Paranormal Book Cover Design Elements

Hindsight and fresh ‘enchilada’ wrappers open the door to effective paranormal book cover design.

If a writer’s journey begins with an idea and a few words, it concludes with multiple themes stacked like warm blankets atop a winter bed, bound together with colorful character threads.  The entire package, encompassing thousands of hours and hundreds and pages is wrapped by a thin layer of decorated cover stock that is supposed to, pictorially, represent the whole ‘enchilada.’

Read the entire article here.

Copyright Law and Public Domain

‘New’ ideas are built on top of what already exists. 

Artists, authors, designers, and engineers may look like they are alone when they are working, but every creative knows that the things they produce are aggregates— with their own personal flair mixed in.

Like the famous Sagrada Familia it has taken five generations of builders to bring Antoni Gaudi’s grand vision to light. 

In the internet age, creatives turn to the worldwide web for inspiration— be it for photography, soundtracks or clip art.

Too many people believe that everything online is free. It’s not.

If you use media without proper licensing or permission, you could face a copyright infringement lawsuit, or get flagged on YouTube for improper use.

As a creative, it is important to understand how copyright works, what is protected, and when something is available for free use.

Copyright laws, in general, protect a creation from being copied for the life of the artist, plus 70 years.  After that, the piece enters the Public Domain. (SBTEA)

Public Domain works are 100% free for private and commercial use and do not require attribution.

Lawrence Lessig’s lectures and books help artists safely navigate the muddy waters of fair use. He is largely responsible for establishing an ever-growing community of photographers, artists, illustrators, videographers and musicians who support creativity by contributing current work to the Public Domain.

Copyright Law recommended reading.

Click here for Lisa’s extensive collection of public domain images, music, sound,  and video clips.

Become an Environmental Champion – Imagine World Habitat Health

History Professor Yuval Harari describes humans as the only species capable of imagination, large-scale cooperation and creating fictional entities that are some of the most powerful forces in the world.

Fictional entities make decisions about resources that have global consequences.

 

“Money is the most successful story ever invented because it is the only story everybody believes,” says Harari. Professor Harari is the author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

It is a peculiar notion that mass story telling, or fantasy, is responsible for the state of our global habitat contamination. Yet the facts do speak objectively. You don’t need statistics and numbers to tell you what your eyes can see everywhere.

If imagination has the power to pollute the planet, is it possible to use it to heal the world?

Global information is flowing as fast as…water. Consumers – scratch that!- Inhabitants have the power to change the world with thought, keystrokes and lifestyle alterations.

  • Become an environmental champion. Choose an area that you are passionate about. Gather data, talk to friends and family, share on social media and make changes in your own behavior.
  • Vote with dollars to support businesses that practice environmentally sound and sustainable operations and boycott those that don’t.
  • Encourage children, middle schoolers and high schoolers to think about what problems they’d like to solve.
  • Imagine and write stories about positive change.

 

From a simple 200-word writing prompt, I recently realized that I am most passionate about plastic pollution and that I am a water champion.

Water Facts

Planetary Water

  • Water covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface.
  • The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.
  • Water regulates the Earth’s temperature.

Properties

  • Water dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Wherever it travels, water carries chemicals, minerals, and nutrients with it.
  • Water can move up narrow tubes against the force of gravity in what is known as capillary action.

Drinking Water & the Human Body

  • Water regulates the temperature of the human body, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes.
  • 75% of the human brain is water and 75% of a living tree is water.
  • 22% of our bones are water.
  • Most people around the world have access to clean drinking water but it is a major problem in poorer areas of the world.
  • Drinking water is needed for humans to avoid dehydration, the amount you need each day depends on the temperature, how much activity you are involved in and other factors.
  • More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 3.2 million children under the age of five in developing nations die each year as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

Household Water Use

  • The average person in the United States uses anywhere from 80-100 gallons of water per day.
  • Flushing the toilet uses the largest amount of this water.

