Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cape Town

We had an excellent tour guide today, Mick Hedderman. He picked us up promptly at our hotel. We went up Signal Hill for a beautiful overlook of beautiful Cape Town. Then we drove south visiting the beautiful Constantia wine country including the Groot Constantia Estate,

the Slangkop Lighthouse at Kommetjie, the incredible views at the Cape of Good Hope, False Bay, Simon Town, and Kalk Bay.

The shoreline is so beautiful - rocky in places, white sand in others.

At the Buffelsfontein Visitor Center, we were mugged by the baboons. While we had been warned, they came in unexpectedly right after we finished eating. I stood up to take my photo, and the trash fell - quick as a wink one of the baboons had one of the empty yogurt cups. They are well trained - the workers came out with their sling shots and up the drainspouts to the roof they went. I felt really bad - I know how bad it is to feed wildlife. When animals become habituated to humans many times they must be killed. While I doubt that we were the first visitors whose picnic had been raided, I still felt bad that I did not move fast enough to keep them from being successful with their raid. We saw ostriches feeding along the beach area (first time for me to see them in the wild.)

We saw the African penguins at the Boulders unit of Table Mountain National Park. Toward the end of the day we saw Southern Right whales breaching off in the distance!

Mick is a great tour guide. He showed us a map of where we would be going. We learned bits of the history of the places we visited. His hospitality and cheerfulness (putting up with a photographer who was always stopping along the way to take still another photo!) made the day a special day. I highly recommend him for a wonderful way to see the sights of the beautiful cape.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Washington - Dulles Airport

I don't remember where I learned this tid bit of travel information, but I've learned that when you are leaving the country and carrying camera and computer equipment, it is a good idea to have documentation that you LEFT the country with them. Otherwise, our friendly, helpful customs people will want to charge you customs on them. If you are traveling from an "international" airport there will be a customs office. Since we were leaving Austin so early in the morning, my first guess was that the customs office would not be open. We had plenty of time with our layover at Washington Dulles so I figured I could take care of this detail at Dulles.

I left Henry sitting by our departure gate and headed off to figure out where I needed to go. Dulles has these cute little boxy shuttles that get you from the various buildings. We rode one from the D building to the B building. I saw the one from B to the Main Building, but it said 15 minutes till the next shuttle - so since I saw a walkway to the Main Building I headed of. I had already checked the Airport Map Kiosks - looking for the Customs office - even looking for an information booth - without a lot of success. There was one security guard that pointed me in the direction of the baggage claim area (asking if I had my boarding pass with me - I had already anticipated that - I had both ID and the boarding pass so I could get back where I needed to be.) Near baggage claim, I found an information booth with real people. They pointed me to a wall where there was a bank of phones. I was looking for a red phone - all the phones were yellow . . . ah there it is over by itself on a different wall. In picking up the red phone I was directed down a narrow obscure hallway. Yes, this was the right place. They had the form. But . . . they wanted to see the equipment. Yes, I did have plenty of time to go back . . .

Back through security - they marked my boarding pass (inwardly I wondered - when I came back through again . . . would they still let me in if it was already marked?)

Henry was a little disconcerted, especially when he realized that he would have to go through security AGAIN. But he followed me onto the shuttle through the maze of hallways. The customs people checked every piece of equipment, making sure the serial numbers were correct (and some of them come with very tiny letters!) Henry and I each have our Certificate of Registration For Personal Effects Taken Abroad duly signed, stamped, and initialed.

We got back over to our terminal building - I never figured out how to get to the shuttles to go back from Main to B - so it was a hike walking in the wide tunnel under the taxi way.

I had an interesting chicken curry salad sandwich at one of the airport restaurants. I stayed there because I had a nice table and access to drink refills. All too quickly Henry came and got me - apparently we needed to check in again at South African Airlines.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting off!

Sunday - last minute shopping that included trying to find a carryon bag for me to accommodate the camera equipment and still be under the weight limits.

We chose to rent a car to get back to the airport so we would not have to leave a car for Debra and Jonathan to pick up and so that one of them would not have to be at our house at 4:30 in the morning. Great idea . . . except that the rental car does not have a TexTag for the toll road to the airport.

Go to bed around midnight after finalizing the packing and picking up some of the "debris" from new luggage, new Lacie drives (boxes), new shoes, etc.

Set alarm 3:30 A.M.

Stagger out of bed 3:45 A.M.

Shower, dress, get out to car, leaving driveway 4:30 (Henry is already fretting - with a 7:00 flight we should BE at the airport at 5:00 and we have that rental car to return)

Arrive at airport about 5:10 - rental car is returned. The one bag of luggage is checked (supposedly all the way to Cape Town - hah!)

Breakfast at Lefty's on 6th Street (their location at the airport - near our gate) breakfast tacos.

Boarding the plane - sigh of relief . . . the adventure begins!

Packing Woes

One of my biggest pre-trip stresses has been weight limits and how to pack what I need to carry and have it all be under the weight limit:

My 300-800mm lens - 21 lbs
My camera bag with computer -

Total limits - 20 kg per person - roughly 44 lbs.

Plus there were some carryon weight limits to worry about.

Not to mention concerns about checked luggage going through Johannesburg.

I started this blog before we left . . .

I ended up getting a Pelican carryon designed to carry camera equipment and my laptop. I brought 2 Canon 5D bodies, 24-105mm L lens, and a 100-400mm zoom. Cry . . . sob . . . sigh . . . my big lens stayed home. Probably a good thing . . . check out the blog about airports. But I sure hope those animals are as cooperative as some I've seen in photos.

Henry had packed a small duffle with his clothes. I repacked his with mine in a larger duffle - including the tripod. I kept looking at it - we weighed it (30 lbs). I kept looking at it - no wheels . . . Henry kept saying it was ok . . . I kept going . . .hum . . .hum. . . . I dug out another duffle (bought in England right before the flight home to carry the things we had accumulated on that trip) It is large - soft sided AND has wheels. His clothes and my clothes and the tripod, plus things like voltage plugs so perhaps we will be able to charge our equipment. This duffle will be checked and locked.

At the last minute (to Henry's dismay, I added a small backpack containing my Ipod, my medicines, and one shirt and one pair of underwear.

Now that we are actually here in Africa . . . The duffle made it all the way through - it is with us at the hotel. My camera rolling bag worked great.

I think our total weight was about 76 out of the possible 88 max on the small planes. We've successfully made it through the South African Airline system. Next test will be Thursday when we fly Air Namibia and one of the small charter planes to get to the desert camps.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mother Teresa's Private Letters

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

James 2:18 Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Contradiction or one of God's mysterious sets of truth?

Mother Teresa was an extraordinary woman. After years spent teaching, she found her true work at age 38 in the slums of Calcutta. Most of us have read some of her beautiful, inspirational quotes. We certainly admire the dedication and the success of her work in India. So the publication of her private letters of her times of darkest doubts and the struggles with her faith seem so contradictory to her public profile. How do we reconcile these dark, tormented, hidden feelings with her public persona of trusting faith?

