#WhatToRead: BLACK RABBIT HALL + a picture of me with Paul Bunyan

Black Rabbit Hall was one of my October “modern Gothic” picks. I read most of it while traveling to, and staying in, a cottage on the sunrise side of Lake Huron. I’ve never been to Cornwall, but I have a feeling the two places are dissimilar. Still, it was neat reading an atmospheric story set by the sea featuring an old family mansion while curled up on my friend’s couch in her family’s cozy lake house. There were no ghosts in hers (it’s too new) but one whole room was decorated with black and white photographs of four generations of family, as well as more recent photographs of friends who have visited. (That’s us with Paul Bunyan.)

The story opens with a prologue from Amber’s point of view, which sets the tone immediately. It’s “the last day of the summer holidays” and Amber feels safer on a cliff ledge than she does in her house. She’s searching for someone. You get the impression she might be playing hide & seek. But if so, it’s a dangerous game. There’s a feeling that something’s not right. That something will go wrong. Or perhaps that something has already gone wrong and will only get worse. The prologue ends when Amber sees something floating in the water below.

And then three pages and three decades later, we’re following Lorna, a bride-to-be on a mission to find the quintessential wedding venue. Lorna loves old houses… Cornwall… and her fiance, Jon.

Black Rabbit Hall casts shadows and creates silhouettes. The story is as murky as the water Amber is staring into when the book begins. But author Eve Chase paces her reveals well and, since I don’t want to spoil the story, I’ll simply say it deserves the label “Gothic.” It’s not just a novel with a dark, foreboding tone. It’s not just a novel set in an old crumbling mansion. It’s got all the other elements too — family secrets, sinister deeds, psychological distress, love, madness, hatred, and (for one character at least), an acknowledgement that there will be no forgiveness.

Where did I get my copy of Black Rabbit Hall? Baltimore County Public Library 🙂


We left our cozy cottage twice… Once to take a hike in the Huron National Forest along the Au Sable River and the second to have margaritas at the Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery (followed by a quick trip to the hardware store… where we bought firewood, pickled asparagus, and pink camo baby tights for one of my friend’s nieces. Ya know, just the essentials. 😉 )

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Words Books and Miles Update + Happy Halloween!

At the beginning of this year, I mentioned that I would track my success by the number of words I write, books I read, and miles I travel. The year’s nearly over, so how am I doing?

Words — not as well as I would like. I shared in my newsletter that Noon #5 will be pushed back until 2018. That was never my plan. After not publishing anything in 2015, I swore I’d never go a year without publishing anything again. But… life, you know.

Books — around 28 so far, although that includes a handful of picture books and doesn’t include the myriad non-fiction books I’ve skimmed while working at the library (way, way, way too many to list, among them Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats and, most recently, How Art Can Make You Happy, which seemed like the art version of The Little Book of Hygge meets Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Miles — Biking? Unfortunately, less than 100. Hiking? Even less. Flying? Craig and I played hooky one day this fall while Penny and E were at school. We flew down to Cape May, had lunch at the Blue Pig, checked out the Washington Street shops, bought a stack of books at the Cape Atlantic Book Company (including Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson), and watched the gulls take flight. Distance from MTN to WWD: 83.56 miles.

Back in September, I flew from BWI to DTW (408.08 miles) and then drove another 204 miles to hang out in a beautiful, peaceful lakeside cottage with friends. I read Black Rabbit Hall there, which seemed fitting because the book was set in Cornwall and — in my imagination anyway — the shores of Lake Huron = the shores of the Celtic Sea, right? ;-D More on that trip and that book later.

Looking further back, I’m going to throw in the miles from our annual road trip to Tennessee (540.4 miles) for a grand total (so far) of 1,236.04 miles.

So, how about you? How many words have you written in 2017? You know, NaNo‘s starting tomorrow. November’s a great month to catch up on your WIP.

How many books have you read? Anything recent that you want to share?

How many miles have you hiked, biked, walked, ran, traveled? Commuting miles don’t count because where’s the fun in that? 😀

Best wishes for a safe & happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween!

It’s here! One of my favorite days of the year!!

Since I have to work tonight, I celebrated over the weekend. On Friday, I had drinks at the Millstone American Farmhouse Cidery with a few fellow librarians for happy hour. What a neat place! The owner acquired and restored an old grist mill, which you can tour – so, of course, I did because you all know how much I adore old buildings. They’ve put a lot of work into the old mill while still maintaining its original, rustic character. Very inspiring! I want to go back and sample more cider and learn more about the process of making cider, the apple varieties they use, etc. I tried four different ciders: Bonfire (“a hot cyser aged with smoked fish peppers”), Debauched (“a dry hopped cider smoked with juniper and applewood”), Cherrykriek (a seasonal, dark cherry cider), and a hot cider. My favorite was the Cherrykriek.

On Saturday, I took E and some friends to Maize Quest, which is an outdoor farm in central Pennsylvania with a giant corn maze, as well as a half-dozen or so lesser mazes and lots of stuff for kids to climb on (that’s E pictured below… I asked her if she could strike a pose against the setting sun just because I thought it would look neat. Nothing like doing a Lord of the Dance pose in muckers on a giant tractor tire! 😀 ). This year’s corn maze theme was Expedition Everest, which was pleasingly whimsical and incongruous. Maize Quest’s slogan is, “Get lost in the stalks.” We never truly got lost, but we had fun finding our way out.

Last night, I poured some Ghost Pines Pinot into my new Witchy Woman wine glass and carved pumpkins. As luck would have it, we had a brief power outage while we were carving. For one short moment, I felt a little bit like I was in a horror movie… and then the lights came back on. Pictured below from left to right are our 2016 masterpieces: Craig’s, Penny’s, E’s, and mine.

From our house to yours, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Disney, Backstage Magic Tour, Magic Kingdom, Review

#endofsummer2016: Penny Reviews #Disney’s Backstage Magic Tour

Mid-summer, I admitted how swamped I was with various non-blogging obligations so I asked my two daughters to pitch in and help. E reviewed two graphic novels for me and Penny reviewed the Backstage Magic Tour that we took together during our June trip to Disney World. Since tomorrow is Labor Day — the unofficial end of summer — I figured I’d close the season out with Penny’s post. (A good ending always takes readers back to the beginning. 😉 )

Brief programming note: As many of you know, Pocket Full of Tinder will FINALLY be releasing this December. That means this blog will be in “promo mode” through the fall. I will still have guest bloggers, and may post random stuff from time to time, but many of the posts will be related to promoting my fourth book. My attitude toward promo is to try to make it fun and/or interesting. Even if you started following this blog for reasons other than being a Noon fan, I think you’ll enjoy the posts and links. And, hey, I haven’t promoted anything in two years!!! None of my followers can complain that all I ever do is promote my own stuff. 😀

What’s scheduled so far:

September 15th: Cover Reveal! Almost forty bloggers signed up, which is the most hosts I’ve ever had for a cover reveal. I’m very grateful to everyone who signed up!! I’ll be posting individual links, info about a Twitter contest, and, of course, the cover, in mid-September.

September 19th: Halloween Spooktacular Kickoff! A month and a half long event featuring authors who writes stories with supernatural characters, terrifying tales, haunted homes, witches, vampires, werewolves, demons and more. There will be blog posts, features, reviews, and a multi-author Facebook party (I’ll be hosting on Oct. 19th from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST), PLUS there’s a spooktacular (sorry, couldn’t resist) giveaway — a Kindle Fire. More details later.

October 22, 2016: HallowRead! I’ll be there. Not 100% sure in what capacity yet, but will bring copies of first three Noon Onyx books to sell and sign, as well as some giveaways for Pocket Full of Tinder (bookmarks, sample chapter booklets). IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE THERE AND WANT TO MEET, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

Okay, enough promo for today! Back to lamenting the end of summer…

 


Penny‘s Review of

Disney World’s Backstage Magic Tour

The Backstage Magic Tour is an eye-opening, real life look at what goes on behind the scenes in Disney World. With a tour bus of about 30 people, we hit some great sights! I will share my experience, however, I won’t give too much away, because I do encourage any Disney enthusiasts to take this tour themselves, and experience the magic without spoilers. 🙂

We started off at EPCOT, where our tour guide took us behind the scenes of the American Adventure show, which features audio-animatronics. Did you know that the cast members do two run-throughs of the whole American Adventure Show before they even open the show? I thought that was really impressive.

Next we went to see the costume design warehouse, where the cast members hand-make all of the costumes for the characters in the rides. It was really cool to see characters that aren’t being used in the rides anymore. For example, three of the old characters from the Haunted Mansion were on display there. We also got a sneak peek at the material the costume designers used for one of the character’s costumes in the new Frozen ride (Astroturf!).

After that we went to the set design warehouse. We got to see so many things, from cars being painted for the Test Track ride to trash cans being touched up. It was really neat to see how much work the cast members put in to making Disney World special. When we saw how many Christmas lights go on the castle during the holidays, it was amazing. Guess how much electricity all those lights need? Only enough to power two loads in a standard Dryer. Crazy, right?

Then, we went to Disney’s Greenhouse/Topiary Pavilion. It’s where Disney grows all of their topiaries and plants for the Flower Festival at EPCOT, or even just to place around the park. Disney grows some topiaries that take a whopping ten years to grow. I honestly don’t think I would have enough patience to do that.

