November 12, 2017

Charlottesville, Virginia has it All Including Maggie King!



The picturesque city of Charlottesville, Virginia and neighboring Albemarle County, situated along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a mecca for historians, writers, music lovers, foodies, wine connoisseurs, outdoor enthusiasts—just about everyone!
My husband and I moved to Charlottesville (locally dubbed Cville) from Southern California in 1996. My companion for the cross country flight was Shammy, my beautiful calico. I had to stow her under the seat in front of me. Needless to say, the whole adventure was not to her liking. Glen stayed behind to close up the house and arrived in Charlottesville by car five days later. I got a job in IT at the University of Virginia (UVA). So began our life in Virginia.

During the six years we lived there (we moved down the road to Richmond in 2002) I enjoyed taking visitors around to the historic sites. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws thousands of U.S. and international visitors annually. Jefferson, third U.S. president and author of the Declaration of Independence, planned and designed his beautiful home.
In addition to Monticello, Jefferson also designed the “Academical Village”: the Rotunda and adjoining Pavilions that form The Lawn at UVA. Located in the heart of Charlottesville, the Academical Village is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ash Lawn-Highland, the nearby residence of the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, offers a model of a working farm and estate. A thirty minute drive takes you to Montpelier, the beautiful home of James Madison, U.S. President #4.
Learn more about early-American history with a walking tour of downtown Charlottesville. Visit the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a community resource that is preserving the legacy of African American history in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.  

Back to the present day, Charlottesville is well-known for its vibrant music scene. Big names sell out the 15,000 seat John Paul Jones Arena. I had the privilege of seeing the Rolling Stones at Scott Stadium in 2005 and the Dave Matthews band in 2001 (Dave Matthews created his band in Charlottesville).
The historic and beautifully-restored Paramount Theatre on the Historic Downtown Mall is one of the many smaller venues that showcase well-known performers as well as emerging artists.   
Visitors can enjoy a variety of festivals and events year round. The annual Virginia Film Festival draws movie buffs and big names like Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock, and Anthony Hopkins.  The Virginia Festival of the Book celebrates literature during several days of events. When I lived in Charlottesville, I volunteered each year at this festival. As an author, I have returned to serve on panels. Twice a year, a steeplechase event called the Foxfield Races attracts fans to Albemarle County. April brings Historic Garden Week, a weeklong tour of Virginia's most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks.
If you’re a Nancy Drew devotee (present or former), you remember that Nancy and her friends once traveled to Charlottesville during Historic Garden Week. Along with stunning gardens, they visited Monticello. This is recounted in The Hidden Window Mystery, one of my favorite Nancy stories.
Visitors will have a hard time choosing from an extensive list of fine restaurants. And the area abounds with wineries and small-batch breweries. Mystery writer Mary Miley owns Valley Road Vineyards in western Albemarle County.
Just beyond the city, undeveloped forest, plenty of open space, and scenic vistas offer a relaxing drive over hills and low mountains. Hiking, biking, camping, golfing, horseback riding, tubing, canoeing, kayaking and rafting are also options. Or choose a “loftier” activity, like hot air ballooning, high ropes courses, and skydiving. Come winter, there’s first-rate skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.

Shenandoah National Park is a short drive away. Nestled among the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the park features trails that lead hikers to cascading waterfalls, incredible vistas, and the quiet of the woods. Many bird species, deer, and black bear live on thousands of acres of protected lands. 

A few years before we moved to Virginia, Glen and I drove through the park along Skyline Drive. When we stopped at Skyland for dinner, we heard that a storm was coming our way and we decided to stay the night at Skyland’s lodge. Sitting outside on the porch watching the storm was a special time and I’m sure that was when the idea of moving to Virginia came to us. 

Charlottesville abounds with bookstores. There aren’t quite as many as there were when I lived there, but Daedalus Bookshop, Blue Whale Books, Read It Again Sam, and the New Dominion Bookshop still line the Historic Downtown Mall. You’ll find more bookstores throughout the region.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Charlottesville was to register for a writing course at UVA, launching the creative writing leg of my career. Two women taught the course and they were extremely encouraging and supportive of their students. I wish I remembered their names. In that class, I started the story that would evolve countless times until its birth as Murder at the Book Group.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Charlottesville’s recent heartbreaking troubles. As you probably know, on August 12, 2017, A ”Unite the Right” rally converged first on Mr. Jefferson’s The Lawn at UVA, and then in the downtown area.  White Nationalists clashed with counter-demonstrators over the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E. Lee. When a car ploughed into the crowd, counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed and a number of others injured. 

