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Monday, December 26, 2011

Today I'm thankful for...

Enjoying the company of good friends on Christmas, and finding a book review of Marina Melee that I hadn't seen before! From Harriet Klausner - she'd also posted this on amazon, so I did see it there, but not on her blog site.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This week, I'm thankful for...

Welcome to another post in my waning attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Well, we've found the answer to that already - NO. So, maybe not daily, but weekly. Let's see if I can keep it up...

This week I'm thankful for all of my wonderful friends at the Internet Writing Workshop.

I joined IWW while living in Germany, when I first decided to seriously work at the craft of writing, and knew I needed help. The IWW is an online, virtual community of practice with members from all over the world writing in different forms and genres. Members can join subgroups based on what they write - novels, poetry, romance, fiction (short stories), nonfiction, children/YA, etc. There are also discussion groups to talk about the business of writing, the craft of writing, or to analyze and discuss samples of writing. The practice group gives participants a chance to flex their writing muscles and try things they might not normally write. A weekly prompt gives a topic and word limit (usually 400 words), and everyone subs their work and critiques other submissions. The minimum participation requirement to remain active on the list is 2 posts/month, so it isn't much of a burden, but good online manners dictate that the more feedback you want, the more you'll give. People are likely to reciprocate a read/critique with one back.

I can't begin to tell you what a fabulous experience my 6 years of participating in the IWW has been, and how much it's helped me grow as a writer. My first non-scientific publications were thanks both to the lessons I learned, critiques I received, and market suggestions I received from fellow members. Same thing for Marina Melee - which was critiqued on the novels list, and specific scenes were honed on the practice list. And I found the publisher, Casperian Books, through the recommendation of a fellow IWWer whose writing I admired, who was published through them.

I am so very thankful that I found the IWW and joined. I'm thankful for the many friendships I've made through the list. At times, I forget I've never met these people face-to-face, only interacted with them online. Still, I feel so close to so many of them, turn to them for advice, and have even had long off-topic discussions with many of them. We've become Facebook friends, and email pals. They're a wonderful, helpful, supportive group. For any writers or aspiring writers out there, I'd highly recomment you look into them - us. We're a great group to be part of,.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Now I'm thankful for...

Well, I'm thankful that I don't get too stressed out about falling short of my goals or I'd be a mess over this blog! I made it for two weeks, more or less, writing my daily(-ish) item I'm thankful for in my quest to be thankful every day. I'm going to modify that to weekly.

One thing my very short-lived effort has made abundantly clear to me is I can be thankful 365-days a year for my husband. I am, but don't always express it. But when I sit down each day (or every 3-4 days) and try to come up with something I'm thankful for, on that day, the first thing that pops into my head is usually something Matt said or did. I do appreciate him always, and know how incredibly lucky I am to have him, but this has really driven home the point since it's always so easy for me to identify something specific about him to be thankful for.

This week, I had a lot of occassions to be thankful for Matt, but the biggest one was, of course, the Annual CMS Ladies' Ornament Exchange. We hosted it here...more correctly, Matt hosted it. I made the chili. Matt decorated, did much of the pre-party clean-up and prep, played doorman, bartender, and food organizer, and made everyone feel welcome and at home. I helped clean up afterwards, and did dishes. So, he really did do most of the work, and once again, made my life easier and made me look good.

Am I lucky or what?!?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This weekend, I'm thankful for...

1. Harry Potter. Yes, seriously, I am. We're visiting Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (for the second time since it opened on June 2010). I read (multiple times) and loved the series of books, saw each film multiple times, bought them all, and still watch in TV every time ABC Family has a Harry Potter weekend.

JK Rowlings brought magic into all our lives with her wonderful characters. The tale of the boy wizard captured our hearts and minds, made children beg to read and be read to, drew families together to read and watch, and it was all written intelligently and thoughtfully. There was no talking down to kids, no pounding them over the head with the "message." Rowlings trusted kids to "get it." And they did. In droves. I'm very thankful that I shared in the excitement and joy of getting caught up in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and thankful the kid in me can still be taken away by the written world to other places, times, and adventures.

2. I'm thankful for good coffee, and for the ability to tell the difference between expensive, but bad coffee and really good coffee. Don't know if it's because of my time in PR, Europe, or a bit of both. But, I've lived in "coffee cultures" where people believe in taking the time and effort to enjoy a truly good cup of coffee. I learned, in Puerto Rico, that strong coffee tastes full-bodied, rich, dark, that the aroma is of coffee - earthy, not bitter. I'm thankful I can tell when cream or sugar are used to enhance the taste of good coffee, rather than hide the taste of bad. I'm thankful I'm not gullible enough to buy into the hoax perpetrated on naive Yuppies, wanting to demonstrate their worldliness and discriminating taste, being convinced that burnt, bad coffee,  because it's expensive, must be "good." So, as with choosing VHS over Beta, IBM over Mac, and a dozen other times the American consumer, with more money than brains or taste, has been sold an inferior good in order to "keep up with the Joneses." For folks who really think Starbucks is good coffee, you need to go to a coffee-growing, coffee-drinking country. Go to Italy or France or Turkey - the only Starbucks you'll see is filled with American's who don't know any better. Europeans don't drink that rot. Go to Puerto Rico, Colombia, or Costa Rica - you'll taste strong coffee that's delicious and rich, and you won't have to get it loaded up with flavored creamers and syrups, topped with whipped cream and a shot of cocoa because the coffee itself won't bite back with a nasty, burned taste. The only time you'd find coffee that tastes or smells like Starbucks in a REAL coffee shop is if someone forgot to turn off the burner on the almost empty pot.

I'm thankful that I've enjoyed real, delicious coffee and know what it's supposed to taste like - and cost. I wish I had some right now, instead of the only thing this hotel serves to cater to it's tasteless clientele - Starbucks. (can you tell I feel strongly about my coffee?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Days 12-15: I'm thankful for...

I'm thankful for being such a phenomenal procrastinator. Some people search their whole life to find their one special skill, the thing they excel at. It's a blessing to know mine. I am a master, world-class, A-1 procrastinator. Why blog what I'm thankful for every day when I can do it in batches after procrastinating all weekend?

Okay, that's not really what I'm thankful for. On Saturday, I was very thankful for the Lowcountry Dog Agility Club (LCDA). What a marvelous group of fun, supportive people. I love doing agility with Muggle and know a big chunk of the reason I enjoy it is because of the great people.

On Sunday, I was thankful for my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant dog earning his first agility title in Starter's Snooker!! And also for how much Muggle loves his dad - enough to veer off course to say hello in the middle of an otherwise perfect jumpers run! So adorable, who cares if we missed the Q?!

On Monday, I really wasn't all that thankful for anything - it was an icky day. Rainy, overcast, and my mood reflected it. But, still, I'm thankful I got through the day, and had something to do (write) and a job to go to (NOAA), and a wonderful husband, pets, and house to come home to at the end of the day.

Today, I'm thankful for our CLEANING CREW! Simone et al are wonderful and I love when they come in, tackle our mess, and leave us with a delicioiusly minty-fresh smelling house!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 11: I'm thankful for...

