IWSG and A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: E is for England, Edinburgh, and Easter Island

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

My insecurities this month revolve around the use of social media. There are so many social channels out there, how do you know which is the best to use to connect with potential readers? And what is the best way to find those readers?

I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and I recently started an Instagram account. I’m also on Goodreads and, of course, WordPress. And my book trailers are on YouTube. I find Twitter overwhelming, so my blog posts are linked to it, but I haven’t done much else with it. Finding the time to keep up with social media is also a challenge.

I’d love to know what social media channels other writers use most effectively and how they organize their social media time.

The IWSG question for this month: Do you have any secrets that readers would never know from your work?

I couldn’t think of anything to reply to this, so I’ll be interested to read how everyone else answers this question.


Now on to the A to Z Challenge!

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.


E is for – England, Edinburgh, and Easter Island


On that same 1995 trip to Scotland I wrote about for A to Z A, we also visited England. My Dad’s side of the family hails from Northhamptonshire. We flew into London, stayed there for a couple of days, then rented a car and drove around the countryside. I had made a list of places I wanted to visit, and we hit as many as we could. We saw the usual tourist sites in London: Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, the Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London (both from the outside).

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, London


Buckingham Palace, London


White Tower of London, where royalty was imprisoned before execution. (Rumored to have many ghosts.)


Tower Bridge, London


We had to ride the double-decker bus.


Me, 25 years ago, doing the tourist thing.

I have to admit, though, that as lovely as those places were, I was more interested in the castles and ruins outside of the London area. The cathedrals were pretty spectacular, too.


Penshurst Place and gardens, near Tonbridge, Kent


Hever Castle, Kent (postcard – I couldn’t get the whole thing in one photo)


Bodiam Castle ruins, East Sussex


Arundel Castle, West Sussex


Arundel Castle Library (postcard – my favorite room in the castle)


Pevensey Castle ruins, East Sussex


Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury (Restoration in progress.)


Tintagel Castle ruins, Cornwall. Steeped in the legend of King Arthur.


Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

One of my Dad’s ancestors came from Sulgrave, a small town in Northamptonshire. Interestingly, Sulgrave Manor, built in 1539, (PHOTO) is the ancestral home of George Washington, First President of the United States. Unfortunately, we drove through the area on a Sunday, and the manor house was closed to the public.


We visited Edinburgh, capital city of Scotland, in 1995, as well. We spent quite a bit of time at Edinburgh castle, taking in (figuratively) the Honours of Scotland and touring the Scottish National War Memorial, United Services Museum, St. Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Scots Museum and the Prisons of War. So much history in one of the oldest fortifications in Europe.


Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland. One of those misty, moody days.

Interesting fact: The Honours of Scotland are the oldest crown jewels in Britain. During WWII, the Crown of Scotland was hidden for safekeeping by burying it in a medieval latrine closet.

For information on the storied history of the castle and more interesting facts, click HERE.

Easter Island!

Ancient monoliths have always intrigued me. Who built them? What was their purpose? Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, is home to one of the world’s great mysteries: the massive stone heads called Moai.


Moai on Easter Island Photo credit: http://www.goodfreephotos.com

The Moai were carved from volcanic rock by the Polynesians who settled on Easter Island sometime between 800 AD and 1200 AD. The island, also known by its Polynesian name of Rapa Nui, lies over 2,000 miles west of Chile in the South Pacific Ocean. It’s mainly made up of three extinct volcanoes, and along with surrounding small islets, it forms the summit of a 6,600-foot-tall underwater mountain, part of the Sala y Gomez Ridge, a Pacific undersea mountain range.

Rapa Nui was given the name Easter Island by Dutch explorers who first landed there on Easter Sunday in 1722.


Moai, Easter Island Photo credit: antoinese @ http://www.goodfreephotos.com

One theory is that the stone statues were built to honor the settlers’ ancestors. There are nearly 900 monoliths, and almost all of them stand with their backs to the sea, looking inward toward the villages as if watching over the people. Only a very few face the ocean; those that do also overlook a village. One possible suggestion is that the statues facing the sea were placed there to help others find the island.


Moai, Easter Island Photo credit: Jaboczw @ http://www.goodfreephotos.com

The statues averaged 13 feet tall and weighed 14 tons, with the tallest being closer to 40 feet and over 80 tons.

Between the late 1700s and mid-1800s, all of the statues on the island were toppled, either by civil war between the islanders, conflicts with European explorers, or earthquakes, according to various theories. Many have since been restored.

Maybe someday I’ll see the statues for myself and contemplate their existence like those ancient explorers did.


And now for the Writing Update:

Between vehicle problems and life in general, I only added maybe another 100 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three, since my last A to Z post. Still, that’s a little progress, miniscule as it is.


Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with E?




© 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.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

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.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.