You know the saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” That useful little phrase that gives us all the green light to behave very very badly. Don’t worry. I won’t give away your secrets. But I would like to share my own holiday experience with you. I just got back from four days in Las Vegas celebrating Christmas with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. It was quite possibly the least Christmasy Christmas, and yet, it will stand out in my memory as one of my favorites.
This trip was like entering an alternate universe. I boarded the plane in Denver at a balmy 10 degrees and landed in Sin City with a headache and too much clothing for the 60+ degree weather. As I stumbled off the plane, my eyes scanned past the sea of slot machines to the nearby Starbucks, a much needed caffeine pit stop. After throwing back some migraine medicine and an iced mocha, I made my way to the terminal to find my parents.
Now, my parents and my sister are my favorite people to spend time with, anywhere. I grew up in a large family – lots of aunts and uncles and cousins running around everywhere. And holidays were always huge in our family. At Christmas, we’d put up hundreds of luminarias and host a Christmas Eve open house complete with piping hot posole ad tamales. Over the years, we’ve spread out, with branches of our family stretching from coast to coast. But at the holidays, it’s not uncommon for us all to come together.
However, after my grandmother passed away four years ago, that trend began to change. She was the heart of our family, maybe more than any of us ever knew, and getting together has happened less frequently. We stay in touch, but it’s never quite the same. My mother, who was the primary caregiver for my grandmother in her final years, has been particularly affected by her loss, especially at Christmas. So going to Las Vegas made sense. We had our Christmas dinner at Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. We walked for miles up and down the strip. We ate, we drank, we gambled. We slept in late and stayed out late. And we laughed. We laughed so hard and so much that my face is still sore. We were together and very happy to be so.
We’re all very different people, but there is so much love that the differences don’t matter. In fact, those differences create hilarious moments and bring us closer together as a family. On our first night out, we saw the Tenors of Rock at Harrah’s, which my mother pronounces “hurrahs!” This show was not my sister’s cup of tea, but by the end of the night she was singing along at the top of her lungs as my mother jumped around like a teenager (no knickers were thrown on stage, but I think it was a close call). Me being me, when I heard that one of the singers, Jonathan Williams, played Jean Valjean in London’s West End, I sauntered over after the show and asked if he’d sing me a little Valjean for my birthday. Not only did he oblige, but he took me up in his arms and sang “Bring Him Home” in my ear. Be still my heart! (shh…don’t tell my husband…what happens in Vegas…)
We rounded out our stay with a delicious dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse (New York New York). The dinner was to celebrate my birthday (I turn 40 on New Year’s Eve), and as we sat around the table and talked, I was ever aware that I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world. We are odd, zany, high-strung at times, moody, funny, and all the things in between. We are everything.
Then, we headed over to Zumanity, Cirque du Soliel’s “adult” show. So, there I was with my mom, my dad, my sister, and her boyfriend, whom we’d only just met a few days before, watching topless acrobats and talking about sex. Merry Christmas to us! I would say don’t take your grandma, but the retired teacher they pulled up on stage was one of the highlights of the show (her comic timing was perfect despite being flustered by all the half-naked performers). And until you’ve seen the acrobats in the giant champagne glass, you haven’t really lived.
So, while what happens in Vegas may stay there for some people, I’m happy to say that I brought every bit of love and a whole suitcase full of memories home with me. (and a boatload of fodder for future stories....stay tuned).
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, intrigue, and betrayal into the backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the Apollo’s Raven series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Thank you, Amy, for giving me the opportunity as a guest to discuss how my writing career evolved.
As a young girl growing up in the 1950s in Colorado, I was inspired by myths, legends, and historical accounts of powerful women warriors, sorceresses, and goddesses. In third grade, when my friends were reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I was devouring books on Greek and Nordic mythology. By eighth grade, I was reading adult historical fiction classics such as The Egyptian, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Ben-Hur. These novels swept me into other bigger than life worlds. This is when I began creating characters which I would use later in my books.
I did not actively pursue my passion of becoming an author until later in life. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry after the birth of my second child and worked in pharmaceutical development. Even so, I continued creating stories in my head based on my life experiences. I escaped everyday routine by reading a wide genre of fiction and non-fiction. I particularly liked epic novels written by James Michener (Centennial), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), and Marian Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon).
After my semi-retirement in 2010, I completed the draft of a book in a historical fantasy series, Apollo’s Raven. In preparation for writing the novel, I had extensively researched the history, mythology, and archaeology of ancient Celtic and Roman civilizations. Although I was soaring high with the accomplishment of drafting the novel, I had to face the hard reality that I needed to hone my craftsmanship and learn more about publishing.
Since then, my journey to publishing my debut novel, Apollo’s Raven, has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my life. I initially explored the traditional publishing route and pitched my books to agents. Last year, I decided to independently publish. Apollo’s Raven is the first book in a series inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and the historically-based Celtic warrior queen, Boudica, who united the Britons to rebel against the Romans. It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic culture where women owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought in battles, hunted, rode horses and used bows and arrows, just like the men, to maintain the integrity and protection of their society.
What I’ve learned is becoming an author is like running a marathon. It takes persistence, training, and writing quality books to establish one’s reputation as an author and to increase readership. My role as expanded to being a publisher responsible for formatting, marketing, and distribution of my books. One of my greatest challenges is balancing publishing activities with writing. Since I can’t do it all, I’ve had to use the services of consultants and vendors to assist me along the way. It is critical to find a good copy editor and proofreaders to catch mistakes in your book before it is published. For next year’s launch of my second book, Empire’s Anvil, I plan to send out advance copy proofs to selected readers for their feedback and reviews.