As we headed to Magic Kingdom, we ran into the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which features all of the characters, including of course, Mickey and Minnie… and a fire-breathing dragon!

Lastly, we went to what I thought was the most secretive place of all. The Tunnels. Yes, you read that right. Disney has tunnels underneath the Magic Kingdom. Have you ever wondered how characters get from place to place so fast? Or why you see them in one place, and then suddenly they pop up somewhere else? The trick is the tunnels. Cast members use them all the time! The tunnels are also a place for the cast members to escape if they want to step back into the real world. Not only is there real world music playing (i.e. not Disney music), but the cast members are able to step out of character and become themselves again for a little bit. We even saw one cast member ride his bike through the tunnel!

I absolutely loved the tour and highly recommend it for all you Disney enthusiasts out there. It really was a magical experience that I will never forget!  °o°


Thank you, Penny, for the awesome review! I had a great time touring with you!!! 🙂

Other Disney posts:

So Long Summer!
So Long, Summer ’16!

Cape May Redux (a mother-daughter day-trip post) #flying #NJ

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to experiment with having my older daughter write part of a post. Today’s post is it! Because I’m fond of noms de plume, I encouraged her to pick a pen name. So henceforth, she will be known on this blog as “Penny.” 😀

Back in February, we took a flight to Cape May. It’s a frequent destination for us because it’s quicker to fly there than to the Maryland shore + it’s a charming, beautiful town with only one “ugly mug.” 😉 But don’t take my word for it. Penny’s post is below, as well as a picture gallery. Enjoy!

Cape May, New Jersey:

Five of My Favorite Places

On our recent trip to the Cape, we went to some amazing places. Five of my favorites were:

Ugly Mug Bar & Restaurant: This is my family’s number one restaurant to dine at. As you walk in, there are mugs everywhere — the ceiling, the walls — but they are actually more plain than ugly. They have great food and I really recommend trying it! We love their half & halfs (Arnold Palmers) and I love their burgers.

Great White Shark: This cute and colorful shop has everything — souvenirs, car magnets, t-shirts, jewelery, etc. When we were there, I bought a pair of orange anchor earrings and my sister bought a blue and white, long-sleeved shirt with Cape May written on the front.

The Original Fudge Kitchen: This place is known for its…you guessed it…fudge! Although I am not a big fudge person myself (I know, crazy, right?), I still like theirs. On our last trip, an employee told me that their fudge was made fresh every morning and that you can watch them do it from the front store window.

Cape Atlantic Book Company: I enjoy going to this quaint little bookstore mainly because my mom loves it so much. It’s always fun to check out what’s new. One quirky thing about it is that it’s in a building with an escalator that only goes up. If you want to go back down, you have to take the stairs.

The Beach: Duhhh. This one’s a given. We love to hunt for conch shells, which anyone can do! You just have to look hard enough. We also love to write in the sand and search for coins with my metal detector. The most interesting thing I’ve found is a nickel, lol.

~Penny


More about Penny

Penny
Intrepid Teenage Traveler/Writer/Photographer
  • I enjoy biking and my favorite sport is field hockey.
  • I love flying and, once I’m old enough, I’d love to get a pilot’s license and join The Ninety-Nines.
  • My favorite genre is realistic fiction. I also love historical fiction. My first favorite book was COPPER by Rebecca Lisle.
  • I love taking photos with my Nikon Digital SLR camera and sharing the images I’ve captured.
  • I don’t know what the future holds, but when I grow up, I would love to work in a creative field.

Set in the fictional town of Exbury, inspired by Avebury, Wiltshire
Set in the fictional town of Exbury, inspired by Avebury, Wiltshire

What Penny’s Mom Was Reading

I know I’ve been HORRIBLE about sharing what I’ve been reading and watching lately. Mostly it’s because I haven’t had time to write a post that gives them their due. I may have to break down and just list them already in a future post. 🙂

In any case, during this flight, I was reading Susanna Kearsley’s MARIANA. If you like atmospheric, evocative prose that makes you long for England and a cup of tea (even if you’re a coffee-loving American who’s never been there), you should check her out. In her own words she writes “modern gothic novels that blend historical adventure and modern-day suspense with romance and a touch of something spooky, so they don’t fit neatly into any category.” Hmm… is it any wonder I’ve liked the two I’ve read?

* Photo gallery pics were taken by both Penny and me using iPhones and her DSLR.

Happy Holidays, Hon: Three Fun Things To Do In Baltimore Over Winter Break

I’m not originally from Maryland. Years ago, I moved to Baltimore to go to law school and never left. I didn’t plan to. I chose my school because I wanted to stay. So, even though I didn’t grow up in Baltimore — or even Maryland — I love it. I’ve talked a lot about my love of Maryland (“America in Miniature” – there’s something for everyone: the Appalachian Trail in western Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, Ocean City and the Eastern Shore, urban areas like Annapolis and D.C., and the beautiful rolling countryside, farms, and rail trails of Baltimore County, where I live now) but I haven’t talked as much about Baltimore.

When I was younger, I went through a phase when every New Year’s resolution was “be a tourist in my own town.” It was kind of a cheat; it’s a fun, easy resolution. But it’s one I’d recommend no matter how long you’ve lived in your own home town, city, county, parish (whatever). For those of you that live in Maryland, below are three things that are A MUST if you haven’t already done them. All of these events will be over by mid-January 2015. For those of you that live elsewhere, come visit! And if you can’t, find some fun things to do in your own backyard and report back. 🙂

MAURICE SENDAK MEMORIAL EXHIBITION

Enoch Pratt Free Library

WHAT:

An exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are by the late, great Maurice Sendak. The exhibit contains original artwork by the author/illustrator (including some first sketches) and a life-sized replica of Max’s bedroom.

WHEN:

Until December 31, 2014

WHERE:

Central Library
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, Maryland

MORE INFO:

Enoch Pratt Free Library
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition — 50 Years, Works, Reasons
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Max’s Bed from
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

Hampden

WHAT:

Named after the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street” is a block of rowhouses that go all out with lights and decorations for the holidays. A Baltimore tradition, rowhouses in this part of the city have been a beacon of brightness for 67 years now. Lots of people and places put up spectacular lights. What makes Miracle on 34th Street special is how uniquely Baltimore it feels. It’s a riot of color, personality, Christmas creches, interesting art, peace displays, Santa, and Mr. Boh (a local beer icon).

WHEN:

Until January 2, 2015

WHERE:

34th Street, between Chestnut and Keswick
Hamden
Baltimore, Maryland

MORE INFO:

Miracle on 34th Street, Hampden, Maryland
Miracle on 34th Street

HOLIDAY TRAIN GARDEN

The Shops at Kennilworth

WHAT:

Huge model train display built over the fountain in the middle of the mall. It has local stuff: Ravens Stadium, Fort McHenry, Clipper ships, row houses, and Camden Yards. AND tons of fun characters: R2-D2, Santa, and Yukon Cornelius; Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf. Kids (and adults!) can push a dozen buttons or more to make things move and light up.

WHEN:

Until January 9, 2015

WHERE:

The Shops at Kenilworth
800 Kenilworth Drive
Towson, Maryland

MORE INFO:

model trains, holidays, Christmas
Holiday Train Garden at Kennilworth Mall

Honorable Mention: Papermoon Diner

Remington

WHAT:

Quirky café in a local Baltimore neighborhood about twenty minutes north of the Inner Harbor. It’s also been called whimsical, eclectic, eccentric, and bohemian. Serves comfort food Baltimore style (i.e. lots of diverse stuff — they have bacon milkshakes for crying out loud 😀 ). The décor is funky. My photos don’t do it justice. Google “Papermoon” and take a look at the images. Not recommended for anyone with a manikin, doll, or PEZ phobia. Definitely recommended for anyone seeking a late afternoon brunch. We went at 3:00 p.m. I had three cups of coffee and a stack of vanilla custard French toast. I’d love to go back Christmas morning but, alas, we have other plans. 🙂

WHEN:

Closed on Tuesdays, but will be open well beyond mid-January 2015.

WHERE:

Paper Moon Diner
227 West 29th Street
Baltimore, Maryland

MORE INFO:

Paper Moon Diner
Paper Moon Diner
Paper Moon Diner
A Giant 3D I SPY Book

Whatever your plans are for the next week plus, whether you celebrate Christmas, another holiday, or none, I hope you have a very joyous end to 2014. Best wishes to each and every one of you!

So Long Summer!

Labor Day weekend seems like it was 500 days ago and, with September now well underway, idyllic summer feels like a distant memory. My kids have been back in school for two weeks. School year Saturdays just aren’t the same as summer ones. To celebrate (lament?) a return to cerebral pursuits, academic endeavors, and maximum productivity, here’s a round-up of nonsense from the last part of my summer 2014.

Beautiful Bay

Some of you may remember my story about getting towed into the dock Memorial Day weekend… It took all summer, but my FIL was finally able to track down the parts he needed and make necessary repairs. (Yay, Pops!) We were only able to take one boat ride this summer, but it was spectacular, perhaps because it was singular. 😀

Chesapeake Bay MarylandThe Ghosts of Roanoke

My family road tripped to Tennessee again this summer. This year, we stopped in Roanoke, Virginia on the way down. We’ve stopped there before because it’s about halfway, but we’d never stayed in the Hotel Roanoke. It was great! If you find yourself in the area, I’d definitely recommend it. Built in 1882, it has lots of character and history. It’s old but beautiful and there’s a convenient sky walk that you can take over the rail tracks into town. I found the place inspiring so I took lots of pictures. My husband then thought it would be fun to download one of those “ghost apps” where you can edit your pics by inserting ghosts. Later, we tried to convince our kids that the doctored up pics were real, but they were having none of it. Still, it was a hoot. We used Paranormal Activity Booth. One immediate downside was that the spectral additions don’t show up well against anything dark, which is, of course, exactly the type of pictures you want to add ghosts to.