I wish this had come out at a time when I had more time to contemplate this disonance. But preparations for Africa - the have to do to do lists are very loud in my mind. But if I wait a month, this is old news - perhaps the links will be gone.

Jesus had a parable about 2 sons - when asked to do a task - one son said - sure . . .and then did not do it. The other complained but in the end did the work requested. Certainly Jesus also rebuked the religious leaders of the day who did their work not out of love in their hearts but because of ritual and duty.

Everyone goes through periods of doubt and disbelief - times when it seems that God is not answering our prayers, times when God seems far far away. Some people would say that during those times when our heart is not in our "works" that it is hypocritical to continue those good works and ritual worship. On the other hand, from Mother Teresa's story - hers is a story of faith in action - even when she had her darkest, deepest, tormented doubts, she remained faithful. She continued the task that she believed God had given her.

All of us are imperfect lumps of clay. But I think we can learn from Mother Teresa's life how God can use us even when we lack faith, when our inner faith is as small as a tiny mustard seed. Somehow God put something into Mother Teresa's heart that kept her in ministry, kept her putting one foot in front of another, and provided her with words of inspiration that will be passed on to future generations of believers.

I think it encourages us to keep on being "faithful" even when it seems we are just going through the motions. Somehow, through some miracle, God can take those seemingly puny efforts, and make something very beautiful and long lasting.

Mother' Teresa's letters

Mother Teresa's beautiful words of faith

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cowbirds & House Sparrows

I've always known I value some birds more than others. After living in the Austin area these last 37 years, I don't particularly value grackles. They've over populated, they fill the trees and utility wires, they are loud and they are very adept at surviving the urban landscape. Pigeons are another example. I actually think pigeons are beautiful birds with their irridescent feathers. But I can understand why people grow to hate them. My son's condominium porch was unusable because of the constant pigeon droppings from their perch above. Pigeons are great scavengers of the crumbs around restaurants. People living near the coast often view sea gulls as nuisances as they swoop in to find their tasty morsel off your plate in outdoor eating establishments. Signs abound - Don't feed the birds!While I find their call to be a pleasant reminder that I'm at the coast, they are certainly noisy birds. Of more concern is their aggression to other species. There are several species fighting for survival because the gulls raid the nests as part of their diet.

Starlings and house sparrows are of particular concern because they are not native to North America. Starlings were brought over by someone who wanted to introduce all the birds that were written about in Shakespeare's work. In retrospect, this was a lousy idea because starlings lay their eggs in other bird's nests. The starling babies are usually larger than the original babies and thus are able to get the food leaving mother bird feeding the starlings rather than her own babies.

Two hundred years ago there were no house sparrows in North America. Today they are one of the most abundant songbirds found in all of the 48 contiguous states. The first attempts to bring them over from Great Britain and release them in New York City were unsuccessful. However, continuing efforts in many places led to the great numbers found today. While they were brought in to control insects, they are actually seed eaters. And sadly they are in direct competition for resources for native songbirds. While sparrows are not the only cause of the declining songbird populations, cavity nesting species such as bluebirds and tree sparrows have taken big hits as the house sparrows range increased. House sparrows are particularly agressive to bluebirds killing both the babies and the parents.

Cowbirds are another problem species. While native to North America, they originally followed the large buffalo herds eating insects stirred up by the bison's hooves and grass seed. When the large herd disappeared they found domestic cattle. As Americans cleared forests to create cropland and pastureland, the cowbirds habitat grew. So, you may ask, what is the problem here. Cowbirds are parasitic. They don't build their own nests and raise they young - they lay their eggs in other bird's nests delegating all of the parenting duties to some other unsuspecting bird. And while you would think that these other birds would reject the odd bird in their nest, over 150 host species have successfully raised cowbird babies.

While part of me shudders at trapping and dispatching (euphemism for killing) these birds, I can see the real issues here. Cowbirds contribute to the decline of two species in my area - the black capped vireo and the golden cheeked warbler. Cowbird control may make the difference between whether these species survive or fade into extinction. Preservation of their habit is also critical for their survival.

My husband wrote a story about the demise of the passenger pigeon. Passenger pigeons were once the most numerous bird on earth. Because of their roosting patterns - hundreds of birds in one tree, they were easy to hunt. Between the hunting and loss of habitat as forests were cleared for farming, the birds declined. And apparently they needed the large flocks to survive, because the species declined rapidly and the last bird died in 1914.

Do we need to control the populations of these "pest" birds? Absolutely! But I certainly hope that as humans we are older and wiser such that in controlling the populations so that other birds will thrive, we pay attention to the populations of the birds we are "controlling" so that they do not become extinct when we aren't watching. Thankfully, we track bird counts much more carefully now so hopefully, we will be wise in our efforts to promote bird diversity.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Teaching God's Word

At the end of our African trip, we are visiting our friends, the Gregersens at Namwianga Mission. I am looking forward to having opportunities to teach African women.

I keep debating exactly what I'm going to teach. And I'm human . . . I have not met these women, I have not experienced their culture. I want to do a good job. While I have experience teaching women at home, I also have a good idea what their "issues" are and I have an idea how to present topics that will be beneficial. With the African women, I'll have to make guesses. If I get to go back a second time, I will have a better idea what to teach. And, after teaching at the first village, I'll know what adjustments I need to make to my lessons.

But . . . I do have ideas - I have many Bible stories or object lessons I could teach. I've been planning to teach from the Life Lessons Book I've written - changing it from "the desert of grief" to "suffering from loss - dealing with grief", "suffering caused by sin," etc. And while some people have told me they think the African women have already mastered those lessons, I got confirmation again from one of the women at my church who has been over there six times. These women deal with a lot of grief in their lives. They are just as human as we and they hurt as badly as we do when their loved ones die. And most of them have lost someone in their family recently due to all the health problems there. And perhaps - the lessons need to focus on the story of Job interwoven on other passages that are encouraging to me when I'm dealing with grief.

I will also be doing a workshop teaching younger women on being good wives and mothers. My topic immediately came to mind - I'm going to use Timothy's mother and grandmother and talk about teaching your children. I'm going to keep that topic as my back pocket idea to use elsewhere.

I've always used music in teaching children and women. For one thing, it is an element of worship. It is also a bonding experience. I've already learned one song in Tonga. I got music and words tonight. Hopefully, I will be able to get the women started singing (I've heard they will greet us singing as they walk). My desire is to let them know I've come to worship God with them. I want the songs to be an ice breaker to unite us as sisters in Christ. I'm sure I will want the words in front of me so my "middle aged" memory won't fail me at a critical time. I'm sure as well that I will mangle the pronunciation of some of the words.

Every time I've prayed asking God's guidance so I can do meaningful lessons, I seem to hear the words from the gospels - I don't need to worry too much (other than good preparation) - God will give me the things to say that will touch these women and help us grow closer to him.

