Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gift Guides for Zombie, Werewolf & Vampire Lovers

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson has put together some very nice collections of zombie, werewolf and vampire lover gifts that she has stumbled upon, mostly upon Etsy. So if you're like a vast majority of Americans and haven't gotten your shopping finished yet (and only noticed that we're 1 week from Christmas Day), you may want to check these out!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recommended Reading for 2011 by Fantasy Book Critic

With all of the wonderful Fantasy/Sci-Fi books for 2011, where do you start? I'm desperately trying to catch up from 2009-2010, however, for those of you who are well ahead of me, Fantasy Book Critic has put together a wonderful list of recommended reading from 2011. Even better, you can view the tantalizing covers for yourselves before purchasing them. Don't forget to click on the list of titles near the top for a link to Goodreads, where you can view more information on these wonderful books.

Link to Fantasy Book Critic's site here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DragonCon 2011: Day 1 - Friday, September 2nd

I started my official Day 1 with a ride on the Holiday Inn shuttle. This was the free shuttle that the Holiday Inn Capitol Conference Center employed to take its guests to and from anywhere within a 3 mile radius during most normal hours. The shuttle was a great idea in theory, but was poorly executed for DragonCon. I don't think that they were aware of the sheer number of people that were going back and forth, nor did they coordinate with its guests on where to wait at the specific hotels. Therefore there was often a 30 minute wait only to have the shuttle pull up to the Marriott and have 30 people rushing at it from all directions and then, another 30 minute wait for the next shuttle. Again, great idea, but definitely an area to improve.

I dropped off the husband in the line to see William Shatner about an hour early and ran off to the Write a Story in an Hour. For a writer, this was one of the best ways to start off DragonCon. Not only did I get to meet other writers, but the suggestions thrown out by members of the audience as we attempted to create a story complete with hero, supporting character, villain, and basic plot was both educational and hilarious at the same time. Members kept wanting to find a way to add ninjas to a story that started with fog, a shipwreck, and a clock.

We chose to spend most of the time until the Sanctuary panel wandering around, people watching, shopping, and just having a great time. One of the highlights of our meandering was the Space track who set out telescopes to view the sun. My inner 8-year old astronaut was so geeked I could hardly contain myself. A huge thank you to those who ran the event for giving me the opportunity!

The Sanctuary panel was the huge draw for me that day. Amanda Tapping began by sticking her head out of a curtain and viewing the audience, most of whom didn't even see her. One of the things that I enjoy the most about Sanctuary and the cast is that they truly care what the fans have to say. Amanda wrote a multitude of notes to follow up on, one of which involved inviting the wrongly cancelled show Eureka star Colin Ferguson on to Sanctuary. The cast were both kind and funny. Instead of the panel being led by a moderator, the cast let the audience ask questions.

Friday night we ordered dinner from a Chinese Buddhist restaurant called The Green Sprout. They had quite a bit of trouble finding our hotel, however, once we did receive the food, it was absolutely delicious. It's not often that a vegetarian has so many choices, especially fake meat versions of the dishes that we used to eat before we turned vegetarian, like sweet and sour "chicken".

The night was supposed to cap off with the Masquerade Ball, an event that was supposed to celebrate DragonCon's 25th Anniversary. Unfortunately we were six people away from getting in when they locked the doors, with hundreds behind us. I cannot understand why the signature event would have been placed in a smaller room. Saddened, we stumbled upon a group of people dressed as Spiderman breakdancing. Paired with a beer or two, and this was a fun stint to watch.
More people watching followed, as well as a duck in to see The Last Dance playing who I enjoyed, though the speakers in the room made the music a little hard to enjoy without plugging my ears to drown out half of the volume. It was a great first day at DragonCon. Stay tuned for Day 2.

Friday, September 9, 2011

DragonCon 2011: Unofficial Day 1 - Thursday, September 1st

This past Labor Day I had my first DragonCon experience, four chaotically packed days where I was always wondering what would happen next. Dragon Con takes place every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, GA, where about 40,000 people converge upon the city, most in costume, to have what may be the largest geek family reunion in the world of family you didn't know you had.

