Thursday, September 11, 2008

Help Me, Rhonda (Or Whomever)

By next Monday, I need to submit an author photo to Moon to go with my book. This photo will appear on the inside back cover next to my author bio. It can also be used for publicity purposes and could appear in any articles or reviews that may ever be written about the book. Ahh, the pressure! What picture to choose. This task has been hanging over my head for weeks, but I just can't make a decision. First of all, I don't have that many pictures of myself. We tend to take pictures of bugs and birds and trees and flowers and waterfalls and vistas...but not people. Secondly, in the photos I do have of myself, I'm usually being goofy and making strange faces. And thirdly, I can't decide what style I want this photo to have. Do I want more of a headshot or something taken from farther away? Do I want to look like a hiker (to give me some credence since this is a hiking book) or do I want to look pretty?

I don't know. So I want your opinion. Below you will find the photos under consideration. Please leave me a comment and let me know which one you think I should choose. (You can leave a second and third place vote too if you case they come back to me and decide the one I choose is to close up or too far away, or you know, too pretty:-) )

Also, if you're interested, you can go to the Moon Homepage and check out the various guides through the links under the Handbooks, Metro, Outdoors, and Living Abroad sections on the right side. You can then click on any title to see the author photos of others.

Please, please, please vote. This decision can not be left up to me alone!







(The image will appear in black and white in most places, which is why I'm showing them to you that way, even though they are all actually color photos.)

(Also, I've posted twice today---prolific, I know. So after you vote, go read the post below too if you haven't already.)

Help Save a Life

Unfortunately, we probably all know someone who has been affected by cancer. The many different types of this disease are treated in many different ways, but for some people, the best hope is a bone marrow transplant. Too often, however, finding a donor is a difficult, if not impossible, task. So many factors come into play, and a perfect match is rare, with a family member often being the best hope. For those without a matching family member, the best hope lies with a generous donor, someone who joined the national bone marrow registry.

Have you considered joining this registry? If you haven't, but are interested in the possibility, now's the time to act. Normally the registry asks that you make a donation of $52 when you join, in order to cover the cost of testing. However, from September 7 to September 22, a sponsor is covering the cost, so you can register for free. Take a moment to consider this option, and then, if you wish, use this link to register.

After registering, you'll receive a kit in the mail, which you'll use to swab the inside of your cheek. The registry will then use the swab as a tissue culture and add you to the list. Should this culture appear to be a match for someone in need, you'll be contacted and asked to undergo further tests, and then should those also indicate a match, you'll be asked to donate marrow. (Just so you know, the chance you'll actually be a match is small, but the chances of a person in need finding a match are even smaller if you don't register.) While the registering part is completely painless, donating bone marrow can be a bit painful (just want to be upfront and honest, since I don't think you should register unless you truly intend to be a donor if you're called upon). BUT, in my opinion, the amount of pain you may suffer is truly a drop in the bucket compared to the joy you'd experience from knowing you helped save someone's life. Anyhow, I encourage you to consider the option and then click on the link above if you're interested. You can also find more information on bone marrow transplants and the donation process by following that link.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Out of My Hands

Because I've had a few people ask, I thought I'd write a post and declare that yes, indeed, I am done with the book! I submitted the manuscript, maps, and photos on Friday before I left on Saturday for Stockholm (where I am now, in case you didn't know). The book is with my editor. I'll see it again (probably in early November to answer queries from the copy editor, and then again in late December for a final blueline proof of it), but the bulk of the work is done, and the manuscript is now on its way to becoming bound copy. It should hit the shelves sometime next spring. I'll definitely update about that when I know more. Working on this book has been a rewarding (but oh so tiring) endeavor. Though I enjoyed working on it over the past six (!) months, I have to say that it feels good to be done. I can now truly revel in my free time (and finally finish planning our trip).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maybe I'm Heartless

Have you read any of the many articles on CNN about the baby whale in Australia that has lost its mother? Well, after multiple failed attempts to reunite the baby with its mother...or some other mother that would feed it...authorities have decided to euthanize the whale, which is going to die anyways.