As I prepare to travel, please join me in prayer that this trip will glorify God - both in the photography, in the blessed time spent with the Gregersens, and in the teaching ministries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Count Down to Africa

This time next week, we'll be spending our first night in Africa. There is still much to do:

Routine work like getting some photo submissions out.
Cleaning out the refrigerator - at this point very little will be worth salavaging in a month - tomorrow is trash day
Eye exam - get new glasses. My plan is to wear the old ones, but have the new ones as backup.
Hair perm - I want something that all I have to do is wash and go - No curling iron or hair dryers taking up weight.
New pair of walking shoes
Buy the extra camera gear (new camera body so I have a backup in case of failure, new 100-400 lens, new polarizing filter)
Practice packing the luggage checking for weight. I was overjoyed when I was going over things, it looks like the weight is
20 kg (44 lbs) not 12 kg (23 lbs) per person. Still not a lot, but I think I can get everything in at that weight.
I've already called some of the relatives checking in that one last time, I have a few more to call.
I've got at least one more friend I need to get together with for lunch.
Book the airport shuttle to pick us up early Monday morning.

I've already entered a more detailed itinerary in Word - complete with flight numbers, location telephone numbers, contact numbers. I would like to print out some of the web pages to mail to my mother in law so she can see a little of what we'll be doing. She has said she would like to be able to visualize where we are while we are gone.

The clock is ticking . . . the time will go fast . . . and our flight is EARLY Monday morning.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Alamo Springs General Store and Cafe

Henry and I have always enjoyed getting off the main roads and exploring the small roads and byways. There are often small, picturesque and interesting places that are hidden treasures.

On my Fredericksburg trip yesterday, I was introduced to one of these special places, the Alamo Springs General Store and Cafe. And while we'd been on some of these roads, (and I'm sure we've been on that road) we had not stopped at this great place.

I had a wonderful hamburger served on jalopeno cheese bread. We sat inside due to the rain, but it has a lovely outdoor seating area as well as the picturesque interior.

This would be a great place to eat when you are out at the Old Tunnel Wildlife Viewing area (think bats . . . . millions of bats . . .) I think they may have live music on Saturday nights. What a treat that would be!

To find this treasure - take US 87 south out of Fredericksburg, go 8.5 miles, turn left on Grape Creek road, go about 6.1 miles, bear right onto Old Fredericksburg road, go 1.7 miles and turn left on Alamo Road go 1.1 miles.

I'm eager to take Henry and share this great place with him!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hill Country Ranches

I had a wonderful time today inspite of the rain from Tropical Storm Erin. I got to tour some wonderful ranches in the Texas Hill Country. The Petersen Ranch is located just west of Blanco. Bob Petersen has done a beautiful job creating a place where people can enjoy nature. He has allowed the land to restore itself - so you can see recovering blue stem native grass. He has set up a wonderful place for both nature photographers and nature observers to come and see and photograph wild birds and other wild critters.

He has been very involved with the Images for Conservation Fund which pairs nature photographers with land owners to provide funding to conserve private lands for wildlife.

I also got to visit the Block Creek Natural Area another ranch area whose owners the Langfords and the Jays are working hard to provide both habitat for wildlife but also areas where people can enjoy watching and photographing them. They love their land and are proud of its family history as well as its scenic beauty.

I was very impressed with the amount of effort that has gone into restoring natural areas, attracting various birds, and providing habitat for some of the Hill Country's endangered species. The natural beauty of these ranches with the hills, cliffs, clear streams, waterfalls, wooded areas, and open meadows is an artist or photographer's dream. Even in August, there were flowering plants and abundant wildlife.

And the owners are true examples of the best of Texas hospitality not only with their friendliess, but also with the facilities they have for their guests.

I am looking forward to a time when I can go and spend time at the blinds and at the creeks with my camera! Truly heaven on earth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Getting Ready for Africa - Two week countdown

We've done a lot ahead of time for this trip:

Ordered Passports in April
Started Vaccinations in April, 2nd set in July
Researched where we might want to go;
Talk with friends
Travel Agent
Made reservations
Paid for reservations
Posted on several photography websites to get an idea whether I needed to take my big lens - consensus seems to be yes
I've been gathering together paperwork that will need to go with us - central location - my kitchen table

This week -
1. Need to make final reservations for Cape Town hotel
2. Need to arrange transportation from airport to hotel - Lusaka and Livingstone
3. Check again with our driver in Cape Town
4. Make detailed itinerary to send to my Mother-in-Law so she can keep up with us (copies to other relatives as well)
5. Make copies of the paperwork with phone numbers to get to Mary and Debra
6. Practice run wth packing. I'm worrying about the weight limits on the small planes. We need to do a practice run this week. Who know maybe this will be the first trip that I actually pack ahead of time. (doubts on that one - knowing me)
7. Buy extra camera body, extra compact flash cards, maybe another lens. (ouch . . . pricewise)

I find myself a little apprehensive . . . wow, we've already spent a lot of money on this trip (most of it is paid in advance) -was I crazy to do this?????? However, when I look at the costs of some of the other tours - some only 2 weeks long, I've been economical. And they don't include the airfare to get to Africa. And I had been storing up airline miles with purchases on credit cards - so I got a big discount on the airfare. We're getting to experience several very different parts of Africa - not just one area - We're going to four different countries! We're getting to spend 4 weeks in Africa. And best of all, I'm getting to spend time visiting friends who are doing the Lord's work there. I pray we may be an encouragement to them in their work and that God will use us in the 9 days we are visiting with them.

Yes . . . I have my worries . . . but right now Henry and I are healthy enough to be able to go on a trip like this.

Two weeks from today we will be exploring Cape Town, South Africa. I need to pinch myself . . . it feels like a dream.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taking things for granted

We go through our days - there is a rhythm, a routine. Get up, eat breakfast, read the email, read the news, to do lists, lunch, supper, go to bed. But we tend to do these normal things running on "automatic." We get up, walk around the house, eat, sleep - all without thinking a lot about it.

I've got two friends in the hospital right now. These normal routine things I do take on more meaning and significance after visiting the hospital. One friend has had a lot of pain and has had a lot of problems with her digestive system. She was able to eat and enjoy a small supper last night. When I sat down to eat my supper, I was grateful that I still have an appetite (yes . . . an overactive one, but I can still eat and enjoy my food).

We take for granted some basic things that are really the simple pleasures of life - being able to walk around, go outside, watch the birds, smell the roses. Two friends, two different medical situations, two small hospital rooms, IV's, monitors, oxygen, walkers, ambulance rides. For one, it was a gradual decline in health, the other a matter of days from feeling healthy to being kept alive on machines under sedation. But both have been taken out of the mainstream of life. Both families have new routines that include getting to know the hospitals intimately - the best place to park, the best route through the hospital, where the popsicles are, the "senior discount" for parking. But there is joy in small things - being able to breathe unassisted, being able to get out of bed for a short trip to the bathroom, small slices of bread with jelly, having a room where the sunshine can come in, having friends who care.

