Inspiration at its best …

Woohoo! I’m ecstatic. I purchased a new camera–a Canon Rebel with a retractable lens.  I had a digital Canon point and shoot, which is great but left little in the way of creativity. Since,  I’m a die hard fan of Canon, I stuck with what I like.  It’s never failed me with great pictures and video.

My old manual 35 mm, which requires film, (film what’s that?!) still takes the most beautiful pictures. But I’m buried deep in the digital age, so I love the quickness and spontaneity that comes with being able to create in seconds.

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A clear blue sky, with little in the way of clouds, serves as a perfect backdrop and inspiration.

With my new toy, I headed to the beautiful Watchung Reservation, one of 36 parks and the largest in the county where I live. Known for its hiking trails and scenic routes, this is a popular place among Jerseyans, particularly in the central part of the state. I’m shooting with a 18-55 mm lens. I can’t wait to get my new 75-300 mm zoom (It’s arriving any day now!).  There are far more powerful telephoto zoom lenses out there. But for my shooting purposes, it suits me.

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Sun bouncing off a brook nestled in the Watchung Reservation

This place always inspires me. Along with my storyboards, I keep my pictures handy for reference. In one of my WIPs, my heroine, after being kidnapped, has to survive in the woods with her son.  Visiting the reservation and then posting the pictures helps put me in my heroine’s shoes.

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The beginning of some of the coolest trails for hiking and horseback riding. People were out walking their dogs, jogging and just enjoying the view from a nearby bench.

 

 

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Testing out my f stops. One last pop of color before everything turns bare and winter arrives.

If you’re ever in New Jersey, The Watchung Reservation view is one of the best in the state, especially in the summer.

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The fall colors are waning, but still look great.

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N’oreaster and all …it’s STILL a good day to be Friday

nor'easterI’m not going to be the grim reaper with news of doom and gloom. I’m just going to say that the northeast, which includes New Jersey, New York, (particularly Long Island) and Connecticut is bracing for a massive blizzard.  And for those who have yet to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Sandy, this is not a good thing. Between the three states, we’re expecting between 6-24 inches of snow, 60 mph winds, blustery conditions where you can’t see in front of you.

Yeah. Welcome to winter.

Although we’re used to it, you do get tired of preparing, and the urge to scream “Enough of this #$@@#!” is high.   (But I have to admit the need for people to run to the grocery store and buy food like we’re on lockdown for the next month is still a mystery to me.)

One good thing about this storm is that it’s happening over the weekend and should end on Saturday. This, at least, gives you a day to dig out. It also gives you a chance to enjoy some of your weekend.  Speaking of digging out, shoveling is my least favorite sport, so I’ve learned over the years to keep a little cash handy for anyone feeling ambitious enough to earn a little money, and help dig this tired soul out of the snow!

Poe and I had plans to attend the 13th Annual Super Pet Expo, and we still may go. I definitely want to check out the latest gifts and gadgets for our animal friends. There’s shopping and shopping and did I say, shopping? Oh, and you can even adopt a pet, which is very cool.

If the power keeps flowing, I’m going to catch up on my writing and reading.  First up is J.K. Rowlings’ grown up book, “The Casual Vacancy.”   I’ve heard mixed reviews and now it’s time to dive in and see for myself. Besides, I’m in the mood for a little dark humor.

Oh, and on Sunday, I might take in The Grammys. It depends. I think out of all the awards show, I’ve outgrown the Grammys the most.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a few performers who I enjoy watching like Alicia Keys and Adele.   But there’s no one who makes me want to sit through the whole thing, at least not on this year’s roster.

I hope the snow melts fast because on February 14, I have a date—with John McClane and his son.  “A Good Day to Die Hard” hits the theater and I’ll be there. It looks action-packed and filled with classic John McClane, and a side of all grown up Junior McClane. Take a peek at the trailer.  That alone gets my heart fluttering. Bruce Willis is still at the top of his game!  Yippee Kai Yay!

Well, I’m off to the store to buy gummy bears and a bottle of wine.  In my humble opinion, THAT’s all you need for a blizzard!

Have a great weekend and wherever you are, be safe.

Super Bowl fever …did you catch it, yet?

super bowlNot exactly.

I’m not a football fan (gasp …), so I’m going to take the time this weekend to write, and revise. The majority of my family members will be hosting their own Super Bowl party, touting their predictions on Facebook and texting their disdain for the other team. This means my phone will remain silent! Yippee!