Manufacturing and Food Production

It takes:

  • 2.6 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper
  • 4 gallons of water for a dairy cow to produce one gallon of milk
  • 6.3 gallons of water to make 17 ounces of plastic
  • 26 gallons of water to irrigate one calorie of food
  • 924 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of rice
  • 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans
  • 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef
  • 39,090 gallons more water to manufacture a new car
  • 300 million gallons of water are needed to produce a single day’s supply of U.S. newsprint.

Water Pollution

  • Water is part of a deeply interconnected system. What we pour on the ground ends up in our water, and what we spew into the sky ends up in our water.
  • Leather and chemical industries cause are major contributors of water pollution.
  • Industries released 197 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in 1990.
  • Around 70% of the industrial waste is dumped into the water bodies where they pollute the usable water supply.
  • Fourteen billion pounds of garbage (mostly plastic) is dumped into the ocean every year.
  • Water pollution is the major cause of various diseases like cholera and typhoid.
  • The Ganges river in India is one the most polluted in the world. It contains sewage, trash, food, and animal remains.

Stuff to Do

100 Ways to Live Plastic Free

Join the Plastic Pollution Coalition

Become a Member of the South Yuba River Citizens League (California)

Article Sources:

Environmental Protection Agency

Science Kids

All About Water

Sunnyslope County Water Conservation Tips

Conserve Energy Future

Tree Hugger

 

Manuscript PDF Settings for CreateSpace – Print Books

Programs are like bicycles, scooters or skateboards.  If you don’t use them daily the skills get a little rusty. Here are my notes (for me and) for you on how to set up a PDF file so that will upload seamlessly to CreateSpace.

Your manuscript is edited and completely ready to go in MS Word. To upload it to CreateSpace, it must be converted into a PDF file that embeds the fonts.

Before you begin, you should have entered all the information necessary to start a book project within CreateSpace. In this process, you will have chosen a size for your book. CreateSpace will provide measurements of that size. These exact measurements are what you will enter when setting up your PDF document.

Example: A standard book size is 6″x 9.” CreateSpace provides the measurements 15.24 x 22.86 cm. This will need to be converted to mm by moving the decimal over one space to the right. The numbers you will enter on the PDF set up is 152.4 x 228.6 mm.

  1. Within Microsoft Word, Click on Print
  2. Change the Printer Setting to Adobe PDF
    save

File Print

3. Click on Printer PropertiesPdf property settings

4. Change Default Settings to: PDF/X-1a:2001

5. Adobe PDF Output Folder: Click on Browse to direct it to where you want the PDF file to go (this should be a file folder that you can navigate to when CreateSpace asks for which file to upload).

6. Adobe PDF Page Size: Add a custom setting using the measurements that you got for your book at CreateSpace.

 

And there you have it!  Good luck and happy authoring.

Click here to read about How to Format KDP files (e-books) with pictures.

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Bullseye – Short Fiction – Relationships

bullseye
Image Credits: ClkerFreeVectorImages, Pixabay member 15299, DGlodowska, Hans Braxmeier
Writing Prompt: In 500 words, imagine what happens when a little too much rides on the outcome of a board game.

Inner Ring: The dart hit its mark with a powerful ‘thunk’.

This was after Ian eyed his target, made three arm extensions and retractions, then let his dart fly with a purposeful aim. “Viv broke up with me,” he stated as his eyes moved from the board to Greg’s face.

Nodding, “I thought so,” Greg replied.  With a lackadaisical interest in the game, Greg took his turn. His dart landed on the number 19, at the outer-most section of the board.

“That’s become such a regular occurrence that I can schedule it on my calendar. What caused it this time?” Greg asked.

“She says that I’m a selfish bastard─ I’m tired when I get off work, you know? All I want is some alone time with my Xbox. She thinks we should ‘talk’.”

Outer Bull: ‘Thunk’.

Picking up a dart, Greg threw it, hitting the number 20 this time.  “Talking is not an unreasonable request.”

Ian repeated his aiming procedure, threw and hit the bullseye. He punched a fist in the air, smiling. They picked up their beer bottles, clanked them in a toast and downed swallows of ale.

“What have you been up to, Greg?”

A chuffing half-laugh escaped before he spoke. If he called more often he might know.  “I was out on a date when I got your text.”

