Friday, July 12, 2013

Till We Meet Again

Dear Readers,

Today marks the last day of this blog, at least for now. We have circled the globe with all of you so many times, that it’s nearly impossible to say goodbye. And so we won’t.

Blogging has been one of the best rides this group of writers has been on, combining all of our favorite interests in one fun package. And yet we always meant for it to be a jumping off point to the wider writing world beyond.

As each of us puts the finishing touches on our novels in progress, hopefully getting them published and fulfilling our dreams of writing books you’ll enjoy, we want to take this opportunity to thank you, our generous readers and contributors, for all of the wonderful support, feedback, and inspiration you’ve provided us over these past few years. If we never write another word, you’ve already made us feel most successful and, forgive the pun, on top of the world.

We hope you’ll stay connected, both here and through our individual e-mail addresses, web sites, and sundry social networks. We provide our contact details in each of our bios on this blog. (Scroll down, at right.)

And you never know. We may surprise you with other collaborations down the road.

Until then, best wishes from all of the Novel Adventurers! 

Credit: Serge Lachinov(PD-US)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vacation Pictures: Patricia, Edith, Leslie


By Patricia Winton

I’ve just returned from a visit to Florence, a city I know well. Some of the things I revisit from time to time are the more than a dozen murals of The Last Supper to be found there. The one above (top), by Andrea del Sarto, has been called the most beautiful painting in the world. Unlike in most others, including Leonardo da Vinci’s, here Judas sits at the right hand of Jesus instead of across the table.

As I continue to look at these murals, I’ve become obsessed with the tablecloths. In the del Sarto one, the cloth hangs in soft folds in a natural manner. Left (Mateo Rosselli) The cloth has been ironed with all the folds pointing out—an ironing impossibility. Center (Domenico Ghirlandaio—Ognisanti) Elaborate embroidery graces both ends of the tablecloth. Right (Andrea del Castagno) Here the slightly patterned tablecloth hangs rigid and narrow with no folds or pleats and provides an ample view of the diners’ feet.

My current work in progress gives a nod to The Last Suppers of Florence. You can keep up with my progress on my website or on my blog at Italian Intrigues

Ralighvallen, Central Suriname Nature Reserve

By Edith McClintock

It is the setting I loved most in my first mystery—the rainforest, the wildlife, and a place called Raleighvallen (Raleigh Falls) in the Central Suriname Nature Reserve.

I think my protagonist, Emma, expresses it best:

“Even with all the frustrations, I fell completely and irretrievably in love with the rainforest that week — the deep rich smells of dirt and decay and teeming, thriving life; the warm soft light of the rocky moss-covered paths hidden beneath layers of climbing and tumbling lianas and roots; soaring tree trunks wrapped in colorful bromeliads, orchids, moss, and lichens; and the canopy of leaves of every conceivable size and shape. Each day was a new adventure, new wildlife (some good, some terrifying) and ever changing forest, from the sunlit traveling palm groves to the dense, swampy marshes near the river; to the rocky, open forests with the towering trees the spider monkeys loved.” —Monkey Love and Murder 

Living in Raleighvallen was hot, itchy, and scary, but also spectacularly beautiful. Something I’m grateful to have experienced. You can experience it too, minus the mosquitos and deadly snakes. Pick up Monkey Love and Murder and enjoy a rainforest adventure from your couch. 

You can also follow my future travels on my blog A Wandering Tale or visit my author website. 

National Parks

By Leslie Hsu Oh 

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
I grew up rafting, hiking, spelunking, and riding on horseback through nearly all the national parks in the United States and Canada. On the forgiving banks of Lake McDonald in Glacier, I mourned the death of my mother and brother a few days after I turned 21. At the foot of Denali, beneath the gentle fall of snow, my husband got down on one knee and proposed. 

When my mother died, she asked my father to take me to Alaska and finish visiting all the parks. My father never made it to Alaska but my husband tried his best to complete her wish. While he drove me to Kenai Fjords and Denali many times in the seven years that we lived in Alaska, the other parks were much more difficult to visit due to logistics and finances. A few months before we had to leave Alaska, we captured this shot of the four of us, outfitted in crampons (including the two-year-old), traversing a crevice in Wrangell-St. Elias. I hang this photo in my living room because it encourages me to pursue my dreams no matter how hard it might seem and how many people tell you it’s impossible.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my life, like I’m being blown off course or things aren’t going my way, I find strength from the photograph of my daughter in Canyonlands. For my 40th, my dear friend Keilah Frickson, found matching bracelets, each with an aphorism that spoke to us at the moment. This photo reminds me of mine: “Storms just make you stronger.” Stay tuned at
Canyonlands National Park

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Travels with Beth, Alli, and Supriya

Under the Surface

By Beth Green
Sliding under the water on a scuba dive is like a vacation within a vacation for me. The rumble of boats’ engines and the slapping of waves against hulls is replaced by the calming, even sound of your own breath. There’s no space for worrying about the land-bound when you’re on a dive. Will your flight leave on time? Did you apply enough sunscreen? Where did you put your credit card after the bar last night? The surface world is only a few yards above your head--but its mundane problems can wait until the end of the dive. The world narrows, focuses, until the only thing of import is what’s in front of your mask. Here, a colony of brightly colored fish circle the crevices of their anemone home, suspicious of the curious scuba diver, who hovers, amazed by the play of sunlight on the surrounding bright green sea grass.
Photo taken by Beth Green at Balicasag Island, Bohol, Philippines. Contact Beth on Twitter @bethverde or via her website

Life’s Journeys
By Alli Sinclair

My journey with Novel Adventurers is not unlike the other journeys I’ve taken in life. I did lots of research, set out with a rough plan, and allowed myself to go with the flow and, most importantly, meet and learn from others along the way.