Dog agility with Muggle! We had so much fun today! He did great in our Gambler's run. We missed our Q by 0.05 seconds!! Heartbreaking, since he ran so very well! But, we had fun doing it and I'm so proud of him! And he gave me my laugh of the day (week...month) in our Standard run. Usually he LOVES the table - he's all about jumping up there and chilling out in a "down" for 5 seconds. But, after Wednesday morning, when the table was so cold, he's changed his mind. When I at least got him in a "sit" he decided that was a good time for some ear scratching. He did great weaves - just one false entrance before running right through them - and we were almost at the end, 1/2 way down the A-frame with just the last jump ahead when we ran out of time. : (  But, he was saving his best for last and we finished with a Q and first place in Snooker. He did everything I asked, barked and yapped, and got his 37 points! That's my boy and agility, well, that's what we do!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 9 and 10. I'm thankful for...

Welcome to days 9 and 10 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Here I am not even 2 weeks into the endeavor and I'm already on my seconf 2-fer post, I guess I'm not doing so well at the daily posting, but maybe I can at least manage 52 weeks of most of the time posts?

Day 9: I'm thankful for our  neighbors, the Joneses. We love our house and our West Ashley neighborhood. It took a few years to really make friends in our old Summerville neighborhood. The few we did make became dear friends, but I was underwhelmed by all the "friendliness" that South Carolinians sprain their arms patting themselves on the back over. Seriously, our whole neighborhood was a couple roads that looped back around on each other. When I'd be on my morning run or walking the dog and pass the only other person on the whole street and say "good morning," more often than not, I'd get no response, not even eye contact. To a Yankee-gone island girl, that was totally foreign and unacceptable. In upstate New York, people might just stop to gripe, but they'd at least stop and have a conversation. And of course in the VI NOT giving a greeting of "good morning/ afternoon/night" is just not done! Germany was a breath of fresh air after the anti-socialness of Summerville!

Then we moved to West Ashley after our return from Germany and it's like moving to happy land. Walking the neighborhood when we first moved in was a non-stop wave-fest. People would make a point of calling out and waving from their yard when they saw you go by. My morning walks are interrupted with short gab breaks more often than not. And best of all, we landed next door to two of the best neighbors anyone could want. Misty and Terry have similar interests to us, they're fun and funny and active without being overwhelming. They have pets, and treat them like we do ours - as family. Having neighbors who are more than the people who live in the house next door, but friends that we look forward to doing things with is such a remarkable experience. We had that as kids growing up, but lost it in adulthood. It's so nice to have that back. I am so very thankful that we have such fabulous neighbors.

Day 10: I'm thankful for Animal Medical West.

Some days, what we have to be thankful for is apparent. After Spooky went at it with big-cat this morning, he was walking a bit gingerly. Over the course of a few hours, he got slower and grumpier. He couldn't get comfortable and didn't want to be touched. When I put him in the carrier, he made a sound I'd never heard from him before--a peep. If you know Spooky, you know he's vocal and makes some funky deep yowly sounds when he isn't happy. This sad little squeak was different--this was him in pain. And off we went to AMW, with no appointment. We had to wait a bit, but not much longer than any typical appointment. I was getting pretty panicky, though, because instead of growling and yowling, Spooky curled onto his right side (he'd been favoring his left side, wouldn't let me touch it, and couldn't lay on it) and closed his eyes while I scritched his jaw.

Spooky has 4 bite marks - top/bottom canines - on his back and side. The vet shaved around them so I can keep an eye on them, gave him an antibiotic, and some pain meds. We can't give him too much because of his kidney problems, but he's in pain. Thankfully, he's not seriousy injured, mostly just sore. Figures. I'd tempted fate when last week at his appointment, I said "it's been a while since our accident prone cat has had anything wrong." I knocked on wood, but maybe not hard enough. Now he has both feline chronic kidney failure and catfight injuries to deal with. Guess that makes up for those 3 injury-free years.

Today, I'm thankful that we found a vet I like, and seems like Spooky likes, too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 8: I'm thankful for...

Growing up in Broome County, NY. I've travelled far and wide, lived all over the world, and have loved every minute of it. I don't have it in me to settle down and stay in one place for very long--it's a great big world out there, why would I want to limit myself? But, what a great place to spend one's childhood - Johnson City, NY! Where else do you have the highest concentration of carousels open to the public all for free? It was a safe area in a safer time, when kids were allowed to roam free all summer long. We walked to school, hung out in the street, and even though we were in a few structured, organized sports and activiites, we also had lots of time to just be kids, to explore, to get into trouble, and to get ourselves out of trouble. We had spiedies, the mall, hide-and-seek through all the backyards (no privacy fences!) in the neighborhood, knew all those neighbors by name, and baseball-kickball-hockey-tag in the middle of the street. We adventured all over the county on our bicycles, and when we were old enough, wandered from one end to the other in our, or our friends' cars: the drive-in, the parks, mountain top, top-of-the-world, the reservoirs, county parks, the Finger Lakes and Quaker Lake. We wandered around at 5 a.m. delivering newspapers-on foot or by bike with no adult supervision. We slept out on porches, in backyard forts, and forts in the woods.

For those of you who can't imagine that childhood, go see the movie Super 8. Aside from the monster (and we imagined those), that was what it was like to grow up in Broome County. I feel a little bit sorry for anyone who didn't have that childhood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 7: Today, I'm thankful for...

Sea Grant! What a wonderful bunch of people doing fabulous, valuable work. I was lucky enough to be part of that as an extension agent. That was my ideal job--it was made for me and me for it. I had amazing opportunities to do wonderful, fun things that were truly meaningful in a community I loved, so the work was personally important to me, not just professionally. How many people can say they wake up and love going to their job every day? How many people can say they're making a difference in the world (or their small corner of it) every day? Extension agents, that's who!

Even though I left that, first to support Sea Grant Extension as the SG-CSC Liaison, then to move on and pursue my dream of writing, in my heart, I'll always be an extension agent and will always be thankful for the amazing opportunities I had as the VIMAS agent in the VI.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Days 5 and 6: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to days 5 and 6 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Since this is a 2-fer post, I guess I'm not doing so well at the daily posting, but I'll get back on track and keep trying. Let's see if I can do it!

For Day 5, Sunday. 11/27/11, I'm thankful for my wonderful dog Muggle. He's a 3 1/2 year old Tibetan Terrier we rescued from a kill-shelter in the upstate 2 years ago. We got him based on a photo, with no idea how big he was ("Medium" - what's medium? I thought Spike was pretty medium at 60 lbs.) We called the rescue organization on Monday. They picked him up on Tuesday. He was groomed (shaved because he was so matted) Wednesday, neutered Thursday, and we picked him up on Saturday. He walked into the house and peed on our antique  bench.

Turns out, Muggle wasn't housebroken. Or trained. At all. He was also what I'd consider a little dog -- only 21 lbs. Matt's first reaction was, "I thought you wanted a bigger dog?"

Then Muggle went on to steal our hearts--mine, Matt's, Minerva's, Spooky's, the neighbors' and their dog's, everyone's. He was a fast learner. Before long he'd graduated from beginner obedience at PetSmart, Advanced Obedience at Lowcountry Dog Agility, Intro to Agility, Obstacles II, and within 15 months of our adopting him, he participated in his first agility trial--AND Q'ed!

Muggle makes us laugh, brings us joy, and fills our home with activity and even more love. We can't imagine not having Muggle. He was meant to be ours, and us his. I am so very thankful for our boy, Muggle.