Lots of people are very, very upset about this. I don't get it. I also don't get why they're going to the trouble of euthanizing the whale instead of just letting it die naturally or become a meal for some other hungry animal.

This is nature people. The mother probably left the calf for good reason. Or maybe the mother fell victim to the food chain. Without the mother, the calf cannot survive. Period. End of story. Is that sad? Maybe. If you want to feel sad, I'm okay with that. But spending time, money, and energy on trying to rescue the whale seems silly to me. Quit trying to fuck with the circle of life. And if you're so compassionate and have so much money and time, I'm sure there are plenty of starving people who would be happy to have your attention.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cape Cod Article in Frederick News-Post

A few weeks ago, when I had approximately 3.5 free seconds, I decided that was way too much free time. Being completely out of my mind, I sent off in that moment a query to my editor at the Frederick News-Post and ended up with an assignment to write an article about Cape Cod. I managed to pull one together in about a week's time, and it was published last Sunday (I'm late posting this notice, but if you saw the state of my house right now, you'd understand). You can read it here. I would have preferred the story to be no more than the first section on the Cape Cod League, but the FNP wanted a more general story, so that's what it is. The print version has 7 photos enclosed. I'm sorry they aren't all available online, but you've all probably seen them before as many appeared with my recounting of our trip on the blog last August/September.

I haven't posted this to my writing website yet and probably won't for a while. I'm hoping to revamp the site while I'm in Sweden. We'll see if that happens... I have many good intentions these days, but I need the days to be about 48 hours each if I'm even to stand a chance at getting them done.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Hiking Book in Numbers

As of last Sunday, all the hiking for my book is complete. Now it's just finishing up the writing and editing. Hooray!

A look at the experience in numbers:

I did 80 hikes with a total distance of over 400 miles.
The longest hike was 10.7 miles.
The shortest hike was 1.25 miles.
The most hiking I did in one day was 21.1 miles.
I hiked on 36 different days between March and the first weekend of August.
In the process, I drove (or rode) over 4,375 miles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lotus Bloom

I took this photo today at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and just wanted to share it because I love it so much. I may post other images later, as the gardens are in full bloom right now and just astoundingly beautiful, but for now you can enjoy this one perfect bloom.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's a Weird World

Check out these interesting creatures that Jeff caught on film (ok, SD card) while we were hiking in Prince William Forest Park last weekend. Don't they look like they belong in some Japanese cartoon?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blackberries and Hail Marys

This weekend, Jeff and I were supposed to go camping in the George Washington National Forest, but the weather did not cooperate. A forecast of rain and thunderstorms had us wary, and when we woke to rain on Friday, we said no way. We were going to be doing primitive camping and three days of being sopping wet sounded less than appealing.

Not getting in any hikes would have really killed our schedule, however, so we headed south toward Richmond where the forecast looked better. It was hot and humid but not rainy as we marched off the miles at Pocahontas State Park and Belle Isle. Things looked fine as we headed on to Lake Anna, and as we got started on our 5-mile excursion, we could hear the roar of boat motors on the lake and the sounds of people enjoying Independence Day. About halfway into the hike, those sounds began to be replaced by the roll of thunder. It was distant, however, and the skies were still looking good. Plus at this point, we'd be just as quick finishing up the hike as we would be backtracking. We thought we'd just hurry along and hopefully make it out before the storm rolled in.

But that's before we saw the blackberries. Lining a clearing through which we had to pass were bush after bush after bush of first-of-the-season berries. I grabbed a couple to snack on, and then offhandedly said to Jeff, "We ought to pick these and take them home and make a cobbler." The word "cobbler" perked his ears right up and got him rooting through my backpack looking for a bag to gather them in. A quarter-full bag of dried mangoes was the best we could come up with, but that didn't stop us. We'd walk a few steps, grab a few berries, walk a few steps, grab a few berries---until the trail ducked back into the woods and left the bushes behind. At this point, we didn't have enough to make much of anything, but lo and behold the trail spit us back out into the clearing. We were destined to gather blackberries. And that's what we the thunder got louder and the sky got grayer. "Just one more" seemed to be our mantra. Or "Oh that one's just too perfect to pass up."