Hotel Roanoke

Have any of you used an app that adds ghosts or other supernatural elements to your photos? Are there better ones out there?

B-17 Bomber Memphis Belle

Labor Day weekend we flew to Ocean City. We took off from our home airport, Martin State, which was hosting a B 17 Bomber, the Memphis Belle, that day. All sorts of people were on site to see it and (for those willing to splurge — flights are $450!) take a ride. I was in the terminal when the Memphis Belle went taxiing by but my oldest managed to take a few pics. Nothing like being snuck up on by a B 17 bomber when your mum’s in the loo. LOL. 😀

Ocean City, New Jersey
Honorable Mention: Cats and Coasters

For fun, figured I’d also throw in a cute cat pic and share what my favorite roller coaster of the summer was:

GRIFFIN AT BUSCH GARDENS

205 foot, 75 mph drop. We sat in the front and rode it twice. For what it’s worth, we also checked out the newest coaster at Dollywood, the FireChaser Express. My take? Meh. It was okay. My husband and kids didn’t like it at all. It just wasn’t exciting enough, but I get why the park replaced the old Adventure Mountain with the new FireChaser.

Who needs boats, planes, ghosts, or coasters?
Who needs boats, planes, ghosts, or coasters?

Next week, I have a guest blogger and I’ll share 10 things I read or watched this summer that you may want to check out too. Best wishes for the weekend, everyone!

The month of leaves and roses… and inclines, fountains, cakes, and columns… movies, mail, ducks, and dragons

Last day of June, “the month of leaves and roses,” in the words of poet N.P. Willis, “When pleasant sights salute the eyes…” and the month when all sorts of interesting and/or everyday things happen.

SUMMER ROAD TRIPS

Allegheny River

Long time followers know how I love my summer road trips. Shortly after my last post, I took my daughters back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city where I grew up. We stayed with my childhood bestie (the same friend I backpacked through Europe with in 1995, pictured here, at the end of the post, with me and two other friends in Rome). She’s a bio teacher and always has a house full of interesting pets in the summer: cockatiels, birds of prey, a bearded dragon, as well as cats and one Australian Cattle Dog/Lab Mix.

During our visit, we rode up the Duquesne Incline, a centuries-old cable car that roughly follows the path of an old coal hoist. It’s a really, neat, unique thing to do if you ever find yourself in the ‘burgh. The incline was voted one of the Top Ten sites in the world from which to view a cityscape by USA Today. And I can personally vouch that the views are spectacular!

From there, we went over to Point State Park. The massive fountain at the point (the site of Fort Duquesne, built by the French in 1754 where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio) had been under construction in recent years and just reopened. I remember spending time at this park as a kid. The Three Rivers Arts Fest is held there, as well as the Three Rivers Regatta, the largest inland regatta in the U.S.

After that, we drove to Pittsburgh’s redeveloped North Shore, which was a neat area for me to check out. It’s the site of Heinz Field and PNC Park, neither of which I’ve been to. (When I last lived in the ‘burgh, games were played at the now demolished Three Rivers Stadium). The North Shore has a fun river walk area with boat tie ups and restaurants. We ate at Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 and loved it. The waitress kindly overlooked that my youngest colored the football player’s jersey on the kids menu purple and black (Baltimore Ravens colors, instead of Steelers colors… not sure what The Bus would have thought. 😀 )

I ordered a Pittsburgh favorite of mine: steak salad. Native Pittsburghers know how to do steak salad right. It isn’t a few beef tips served over an adorable handful of vinaigrette-laced field greens. Nope. The calorie conscious need not apply. The Grille 36 steak salad is one of the best I’ve had: a mountain of lettuce topped with filet tips, corn, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and melted cheddar cheese, French fries and fried onion rings. Served with a very generous cup of Ranch dressing.

My friend and I capped the night off by sitting on her huge wrap around farm-house porch catching up and watching the kids catch fireflies. Awesome summer fun!

OTHER WRITING RELATED STUFF

Veronica Scott, a contributor to USA Today’s HEA column has been doing a fun summer feature. She’s asking authors (including me!) to talk about their favorite sf/f TV shows and movies. Check out our answers here and here.

Night Owl Reviews Top PickWhite Heart of Justice is a Night Owls Reviews Top Pick!

“Archer has a gift of creating characters with depth, growth and confidence that will leave all urban fantasy lovers wanting more… [L]ots of action, which I just tore through in record time. I was hooked from the beginning.” — Night Owl Reviews

Who’s Got Mail?

MailI love connecting with everyone online, of course, but it’s equally great to receive mail through good ole U.S.P.S. Send me something interesting this summer (a postcard, a picture, a drawing…)

Jill Archer
P.O. Box 381
Shrewsbury, PA 17361-0381

WHAT ELSE HAVE I BEEN UP TO?

Among other things, I’m working on a novella featuring Ari Carmine and Nocturo Onyx. Almost half of the rough draft is finished. If I like how it looks after it’s done, I’ll self-publish it. I’m excited about it because, as some of you know, I’ve been blathering on for a year or more now about how I should learn the indie side of things. I’ve also always wanted to do something featuring Night. He’s a fascinating character, capable of supporting his own series even. And the novella will also (hopefully) be a nice springboard into a probable Noon Onyx B4! 😀

In Other News

I celebrated my birthday last week. (I don’t usually make a big deal of my birthday online, but I do love to celebrate milestones both big and small.) My older daughter made and decorated a beautiful cake for me (did I mention she loves Next Great Baker?)

“MADE OF GUARANTEED, CERTIFIED STRICTLY GRADE-A PEPPERMINT CUCUMBER SAUSAGE-PASTE BUTTER!” — Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You! (Party Edition)

Beautiful birthday cake
[Editor’s note: no peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter was used in the making of this cake]
And then we went to see How To Train Your Dragon 2, which I loved! It was fun seeing Hiccup, Toothless, and the gang five years later and the film had enough surprises to keep the story feeling fresh. Luckily, the only thing I’d read before seeing it was an article on how the animators aged up Hiccup’s appearance so none of the movie’s big reveals were spoiled for me. Yes, parts of it are sad. And some of the characters made big mistakes in the past or make them in the movie. But plot points like that are a part of good storytelling. People aren’t perfect and characters that reflect that are more interesting and allow for greater emotional highs and lows.

So who’s this handsome guy? It’s Reggie masquerading as Toothless (am I Picasso-with-a-virtual-paintbrush or what? 😀 )

So that’s a wrap for June! Tomorrow — to kick off July — Jennifer Harlow’s guest blogging about her steampunk romance, Verity Hart vs. The Vampyres.

What’s up with you? What are you working on? Vacations? New WIPs? TV show, movie, or book recommendations? Whatever you’re up to, I hope everyone is having a terrific Summer 2014!

Winners: White Heart of Justice Blog Tour Prizes

Today’s post: winners of the prizes I offered as part of my WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE blog tour, a belated Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and some pics from our weekend. (As you no doubt have guessed already, posts/emails from me will slow down a bit this summer. I have lots of writing to catch up on!! But I’ll still be around. I have some guest bloggers lined up and will likely be posting a few interesting day trip posts and hopefully even a book recommendation/review or two.)

WINNERS!

$50 Bookseller eGift Certificate

JODY D.

5 copies of White Heart of Justice

KAREN H., KATIE D., SAMANTHA D., ANDREA K., WANDA C.

Dark Light of Day themed prize pack

GIAO P.

Fiery Edge of Steel themed prize pack

KAI W.

White Heart of Justice themed prize pack

AMBER T.

All of the winners have been contacted and most of the prizes have already been sent. I will be mailing the themed prize packs this week.

THANK YOU to each and every one of you who tweeted, posted, and shared the links to the blog tour posts!

If you haven’t already, please consider reviewing White Heart of Justice wherever you hang out online. It’s an oft-repeated request of mine simply because reviews matter.

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FATHER’S DAY AT THE BEACH!

We had a fun Father’s Day weekend and I hope you did too (even if you weren’t celebrating Father’s Day exactly). We flew in to OXB (Ocean City, Maryland) on Saturday and it was bustling! Throughout the weekend, we saw formation flyers, sky writers, banner towers, Daedalus’ modern day descendants and — in my imagination at least — other fierce, awesome winged beasts. Scroll down for more on where I was, what I was thinking, and what I was reading…

Chincoteague Bay
“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things…” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all  Is never to feel the burning light.” Oscar Wilde
“Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all Is never to feel the burning light.” Oscar Wilde

"It flew in from the west, so that all I truly saw at first was a black silhouette against the fiery sky. Then it caught an updraft and skimmed up the mountain's slope, barely above the trees, and that gave me a better view: the blocky plates of the hide; the close-tucked legs and trailing tail; the enormous expanse of wings dwarfing the body they bore." MARIE BRENNAN
“It flew in from the west, so that all I truly saw at first was a black silhouette against the fiery sky. Then it caught an updraft and skimmed up the mountain’s slope, barely above the trees, and that gave me a better view: the blocky plates of the hide; the close-tucked legs and trailing tail; the enormous expanse of wings dwarfing the body they bore.” Marie Brennan

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And a quick hello from Ginger, the “monster” under my daughter’s bed 🙂

 

Other links you might enjoy:

How about you? How was your weekend? Did you go anywhere fun or read anything interesting? Have you skydived? Do you want to? Stay tuned… tomorrow I have a terrific guest post by Brynn Chapman, author of recently released YA Historical Romance/Mystery BONESEEKER.