In this image - upper left: photo we saw when we found Muggle, upper right: day1 at his new house with his haircut, lower right: at an agility run-thru.

Day 6, Monday 11/28/11. Today, I'm thankful for my mother. As with all mother-daughter relationships, sometimes it's trying, but that just goes with the territory. Regardless of how much we might bicker, we love each other. She's always there for me, even as I try to not let her be. She has always been the first person I turn to when I have a problem, but as she gets older, has to deal with her own health problems, worries about Michael, is occassionally overwhelmed by her two aging cats and new dog, I try to be less of a burden. I don't want to add to her mountain of worries. But it's comforting to know she's there. If and when I really do need my mommy, she's only a phone call away.

Moms are our security blankets. They give us the tools and ability to leave the nest and soar, to fly far away and return when we want to or need to. A successful mother is one who does her job so well that she can confidently let go, knowing letting go isn't turning away, distance isn't separation, and love doesn't need a leash. No matter how far and wide I roam, no matter what binds I get myself into, I know I can get myself out of it because my mother raised a responsible, self-sufficient, competent and capable daughter. She not only lets me go, but cheers me on and gets out of my way so I can succeed or fail on my own. And when I do succeed, she's there to share the joy, and when I do fail, she's there to give me a hug, kiss the boo-boos and make them all better, and get me moving forward again.

For having a real mom, not a helicopter parent, not one who's living vicariously through me, and mostly, for having a mom with her own life, who knows my brother and I are parts of her life, not her life and vice versa, I'm thankful for my mother.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 4: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to day 4 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Let's see...

Today I am thankful for my publisher, Casperian Books, taking a chance on a new author and publishing Marina Melee. The wonderful people at Casperian helped make one of my lifelong dreams come true.

I've been writing since I was a kid. My mother loves to tell the story of my first "book" - stapled together, hand-written, illiustrated in stick figures I drew myself (I have no artistic ability) in pencil. "School Rules." I didn't know until much later, but Mom and Dad locked themselves in the bathroom and laughed until they cried. My mother shared the book with my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, who asked if she could take it to show her own mother.

In fifth grade I started writing a book about a girl and her horse. Barb Wiktor was going to illustrate it. We never finished it. Throughout Junior High and High School I started, but never finished a number of other stories. Finally, when I was a sophomore or junior, I finished my first YA novel, Daddy Doesn't Like Cats. The next year, I wrote my great romance about a teenage girl and the hockey player she falls in love with. Quite melodramatic, of course. I can't remember the name of that one, but I did finish it. That I finished those two was quite a feat. I wish I'd saved them.

I had a number of false starts and ideas for great novel beginnings, but never for the middle and end. I continued to think about writing throughout college, but eventually set it all one the back shelf. At some point, it fell off the shelf. I started writing short stories when I moved back to the VI, but just for myself. I outlined Lore Passers, a dystopian , environmental sci-fi story, and progressed in that in fits and starts, gathering news and research articles for reference. That's all in a drawer somewhere.

When I moved to Puerto Rico, I started Barnacles. I managed to finish that at about the same time I wrote Saving the Fairiews' Tails -- my children's chapter book that I did get a publishing contract for. Right before the publisher went bankrupt. I discovered the IWW while writing Fairies' Tails, and after a few months on the list, learned enough to be totally embarassed that I shared Barnacles with anyone. But, I did enjoy writing it. There's probably a story to save in there somewhere. I'll just have to get rid of all the telling, do more showing, and trust the reader to not need to authorial intrusion of the main narrator Barnacle. Who knows. Maybe I'll get back to both of those.

I do know that all of those early efforts were in preparation for me to tell George's story in Marina Melee. The significance was more than just to fulfill my writing dream, but to honor George. Yes, George H. Marsall III is a fictionalized version of my George, but he was my muse. He inspired it and me, and I wanted the novel to be a fitting tribute to a great man. I am so very thankful to Casperian Books for letting me pay that tribute to George and fulfill--or start on--my dream.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 3: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to day 3 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change!

Today, I'm thankful for our senior cat, Spooky. I'm thankful for all of our babies: Muggle, Spooky, and Minerva. They each have wonderful stories and fabulous personalities. They each came to us when we needed them. And they each make our lives fuller and richer than they'd be without our furry family members. But for today, I'm especially thankful for my old boy.

Spooky, our gray domestic short hair cat, is somewhere between 10 and 14. He found me in the NOAA CSC parking lot. At first, he went home with Sean Dennis because Matt put his foot down about another pet (we had Spike and Jaguar at the time). Sean and Julia named him Lump because his favorite thing to do is lie around like a lump and not move. It still is. The Dennises fostered Lump until Matt went out of town on a work trip and I brought him home. That's when Matt learned the important and invaluable lesson that "pets happen." Sometimes, they just come into your lives and your home and there's nothing you can do about it.

Spooky fit in easily with the rest of the clan. He loved Spike, and got along well with Jaguar. Both cats were pretty happy to share their house and people, so we never had any territorial marking or caat fights. Spooky kept to himself and let Jaguar be the alpha until she died, then he moved into the role.

Despite Spooky's rather, well, spooky appearance, he's a lover. He's perfectly content to curl up in a lap and "groom" your clothing. His favorite place to sleep is on my chest or curled up with Minerva. He's also accident prone. This is our cat with allergies-fleas, pollen, flea medicine. You name it, it probably makes his hair fall out. He's the cat who fell out of a tree and broke his leg in Germany--to the tune of about $3000 in vet bills! Within a few weeks of returning to SC, a spider bit him in the ear and it swelled and got infected. Nasty, stinky stuff! Then, within a month of getting Minerva - the petite, declawed little girl-cat managed to bite or claw him in the side, resulting in an abscess that had to be slit and drained.  Lucky for us, he's pretty meek and mild-mannered about taking medicine, getting his boo-boos cleaned up, and being fussed over.

This week, Spooky was diagnosed with feline chronic renal failure (CRF). His kidney's are shutting down. The only thing to do is reduce the stress on his kidneys as much as possible by restricting his protein intake, and giving him meds to prevent the amino acids from being absorbed by his intestines so his kidneys won't  have to work so hard to filter them. My guy is still pretty perky and lovable. He's always been a snuggler.

Photo 1: Spooky and Minerva - not the shaved spot where he had the abscess.
Photo 2: Posing to show his hansomeness.
Photo 3: Curled up in my lap.

I am so very thankful for the years we've had Spooky, and for however much more time we have with him. He's been a wonderful companion, a fun sibling to his dogs, Spike and Muggle, and a good brother to his cats, Jaguar and Minerva. We'll keep him as comfortable and happy as we can for as long as we can. It'll break my heart when the time comes--and I hope it won't  be soon--but for now, I'll just be thankful that Spooky came into our lives.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 2: I'm thankful for...

I have a wonderful group of friends. Years ago, Donna gave me a wall plaque that reads "Friends become our chosen family." I am incredibly fortunate to have made wonderful friends who've become family as I've moved far from my family and relatives and ventured far and wide. When I've been away from "home" for the holidays, I've never felt a lack of family because I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by dear, dear friends who've become my family. So, to all my extended family around the globe, I'm very thankful for your love, support, and friendship. Thank you all! Even when we aren't physically together, you're always in my heart!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm thankful for...