My writing, too, has travelled a few interesting roads since starting this blog. I’ve now signed with a wonderful literary agent and I’m working on a New Adult romantic adventure and an adult series that weaves present-day stories with historical. Luna Tango is my first book in this series and hopefully it won’t be too long before you see it on the shelves! You can find me here:
with the latest updates of the wonderful journey called life!

Thank you all for joining me on my travels, and I look forward to hearing about yours!

The Big Picture
By Supriya Savkoor

Over the past three years of blogging at Novel Adventurers, I’ve had the thrill of circling the world many times over, experiencing vicarious adventures through our fascinating co-bloggers and guest contributors as well as sifting through my own travel memories.

We have covered much ground in this space. Hands down, my favorite topic has been all the overlap in cultures and customs. In particular, I’ve had the opportunity here to follow the many diverse paths that East Indian culture has traveled over the millennia. Through this lens, global communities that I previously knew little about—Cambodia, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Iran, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, to name just a few—now feel as familiar to me as India itself and taught me how small our world really is.

Case in point: the woman featured prominently in the photo collage at left is Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the first elected female prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. She is the seventh prime minister of this tiny Caribbean country, and the second, after Basdeo Panday, of ethnic Indian descent. In 1889, her great grandfather left India and became a girmitiya, a term that describes the many Indian slaves taken to former British colonies and eventually settling there after gaining their freedom. Persad-Bissessar  took her oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s most sacred texts, although she says, “I have no specific church as such. I am of both the Hindu and Baptist faiths.”
Stories such as these, however far away in time or distance, are a part of my cultural heritage and travels. I hope they help inspire your own.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vacation Pictures: Heidi, Jenni, Kelly

Crossing Alborz

By Heidi Noroozy

Crossing Iran’s Alborz Mountains on the Chalous Road from Tehran to the Caspian Sea is sometimes breathtaking, often hair-raising, and always an adventure. The road twists in a multitude of hairpin turns, and I hold my breath as we scrape past rough rocky walls, swerve around oncoming cars that straddle the lanes, and seem about to plunge into endlessly deep ravines. The road runs through a multicolored landscape—gray and red rock on the Tehran side, white-capped peaks at the summit, and green valleys on the descent to the land-locked sea. Early in the journey, we pass the Karaj Dam with its lake of blue-green water. A village on the far shore, cradled by rocky cliffs, is accessible only by boat. Higher up, the road tunnels through the mountain, and avalanche shelters protect it from bits of broken glacier. Villages, farms, and restaurants crop up in places that seem too bleak to support human life. Roadside shops sell everything from cigarettes to yogurt strained through huge white cloth bags that dangle from the eaves. I always keep an eye peeled for the haft sheytoon (seven devils), cone-shaped rock formations that line the road. There are only five devils now, since two of them broke off and fell into the valley below, victims of an earthquake or the wrath of God, depending on who’s telling the tale. When I spot the deep blue expanse of the Caspian Sea peaking through the trees, I feel my muscles relax. Once again, I’ve survived the perilous journey across the Alborz Range.

Oregon Coast

By Jenni Gate

On home leave from Africa or Asia every couple of years, we traveled the U.S., visiting every relative my parents could think of. My earliest memories of the Oregon Coast are from one of these trips, when I was about 7 years old. We traveled from seeing family in Oregon down the Oregon Coast, through the Redwoods in Northern California and into central California to see more relatives. I don’t remember much about the family we visited, but the Oregon Coast made a deep impression. In California, the beaches were warm and inviting, but in Oregon they are wild. The rocks rising from the waters off the coast create a raw, stormy beauty matched by few other places. Its treacherous, rugged coastline inspires artists and photographers the world over. In college, I visited the Oregon Coast and fell in love all over again. When my son was about 3, we traveled with my parents to Brookings, and it was a joy to see my son experience the surf and sand for the first time. Now it is still my favorite place on the planet, one I have the opportunity to visit occasionally. Whether during a violent winter storm or a sun-kissed summer day, my favorite memories are of contemplating the vast ocean and hiking the cliff trails, sand dunes, and beaches of the Oregon Coast.

For more of my tales, please check my blog at Nomad Trails and Tales and like my page on Facebook. You can also follow me on Pinterest.

Snowy Mountains, Tripping Stream

By Kelly Raftery

This picture always garners the question, “Where in Kyrgyzstan was this taken?” It always reminds me why we chose Colorado as our home. Colorado, we are proud to call you home, for all that you are that reminds us of Kyrgyzstan, for all the opportunities you have given us. This photo was from a trip we took two years ago, just after my husband landed the job that brought us to the Front Range.