The official start to DragonCon was Friday, but the parties truly kick off on Thursday, that is, after you stand in the epic line to get your badge. It took us 1 1/2 hours to get ours, but since we heard that the new computer system had gone down and last year it had been 4 hours we considered ourselves lucky. Once we were on the inside of the hotel someone would scream "Marco!" and about 200 people would scream "Polo!" back. The feeling of geek camaraderie was intense and I lapped it up!

Here's me gushing over my first DragonCon badge.

We went to dinner with the Brit Track to Haveli's and enjoyed a delicious Indian buffet as well as fantastic company. After that it was all about meeting people and enjoying the costumes that were starting to come out.

I knew my con experience truly started when someone screamed "Sexy Alien!" and a few people ran down one of the walkways that connect two of the hotels for a picture. These two jumped in a photo and the smiles on their faces make me laugh every time.

My next favorite was the Storm Trooper that had found himself in the middle of a John Travolta movie.

We also attended an Emerald Rose concert, a fantastic pagan/celtic band whose catchy pagan/celtic tunes get me moving every time.

Here's a couple more pictures of things we saw Thursday night.

More to come as the pictures are uploaded. I'll also post a couple of videos that I shot of the panels and the parade, so check back in a few days!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Defining Your Novel's Genre

I am at the crossroads of a seemingly impossible task, one of defining my novel's genre. In a world where genre-bending is as common as houseflies, when submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher, it is still necessary to know where your novel belongs.

Let's look at my manuscript Gorgon-zola!, a manuscript that can seemingly fit on many bookshelves.

First, it's a book about a feisty Italian 30-something woman who finds out that she's the reincarnated Medusa, and you can imagine the boy trouble she has. After all, it's difficult to settle down with a man when every time she gets angry, she's in danger of paralyzing him. She does find Mr. Romeo, in the guise of a reincarnated hero, who just happens to have a fear of snakes. But is it romance? Not unless it's a main component of the story. Whereas my heroine and hero definitely have the hots for each other, unless the story is about my heroine finding true love, then it's not romance.

Second, it's a book with multiple Grecian gods and goddesses playing a starring role. They can disappear and reappear at will, and even summon martinis. So is it fantasy? There's no different world, different culture, and no fantastical creatures.

Third, it's a light summer read, one that I can see a woman taking to the beach for her most personal of relaxation times. She can struggle along with my heroine as she tries to master her powers and she can identify with a woman who sometimes just wants to be left alone. Does that make it chick lit? There's not as much humor as Bridget Jones' Diary.

Fourth, it deals with issues like trust, and solitude, and even briefly touches on religion. After all, it's kind of hard not to when Greek gods and goddesses are forcing you to take sides. It's also for women, so does that make it women's fiction? Women's fiction typically requires greater stoicism, and the tone of my book just isn't ready to go there.

Fifth, it takes place in "real life" and has a magical twist, so does that make it magical realism? Magical realism is often literary fiction with just a dash of "something else" thrown in. Gorgon-zola! is definitely a far cry from literary fiction.

So what's an author to do? Sometimes when you're at your wit's end and you want to call your novel a jack of all trades, you can fall back to those who have come before you. Find a book that you love that reminds you of your own precious novel, and head over to a review site, or read the back of the book. How was this novel described? Another idea is to pick the one that comes the closest and use the tried and true "chick lit with a touch of fantasy". Or ask a critique partner what they think.

And just remember, it's okay to be wrong. It's your compelling query and writing that will capture the eye of an agent and publisher. The market is continuously changing and combining genres in new and interesting ways. Just maybe, the next big genre catch phrase will be that perfect home for the novel you've just written.

Photo of the Week: The Temple of Philae

Rising up like The Lady of the Lake's secret abode, the Temple of Philae in Egypt struck me as one of those magical places that are seldom visited. To get there, we sat aboard a small motorboat which noisily pushed itself in the most economic unfriendly way towards this island. Egrets wandered by with a sense of apathy, as if they've seen far too many tourists before. This was a pilgrimage site for those who worshipped Isis, and as the Egyptian goddesses of magic, she definitely had a hand here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Photo of the Week: Technicolor Floor Cleaner in Spain

Since I'm abysmally slow in updating my friends and family with pictures I've taken while travelling around the world, I'm going to start my picture of the week feature. This way I can post a tantalizing piece of my journeys every week. I hope you enjoy.

