Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Writing Prompt #5--Give advice for the coming year in 150 words or less.

This was even harder than the 350 word prompts. But I did it in 136, and it is good advice too. No, really.

Everyone is wishing people a happy and prosperous 2014. Fourteen is seven—twice—and I don’t know about you, but this is not the come-out roll for me. A seven is bad. A seven will wipe out all the money you have on the table. If, by chance, you begin to recover, you’re going to get slammed with another seven before the end of the year.

I’m pretty sure the number twenty isn’t good either. That is ten—twice. It means once your prosperity is swept from the felt, it may be two decades before you recover. Twenty years! Are you feeling lucky?

My advice for 2014? Stay in bed with the blankets over your head…unless you’re lodging in a casino’s complimentary room. Run. Then call me and I’ll take that room card off your hands.

Good luck!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Writing Prompt #4--Describe your favorite breakfast cereal in a timed one-minute post

Today's writing prompt is timed. I have one minute to describe my favorite breakfast cereal.

If you would like to leave your (family friendly) entry in the comments section, you may do so, or include a link to your blog.

Here is mine:

I like oatmeal. The real oatmeal, not the instant kind, with just a little brown sugar and dried cranberries. But if I were truthful, what I’d really like is a cereal made of left-over pizza. A nice bowl of crunchy bites of pepperoni and artichoke heart pizza, with or without almond milk. Maybe with some grapes on it to make it healthy. And a slice of banana (which I just said in case my doctor is reading this.)

(I found this picture interesting because it includes sloe schnapps, which I hadn't thought of as a breakfast food until this minute. Photo is by "cyclonebill" from Copenhagen, Denmark, 2011.

Writing Prompt #3---Five random words

Today's writing prompt is five random words I got from a random word website. I have to admit, I was pretty happy to see "anchor" on there, since my first book takes place on the a Royal Navy vessel, the Reckoning, in 1805.

Here are the five words.


I'm trying to stay as close to 350 words as possible. Without further ado, below is my story. If you'd like to do a 350 word story, using these same words, please put a link to your blog in the comments.

* * * * * *

“Take this tonic,” the Spanish physician said in French, waving a spoon in my face. “You’ll feel better.”

I doubted it. If I’d been a boy, like everyone thought when Napoleon’s soldiers captured me, I’d simply be a prisoner of war. When they carried me to hospital and dug the musket ball out of my shoulder, they discovered I was not a boy. That was when they decided I was a spy.

That meant the guillotine. I knew enough French to know they intended to let my wound heal before the trial, but what was the point if they intended to kill me? My only hope was they’d spare my life because I was a woman.

The sweet smell of medicinal herbs wafted under my nose. The physician pressed the spoon to my lips. I took the laudanum and tried to clear my mind. Sleep, I needed sleep.

When I opened my eyes, it was dark. Footsteps in the hall held an unmistakable note of stealth. They stopped. The faint sound of breathing drifted through the doorway. I could hear it over the heartbeats slamming into my bruised ribs. I couldn’t decide if I should hide under the sheet, or sit up and face the enemy like a…like a…like my shipmates would expect. I struggled to focus.

The footsteps started again, coming closer. Panic filtered through the euphoria of the drugs, and I couldn’t stop the whimper from escaping. Were they here to take me to trial, or were they here for something far worse? I dragged myself to a sitting position and squinted into the dark.


A thrill sparked through me. I knew that whisper. “Yes.” He was the commander of my ship. “Lieutenant Kearney?”

He huffed out a sigh of relief. “Glad we found you, boy. We’ve just taken one of the Spanish ships at anchor. Get up and let’s get back to the Reckoning.”

He scooped me up. We sneaked past a sleeping orderly and out into the moist night air.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Writing Prompt #2

Today the writing prompt is: Create an emotionally charged three word story.

In an effort to break the mire of writer's block, I'm launching my first set of writing prompts. This is the second, below.

Quick! Abandon ship!