DAY 1: I am thankful for my wonderful husband, Matt.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Tomorrow is the day when all across the country, people are focusing on and giving thanks for what they have. I've been thinking about what I have to be thankful for a lot in the past few months because I know I don't focus on those things enough and I have so very much to be thankful for. So, one of my goals for the next year is to identify and focus on one thing I'm thankful for every day, for 365 days.

I'm certain I have at the very least 365 things in my life that I'm thankful for. Rather than try to think of all of them, diluting the huge significance or any one in my life, I'll just look at one per day.

Today, my first day, I will focus on the thing I am most thankful for out of the many things in my life that I appreciate: my husband. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I found the one person who can tolerate me and I can tolerate, not just for a few years, but for a lifetime. He makes me laugh, he frustrates me, he supports me, and (for better and worse) he gets me.

If I could bottle and sell my husband, I'd be rich. He cooks, he grocery shops, he irons, he loves to putter around the house and yard and fix things, he's neat and organized--essentially, he's the anti-Lynne. But, our personalities mesh--we're both sarcastic smart-alecs, we both love to brabble, we can both get irritated with the other one minute and find the humor in it the next. And, best of all, our love continues to grow, slow and steady, every day.

When I was young, I couldn't appreciate that slow, gradual burn. I mistook fireworks and intensity for love. That's probably why all my past relationships crashed and burned. With Matt, each day I'm surprised and excited about something new. Small things. That he sets my vitamins out so I don't forget to take them. That he--not a coffee drinker--notices when the creamer is low and puts a new one in the fridge for me. That he is confident enough in himself and in us to not try to change for me or to change me, but instead, we understand and accomodate our differences. We don't need each other to be whole, but together we're a bigger and better whole.

For Matt alone, I have a lifetime full of reasons to be thankful. And I am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas shopping?

Once again this year, I'm promoting donating to charities and those in need. Whether their need is for cash, donation of goods, or time, there are so many good causes to support in so many ways that it's a shame to spend all our time, effort, and money on things we and our families and friends don't need or want all in the name of holiday giving.

I encourage you all to choose causes near and dear to your gift recipients' hearts and donate in their name, whether the cause is cancer research, animal rescue, education, conservation donation, giving to a worthy cause, where there truly is a need, demonstrates the true spirit of the holidays. This year, Matt and I will make contributions to mitochondrial disorder research, the Special Olympics, a number of local humane societies (in NY, SC, and the VI), World Wildlife Fund, and literacy programs. All causes with special meaning and relevance to us, our families, and friends.

(Warning - shameless plug ahead - feel free to stop reading at this point!)

And for those of you who feel the need to give a little something just for the joy of seeing gifts under the tree, and the excitement of unwrapping, now's a good time to order Marina Melee as a gift for the boaters, adventurers, and rummies on your holiday gift list! Order it in any of the electronic formats available at Smashwords and save 25%. Just enter the coupon code EX53M when purchasing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2 scenes a day!

I'm not doing NANOWRIMO this year. I've tried it 3 times before and it's always been a great way for me to start a new story. But, I can't write like that - to a word count. Turns out, when I do that, I write crap. And end up deleting most of it. There might be a sentence or two that are worth keeping, turning over in my mind, and figuring out what to do with them. Those are what eventually become stories like Marina Melee and Chupacabra.

I need structure. I need to know where I'm going. I need a plan. Yes, I'm a plotter, not a pantster. Without my outline, I meaner and wander. I ramble. Just ask Matt.

Stephen King's strategy--write 2000 words per day--worked well for Marina Melee (but I'm not Stephen King, I just went for 1000 words per day) because I did have a very detailed, specific outline and knew exactly where the story was going. Naturally, I thought the same process would work for Chupacabra. The outline was there, I knew how it would end. I just didn't know how to get there. So, I came up with a different strategy--I'd only have to write 2 scenes per day. Semantics, you say. Probably. But in my mind, I have to know the point of each scene, know where it starts and where it ends, know how it moves the story forward before I can write it.

Turns out, 2 scenes is about 1000 words, more or less. Mentally, it works for me. Maybe it'll work for you, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lynne and the Red Stripe - reprise

Fall is in the air. That makes me want to change my hair color. Time for winter shades. I've had my copper hair with a ginger/strawberry blonde stripe since summer. Last time, Stephanie did a "trial pink" underneath so I could decide if I liked it with the current shade of red. I do. I'm starting to get a skunk-stripe of my real color hair (salt-and-pepper) down my part line, so it's just about time for my next color adventure.

In honor of this, I'm re-running an old blog post from Germany, when I first got my red stripe. This is also when I discovered my "true writing voice" is that of a middle-aged man. I wrote this from Matt's POV. This is my single highest hit and commented post ever! And almost everyone who commented said something along the lines of, "Wow, Matt can really write. Maybe you should go back to work and let him be the writer." (Yes, even my mom said that!) So, here it is, Lynne writing as Matt on my hair adventure.

Lynne and the Red Stripes

No, this isn’t about Jamaican beer.  This is about Lynne’s hair.

Lynne’s hair has gone from ultra-short in her college swimming days, to ultra-long in her Puerto Rico grad student days, and everywhere inbetween at least a few times since then.  The color has changed, too.  At first, these were modest attempts at color using "store bought color" from the drugstore to cover up the hints of grey showing up as she approached 30. Then came more bold experimentation with highlights.  Until the “blonde incident of 02”, as we still refer to it, even her wildest efforts were generally pretty staid, bordering on unnoticeable.

Then we moved to Germany.  By totally non-scientific observation, we’d venture that 4 out of every 5 German women and girls have some sort of red coloring in their hair.  From very young school girls with a few reddish-orange streaks, to older, white-haired women with pink highlights, we’ve seen every color in every imaginable style of red hair here.
pparently, they know they aren’t going to fool anyone into thinking it’s natural, so they go for making bold statements.  Red, pink, orange, copper, reddish-pink, and pinkish-red, we’ve seen every shade.  From as subtle as strawberry blonde to screaming, fire-engine or candy apple red, women here proudly announce to the world, “Look, my hair is a shade of red not found in nature!"  Forget paying 80 euros for color that will make you look “natural.”  For that much, the whole world should know that you bought it.  

And Lynne has embraced it.  Prior to leaving Charleston, she had taken to covering the ever-increasing grey in her hair in a “cinnamon” shade of brown, with just a hint of coppery-red (see the photo of Lynne and Spike at Charlestowne Landing).  She was pleased as red-punch to see that the color was well-suited to Germany, and so continued it during our first months here (see her photo on the hotel room patio).  But her satisfaction was short-lived when one of our comrades in the Esslingen Weinwanderweg told her “Your hair isn’t red, look around you, that's red,” and pointed out a number of women with all the variations of red hair described above.  Yes, in comparison, Lynne’s was totally bland.

A few weeks later, when we moved into our house in Wendlingen, the first thing Lynne spotted was the Friseur (beauty salon) three doors down. The big poster in the window showed a woman with reddish-brown hair similar in color to Lynne's (not her real hair, but the current version of it) with an orangey-blonde two-toned stripe sweeping from the right-side part down the left side of her face. She had to have that hair!  So, once her most recent color had washed almost completely out, and just a week or so before the Hinkey family visit, she went to the Friseur, with her barely-spoken Deutsch and said, “Ich moechte haar wie in der Bild” and pointed to the poster (“I would like hair like in the picture” or something close enough that they got the idea.) 

