Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mendenhall Glacier

Just outside of Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is one of the more accessible Alaskan glaciers.  Somewhat dirty at the face, it's still impressive, a frozen flow into a lake dotted with icebergs, surrounded by rugged mountains and greenery. 

Mendenhall Glacier 
Hikes of various difficulties span the park.  For an easy walk, take the boardwalk trail around Steep Creek, where you might see salmon spawning in July or August, or the flat walk out to Nugget Falls, which crashes into the lake and dwarves the spectators.  Information on various longer hikes can be found at the visitor center or online.          
Kayaking on the Mendenhall Lake
Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
Steep Creek Trail, Mendenhall Glacier

To get there, you can take a shuttle bus ($16 round trip) from the cruise ship docks, or catch a much cheaper city bus, which will drop you off a mile or so short of the glacier.  Entry is free to the glacier, and the visitor center charges a modest fee. 

UPDATE 2020:  The shuttle was $16 in 2011.  In 2019 I believe it was $45.  It'll probably increase. This ridiculously inflated price does include the fee they're now charging for entry to the park, which you'll have to pay yourself if you come by bus, etc.  However, the fee's only $5 per adult, free for children, and free with any national park pass.      

If you want more information about Mendenhall Glacier,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Summers at Castle Auburn" by Sharon Shinn

I love the romance in Summers at Castle Auburn.  People talk of love triangles, but Sharon Shinn creates an infinitely more complex love square here, all accomplished with tingly romantic tension and no graphic love scenes.  As a big fan of Jane Austen and similar works, I find this pleasantly drawn-out style of love story much more to my taste than the lets-hop-into-bed-two-minutes-after-meeting type of story so common today. 

After all, Summers at Castle Auburn isn't just a romance.  It's a fantasy with themes of slavery and independence, and lots of interesting but not overly-complicated, hard-to-follow court intrigue.

I like the main character a lot:  a somewhat tomboyish girl, raised to be a witch (herbalist), but thrust into the world of nobility and royalty when she discovers her dead father was a nobleman.  She makes friends just as easily with the rich nobles and the rough guards and the captive servants. 

Also intriguing is the attraction between the main character's uncle, a renowned hunter of the alluring, fairy-like creatures used as servants in rich houses, and the queen of these ethereal creatures.  Hunter and hunted united in a strange dance of hate and love, desire and fear.

The writing is good, and a whole lot more happens than in The Safe-Keeper's Secret, another of Sharon Shinn's works.  See my less enthusiastic review for that book here.  I'm not sure, however, that men would enjoy the tale as much as women. 

My rating:  4+

If you're looking for a clean romantic fantasy, read Castles at Summer Auburn by Sharon Shinn.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alaska Nature

Here are a few photos of the natural beauty I discovered
on my recent Alaska Cruise. 

If you want more pictures and information, 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beginner's Publication Luck—or Curse

I recently had a poem published on 
If you don't count high school literary magazines, this is the first poem I've submitted to anyone, and it earned publication!  Now, if the pattern holds true, I only have to submit about 25 more poems before another one will be snatched up.  That's what happened with my short stories.  

I used to be so scared to show my writing to anyone.  I had a few stories published, again, in my high school literary magazine, but they were almost accidental:  the first one I didn't even submit, but wrote overnight for an assignment in English class.  My teacher was also the literary magazine advisor, and she submitted it without me knowing.  I'm the first to admit it's not a masterpiece.

For a few years after high school, when I went to university and realized how much I didn't know, I hardly even talked about my writing to other people, though it was a huge part of my life.  Finally I saw a short story contest at my public library and decided to enter.  I labored over my story for weeks.  Then I took it to the library, where I had previously worked and thus knew all the librarians.  Terrified, I shoved it at Greg, red-faced, and said, "Don't read it."  Which seems rather self-defeating.

Weeks later the call came:  I had won the contest.  "Beautiful," they called it.  Boom.  Instant confidence.  My first venture into the real world of writing turned out roses.  So I joined a critique group, which I'd been afraid to do.  I started submitting to literary magazines.  The first rejection I took with pride.  The second, third, fourth…not so much.  I kept submitting, though slowly.  Rejection.  Rejection.  It took me 24 more short story submissions before I received my first acceptance, into THEMA Literary Magazine.  (Summer 2011 issue--available to buy at Thema's website.)

The first three travel writing pieces I submitted?  Accepted.  Then a dry spell of rejections.  Do we see a pattern?

Too bad it wasn't the first novel submitted which won acceptance.  Of course, then I'd be on every writer's "that's not fair" list.  So I guess I'll plod along on the novel front with everyone else.

Writing takes time, patience, and skill.  Getting published takes more time, more patience, just as much skill, and lots of luck.  So this month, I'm really going to work on my submitting goals as well as my writing goals.  Good luck to everyone else doing the same!