“Dude! You didn’t leave her to come here did you?” Ian asked with incredulity. He wore a lopsided grin.

Mirroring the expression, Greg took another sip. “Sadly, coming here was an infinitely more interesting option than the conversation that was attempting to happen there.” What he didn’t say was that Ian always had the power to bring him running at the drop of a hat.

Greg watched as Ian’s next three points repeated the previous pattern; inner ring, outer bull and bullseye. He finished off his beer and ordered another round. Being more than a little buzzed, he made a deal with himself: If Ian’s next darts hit the same marks, he would – finally – after a lifetime of keeping it stuffed inside – take out his heart and place it warm, vulnerable and hopeful into the hands of his closest friend. It would be such a relief to expose it to the open air…and then just see what would happen next.

The truth shall set you free, right? Greg thought.

Inner Ring: ‘Thunk’.

But it can also tear parents, siblings, life-long friendships and church communities apart. He began to sweat.

Outer Bull: ‘Thunk’.

It could decimate my social position…and maybe even my job. Beads of moisture skirted his hairline.

Bullseye!

—————

Dart Scoring

 

 

Pixabay.com: A Powerful Free-Source for the Serious Blog, Tweet, Book or School

Inventers dream of ways to solve problems. Computer Science and IT guys solve problems by building a crowd-sourced website that supports dreamers all over the globe.

Problem: Wizzley.com authors being cited for using copyright protected images found on the web.

Solution: Pixabay.com

As Pixabay’s front page stated for years – it is a ‘repository for stunning Public Domain media.’ (As of this writing the site hosts 500,000 images and 1,000 video clips.)

Crowd-sourced, images and videos are uploaded by members. All media is released under a Creative Commons CC0 license which means that it is completely free for personal or commercial use.

Photo by Deog Yeon Hwang - Pixabay user:lalalife
Photo by c – Pixabay user:lalalife

‘Stunning’ is not an over exaggeration of the media quality on Pixabay – it is first-rate.  

Established in Germany, Pixabay’s worldwide popularity continues to grow. To date, 1.4 million user accounts have been created and over 1,500 new images are uploaded every day. With over 10 million visits per month, the site is outshining competing sites such as fotolia.com and pixelio.de.

Users from the United States account for almost 30% of the site traffic followed by Germany at around 8%. Brazil, Britain, France and Japan are at about 4%.

Income for Pixabay is generated by optional ‘gifts’ from its users and from Shutterstock and Google ads. Site founders, Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger prefer to keep the layout and design of the site as clean and uncluttered (by ads) as possible.

As one explores the site, ‘coffee’ buttons are noticeable. By clicking on these, donations can be made to the image author or to Pixabay. “Coffee” buttons on the artist page go to the artist and those on the download page go to Pixabay.

What keeps Pixabay’s good mojo going? Once the site users discover the outstanding image quality, the plethora of subject matter available and the site’s ease-of-use, they soon find themselves wanting to participate in the global community of sharing.

The Pixabay Founders
Hans photo strip
Hans Braxmeier, Germany

Hans is the founder and CEO of Pixabay. He studied computer science in Ulm (Germany), and has launched several web projects.  He has donated over 18,000 images to the site.

“The main focus of Pixabay was never to make a lot of money. The focus is to give something like Wikipedia back to cool users,” says Hans Braxmeier.

simon

Simon Steinberger, Germany

Simon is co-founder and CEO of Pixabay. He studied chemistry in Ulm (Germany) and finished his PhD in 2011. During this time, he started working in the IT sector and developed various websites.

Editor’s Choice award media is awe-inspiring! These are the best and greatest Pixabay photos, illustrations, vector graphics and videos. Media for this award is selected by our team members.” – Simon Steinberger

Comments from the Pixabay chat forumsdebbies books

“A personal thank you [to Pixabay.com]. I now have two books on Amazon thanks to this site. I always wanted to write books for kids but had the issue of how to illustrate them. Now I am using images from here and a few of my own.”