Can you say drastic? When we picked her parents and niece up at the airport, RoseMarie looked right at, through, and past her daughter. She couldn’t figure out why this German woman was waving at her so enthusiastically. I had to point Lynne out to her own mother. (Notice the loud orange stripe on medium cinnamon hair in the photo of Lynne with her mother and niece in Strasbourg.)

We later decided the color was fate. It was meant to be since the orange Smart Car matched the stripe. Perhaps the funniest outcome of her new hair was that people began to address us in Deutsch.  When we explained our Deutsch is “nicht sehr gut” they'd apologize and say, “You look Deutsch.”  Must be the red hair.

That lasted until about mid-October.  The color had faded to a not-so-noticeable copper, and the roots had grown a lovely salt-and-pepper “skunk stripe” down the part.  When one of the swimmers asked Coach Lynne if she had intentionally colored her hair with that stripe she knew it was time to go in for a “freshen up.” 

This time, another woman did her hair and although the style and idea were the same, both colors were bit darker. The base was more auburn, and the stripe was the reddish-pink color that RoseMarie vehemently declared she couldn’t stand every time she saw it during their visit (and there's a lot of it!)  The swimmers thought it was great that she dyed her hair the team colors – a red stripe on dark hair. Piranhas colors, just like her car (which was really orange and silver, but close enough for the swim team)  There was NO subtlety to these colors.  And Lynne loved them. 

But, time moved on. The red stripes have faded and the skunk stripe returned. Today she went back and got the same color combination put in. The swimmers will be pleased to see she’s sporting the team colors again, loudly and proudly, and just in time for the championship meet in Italy next week. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why can't I comment on my own blog?

Yes, I'm an inexpert newbie to the world of blogging. But really, don't you think it's all fairly intuitive. Or should be? Then why in the world can't I figure out how to comment back on a comment left on my blog? When I try, it tells me I "don't have access to this page" - WHEN I'M SIGNED IN TO MY OWN BLOG!!

One of these days I'll break down, do the unthinkable, and get "blogging for dummies" or read the help section. Until then, If I don't reply to your comments, I'm not being rude, just inept!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What are you reading now?

I'm always interested in hearing about what people are reading. Seems like you can really get to know someone by looking at their bookshelf, and hearing their thoughts on different authors. Finding common ground in books is a great way to expand your circle of friends. When I became entirely addicted to the Harry Potter books, acquaintances and colleagues at work became close friends as we bonded over lengthy discussions of characters, plots, and what would come next. I've made friends with "that grumpy guy down the street" when I found out he was an equally fanatical reader of Terry Pratchett's Disc World series.

I seem to read in phases - all fantasy for a few months, all vampires for a few months, all lit-fic for a few months. I seem to be in a creepy mountain folk phase right now. I recently finished Ann Hite's debut novel, Ghost on Black Mountain, a Fabulous southern gothic tale set in western North Carolina. Now I'm reading Our Daily Bread. Set in a small town in Pennsylvania, this tale of self-righteousness gone awry takes dysfunctional families to new heights! Talk about a high ick-factor.

So, what are YOU reading now?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Order NOW and save 30%

Order your electronic copy of Marina Melee from Smashwords between now and October 7 and save 30%!!

Use the coupon code below at when you purchase an electronic version of Marina Melee and you'll save $3.00. Buy Marina Melee for your Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, or Apple product for only $6.99!

Coupon code:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marina Melee is now available as an E-Book!

I took the plunge into the e-book world! Marina Melee is now available as an ebook in a variety of formats (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, IPad, etc) through online bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or at


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chasing the Chupacabra

Interested in what I'm working on now? Here's a "teaser"!


Bestselling mystery author Jack Halliman has problems. His wife threw him out of their house and will only speak to him through her attorney, their daughter won’t speak to him at all, and his super sleuth protagonist, Franz Henle, has gone silent in his head, leaving Jack unable to write a word of his next novel. The only one who still wants to talk to him is his agent wondering when the next manuscript is coming. Running away from his problems has worked for Jack in the past, so he thinks some distance might be just the answer to all his troubles now, too.

Jack and his loyal dog Hanna sail to Puerto Rico. When he arrives at the marina, Jack finds a real-life murder mystery—and the dead body to go with it—floating next to his boat.  Now everyone wants to talk to him. The mayor wants him to go hunting in hopes of capturing both some publicity and the prime suspect, the legendary chupacabra. The local police detective wants Jack’s help proving the killings are the work of a man, not a monster. Fourteen-year old Kiki Cristatello wants Jack to convince the police and her parents to lock her away before she uses magic to kill again. And, a mysterious woman who is rumored to be a witch warns Jack that there is more to the chupacabra myth than ignorance and superstition. “People’s belief brings legends to life,” she tells him. “The stronger the belief, the more powerful the god.”

Jack doesn’t have time to get caught up in island folklore and crazy monster hunts. His agent is coming to collect a manuscript he has yet to write. But when Jack becomes a suspect, he has to find out who—or what—is responsible for the killings before he ends up in jail. Could the witch be right? Is the chupacabra more than a scary story? Does believing in monsters make them real? Or is there a madman on the loose, waiting to strike again? Jack’s best hope of finding the truth lies with a fourteen-year old girl, a crazy homeless woman, a self-proclaimed “angel,” and two dogs. He isn’t optimistic about his future.

What are people saying about Marina Melee?

Just thought I'd post some excerpts of reviews  and feedback I've received for Marina Melee. I'm so very pleased!

On Amazon:
This book was a fun read from beginning to end. The author does a great job of portraying the highs and lows of someone "from America" trying to live and work "down island" for the first time. She has a clear understanding of the many details that make island living so complex, and yet so rewarding when you start to relax and get things right. It brought back many great memories of island life when I lived (and tried to work) in the Caribbean a decade ago. Anyone involved in the marina or recreational boating business will love the book for its hilarious portrayals of all the marina characters that make life interesting along the waterfront. -The Professor

This was a fun read. Lynne paints a wonderful portrait of a rich ( because of his father) screw up who buys a marina on a small Caribbean island. He has everything going against him. So how does he manage to screw this one up? Ah, you will just have to read it for yourself. And trust me, you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I loved the use of the Caribbean 'slanguage'. -Tekay

 Lynne Hinkey's hilarious, slightly raunchy, and damn good debut novel should make anyone think twice, maybe three times, about doing serious business in the Caribbean.  - Bob Sanchez
This was a great summer read. It was set in the Caribbean and the description of the island was great! I enjoyed the cast of characters who were well developed. I would recommend this to anyone as a great beach book! -corbinam

And on Facebook:
Connie: I'm loving your book. Especially the coors light joke,
Julia: Just finished the book, and it's awesome! Love the ending! Can't wait to read your next one...
Jim: It's a fun book
Steve: So much fun to see you! The book is so much fun too Very Cool! I am loving the book! almost finished.
Hanna: It's a great book! Can't wait to share it with everyone I know!

