Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New Book Subbed!

Well, a lot happened in the last year -- my mother died, my eighteen-year-old cat died the next day, my youngest daughter graduated from college, and my oldest daughter started a full time music teaching job, we adopted two new kittens, and I made the very tough decision to leave my wonderful job at Colchester High School to follow my dream and write full time.

My biggest physical feat for sure was to climb Camel's Hump, the third highest peak in Vermont, this summer. My mother wanted her ashes spread there, and so we did. I didn't think I could make it to the top, but I felt inspired, and did very well on the way up. Coming back down was another story, but I made it and realized I'm not in as bad shape as I thought I was. However, I'm not in a hurry to try it again.

In December, I had a short story published in an anthology called Take a Chance, edited by Jamie Deacon. It was exciting to work with an editor in England. He had previously reviewed my work and asked me to submit. I recently submitted my newest novel, Owl, to a publisher. Now we'll see where my new full time writing career takes me.

In the meantime, we're enjoying another lovely summer at camp with lots of kayaking and barbecues with family and friends, and of course lots of time just hanging out watching the sunsets. It's starting to hit me now that I won't be going back to school in a few weeks, and I have to say that even though I will miss the kids and all the wonderful adults I've worked with so long, what I'm mostly feeling is a deep sense of relaxation and joy in knowing I can watch the seasons change into fall and winter without the dread of driving on icy roads in the dark mornings, and a sense that it's finally time to be myself all the time.

Here I am climbing Camels Hump.  Photo by Crystal Lanper

Friday, August 26, 2016


This year, the water level is at a near record low, which means as I paddle along the familiar shore near our camp, I am seeing more of the ledges than have ever been visible before. It makes sense that places that are normally underwater year round have eroded more than those above the surface. But I had no idea there were so many caves. All those dark little pockets I could see beneath the surface and wondered what was down there are now completely exposed. It's a little unnerving actually, to have to look up at the formations that I'm used to seeing at eye level.

But, oh so cool!

The high water mark is the the top of the white in the photos.

This little cave was full of opened clam shells. I think I found somebody's (maybe an otter's) feeding spot. It smelled REALLY bad.

This is my all time favorite cave which we named the Turtle long ago because it looks like a sleepy turtle with a head and two front legs. (I used to beg my father to paddle the canoe close so I could tickle its chin.) I have snorkled into the cave beneath it many times, but I've never been able to bring a boat inside before. 

 I was a little apprehensive, but I gathered my courage and paddled into the cool dimness, being careful of my head. The water was flat calm and the gurgles sounded like deep-throated animals breathing quietly. (Or maybe swallowing.)

It went back a lot farther than I'd ever realized. And looked like it went back farther still.

A selfie in the Turtle with the opening behind me.

It was much bigger inside that I thought, and I was able to turn the kayak completely around, using my hands on the walls. The water was about a foot deep beneath me, and the rocks were golden-green in the magical light.

A sailboat passed by just as I was starting out. But the funniest thing was that two kayaks paddled right by the opening just after I took this shot. I had no idea they were approaching, and they had no idea I was in there, and we scared each other half to death. When we'd all stopped laughing, I calmly said, "I live here." The guy looked like I was out of my mind, but the woman said, "There are a lot worse places to live." 

I totally agree.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post by Lori MacLaughlin -- A Writer's Legacy for Her Children

I am so pleased to welcome my long time friend and fellow author Lori MacLaughlin to my blog today. She is celebrating the release of her second novel, Trouble by Any Other Name. I have been privileged to read it while it was still in the works, and I'm excited that the further adventures of Tara are now available to the rest of the world. Lori's novels are beautifully written -- full of great description and tight dialogue, along with carefully drawn characters whose lives continue right off the page. Below the guest post are links where the book may be purchased, if you haven't already run into Lori at a local event. She is all over the place, and her post is all about writing with a family.

Welcome, Lori!

Thank you, Kari Jo, for having me over!!

My kids were 15 and 13 in February of 2015 when I published my first book. I'm glad they were in their teens because they were old enough to appreciate this very special moment in my life — the moment when what had once seemed an impossible dream came true.

And while they might not have been able to grasp the enormity of the event, which had been in the making for almost 30 years, they did get to see firsthand the success that resulted from all those years of hard work, determination, and perseverance.