I took this picture in a grocery store in Barcelona. The colors are so vibrant, it looks a bit like kool-aid, but its not. It's floor cleaner. Imagine leaving this type of thing around with a small child. Yikes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Books

Wondering if people adore your favorite sci-fi/fantasy reads as much as you do?

NPR conducted a survey this summer to find out. The ballots have been counted, all 60,000 of them, and NPR has just posted the winners. There's a convenient printable top 100 list, and the complete list of 237 finalists. What a great way to spend the rest of your summer, curled up with an old favorite, or with a fresh, new paperback on the hammock.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How to Outline Your Next Novel

One of the single biggest questions asked of any author is "did you outline?" If you ask three different authors this question, it's one of those times where you will get five answers, all of them different. It's one of my favorite questions to ask at any panel, just to prove a point: there is no single right way to write a novel. Everyone does it differently. The point is learning your own style. Sometimes this means following in another's footsteps, and sometimes this means muddling through on your own.

If you do want to outline, how should you begin? I have come across more than a hundred blog posts and articles discussing the merits of outlining or letting your characters have their heads and run freely, but not very many on how to actually outline. If you need a how-to, check out one of these wonderful websites:
  • Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method". This theoretical physicist designed this method for growing your novel. It has step-by-step detail on how to outline, as well as a link to software that you can purchase.
  • Creative Writing Now's "How to Make a Novel Outline". Here you can find a simple method, tips and dangers, and worksheets for novel, character and scene development.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review of Naomi Novik's Temeraire Series

I stumbled upon the first of Novik's Temeraire series when at a library book sale several months ago. Since then, it's been sitting on my immediate queue bookshelf, waiting for me to pick it up. Every once in a while I would pick it up, read the back, and laugh over the fact that someone wrote a book about dragons in the Napoleonic era. What a silly idea, I thought.
I was so inconceivably wrong.

Four books later into the series, I am in love with these books, and could wait no longer than to post a review of the four I have read thus far. Books five and six arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to tear into them.

Most of the time, dragons are relegated to a) the villain or a villain's side kick, and/or b) an unthinking beast, hording jewels and gold, and barbecuing everything and everyone in its path. This is exactly the opposite of the dragons in Novik's series. Dragons are much like humans, some a little slow, some incredibly witty and intelligent; some are large, some are small. They are different colors and sizes and there are different breeds, depending on a dragon's birthplace in the world. The Chinese dragons are put on pedestals and erudite, and the dragons in other parts of the world breathe fire and spit acid. Dragons are mostly used as mounts in this world, and Novik does an exceptional job in detailing exactly the types of harnesses, riders, and other dragon needs that need to be attended to. She leaves nothing to chance. At the end of the first book, there are even drawings of several of the breeds to further illustrate this lush world that we know so well, yet with dragons.

In most countries (and I will say most, since Novik has been taking the reader all over her world), dragons, once hatched, acquire a "captain". This works much in the same way as a captain of a ship. The captain acquires a crew and lets his crew know what to signal to the other dragons in a formation, similarly to a ship's fleet. My favorite part, however, is the deep bond that is created between a dragon and its captain, at least in most cases. The main two characters, Captain Laurence and Temeraire, embark on a relationship that include them fighting together, to Laurence reading to Temeraire every evening by lamp light. The humorous scenes come frequently, and it's difficult to remember that this cute little dragon who makes inquisitive comments such as that he thought humans also hatched from eggs, is actually a beast that fits well over forty people on his back.

Their relationship begins when Temeraire all but falls into Captain Laurence's lap. A naval captain, Laurence is not eager to join the corps, those who work with the dragons, but when Temeraire selects him as his captain, Laurence has little choice. Through the four books, Laurence and Temeraire learn how to fly and fight together, visit Temeraire's home, and learn of an impending enemy, one who has a very familiar shape. Between dragons who get sick and sneeze acid, to dragons who with their captains are holding back the French from crossing the channel, the reader is swept up in this beautifully reimagined world. Saying much more, sadly, would contain spoilers, even with where Temeraire is from, because half of the joy is learning what type of dragon he is, and why he is so insufferably intelligent.