I’m not watching the Super Bowl (horrified gasp …). However, I will tune in for some of the commercials. I’m still captivated by the subtle, and oftentimes, in-your-face creativity of the advertisers who come up with slogans and taglines that annoyingly stay in your head until you buy the product.

But I have contracted Super Bowl fever on one level. And should my family call me on Sunday, I’ll offer a bit of historical data about this year’s teams. (Yeah, right. That will go over big.) 🙂

This is probably old news for you football aficionados, but it was all new to me. The origins of the team names have great historical value.

For example, The Baltimore Ravens get their name from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem (a favorite of mine), “The Raven.” It seems as though Baltimore residents chose the name during a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. When I read this, I perked up a bit. It’s been said that the Ravens are the most literary NFL team. Yes, Edgar Allen Poe lives on! Evermore!

And The San Francisco 49ers, are historically golden or so their name implies. During the California Gold Rush, the largest gold rush in U.S. history, thousands of people of different cultures and background flocked to Golden State in search of their fortune, and their actions would be the beginning of the city of San Francisco. Although, the rush officially began in 1848, the first wave of prospectors looking to hit the jackpot came in 1849 and were dubbed, “forty-niners.”

I’m impressed. I think I’ll do a little more research about other teams’ names.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just save my research for next year when the Super Bowl comes to New York and New Jersey! At least then, I’ll have something to talk about at a Super Bowl extravaganza. (Hey, it will be the first time the Super Bowl has been to NY/NJ, I must represent!)

In any case, TGIF! Enjoy your weekend. For those of you watching the game or waiting for Beyonce’s wardrobe to malfunction, extra wishes for your Super Bowl weekend.

Writing through family, chaos and Nor’easters …

What do you need after surviving a hurricane or super storm?  Certainly not a Nor’easter that drops a foot of snow!

Yet, as I mentioned my previous post about Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey has had a lot of practice in dealing with all kinds of weather.  And with that practice, bouncing back becomes the name of the game.

I knew I had to find a way to work around the chaos of yesterday’s Nor’easter and concentrate on what needed to be done to finish my books. My search started and ended with a speech I heard in 2009 at the National Romance Writers of America Conference in Washington, DC. 

New York Times best-selling  author, Linda Howard (and one of my favorites) was the keynote speaker at the event’s luncheon, and one of the things she shared with us was how to write through chaos.

She had the audience in stitches as she shared zany goings on about her family, everyday family things to which you could nod your head  and agree that everyone has an eccentric or colorful relative.   And at the end of her tale, her message was clear, “if I can write through my family, you can too.”

A couple of days ago, her message rang loud and clear.  And as I powered up my computer, I realized that I can write during this Nor’easter.  So I did.

For the past few days, I’ve been writing, and focusing on two projects:

One project is the sequel to my first book, “The Heat Between Us.” The second book entitled, “Beneath a Waterfall” focuses on the relationship between a nurse—a single mother trying to raise her son— a gorgeous CFO who has loved her since high school, and her abusive, ex-lover who sets out to claim his son, and the trust fund attached to him.

The second is an expansion of my short story, “Treasure in San Juan,” to a novella. “Treasure” is about a successful business woman who flies to Puerto Rico to marry a man who she believes is her perfect match in every way—especially financially. However, her plan for a perfect merger crumbles when she falls in love with a local cab driver, who she believes can offer her nothing but love.

For now, the bad weather is behind us (fingers crossed!)  and warmer winds will prevail over the weekend.  I have my work cut out for me, and I plan on following through.  To coin a phrase from the phenomenal Nora Roberts—I will have my “Ass in Chair,” and I will write up a storm.

Living through Sandy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

New Jersey rarely has a devastating hurricane.  Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had our share of Nor’easters, tropical storms, blizzards, blackouts, heat waves and even an earthquake or two.  However, next to  Hurricane Sandy, which caused billions in property damage, and took out power for more than 2.5 million people, those incidents seem to pale in comparison. (My power was just restored this morning at 5:19 am.) Although the entire east coast was affected, New Jersey took the hardest hit.

During this time, I wanted to write—maybe a scene or a chapter if I was really adventurous. But I couldn’t. My only thoughts–during the first 12 to 24 hours of the storm–were of my daughters, who were in their homes without electricity, my sister and dad (who live 60 miles away) and my friends and colleagues. I thought about the strength of the 80 mph winds as they beat against my front awning, my roof and if my rooms would start to flood.

My fur baby, Poe and I braved the storms when it was time to go out for his walk. My head against the wind, I clutched him to my chest and carried him to his favorite spot. And as I did so, I didn’t care how foolish I looked. I just prayed that we both would make it back inside before I was knocked over by the wind.