I am lucky - I can go home, I can eat a tasty meal, I can walk unassisted, I am relatively healthy. And . . . I'm getting ready to go on a big adventure. I am blessed.

But do I remember to thank God for these every day blessings?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yellowstone Campground Guide

We've made trips to Yellowstone a number of times. We've gone early in the spring a couple of times. It was great to be there before the crowds arrived. We've also been there one year in the fall after the crowds had left. While some things change from year to year, this is a rough guide for people who've never been there.

Camping is a great way to see the park. In reading the forums at, people always seem to have questions about planning their camping trip to Yellowstone. I'm trying to put together a resource to help people.

Some of the campgrounds can be reserved in advance through Xanterra. During peak season the campgrounds are going to get booked up well in advance. But don't let that totally discourage you about camping in the park. People have things happen that change their plans - so the bookings are always going to be dynamic. If the dates you want are booked, keep calling to see if they have had cancellations. We wanted to extend our stay at Fishing Bridge, by checking daily we were able to add on the extra days we needed. But we had to check every day for those cancellations. But if the reservations don't open up for you, don't despair, it is still possible to camp in Yellowstone without prior reservations. There are 7 campgrounds in Yellowstone that are first come - first served. We have found that we can spend a night outside the park (we usually choose Gros Vente in Grand Tetons - it usually has openings even in busy season - there are also national forest campgrounds outide the northeast entrance. There is also a large RV park in West Yellowstone.) We get up very early in the morning and head straight for the campground we're hoping for. Many people chose to stay in several campgrounds while at Yellowstone to be closer to the different attractions. Therefore, people are always moving out of a campground each morning. The earlier you can get to these campgrounds the more likely you are to get a spot.

We've used two different camping patterns. We find that we like to pick a central location such as Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Norris, or Madison. We can set up camp and then not waste valuable time moving several times. In many ways, I prefer the Canyon and Fishing Bridge area because they are right next to Hayden Valley. I love to be at Hayden Valley at sunset to watch the animals. Canyon gets me a little closer to get to Lamar Valley. We probably spend more time in those two locations than elsewhere in the park. But when you are chosing where to stay, consider what you are most interested in. If it is geysers, then the Madison campground is much closer to the geyser basins. If you are interested in watching wolves, Canyon (this year wolf viewing was good at the north end of Hayden Valley) or Slough Creek or Pebble Creek would be good base camps.

If you are going to be in Yellowstone two weeks, you might enjoy choosing two camping areas - one closer to the major geysers and one for the viewing the wolves and bears. If you're bringing a boat and plan to spend a lot of time on the lake, your camping choices will be different. If you are fly fishing, you will want to be over at Madison or Norris (I think fishing is illegal in Hayden Valley.) While moving does take some time, it does shorten your drive time to get to see the far corners of the park at the early morning - evening wildlife viewing times.

Some people really enjoy spending a couple of days at the Lake, a couple of days at Norris or Canyon, a couple of days at Mammoth, and a couple of days at Slough Creek or Pebble Creek. If you have a camping set up that is quick and easy to set up and disassemble this has the advantage of giving you time to experience the different areas of the park.

Another thing to think about - the Mammoth area has the lowest elevation - so it will be hotter in the summer but that warmth will feel good in the early spring and late fall.

Right now our campground of choice is Fishing Bridge RV park because we are in an RV and things run more smoothly when we have access to electricity. It has a good central location - fairly easy to get all over the park. The disadvantage of Fishing Bridge is that all of the RV's are parked very close together - it is NOT a scenic camping area. We stayed at Pebble Creek a few days and found that you really can survive without a generator several days- but we kept the inverter off most of the time and really worked to minimize the electricty we used. And Pebble Creek is one of the more scenic pretty areas to camp. Slough Creek, Norris, and Indian Creek all have charm in their settings.

I also learned that I enjoy my stay in Yellowstone better if I'm not trying to fix 3 meals a day. Yellowstone is a long drive for us - so I don't want to spend all my time cooking. We find that eating breakfast at home works. Sometimes we take a picnic lunch and then eat a hot meal at one of the restaurants for supper. Other times we grab a quick hamburger for lunch and then have chili, frito pie, or sandwiches for supper. One year I was tring to do fancy campground cooking while at Yellowstone - I gave that up quickly. There is too much to see and experience at Yellowstone to waste a lot of time cooking elaborate campground meals.

There are small grocery stores in Yellowstone. You can certainly get bread, lunch meat, chips, canned goods, milk, eggs, soda,some frozen dinners, pizzas, etc. I have been trying to eat a lo-carb diet - I didn't find things like my lo-carb slimfast or the low carb yogurts. So, if you are tent camping you can probably go get these limited items throughout your stay. If you are coming in an RV, I strongly recommend doing a good stockup in one of the towns right outside the park. (that may seem obvious, but we were midway between grocery runs when we entered the park this time - we had stocked up a day or so before, but did not "top off") The Teton store had a larger selection of grocery items. And of course you can make a run into West Yellowstone or Gardiner. But we spent most of our last trip at Fishing Bridge - so making a big grocery run with items needing refrigerating was not an option. We spent three weeks at the park and got by pretty well with the items we could get in the stores in the park.

If you are going very early in the season or very late in the season, my other blog, Yellowstone Facilities 07 Schedule will help you know what will be open to provide your gas and supplies.

Campground Information

Xanterra Campgrounds
To make reservations with the Xanterra campgrounds: Phone numbers: Same day #307-344-7901 Future Reservations: 307-344-7311 or 866-439-7375 Vehicles over 30 foot should make reservations in advance because limited number of sites that can accommodate the larger RV's.

Bridge Bay
Fishing Bridge - only campsite in Yellowstone with water, sewer, and electrical hookups - hard sided vehicles only
Grant Village

Park Service First come first served campgrounds

Indian Creek
Lewis Lake
Slough Creek
Pebble Creek
Tower Falls

Outside the Park
Flag Ranch, West Yellowstone, National Forest Campgrounds east of Cooke City (NE Entrance)

No overnight camping outside designated camping areas.

For those campers that prefer flush toilets: Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV, Gramt., Madison, Mammoth, Norris,

No generators: Indian Creek,Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, Tower Falls

Calendar (2007)

Mammoth - open all year

Order in which they open:

May 4-October 28 Madison
May 18-Sept 30 Fishing Bridge
May 18-Sept 24 Norris
May 18-Sept 24 Tower
May 25-Sept 16 Bridge Bay
May 25-Oct 31 Slough Creek
June 8-Sept 9 Canyon
June 8-Sept 17 Indian Creek
June 8-Sept 24 Pebble Creek
June15-Nov 4 Lewis Lake
June 21-Sept 23 Grant

Order in which they close
Sept 9 Canyon
Sept 16 Bridge Bay
Sept 17 Indian Creek
Sept 23 Grant
Sept 24 Norris
Sept 24 Tower
Sept 24 Pebble Creek
Sept 30 Fishing Bridge
Oct 28 Madison
Oct 31 Slough Creek
Nov 4 Lewis Lake'

Yellowstone Facilities '07 Schedule

As I worked on my campground information, I realized that if you're going to be camping in the park at either the earliest or latest parst of the season, it is important to know which services are going to be available for you.