Give me your own emotionally charged three word story in the comments section.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Writing Prompt #1

Writing Prompt: Fall out of love, without using the word "love"

His kisses, his smile, his soft, husky voice made my insides quiver. Late at night we’d languish in each other’s arms and whisper we’d always be there for each other. He changed a washer on our dripping faucet, and grinned when I told him he was my rain and my sun. I’d throw vegetables and a roast into the crockpot before work, and he’d say he could hardly wait until we’d be together to eat it. He drained the gas from our mower when the bags of fall leaves were tossed onto the garbage truck in the misty dawn, saying I was brighter than autumn. When I’d duck into the cleaners to pick up his suits during the evening commute, he'd laugh and say I was his angel.

One day a note under the plastic covering the freshly pressed clothes indicated a stain could not be removed. Bright pink lipstick. Not mine.

At first I thought nothing of it, but he started to come home late, go to bed late. He complained he didn’t like pot roast. Long into the winter, the lawn-mower gas remained.

A dusting of snow slicked the roads. On my way home, my car slid into a ditch. I punched his number with shaky, cold fingers, listening to the ring until it went to voicemail. I tried again. Voicemail. The cold seeped through my jacket and my teeth chattered. I pressed redial.

“What do you want?” I heard the impatience in his growl. “I’m busy.”

“I slid into a d-ditch. It is going to be at least an hour for the t-tow truck.”


Okay? That was it? My eyes filled. “Will you c-come get me?”

“Wait for the tow,” he said. “I’m busy.”

In the headlights, the white snowflakes fell in silence, like my tears. Trucks rumbled past, making me balance against the wind of their wake. Adrift, I huddled into my jacket and shivered on the edge of the dark, icy street until the snow quieted the world.

He wasn't mine anymore. I was alone.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We must have harmony

In keeping with the Christmas season, I don't mind telling you while I snapped this photo, I was harmonizing with Michael Bublé as he sang "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." He could really have a hit if he re-recorded the song with me. (Michael, I love your voice, but I totally rocked the harmony which I made up myself.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can fog disable GPS

Just had a harrowing experience. Everyone on FB bragged about fog, and how Christmas lights look especially beautiful in it. I drove eight miles until I hit fog, and hung a right into a little neighborhood where all the streets loop around willy-nilly. The lights were lovely, but after twenty minutes of loop-the-loop, I realized I was lost. About the time the neighbors started to call my car in as suspicious, I hauled out my GPS. Did you know it can’t find the satellites through the fog? Through good fortune, I eventually found my way back to the main streets. Then the GPS kicked in.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Candy Crush Traffic Alert

This week I downloaded the free app, Candy Crush, on my Kindle to see what all the hoopla was about. It took quite a lot of time for me to figure it out. You have to get three pieces of the same candy in a row. They disappear and more candy fills their spots. I'm still not good at it, but it takes over your mind, so you see things in threes. It is additive, like a narcotic.

 This evening I was driving home from my mother's choral group's Christmas Concert. Traffic was heavy and there were two dark cars in front of me. Another dark car wanted to get in my lane. It flashed through my mind that it would be good to have three dark cars in a row. I slowed and let him in. Seriously, I think I expected them to disappear, which would open up the lane for me.

 I should read that book I purchased a week ago.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Classical Christmas music, a fireplace, and a good book

I’ve got Pandora on a classical Christmas music station I created. There is a three hour video of a crackling, sizzling fire. I’m reading a book on the Kindle and a cat is vibrating across my leg. After about an hour, I reached down to feel if the cat was real. He bit my thumb.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pacific Tree Frog

I think this is a Pacific tree frog.  They are small and can change color to match their surroundings.  If you click on the picture to make it bigger, it is easier to see the frog.

Pacific tree frog

Taken at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Frightened Canada Geese

When I see a flock of Canada Geese rise up in a panic, flapping manically to a different lake in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge wetlands, I look around for a bald eagle.  They don't care about the Red-tailed Hawks, or the Northern Harriers, but they are terrified of the eagles.  I caught the eagle on camera after it landed in the tree on the other side of the field at the end of the video.  Also, do you hear the other birds joining in the frenzied song?

Sounds like Sandhill Cranes to me.  What do you think?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another sunny day in the Northwest.  Here is a Thanksgiving day parade.  If you click on the picture, you will see the male Cinnamon Teals have cinnamon colored eyes.  Females have dark eyes.

Cinnamon Teal males & one Cinnamon Teal female
Cinnamon Teal ducks

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Like water off a duck's back

My picture of the day.

Mallard coming up from water

And here he is a few seconds later.