Fictional “Feast Masters,” Maleficent and Miscellaneous

Hi all– the White Heart of Justice blog tour continues! I’m over at Suzanne Johnson/Susannah Sandlin’s blog Preternatura today discussing how I used Saturnalia and the Lord of Misrule as inspiration for one of the opening scenes in White Heart of Justice. There’s a cute picture of a snow demon — the only one I could find. Why a snow demon? Because that’s what the students carve out of snow at the Festival of Frivolity. Come on… I know you want to read more about it! Click here. 😀

Last Friday, CBY Book Club posted their interview of me. I share what my very first favorite book was and I discuss my TBR pile — past, present, and future. Since the start of the tour on May 20th there have been other spotlights and reviews. Check out my blog tour page for the complete list of bloggers/reviewers who are participating. Each link gives you an extra chance to win the fun prizes I’m giving away at the end of the tour:

  • $50 Amazon eGift Certificate (or bookseller of winner’s choice) (international)
  • 5 copies of White Heart of Justice (or an earlier book in the series, winner’s choice) (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address)
  • Dark Light of Day themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • Fiery Edge of Steel themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • White Heart of Justice themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)

RELEASE DAY PARTY WRAP UP

The Release Day Party at Bitten by Books was fantastic. So many terrific questions, including:

Do I have a favorite classic novel with a winter setting?

Is there an inspirational playlist for the Noon Onyx series?

How do I come up with the names for things in my series?

Have I used historical people, places, or things as inspiration?

What country would I love to visit?

Which actress would play me if my life were made into a movie?

If I could visit any place in Halja, which would it be and why?

What books would I recommend to a young reader?

and…perhaps my favorite:

If I could do a crossover with any book, film, or TV series, what would it be and why?

Bonus: Lanie left a DIY snow globe link, which I may use to make White Heart of Justice themed snow globes. Fun, right?

See all of the comments, questions, and answers here.

EMMA D. won the $50 Amazon eGift Certificate I was giving away there. I loved that (urged on by me) she made a “completely wild” wish that would require great miracles and supernatural happenings. It was a really nice wish. In fact, so many of readers’ wishes were heartfelt, selfless, and inspiring. (One of my reader questions was: What would you wish for at the fountain outside Kalisto’s Crystal Palace?)

LAST DAY TO TWEET 

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

SNEAK PEEK TWEETS!

Anyone who tweets one of these will be entered to win ANY fantasy book of their choice from Book Depository (so long as Book Depository ships to your address, up to $10.00). Ends at midnight EDT on 6/3/14.

One tweet/entry per person.

If you aren’t on Twitter, or don’t want to tweet the above, you can still enter to win the book. Just tell me what’s the last fantasy book you read, or the one you’re most looking forward to reading, in the comments below. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. Complete rules here.

Lucem in tenebras ferimus. Into the darkness, we bring light.” @archer_jill #DARKLIGHTOFDAY

“When traveling into the unknown, sometimes the biggest danger is the one you bring with you…” @archer_jill #FIERYEDGEOFSTEEL

“One out of every two hunters who follow the Old Trail will not return.” @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Finally! I’m looking forward to seeing Noon embrace her fiery magic. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Ari Carmine is smokin’ hot. I wanna see if Noon can forgive him for that nasty surprise at the end of B2. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

I heard a rumor that Rafe Sinclair makes a wish and I wanna know if it’s granted. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Nocturo. Tall dark handsome. Heard his scalpel’s put to good use. Is he gonna threaten Brunus w it again? @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

I love the characters, but I’m really just in it for the monsters and magic. Bring on the ice demons! @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Armageddon is over. The demons won. But it’s not as dark as all that. Parts of it are romantic and sweet. @archer_jill #NOONONYXSERIES

WHAT ELSE HAVE I BEEN UP TO?

This past weekend I saw The Machine (a Blade Runner-esque science fiction movie: Caity Lotz was terrific; the noir feeling felt a little forced at times, but overall, I enjoyed it) and Maleficent, in which Angelina Jolie was magnificent. There’s an interesting discussion over at io9 today. I was going to comment but then got frustrated at having to create yet another social media app account to manage my comments there, especially when the pop up box blocked the terms & conditions so that I couldn’t even read them. In any case, the post and my thoughts are worth a read IF:

1. You’ve seen the movie (massive spoilers)

2. You don’t mind rants (it’s filed under “rants”)

For what it’s worth, my take:

I can’t help but think that Disney was damned if it did, damned if it didn’t. To me, the most significant scene storywise wasn’t the dragon transformation (although that could have been much more impressive regardless of who was doing the shifting) but the kiss. I don’t want to spoil it further for anyone who hasn’t seen it so I’ll just say: Bravo, Disney!

As for the wing cutting scene… horrible. Just horrible. But I have to admit I enjoyed watching Maleficent’s dark transformation into a character capable of exacting revenge. Just as I equally enjoyed her other, lengthier, but perhaps more meaningful, transformation into something else. Not a dragon, but something potentially more powerful.

Also visited Baltimore’s National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor. Because you all know how much I love my photo galleries, here’s one from the weekend:

Beautiful, Deadly, Cute, Helpful:

But which is which?

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun guest post from Auralee Wallace, author of Sidekick, and a link to my guest post at Addicted 2 Heroines. Have a great night!

Last Monday in May

Speculative fiction blog, The Qwillery, has a repeating feature called The View From Monday, which lists upcoming releases. This post is my view from Monday, the last Monday of May 2014 — the day before White Heart of Justice’s release. There’s a link to RSVP for my Release Day Party at Bitten by Books tomorrow (early responses get an extra 25 entries for the giveaway), another link to the last post in Bitten by Books Six Year Blogaversary (wherein I give away a $25 Barnes & Noble eGift Certificate), and some fun pics from my Memorial Day/pre-release adventure.

Invite Link to White Heart of Justice

RELEASE DAY PARTY

Tomorrow at 12pm Central I will start throwing confetti, blowing noise makers, and popping champagne! Really? Well, no. Actually, I’ll be home alone. But that’s how I’ll feel.

And, because WHOJ doesn’t have any confetti, noise makers, or champagne in it, I’ll be talking about snow globes and greenhouses and London’s 1851 Crystal Palace. I’ll also be sharing an excerpt from the book, which sheds some light on my Sneak Peek tweet involving Rafe:

I heard a rumor that Rafe Sinclair makes a wish and I wanna know if it’s granted. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

I’m also giving away a $50 Amazon eGift Certificate.

So who’s in?!

Click HERE to RSVP. If you RSVP early, you get an extra 25 entries.

* The above link isn’t the actual event link. It’s the RSVP link. I’ll post the event link tomorrow after it goes live.

I hope to see you all there. This may be my third book, but it’s my first Release Day Party! 😀

Link to Bitten by Books Six Year Blogaversary Giveaway

Specifically => me, giving away

one $25 B&N eGC

I mentioned previously that Bitten by Books Six Year Blogaversary celebration was happening this week. Rachel has organized a really fun event and tons of authors have donated great prizes, including a $25 eGift Certificate from Barnes & Noble from me.

Want a chance to win? Of course you do! Click here.

Be Prepared and Make the Most of It

Yesterday, we took a quick flight to Maryland’s eastern shore to meet up with my in-laws for some holiday boating. Ten of us set out from Kent Narrows yesterday — blue skies, relatively calm water, sunny smiles. Unfortunately, we didn’t even get out of the channel before we had to shut off the engine and drop anchor. Two minutes later the poor boat was diagnosed with something truly scary: water in the engine. Luckily, we had more life jackets than people, a cooler full of water and other libations, and a cell phone to call the tow boat operator. Everyone at Red Eye’s dock bar cheered and waved as we were towed back to the dock an hour or two later.

So along with hoping tomorrow’s release goes well, I’m also hoping my FIL gets good news from his boat mechanic. Is there an emoticon for fingers crossed?

I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. Hope to see you tomorrow at Bitten by Books and later this week at other stops as my White Heart of Justice blog tour continues!

Interested in more “On the Fly” posts?

Disney World Melange

Over the past two weeks I’ve shared pictures and reviews of Disney’s parks: Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. Today’s post is an odd assortment of stuff: blurbs about the water parks, Old Key West, pictures of an amazing solar corona (or a 22 degree halo??), and my Top 5 Tips for those of you that might be headed there this summer. This is my “honorable mentions” post. 😀

Old Key West

We stayed at the Old Key West Resort, which was kind of ironic because Craig and I were just in Key West this past January. I loved the resort, although we didn’t spend much time there. Most of the time we were at the parks. But we did spend one half-day lounging around the pool. (Cats: give them anything and their favorite toy is the box it came in; kids: take them anywhere and their favorite place is the hotel pool 😉 ). There was a sandcastle water slide, an awesomely comfortable hammock, and a bar. Heck, it was *almost* my favorite place too!