They grew up knowing I was a writer, even though at that point it was just a hobby. I mean, let's face it, trying to write with any consistency with little kids running around is a challenge, to say the least. Particularly with my daughter (my older child), who only napped for half an hour unless I napped with her. I swear she had an alarm clock in her brain. I'd put her down for a nap in her crib, and the instant 30 minutes had gone by — boing! — she was up and ready to go. I was never a night owl, either, so writing anything coherent at night was an extremely rare occurrence.

Writing and reading have always been a huge part of my life, and I'm so happy to have passed that on to my children. Both kids love to read and both have said they want to be writers. Their tastes are a little different than mine. My daughter loves mysteries and stories about magical fairies (like Winx Club), while my son loves racing stories and some fantasy (like the Ranger's Apprentice series). They haven't read my books yet. There's a little too much swordplay and bloodletting for her, and my son is definitely NOT into the romance angle. Give him a couple of years, though, and that may change.

Another reason I'm glad my kids are older is that they're a big help at bookselling events like craft fairs and farmer's markets and such. They can take over when I need a break. When my son is running the table, people come up, look at my books or more specifically at my author name, then invariably grin and ask him if he's the author. He takes it with good humor, though, and doesn't mind helping out.

I hope someday to see my kids' stories in print. They are already good writers with unique voices. The best part is that I know they'll pass their love of books on to their kids, as my parents passed it on to me. When I think about the legacy I'd like to leave for my children, I realize that so much of what I would impart has already taken root in them. They are good and kind and nonjudgmental, they love reading and writing, and they know if they work hard, they can make their dreams come true. They make me proud.

TITLE: Trouble By Any Other Name

Sequel to Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble

AUTHOR: Lori L. MacLaughlin

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2016

GENRE: Fantasy
 About the Book:

Tara Triannon is no stranger to trouble. She's yet to find an enemy her skill with a sword couldn't dispatch. But how can she fight one that attacks through her dreams?

With her nightmares worsening, Tara seeks answers but finds only more questions. Then her sister, Laraina, reveals a stunning secret that forces Tara to go to the one place Tara's sworn never to return to. Her troubles multiply when Jovan Trevillion, the secretive soldier of fortune who stole her heart, is mentally tortured by an ancient Being intent on bending him to its will. And worst of all, the Butcher — the terrifying wolf-like assassin she thought she'd killed — survived their duel and is hunting her again.

Hounded by enemies, Tara sets out on a harrowing quest to discover the true nature of who she is, to come to grips with the new volatility of her magic, and to defeat the evil locked in a centuries-old trap that will stop at nothing to control her magic and escape through her nightmares.

Buy Links:

Amazon           Barnes & Noble          Kobo               iBooks

Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She's been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids' shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she's not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

Website/Blog     Goodreads      Facebook     Google+    Pinterest

Friday, January 15, 2016


My Whisper passed on Christmas Eve. Even though things had been looking so good, the diabetes came back and his kidneys were beginning to fail. Treating everything would have meant injecting fluid under his skin every other day, determining what his new insulin dose would be, and changing his diet. All this would mean constant trips to the vet and a great deal of blood work and needles and the risk of going into shock again. And the kidneys were going down no matter what -- it was just a matter of time, possibly only weeks. So I made one of the most horrible decisions of my life and decided that this was time. I held him while he went. The last several weeks have been pretty hard for me because Whisp and I had developed a bond over the last seventeen years that I've shared with few others in my life. His sister Pumpkin and I still cry ourselves to sleep most nights.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Kitty Drama

As some of you may know, I have a diabetic cat I've been treating every twelve hours with insulin injections for the past year and a half. Monday morning, I gave Whisper his shot as usual, and within five minutes, he was staggering around the house, confused and dazed and unable to figure out how to get out of a corner. I realized this was what the vet had told me to watch for -- he was in shock.

I called the Burlington Emergency Veterinary Services immediately, and they told me to rush him in. And of course, he promptly disappeared. We found him under a bed, and the only way we could get to him fast was to dismantle the bed. Ten minutes later, the house in chaos with mattress thrown down the hall out of the way, my back was in a spasm, and he and I were off. I fully expected that this was the end.

But the wonderful doctors at BEVS quickly got him stabilized with an IV with a sugar solution and then began a series of tests to see what had caused the sudden, dangerous drop. A kidney infection was soon revealed and initially thought to be the culprit. And then, as we were discussing treatments, a doctor asked me how long he'd been blind.

You could have scooped me off the floor. Blind? I told them he wasn't blind. The doctor smiled and said that Whisper had just walked right off the exam table. Huh. It must have been a very gradual vision loss and he'd adapted smoothly. So much for my sense of being in touch with my cat.