I'm now hard at work on my next novel, Chupacabra. Set in Puerto Rico, it's a supernatural murder mystery (think Scooby-Doo) featuring "the Jack Halliman," a best-selling murder mystery writer, and minor character in Marina Melee. When, upon his arrival in Puerto Rico, Jack finds a dead body floating in the marina, life takes a surreal twist and imitates his art. Except the prime suspect in his books has always been a human. Now he's chasing the legendary Chupacabra!

For more details, see my next post: Chasing the Chupacabra.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bucket Lists

I’m not sure if the term “bucket list” predates the movie by that name or if I was just not aware of it. Or maybe my ADD just won’t let me think that far into the future. I don't know when I'll die or what direction I'll decide to head between now and then. I know I don't want to do or be the same thing "forever." While I do have a few things on the long-term plan list (live in Europe again, possibly Spain, live on a sailboat in the Caribbean), mostly I can't think that far ahead. Who knows when I'll decide something isn't as important or interesting as I once thought it was?

But I do have my own lists of things I want to accomplish. What I call those lists are my “to-do this year” lists. Every year in December, I would look back in my journal or day planner, where twelve months earlier, I’d written what I wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year. Items that I hadn’t done carried over to the new list. I’d also have my decade list: By the time I’m 20, 30, 40 I want to have done x, y, and z.

When I was twenty, I wanted to get my bachelors and masters degree and become a real, working marine biologist, take up running, and later in that decade, return to the VI to live. I also wanted to write and publish a work of fiction. When I was in my thirties, I wanted to get my Ph.D., learn to speak Spanish fluently so that I could move to Costa Rica to work, run a marathon, travel, and write and publish a novel. When I turned forty, I wanted to live in a foreign country, return to a job that was fulfilling, and write and publish a novel.

There were other items on those lists; things that I could and did accomplish in a year, or things that I’ll have to work on forever. Swim more, eat healthier, drink less, be the kind of wife my husband deserves. But the one item that has been on my to-do list since I was a kid, writing and publishing a novel, finally got the big check mark next to it! Aside from moving to Costa Rica (which continues to carry over each year), I’ve completed all my to-do items.

That doesn’t mean I’m done. It just means I have to think of more things to do now. It’s early to start planning this year’s list, but I have.

  • Complete the draft of novel #2, edit it, and start looking for an agent or publisher
  • Continue to improve in the craft of writing
  • Go on vacation to Costa Rica (I’ve downgraded for now, at least until I can convince Matt that it should be on our list)
  • Travel

I used to list the countries I wanted to visit, but one of the best lessons I learned living in Germany was to not limit myself when it comes to travel. If you have the chance, GO! There are new and wonderful things to do, see, and learn everywhere. It’s the places you don’t know you should go to that offer some of the best adventures. So, I won’t say where I want to travel to, only that I want to go. If the opportunity presents itself, I’m there, wherever there is.

Now, if I really want to put a check mark next to the first item on that list, I’d better quit procrastinating and get back to that manuscript I’m working on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review of Marina Melee

Bob Sanchez at the Internet Review of Books posted a review of Marina Melee. To see what he has to say, go to:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Publicity for Marina Melee

Here's the link to the article the local (West Ashley) paper did about me and Marina Melee:

Undercover Books in St. Croix - my first scheduled booksigning on 7/30 - posted this on their website:

And the blog Montana Scribbler by Mona Leesono Vanek gave MM a mention, too:

Hurray! And thank you Warren and Lorne, Kathy, and Mona for your support!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

And the fun begins ...

Well, this is it. The week Marina Melee makes its real, official debut. It will be released on Wednesday. Friends who've ordered through Amazon have already received their copies, so had my first "book signing" at Zen Asian Fusion on Thursday - Cindy received her copy that day and brought it for an autograph. That's when I saw the Westof story:

Warren did an awesome job of capturing the story and me - and hopefully drumming up some more interest in the book! Thanks Warren and Lorne!

I have a booksigning at Undercover Books in St. Croix on Thursday, 6/30 from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and will (hopefully) be setting the date and time for a signing at Dockside Books in St. Thomas in the next week. I am also going to check with Sean about doing a booksigning at The Pirate's Chest at Paradise Point, too. That's the promotion in the Virgin Islands. I still need to get some more Charleston publicity, so I'll return to Blue Bicycle Books on Monday to see if they'll carry it and host a booksigning, and check with Barnes and Noble about setting up a booksigning.

As exciting as all this is, my stomach is in knots. What if people don't like it? What if my "muses" aren't amused by their fictitious counterparts? What if the reviewers hate it? Marina Melee is fiction, but it's MY fiction. Publishing it and making it available to the world (okay, that's grandiose, but to the public) puts me out there. It isn't about me, but it is. It's about the people and place I love. It's about the things and events that shaped me. It's an homage to my adopted home, to my friends, to my life and the lives of the islanders and boating community. I hope people take it as such.

I hope they like it. I hope you all like it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Agility Trials' trials

My dog and I do agility. I'm very proud of that fact and of Muggle's accomplishments because he's a rescue dog. Muggle came to us 1 1/2 years ago when he was 18 months old - an adult. He wasn't housebroken, had no training, no vocabulary, and had some fear of men and boys. We don't know anything of Muggle's past, but we've pieced together enough based on his behavior to conclude that someone kept him in the garage (he wouldn't cross the threshhold into the house unless I led him in on the leash). He may not have been abused, but he wasn't loved (still doesn't want to be picked up or held), and no one talked to him (thus, no vocabulary).

Those of you with dogs understand the importance of vocabulary. Like with children, the more you talk to them the greater their linguistic skills. Our previous dog, Spike, was also a rescue, but we found him when he was about 12 weeks old. He grew up being spoken to. By the time he was a year old, he could differentiate and select toys based on a verbal direction. Frisbee, ball, bear, tuggie - he knew each toy by name. He could even go to another room and select the one we asked for from a box full of toys. Muggle can't do that. He has just started to recognize the word "toy." He isn't a dumb dog, he just didn't learn his words when he was a puppy. But, he learns quickly. He was housebroken after two accidents. He was the star pupil in beginner and advanced obedience classes. He competed in his first agility competition a mere 14 months after we got him. And he qualified in Performance I Gamblers in his very first trial.

We just finished our third agility trial. The second one was a bit of a bust. Agility is a fine balance between speed and control. In our first trial, we did pretty good on control. In our second trial, we were fast, but out of control. In this, our third trial, we focused on control and qualified in Starters Gamblers and Starters Jumpers. 

People are very impressed when you tell them your dog does agility. "How do you teach them to do all those things?" That's actually the easy part. It's all about the treats. Dogs will walk over teeter-totters, A-frames, dog walks (like a balance beam), and jump through hoops-literally-for good treats. The hard parts of agility are 1) getting the handler to do the right thing so the dog can do the right thing, and 2) sitting through the trials.

I know why they call them agility TRIALS. It's like going to a big swim meet. Two or three days of sitting around waiting for your turn. When it finally comes, it's over in about a minute. Hours and hours of waiting for total of maybe 10 minutes of performance. It's exhausting. Especially on the poor dogs who know what that field means. It's time to play! And instead, they get stuffed into crates where they see other dogs getting to play. By the time it's their turn, they're either so ramped up that they get the "zoomies" and go crazy on the field, or they're over it and don't care anymore. Or, if you're lucky, they're at just the exact right balance of energy, enthusiasm, and desire to please that they will do whatever you ask of them, fast but in control. Last weekend, we were almost at that magical point-a good mix of both, but leaning slightly more toward the control side.

