Blogfest on December 3rd. While I can't participate on this one, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Any blogs you'd recommend? Blog Fests I haven't heard of?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 11/9/11, ShaNoEdWriMo Update & Contest

Before the [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday photo, I thought I'd do my penance and post an update on ShaNoEdWriMo really quickly. My current goal is 5000 words per week, 5 chapters edited. Of that, I got 0 chapters edited (I haven't even SEEN my office in the last week) and 2886 words written.


At least it wasn't zero words written, right? I intend to do better this week. I have to be home enough for that to be possible, considering all those words written were done so in snatches when I was somewhere other than home. Sigh.

I also wanted to remind people of the Pikes Peak Writers' Fiction Writing Contest. The final deadline is November 15. Details here. They are also holding weekly NaNo write-ins at the Citadel Mall, here in Colorado Springs. Check this page for more details.

Now, say hello to my little friend (said in a terrible fake Cuban accent because that's what I heard in my head a la Scarface).

This little guy is one of my backyard visitors. When I had cats he and his pals liked to harass them endlessly, throw things at them, taunt them with their tails, chatter at them about this and that, usually angrily. The magpies thought it was a ton of fun, too.

Did you know that, "relative to its size, the squirrel's jaws are the most powerful of any animal?" You can thank The White Squirrel for that factoid.

Did you know that, other than nuts and acorns squirrels eat "wheat, fruit, bird’s eggs, mushrooms, berries, oak buds, corn, insects, moths, nesting birds." That factoid is thanks to All About Squirrels. Did you read the nesting birds part twice? Because I did. Suddenly, they are not so cute!

How are your November writing goals going? Do you get squirrels around your place? Is that a good thing or a bad things?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shifters, Weres & Walkers, Oh My! Research & Field Trip No. 2

With the popularity of Urban Fantasy, we're seeing a lot of animal characters, usually in the form of weres/shifters, but skinwalkers are starting to trickle in, as well. Some of the presented characters are remarkably well done, the pureness of the beast brought across in stunning descriptions, while others are dull and uninspired. If you're going to write a character with animal traits, whatever the form may be, you will appeal to readers more if you've painted both sides of your character in equally vibrant hues.

An excellent way to do this is to observe the animals you're portraying in person. One good place for this is the zoo, which most people should have access to, though it may mean a day trip to another city. If the zoo is a good one, you should be able to observe the animal in an environment similar to their natural one, which should give you some insights.

An even better way to do it is to find a conservation site near you. This one is harder to come by, but extremely gratifying if you can find it. This year, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit two such places, and will hopefully visit another in the spring or summer. Most exciting about that future visit is that they have a black leopard, which is an animal I'll be writing about in my next novel. I can't wait!!

The two sites I've gotten to visit were The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center and The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, both of which are wonderful places that obviously care about their animals (one has all wolves and wolf-dogs, while the other also has foxes and coyotes). The place I went yesterday, the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, actually allowed us several hours of visiting in the pens with the wolves. It was an amazing experience, and one I hope to repeat in the not-too-distant future. There is nothing like personal interaction to really get the feeling for an animal, especially one as misunderstood and maligned as wolves.

Another benefit to visiting one of these places is that you get to support the very animals you are writing about. Many of these places rely on donations, alone, such as the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation I visited. The owner, Mark Johnson, gives three hour tours (yes, every time I say it I hear Gilligan's Island theme music) where you get to interact with his wolves completely free. He never asked us for a donation, even. He is entirely dedicated to his wolves and they, in turn, are well cared for and loved. This is the type of place I like to support, and I'm glad that I'm able to do so while also getting the experience of a lifetime and possible research for future stories. Some photos will be posted at the end of this post.

I know that I am very lucky to live in a place that offers the kind of access I have to places where I can study wildlife. If you aren't in an area like this one, you can observe similar animals in person, such as cats or dogs. Though they aren't the same, they have similarities that can be conducive to your descriptions. Watch how they move, how they eat, how they react to things. Though they are domesticated, they still have much in common with their untamed brethren.

Lastly, there are animal documentaries galore! If you can't visit or observe animals in person, check out documentaries and do your research on their habits. You will still be able to watch them, and in fact, will more often get to see them in their wild settings, which is great information to have.

This may all seem like a lot of work, but I assure you that it's worth it to really get the correct characterizations down. Of course, if your shifter or were acts and moves like a hairy human, I suppose research isn't all that necessary, other than observing hairy humans in their natural habitats. If your character is supposed to take on an animal's attributes, your writing will truly come alive when you present them in vivid living color.

The following photos are from the wolves of Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation:

This is Baby; she is a sweetheart who likes kisses and belly rubs.