Debbie Walkingbird, Oregon

“A huge thank you to all of the generous and talented Pixabay photographers! I manage a blog for a small animal welfare non-profit and you make my life so much easier!” – MsLisaJo

“Pixabay gives me a great place to have my work seen and used and hopefully that exposure will lead to eventual sales elsewhere. Taking pictures that I think are great but just sit in a hard drive doesn’t cut it. I would much rather people see, use and enjoy my work.” – Jim

“I find that initiatives like Pixabay (and many others) are a great way to keep culture flowing enabling others to build on and create new exciting works. For me, being in the academic world, this is a great resource to find new images for web design and illustration of work materials.” –José R Valverde

DH allen books“I used Pixabay images and clipart as artwork for book covers and on my blog. Wanted to say thank you to all who images and clipart I was able to use for these ventures. Pixabay and you guys are the best!” Smile – D.H. Allen | Writer, Traveler, Photographer blog

 

 

As Pixabay Member, Steve Buissinne of South Africa puts it, “Across the world people speak in 6500 languages, but we all see in only one. I think that donating images contributes to a more interesting and fulfilling life for us all.”

Related article: Pixabay Member Spotlight

 

Pixabay.com Member Spotlight

If you are an author, teacher, blogger, web designer, or any type of content creator, I recommend that you run – not walk – to Pixabay.com. It will quickly become your go-to place for powerful (and free!) photos, illustrations, vector graphics and video clips that pack a punch.

I interviewed a few Pixabay members to find out more about what makes this creative resource so enchanting.

Every interviewee had a story about rejected images. Universally, they took this as a challenge to produce and submit higher quality content.

For the curious, the links below explain Pixabay’s standards and image rating system.

Pixabay Image Quality Standards
Help decide which images get published

Pixabay Video Quality Standards

In each photo strip below, you will find the Pixabay member’s profile name and several samples of the type of work that they donate. Clicking on the photo strip or the link on their name, directs you to their Pixabay page.

Adina Voicu, Romaniaadina

Adina teaches foreign languages and literature. She works with students between the ages of 15-19. She uses images from Pixabay in some of her school projects and has donated over 2,000 of her own images to the site.

Pixabay is always open on Adina’s computer. She loves seeing what is new on the site, chatting with other photographers and seeing the feedback messages on her images.

“I live and breathe photography,” Adina says. “It is a way to get to know myself better.”couple-1008699_640

When asked about why she donates her images, she comments, “I have always shared things. What is more wonderful than sharing joy?”

In Romania, Adina lived under communist rule. ” We were not allowed to go abroad and knew nothing about the outside world. We only had two TV channels that broadcast about 4 hours each day. The electricity went off at 10 every night. Children were taught to fear their teachers and were punished for giving wrong answers.”
She remembers December 1989 – the revolution – like it was yesterday. “The first time I heard Michael Jackson on the radio. Wowww!”
“We live in a democracy now, but it is very misunderstood. There is chaos everywhere: in the medical system, the educational system, and with laws that change twice a year,” she says.
“I have been fortunate enough to travel. When I return, I try bringing home aspects from the more civilized countries.”
Pixabay and sharing images with people worldwide helps Adina feel connected outside of Romania. She hopes that this feeling communicates itself to the students in her life.

Venita Oberholster, South Africa
artst bee

Venita is an oil painter, vintage clip art designer and corporate Course Developer and Business owner of Step Across Training. She creates educational clip art and designs learning materials for South African school children.

“I really enjoy sharing my work with people all over the world. And I like getting positive responses from people who use it for personal or business projects. I hope that it will provide a platform for future graphic designers and for people to use for custom assignments. “science-1018806_640

“Pixabay has taught me the importance of high quality images and copyright principles. When I first started upolading images, it was disheartening because a good percent of them were rejected. However, I took this as a personal challenge to improve my standards.”

Click here to visit Venita’s Artsy Bee Images website.

Steve Buissinne, South Africastevepb

“Across the world people speak in 6500 languages, but we all see in only one.”

“Beauty can be found in the most unlikely places.” – Steve Buissinne

Almost 12 years ago, Steve and his wife retired to a small farm in the Eastern Highlands of South Africa. He took with him his SLR camera and a developing interest in photography. “It is an inward-looking or egocentric pastime that developed into a challenging and interesting hobby that has a use to others at the same time.”