If you're not a history buff, never fear. Novik does an excellent job in having the series take place in the Napoleonic era (and even includes Napoleon himself), however, Novik does an excellent job of explaining what is happening, without bogging you down with details that would lose your interest. If you are a history buff, however, those details that are overlooked by those of us not as well versed in Napoleonic era terminology and/or events, are given in detail, and you will feel as if you're a part of it. You will also especially appreciate how accurate these details are, especially since Novik is a self-professed Napoleonic era history buff.

I highly recommend picking up this series for any lover of fantasy literature. I will be delving into book five soon and know already from history that it won't disappoint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Does Merging Characters = Killing Characters?

I can breathe a sigh of relief now that I just completed my fifth major rewrite of Gorgon-zola! After receiving a few comments about how too many things were happening at the beginning, I wanted to consolidate. One of the biggest things to consolidate were two characters who only had mediocre personalities. They were more than one-sided, however, I just didn't feel like both of them individually added to the story.

So I merged them. Alec and Daniel became Daniel. My husband thinks I should have made a hybrid name since the character is new and improved with character traits with both. What I do know is that the character has never been so well-rounded, and where I initially feared to take one out, I find myself loving the result. It's a bit like the Power Rangers or Captain Planet, combining powers to equal one super powerful character.

This got me thinking to the psychological ramifications of merging characters. There are so many blog posts and questions at conferences about killing characters: if it should be done, if the author sheds a tear, or if the author does it heartlessly for the good of the story. For me, I hate killing my characters. This is my second completed manuscript, and sadly, I've had to end the life of a couple of dear friends.

Did I just do the same thing here? Or can I be happy knowing that they can live on with each other?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Is This Your Dog?

If so, your dog is adorable.

While roaming around Oahu a few weeks ago on an eco-tour, we stopped at a fantastic beach along the North Shore. Sadly, I can't remember the name of the beach, but what I do remember is this big guy, sitting in the driver's seat of this van. I suppose this is what Scooby Doo would have looked like driving the Mystery Machine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Getting Your Fruits & Veggies in While Writing

When all you can think about is your book and how you're going to get one character out of their latest mess, or how you're going to find an agent, or what the title of your newest manuscript will be, it's hard to remember to eat. It's especially hard to find healthy recipes that don't take much time at all to whip up. So in that vein, I've discovered one of the best summer slaws. It's a great way to get a mix of vitamins and minerals, and enough to keep healthy. Now that I sound like an infomercial, here's the recipe!

Apple Slaw
1 small bag of cole slaw mix, or the equivalent amount of cabbage
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup toasted sunflower kernels
1 apple, chopped
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 T lemon juice

Mix the first four ingredients. Mix the last three ingredients. Combine, chill, and enjoy! This is also great with blueberries instead of apples, or broccoli slaw instead of cole slaw mix.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Phobias Go Too Far: Fear of Bananas

The banana has many uses: the inside peel is good for curing poison ivy rashes, it's a great source of potassium (especially if you suffer from a deficiency), it's great in a smoothie, in pancakes or waffles, and who could forget the banana split. But did you know that there are people who are afraid of this lovely yellow elongated fruit?

Apparently there are. Not to fear, this woman has undergone extensive therapy to be around these terrifying fruits.

Freud would have a field day.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free Online YA & Children's Writer's Conference in August

For those of you who have a hard time attending a writer's conference, either because of time, money, or perhaps your unswerving devotion to having your butt in the writer's chair, this conference might be for you. The 2nd Annual WriteOn-Con will happen August 16-18, 2011. Last year's conference had over 11,000 participants. There will be hourly events, live chats, videos, online forums, and it is a great chance to network and connect with fellow writers, illustrators and agents. Many of those agents will be prowling for new talent as well and you'll be able to post your work.