All dry

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tundra Swan Love

This is my first attempt at editing a video on Youtube.  I added three videos together and then I couldn't help making it into a silent film with annotations and notes.  It is a romance between Herbert and Karen, kind of sad, but with a happy ending.  Unfortunately, you need to put it on full screen to see the annotations. 

Tell me what you think of my story video.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why the Tundra Swan has a black bill

Tundra swans are beautiful, majestic even.  But why do they have that black bill on the pristine white body?
Tundra Swan

I sat and watched them looking for food in the wetlands.  The water is not deep.  It looks as though he is searching the mud for yummy items. It certainly explained that black bill.

Notice how muddy the head is when it pops up out of the water.  Also, it appears he is stirring up the mud with his feet before lowering his head again.  The Mallards seem to enjoy whatever the swan is churning up.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Never eat like a bird

Not all the birds at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge are waterfowl.  There are other birds who find the refuge a fun place to visit.  But I was a little concerned about the following two birds.

Okay, it looks like this bird has eaten enough to hibernate through the winter.  And, um...I'm assuming it is a male.   Then, on another branch, probably its mate?  See below.

Seriously, I've discovered my mistake.  All my life I've been trying to eat like a bird.  Perhaps that is where I went wrong.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A pictorial story of my life

Have you ever felt no matter what decision you make, no matter what path you choose to follow, you get nowhere?

Me too.  Especially in the past week or so (ever since I dumped the coffee into my most favorite of all time computer that my brother-in-law gave me).  I snapped this picture yesterday.  Never thought I could sum up my life in 1000 words, but here it is all in one picture.

My Life

Hopefully after using "Windows 8" more, I'll not be as frustrated, and I'll be able to post a happier picture.

(Maybe I should send a link to this blog to Microsoft as my editorial comment on Windows 8.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Northwest Wildlife

Another wildlife photo taken at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in Washington State.
Queen Anne's Lace and Charlotte

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

If I were a duck

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a duck, but I have a few duck friends at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. If I were one, I'd be very nervous to have this guy sizing me up for his next meal.
Bald Eagle

Those cute little ducks in the background don't seem all that worried, although one or two appeared to be sweating.

Bald Eagle

Usually I see eagles up in the trees, so this pose was delightful.  In fact, admission to the wildlife refuge was free all weekend because of Veteran's day and the place was packed with cars driving the winding route through the lakes and marsh.  Because this bird stood out in the open, there must have been fifteen cars stopped, taking the perfect picture.  After I took this one, I squeezed past each car, mentioning as I went by that the bird was plastic.  I think of few of them wondered, at least for a few seconds.

I get this from my father, who said the moose we saw from deck twelve of the cruise ship in Alaska was on a leash, and the caretaker was hiding behind a rock on the hillside.  He told people they bring the moose out every day so people feel they get their money's worth.

Thanks, Dad, for making me smile, and for serving in the Army Aviation division during WWII.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Crisp Air and Apple Cider

I like this time of year.  Makes me long to scuff through leaves and press apples.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What will (aliens) think?

When I see something like this, I wonder what alien geologists and archaeologists (from another country, or another planet--take your pick) will think in a thousand years, when they uncover deposits of red rock underneath all the moss, mold, lichen, and mushrooms?  Will they scratch their heads and wonder?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bizarre Deeds

Partial lunar eclipse 10/18/13
Last night while dining with friends at Hidden Bay Cafe on Hayden Island, Portland, the news spouted an impending partial lunar eclipse.  We only saw masts eclipse it, even though we kept watch as we shivered through an entire steak dinner outside, overlooking the marina.

Later, when I pulled into my driveway in the dark eeriness of my property where bobcats and bears and black-tailed deer abound, I noticed someone had dragged my garbage can from the top of the driveway down to my house.  If that wasn't weird enough, someone had raked my leaves.

Raked Leaves

This morning I took photos for evidence. Some unknown perpetrator trespassed onto my property (with their own equipment) and raked all the leaves out of my driveway onto the center circle.  I'm caught between a thrill of ecstasy that someone would do such a thing, and a vast curiosity about the miscreant.

