Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back on the Wagon...Maybe


My kids are out of school for the Summer now, which means I don't have to wake anyone up in the morning and drive anyone anywhere either (YAY!). Combine this with a beautiful Spring morning and living in close proximity to my job, and you have the perfect recipe for walking to work. 

I decided, then, the other day to do just that. I had only gotten about a quarter of the way there when I came to a realization: I am out of shape! That one mile walk (I know, shoot me) kicked my butt. Me, the hiker and outdoor lover, got whooped by a quarter-mile walk. I persevered anyway, and by the time I reached work I was feeling pretty good. Still, it's a wakeup call.

You all know that I spent a total of three and a half weeks being sick (this includes the time I spent taking medicine and getting well) last month. I got in one decent hike right at the tail end of it, then spent the next two weeks getting caught up on various responsibilities I have outside of work. Right after that, I hit a manic perimenopause episode that lasted a couple of weeks where I hibernated.

Looking back over the last couple of months then, I really haven't gotten much exercise. In fact, I've only gotten that one hike in since vacation. On top of that, I've been eating mostly a carbolicious, starchy diet. No wonder I'm in such poor shape. Well, it's time then to get back on the wagon. I'm going to be mindful of the foods I eat (and the quantity), and I'm definitely going to get some good hiking in over the next several weeks. I need to do that anyway before the Summer heat & mosquitos arrive, rendering hiking nothing more than a sweaty, bug-fest.

Wish me luck!




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Don't forget, you can purchase my latest book, The Box, as well as my other books through my Pronoun Author Page. You can purchase it through different retailers for different reading devices. Hey, one guy said The Box was nothing more than gratuitous violence and bloody murders! Doesn't it sound awesome? Find out for yourself...only $3.99!



Monday, May 29, 2017

Portrait of Omaha: University of Nebraska - Omaha (UNO)

Good morning! It's been awhile since I've done an installment of my series: Portrait of Omaha. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a photographic/informative look at some of the landmarks of the city I call home. I've been meaning to cover the University of Nebraska - Omaha (a.k.a. UNO) for awhile now, but I've been waiting for Spring to arrive. The reason for this is that Spring is a great look for campus, and showcases the beauty of the university.




This is glimpse of the Welcome Center with the Durham Science Center peeking through the back.





A good look at the Welcome Center. See the flowery bush there on the right? It's part of a larger patch of foliage that hides a little secret: There's a little path that meanders through the patch, allowing one to escape for a moment and admire nature.





A view down the sidewalk under the covered walkway at the Durham Science Center. You can see all the way down past the Weber Fine Arts Building, through the covered walkway of Criss Library, and just barely make out the base of the Henningson Memorial Campanile (also known as the Clock Tower).





The entrance to the Durham Science Center. This is where all the science-related fields are, and they also have a small, but impressive, planetarium. I was fortunate to go check out a laser show there with my family last year.





This is a neat art alcove along the main walkway through campus. It's got this neat-looking obelisk-type structure on the right, but inside are winding rows for planting flowers (which hasn't been done yet) and a small variety of sculptures. I'll have to find out more about this one of these days.





Just east of the Weber Fine Arts Building -- on one of their decorative outdoor walls -- is an open window that is framed with ivy and looks out, onto a wire-frame sculpture.





This interesting sculpture is called "Atomicity" made by Ronald K. Parks. Installed in 2014, it sits outside of the Community Engagement Center.





Here we finally get a good look up the Clock Tower. From this viewpoint, it seems to rise almost endlessly into the sky.





A view of the Arts and Science Hall from the back entrance of the Eppley Administration Building. The big, open, green space is the Pep Bowl where plenty of student activities are held on nice days.





This is a cool fountain sculpture, complete with places to sit, just outside the back entrance of the Milo Bail Student Center. When the weather is nice, facilities puts out metal patio furniture for people to sit out in this nice open area. It's a great place to have lunch if it's not too hot.