So if you're a children's or YA writer/author, register for the conference by going to their website here. Not all information may yet be available, so if not, bookmark that site and keep checking back!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gorgon-zola!: The First 250 Words

Here's the first exciting couple of pages from Gorgon-zola!, my commercial women's fiction manuscript with a dose of magical realism now seeking an agent. It's complete at 100,000 words. Enjoy, and thanks for reading and your comments!


I poked the man in the chest.

No flinching, no moving, no blinking. No blinking? I poked him again to make sure. Definitely no blinking. He was one of those creepy wax statues, a sick grin on his face like a clown who broke loose from the circus.

I glared at him. All I needed was an aspirin for my headache, not some lewd pick up line and a practical joke.

With a sigh, I turned on my heel and made for the door.

I walked by the cosmetic aisle and spared a quick look at my face. My eyes had always been green, but never chartreuse, and never so swollen. A face appeared in the mirror behind me and I shrieked, stumbling backwards into a display of nail polish. Bottles skittered everywhere and I clenched my teeth as my headache kicked up a notch.

I turned to blame the jerk who surprised me, but there was no one there.

Muttering under my breath and vowing to get some more rest, I went outside, hit the auto unlocker on my keychain, opened the door to my red Ferrari Spider, and climbed inside. The Spider flaunted wealth that I knew I didn't have or put into any other aspect of my life. But I loved fast cars and it was a testament to my new American life, with an Italian spin of course. It had taken me years to save up for this beast.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gorgon-zola! Now Seeking an Agent!

When Serpi's temper flares, men stand still to notice - literally. To make matters worse, snakes are appearing in her hair, she's growing a second pair of eyelids, and she feels like a chew toy between Athena, who wants her powers back, Eris, the goddess who started the Trojan War, Poseidon, who won't take no for an answer, and Ares, who thinks the best way to handle her is to put her out of her misery. All Serpi wants is to be left alone to lead a normal, quiet life, but when one of her students goes missing, she learns Perseus is hot on her trail, and the Fates start issuing ultimatums, Serpi realizes she must take sides or she'll lose her sanity, her sister's life, and her only chance at love with the same man who once took her head.

Sound interesting? Well, I'm currently shopping for an agent!

I have a deep and abiding love for Greek mythology which is what brought me to this topic. Medusa is such a misunderstood woman/creature. Modern books and movies have pegged her as a monster, but rarely does anyone focus on what made her this way. Medusa was a Priestess, and a very attractive woman. It was natural that the Greek god of the seas, Poseidon, desired her. Depending on the story she either willingly went to Poseidon, or he raped her, but the problem was that it was done in Athena's temple. In anger, Athena cursed Medusa with all we know her as today. Some say that Medusa used to be a part of Athena, and her anger splintered off and became her, thus they shared the same powers. After this point, you can imagine that Medusa lived the rest of her life a very lonely woman.

I thought I would give some new life to the Medusa myth, while bringing on a small cast of Greek gods and goddesses to add more life. It's finished, and recently been revised due to a few comments from a couple of agents who took time out of their schedule to lend this as-of-yet unpublished author a helping hand. Now I'm back to seek an agent for who's as passionate about it as I am.

The agent search begins (again)! Wishing myself and all of you searching the best of luck!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Writing Contests You Should Know About

I'm pretty sure that there are a score of others that I don't know about, but I stumbled across these two and wanted to pass them along. Both of them end this weekend, so if you're interested in scoring a look by a literary agent, check out these links. All these two generous contest promoters ask is return is a little social media oomph, or for you to follow their blog. So what are you waiting for? See all of you there!

Held by Guide to Literary Agents blogger Chuck Sambuchino. For writers of women's/upmarket fiction. Deadline is June 26, 2011.