I remember this warm, sunny day, stopping alongside the road, walking in a mountain meadow and watching the stream rush by, washing our hands in the ice cold water. After three years of trying to escape Las Vegas’s severe economic downturn, we would be in our new home by the end of the month.

This photo marks a week when our lives took a new direction. Once in Colorado, my son was able to take dance lessons (he is now competing on the national level), my husband was able to find a challenging and fulfilling job and I was able to find time to pursue my passion for writing.

Those snowy mountains, that tripping stream, thank you for leading us home.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Shrink and Swell

By the time my newborn settles into sleep, a whisper of rain skitters through the forest scattering birds. A black swallowtail butterfly prances from one spruce needle to another, stretching the pattern on her wings. An Eastern yellow jacket hops hurriedly across the deck. The sound of a motor runs on a lake I can’t see.

Through four skylights, I watch white clouds bleed across a blue sky. My feet are bare, hot against the floors of a hand hewn log cabin, which sits on 1.5 acres along Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin. I walk slowly through the three-bedroom house, admiring the craftsmanship of the builder. It’s the kind of home I’d love to retire in someday — every detail is handcrafted by local artists even the custom cabinets and furniture.

The owners, Maureen and Moe Toshner, worked hard to offer a “restoring experience” to their guests. “There is something about the warmth of wood and the smell of pine that relaxes me. The logs make me feel like I am a part of nature, I'm away from it all,” Maureen says.

The bottom of my robe tumbles down a winding open staircase that the builder spent a lot of care trimming. I press my cheeks to the cool stones of a natural fieldstone fireplace and run my fingers along the cracks in the logs.

Having owned a log cabin, I’ve always been drawn to the process with which logs shrink and swell. After a tree dies, water in the hollow portion of the wood cells evaporates first. When all the water inside the cells is lost to evaporation but the cell walls are still swollen with water, a fiber saturation point is reached. Shrinkage only occurs below this saturation point, when cell walls lose their moisture. The drying-out movement along the log’s diameter causes cracks or checks to occur slowly over time until an equilibrium is reached with the surroundings.

The baby purrs against my chest, snuggled deep in a sling. She likes my slow dance to settling wood. My toes purposefully rock the planks that trigger a squeak, crackle, or snap.

I wonder if the wood is resisting its circumstances as am I. Today is my 40th birthday. My husband left two hours ago, taking my seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to pick up a friend from the airport. His gift: a few hours of “writing” time (newborn permitting, of course) in this quiet luxurious cabin. As soon as they return, wedding festivities will begin. A classmate from my MFA program is getting married and soon my tomboy will be twirling on wet grass in a white flower girl dress and my son will need a lot of hugs as he juggles ring bearer jitters.
Photo credit: Matt Moeller
Photo credit: Erin Wilcox
Turning 40 feels akin to reaching a saturation point. Ten years ago, I imagined I would be climbing Denali or spending my 40th photographing and writing about a Wonder of the World. Today, I wrap my arms around a Door County log instead of a Tetrameles nudiflora, whose famous roots filmed in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider choke the ruins of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

I try not to feel disappointed. That I should’ve accomplished more in my career, been a better friend, wife, or mother.

I try not to feel sad. That it’s time to let go of some dreams.

I should be tougher. Let critiques like these repel rather than soak in:

"If you give up medical school, you'll always worry about
money and you'll end up writing on the side anyway."

“I told you you were making your life harder by having a third.”

Mostly, I wish I could have proven them wrong. I wish there were less regrets.

Feeling terrible for admitting these thoughts, I collapse onto the couch, prop my feet up on the knotted surface of a coffee table made from planks of an old barn, and close my eyes to the absence of kids, Internet, cellular connectivity, and anything that normally pulls my attention in multiple directions. Thunder rumbles above. Through the screen door, a cool wind blows in the calming smell of cedar, poplar, and birch. I can hear the wood in the cabin settling down with me.

I allow myself to consider that wood is not resisting as much as relaxing into its circumstances, something I desperately needed to do. The cracks give the logs character and in the end, when all is settled, creates a work of art.

Later that night, my husband will put down the kids so I can enjoy the hot tub on the deck. As soon as I dip my feet into the water, flashes of lightning will light the skies followed by chilly rain. I will shake my fists at the stars and try to laugh instead of cry.

After the jets have soothed my bug bites, I will tiptoe into the cabin and check on my family. The baby is asleep on my husband’s chest. Upstairs in a custom log bunk bed made by the builder, my daughter is snoring but my son is blinking at me. He cups my head in his little hands and says, “You’re the best mommy in the whole world! I have the best family.”

When I ask him why, he gushes about the bunk bed, the cabin, and all the fish he and his sister caught all by themselves for the first time yesterday.

Photo credit: Scott Frickson
He reminds me that this is how I should choose to remember my 40th birthday. That somehow despite all the things that I should’ve done, it is the things that I have tried, the cracks that I made in my life, that matter.

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