Eventually we had not just a full bag but a couple of extra handfuls too. And that's when we decided to put it into high gear and take off. It was too late, however, as the wind picked up and the sky turned black. Thunder clapped. And lightning, still a bit distant, crackled. We were off and running...or sort of. You try running with an overflowing bag of berries and hands gently clasping the extras. It's not easy. And we had at least 1.5 miles, if not 2.0 to go.

With a huge clash of thunder, the skies opened. Wind shook the trees and small branches rained down along with huge drops of water. Lightning pierced the sky, much closer than I'd prefer. This was a big, bad storm, and it was right overhead. And so we ran and ran, through puddles and along the trail as it ran with us, washed out by the rain. A litany of Hail Marys passed through my lips. When you've got nothing else you can do, prayer seems as good as plan as any.

I'll admit, it was a bit scary...but still we held onto those berries as we sloshed our way back to the car, sopping wet but with nearly all our berries in tow and intact.

So okay, it wasn't the brightest thing we could have done. But damn if that blackberry cobbler isn't delicious.

(And now, after a much less eventful hike on Sunday, I also have a bowlful of raspberries in my refrigerator waiting to be turned into sorbet. Mmm. I feel so darn pioneering.)

**Parents no need for alarm. Jeff and I maintained a good distance between ourselves as we ran, so if one of us was struck by lightning, the other one wouldn't be and could give CPR. That makes you feel better, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Debut in the Short Story World

Months and months ago, I read about a short story contest that Bethesda magazine was hosting, and I made plans to enter it. But of course things got busy, and I never got around to writing my story, and so I decided to forgo entering. Then about two days before the deadline, and one day before my brother Matthew and his girlfriend Amanda came in to town, I decided that I would be dumb not to enter because hey what if no one else entered; then I'd be the shoo-in for the top prize of $1,000.

At this point, I obviously didn't have time to come up with something new, so I grabbed a story I'd written before and emailed it in, approximately 10 minutes shy of the midnight deadline. I wasn't thrilled with the story. The ending was weak and overall needed some serious editing, but it was what it was.

End result, I didn't win the $1,000. Damn it. I did, however, get honorable mention. Unfortunately it doesn't come with any money, but it does come with all the glory I can handle from having the story published on the Bethesda Magazine website.

If you'd like to read "Mayfly Summers," follow this link to the Bethesda Magazine site.

You can then leave your constructive criticism in the comments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pawleys Island Vacation in Pictures: Part Three

Day Six: Thursday, May 29
It's a rainy day, It's a rainy day, It's raining outside and we can't go out and play.
...Except we do anyways. But not to the beach because that would be dumb. Instead we drive down to Charleston, where it's not really raining but a bit grey and cool.

We begin the day following this path, which is supposed to lead us on a self-guided garden tour.

They may want to reconsider naming it the church and cemetery tour.

We do see some plants and flowers, however, and of course, we take pictures of them, because of course these plants and flowers are unique and special.

We also see some fantastic houses. I want to buy one but God has not yet seen it fit for me to win the lottery so I must wait until he provides me with a vision of the winning numbers. Lottery winning is the type of prayer that God concerns himself with after all.

We have a tasty lunch at Poogan's Porch, where we eat some alligator. Not this one though. He's still alive and thrashing as far as I know.

We then go to the market where we see a lot of ladies weaving baskets from sawgrass. I am not sure they are aware of the laws of supply and demand, as there was a lot of supply and not so much demand yet no one offered a better price. Maybe they are all members of the sawgrass basket weaving union.

Luckily for us, it never really rains and the only water we see is in the many fountains around town.

My brothers claim that this one is named Golden Shower. I really should disown them.

Instead I take a picture with them. They're family. What can you do?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pawleys Island Vacation in Pictures: Part Two

Day Four: Tuesday, May 27
A kayaking trip to Sandy Island is the focus of the day. As the various paddle positions may give away, some of us are better kayakers than others. I am not naming names, however.