Old Key West Hammock

DISNEY: THE PERFECT PLACE FOR MERMAID TAILS
DISNEY:
THE PERFECT PLACE FOR MERMAID TAILS
If you're going to stay at Old Key West, the buildings in the back off Old Turtle Pond Road are quiet with beautiful views
If you’re going to stay at Old Key West, the buildings in the back off Old Turtle Pond Road are quiet with beautiful views

Other Thoughts

Water Parks: My kids loved them. I thought they were okay, but that’s probably just because I’m not a huge fan of water parks. Disney has two: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. BB has a one-acre wave pool. Basically, it’s a ginormous water mixer. TL has a wave pool with six-foot swells. Needless to say, that made TL the favorite. Hmm… what else? Lines for the slides are long. The line for the bar was shorter. Empty chairs are practically non-existent. Get there early!

Downtown Disney: I’d never been before this trip and was glad we were able to fit in a visit, however short. This is a waterfront area that has lots of restaurants and shopping. We had dinner at Raglan Road our first night there. What’s not to love about an Irish band and a flight of beer?

 

Where's Wally/Waldo/Archer? Here's me, strolling along Downtown Disney's boardwalk
Where’s Wally/Waldo/Archer?
Here’s me, strolling along Downtown Disney’s boardwalk

22 Degree Halo

This thing was one of the most amazing astronomical events I’ve ever seen. Or maybe it was just an “optical phenomenon.” I honestly have no idea. Who can help me out and tell me what this thing is? To us, it looked like a giant eye in the sky. Very Melancholia-ish. (If the world were ending, would Disney be the place you’d want to be? Debate.)

eye in the sky w palm tree and contrail
Does the contrail make it more or less surreal?
Does this look like a giant eye or what?
Does this look like a giant eye or what?

Top Five Tips

If you’re going, here are my top five tips:

Magic Bands1. Get the Magic Bands! Magic Bands are Disney’s newest way of making things more convenient for visitors. And are they! They are waterproof wristbands that work as a hotel key, credit card (linking purchases to your room), park admissions ticket, Fast Pass ticket, and PhotoPass. In other words, you can leave your room with just one thing: your Magic Band. (Well almost… for Magic Band 2.0, Disney needs to find a way to connect it to your cell phone… I heard they are working with Apple…. KIDDING! 😀 )

Two Musts: a hat and a magic band
Two Musts: a hat and a magic band

2. Use Fast Pass and make restaurant reservations! The ride lines for the popular rides are incredibly long. The only way we were able to ride so many of them is because we used Fast Pass. And if you want to actually sit down and eat a meal (versus just getting chicken fingers from a walk up window), you gotta make reservations. (Most on site restaurants won’t even take walk-ins). That said, we didn’t make many restaurant reservations. We didn’t want to be tied to both a Fast Pass schedule AND a restaurant schedule. Instead, we ate breakfast in our room and packed snacks in a backpack. Speaking of backpacks, what else was in there?

Florida rain storms3. Bring sunscreen and a rain jacket. You’ll need both! Two of the days it rained (torrential downpour type stuff) for about an hour in the afternoon. But then it was over. That’s Florida. (Floridians, do you agree? Very stormy in spring and summer but weather moves in and out quickly).

Sneakers4. Wear good walking shoes! Oh, the walking. Everywhere. All day. Good exercise but leave the flip-flops back at the hotel.

5. HAVE FUN! Obvious, right? But Disney can be stressful sometimes too. The crowds, the lines, an over-packed schedule, the blatant commercialism. It can all be a bit much. But Disney’s commitment to its visitors is impossible to miss. When your Fast Pass time for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ends just five minutes before your Fast Pass time at Space Mountain begins (two attractions on opposite ends of a 100+ acre park filled with tens of thousands of people) and you find yourself corralled with the rest of the crowd watching a third Festival of Fantasy parade while your Fast Pass times dwindles down to nothing… well, it helps to remember that they really do want you to have a magical day. 😉 😀

And you will!

So how about you? Have you seen a 22 degree halo before? Have you been to Disney? Have any other thoughts or tips to share? Do you plan on going this summer? What are you most looking forward to? Lemme know in the comments! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Disney World: Beyond Movies and Magic

We went to Disney World this year for Spring Break. Typically, we stay local for SB so venturing south to stay in Lake Buena Vista was a real treat for us. Last week, I posted my thoughts about my two favorite parks: Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom. Today, I’m posting pics and thoughts about Epcot and the Animal Kingdom. Next week, I’ll wrap up my Disney posts with some final bits and pieces and advice for anyone who’s considering going.

EPCOT

Epcot

I really enjoy visiting EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). Arguably, however, it’s the least popular park. The parking lot (especially compared to the Magic Kingdom!) was a ghost town. But in Disney parlance this just means there were gazillions of people instead of bazillions. One of the neatest areas for me is the World Showcase, which showcases the culture and cuisine from 11 different countries. It’s fun to eat there. (Germany’s Biergarten, where Oktoberfest is celebrated all year long, was a favorite of ours last time). Unfortunately, this time, we didn’t make it to the World Showcase part of the park. Instead, we stayed in the Future World part of the park.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that Epcot’s theme is “celebrating the human spirit” — a terrific theme. But the park’s execution of it seems odd. The two parts of the park, the World Showcase and Future World, seem disparate and unrelated. It’s as if the park’s attractions are the other parks’ outtakes. Each of the other parks can be summed up with a word (Hollywood Studios = MOVIES; Magic Kingdom = MAGIC; Animal Kingdom = ANIMALS). With Epcot, that word would be WORLD but since the world includes everything, the park feels a bit scattered in its mission. It offers world culture, future technology, and environmental/nature related exhibits. That’s a lot of ground to cover. But maybe I’m being unfair.

Regardless, the park is worth visiting. We didn’t do it this way, but if I could reschedule our visit to this park, I would do Future World first and then head over to the World Showcase in the afternoon and have dinner there. Okay, so that’s what we didn’t do. What did we do?

TOPIARIES!

Some of you may be laughing. Who flies 900 miles to look at topiaries?! Well, I do. (Or at least, I will, if topiaries are part of a seasonal exhibit somewhere I’m visiting because, as the rest of you know, I think topiaries are really neat). I love the combination of nature, whimsy, art, and imagination.

RIDES

Mission: SPACE

Ride Story: You’re an astronaut on a mission to Mars.

Ride Thrills: Depends on which level of intensity you choose.

My Take: An exercise in not tossing my cookies. I mentioned last week that simulator rides can be tough for me. Well, duh, I probably should have listened to the eighteen million different warnings Epcot gives riders about NOT choosing to be a part of the Orange Team for this ride if you suffer from occasional motion sickness. The ride has two levels of intensity: green and orange. The Green Team experiences a typical simulator ride. The Orange Team experiences a centrifuge that spins and tilts to simulate launch and re-entry speed and G-force. It’s supposed to be “authentic NASA-style” training. Uh… obviously I’ve never trained for NASA but it felt pretty authentic to me. I managed not to hurl but it took me about 90 minutes to regain my equilibrium and not feel as if my brains were scrambled after the ride. Lesson? If I weren’t already too old for astronaut training, I could probably rule that out as a career choice. Craig and the kids? Ha! They were ready for ice cream and another ride the minute they exited the building.

Chevrolet’s Test Track

Ride Story: Design your own concept vehicle and then test drive it.

Ride Thrills: There is a slight coaster feel to the last part of the test track when the car gains speed around some turns. Unless you suffer from back or neck trouble or are a small child, this ride is pretty tame.

My Take: A giant car commercial. In fact, there’s a fun interactive exhibit in the exit lobby where you really can make a car commercial based on the car you designed for the test track. I chose a deep, cowboy-type voice-over to go with my red oversized, overpowered truck. 😀 (Half the fun is designing something that’s completely opposite your vehicle type).

There are lots more attractions and things to do at Epcot. I wish we’d had more time. For my next visit, I’d love to see the Sea Base and the Land Pavilion (the fish farm and greenhouses), as well as a couple of shows (the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats and Serveur Amusant look pretty cool).

ANIMAL KINGDOM

For me, Animal Kingdom can be broken down into two parts: Everest and Everything Else. Everest was my favorite ride this time. Maybe it’s because I’d never ridden it before. Maybe it’s because it featured yetis in a frozen wasteland, two things I’d been excessively thinking about over the past year because White Heart of Justice features both as well, albeit a bit differently. Or maybe it’s because the ride is just plain great.

RIDES/ATTRACTIONS

EverestExpedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Ride Story: For years, the Royal Anandapur Tea Company shipped tea through the Forbidden Mountain deep in the Himalayas, but after a series of mysterious accidents possibly involving yetis, the rail line closed. Adventurers and yeti seekers, never fear! The rail line is open once again. Himalayan Escapes, Tours and Expeditions now offers a train ride through the icy peaks and passes.

Ride Thrills: Lots! I love that I have to give a SPOILER warning for a ride, but I do! Part of the fun of riding this ride for the first time is experiencing the unexpected. So if you don’t want to know what’s in store for you, skip down to Kilimanjaro Safaris. For those of you that want to know exactly what this ride offers: the usual high-speed turns and drops, including one 80 foot plunge and several corkscrews. But the ride also “ends” at one point when the track becomes impassable. Ahead the rail line is severed. All that remains are a few feet of twisted, mangled tracks hanging off the edge of a cliff. First time riders are left wondering what’s next. The brakes finally release and the ride is reversed. Bonus: Lots of yeti sightings!