Mammoth General Store - open all year
Mammoth Clinic - open all year
North Entrance - Open all year
Northeast Entrance - Open all Year

April 20 West Entrance Opens
April 20 Geyser Grill Fast Food
May 4 East Entrance Opens
May 4 Old Faithful Upper Store
May 4 Old Faithful Service Station (lower)
May 4 Canyon Service Station
May 4 Snow Lodge Restaurant
May 4 Mammoth Dining Room & Terrace Grill Fast Food
May 11 South Entrance Opens
May 11 Fishing Bridge General Store
May 11 Mammoth Hot Springs Service Station
May 14 Grant Village Mini Store
May 17 Old Faithful Clinic
May 19 Fishing Bridge Service Station
May 18 Canyon Wrecker Service
May 18 Old Faithful Wrecker Service
May 18 Tower Fall Store
May 19 Lake General Store
May 20 Canyon General Store
May 22 Old Faithful Service Station (upper)
May 25 Lake Clinic
May 25 Grant Village Lodging & Restaurant
May 25 Grant Village General Store
May 25 Grant Village Service Station
May 25 Grant Village Wrecker & Repair Service
May 25 Old Faithful Repair Service
May 25 Canyon Repair Service
May 25 Fishing Bridge Wrecker & Repair Service
June 1st Bridge Bay Marina Store
June 1 Canyon Lodge Dining Room & Cafeteria
June 8 Roosevelt Store
June 8 Tower Junction Service Station
June 15 Old Faithful Lower Store (basin)

Sept 2 Canyon Cafeteria
Sept 2 Roosevelt Store
Sept 3 Canyon Repair Service
Sept 3 Fishing Bridge Wrecker & Repair Service
Sept 3 Grant Village Wrecker & Repair Service
Sept 3 Old Faithful Repair Service
Sept 3 Old Faithful Service Station (upper)
Sept 3 Tower Junction Service Station
Sept 9 Bridge Bay Marina Store
Sept 16 Canon Lodge Dining Room
Sept 16 Fishing Bridge Service Station
Sept 23 Grant Village General Store
Sept 23 Grant Village Service Station
Sept 25 Lake Clinic
Sept 29 Tower Fall Store
Sept 30 Grant Village Lodging & Restaurant
Sept 30 Lake General Store
Oct 6 Grant Village Mini Store
Oct 6 Old Faithful Clinic
Oct 7 Fishing Bridge General Store
Oct 7 Old Faithful Lower Store (basin)
Oct 8 Mammoth Hot Springs Service Station
Oct 8 Mammoth Dining Room
Oct 9 Canyon General Store
Oct 14 Canyon Service Station
Oct 14 Terrace Grill Fast Food
October 14 Canyon Wrecker Service
Oct 14 Old Faithful Service Station (lower)
Oct 14 Old Faithful Wrecker Service
Oct 21 Old Faithful Upper Store
Oct 21 Snow Lodge Restaurant
Nov 4 Geyser Grill Fast Food
Nov 4 East Entrance
Nov 4 West Entrance
Nov 4 South Entrance

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Changing Face of Science Fiction Conventions

We're at ArmadilloCon 29 this weekend. I remember the first ones. How can it possibly be almost 30 years since the first one? And while things have changed, some of the best things remain the same.

I was introduced to science fiction when I started dating Henry . . . in the late 60's . . . (that also seems like a long time ago) Heinlein was still writing new books, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and Larry Niven were among the writers I was reading at the time. We went to our first science fiction convention: AggieCon held every year at Texas A&M. I remember sleeping in the parking lot in our station wagon (we were poor back then.) I don't remember whether it was 1972 or 1973, but in checking Wikipedia, we were certainly there early in its history. Hard to think back so far, but at that time, we did not have VCR's or DVD players. Cable TV was in its infancy. So one of the drawing points to AggieCon was that each evening, a science fiction film was shown in the big auditorium. The films drew the aggie's to buy their membership and the science fiction fans came to meet their favorite authors. NASA always had a big presence - it was so interesting to hear what was the latest news about the space program. Some of the scientists were also fans and they always gave such interesting (and inspiring) talks. We dreamed about L-5 colonies where people would live and colonize space. Amazing that over 30 years later, we are still struggling with our presence in space. And the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) would do demonstrations outside of medeval fighting - with authentic weapons and costumes, a precursor to the Renaissance Festivals so popular today.

Back to the films, almost every science fiction had a film room going all day, with the new big SF movies shown in the evenings. There were some great and some not so great classic films - and you really could not see them anywhere else. Some of them were ones I remembered seeing as a child. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, made in 1975, became a cult classic and was shown at midnight every year at AggieCon for years.

My early memories of ArmadilloCon was the classic films that were shown . . . they weren't necessarily my favorite, or even ones that I particularly liked, but it was a major part of the programming.

At a Houston convention, I remember literally a mob scene for one of the films. We were asked to leave the film room (I don't remember the reason, but perhaps to make it fair to all the people who wanted to see this particular film.) No one went far from the door and when they let people back in, it was crushing as people were trying literally to push their way into the small room. I can understand easily how people can get crushed and hurt in such situations. We were so lucky no one got hurt that night. While we got in to see whatever film it was . . . someone called the fire marshall - and from that point on, entry was much more orderly and the quotas on how many people were allowed in the room strictly followed.

As vcr's came out, more of the old films were easier for everyone to access. But old episodes of TV shows like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Twilight Zone were still hard to get hold of. So the film rooms changed. As time went on, the horror films from Japan quietly changed to the newer anime - which is still popular in the film rooms of cons today.

But now, one can go into any video store or book store and buy many of these old classics. Or they can be ordered online. So while film is still present at cons, it is not as big a draw.

Archon still has a media guest of honor each year - someone who has starred in a science fiction film or TV series. Star Trek characters still attend various Star Trek conventions each year.

ArmadilloCon has gone from being a "bad film" festival to being an amazing literary convention. They host a highly acclaimed writer's workshop before the convention. Many of the guests of honor are now up and coming writers getting their first chance to be GOH. And this year's programing looks to be very interesting.

The dealer's rooms and the art shows are still thriving.

The friends you meet in Fandom are still there.

And it is still so much fun to hear authors talk about their work and other science fiction themes.

Yes . . . thirty years later, I still love a science fiction convention.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Steel Magic

This panel was one of my favorite events at Archon. I always find Elizabeth Moon and Lee Martindale to be interesting, knowledgeable panelists. But this panel with John Hemry, Laura Underwood, Daniel Abraham, Ryu Cope and Paul Chafe worked very well. Swords are just fascinating. And this group knew their stuff - from the technology involved in crafting strong but flexible swords to the history of sword making to the magic of swords in stories - this panel touched on all of it. And, of course, the famous swords from great literary works were lovingly discussed. Amazing how many of these swords had names!

