A to Z Challenge 2020: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: D is for DisneyWorld

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

Next up in the A to Z Challenge:

D is for – DisneyWorld!

One thing I had always wanted to do was take my kids to DisneyWorld. I grew up on Disney movies, both the live action and the animated classics. Even as an adult, I still love them. One of my all-time favorite movies is Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast.

In April 2012, we took an extended school spring break vacation and hit the road to DisneyWorld. We drove from our home in Vermont to Orlando, FL, over the course of four days. On the way down, we stopped at Grounds for Sculpture, an amazing outdoor sculpture park, museum, and arboretum in Hamilton, New Jersey. Some of the sculptures scattered over the 42 acre park were incredibly detailed and lifelike.

Contact by Seward Johnson


Eye of the Beholder by Seward Johnson


Were You Invited? by Seward Johnson, based on the painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir

Others were more abstract, but just as interesting.


Henry Moore in a Sheep Meadow by Red Grooms

At DisneyWorld, we stayed at the Coronado Springs resort. It had a lovely swimming pool, which we enjoyed very much.


Mayan Ruins themed Lost City of Cibola pool at Coronado Springs

My daughter was a huge fan of the Disney princesses, so we visited as many as we could find.


A conversation with Snow White

The rides were a blast. Well, all but one. No one will ever get me on Everest again. After zipping around at high speed forward and backward, and over stomach-lurching drops in the pitch dark, it was all I could do not to lose my lunch. The kids liked it, though.


The dreaded Everest ride

One of my favorite spots at Disneyworld was the Lego Store in the Marketplace. Right in front of the store stands a towering, jaw-dropping, Lego-brick version of the black dragon Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty blasting fire at Lego Prince Phillip. I have always loved building with Legos and I love dragons, particularly that one. All I could do was stand there and say, “Wow, that is so cool!”


LEGO dragon from Sleeping Beauty in the Disney Marketplace


After we left DisneyWorld, we went to the real LegoLand in Winter Haven, FL, about 45 minutes south of Disney. Talk about mind-boggling creations! I can’t imagine how much fun it must have been to build all those skyscrapers and landmarks and animals and dinosaurs and people — a fantastic collection of Lego masterpieces, though I have to say that, to me, none was as awe-inspiring as that dragon.


New York City skyscrapers, LEGOLAND, FL


Washington, DC, LEGOLAND, FL


Tower Cathedral, LEGOLAND, FL


LEGO Ford Explorer, LEGOLAND, FL













On the way home, we stopped at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. My son’s dream is to be a NASCAR driver, so this was the highlight of the trip for him. He got to see the racecars of some of his favorite drivers and actually sit in a racecar and “drive” in simulated races. He would have kept on driving until the cows came home, as they say, if I’d have let him. But unfortunately, we did have to get back on the road.



My son driving the #16 Racing Sim car.

We all had so much fun on the trip. It was by far the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever!


And now for the Writing Update:

The last couple of weeks have been a little crazy, so I didn’t get much writing time, but I did add another 600 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three. I’m happy to still be moving forward despite everything. And there’s a three-day weekend coming up. Can’t wait to get back at it!

Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with D?






© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.
















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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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