I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. There are plenty of other interesting sculptures, foliage, and buildings to see here, and I hope you get a chance to wander around campus someday. You can catch a show at the Durham Science Center Planetarium, check out the art inside the Weber Fine Arts Building, grab a bite to eat the Library Cafe, or simply take a scenic walk. 




Don't forget, my latest book The Box was just published Friday, and it's a hot buy at only $3.99. It's a short, fun, and thrill-ridden horror story, so check it out! You can find it here: H.A. Larson's Pronoun Author Page.




Saturday, May 27, 2017

Coffee Talk: The Box, The Write Life, and Peer Reviews


Good morning and Happy Saturday! Are you as happy that the weekend is here as I am? I'm particularly excited because, being a holiday, we have a three-day weekend. Having that extra day is always nice because you can get chores done and still have time for fun. It's amazing how much one extra day can do that. At any rate, I hope you have plans to do something fun. As for myself, I'm going to get some chores/work done; host a potluck & bonfire with friends; get some much-needed hiking in; and generally just relax.


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If you haven't heard yet, The Box was published yesterday! I'm excited to finally be able to share it with the world. It's available for $3.99 and you can purchase it through various retailers. For more info, go to The Box's Pronoun Book Page.



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There's a great sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something, and nowhere is that more true for me than in The Write Life. I've talked extensively about The Write Life on this blog, and, over the years, you and I have seen my growth as a writer. What started out as a dream/goal to write a book, turned into a true passion. I've come a long way since Cold and it shows. Not only are my writing skills better, but so are my editing skills, blogging skills, video-making skills, and my general knowledge about the self-publishing world.

It would be a lie if I said that I haven't struggled through this journey or that I haven't had some of the most frustrating days of my life doing this, but I wouldn't change any of it for the world. Being an author has changed my life in only the best of ways, and, no matter the outcome, I can say that I personally accomplished something I wanted. And that, folks, is what being an author is truly about. 

I've written fun, entertaining, and easy-to-read books because that's what I've done best. It works well, people like them, and I enjoy writing them. I have evolved enough now, though, in The Write Life that I've decided that my next book will be more gripping, well-written, well-researched, and a true thrill to read. What I'm saying is that I've grown up in my writing, and I'm ready to write a big-girl book. Stay tuned!



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As an Indie author, I rely on reviews of my books for a few reasons: 

1. Publishing websites use a rubric for books. If it gets x amount of reviews, they will start advertising it on other parts of their website, bringing it more exposure.

2. Reviews help buyers decide if they want to invest the money in your book or not.

3. Reviews can be good feedback for authors to correct errors.

4. Along those lines, reviews can also help an author decide what does and doesn't work so they can use this information for future books.


After I published my first book, and realized it wasn't getting reviews, I did some online research and found that Indie authors can join peer review groups. You join a group, submit your book, and you get x amount of authors' books to read and vice versa. I thought this was a great idea, so I entered my first book Cold. Then, when I finished The Melody, I quickly did the same. After I finished The Station, it went through the process as well.

While reviews for the first book were what I expected, I noticed that with each subsequent book I entered into peer review groups, the quality of the reviews went down. Was it that my books were declining in quality? No, the opposite was true -- although I learned that I needed to edit better and use a better program for styling my ebooks. 

So, what was the problem then, exactly? The problem was the other authors reviewing the books. While the first peer review group understood what I was doing, with each subsequent book I noticed a wave of new authors coming in, and, boy, were they snobby. What I mean by that is that their expectations for my books were much, much greater than my own. They were critiquing my book in some correct and constructive ways, but they were also approaching my books as if I were trying to rewrite War and Peace.

In all honesty, I'm just writing short, fun, and campy books for purely entertainment value. What I'm not writing is the Great American Novel. I've decided then, that I'm not going to enter The Box into a peer review group, because I don't need the negative reviews that condemn my book for not being the "next greatest thing". So, then, a word to other authors doing peer reviews: Review the book as it is, don't try to review it like the author of the book you're reviewing needs a lesson on why their book isn't going to be the next literary great. Truth: it's not. Review for the kind of book it is, and not how you expect that it should be. 