My Take: If you go to Animal Kingdom and like coasters, this ride is a must. It wasn’t as intense as Hollywood Studios Rock-n-Roller Coaster, but was probably a bit more than Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain. It wasn’t as “jerky” feeling though and the story behind the ride is great. If your kid is tall enough to ride the ride, they’ll love it. We rode it twice.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

What’s the deal? One of Animal Kingdom’s attractions is a 110 acre wildlife sanctuary for native African animals such as wildebeests, warthogs, lions, gazelles, elephants, and antelope. Visitors can take a twenty-minute open air bus tour around the reserve.

What’s the thrill? For me, it was the giraffes. Yeah, I know they’re not as exotic as some of the other animals, but I think they’re neat. I wanna know why they couldn’t be domesticated. (Did anyone read Guns, Germs, and Steel? Are any of you biologists? What the deal with them? They look friendly enough…) 😉 😀

My take: I have mixed feelings about zoos, reserves, and sanctuaries. They’re unnatural. Florida isn’t Africa. How comfortable can an African lion really be living in Florida on 110 acres of land? On the other hand, there’s a lot of education going on in Animal Kingdom for those that want to take the time to learn. Some people don’t have the resources to take a real African safari. This tour gives visitors an opportunity to see the animals in their natural habitat (sort of). The sanctuary has also been a home for animals that are rare (okapi), endangered (white rhino), and even extinct in the wild (scimitar-horned oryx).

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

What’s the deal? Right beside Kilimanjaro Safaris is the Wildlife Express Train station, which will take you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This is an off site area where visitors can learn more about the care and feeding of the animals that live at the park.

What’s the thrill? Inside the Conservation Station, there’s a viewable on site research facility and wildlife tracking center (which gave the place a vague Jurassic Park feel), a vet treatment room (no patients while we were there — probably a good thing!), and an amphibian, reptile, and invertebrate display. Outside it, in the Affection Section, are various domesticated animals.

My take: I thought the Conservation Station was neat and I would have liked to have spent more time in there. But my youngest was on a beeline to the Affection Section. I kept telling her there wouldn’t be any cats but I don’t think she believed me until she saw the goats and pigs. No matter. If it has fur, she will love it and hug it and squeeze it… and it will try to eat her jeans, her shirt, her hair, her shoelaces…

Penny

Have you been to Epcot? Have I judged it unfairly? Maybe next time, with different places to explore, Epcot will end up being my favorite park. What about Animal Kingdom? Have you been there? What do you think about zoos, reserves, and sanctuaries? Have you ever been on a real safari? Lemme know in the comments! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Disney World: Magic for Everyone!

Last week, we went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was fantastic! My husband and I have been before, once after I graduated from law school and a second time when our girls were still young enough to want to do Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and the character breakfasts. Each trip we’ve done both new and favorite things. Below are my thoughts on Hollywood Studios’ and Magic Kingdom’s rides and shows. Next week, I’ll do another post on the other two parks and, after that, a third and final post with some Disney odds and ends. If you’ve been to Disney, tell me your thoughts in the comments, or if you plan on going in the future, lemme know what you’re most looking forward to!

Main Street

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Hollywood Studios Sorcerer's Hat
The Sorcerer’s Hat

In the past, the Magic Kingdom has been my favorite park but for this trip, Hollywood Studios was. Why? Well, it’s a park devoted to MOVIES for one thing AND my kids were finally tall enough to ride all the fun rides. Also, in fairness, it was probably also my favorite park this time because we stayed there the longest and saw a lot. We stayed for dinner and ended the night with the amazing Fantasmic show, a twilight show starring Mickey and all of the other Disney characters with music, fireworks, lasers, stunts, and boat floats.

RIDES

DorothyThe Great Movie Ride

  • Ride Story: Tour Hollywood’s movie sets. Includes sets inspired by Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Wizard of Oz.
  • Ride Thrills: It’s a tram tour through faux movie sets. But if you love movies like I do, it will be entertaining.
  • My Take: Ride this first, as an introduction to the park. The line queues through a full-scale reproduction of Grauman’s Chinese Theater where you can view props, set pieces, and movie memorabilia. These change so the lobby is kind of like a temporary movie museum exhibit. At the end, there’s a fun “celebration of movies” montage.

Rock n Roller Coaster

  • Ride story: You are a passenger in a stretch limo on LA highways heading to an Aerosmith concert.
  • Ride thrills: 0-60 mph start, loops and a corkscrew. One of the fastest and loudest rides in all of the parks.
  • My take: FUN! We rode it twice.

Hollywood Tower HotelTower of Terror

  • Ride Story: Tour the “infamous” Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel supposedly favored by LA’s rich and famous until lightning struck it in 1939. You are introduced to the hotel, its last inhabitants, and the creepy backstory by Rod Sterling of Twilight Zone fame as he welcomes you to the 5th Dimension.
  • Ride Thrills: You and your party get in an elevator (albeit one where you sit down and buckle yourself in with a seatbelt) and take a haunted house type ride up to the 13th floor where 5 unlucky souls disappeared from the very elevator you’re sitting in. And then the fun begins — it turns into one of those “big drop” rides.Thunderstorm outside of Tower of Terror
  • My take: AWESOME!! I rode it twice and my kids rode it three times. It continues to be their favorite ride in all of Disney World, which is interesting since they think the Double Shot in Ocean City, NJ is boring (see how much story matters?! 😀 ) The fact that the ride was inspired by the Twilight Zone TV show is brilliant. And how lucky were we that our Fast Pass time happened to occur during a giant thunderstorm? When the elevator doors opened to the outside, the view was almost surreal. Instead of an azure Florida sky, there was a deluge of rain and thunder. We plummeted toward the ground amidst a lightning storm. Walt Disney himself couldn’t have designed a more authentic backdrop.

AT-ATStar Tours

  • Ride Story: Explore a galaxy far, far away! 🙂 This ride is based on the Star Wars movies.
  • Ride Thrills: It’s a simulator ride, but it’s manageable if you suffer from occasional motion sickness.
  • My Take: Loved it. Simulator rides can be tough for me but this was fine and fun. There are over 50 different story combinations with new destinations and characters each time so I would have loved to have ridden it again if we had gone back to the park on a different day. (Riding a simulator ride twice in a row would have been hard for me).

Toy Story Midway ManiaMr Potato Head

  • Ride Story: Tour Andy’s room, listen to an Audio-Animatronics Mr. Potato Head introduction, and then get ready to shoot!
  • Ride Thrills: You sit in a car and are powered around to shoot at all sorts of different Toy Story themed screens. Great for people who like games where you shoot at targets.
  • My Take: It was fun. I was slightly suspicious of how the scoring worked since my husband and I (who were in separate cars) had the EXACT SAME SCORE. Coincidence? I think not… but maybe we’re just that good. 😀

Toy Story

The Writer's Stop at Hollywood Studios
The Writer’s Stop at Hollywood Studios Books, Pastries, and Coffee!

SHOWS

Voyage of the Little Mermaid: Cute. My youngest’s current favorite character is Ariel. (Surprising, right? Since more recent characters like Merida, Anna and Elsa are so popular right now. I think it’s because Santa brought her a mermaid fin this year. 😉 )

Miss Piggy FountainMuppet Vision 3D: Worth seeing if you like the Muppets and just because it’s neat to see how Disney takes its shows off-screen so that the theater itself becomes part of the show. Tip: Don’t throw your sunglasses in the 3D glasses recycling bin! 😀 (My MIL did and we spent a few moments post-show digging for them).

Fantasmic! => Fantastic! If you go to Hollywood Studios and can stay until this show, see it! My MIL bought light-up, battery-powered mouse ears for my girls right before the show from a kiosk outside of the amphitheater. When the ears went dark just before the show, it kinda creeped me out because it made me realize (yet again) just how “soup to nuts” Disney really is. I thought it was almost too big brother-ish that the park could control my girls’ mouse ears so as to not interfere with the light and laser show. Little did I know! The “Glow with the Show” ears were dark only for a dramatically timed few moments. They then lit back up throughout the show, timed with the music and color-coordinated with the lights. You be the judge… creepy or not? I decided to embrace it and go with the crazy insanity of it all. After all, it WAS pretty cool to see ALL of the other kids’ mouse ears synchronized with the show.

Glowing Mickey Ears
“Glow with the Show”

MAGIC KINGDOM

My second favorite park this time was the Magic Kingdom. It’s a massive park and super crowded. Even when there’s not a parade going on (which happens pretty frequently), the streets and sidewalks feel like a packed bar.

The only thing that makes it okay is that there are no cars to worry about and everyone is in a good mood. Sure, people look exhausted and weary at times, but not as much as you’d think considering the heat and long lines. The vibe is very friendly. Everyone who works there is unbelievably helpful and everyone you bump into is unbelievably apologetic. If you’ve ever elbowed your way through a crowd at a concert or sporting event or walked along the streets of New York… well, it doesn’t feel like that, which is nice.