After two days and a night at BEVS on his little kitty IV, Whisper was finally released yesterday, with some more staggering news. It is now looking like the real reason for the blood sugar drop is that he is no longer diabetic. His pancreas has decided to come back on line as suddenly as it went off. Only time will tell if this is permanent, or if he will need a lower dose of insulin .A trip to our vet this afternoon showed that his pancreas still seems to be working. Next week, we will test him again.

But for now, I have a diabetic-free, seventeen-year-old blind cat with a kidney infection and a lot less money in the bank, but I'll take it. And maybe, for the first time in a year and half, I'll be able to sleep past six o'clock in the morning next weekend!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Peregrine Falcon

This is the best photo I've gotten so far this summer of one of the Peregrines nesting on the cliff near our camp. They are a constant presence in our lives, swooping past the windows and fussing in great agitation whenever a boat comes too near. I've seen three in the air at one time. One of their favorite perches is a red pine just down the path to our deck, and they don't seem bothered at all by me standing there in awe photographing them. I got this shot a few days ago while one was feeding on something it had just caught. (Yes, the prey had feathers, too. I'm not sure what it was.) I'm pretty sure this is an immature. Fortunately, they aren't bothered by me swimming around beneath them, either.

This is video I took a few days ago. You can't really see the peregrines, but you can hear them. I have to admit, I'm the only one in the family who is enchanted by their voices.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Post by Lori L. MacLaughlin

Today, I'm so excited to welcome my friend Lori MacLaughlin to my blog with a guest post that is perfect for St. Patrick's Day. Lori is celebrating the release of her first novel, Lady, Thy Name is Trouble. I am almost as excited about its release as she is. Lori and I are members of the same writer's group, and I have been watching this novel grow for many years. Reading the final version has been a wonderful and emotional experience, especially recognizing little details that I suggested Lori weave into her tale. For example (and Lori is probably going to kill me but I can't not mention it) the issue of bathing. I am a water-obsessed freak, and I was constantly pointing out how dirty her characters were getting, especially after wallowing around in the Bog for days. She insisted that readers would assume the characters would take advantage of opportunities to clean up and she didn't need to point it out every time. I brought up the fact that even Tolkien had the hobbits bathe when they reached Crickhollow. So you all can thank me for Lori adding the lovely bathing scene after they leave the bog!

Welcome, Lori!

The Magic of Names

In my new fantasy adventure novel, Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble, the heroine of the story is Tara. The name Tara, in Irish, means "rocky hill" or "tower." It refers to the ancient seat of Irish kings in County Meath, where stands the Lia Fial — the Stone of Destiny, which legend says was the coronation stone for the ancient High Kings of Ireland.

While this is all very fascinating and appropriate for a St. Patrick's Day post, I didn't think about any of it when I gave my main character her name. I named her Tara, because I loved the sound of it. I thought it beautiful and strong, yet feminine. To me, the name captured Tara's personality perfectly.

My habit always has been to choose names for my characters that sounded right to me. I never looked up the names to see their meanings beforehand. However, when it came time to choose names for my children, I went by both sound and meaning.

Since then, I've paid more attention to the meanings of names, but usually only after the fact. I'll pick a name or create one I like, and then sometime later, I'll look up what it means, just to make sure it's not something undesirable. For example, in my 35,000+ Baby Names book, the name Swinfen, listed in the boys' section, is said to mean "swine's mud." I mean no offense to anyone out there named Swinfen, but that would be a name I'd have to change.

Choosing a name that fits your character is not an easy task. An Internet search provides lots of advice. Two of the sites I found useful are listed below.

If you've picked first and last names for your characters, it's smart to search those name combinations online and see what comes up. I did that once and discovered that the name I'd made up belonged to an artist living in California. I changed my character's name slightly to avoid any conflict.

What's really uncanny, though, is when you choose a name, then look it up later and find it means exactly what you imagined for your character. In Book 2, Trouble By Any Other Name, there is an ancient race of magical people I named Kamarians. They are sky Aiykshaav'n, with elemental powers drawn from the aether and starlight and moonlight. A few months back, when I was double-checking names in Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble, I also checked the names in Book 2. According to my name book, "Kamaria," in Swahili, means "moonlight." Magical.

How do you choose your character names?

Photo source: Wikipedia


Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos... and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

Amazon    Barnes & Noble     Kobo

Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She's been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids' shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she's not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

Lori L. MacLaughlin 
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