One of the greatest pleasures I’ve experienced is getting to know other authors through social media and writers groups (Historical Novel Society, Northern Colorado Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). Many successful independent authors graciously support each other and promote each other’s books. At my website and blog, I post author interviews and provide reviews of books. Being a volunteer reviewer for the Historical Novel Society has provided me an opportunity to review soon to be released books in my genre and to meet other authors.
I’ve had the great fortune of taking workshops and meeting Diana Gabaldon. One of the reasons I admire her is that she writes true to her heart and graciously shares her knowledge. I wish I could have met Marian Zimmer Bradley and learned more about the research she did on the ancient Celtic religion depicted in The Mists of Avalon.
My advice to aspiring authors is to follow your dream and never give up.
An ancient curse threatens the fates of the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin and her people in 24 AD Britannia. Torn between love, family, and country, Catrin must make grave choices on how to use the powers of the Ancient Druids so she can alter the dark prophecy that looms over her kingdom. Will the power to foretell the future through the raven prove a curse or an advantage?
Apollo’s Raven is a soaring epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia.
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Where to Buy Apollo's Raven
April Moore is director of Northern Colorado Writers and author of Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men, a historical nonfiction, and Bobbing for Watermelons, a novel. April’s other works, including an essay for the spring 2017 issue of Fort Collins Magazine, can be found on her clips page of her website
Thank you, Amy, for the opportunity to guest blog for you and your readers today!
I grew up reading mysteries and thrillers from authors like Christopher Pike, Agatha Christie, and I loved David Morrell. Interestingly enough, I don’t write mysteries; I wouldn’t even attempt it. I admire authors who can seamlessly weave together intricate plot twists and create page-turning intrigue. Quirky stories also drew me in. I was particularly obsessed with a short-lived television show in the late 80s/early 90s called Amazing Stories. It was created by Steven Spielberg, but each 30-minute episode was written and/or directed by well-known directors and writers and featured popular actors of the time. The stories were odd, wacky, supernatural, funny, strange, and just plain bizarre (to this day, I still don’t understand what Martin Scorsese’s was about). My early stories in middle school and high school were certainly influence by this program, however, my writing has evolved to more nonfiction, women’s fiction, and presently, contemporary young adult.
Before this, however, my love for art detoured my writing and I majored in Fine Arts instead of English or Creative Writing. Blinded by visions of big city art gallery shows and an art studio filled with colorful canvases, I used my paper and pencil for drawing, not writing. I had a career in freelance art and my own greeting card business for ten years when writing decided it had had enough of being in the background. I took a novel-writing class in late 2003, helped form a critique group, and by 2008, I had finished my first novel. It was then that I closed my card business and focused on writing. After shopping the novel for a while, with little success, I shelved it. That’s when my first published book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men, became my focus for the next five years. The topic was far from whatever I thought I’d write. True crime? That stuff scares me. But the project sort of fell into my lap and I quickly became enthralled in the history and the stories of these ninety-three men and their victims. It also solidified my love of writing nonfiction. The book came out in 2013 and after rewriting much of that first novel, Bobbing for Watermelons, it was released two years later.
While I found Bobbing (women’s fiction) easy to write, I’m discovering that getting into the head of a sixteen-year-old boy for my current young adult manuscript, is proving difficult. I have a nineteen-year-old son which has helped with initial character development, but thinking like a teenage boy is something well outside my realm of expertise. Despite this, I’m not giving up because I feel so strongly about telling his story.
As much as I love writing, it doesn’t come easy for me. Writing is hard and we avoid things that are hard, right? I often tell myself I’m not “feeling it” and I find something else to do. As director of Northern Colorado Writers, an organization of writers of all levels and genres, I allow myself to get sucked into NCW tasks instead of focusing on my own work. Making time for my own writing is definitely something I need to work on.
Reading books of varying genres always helps inspire and motivate me, but again, I have to make more time for it. One author I always have time for is the late Ivan Doig, who wrote literary fiction. I get lost in his clever prose, the lives of his beautifully crafted characters, and original plots. His passing over two years ago, devastated me. I’ve been spacing out his fifteen or so books so I don’t finish them all too soon. I’ll likely read them all twice.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, is one my favorite books as well and is a must-read for any writer, particularly ones who are struggling with capturing and cultivating their creativity.
Writing is a unique individual journey for every writer, but being a part of a writing community, or even just a critique group, is, I think, vital to a successful writing life. It’s how we grow our skills, find inspiration, and most important, discover a sense of belonging. I always encourage writers, no matter where they are in their journey, to seek out writing events, classes, and groups because they’re more likely to stick with their passion for writing and storytelling, than if they had gone it alone. Find your tribe and you’ll find a fulfilling writing life.
Bobbing for Watermelons
In the small town of Brookwood, Iowa, forty-one-year-old food columnist Helen Munson, unappreciated by her two teenagers and her lazy husband, longs for more out of life, but hasn’t a clue how to make that happen. In fact, her tendency to overreact and put herself in embarrassing situations sabotages her own efforts to assert herself.
Helen impulsively starts writing a spy novel whose main character exudes traits Helen tries to embody in her own life: power, assertiveness, and the ability to kick butt. However, this persona doesn’t quite manage to keep her out of trouble, or jail. With help from a cast of quirky characters, such as her hippie best friend, a free-spirited drifter, and a pair of fashionable gay store owners, Helen just might be able to pull of the transformation of a lifetime.
Where to Buy Bobbing for Watermelons
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.