Baby again.


Baby howling back at Josie, a wolf-dog in another pen.

Apache (who I've posted pics of before); he was digging under their shared house.

I think this was Apache, as well, standing on top of their house.

Lakota, who I found just gorgeous (of course, they all were); he is Apache's brother.

Lakota doing a little snacking.

~nom, nom, nom~

Side view of Lakota

Merlin, who has never been touched by human hands.

Merlin, watching us closely.

Another of Merlin.

Zoya, a part-wolf, part-Siberian husky. She has one blue eye and one amber.

Zoya getting a belly rub (sort of amazing to have a wolf offer up their belly to you; several of them did so, all female, I believe).

Cherokee, Apache and Lakota's sister, who was also quite a fan of belly rubs.

Thanks for looking! As always, all photos are mine alone, and cannot be used or copied without my permission.

Aren't they gorgeous?! Have you had the opportunity to visit rescued wild animals at a conservation center? How do you research your animal characters?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Feature Friday Features: "Timeout2 Blog"

Feature Friday is a meme hosted by The Warrior Muse that encourages you to feature a blog of your choice each Friday to introduce others to blogs you enjoy. Anyone can participate. You can choose these blogs however you like and spotlight them in any way you please. Be sure you include a link in your post to the blog you wish to feature, copy the button above, and enter your blog on the linky list at the end of this post. I hope to see some others joining in so I can discover new bloggers!

Today I'd like to feature a fellow Pen Woman, Doris Dembosky at Timeout2 Blog. She is a published and award winning author who writes about writing, the arts and life in small town Westcliffe, CO. She posts gorgeous photos of the Colorado landscape, which is always something I find enjoyable. She also posts a Writers' Trigger at the end of each of her posts and is listed on my tab for blogs that post prompts.

Any blogs you'd like to recommend this week? The linky stays open until Thursday of the following week.

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 11/2/11

It may be two days after Halloween, but why not embrace it all year? Okay, okay, maybe just the week?

This [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday photo may not be creepy on its own merit, what with all the sunshine and blue sky, but if you look at it right there's plenty to see. I'd love to photograph this particular formation on a foggy day or with a storm in the background, something to properly set the scene.

I call this Gargoyle Rock. No, that's not its proper name, but if I'm playing tour guide I can call it whatever I want!! It is, of course, a rock formation at Garden of the Gods, here in Colorado Springs.

Though I call it Gargoyle Rock, it can be seen in other ways. You know the demon (devil?) from Fantasia? Some days it looks more like him, sitting on a rock, head turned away from me, one big leathery wing hanging down his side, back slightly hunched. He's having an intellectual pause, pondering his evil ways. Where did he go wrong? Would he be happier if he were good? Are wings in this year?

What do YOU see in this rock formation?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ShaNoEdWriMo...Say What?!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!

After some thought on NaNoWriMo, I decided that starting a new novel right now would be quite the opposite of helpful, so instead of participating in NaNoWriMo, I've made my own:

ShaNoEdWriMo or Shannon's Novel Editing and Writing Month.

I didn't do NaNoWriMo last year, either, but it still helped me get moving and make progress on my novel. I set a different goal last year of 30,000 words completed on the novel I was already working on, and I met that goal! I'm aiming for that same sort of aid this year, so I'm once again making my own goals for the month.

My goals are as follows:
*5000 words written per week (can be fiction or non-fiction, and any medium)
*5 chapters edited on my Lonely Hollow novel per week

While I can set these goals at any time, November brings along with it the energy of NaNoWriMo. Other authors are either following the NaNo goals or making their own (I can't be the only one!). That energy can be infectious. In addition, there are support systems everywhere, thanks to NaNo. I can pop onto Facebook, Blogger, Twitter and various other places at any time and find someone else trying to meet their goals. I'm hoping this community energy is beneficial.

Having said that, I set goals regularly to help me through. These ones are maybe a little more stringent, but if they work, I'd love to be able to keep them going. If they don't work, I can tinker with them and find out what is possible and go with that from here on out. Lacking flexibility will get me nowhere.

On a side note, if you're in the Pikes Peak region, Pikes Peak Writers is hosting write-ins for NaNoWriMo (or their very own NaNoTryMo, which involves setting your own rules, as well) each Tuesday at the Citadel Mall. More information on that can be found HERE. You can participate in these write-ins whether you're participating in NaNo or not. I intend to make at least one, if not more, though I will be missing today's.

Are you participating in NaNo? Are you following the proper rules or making your own? What are they? Is this your first year of doing some sort of WriMo?

May you find your Muse.