Glen and I visited Charlottesville on September 4, a peaceful, beautiful day. Now the statue of Robert E. Lee is covered with a tarp. A memorial tribute to Heather Heyer remained on the corner where she was killed.  Charlottesville grieves, but remains strong in spirit. 

On October 7, White Nationalists held another torch-lit rally on The Lawn. This gathering was smaller than the August 12 one, and no violence occurred.  

If you haven’t visited Charlottesville, put it on your bucket list. I’d be thrilled to show you around. There are many websites devoted to the region, but I think Wikipedia is the most comprehensive: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlottesville,_Virginia
I’m sure you’ll agree that Charlottesville has it all!

I’m giving away a copy of Murder at the Book Group, my debut mystery. Leave a comment for your change to win.  Please include a form of contact. 

Here’s more about  Maggie King:  the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology. 

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.
Instagram: maggie8208

November 5, 2017

Carly Carson Knows About Vermont



What do you know about Vermont? Give me the first fact that pops into your head. (The picture above shows an annual balloon festival held in Quechee every Father's Day weekend.)
The truth is, most people don't know much about Vermont. As one of the smallest states, both population-wise and size-wise, Vermont doesn't have a big reach. As a state with fewer than one million people, it's a different world from large American urban areas. The natives, however, like the quirky reputation of their state. So what is the state known for?

Mostly for its outdoor life. Vermonters like to spend their time enjoying nature. Of course, skiing is a big attraction for both tourists and natives. 

My favorite ski area is Killington Mountain, mostly because it's near my house and the lines aren't long. My kids became excellent skiers and their coach was an Olympic skier, World Cup champion, and all-around lovely person named Marilyn Cochran. She and her equally famous ski siblings are Vermont natives. Watching her ski was as beautiful as listening to a symphony or seeing world-class art.
Leaf-peeping is another honored Vermont tradition. The Green Mountains are scenic and the colors can be wonderful. Unfortunately, we're never in Vermont for leaf season because of school and sports in the fall.

In the summer, the many rivers and lakes in Vermont are put to good use. Here I am kayaking on the Connecticut River, which forms a border between Vermont and New Hampshire. It's idyllic.
Of course, Ben and Jerry's ice cream empire was founded in Vermont. Their store and factory in Stowe, Vermont is a major tourist destination, with the parking lot full of cars from all over the US and Canada. We make a pilgrimage every summer. The descendants of the von Trapps of "The Sound of Music" fame also live in Stowe.
  
Alas, I don't yet have any stories set in Vermont. However, my Love Charm series is set in other well-known New England haunts such as Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and Cape Cod. I will be happy to gift one of these contemporary romance stories to anyone who leaves a comment. Please be sure to include an address where I can reach you, and tell me which story you'd like to read.
A love charm can be wayward and capricious. Be careful what you wish for.

You can reach me here:
Carly Carson Website: http://www.carlycarson.com
Thanks for joining me  on Annette Snyder's 50 Authors from 50 States!
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October 29, 2017

Flashback-2012-Karina Fabian of Utah

Utah is a hard state to fill so here's a call out to all you talented Utah people for 2018!  Until then, here's a great post by Karina Fabian from 2012 that gives insight to her home and work.  Enjoy! 