Friday, May 26, 2017

The Box has been Published!





It is my great pleasure to announce that my fifth book as H.A. Larson, The Box, has been published! It is available through Amazon, Apple ibooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble. You can link up to any of those retailers through The Box's Pronoun Page, or through my Pronoun Author Page. You can pick it up for the cool price of $3.99. I hope you get a chance to read my latest book. If you like horror stories, you're going to enjoy this book, so grab your copy today! 


If you have a moment, sign up for my newsletter up there in the right-hand corner, just below the menu bar. I reveal news to my email subscribers first and give them a heads-up on upcoming posts. Sign up today! You know you want to. Also, buy The Box today, only $3.99!






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ipsy's May Glam Bag

Good morning! I hope your day is shaping up, as I know mine is. Last week was an odd week, and today I finally feel normal, or at least what my version of normal feels like. Since things are feeling business-as-usual, it's high time that I shared my Ipsy Glam Bag for May before my June one arrives!




The bag and it's contents. Nature Girl instantly fell in love with this cute little ice cream bag. We made a deal that if she kept her room clean for the rest of the month, that I'd give it to her. We'll see how well she's able to accomplish this! Anyway, this month's theme is getting ready for Summer.





Here are the contents of the bag.





First up is Briogeo's Rosarco Milk. It's an intensive leave-in conditioning spray. I don't have much occasion to use such a product, but on the rare chance that I might go swimming this year, I feel that this would be a good product to use after washing out the chlorine. For those of you who need ultra-conditioning, this might be more for you. Still, I'm eager to try it!





This is Mellow's Creamy Matte Lipstick in Nude. It's a beautiful matted pinkish color, which seems to be one of the typical colors I get from Ipsy. This one has the logo imprinted on the actual lipstick itself...see it? (Sorry, the background I chose for this shoot takes away from the actual color.)





Adesse of New York has passed along a gel effect nail polish in a light turquoise kind of color called Surfer Girl. I don't usually wear this kind of color as I shy away from pastels, but I'll try it at least once. If I'm not fond of it, NG will be more than happy to take it off my hands.





Next up is Superhero's Voluminous Mascara in a sample size. I tried some out yesterday morning in fact, and it really did make it seem like I could almost be wearing falsies.





Last, but not least, is Urban Decay's 8-hour powder highlighter. I've recently started playing around with highlighters a little and, while I'm still not going to be an everyday highlighter, I can see the value in highlighting one's face for special occasions. What I mean by that is that I love to wear makeup, and I do so nearly every day, however, I have an everyday look, and a look for special occasions. I don't feel the need to go all out every single day of the week.

And there you have it, another month of Ipsy's Glam Bag. It's still the best value on the block (if you're truly into makeup), and all the information about them can be found on www.ipsy.com.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Coffee Talk: Missing Post, Weekend Fun, and Book Update



Good morning and Happy Monday. I've got a fresh cup of coffee from a just-brewed pot, so let's get started.

First off, I want to apologize for not putting up my normal Saturday post. The truth is, I was in a funk last week and, at the same time, was preparing for an event on Saturday, that I never got a proper post ready. I had every intention, earlier in the week, of getting my glam bag all photographed, but alas I did not. I figured I can get a pass for it, I mean, we all miss things here and there...amirite?

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Speaking of Saturday, it was the day I'd been looking forward to since February. What was so special about Saturday? It was the First (hopefully annual) Ren Faire After Dark. This event was held in Des Moines, Iowa, and was 21+ only, so we made the 2.5 hour journey North. This, of course, meant no kids and no one who wasn't legally old enough to drink. Despite the monsoon that waged all the day & night before, and morning of, it was a lot of fun. Debauchery goes without saying, and it definitely would have received an R rating most of the time, and an X rating a few others. Photography was strictly prohibited and enforced, for privacy reasons that I completely understand, so, alas, I have no pictures to share.