Disney is an expert in transportation and the logistics of moving insanely large groups of people from one place to another without chaos. During our trip, we rode in planes, trains, and automobiles… as well as busses, ferries, ATVs, trams, golf carts, and the monorail. But the lack of chaos and everyone’s I’m-on-vacation speed means getting anyway takes FOREVER. Think of going to Disney like you do home improvement — everything will cost 3x as much as you think it should and everything will take 3x as long as you plan.

boats planes and trains

RIDES

Haunted Mansion

  • Ride Story: Take a “Doom Buggy” ride through a haunted estate.
  • Ride Thrills: Good, plain haunted house fun for everyone. There are ghosts, ghouls, and a graveyard but there are more smiles than scares.
  • My Take: An older ride with sentimental appeal that my family loves because we love haunted house rides.

Space Mountain

  • Ride Story: A journey to the edge of the galaxy and back.
  • Ride Thrills: Not quite as crazy as the rock n roller coaster at Hollywood Studios but a very decent coaster ride. No loops but lots of fast turns in the dark make-believe world of space!
  • My Take: I’d never ridden Space Mountain before. Don’t know why I didn’t the first time I visited and the second, it was closed for repairs. So I was glad I had the chance! It was fun. We rode it twice.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • Ride Story: You’re on a runaway train traveling through a haunted mine.
  • Ride Thrills: As coasters go, this one’s pretty tame. A few dips where your stomach drops and a few turns where your smashed into the person sitting next to you.
  • My Take: It’s okay. Once is enough but we rode it twice. 🙂

Splash Mountain (Are you sensing the mountain theme?)

  • Ride Story: Based on the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South. You glide in a hollow log on a bayou past Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
  • Ride Thrills: One 5 story drop with a watery splash at the end.
  • My Take: I’ve never been a fan of Br’er Rabbit. Log flume rides can be fun though. Sit in the back and wear a rain jacket if you don’t want to get wet! (If your phone isn’t in a LifeProof case, put it in a Ziplock before you go to the park).

PARADES AND FIREWORKS

Festival of Fantasy

This was a terrific parade! (We also saw some of the Animal Kingdom parade, which made us appreciate the spectacular grandeur of Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade). There were tons of floats featuring many of Disney’s biggest characters. Even the newer ones like Merida and Anna and Elsa had their own floats. Everything was timed with the music, which seemed to play from everywhere when the parade went by. Each float had a handful of performers — singing, dancing, and doing stunts. But the pièce de résistance was the brand-new-this-spring magnificent Maleficent float. It’s a HUGE steampunk inspired dragon, complete with a spinning wheel and real fire in its belly.

Disney also puts on a “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” fireworks show every night at 10:00 p.m. Worth watching at least once per visit. It’s like a Disney vitamin. 🙂

So those are my 2014 thoughts on Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. What about you? Have you been to either of those parks? What did you think? What are your favorite rides and shows? Are you planning on going to Disney World this year? Lemme know in the comments! Next week, I’ll load up some pictures from Epcot and Animal Kingdom. After that, I’ll post my thoughts about where we stayed, the water parks, and a few other bits and pieces. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Mickey Lawn

Silhouettes, Shadows, and Sunsets

Knowing winter storm Janus was on its way (which has dumped a foot of snow on us already), we took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather and took a quick flight to Cape May. My older daughter and I decided that silhouettes, shadows, and the sunset would be our impromptu photo theme for the collection below. Hope everyone is having a great week!

Windy walk

Shadow 1

Shadow 2

Shadow 3

Shadow 4

Silhouette

Sunset 1

Sunset 2
Sunset 3

Cape May Mall SignIf you’re a new follower, check out my other Cape May posts:

Tomorrow, something for the fantasy fans… my 5 favorite “winterbeests.” Get ready to share yours! 🙂

Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West (a.k.a. the convergence of #cats and #books… pure bliss!)

Hemingway House

Last week, my husband and I went to Key West. I’d never been and it was terrific! Sort of “Hawaii meets New Orleans.” Duvall Street was as fun, crowded, colorful, and commercial as the French Quarter and the rest of the island was as beautiful, balmy, and restful as off-season Oahu.

My five favorite things: 1. Dinner at Louie’s Backyard (the back deck sits oceanfront, gorgeously lit with low lights at night; the menu and staff are equally impressive); 2. Breakfast at the Hot Tin Roof (the perfect spot for mimosas); 3. Ernest Hemingway’s house (pics below); 4. Biking/shopping on Duvall Street (mostly enjoyed the biking, but also loved peeking in the boutiques… the t-shirt shops I get enough of on the Jersey Shore); and 5. Watching the famous sunsets.

Flying into Key West... This wing's a bit bigger than the one I'm used to seeing out my window ;-)
Flying into Key West…
This wing’s a bit bigger than the one
I’m used to seeing out my window 😉
Hemingway Home and Museum
Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway, who wrote The Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Old Man and the Sea, among many other novels, short stories, and poems, lived in the house from 1931 to 1940. The man (prolific writer, WWI ambulance driver, adventurer, ladies man, fisherman…), the house (built in 1851 on the second highest point in Key West by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker), and the cats (at least 45 of them were roaming around the grounds, all carrying the polydactyl gene) make this museum tour A MUST if you go to Key West.

The outside of Hemingway's writer's loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn't it be grand to write somewhere like this everyday?
The outside of Hemingway’s writer’s loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn’t it be grand to write somewhere like this every day?
The inside of the loft. The old fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I'm lucky enough with my little writing nook. :-)
The inside of the loft. The old-fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I’m lucky enough with my little writing nook. 🙂

Even if you’re not a cat lover, it’s hard not to be charmed by the cats. The whole herd of them is given free reign over the house and grounds. They are everywhere! They are looked after by a full-time staff and a vet visits them once a week to keep them on their toes. 😉

looks like he's wearing mittensPolydactyl CatSix Toed Cat

The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway's bedroom
The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway’s bedroom
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.

What did I buy at the bookstore? Among other things, a book of cat poems.

In the beginning,
God created cats,
and then bugs.
Bugs grow up to be moths and butterflies,
which can be eaten.

From Kirby Congdon’s “The Cat’s Story”

The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).
The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).

Because my husband is an aviation enthusiast, we had to stop by Kelly’s — the bar located in the first Pan Am office building, which is named after former owner Kelly McGillis of TOP GUN fame — for a drink. Since it was happy hour, one drink turned into two… 😀

Sign outside of Kelly's Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Sign outside of Kelly’s Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Our bikes on Duvall Street I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Our bikes on Duvall Street
I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! :-D
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! 😀

So what about you? Have you taken any winter breaks lately? If so, where did you go? Writers, do you have a favorite place for writer’s retreats? Key West offers lots of inspiration! I hope everyone is having a great January!

#VeteransDay: A Day of Gratitude and Remembrance

The first “Veterans Day” was Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 to celebrate the previous year’s armistice ending WWI. President Wilson declared it as a day “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

After some changes to the date of its observance and a name change, the holiday reverted back to its original date — November 11th — and continued its general purpose: “To honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Throughout the years, I’ve celebrated this holiday by giving thanks and remembering. To all active soldiers and veterans out there — THANK YOU. Your courage and commitment is inspiring and your service and sacrifices are greatly appreciated.

WWII Veterans

According to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, there are 1.2 million WWII veterans remaining of the 16 million who served in WWII. If you know a WWII veteran who wants to share their story, you can help them create a personal page or donate an artifact. I haven’t created a personal page for my grandfather yet, but I love the idea of helping veterans preserve their legacies. In honor of Veterans Day, here are a few pictures and a brief bit about my grandfather.

In a previous post, I had wondered what type of aircraft my grandfather might have piloted. Since then, I’ve dug through our albums again and think I’ve identified the plane — a “grasshopper” L-5 observation plane. Grasshoppers were designed to fly over enemy positions and tell the artillery where to aim. But in Okinawa, where my grandfather was stationed, pilots used them to rescue wounded marines trapped in the jungle.

From The Chickasha Daily Express (a local Oklahoma newspaper, circa 1944):

The only possible place to land in the jungle was a narrow strip of paved road 12 feet wide and the planes were eight feet wide… Certain types of wounded couldn’t be subjected to pressure, so when hauling men with stomach, head and chest wounds, the planes couldn’t go any higher than 100 feet. Most of the time they flew over the water, averaging between four to eight feet from the bottom of the plane to the crest of the waves.

My grandparents and mother 1944
My grandparents and mother
1944
Okinawa 1944
Okinawa
1944
U.S. Soldiers
U.S. Soldiers
Not Coke
Not drinking Coke

My grandfather died on July 11, 1945. He had been engaged in transporting patients and mail, following the end of action on Okinawa, and had been serving as the flight leader of his squadron. The morning he was killed, he had been promoted to the rank of master sergeant.

107 Year Old WWII Vet

In doing my brief research for this post, I ran across this post about Richard Overton, believed to be the oldest (and “coolest”) WWII vet. According to USA Today, he was a member of the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, who volunteered for service in 1942 and saw combat while “island hopping” in the Pacific with an all-black unit. Imagine the stories he could tell!

Wishing each of you a wonderful Veteran’s Day.

Winner and Results of Reader Survey

Rosie the RiveterThe winner of the Rosie the Riveter bag that I was giving away in connection with last week’s “On the Fly” series of posts is KIMBERLY M. Kimberly, I’ll be in touch with you about mailing it. Everyone else, thank you very much for participating. I loved reading all your comments and hearing from everyone.