Hearing about the techniques in ancient sword making - no wonder swords have such a mystical symbolism. The ancient sword maker had to recognize the color of the molten metal as well as bend and shape it to form a sharp edge, a strong metal, and yet have a bendable, flexible weapon. Without our modern sensors and testing equipment, these old masters created amazing swords.

While swords were primarily weapons, many were crafted with beauty in their hilts and blades - a lasting beauty still visible today.

Many in the audience had their own swords - some were family heirlooms, others were military memorablia from either their own military service or from a family member's. Several had actual sword and knife collections. And many people still name their swords.

What a fun panel!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Letter to the Editor

My first published Letter to the Editor!

The Editorial that prompted the letter

My Letter

I'm long winded - I sent half of what I wrote for that. But I was so pleased that it made the paper today!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Archon31 - The Editor and Agent Panel

There were several ways I could go with this blog - my first thought had been to combine thoughts from this panel with at least two other presentations I've been to over the last few years. But I've decided that longer discourse needs to wait for a different blog. I am adding my own thinking about some of these topics - things that either went through my head during the panel discussion or insight about the issue that has surfaced in my brain as I've had a few days to mull over these issues.

Several things have remained in my mind from hearing this panel. For one thing, there was a lot of talk about reading patterns of the generation coming up behind the "boomers"- Generation y:

They seem to be reading more than ever - but not books - instead they read blogs, online fan fiction, games.
They tend to create their own entertainment
They are bypassing the commercial print entertainment

This makes it difficult to find a format to get materials out there in a way that can make a profit - A major issue is that so much of the content online is free. As the internet becomes a place for reading, people begin to believe there is no reason to pay to read fiction. Apparently there are people who believe that every work of fiction should be available online for free.

Think about the music industry - Napster broke new ground when it allowed people to share music - and in the process avoid paying for it. Fortunately for the music industry that was shut down. For listeners the IPOD and the Itunes Store has made it possible to obtain many classic pieces of music - and provide some revenue for the musicians.

But then think about newspapers. Several years back I discontinued all newspaper subscriptions - I was tired of all the physical paper that was coming into my house. I did not want to throw them away - I wanted to recycle. But we live in an area (out in the country) where we don't have curb side recycling. So newspapers just stacked up until I got around to loading them in my car and driving 10 miles (or more) to find a place that would accept them for recycling. I have found that almost any paper I want to read has an online version. But think about this from a profit making point of view. Almost all of these newspapers are free when you are reading current news. Some of them have a fee to read archived information. But think about the economics of newspaper publishing. Subcriptions have never paid the cost of publishing a newspaper - advertising has always been the dominant source of revenue. And yes, people are still buying newspapers. But . . . more and more people are reading their news online. And the online versions of the papers have only a few ads on each page. One of the online papers I read occasionally has annoying ads that flutter and float along the page, obscuring the article I'm trying to read. Now do I remember what products were in those ads . . . no. And apparently, newspapers are increasingly being bought up by big nationwide companies. Could we see a day when you buy an Austin paper and see NO local news - all national news that is being printed in all the papers everywhere? I have a hard time picturing that because I go to the Austin paper to read about Austin news, the Hutto paper to read local Hutto news. But if the economics changes . . . who is going to pay the writers to write the news and opinion pieces. And even scarier will our sources for news become so limited that we no longer get to see the different view points on current issues?

As far as books - there are many issues driving book sales - the vast majority of books sold are sold at Walmart, Sam's Club, Target, etc. Shelf life there is SHORT. While I really enjoy going into Barnes & Nobles and Borders, they can keep an inventory of more books at a cheaper wholesale cost than can a small local bookseller. And there are fewer chain book stores in the malls today for those impulsive book buyers. Think about this: most stores sold Harry Potter with a very slim profit margin - hoping that the additional purchases people made would be their profit makers. They were also hoping you would buy it from them rather than one of the discount stores. And the success of Harry Potter is amazing - but is it a new trend or a "dying gasp"?

And then there was a lot of discussion about the difference between Proctor and Gamble marketing soap and the selling of books. Think branding here. Think how much effort goes into making you choose one shampoo or detergent from another. And if you really like the product you're going to buy it again. But trying to market books like you market soap is NOT going to work. Think about it . . . You don't buy a book because it is published by Tor, Baen books or DAW (Although BAEN and DAW have successfully mained their brand image for loyal science fiction and fantasy readers.) You buy a book because you've read the author's work before, the cover art attracts your attention, or the title catches your eye. Each author is really a "brand." Think how many authors are represented in one book store alone. To go back to the soap analogy. Soap sellers sell four or five diferent kinds of soap every week, year end and year out. Publishers are selling 10 new and different brands each and every month! It is a new brand for each author, sometimes even for each book. I guess you could say that with series books the series itself is a brand. Another analogy - cherrios - simple decision - regular or honey nut. You can see for book selling it is a much more complicated equation. And if a big comglomerate publisher gets a new MBA marketing manager who was trained in marketing consumer items . . . .

Back to Generation Y:
The good news is that young people are reading more than ever, the bad news is that they are not necessarily reading books. My first thought when thinking about my children is that I raised one reader and one non reader. But then I thought again, my son does not devour books like his sister, however, he reads news articles avidly on the internet. He is well versed on current events, current politics, and business news.
Another interesting thing, there were two diferent view points on how generation y tackes a reading project. One study seemed to indicate that they don't read books linearly - from front to back. Rather they talk to their friends and read the favorite passages. It is a little like how most of us read a magazine - we pick out the articles we are interested in and read them in the order of our interest rather than from cover to cover. However, another study indicated that this same group of people will rent the DVD's of television series and watch the episodes in chronological order back to back. One implication of this iks that they may not be as interested in series fiction until all the series is completed. Since book publishers base their acquisition of books upon the number of books the first book in a series sells . . . you can see the contradiction or conflict here for marketing books. RIght now we don't have the things in place to put out a ten book series all at once so that pattern can transfer. I do read a lot of series fiction. It takes a year to two years between books. My memory is such that I have to go back and reread previous books to get back into the story line.
A young person in Generation Y seems to have up to five other intimate friends. They may rather read something written by one of their friends than go out and back the best novel out this week.

This panel definitely gave us different perspectives of good news/bad news. Some were optimistic, believing that publishing will find new ways to take advantage of these changing trends. Others were pessimistic, because the changes in technology and some social structures will impact how books and other intellectual material reach their audience.

Thought provoking panel . . . don't your think?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mississippi Musings

I''ve been fascinated with the Mississippi River since I was a child. Growing up in the Panhandle of Texas, the only river around was the Canadian River, which even on a good day, is a slow shallow wading place. The stories from Mark Twain, a spelling bee story that helps one remember how to spell Mississippi, and of course, the songs - Ole Man River from Showboat and Mighty Mississippi by New Christi Minstrels. They've both been in my head all day-even after we left the Mississippi River area.