Two of my daughters made it to my house during the storm.  Deep down, I knew they would find their way to “Moms.” I heard from my other daughter and knew she and my grandson were safe in their house.

Without power, our lives were simple—not that I would want to live like this all the time—but we managed. We ate (thank goodness I had a gas stove and running water), slept and weathered the storm together. I’d charged my appliances (DVD player, iPad, Nook) beforehand, so for a couple of days, we watched movies. By candlelight, we played cards and told funny stories.

Disasters or crisis moments always bring out the good and bad.  During my four days without power I saw quite a bit of both.  To coin a popular Clint Eastwood movie, during Hurricane Sandy, I saw “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

First responders: Fire department, police department, EMT’s, nurses, doctors and utilities working around the clock to restore a sense of normal as quickly as humanly possible. Utility companies from Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois,  Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and even as far as Canada came to help restore power to our state.

News team braving the elements to report up to the minute facts on the storm.

Neighbors helping neighbors by sharing their generators so that a few others could have power.

Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreen opening their doors to allow people to charge dead cell phones.

New Jersey’s largest utility PSE&G  handing out free ice and water to residents.

NJ Governor Christie’s  call to evacuate low-lying areas that would definitely get the brunt of Sandy’s wrath.

At intersections without traffic lights, people (for the most part) were courteous and alternating as they drove through to allow others to pass.

The mayor of the largest city in New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker inviting his neighbors in to charge their cell phones. (He had power.)

Jersey natives, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will headline a benefit concert for the hardest hit areas in the state.

The Bad

Price gouging by local markets and gas stations.  Before the storm, gas prices were between $3.35 and $3.50, after the hurricane: $4.45, $5, and even $7.

Long lines for gasoline for cars and generators.  People lined up by the hundreds, waiting hours for gas.

The roads without traffic lights and  people who weren’t so courteous. Bumper to bumper traffic.

The Mayor of Atlantic City ignoring the Governor’s warning to evacuate and telling residents it’s safe to stay in their homes.

Mass Transit stopped dead in its tracks, no buses, no trains, no subways.

The Ugly

Looting and stealing generators off front lawns, and gasoline from parked cars.

People shoving and fighting to get gas. Law enforcement being called in to keep the peace.

The devastation of Seaside Heights, its beaches and the roller coaster and rides we all rode on as children destroyed.

Atlantic City residents climbing onto their roofs to avoid the rising ocean waters and to seek help.

Parts of the famous Atlantic City boardwalk ripped to shreds by the tide and winds.

A death toll of more than 40 people along the east coast as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Yes, it could have been worse. But those 40 who lost their lives, were someone’s loved ones.

New York, our neighbor, had its share of woes as well. The Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, as well as the PATH train systems that join our two states were flooded, and unusable.  Lower Manhattan had significant loss in power as well.

Through all the good, bad and ugly, there’s one thing about New Jerseyans (and the east coast for that matter)–we’re resilient.  We will bounce back.

I’m happy to be back and blogging.  For how long, I’m not sure.  They’re predicting another storm next week. But we’ll be ready.  We’ve had a lot of practice.

Will we like Newsweek’s digital makeover?

The digitalization of Newsweek is another demonstration of the change and, for some, the demise of print publication. Although I shouldn’t be, I’m always a little surprised when another newspaper or magazine either closes its doors, or goes digital. I guess it’s because I grew up with all the print publications, and had them delivered to my door, as did my parents.

Although I wasn’t a frequent Newsweek reader, I would purchase it on occasion particularly if it was an interesting issue. From the cover to the photos inside, Newsweek was a beautifully produced magazine. The change in the way they do business is just another example of the evolving face of print publishing. All publishing for that matter.

I remember when the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, downsized its operations because of declining circulation, and decreased their newsroom staff by 40 percent by offering the employees a buyout.

Many of the large papers such as the New York Times and Wall St. Journal have undergone the same scenario. Both publications, now offer electronic subscriptions, for the reader who prefers their news electronically. However, I don’t think they’ll see the numbers they once did in their heyday. After all, as the article “Decline of an industry” states, “the news is free.”

Since I look for story ideas everywhere–especially the news–I subscribe to USA Today, but electronically. It’s convenient getting the issues on my Nook or iPad, and I’ll always have it in my story library.

I admit, it’s changed the way I read the paper.  How about you? Has the change in print publications changed the way you get your news?

The Decline of an industry is definitely worth reading. I hope you find it interesting.

Happy Monday!