My husband and I dressed up for the event, as did most people, and we let loose and enjoyed ourselves. It was really nice being able to see "inappropriate" things and do adult things without having to worry about any children running about. It like a normal Renaissance Faire in many respects with vendors, food & drink booths, and entertainment, but it was all geared for adults. Some of the entertainers I had seen before at different Ren Faires (I've been to a variety of Ren Faires in different states), but they got to do their unfiltered versions of their shows/acts. It was great fun. We made it home yesterday afternoon, exhausted and in dire need of a shower.

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Last, but not least in any way, is that I'm very nearly finished with editing The Box. I should have it done and ready by the end of the week. I've taken more care, time, and effort editing this book than any of my previous efforts. I've read the reviews for my other books, and, because of this, I know that I need to do a better job of editing. 

It's been easier in some respects. This is the first book where I didn't make significant changes in sections of the book, which is nice. It means my final product was better I believe. It's been harder in some respects as well. I've been very careful going over my words, and making sure to go back through what I've changed a few times to make sure it all looks good.

What this all means, is that I'm hoping to put out, not just my best story yet, but a better quality story at the same time. I'll keep you posted on that here this week.

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I hope your week is off to a good start, and that your entire week will be a good one. We have a three-day weekend coming up (well, not all, but many of us) here in the States with Memorial Day being a week from today. It will be nice, as it always is, to get an extra paid day off without using vacation time. Talk to you all soon!



Friday, May 19, 2017

Rain

Hey everyone! I had a busy morning, so today's post got pushed off until this afternoon. I wrote a bit of poetry in honor of all the beautiful rain we've received lately in my neck of the woods. Enjoy!





The Rain


I watch the rain make patterns on the window,
as it falls down from the sky.
Rainy days are somber and dreary for some,
but as for me, not I.
I find the sound of the rain soothing,
comforting, and cold.
For I detest the heat,
and admire quiet repose.

I am anonymous, hidden, and sly,
as I align myself with the rain from the sky.
We are one, the droplets and I,
within my domain I remain and I hide.

I contemplate philosophy and the universe,
thinking about my life.
What causes me pain I must bury,
banishing to recesses inside.
The rain starts to subside and I frown,
I am not ready for it to end.
The sun will return and the clouds will run away,
the sound of the rain will be spent.

Goodbye old friend,
until next time.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Update on The Box


Good morning! I thought I'd give you all an update on The Box this morning. I've been busy, especially this week, editing the book, and I'm about halfway through. My plan is to have it finished and off to the publisher on Friday. If all goes well, it should be ready for purchase sometime over the weekend (I'm hoping Saturday).

I'm looking forward to putting out my best book yet, not just in terms of story, but in terms of quality as well. I'm also glad that I finally found a publisher, and so far I am quite pleased with them. My older work has gotten new life and that includes this website as well. It's exciting, after what felt like an eternity of staleness, that things seem to be moving forward in a fruitful manner.

Anyway, keep an eye out here, or any of my social media pages (which can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of this page here on my website). If you're not already following me on those places, you really should! 

Have a great Wednesday my friends!

-H.A. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Latest Libations: 6th Edition

Good morning! I've got a cup of coffee, and I'm ready to get the new week started...well, not in a big hurry, but you catch my drift. I realized the other day that I've been taking pictures of all the fine brews I've had lately, but that I haven't made any of them into a post yet. Today, then, I'm going to share some of them with you.




First up, Battered Boar Brewing Co.'s Coconut Cream Stout. This was actually a beer I had when I was visiting my mom in Arkansas. We went to Bricktown Brewery where I indulged in their Blueberry Ale, but I also had this delightful brew you see here. Almost like a dessert, this dark and creamy stout was enhanced by coconut and vanilla. Incredibly tasty, I would definitely recommend this to anyone.




