Wednesday Wanderings: Yosemite

I’m blessed to live just over an hour from the south entrance to the park. I’m less than two hours from Yosemite Valley. I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to spend time in Wawona, inside the park, but about an hour from the Valley. Wawona is beautiful, but less crowded than the Valley floor.

Historic Wawona Hotel (now called the Big Trees Lodge–do not get me started on that!)

We’ve been going to Wawona for family vacations and long weekends pretty regularly for the past … twenty-mumble years. It’s a place of memories, laughter, and fun. We’ve celebrated milestones. We’ve grieved and cried. We’ve rested and healed. Yosemite is very near to our hearts, Wawona even more.


In the coming weeks, we’ll spotlight different areas of the park and the surrounding area. We’ll talk history. We’ll go on photographic tours.

Is there anything specific you’d like to hear about the park and the area? Anything I can find out for you?

Here’s a picture of our favorite swimming hole, just to whet your appetite.


I can hardly wait to go back!


Book Talk Tuesday: 7 by Jen Hatmaker

I feel like I’m always a little behind the rest of the world.

I definitely got to the Jen Hatmaker party a little late, but I’m having a great time now that I’m here.

I recently finished 7, her book about simplifying life.

Really good.

Just what I needed to hear at that point.

7Basically, Jen took 7 areas of her life and pared them down to 7 essentials. She did each area for a month. Some of the practices made their way into her life permanently, others were for that month only.

The areas included food, clothing, possessions, waste, spending, media, and stress. For the month on food, she chose seven items and ate those exclusively for the month. In other chapters, sometimes she was limited to seven items, or she removed seven items, or instituted seven practices.

I’m trying to pare down my own excess in areas and the book helped me look at that and see that it’s doable and may not be quite as painful as I think.

Jen’s writing style is just like her on Facebook and live. She is herself. Warm. Funny. Engaging.

I got a lot out of this book and highly recommend it for anyone curious about how to get out from under the stuff that we, as prosperous and blessed Americans, accumulate as if there was a prize at the end.

Monday Musings

So after a few weeks of being a lazy blogger, I’ve been thinking about how to change things up a bit. My struggle with blogging has always been how to make it relevant to readers.

Let’s face it: no one really cares what I think or do about a given issue. ask

I mean, my family cares (I hope), but the world at large? Not so much.

I’m not an expert on anything.

I raised kids. I kept the home. And there are plenty of others already blogging on those topics with far more impressive credentials than mine.

After talking with my agent last week (–will I ever get tired of saying that? I don’t think so–) I’ve decided to retool the blog a bit, to make it more reflective of the series I’m currently working on.

The Harts Leap books are set in a resort town just outside of Yosemite. This is an area I’m well acquainted with. There is a quilt shop there that has a fairly prominent role in the first book. I’ve done some quilting. There is also a hoarder. I don’t really know anything about this topic that would make me an expert, but I can do some research.

So, my tentative plan for the blog is:

creative people iconsMonday Musings: My personal thoughts

Book Talk Tuesday: Book reviews as before

Wednesday Wanderings: Thoughts on travel, particularly around Yosemite

Thursday: Occasional Author Spotlights and Cover Reveals, as before

Food Talk Friday: Recipes and Restaurants, as before

That’s my plan! And those are my thoughts for my first Monday Musings. Thanks for stopping by.

Is there anything in particular you’d be interested in hearing about? I’d love for some reader feedback!




I snagged an advance copy of Susan May Warren’s newest. I loved her Deep Haven books and her Christiansen Family series. I was very disappointed when the series ended and I had no more to look forward to. And I was a little trepidatious to sample her new series.

What if I didn’t like it? What if it wasn’t the same? Silly, I know. Of course it’s going to be different. But come on, not like a Susan May Warren book?? Get real, Carrie.

WMSkies-CoverThe new series is called Montana Rescue. It’s about  Search and Rescue group in Montana, near Glacier National Park. And once I started WILD MONTANA SKIES I couldn’t put it down.

Kacey Fairing is on leave from her army job as a helicopter pilot. She’s come back to her Montana hometown to reconnect with her teenage daughter. She never expected to see Benjamin King there. He’s been off in Nashville, building a big music career.

The story is about Ben and Kacey finding their way back to each other after thirteen years apart. Both have misconceptions and mistakes to sort out.