We'll work on speed. And continue working on control. And my handling skills. And the chute. We'll keep working on weave poles, contacts, distinctions, and vocabulary (Muggle might not know what a frisbee is, but he knows "go tunnel"). I have no aspirations of national titles and championships, just of fun. People always comment that Muggle looks like he's having fun when he runs. I think he's having fun, too, so we'll keep at it, despite the trials' trials.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marketing, Promotion, and Me

Yes, it IS all about me.

Or so that's how I feel right now. Not in a good way. As much as I enjoy being in the spotlight, I don't really enjoy putting myself there. With Marina Melee less than 30 days from its release date, I find I have to put myself on stage. I have to market and promote not only Marina Melee, but myself. Why should the paper in landlocked Binghamton, New York care about a book set in a marina in the Caribbean? Because the author - that's me - is from that area. Why should bookstores in Charleston, SC want to carry it? Because the author - that's me - lives in Charleston. Why should news media and bookstores in the Virgin Islands be interested? Well, that one is a bit more obvious and rather than being about me, the author, can be about the story, setting, characters, and plot - since the fictitious island of Sao Jorge has a LOT in common with the VI. And yet, to gain their interest, I have to promote my connection to the islands. Who is this white girl in the states to think she can write about us?

I didn't write about upstate New York, or about Charleston, South Carolina. I wrote about the Caribbean because from the moment I landed in St. Thomas in 1983, it captured my heart. Home is where the heart is, and mine has been there ever since, no matter where in the world I travel or live. When I think about "home" I think of St. Thomas. When I'm stressed out and need to relax, I picture myself swimming across Brewers' Bay to Black Point and back. When I'm cold, I imagine the warm sun and sand while I'm laying at Brewers' Beach, Magens Bay, or Lindquist. When I get homesick it's for St. Thomas. When I long for that "Cheers place" - you know the one, where everybody knows your name - I think of Tickles.

I was 19 when I moved to St. Thomas. I didn't "grow up" there in the sense of spending my childhood there, but I did become an adult there. It's where my worldview was formed. My life in St. Thomas made my who I am today. Before that, I was a blank slate, waiting to learn, absorb, and become who I would be. I learned to accept differences, I learned humility, I learned what it's like to be the minority, and I learned to overcome adversity. I had incredible role models at CVI (now UVI), people who I admired and aspired to be like - Watlington, Ragster, MacLean, Gorham, Sabino. I made lifelong friends - Donna, Dominic, Rudy, Vicki, Suzie - people who I can go for years without seeing, and fall we still fall back into familiar patterns and the same comfortable relationship we had then.

What else I learned while a student at CVI was that, as one of only a handful of white students at this HBCU, I stood out. People might not know my name, but all they had to say was, "the white girl who lives in Harvey" and people knew who I was. I didn't - couldn't - disappear into the background. There are good and bad sides to that. Many people can't handle the openness of small island life. No matter what you do, someone sees is, and it always comes back to you. Discretion isn't an easy lesson for a 19 year old, but I learned it. That doesn't mean I always practiced it - I was young, afterall. I didn't learn to blend in so much as how to be "visible" without drawing undo notice.

Now here I am trying to draw attention to myself. "HEY! LOOK AT ME! I wrote a book." I wrote a book about the places and people that I love. It's a novel - to have a plot, I need good guys and bad guys, some people had to do not-nice things and be not-very-nice. I worry that people will think they recognize themselves or others in the book and be offended. I hope they recognize themselves and are flattered. Marina Melee is my love song to St. Thomas, the island and the people. Is it full of crazy characters and bizarres situations? You bet! That's what draws me there, pulls me back, and makes St. Thomas, even though I haven't lived there in 12 years, my home.

When I go to the Virgin Islands next month to promote Marina Melee, and when people read it, I will have to put myself front and center. I will have to draw attention to myself. I've been calling and emailing media outlets, bookstores, and people who can help  me get the word out about the novel's release on June 1. That's the first part of putting myself in the public eye ("life in the eye-lens" as one of my favorite Island Trader columns was called). I'm nervous. I'm terrified. What if no one likes it? What if people are offended, rather than flattered? What if they consider it insulting, rather than a tribute? I will be devastated.

But, this is what I've chosen to do. To be an author means to make oneself public, exposed. Visible. Just like when I was a young white girl on a predominately black island, at an HBCU, I'll learn to embrace my visibility, and use it to my advantage. It's what an author does.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who am I and why am I blogging?

I am a curmodgeon, I admit it. I don't have to admit it, it's pretty obvious to everyone who knows me. My first reaction to everything is "that's dumb." Which is probably why I'm a scientist. I like to prove that things are dumb, or wrong. And by "prove" I mean factually and rigorously test my hypotheses and support my argument with facts. When I can't prove something is wrong, I will embrace it as, well, if not correct, at least not as dumb as I originally thought.

That curmudgeonliness is also called critical thinking. It's a skill more people could use. Critical thinking doesn't mean being critical of everything. It means questioning everthing: "Is that dumb or not?" Then looking for more information - facts, preferrably from firsthand, reliable sources - and analyzing and weighing all the information available to draw sound conclusions. It is the antithesis of holding a position based on emotional, unsubstatiated opinions. Critical thinking is everything that cable news, radio talk show pundits, and jumping on bandwagons are not.

For one to employ critical thinking skills, one must be willing to eat crow. New, better information means sometimes I have to change my original position. Believe me, I hate that. But I know I'm more confident in what I know because of it. Because of this, I'm not intimidated or threatened by new ideas and subjects. I have the skills and a strategy to learn about what I  don't know so I don't get to married to my opinions on those topics. I can change my mind.

Some people consider this a weakness. "Waffling." I call it having the strength not of my convictions, but of my facts. It takes much more strength, skill, determination, and gray matter to seek out accurate, truthful, information and base my position on that than to spout an opinion - especially when the facts and information don't support my previously held positions and biases. Real weakness is digging in one's heels and sticking with an opinion despite contradictory facts. 

That's me - a curmudgeon with an open mind. Doesn't sound like much to base a blog on, does it? I didn't think so, either. But, as a new author with my debut novel coming out soon, I've been told by everyone from my publisher and editor, to my colleagues and friends at the Internet Writing Workshop that I need to have a web presence to promote my book (Marina Melee, available June 1, 2011 through from Casperian Book (, Amazon ( and other booksellers nationwide) I need to be on Facebook, have website, blog, and twitter. I am on Facebook (after much grousing about this "fad" that would soon disappear), and I blogged as I way to stay in touch with family and friends when my husband and I lived in Europe. But really, my first reaction to the suggestion that I need a blog was, "that's dumb."

And I mean it. Really. Too many blogs are written by self-absorbed people who don't have anything very interesting to say. Worse still, they use their blog as a venue to express unsubstantiated, poorly researched opinions on complex topics that they're incapable of understanding, much less contributing anything reasonable or helpful to resolving the problem. I'm not interested in reading most people's blogs because, quite frankly, who cares? Unless they're an expert in the field they're discussing, I don't care what they think. I want the facts, not someone's opinion or (mis-)interpretation of information skewed to support their perspective. I'll go to a legitimate, primary source for my information, and then verify that it's accurate. And I should hope people would want to do the same about anything I might write!

