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
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.
“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?
I 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)
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!