Good old Shiner. I toured the brewery years ago, before I had kids, and they only made Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, and a few seasonal brews. Now, they've been bought out by Budweiser and they made more mainstream brews. I find it rather sad, but it is what it is. This beer is okay. It's decent enough to drink on a hot day when you'd rather have something other than a grandpa beer.




Whenever I hike over at Hitchcock Nature Center, I make sure to stop by the Loess Hills Vineyard on my way home. This little winery only stocks about four to five kinds of wine at a time, typically, and while this one is a table wine, I enjoy it. It's sweet, light, and good for sipping on. We drank the whole bottle that night!




I have to say, everytime I've had a Zip Line Brewing beer, I've enjoyed it. This one was no different. It's no secret that I enjoy some fruit, citrus, or some other lovely seasoning, brewed into ales. I find them enhanced by natural flavors, and they give it a little extra bit of something. This yummy ale has been brewed with a bit of lemon, and it tastes light and refreshing while avoiding the temptation to be sweet.




Traveler's makes fru-fru sweet beers, and sometimes I enjoy that. I especially enjoy these interspersed with dark brews to help balance things out. As far as shandies go, you can't do much better than Traveler's. They make a variety of them, and the Grapefruit one is one of my favorites.




Empyrean is another local brewery whose beers I enjoy on occasion. They've jumped on the fruit band wagon, this time with Peachy Keen Ale. As the name implies, it's got a hint of peach flavor, which is new as I haven't seen any other brews with that yet. And it stays away from the sweet, which is what I prefer. I like the accentuated flavors without adding the sweet. If you're talking a shandy, yes, it should be sweet, but if you're talking flavored ales, stay away from the sugar!




Here's another Empyrean brew that I enjoyed at a different time. This one is Luna Sea ESB. If you're unfamiliar with ESB, it's English Special Bitter. It's really an English-style pale ale, but it has a bitter aftertaste. Empyrean's Luna Sea is a good beer, period.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Arkansas Vacation: Turpentine Creek & Onyx Cave

Hi everyone! Well, today I'm going to share the last post from our fun family vacation in Arkansas. Between finishing The Box and re-publishing my other books through Pronoun, this post took a backseat for a bit. I don't want to leave it for too long, or too far removed from the other vacation posts, so it's time to share this. I hope you enjoyed a look into my vacation, and that it gives you some inspiration for your next one!

On our last full day in Arkansas, which was a Saturday, we left my mom's house early that morning and headed north to Eureka Springs. Before we went on vacation, I had every one of us pick at least one thing we'd like to do while we were there. I picked Mount Magazine and Hot Springs National Park; The Teen picked Devil's Den State Park; the hubs picked a distillery (we ended up going to a brewery because there wasn't a legit distillery within a reasonable distance); and Nature Girl picked Turpentine Creek.

If there's anything to know about Nature Girl (besides the fact that she loves nature) it's that she's a huge fan of animals. Ever since she was little and got into the Kratt Brothers animal shows, she's been nuts for all things animal. She knows all kinds of facts and tidbits, and never passes up an opportunity to pet any animal that will let her. So, when she said that she wanted to go to Turpentine Creek -- and then proceeded to give us all the information she knew about it -- I knew we had to take her.

One thing I had hoped to do while in Arkansas as well was to go to a cave, but thought we'd have to scrap that idea as there wasn't any terribly close to my mom's place. After doing a bit of research on Turpentine Creek, I discovered that there were a few caves close to the Refuge, so we decided to make that the last day of the trip (with an overnight stop an hour west in Bentonville).



Cecil the Macaw lives behind the front counter of the Refuge.

We went to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge first. The Visitor's Center at the Refuge was busy when we arrived, but when we got to the counter to pay, we got to meet Cecil the Macaw and a puppy as well. Nature Girl got excited.



Bam Bam the grizzly bear.

The Refuge is home to a variety of animals, including a coatimundi, a macaque monkey, and bears, but their main rescues are big cats. 



Donner the white tiger.

They have tigers, lions, servals, cougars, bobcats, leopards, and ligers/ti-ligers. 



Khaleesi the tiger.