Held by author Shelley Watters on her blog "Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book". For writers of women's commercial fiction, YA, middle grade, memoir or pop-culture non-fiction. Deadline is midnight June 24, 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Change in Me, Change in My Blog

When I first set up this blog, my intent was to connect with the world along the lines of mythology, writing, fantasy/sci-fi/YA literature, gaming, and anywhere else my soul decided to trek. When I lost my son Alistair just over a year ago on June 5th due to a stricture in the umbilical cord, I changed. How could I not? I can't say that I've had much more luck concentrating through the past year, and two more losses (early miscarriages), but one of the things that has struck me in the past couple of weeks is that I have gotten off my original path. It's only through the love I have for my three children, and the gifts they gave me when they came into my life, and when they departed that I think I've finally found my way back. I've spent so much of my time trying to figure out how to blog about my trek without bringing them up, in the event that I may offend someone. But I've realized that they are so deeply a part of me, that the only way I can blog, and write, is with their spirits watching over me.

So let me reintroduce myself. I am a writer, and an author of Gorgon-zola!, for which I am seeking an agent. I am a voracious reader of fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, and whatever else strikes my fancy, and I am always looking for recommendations, so send them my way! I am an unabashed video gamer and board gamer. I am a black belt in martial arts, both karate and kobudo. I love to travel around the world and try to flee the country once a year to do just that, limited vacation time and funds, my only barrier. I love Greek and Roman mythology, and its influence is seen in almost every aspect of my life. I garden, I walk my adorable beagle Cosmo, and I love to play tennis. I am a wife to my loving husband of almost nine years, and yes, I am a three-time baby loss mommy.

Be prepared for book reviews, for knowledge of contests out there, and for postings of my own writing. Be prepared for nods to other authors and writers that I think you should read too, and people you should follow on Twitter. Be prepared for posts about trips I've taken, things I've seen, and things I think you should see too. Be prepared for posts on mythology, recipes I've tried, and things that make me laugh.

Welcome to where my soul trek has taken me now. Welcome to my new home.

And may anyone reading my blog who has experienced the loss of a child, know that my heart is with you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

10 Surreal Botanical Spaces From Around the World

I thought I had difficulty maintaining my own sprawling gardens, but I have nothing on the ten gardens shown on Flavorwire's newest surreal garden collection. If you're a fan of visiting botanical gardens, you should definitely add some of these to your list.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chinese New Year of the (Giant Minorca) Rabbit

The island of Minorca is proud to present it's newest ancient animal, the Nuralagus Rex, or what is now being called the Minorcan King of Rabbits. Weighing in at 26.4 pounds, this rabbit was not made for hopping. It's legs were too short. It lived a very calm and peaceful life, suffering virtually no predators when Minorca became and island, thus cutting off this giant bunny from the rest of predatory civilization. Visit here to learn more about this cuddly discovery, one which is sure to become the island's new mascot.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Matronalia: Festival of Women and Childbirth

Celebrated on March 1st, Matronalia was dedicated to the goddess Juno Luciana, Roman goddess of women and childbirth. It was a day that children gave gifts to their mothers, young girls prayed to be married, and women celebrated their marriages and prayed for many healthy pregnancies and healthy children.

In a culture where Roman women wore their hair up, this was the day that woman let down their hair and wore loose clothes, devoid of knots and ties, to invite the goddess to make their wombs loose so they could easily conceive a child.

Children gave gifts to their mothers and were required to pay formal visits to their mothers, enough so that even servants were given time off to pay that visit. Husbands gave gifts to their wives, and women were treated like queens, if only for a day.

This festival eventually evolved into the European Mother's Day, shifting to the fourth Sunday in lent. It became a festival where men brought bouquets of flowers to their mothers to honor them.

As a woman who has recently lost two children, this will definitely be a festival I will partake in. May Juno bless all of the other baby loss mothers out there as well and bring them what they so desire, their take home baby.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pele, Fire and Volcano Goddess of Hawaii

Finding myself about to embark on a trip to Hawaii, one of the goddesses I am anxious to meet Pele, goddess of fire, volcanoes, dance, and violence.

Pele, for one, after sleeping with her elder sister's husband, fled Tahiti just ahead of her water goddess sister's wrath. Every time she found a home and created a volcano, her sister would quench the flames, flood the island, and chase her away. Pele eventually landed on Maui, or some say The Big Island, where she was torn into pieces by her sister, becoming the goddess the Hawaiian people know today.