In 2013, Steve was searching the internet for photos that he could use on a website for a local firefighters association when he discovered Pixabay.He liked the interface and was inspired by the images. So much so that he decided to upload a few of his own.

Rejections became a motivation to improve. Since then Steve’s been working on his lighting and photo styling techniques. He enjoys working with food  and everyday items used in the home, ‘because they don’t move.’ To date, Steve has uploaded 325 images. One hundred and seventeen of those have received Editor’s Choice Awards.

“It seems as though there are thousands of cooking, health and well-beintax-468440_640g blogs that need images,” says Steve. “The most downloaded of my photos is one that is used in blogs about the prosaic and everyday evil – Tax.”

“I love the site and enjoy all aspects of it. Simon and Hans, have created a fantastic resource that is a privilege to be a part of.”

Now, Steve often plans photo sessions specifically for images that he will upload on Pixabay. “Since I joined Pixabay, photography has become more enjoyable.”

Thomas Breher, Germany
Thomas breher TBIT

Thomas is a freelance graphic designer and developer.  His company is TBIT Design. He first discovered Pixabay when it was mentioned in a marketing forum article.
“I frequently use Pixabay images on my blog and in projects that I design for clients. Since I regularly download images, I decided to donate my own. Pixabay is a community about mutual giving and taking,” comments Thomas.camera-lenses-946404_640
When he works with people who have specific ideas about images that they want for their job, Thomas sends them to Pixabay to help narrow down the choices.
His favorite aspects of Pixabay community are the comments and ratings. “And every few weeks I receive a small donation,” he says.
I can relate to the excitement that is felt when a donation comes in. The first time that I received one, I had completed a photography job for $150. Later that day, a Pixabay donation arrived in the amount of $1.50. The elation that I feel about that donation STILL has me smiling!
When thinking about making a donation to an image author, Simon Steinberger, simon profilePixabay co-founder and CEO says, “We have several image authors who are particularly active and who offer a lot of images. You could concentrate on them – they’ve definitely earned it! An example that comes to mind is Geralt. He is power creator.”
A note of caution: If you pop over to check out Pixabay.com, be prepared to spend a lot of time there. The site is so luscious, that you’ll never want to leave!
____
The inspiration for this article came as I reached a personal Pixabay milestone. I made my 100th image donation on the website. 

Related article: Pixabay.com: A Powerful Free-Source for the Serious Blog, Tweet, Book or School

Angela Hoy from Writer’s Weekly – Common Themes in Writing Contest Entries

For authors, entering a writing contest is a way to test and flex their mental acuity. The Writers Weekly competition is especially exciting because you don’t know what you’ll have to work with…and you’ve only got a limited amount of time to produce a finished piece. It felt like a version of Chopped for writers. 

As with the TV show, Chopped, judge commentary educates the audience about the strange basket ingredients and how to best to prepare them. Meanwhile, the competing chefs are thinking and working as fast as possible to come up with something prize-worthy.

Having recently been a participant in the WritersWeekly.com Fall, 2015 24-Hour Short Story Contest, it was interesting to learn about the overall writing trends that emerged as the judges read through the 500 entries. I asked Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly.com if I could repost excerpts from her article about the contest’s common themes.

AngelaPortrait72dpismall_400x400

Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com.

WritersWeekly.com – is a free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.

After registering for the contest, entrants are given the date and time that topic will be posted. The required word count is also given at that time.  From that point forward, entrants have 24 hours to craft the story that they will submit.

THE FALL, 2015 TOPIC

The barren, tan corn stalks behind her snapped in the cold evening breeze, the only sound louder than the dry, fiery red leaves swirling around her tiny, shivering bare feet. She’d lost her bearings again and she hoped the dinner bell would ring soon. A gray tree with endless arms and fingers, devoid of any remaining foliage, loomed before her. She gazed at the odd markings on the trunk, which appeared to outline a hand-cut door of sorts. And, as she stared, it opened…

(Stories only needed to touch on that topic in some way to qualify.)

Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would take that story…

once-upon-a-time-719174_640

The top three winners of this contest are posted HERE.

COMMON THEMES SUBMITTED

Here are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:

Many of the stories were dreams and visions of the characters.

There were lots of faeries!

Several stories featured children playing games in the corn fields.

There were numerous stories featuring elderly and other people who are delusional.

Several stories ended with the main character being a dog or other animal.

And, surprisingly, four stories featured the tree being a hiding place for the Underground Railroad!

As with all contests, some common themes come back again and again, no matter what the topic is.

These include:

The story is about a writer and/or it’s a writer participating in a writing contest (groan).

Vampires, aliens and other scary creatures. We always see LOTS of those.

We find out at the end that the entire story was just a movie/TV scene/play or we find out the first scene of the story (usually the topic itself) is from a movie or TV show/play or even a book or article one of the characters is reading.

The reader finds out at the very end that the main character is actually dead (is a ghost or spirit of some sort), or that the main character has dementia. We always get several retirement home or other senior citizen stories.

The main character dies at the end, and is met by a loved one or an angel of some sort. We also see lots of dead friends/relatives trying to convince the characters it’s their time to die, too, helping them to cross over, etc.

The story is dramatic but you find out at the end the characters are really children playing make-believe or that the main characters are actually animals, not people.

The main character of the story is a writer or someone in the story (usually the main character) is named Angela (the publisher of WritersWeekly).

A common fairy tale is the basis of the story.

Links to the winning stories of the current contest appear HERE.

PRIZES: 1st prize: $300 2nd prize: $250 3rd prize: $200 20+ honorable mentions + 62 door prizes!

The WINTER CONTEST IS COMING SOON!

Sign up today right HERE: http://24hourshortstorycontest.com

 

 

Train Tunnels, Chinese History and Urban Art at Donner Summit

Explorations Around Donner Summit (California)

Research for an upcoming book prompted a plan to hike to the China Wall at Donner Pass. Mom must be humored at least one day a year (Mother’s Day). Driving an hour to Donner was an opportunity to get the family out of the house and learn some local history.  Other than me, the dogs were the only members of the family who were truly enthusiastic about the outing from the get-go.  But as the day wore on, everyone found something interesting to capture their imagination.

Donner_Lake_as_seen_from_Donner_Pass

Taking in the expansive views overlooking Donner Lake and trekking over gargantuan, sun warmed slabs of granite, one can not help thinking about the ancient hands that pecked away at the rock faces some 1,500 to 4,000 years ago. Nomadic bands of Great Basin Indians spent many pleasurable hours here. They quenched their thirst from the streams that burble their way down to the lake below as they labored to record their thoughts and ideas in stone. The exact meaning of the 200 rock art designs has been lost in the annals of time. Today’s viewers are left to fill in the blanks in an attempt to guess at their story.

Not far above the petroglyphs, and in more recent history (just a meer hundred and fifty years ago), another story with blank pages exists – the names and personalities of the people who built the China Wall and train tunnels.

In its day the railroad moved people and products faster than ever. This new mode of transport was responsible for booming business and for populating the west. As one historian put it, the railroad would be comparable to the internet today.

Charles Crocker was in a hurry to make progress on his section of the railroad. Government incentives offered sizable rewards for the company that could lay the most track in the shortest amount of time.

Facing the problem of getting his project over Donner Summit, Crocker wondered if the Chinese, who’d invented fireworks and built the Great Wall, could help. Starting off with only 50 workers, Charles soon discovered that his guess was right. Determined, dependable and with specialized knowledge of nitroglycerine the Chinese proved that they were the right people to accomplish the task. Within a year, 8000 pioneering immigrants were hard at work tunneling through the rock. Granite is one of the hardest minerals on the planet. Progress consisted of making their way through the span of a large man’s hand (14 inches) per day. With wages at $28 per month, these workers were a bargain, even by 1850 standards.640px-Chinese_railroad_workers_sierra_nevadachinese built trai tunnel

Donkey steam engines lowered men in baskets down along the steep rock cliffs. (*see below for update) Holes were drilled, filled with black powder, packed and tamped. Men scrambled for safety as fuses were lit. Once the air cleared after the blast and the debris was moved away, men went back down to repeat the process.