The book opens with the local town being threatened by flash floods. Kacey and Ben have to work together immediately. The secondary stories are compelling as well.

At times, it felt like the book started in the middle of the story, but the backstory was layered in nicely. There are a lot of characters and I did sometimes get them confused, but I was able to sort out who was important to the story. And who will likely be getting their own book soon.

There’s lots of action (Search and Rescue! in Montana!) and plenty of emotion (star-crossed lovers!).

I loved it and now I can barely the Christiansens. Ingrid who? Deep Haven where?

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received a free Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in return for a honest review. Done and done.

Book Talk Tuesday: RACE THE DARKNESS

Welcome to my Dreamweaver sis, Abbie Roads! Her debut novel releases today. I can only imagine all the feelings racing around her. Please, take a peek at what all the excitement is about!


rtdRace the Darkness by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Dreams #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | B&N | Indigo | BAM | Indie Bound


Cursed with a terrible gift…
Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.
A gift that threatens to engulf them…
Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.

Continue reading “Book Talk Tuesday: RACE THE DARKNESS”

Book Talk Tuesday: LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG

I’m super excited to share my Dreamweaver sister’s newest story, just out today! Vanessa is one of the sweetest persons I know and I’m thrilled to share her with you.

Welcome, Vanessa Barneveld!


Release day for Vanessa Barneveld’s YA novella, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, is here! This quick read is full of heartbreak and hope. Vanessa will donate half of the profits from the sale of her novella to a charity that supports young people dealing with cancer. So make sure you pick up LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG. It’s only 99 cents at these e-tailers:

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

Add LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG to your Goodreads shelf

Read on for the summary and excerpt…


He has six months to live. She has six months to save him…

Molly Corbett can’t stand seeing her childhood pal Alex Gibson destroy himself. He’s gone from straight-A student to rebel without a cause. With so much at stake, some serious interference is called for—or at least Micromanaging Molly thinks so. Alex needs to get back on the path to the Ivy League. But the harder Molly pushes Alex, the harder he pushes back.

Alex has a secret.

Well, two secrets. Number one: He has terminal melanoma. With six months to live, Alex hasn’t got a second to waste. And hanging around hospitals when his friends think he’s cutting school definitely counts as wasted time. Instead, he’s going to drop out, surf, drive fast cars…and finally put secret number two out there. He’s in love with Molly and he’s going to tell her before it’s too late.

Edgy, and yet wonderfully tender, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG sent me to reader heaven!

~ Tina Ferraro, author of THE ABCs OF KISSING BOYS


Around six the next morning, I find Mom sitting at the island bench in the kitchen. She looks pretty chill for someone who just laid on a breakfast of fruit salad, yogurt, sautèed mushrooms and kale, unbuttered whole-wheat sourdough and two eggs, sunny-side up. A thick, football-field-green smoothie sits in a tall glass by the blender. Great. More kale.

“Hey, Alex!” She smiles over her coffee mug and pats the stool next to her. “Sleep well?”

I shuffle onto the seat and stare at the food. “Have I died and gone to buffet heaven?”

My mother winces at my choice of words, then makes a big effort to put on a happy face like she always does. “I want you to keep your strength up. You don’t have to eat all of it. Just most of it.”

“And you don’t have to go out of your way to make this for me. I mean, thanks. A lot. But I don’t have much of an appetite.”

“Oh, I’m having some, too,” she says in an overly bright voice. With her fork, she scoops up a tiny portion of kale, hardly enough to fill a mouse’s belly.

Since my diagnosis a few months ago, Mom hasn’t been eating much either. This doesn’t stop her from testing all the “cancer-fighting” recipes she finds on Pinterest. Baking is therapy, she says. I call it a waste of food. Fortunately, the family next door is more than happy to take excess lentil loaf off our hands.

Every hour of every day, I wonder what will happen to Mom after I go. She’ll be all alone. Dad moved back to Australia after the divorce. He’s making custom surfboards, connecting with old friends, so I know he’ll be okay. Mom’s literally got no one. Except the perpetually hungry neighbors and her five employees. Yet another reason why I shouldn’t die so young.

It’s crazy. Why does it have to be like this? Maybe the doctors got it wrong. They’re not infallible. They’re not gods. They can’t predict the exact number of months, days, hours, and seconds a person has left on Earth.