Results of my reader survey can be summed up in seven words: IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. 😀 For the most part, everyone seems to like the diversity of posts here. Collectively, your votes for particular topics fall in line with how often I post them. The one exception to this was BOOK REVIEWS. This was a more popular topic than I anticipated. I’ll admit that posting regular book reviews is hard for me, mostly for time reasons. My paying job as a writer (for now) is the Noon Onyx series, so that’s where I need to prioritize my time. I love this blog, but it generates zero income for me. Book reviews take longer to write than movie reviews. I also buy all of the books I review myself and, for various reasons, I can’t review every book I read. BUT I would love to post more book reviews and will see what I can do about that in the future.

I’ll leave the reader survey open for a little while in case anyone else wants to vote on what you’d like to see here. If you have any specific ideas regarding a topic that you’d like to see discussed, you can always e-mail me (archer at jillarcher dot com) or just use my contact page to get in touch with me.

Thanks for following the blog, everyone! Hope you all had a nice weekend.

Beer! (and the Cape May Brewing Company)

Cape May, Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew, vacation, New Jersey, day trip, travel
CAPE MAY BREWING COMPANY TAP ROOM

Last week I was on the Jersey Shore. Most of the week I spent on the beach, reading during the day and visiting the boardwalk or watching the moonrise at night. But I visited two places that are very good day trip destinations: the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum and the Cape May Brewing Company. This is the last post in a three-part series I’m doing to say sayonara to summer. If you like beer or touring micro-breweries (come on, who doesn’t?) then read on!

Cape May, flying, aviation, pilot, Cessna, day trip
Ready for Take Off

Before visiting the brewery, we met some friends of ours for a flight around Cape May. It was cloudy and visibility was low, but otherwise it was a fun flight. The perfect precursor to a beer tasting!

Waiting for other traffic to land
Waiting for other traffic to land
Cape May, flying, aviation, pilot, Cessna, day trip
CAPE MAY LIGHTHOUSE
Garden State Parkway aerial view
GARDEN STATE PARKWAY

beer, micro-brew, Cape May Brewing CompanyThe Cape May brewery started in 2010 with the plan “to open the first micro brewery at the Jersey Shore and put New Jersey on the map as a craft beer state.” They are located within walking distance of the Cape May airport. They now serve over 40 bars and restaurants in Cape May and serve up to 12 beers in their tap room.

Centennial IPA = Best IPA at the 2012 Atlantic City Beer Fest

Cape May, Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew, vacation, New Jersey, day trip, travel
People eating, drinking, and hanging out

We toured and tasted: I tried the Watermelon Wheat (I’d probably make a terrible sommelier. I couldn’t taste the watermelon at all), the Saison (IPA + Wheat + Belgium Double = my favorite), the Centennial IPA, and the Hitching Post (a bourbon stout). We left our kids in OC, but the place is kid-friendly. They serve root beer (for kids and pilots!) and, in reverse BYOB fashion, they allow you to bring in food and eat at their picnic tables while sampling the beer. I loved the feel of the place. It was warm, inviting, friendly, and fun. Very casual and laid back.

Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew
My husband, Craig, and me

Flying Back to Ocean City

Gray Skies
Gray Skies

My husband is a good pilot — very responsible. And he knows I sometimes get motion sickness… especially when flying after an afternoon of beer tasting! (check out my ridiculous selfies below) He has an IFR, which allows him to fly through clouds and low visibility weather, but when he saw thunderstorms closing in around the OC airport, he decided to turn back.

313314315

333
No pilot would intentionally fly into this

We landed at Cape May again, tied the plane down, and decided to wait out the storm in the FBO (Flight Level Aviation). We weren’t the only ones stranded by the storm. There were also two BoatPix helicopter pilots there. For over an hour we huddled up in the FBO, keeping one eye on the storm and the other on the TV (SyFy channel was playing Sharknado, which was as impossibly hilarious as everyone said it was. In fact, some Sat when I have absolutely nothing else to do, I may watch it again. It was that horribly good.) (Also, as an aside, the FBO is new and they were awesome. Sarah kept the place open late just so we could all wait out the storm. Pilots: please gas up there if you land in Cape May! 😀 )

341
About twenty minutes earlier, we were sitting in those chairs watching the storm come in

By sunset the storm had passed and we were able to take off again and this time make it all the way into Ocean City… to find we’d left the sunroof of our car open… LOL. What a day!

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Hard earned beer for the pilot Home at last!
Hard earned beer for the pilot
Home at last!

Other links you may be interested in:

Don’t forget to take my READER SURVEY and tell me what you most like to read here and/or want to see here.

Rosie the RiveterFinally, if you want a chance to win the Rosie the Riveter bag (can be used for books… or beer!) that I bought at the Cape May aviation museum, then comment below or send me an e-mail: archer at jillarcher dot com. US only.

Have you ever been to the Cape May Brewing Company? Do you like microbrews? How about beer? 😀 Have a fantastic Labor Day, everyone!

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

NASW, Naval Air Station Wildwood, Cape MayLast week, I visited the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, which is actually in Cape May, New Jersey (very close to Wildwood). If you are an aviation enthusiast, a fan of 1940’s memorabilia, and/or are interested in reading about interesting places that are great for day trips, then read on! This is the second post in a three-part series I’m doing to close out summer. Yesterday’s post was on Ocean City, New Jersey and tomorrow’s post will be on the Cape May brewery. While I was at the museum, I bought some things in their gift shop to support them. One of the items was a Rosie the Riveter tote bag (pictured below; perfect for carrying books!). If you’re interested in entering your name in my Rosie tote bag giveaway (US only due to mailing costs), comment below or just send me an e-mail: archer at jillarcher dot com.

Atlantic Ocean, Ocean City, Cape May, New Jersey
We took off from Ocean City and landed at Cape May. Both airports are small and un-towered. The flight was pretty and the ocean was the flattest I’ve ever seen it. Hard to believe this is the Atlantic, right? It looks like a backyard pond! 😀

The Cape May airport was built in 1943 as a naval air station for training pilots in WWII. It’s original name was the “Naval Air Station Rio Grande” but the story is that all of its mail kept getting delivered to Rio Grande, Texas so they changed the name to the “Naval Air Station Wildwood,” which is actually in Cape May. In October of 1944, the airport hit its peak of take offs and landings with 16,994 in that one month period! (Hard to believe since the airport has a small, almost sleepy feel to it now).

The big hanger is currently a 92,000 square foot “all wood truss hangar/aviation museum” that is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. The museum serves as a memorial for the 42 known airmen that lost their lives training there, as well as a site for community events and fundraisers. I flew in with three generations of aviation enthusiasts: my husband, father-in-law, and nephew. After watching an intro video in the old ready room, we started touring the museum.

Cape May, New Jersey, Naval Air Station Wildwood, museum, history, travel, vacation, day trip
The museum has the old Bader Field tower

Bader Field, near Atlantic City, opened in 1910 and was the first U.S. municipal airport to support both sea and land based planes. The Civil Air Patrol was founded there in 1941. In 2006, Bader Field was closed and the air traffic control tower was given to the Cape May aviation museum.

Cape May, New Jersey, Naval Air Station Wildwood, museum, history, travel, vacation, day trip
They have a great Coast Guard exhibit, including an HH-52 helicopter you can climb in
Coca-Cola
“Drink Coca-Cola”

The museum recently added a “1940’s Room,” which recreates a typical house during WWII. They also have tons of Coca-Cola memorabilia there!

1940's, WWII
Welcome to the 1940’s

My grandfather was a pilot in WWII. He never trained at the Naval Air base in Wildwood. Instead, he trained in California and was later stationed in Okinawa. I had thought the plane below might have been the type of plane he flew in.

1940's pilots, WWII, history, aircraft, aviation
OE-2 Bird Dog

But when I got back home and compared it to pictures I had from my grandfather (below), I don’t think so. The plane at the Cape May museum is an OE-2 Bird Dog, which wasn’t used until the 1950’s. I briefly considered but quickly rejected the low wing North American T-6 Texan, so I need more time to look into it… Anyone else know?

1940's, airplanes, aviation, history, WWII
Picture my grandfather took of the type of planes he used to fly

After our visit, we were hungry! So we had lunch at the Flight Deck Diner. We sat at the counter and ordered cheesesteaks and root beer floats. The waitress who worked there was super friendly and the food was great. I’m a huge fan of airport diners. They’re fun even if you don’t plan on flying anywhere that day.

airport diner, Cape May
Flight Deck Diner
Cape May air museum, aviation, history, 1940's, pilots
NASW
Naval Air Station Wildwood

Too soon, our afternoon was over and we were ready to fly back to Ocean City. We had a fantastic time! If you’re in the area, NASW is having its 17th Annual Air Fest THIS WEEKEND (Labor Day 2013). Stop by and check it out!

NASW, Cape May

Other links you may be interested in:

Don’t forget to take my READER SURVEY and tell me what you most like to read here and/or want to see here.

Rosie the RiveterFinally, if you want a chance to win the Rosie the Riviter bag that I bought at the museum, then comment below or send me an e-mail: archer at jillarcher dot com. US only.

Have you ever been to the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum? Have you ever been to Cape May? Are you interested in the 1940’s? WWII? Aviation? Do you even like to fly?!? 😀 Hope everyone is having a terrific Friday!