We really learned a lot about the big cats, especially the tigers, and how they ended up at the Refuge. Breeding tigers for profit is a big business, believe or not, and it comes with it's own set of problems. White tigers are only created through inbreeding, and because of this have eyes problems and other issues. The Refuge has a strict No Breeding-No Kill policy, and they run strictly off entrance fees and overnight guests. This ensures that the big cats can just live out the rest of their lives peacefully and well-taken care of. I recommend this place for anyone who loves animals...especially big cats! For more about Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, click here.





Onyx Cave is one of a couple of caves in Eureka Springs. Since we were going to to the refuge, I thought it would be fun to hit up a cave as well. I chose Onyx Cave for two reasons: 1. it's not as large as the other ones, and 2. it's not as expensive. Since we were already going to the Refuge, I figured a smaller cave would work well. It's only about five miles from the Refuge, making the trip an easy one.




Onyx Cave is small, but it doesn't lack for any of the cool features you'd expect in a cave. It has a self-guided, thirty-minute tour that was interesting and informative. We were given very old headphones with preloaded information that was narrated by someone back in the 1960s. Hey, we still thought it was cool as well as a bit nostalgic.




Stalactites and stalagmites.




This one is called "The Organ" if I remember correctly.




This is a cool shot of the cave. Here, you can get a good glimpse of what it looks like inside. The Teen is in this shot, wearing the nostalgic headphones.




A shot down one section of the walkway, and another cool shot of the inside of the cave.

I would definitely recommend both of these places to visit. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is not only informative and interesting, but your admission helps support the refuge. Onyx Cave is a great cave to visit when you don't have a lot of time and/or you don't want to spend all day on a cave tour. I've done other cave tours that were crowded and seemed to take forever. I've also seen some poor reviews for other caves in the area, so I would suggest checking this one out. For more information on Onyx Cave, click here.


There it is, the last Arkansas vacation post! We rounded off our trip with an overnight stay in Bentonville (an hour West of Eureka Springs) where we ate supper at Mellow Mushroom -- a very vegan-friendly pizza joint. The next day, we headed home but made a detour at my friend's house in Northern Missouri where she made us a wonderful meal of vegan-friendly food and did an Easter Egg hunt for her niece and Nature Girl. 

All in all, it was a great trip that was only soured by my sickness and one other thing. Isn't there always one thing? *laugh* I hope you get a chance one day to check out all that Arkansas has to offer.

-H.A.



Friday, May 12, 2017

A Gorgeous Afternoon in the Iowa Mountains

Good morning! Last Saturday was gorgeous, so we headed over to the Iowa Mountains for a leisurely stroll through the woods and rolling hills. Since we weren't going to embark on any major hiking, I brought along my Nikon to snap some pictures. It sure was beautiful out there!




A view to the east through the trees while standing on a ridge. The trees are almost completely grown in, and everything that is grown in is vibrant and verdant.





Another view on the next ridge.





The wildflowers are out in full force, and we were treated to a nice rainbow of them along the trail. I admit that I'm not good with plants, but I did some google searching to find out what these different wildflowers are. From what I gather, these are prairie phlox.





I believe these are also phlox, but of the yellow variety.





These light blue flowers with yellow centers took a little bit more investigative work, but I'm pretty sure they are narrowleaf blue-eyed grass.





A shot of nature girl walking along the ridgeline trail.





At the end of our time in the woods, I gave Nature Girl my camera and let her take some pictures. I really liked a couple of them, so I'm posting my two favorites. Her first one, I call "Mismatched Socks."





Another of NG's photos: "The Bird Station."


I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into a beautiful afternoon we had. We followed it up by stopping by a winery between the forest and our house where I have a frequent buyers card. I had a full card which meant I had a free bottle of wine, so we took that home and spent the rest of the evening sitting outside. We gathered some firewood as well, so when the sun went down we enjoyed a bonfire.

If you know better information on my wildflowers, I'd love for you to share! Just leave me a comment below.