Then again, I’ve peeked at my medical records. I know it doesn’t look good for me. With the help of a counselor I’ve gotten to the stage of mostly accepting that I’m headed for a dead end. I’ve even started giving some of my stuff away. The iPad Dad gave me is now Molly’s. Mom won’t have to go through boxes of my middle-school clothes after I’m gone because I’ve already dropped them off at Goodwill. The cobalt-blue board I learned to surf on? I’m giving that to a kid down the street whether he likes it or not.

Noticing I haven’t touched a single morsel, Mom says, “Will you at least have the kale, broccoli and goji berry smoothie? You don’t even have to chew. Close your eyes and drink it.”

Speaking of acceptance… Yeah, Mom’s adamant that five doctors on two continents are wrong and that I’ll make a miraculous recovery. All we need is faith and love and kale.

I would rather eat broken glass mixed with cyanide, but for Mom, I guess I can manage this. Forcing a smile, I sip chunks of raw broccoli that slipped by the blender’s blades. I’ll check over the blender later, make sure it’s working okay.

“After breakfast, I’m taking you to that appointment you missed yesterday,” she says quickly.

Feeling guilty, I look away. She didn’t hammer me for skipping out on seeing this “amazing herbalist-slash-psychic-healer.” Still, I know she was disappointed in me. “What about work? You’ve missed a lot of days because of me.”

“It’s fine. Things are slow anyway.” Her voice is two octaves higher than usual.

She’s lying. The real estate biz in this corner of SoCal is booming. Foreclosures have brought in the flippers—the people who swoop in on bank-owned properties and fix them up for a profit.

“But you need those commissions.” Silently I add, To pay my medical bills.

Another reason to feel guilty. I’m aware of how much my cancer is costing my parents. Flights to a melanoma specialist in Sydney and more hospital follow-ups here don’t come cheap. My folks tell me not to worry about that, but ironically I’m old enough to figure out that dying young is expensive.

And now Molly’s pushing me to apply to Yale.

I can’t blame her. She knows it’s been my dream since forever to go to Yale, get a medical degree, become a pediatrician. But it’d be a waste of time and money for me to even try to follow that dream.

I grimace at the olive oil oozing from the barely touched kale and mushroom thing.

Waste. Sure is the theme of the day. Of my life, even.

About Vanessavanessabarneveldauthor

Vanessa lives in Australia with her musician husband, a photogenic cat, and a ghost. In addition to writing, she works as a TV closed captioner for the deaf and audio describer for the blind. Her pastimes include baking, iPhonography, and traveling the world on a quest to find the world’s greatest fries.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | GoodReads

For giveaway and book release news, sign up to Vanessa’s mailing list.


Media Monday: Magazines

I quit subscribing to magazines several years ago because:

magazines.jpgI’m too much of an A personality and

I can’t throw out something I haven’t read and

I have to read them straight through, no skimming, so

I don’t make time to read them so

I end up with a dust-covered stack that adds to my already handicapping guilt complex about not getting enough done in my days.

A few months ago I went through the stack, ripping out articles I wanted to read and throwing out the rest of the magazine.

Now I just have a stack of articles/pages to reproach me, instead of the full magazine. I’ve been whittling down the stack. Last week I read an article about Drew Barrymore and her role in the “new” HBO film Grey Gardens. She’s had 2 children since that interview, but it still did its job: it piqued my interest in the film and I added it to my Netflix queue.

And somehow, in spite of no new subscriptions, the stack is again growing. Because I belong to a professional association (Romance Writers of America®), I get a monthly magazine from them. Because I ordered something from JustFab, somehow I’m getting InStyle. I used to have a free subscription from mileage points to Entertainment Weekly. I was relieved when that lapsed, because I can barely cope with monthly guilt, never mind weekly. But guess what came in the mail Saturday? Yep, an Entertainment Weekly that says I’m subscribed for a year!

I did subscribe last December to Relevant Magazine, because I enjoy the podcast and the magazine only comes out six times a year. I figured I could handle a magazine every other month. Nope. I’m about three issues behind right now.

But I’m resolved, this week, to get back to just a stack of articles instead of magazines.


But I’m curious. How many people still subscribe to magazines and read them? Do you? What do you subscribe to? Do you read it?