We first saw the Mississippi at New Orleans where it is bound by city river walls, cruise ships, and buildings. Later we've crossed it at Natchez, Vicksburg, and Memphis on cross country trips. We've taken the short river boat tours around St. Louis and Hannibal. But one year we were lucky. We'd been at a convention in Minneapolis. We got to take our time and go down the Great River Road, sometimes on the east side, sometimes on the west. One of the favorite places we found was Big River State Forest north of Oquakwa, Illinois. There is a wonderful campground right on the banks of the Mississippi. You can watch the river barges right from your front window. (Yes, we ALWAYS park facing the river here!) Last fall we got to stay there 4 or 5 nights as I was working on a photo submission and needed time to stay in one place after our Chicago visit. (Two blog entries: Life Along the River and Life Lessons from a Riverboat)

Henry's latest story is set in Oquakwa, so after the St. Louis convention we made the drive up to drive around the town and make sure he had his details accurate. We checked out our campground, but with no electricity it was not a reasonable choice in the summer. So we stayed at Delabar State Park. This morning I went out for a walk. I need my nature time.

I saw cute little gray birds in the brush piles on the edge of the playground. My binoculars had a bad case of the foggy lenses from the cool temperature in the RV to the high humidity outside. I saw some kind of wren. I read the poster about not bringing Michigan wood into Illinois due to emerald borer. Then I headed over to the boat ramp.

As I approached the ramp,I thought I could hear the engines of one of the river tugs. There was an island between me and the main river channel. I waited, hoping to see it pass where I could see the channel, but no such luck. But in that waiting time, I fully enjoyed my surroundings. Two great egrets and three or four great blue herons fished for their breakfast. Some unseen bird had the prettiest fife like song. Occasionally some big (and I mean big) fish would flop around near me. I caught a glimpse once of a scaly back. I saw a big monster dragonfly dart by and small brilliant blue dragonflies hovering over the water. I got to watch a couple of young men unload an air boat and take off for an expedition on the water.

I pondered at how greatful I was that we do get to experience this great river. And it truly is one of the great rivers of the world. I thought about what it would be like to live in one of the houses here and experience the river throughout all four seasons. I dreamed about having a boat so I could explore the islands and see the migrating water birds in the fall and spring. What would it be like to work on one of the barge tugs going up and down the river as your life's paying job? Wouldn't it be nice to actually take one of those cruises that starts at the upper end of the Mississippi and takes you all the way to New Orleans?

Life is short . . . there is more to see and do on God's beautiful world than any one person can ever do. Henry and I are lucky . . . we get to do more than most. But I can certainly dream about a lot of different things that would be fun to do! This time we only get to spend one night in this area . . . we've got to be back in Austin for a science fiction convention this weekend. But I find myself wishing we had more time here. . . .

Sitting along the Mississippi banks and soaking it all in is truly one of life's simple pleasures.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Archon -Promoting Your Book

People who are trying to make a living with their creative work are always going to have to find a way for people to find out about them. If you are writing books, people need to know the book exists . . . people outside your immediate circle of family and friends. For nature photographers, I've been told that you need to have many sources of revenue for your photography - prints, magazine sales, photography books, photo tours, teaching classes, etc. For anyone to want to go on a photography tour you might want to lead, they've got to know something about your skills and credentials as a photographer. I have long term goals of being a retreat speaker to encourage other Christian women. Getting my Christian books published is part of that goal. To be successful, they will need to be promoted. Even if your book comes out with a major publisher, it is still up to the author to promote their work. The publishing house may help you . . . and then again, maybe not. And, if your first book does not sell well, it may be impossible to get the next one published.

So when I saw the panel: "Promoting Your Book" I figured that some of this information presented for science fiction writers would carry over into the Christian writing I'm trying to do and with my photography.

Amazingly enough, having a web presence - a website and perhaps a blog was one of the first things mentioned. And not just any old webpage - you need to have a good web page with your own domain name. People who meet you at conventions and other events will want to go check out who you are. I'm finding that I want to change the photo on the front page of my website so that people who visit regularly have a reason to come back. I also try to have links to my newest work - so that repeat visitors can see new things. And your blog needs to be interesting. One piece of advice: Only write when you have something to say. Better to blog only occasionally but have it worthwhile. I disagree with that a little bit. I find that if I don't keep putting up new posts, my readership falls away. But . . . I have to find things people are interested in reading about. I check my Google Analytics regularly to see whether I am getting new readers and what kind of return visits I'm getting. One caution is real - you can spend all your time on your blog and not get your "real" work done - writing your books, processing your photos, and producing new work.

I learned a new phrase: ego surfing. It is simple: Google your own name. See who's talking about you or linking to you. Having Google Analytics set up for your website will also help see how people are finding you. Thanking people for mentioning you on their website or on a podcast or radio program also creates good will. Whether you call it ego surfing or research, it is important. You may also find copyright violations that way . . . unauthorized use of your work.

Haley Elizabeth Garwood set up a road trip for her aging mom and contacted libraries, bookstores to set up talks and book signings. In 5 1/2 weeks, she managed to do 55 presentations or events.

As always, thinking outside the box - one of the authors - I think it was Haley ghost wrote a book that is being marketed in the hair salon business all over the country! Another one had an opportunity to do a book signing in an antique store. One of the writers got her book included in a catalogue of swords!

And, of course, don't forget your local newspapers - they are eager for interesting stories about local people.

When you have a book coming out, get started on your promotional contacts about 3 months before it is scheduled to come out. If you are working with a big publisher, find out which publicist is assigned to your book. Make contact, show interest.

And you may have some fortuitous things happen. One cruise line wanted books as part of their turn down service. They bought books for every room on the ship! What great publicity was that!

Above all, be nice. Whether an author or a photographer, once you start competing - somebody is going to be a loser. When you are nice to the people that are coming up behind you, it helps promote your work. If you are ugly and mean spirited, it will have an impact on your book sales and your future as a writer.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

From Archon . . . Blunders New Writers Make

When you go to a science fiction convention, it is amazing how many people want to be writers. Most of the attendees are readers, but a large number of them really want to create stories and books that other people will want to read. But out of all the people that want to be writers, only a small percentage will actually get their work published in a magazine or book. A few more will get their work into fanzines (but I don't know how many fanzines are still out there.)

I'm not trying to write science fiction, but I am trying to write Christian books and publish photographs and articles in nature magazines. So I thought this panel would probably have some information I would find useful.

First and foremost . . . Did you follow the submission guidelines? This is going to be true no matter what genre you are involved with. Photography magazines, stock photography agencies, book editors all have their own way of wanting material presented to them. If you have ignored the submission guidelines, that is a strike against you from the word go. For photography, file size, amount of post processing, image quality, subject, etc are going to be listed. And I discovered that I needed to recheck guidelines. The technology is changing fast. One magazine changed its guidelines in between submisions I made. I was lucky, the editor patiently pointed me in the direction of upgrading my software and workflow. Some of the Christian book publishers want to meet you at a Christian Writer's Conference. Science fiction book editors seem to prefer that you have an agent. And, of course, there is a standard manuscript format. Ignore that, and they probably won't even look at your work.