Will I ever know?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

If Looks Could Kill

I went to Jantzen Beach Shopping Center in Portland, to check on the Osprey nest.
Osprey Nest at Jantzen Beach Shopping Center

 The nest was occupied, but right in front of me a small bird was very busy, taking a sponge bath.
I stood for the longest time, feeling a little like a voyeur, but fascinated with the amount of work a bird puts into having lovely, aerodynamic feathers.
But then he noticed me, and I'm pretty sure he called the bird police and reported me.  I rushed back to my car, vaulted inside, and sped away before the gull police could arrive and plaster my car with droppings.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Up the River without a Paddle

If you have vacation time, and you are looking for something to do for the day, sailing up the Columbia Gorge on a tall ship might be the perfect trip for you.  Board either the Lady Washington or the Hawaiian Chieftain and imagine yourself back in the 1800s.
Lady Washington at dock in Washougal, WA with Hawaiian Chieftain astern

We had our choice of sailing aboard either ship, and although we'd sailed on the  Lady before, we chose her again.
Brig Lady Washington

We Our trip would take us from Washougal, Washington up the Columbia River, through the Bonneville Dam Locks, under the Bridge of the Gods, and end at Stevenson, Washington. Bruce, Ryan and I met at 6am at Starbucks and drove up the Columbia Gorge to drop off a car, and back to Washougal to board.

You see the gangway beside the ship.  That must be hauled in when preparing to get underway.

And we were off, with the Hawaiian Chieftain astern.  The Columbia Gorge is a beautiful drive on either the Oregon or the Washington side, but neither compare with sailing up the river.

Hawaiian Chieftain in the sights of the Lady Washington Stern Chaser

I've been loading some video and hope to have some raising the sails in the next post,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Northern Flicker Woodpeckers

The two Northern Flickers danced around the top of my dead tree for a long time,  The backyard sounded like a jungle of Flicker calls, from cooing, to calling to pecking,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dead Tree Wildlife Habitat

A couple of years ago, during a wind storm, I began to worry about a 100 ft Douglas fir tree in my back yard.  Dead trees fall over during wind storms.  I called a tree-climber and told him I wanted to leave at least 20 feet of the tree for wildlife. and I wanted him to drop the rest of the tree so it fell into the forest, also for wildife.  He left about 40 feet standing.  I was sure would still come crashing down on my house, but he assured me it wouldn't reach my roof.  I think he was counting on it breaking at least three feet from the ground..

A Pileated woodpecker found it immediately, pecking away one winter morning.

Now a family of Northern Flickers has purchased one of the bird condos at the top of the tree.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

First sentences (and how to avoid them temporarily)

What is this bird?

First of all, the above bird has nothing to do with my book, except that it exists on earth, as do my characters, though the bird is alive now, and my characters are alive in 1805.  

How is that for a first sentence for a book?  At first I thought it might be good because it sets the time and the place, but a critique partner mentioned it is from the point of view of a narrator.  Since my book is in 1st person, alternating between the protag and the hero, I didn't want to add a third viewpoint from a narrator.

Plus, my sister and I have been arguing about what type of bird it is.  If one has a picture, one ought to have a caption which is not a question.  We've narrowed it down to a sparrow, but we are still arguing over which type of sparrow.  Still, it was easier for me to move forward with my book if I HAD a first sentence, good or bad.  I'd written the first two chapters before I deleted the above picture and that first sentence and began working on a real first sentence.

For days I'd run the first sentence past my co-worker.  She'd shake her head.  I'd change it.  She'd shake her head.  Change.  Shake.  Change.  Shake.

Here is the sentence I think might be the one.  She raised an eyebrow and smiled.

This time when I was almost killed, it wasn't my fault.

What is the time and place of your book, and what is your first line?

Note to thieves:  All first lines appearing on this blog and in the comments section are copyrighted.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Zombie Valentines

This evening I pulled into a gas station, filled out the application for a reverse mortgage so I could fill my tank, and while the gas dripped into the tank with the same speed as a blood transfusion, an oxidized blue beater sedan pinged up to the pump, parking askew, almost at a 90 degree angle.  A tall, painfully thin young man slowly unfolded himself from the car and zombie-walked to the pump, staring at it between infrequent button jabbing.  He reminded me of the people I used to deal with who were high on PCP.  A long, long time later, when my tank was almost full, he was just putting the nozzle in his. 