When we first flew into Salt Lake City on a house hunting venture, I looked out the window at the nasty, damp salt flats and thought, “This is the ugliest state we’ve ever lived in.”  Then, we drove half an hour north to Layton, and were blown away by its  beauty.
Utah is one of the most varied states in the union, and, IMHO, one of the most impressive.  In the south, the desert is full of the most amazing rock structures, from the tall, lonely mesas popular in SUV ads to city-block-sized rock slabs that stick vertically out of the ground as if the earth had grown dorsal fins.  In the north, where we live, there are rugged, arid mountains with great skiing (they hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics).  In Layton, we have 270-degree views of the mountains, including a far off panorama with the Great Salt Lake in the foreground.  My mother said the view actually reminds her of Puerto Rico, where the mountains rise from the ocean!
I’ve decided to make Utah the location for my next fundraiser serial story, “Shambling in a Winter Wonderland.”  Neeta Lyffe, the main character from *Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator* and *I Left My Brains in San Francisco,* goes on a ski vacation with her fiancĂ©, Ted.  Unfortunately, the corpses of a ski team killed in an avalanche dig themselves from their snowy graves, intent on finishing the competition they’d entered before their demise.  Looks like a working vacation for Neeta and Ted!
I’m writing this story in serial and posting it at http://skizombies.karinafabian.com starting in November as a fundraiser for Operation Homestead.  I’ll take donations, and for every $10 I receive for Operation Homestead, I will post the next episode.  The story continues until all the episodes are posted, and then the money made will be donated in masse.
Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator is one of several of my world/series that I write in both novel and story form.  I enjoy taking my characters in crazy situations, like taking on the undead on snowboards.  As for my personal adventures…we may have to say good-bye to Utah in 2013, but I learned something valuable here:  Never judge a state on first impressions from the air.
Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.
On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.
Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.
Winner of the 2010 INDIE for best Fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem) and a Global eBook Award for Best Horror (Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky twists that keep her--and her fans--amused. Nuns working in space, a down-and-out Faerie dragon working off a geas from St. George, zombie exterminators—there’s always a surprise in Fabian’s worlds. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing
Find Karina at:
Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:
and book marketing seminars online.

October 22, 2017

Talk about Texas with Native James Callan



We're talking about Texas. We know how big Texas is and have heard too many stories about that.  Let's spend a minute talking about its diversity.  

Hurricane Harvey reminded us that Texas has a lot of flat land along the coast. But, Texas also has the highest mountains in the U.S. east of the Rockies.  Guadalupe Peak has an elevation of 8,751 feet.  Fifty-one  other peaks top 7,000 feet. 

West Texas, made famous in numerous western  movies is a dry area with few trees.  Rain is something to be celebrated. As my grandfather once said, "I was eight before I saw this thing called rain."  When people in west Texas talk about a six inch rain, they mean the rain drops were six inches apart.  But less than ten percent of Texas is desert. 

After watching those movies, it might surprise many to see the large forested area known as east Texas.   Some areas in east Texas average fifty inches of rain each year and grow Pine trees, oaks, hickory, sweet gum, and many other trees.. Encompassing an area larger than New England minus Main, east Texas is home to a sizable lumber industry. In fact, well into the 20th century, lumber was one of the four major industries that shaped Texas, along with oil, cattle and cotton.  Now, technology and sciences lead the way. Among the fifty states, Texas is second in the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state.

 The Dallas Fort Worth area, known as the Metroplex is home to over seven million people and one of its airports covers more  land than New York's Manhattan island.
Texas has produced a wide range of writers, from James Michener to O. Henry.  Other familiar Texas writers include Larry McMurtry, J. Frank Dobie, James Lee Burke, Molly Iviins, Sandra Cisneros and Katherine Porter (Pulitzer Prize winner and three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature).  It's fitting that the king of western writers, Elmer Kelton (eight time winner of the SPUR award, the highest award given by the Western Writers of America), resides in Texas.  Other modern Texas writers include Joe Landsdale, Rick Riordan, John Erickson, and A. Lee Martinez.
Though far from Hollywood, Texas is a popular site for filming movies, including  Transformets, Spy Kids,  Miss Congeniality,  Predators, Apollo 13, much of Armageddon, and believe it or not, much of the movie Pearl Harbor.  


Of course, you'd expect The Alamo, and State Fair.    A few of the other movies shot in Texas include: All the Pretty Horses, Boyhood, Friday Night Lights, and The Trip to Bountiful.  Bonnie and Clyde, Places in the Heart, and Tender Mercies collected twelve Oscars.   Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Terms of Endearment were filmed in Houston. Who could forget Paul Newman in Hud?  Big Bend National Park was the site for No Country for Old Men.  
I'm out of space, so I'll just throw in two memorable ones: Giant, and Urban Cowboy,  and end with The Last Picture Show.

 
If you're not from Texas, come visit. Until here is a link to my author page on Amazon, my website, and to the digital version of my latest suspense book, A Silver Medallion, a Readers' Choice metal winner. Author page:     http://amzn.to/1eeykvG
My website:       http://www.jamesrcallan.com
My latest book:   http://amzn.to/1WxoEaF     

I’m offering a copy of A Ton of Gold since it looks at how an old Texas folktale affected the lives of people today.  Besides, who wouldn't be happy with some gold?  It can be digital or paper in the continental U.S., or just digital otherwise. Leave a comment with a form of contact to be eligible to win.  
(Info Author Provided)