Given this oh-so-curmudgeonly view of blogs, what could I possible blog about? By training and experience, I'm a marine scientist, but this blog isn't about the oceans, it isn't about marine chemistry, it isn't about invertebrates, it isn't about marine microbiology, or anthropogenic impacts on coastal habitats. I also spent many years learning about sound instructional design and evaluation and applying that to classroom and online science eduction. But this blog isn't about that either. In other words, it's not about my areas of expertise.

I'm not starting a blog about that part of my life. This blog is to give a web presence and venue to promote Marina Melee (available June 1, 2011 through from Casperian Book (, Amazon ( and other booksellers nationwide). As a fiction writer, I get to make things up. I get to express unsubstantiated positions. I get to exaggerate, misrepresent, and warp reality to suit my purpose! I get to explore things that have absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever. This blog is about my new life, not as a marine scientist, not as a science educator, but as a fiction writer.

The transition from thinking and writing like a scientist, to thinking and writing like a fiction writer isn't one for the faint of heart. Aside from the obvious differences (scientific reports rarely contain dialogue), stories that capture a reader's imagination can't get bogged down in technically perfect explanations. I had to learn to be correctly simple, and simply correct. For anyone thinking, "Well, that sounds easy enough. I think I'll go write a novel," I'm here to tell you, that's dumb.

I had that same dumb idea seven years ago. I mulled it over, plotted it out in my mind, and six years ago, I started writing Marina Melee (coming June 1, 2011 through from Casperian Book (, Amazon ( and other booksellers nationwide). Then five years ago, I realized that if I wanted to do it well, and I did, I needed to go out and get the information I needed - the facts and the skills - to write well. It wasn't that I couldn't write well, but I couldn't write fiction well. I joined the Internet Writing Workshop (IWW, at and started from square one. I submitted responses to the weekly practice prompt for critique (and BOY did I get critiqued!), I submitted short stories and essays I'd written to the appropriate lists for critique, I lurked and learned on the writing discussion board. And I learned how to critique my own and other people's writing. I had short stories, creative nonfiction essays, and a travel article published in various online and print publications. After a year, I was prepared to tackle Marina Melee again. Or so I thought.

I spent the next two years writing the first four chapters over and over and over again, trying to get it "just right." I spun my wheels on my novel (Marina Melee, available June 1, 2011 through from Casperian Book (, Amazon ( and other booksellers nationwide) while continuing to learn about and improve my craft (that's one thing I learned - writers refer to the process of writing as their "craft"). Then I read Stephen King's On Writing. For all you aspiring writers, READ IT! KNOW IT! TAKE IT TO HEART!

I have a book case full of books on writing that range from very technical grammar tomes to a comic book full of Snoopy's writing philosophy. All of them were helpful to varying degrees, but On Writing was the one that really resonated with me. It kicked me in the pants and got me out of my paralysis-in-search-of-perfection mode and into writing mode. I came up with my #1 writing rule: no doing anything* until I'd written 1000 words. (*within reason - I did make coffee to drink while I wrote.)

I wrote 1000 words every weekday from July until mid-December. Some days, those were 1000 new words, other days, I deleted huge sections and rewrote. I then had a 97,000 word novel. Stephen King said to go back and delete 10% of your original manuscript, so I did. Then I submitted Marina Melee (available June 1, 2011 through from Casperian Book (, Amazon ( and other booksellers nationwide) to the IWW novels group for critiques. That got my manuscript down to 85,000 words. I hired a wonderful editor, Rebecca Bender, to go over that version with a fine-tooth comb. The final manuscript that I queried agents and publishers with was about 84,000 words. That's the version that found a home at Casperian Books and that you can purchase beginning June 1, 2011.

Along the way, I continued to participate in the IWW, and joined a local writing group in Charleston, South Carolina (South Carolina Writer's Workshop at to continue learning about my craft. I became a reviewer for the Internet Review of Books ( reviewing science and environmental nonfiction books.

That is the journey I went through to transform myself from a marine scientist to an author. Now that I'm a published author who needs a web presence, I've set up a facebook page for Marina Melee ( and this blog. What will I write about? Who knows. Anything and everything that catches my fancy. Chances are, I'll write a lot about my dog Muggle, and our adventures in agility. Sometimes I'll write about what I'm reading. If I were  you, would I follow this blog? Probably not. There are blogs out there that are worthy of reading. A highschool classmate of mine blogged about undergoing treatment for cancer at That's worthy reading, it puts life into perspective. I'm going to see what she has to say today.

Interview with Lynne

What was your inspiration for Marina Melee?
When I first moved to the Caribbean from upstate New York I was nineteen with a middle-class, white-bread, sheltered background. I went through a lot of the same culture shock my protagonist goes through during my first years in the Virgin Islands (yes, the whole “good morning” scene really did happen to me).

Throughout Marina Melee people tell George he has to read Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival, the expat “Bible” for living in the Caribbean. I was rereading it after I’d been in the islands for about ten years and while I was doing a lot of work with marinas. The stories the marina folks shared with me about mishaps and island characters reminded me of the situations Norman Paperman runs into in Wouk’s story. I thought the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same is especially true in the islands and wouldn’t an updated Carnival be a fun story? The idea spun around in my head for years, but I didn’t actually write it until I’d left the region and was living in Germany—about as far removed from the Caribbean mentality as it is possible to get!

Why did you choose to write from a male protagonist’s POV?

I wanted to write Marina Melee for a number of years, but every time I tried, I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I had published before, but only research articles in scientific journals. As I quickly discovered, science writing and fiction writing are two very different beasts and I needed some practice to make the transition, so I started a blog and joined an online writing group—the Internet Writing Workshop. Occasionally, I would write a blog piece as my husband, or submit stories from a male protagonist’s POV. Those were the pieces I got the best feedback on. My mother even called me after one blog post from “Matt” and said I should give up writing and let him do it! I’m not sure what it says about me, but I definitely feel my voice is more authentic writing from a male POV.

Did you incorporate yourself into the story?

Not as a character, but the story itself is a part of me; my experiences and my love for the Caribbean and its people are woven into the story. The biggest part of me in the story is my belief that home is where you find it. No matter how long I’m away, when I return to the Virgin Islands, I always feel I’m returning home.

Marina Melee - coming June 1, 2011

How hard can it be to run
a marina in the tropics?

Casperian Books is pleased to announce the release of Lynne Hinkey’s debut novel, Marina Melee.
Freshly divorced for the third time and fired from his “allowance”-paying job in the family oil business by his father as a result, George Marshall is invited by his friends Ricky and Katie May to join them on a sailing trip around the Caribbean. A few weeks later, George and his friends stumble upon the idyllic island of São Jorge, where they are welcomed by expat marina owner Tracker Doorn who extols the virtues of Caribbean living—not entirely without ulterior motives.

Determined to prove that he is more than a spoiled, womanizing, overage adolescent, George buys the marina to show his skeptical father and family that he has what it takes to achieve business success without their assistance and without having to work too hard.

At times raucous, at times touching, Marina Melee is a fun voyage to the Caribbean island of São Jorge, where living the easy life is hard work!

Marina Melee goes on sale nationwide June 2011.

For further information or to arrange an interview with the author, please e-mail