Like many of the Greek gods and goddesses, Pele is known to visit mortals, either as a tall, beautiful young woman, or as an elderly woman. Whichever she chooses, she is often accompanied by a white dog. Like in many folk tales, Pele is a goddess that often tasks mortals with a chance to redeem themselves by giving her food, drink, or a trip across the island. Those who are selfish find themselves victims to bad luck, possibly to a fire that will rip through their home.

For those who have been to Hawaii, one of the biggest myths, or perhaps more likely an urban legend, is Pele's protection of her lava rocks and black sand. Tourists who take these items are said to find bad luck upon returning home. Although this myth was started by a park ranger, there is some truth to heeding the words. After all, the beauty of Hawaii cannot be enjoyed by our children and our children's children, if we have taken the beauty away.

Somehow, I will have to resist the temptation, and look to the other gifts on the island to enjoy, in particular, the large variety of tropical fruit. Those are gifts that will return year after year for all to enjoy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Salt Lake City's Ever Green House & City Cakes

As a traveling vegetarian, one of the most coveted attractions in any city is that city's vegetarian restaurants. On my recent visit to Utah, even though we were only in Salt Lake City for a single evening, we stumbled upon two delectable treats: Ever Green House and City Cakes.

Ever Green House is a little hole in the wall. You can park on the street or behind the building. The first thing that amazed us at Ever Green House was the service. We were greeted by a young woman who was happy to see that it was our first time to Salt Lake City, and was determined to give us a wonderful dining experience. The next thing that amazed us was the menu. In a typical Chinese-American restaurant, vegetarians are often limited to a couple of tofu dishes, vegetables in brown sauce, and vegetable egg foo young. But here, we had a multitude of choices. They were also having vegetarian sushi night and the things listed on the special menu were types of fish I didn't even know someone could make a vegetarian equivalent of! Our server was happy to explain what they were and the first thing we wanted were spring wraps. I opted for sweet and sour soy, and my husband selected the curry potato with soybean. When the food came, we were not only surprised at the portions, but also that the food looked like it had been hand chopped (instead of coming out of a bag). The sauces were slightly sweet and earthy, and I left the remainder on the table when we left with a sigh. If only our hotel had a fridge so I could dine on the rest in the morning... Our server gave us a printout that she had made of all of the vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants in Salt Lake City if ever we came back. I definitely plan on holding on to it.

Several blocks away, and a nice walking distance after a lovely dinner, is City Cakes. This is a coffeehouse/cafe that is completely vegetarian. They serve vegan mac & cheese, sandwiches and pastries. I had heard many things about Salt Lake City's scones, and grabbed a lemon blueberry one. The lemon flavor was perfectly done and the scone just about melted in my mouth. This is definitely one of the places I will come back to and try the next time we visit this beautiful city.

So if you're a vegetarian, or just looking for a healthier meal, try one of these two local places in Salt Lake City. You won't be disappointed.

The menu for Ever Green House can be found by searching, and click here to take you to the City Cakes website.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Utah

Another beautiful state park off of the beaten path in Utah is Kodachrome Basin State Park. This park is located on the Colorado Plateau, which covers much of the Four Corners Area. It can be reached from Scenic Byway 12 and Canyonville, and is a nine mile trip down a paved road. We did this trip in a rental car which had no problems whatsoever.

Why should you visit? There are rock formations seen here that you will see nowhere else in the world. There are almost 70 spires, called pipes, that jut up from the red rock formations. Geologists aren't sure as to how these pipes formed, but there many theories. One of the main ones is that there were ancient springs which were full of sediment. The sediment cemented together and became more erosion resistant than the surrounding rock. Therefore, the part around the pipe crumbled away leaving these monolithic spires standing.

You can easily see these pipes from the roads in the park, or you can choose one of the many hikes available, ranging from easy to difficult. We hiked the Shakespeare Arch trail which was a shorter easier hike to see the only large natural arch in the park and made our way to the Sentinel, one of the larger pipes. At this point the trail became markedly more difficult and for time sake, we opted to turn around. Upon this trek we found several beautiful mineral specimens on the ground as well, including a piece of gypsum the size of my fist.

The price in summer of 2010 was $6 per car, a small payment to see some of nature's oddest and most beautiful rock formations.

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