We spot a bunch of alligators while kayaking. The first one is a big 12-foot male, but I don't have my good camera with me and he goes underwater by the time I'm close enough to get a decent shot with my point-and-shoot. We then see a 9-foot female who does the same thing. Apparently, it's hanky-panky season in gator world. Though the 3 or 4 smaller gators we see aren't getting in on the action and instead hang around to have their picture taken.

We hike around Sandy Island, and see a variety of plant life, including this prickly pear. Apparently, we paddled all the way to the desert.

As we paddle and hike, we get to hear our guide's version of history. He gets very excited when he tells us that plantations used to turn a 9% profit. Personally, I think if you aren't paying for your labor, you ought to be making a lot more than that. After a while we tune him out, and take pictures with funny trees, like this long-leaf pine.

In our excitement over kayaking, we lock the keys in the van. Jeff hitches a ride with our not so charming guide, breaks into our house, and returns in his car while we all wait in the parking lot. As you can see, it's a very fun parking lot. Nothing can top it, not even the yummy s'mores we roast up that night.

Day Five: Wednesday, May 28
We again spend most of the day on the beach. The water is a bit rougher than usual, however, and it washes a lot of jellyfish onto the beach. Though I really want to touch one, I don't.

There's also a good bit of coral and sea weed on the shore. I hate when seaweed touches me when I'm in the ocean. I always think I'm getting attacked by the creature from the black lagoon.

After lunch, Jeff decides to join my parents and sit in the surf, but sitting is apparently not his strong suit.

After a bit of instruction, he figures it out and joins my mom in watching for stingrays. We see a couple flipping in the surf, which inspires us all to hold a moment of silence for the Crocodile Hunter.

Apparently too lazy to get up or too afraid that he will fall over again if he leaves his chair, Jeff decides that sand is a good replacement for sunscreen.

In the evening, my mom and I head back up to Brookgreen Gardens to see the big f***ing otters that I had wanted to see on Monday. They turn out to be disappointing, neither big nor f***ing. I have to settle for birds.

Meanwhile, everyone else attempts a round of adventure golf, but spends most of their time hiding in caves since the sky decides to open up, leaving the course in need of a good squeegee. Astroturf just isn't that absorbent.

It is not a complete loss, however, as they do get to see a very exotic bird species and its young.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pawleys Island Vacation in Pictures

Day 1: Saturday, May 24
We arrive in the afternoon at our house, Barefoot on the Beach. It's a very nice house in a prime location. We get settled in.

Though evening has come upon us and it's past prime swimming time, we head to the beach. My brother Gregory, aka Jesus, says "Let there be water," and there is. Lots and lots of water. Now everything is in place, and we can enjoy the rest of our week.

Day Two: Sunday, May 25
We head to the beach, where Gregory and I construct this amazing sand sculpture. We have admirers stopping by all day to marvel at it.

I then lead the charge into the water, which is a very comfortable temperature. Soon everyone is body surfing in the waves.

Matthew and Amanda discuss the propensity of the ocean to tear off your pants. Fortunately for us, they are able to keep theirs on, though apparently they require a bit of adjusting.

Gregory practices his Baywatch run, though he goes in the wrong direction.

Having consumed way more than our daily recommended allowance of salt, we head back to the sand for more fun. Being the appointed vacation photographer I don't appear in many photos, so I take a picture of my foot to prove I am indeed there.

The sun makes Mark loony.

And Matthew takes to playing Frisbee by himself.

Jeff, Mark, and Gregory come up with a game that involves bombing sand structures with baseballs. It may be a new beach favorite.

Day Three: Monday, May 26
My mom, Mark, Gregory, and I begin the day with a trip to Brookgreen Gardens. We see many lovely statues.

We also see many beautiful flowers.

The live oaks are very nice and remind me of one of the things I liked about Rice.

We encounter a handful of lizards, including this guy who modeled for me.

In the afternoon, we return to the beach, where Gregory, Jeff, and Mark continue to bomb seaside villages into oblivion.

We tell my mom and Matthew to go fly a kite.

And so they do.