__________________________________________

9-2015 update – additional research has pointed out that the artist rendering of the baskets lowered over the cliffs may have been ‘railroad hype’ to entice train travelers. Bosuns chairs, similar to what tree climbers and sailors use, were likely employed to gain access to the steep cliff faces.

baskets and bosuns chairs

cape horn plaque cropped
Near Donner Summit is Cape Horn – another treacherous cliff face that Chinese railroad workers tamed.

______________________________________

In the Tunnels Today

My dogs were surprisingly sedate, while we strolled through the cool, dark and dripping, tunnels. A quiet hush permeated the space even though plenty of visitors were never far away. Did the dogs sense something that I could not?  As I gazed up at the high jagged walls antiqued with residue from the coal smoke that spit from the mouths of long retired locomotives, my thoughts reached back to span the years between then and now.  Grasping at unknown stories of the men responsible for this feat of engineering, I anticipate the time when I am ready to sit across from my keyboard to tap out a tale that gives definition back to the blank faces that ignorance and prejudice caused to slip into historical obscurity.

0510151331

0510151350The photographer in me, delighted at the colorful urban art along the smooth walls of the snow sheds. Does it connect in some way to the Native Americans and Chinese people who occupied this place?

The mom in me cringed as my 10 year old son stood reading some of the uncomfortable statements that were written five feet tall. Like any art form, it moves us to think outside of our respective boxes… This is usually a good thing.0510151318

Protected from the fading rays of the sun, these ever changing urban designs remain vibrant and saturated. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself coaxing photography clients to join me and my camera in this fascinating spot filled with so many intriguing layers of history.

0510151321_Burst04

donner summit tunnel

If you’re going:

Map of the Donner Summit Area

Donner Summit Historical Society -Tunnel 6 – PDF

Donner Pass History –  Blog – On the Summit

Chinese History Videos:

Good Morning Aboard Caralee – Short Fiction – Romance

 five minute ficiton
[reddit writing prompt]

A married couple start another average morning on an average weekday. No one dies. No twist. Show their overwhelming love for each other without them speaking a single word.

Their movements were automatic with a choreograph-like smoothness.  In a galley smaller than most American coat closets, this was an accomplishment. The 45 foot Caralee housed all of their worldly possessions and had transported them to exotic ports all over the globe.

He reached for bowls while she filled a pot with water. He struck a match to light the flame on the stove as she pulled out spoons from the drawer. She placed the pot on the burner while taking a box of oats out of the cupboard.

When hands were not occupied with tasks, they would glide across or alight upon the other’s body; a brush down the back, coming to rest upon a shoulder, a hip or making a light tap on the behind.

Oats were added when the water boiled, the pot covered and the heat turned down. During the brief pause in their morning dance, their eyes lingered upon each other; they smiled.

He enjoyed watching the light play across the pink facets of the pendant that always hung around her neck. A gift he’d presented to her some thirty-five years earlier on the day that Asmara was born. Their only child had been conceived above deck, on a warm night, under a ripe Sri Lankan moon.

Sitting hip to hip at the tiny table, they held hands as they ate. Her nervous fingers twisted his wedding ring around and around on his finger. She paused occasionally to rub her fingernail over the smooth mound of rose quartz that she’d found in Brazil.

Before taking that first sip of coffee, they clinked mugs together softly. A tradition adopted from their time in the British Isles.  It signified ‘a robust day and a tender heart.’

Photography by: Mark Pepall
Photography by: Mark Pepall

Bundled in coats, they went topside to welcome the sun as it crested the horizon. Elbows resting on the rail they let the cool breeze flow across exposed skin. Smiling, she turned to him, observing the lines on his face and the wiry gray hair that steadily overtook the brown along with the passage of time.  She thought that he looked as good as the day they met…even better. She mouthed the words, ‘olive juice.’ This was a family joke; these words look like something else if one is lip reading. A chuckle from deep in his chest echoed across the water.