If you are going to get your work out there, it is going to be rejected. Each market will have a different time frame in which they get back to you. If you try to rush this, they'll just send your work back. Read the rejection letters. Some of them are going to be very impersonal and obviously mass produced. But some are going to be written personally to you. Take note o those personal rejections. Many times you can make small changes and resubmit. But if the editor has suggested specific changes - don't change everything else and leave what was recommended unchanged . . . Don't laugh . . . it happened.

While sometimes a change an editor wants may go against your creative muse, the editor has the final say. If you are a new writer, you won't have the clout to get away with not making the change. On the other hand, you also probably don't have the experience either. The editor KNOWS his readership - what they like and what they don't like. It is to your benefit to get your work out there rather than having it sit lonely on your computer or in your file drawer.

Another mistake was one that really struck home for me: Finish your work! One of the panelists said, "Perfect is the enemy of good enough." I certainly made that mistake with my first book. I had it written for 3 years before I put it out where editors could see it. And then I waited another year before actually getting it into editors hands. I have more books to write. It is more important to get them started, written, finished, and SUBMITTED. I'm fighting that with my photography as well. It is more important to get those images submitted than to fret that they are not "good enough" and leave them wasting away on the hard drives.

On the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website there is a lot of information for beginning writers. If you surf this website, there is much information that is available for anyone to read. One of the panelists mentioned The Saga of Myrtle the Manuscript. It takes awhile to read, but it certainly shows what can happen to a manuscript as it goes through the submission process. My own story - one of my first photographic submissions I sent with the DVD and the contact prints in a large brown envelope - no cardboard stiffener. When I got it back, I was appalled, with no reinforcement, the dvd case had bent up the contact prints. Now I got off on this trip without my cardboard inserts, so I did send a submission without as good a protection, but I did find a way to separate that hard DVD case from the prints.

Living with a writer all these years, I know how hard it is to receive rejection letters. But the panel ended by talking about how much people learn from what at first looks like a failure.

While there were other things worth mention- especially for fiction writers - like point of view, showing rather than telling, the importance of the opening sentence, etc, I'm going to end this blog here. Science fiction conventions often have panels like this. New writers are well advised to attend conferences like this to learn from other people's mistakes. Plus, experienced writers leave all psyched up to go out and write some more.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Henry at Amazon

Emperor Dad is now available at Amazon books.

And yes, we're excited. Henry is already working on getting the artwork for the next book.

We'll be at ArmadilloCon in Austin next weekend.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Archon 31 - St. Louis

For a total change of pace from what I've been blogging, we're now at a science fiction convention. I've been trying to blog this kind of event as we attend them, so . . . .

While Archon 31 which is also this year's NASFIC (North American Science Fiction Convention) started yesterday, today was the first day I went over there. I have a photo submission due early next week that I must get out. So I spent yesterday at the RV working on it. While I continued working on that submission today, I did it at one of the tables at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Illinois - a suburb of St. Louis.

As we drove up, I noted to myself: "yep, people in costumes and fanciful artistic SF t-shirts - yep we're at a con!" One of the first things I do at a con is to take the pocket program book and start marking it up. As I go through it, I mark panel titles that look interesting, I mark writers and panelists that I either know or whose books I read, and I check the Kaffeklatsch list. Now you may be thinking, "What in the world is a Kaffeklatsch?" (And one of the workers at the convention gave me a funny look when I asked where the sign-up was for the Kaffeklatsch's.) A Kaffeklatsch is time spent with an author around a table (coffee can be part of the picture) talking informally. You have an hour of time to get to know your favorite author with you and perhaps 6 or 7 other people. You can ask questions, you can listen, you can tell them what you like about their work. I signed up for one today - with Sheila Finch. We met her a number of years back at one of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Banquets. I have found her to be an interesting person - so I try to attend some of the her events at the cons I attend. I also picked up her new book The Guild of Xenolinguists.

Even though I did not attend many panels because I knew I needed to get my work done, I really enjoyed looking up from my computer and watching the people pass by. I called out to a few friends as they went by.

I did go to three panels today:
Is there room in an SF universe for God?
From the Other Side of the Text - editors and agents give insights into publishing
Steel Magic

I have been pleased to see that many of the science fiction cons now have a "religion" track - including worship services on Sunday morning. The panel, " Is there room in an SF universe for God?" was made up of a fairly typical cross section of Science Fiction people - from an atheist, a Catholic, a Christian Taoist (I think I got that one right), and anthropologist, and a couple of others that I think were Christian but I don't remember the details of their introductory statements. Sheila Finch was the moderator. Her first question was whether humans have an innate need for religion. That one sparked a great debate that covered all the bases. However, one thing that came up was the discovery Google "gene study transcendence" and you will find several links. The Brain Chemistry of the Buddha was the first one I opened. I need to study the article, but this is definitely what was mentioned on the panel.

The other two panels deserve their own blog. So. . . . I'll close for tonight.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Africa Itinerary Correction

I was making a more detailed itinerary and realized I had left out a two day stay at Chobe Savannah Lodge.

When I was entering in the information before I wondered that I had only booked two nights at Chobe . . . good to know I was on the ball when I did the booking.

Even so, when I was typing in an itinerary with dates and flights and times, I still had to go back and check to make sure the dates on the final itineraries - especially the various flights were all booked correctly.

My only thing I wish had gone a little differently . . . I wish we had had more time in Cape Town. I meant to spend at least one more day there adjusting for jet lag. But, I do like that we have a couple of nights at the Chanter's Guest House perhaps so we will start our time with the Gregersens a little more rested.

Photographic Submissions

The fun part of nature photography is getting out and taking the photographs. I also enjoy working the photos and bringing out as much beauty as I can. To me that is creative and very fulfilling. The grunt work is getting the photographs submitted. For one thing I have to figure out which photos should go where. Decisions, decisions. Each contest and magazine has different criteria - image size, post processing standards as well as what kinds of images are appropriate for their market.

I've been working on my Yellowstone images, but I have deadlines that are now looming over my head. Some of these images I took over 6 months ago, but I am just now doing the finishing work for the submission. Unfortunately I work better with the stress of an iminent deadline. I have some submissions I've been meaning to make for some time that have fallen through the cracks.

But here are the submissions I will be working on this next week or so:

National Geographic Traveller - World in Focus Contest

Nature's Best Backyards Contest

Hubbard Museum of the American West -16th Annual Fall Photo Exhibition (This one is not due until September or early October, but I would be wise if I got it ready before the Africa trip.)

Texas Highways Magazine (This one is high on my priority list because I took 2 sets of photos specifically for their wants list!)

North American Nature Photographer's Association Member's Showcase (I've submitted this one for about three years now - it is fun to get photo into this beautiful book.)

Nature Photography Magazine

So while Henry is busy at the North American Science Fiction Convention - I need to be disciplined and spend most of my time at the RV working. But I will take time and do some fun stuff at the con!