I leaned over to the car opposite me and said, “Does this seem to be taking longer than usual?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Do you think one of us should talk to the guy?”

Thinking she meant the gas station attendant, I shook my head.  “Naw.  It’s almost full now.  I guess I can wait another few minutes.”

“But, don’t you think he might need help?  He’s moving so slowly, like maybe he can’t figure it out.”

My gaze swung over to the zombie.  I was pretty sure the pasty white skin and dark circles around his eyes were an indicator of being undead.  “I was talking about the gas.  It is taking a long time to pump.” I nodded my head toward the walking corpse.  “No way am I going to approach that guy.”

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even be able to outrun a zombie, so I’m not taking any risks.  I did stand-by while she approached him and asked if he needed help.  Luckily, he gave a couple of grunts that he didn’t need intervention.  At least no gas pump intervention.

Happy Valentine's Day.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wile E. Coyote

Coyote at RNWF
So, I've been shooting ducks, geese, hawks, and egrets at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge this month, but this week I spotted the Road-Runner's friend.  This is a beautiful animal, very healthy-looking.  I like them so much better when they are not in my yard.

By shooting, I do mean with a camera, by the way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Great Blue Road Block

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

About halfway through the refuge there is a duck blind.  It is the only place you can get out of your car, so I took advantage of it to get out and stretch my legs.  After a short time in the blind, shivering and trying to avoid putting my elbows in owl poop, I tip-toed back to my car to continue the drive.  When I checked my mirrors before backing out, this is what I saw.
Backing out of parking space
He ambled along behind my car, completely unconcerned by my back-up lights.  When he cleared the rear-end, I rolled out of the space and realized he was in front of me.  On the road.

And wouldn't let me past.

Sorry the video is a little jumpy.  Trying to drive and film at the same time is harder than driving, texting and changing the radio station.

(If you click on the "full screen" emblem, you'll get the full effect of his beauty.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Northern Shoveler


Northern Shovelers

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Feb 2013

Taken with a point-and-shoot Canon Powershot SX130
Northern Shoveler Male

Northern Shoveler female

Northern Shoveler female

Northern Shoveler pair

Northern Shoveler feeding behavior video

See how they stay together?  It is almost as if he is watching over her.  Makes me almost wish...no, I guess I'm glad I'm not a duck.  Especially at hunting season.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Being in Hawk

I'm having trouble identifying hawks.  Really, they all look alike to me.  I have a National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Fourth Edition) and a Reader's Digest Book of North American Birds, and yesterday I picked up a paperback copy of  Hawks in Flight: The Flight Identification of North American Migrant Raptors, by Dunne, Sibley & Sutton.  Maybe if I had something better than 7 x 35 binoculars, or my little point-and-shoot Canon Powershot SX130, it would be easier.  Right?

But even with all those books, they still look alike.  Really.

I can't tell if something is level, either. (Just as an aside.)

So, I've made my best guess on the following pictures I took on Friday at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and please let me know if I've labeled them wrong.   I wanted to just say "Red-tailed Hawk" under all the pictures since that is the most common, but I was afraid I'd get hate mail from people who are much better at identification than I am.  Also, I was afraid relatives of the pictured birds would leave presents on my car.

So here goes:

I think this is a Cooper's Hawk, but turns out it is a Red-tailed Hawk

This looks like it could be a falcon to me.  
Turns out I was right that the above is not a hawk!!!!  I'm so proud of myself.  If you read the comments below, it is believed to be a juvenile Bald Eagle.

Looks like a Red-tailed Hawk

This sweet, precious baby Red-tailed Hawk held out his wing for easier identification for me

This one is so dark, I wonder if it is a Harlan's Hawk (a division of Red-tailed)

Okay, I was wrong about this one.  It is a red-tailed and not a Harlan's.

Looks like a Red-tailed to me

Right about this one.  Yippeeeee.

At first I thought this might be a Rough-legged hawk
Northern Harrier!!!!  Not a Red-tailed OR a Rough-legged.  Geeepers.

Then I thought it might be a Red-tailed

Then when I saw his legs weren't hairy, and I was pretty sure it was Red-tailed

This looks like a Harlan's hawk to me
Again, this is probably a young red-tailed.

And it is well trained not to go into the closed area.