Woof Trekking Dispatch #10: Longmire in Las Vegas, New Mexico, January 2016

Woof Trekking Dispatch #10: Longmire in Las Vegas, New Mexico, January 2016

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The newest season of Longmire premieres this Friday, September 23rd, on Netflix. We were devoted fans to this show while it was airing on A&E, but we might be one of the few people on Earth that doesn’t subscribe to Netflix, so we haven’t seen Season 4.

We did have the pleasure of seeing Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips and Craig Johnson at the Tucson Festival of Books last year.

Please Be Seated

You can see our blog post about their panel here. The show is based off a book series by Johnson based in a fictional town in Wyoming. However, they film the series in various locations in New Mexico.

This past January we were on a road trip to Colorado and we stopped in Las Vegas, New Mexico for lunch. On a whim, we decided to take a detour into the Old Town and see where some of Longmire is filmed.

The town of Las Vegas is fairly small, with a population of just over 14,000 people. Despite this, the town has a lot of history. In this town alone, there are 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. This NY Times article from 2007 gives an excellent description of the historic town.

At the heart of the Old Town Plaza is the Plaza Hotel that was built in 1882.
The Plaza Hotel
If you are looking at the hotel, you can turn to your left and cross S. Pacific Street and you are at the front door of the Sheriff’s Department of Durant, Wyoming in Absaroka County.
Approaching the Sheriff's Department
Here is a close up of the door. The door was locked when we visited, and also, to our surprise, we were the only ones interested in the building and door. We might have looked like some crazy strangers, if you didn’t know that Longmire was filmed here.
Knocking on Longmire's Door
The details on the door were amazing to us, since all the lettering was left in place even when they weren’t currently filming.
Close up of the Sheriff's Department Badge
This building was originally built in 1895 by the Veeder brothers who were attorneys and community leaders. Their office was on the second floor and a grocery store was on the first.
Wyoming in New Mexico!
The Plaza was pretty empty when we visited, probably because it was January and freezing. Christmas lights still hung in the trees. 🙂 The park benches are featured pretty regularly in Longmire.
The Old Town Park
Here is the official trailer for Season 5 and you can see Ferg and Vic sitting in the Old Town Plaza at the 0:46 mark.

Izzy loved running around the Plaza with the cool, winter air flowing through her ears.
Izzy Enjoying Las Vegas, New Mexico
This sculpture is called Nuestra Senora de los Dolores and was carved by Margarito Mondragon out of a dying Chinese Elm tree that was in the park. You can read more about this piece of artwork in the Las Vegas Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation Newsletter here.
Nuestra Senora de los Dolores
This second sculpture is called El Campesino by Peter Lopez. You can see a video of the different stages of the creation of the sculpture on the YouTube channel of Main Street de Las Vegas here.
If you are ever in the area, it is totally worth it to take a little side trip to see this location.

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Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

posted in: Book Reviews, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

A couple of years ago, we attended the Tucson Festival of Books and we attended a panel where Adam Rex was a speaker. The panel was called “i-Illustrate: Art, Technology and Picture Books” in which panelists discussed utilizing Photoshop and other technologies, like SketchUp, to assist in the creation of illustrations.

Panelists included Adam Rex, Chris Gall, and David Diaz.
The panelists gathered around a painting David Diaz created on the spot. Adam Rex is on the far right.

Adam Rex is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He also is a University of Arizona alum and according to Wikipedia, a resident of Tucson. He has a long list of books to his name, 51 according to Goodreads. While perusing the shelves at the local library, I stumbled upon his first book.

The True Meaning of Smekday is about a girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci who lives in an urban city similar to New York City. The earth is being invaded by aliens called Boov, who are forcing all residents of the United States to move to Florida and then to Arizona. On her way there, she meets a Boov named J.Lo and discovers that he is quite friendly.

We follow along with Tip and J.Lo and their adventures cross country to find Tip’s mother. Along the way, we find out that J.Lo accidently tipped off another species of aliens, the Gorg, and now they too want to take over Earth. The unlikely pair work to save the world from both the Boov and the Gorg. This book was particularly enjoyable for me to read because it featured our home state of Arizona.

In 2015, The True Meaning of Smekday was adapted into an animated movie, Home. Rihanna provided the voice for Tip and Jim Parsons as “Oh”, the movie version of J.Lo.

If you enjoy quirky, off-the-wall funny books, you will definitely enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday!

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How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

posted in: Indie Publishing, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

J.K. Rowling famously wrote a great deal of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Edinburgh coffee shop: The Elephant House. (Edinburgh is pictured above, fyi.) But you don’t need to be in a coffee shop to write.

You Can Write Anywhere!

We have been writing for a few years now and have found that inspiration can strike anywhere and any time. Here are some of the places we have found the time to write, even if that means just jotting down an idea:

  • Mall Food Court
  • Produce Department of the Grocery Store
  • Panera Café
  • The Car
  • McDonald’s
  • Doctor’s Office Lobby
  • Bruegger’s Bagels
  • The Library
  • Barnes and Noble Café
  • Home (Virtually every room in the house)

It doesn’t matter where you are. It just matters that you are there and you have is some paper (or a napkin) and pen. What’s more, smart phones make it easier than ever to be a writer.

You can record a voice memo. Or dictate a few lines of witty dialogue into your notes app. Mac particularly likes recording/dictating on her phone because she is a bit dyslexic and a bit hyperactive. So… availability of supplies is no longer an issue. What can be an issue is… YOU!

Mind Games

Once you decide that you can write anywhere, then you still have one major excuse: Procrastination. We’ve all been there. A couple years ago, we discovered it’s a common problem and one author has a solution.

In March 2014, we attended a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books called: “Workshop: Finish That Book” featuring Sophie Littlefield and Laura Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald handed out a particularly helpful worksheet set, all about “Passion and Productivity for Writers.” We found the third page most useful (pictured below).

You can get the full PDF of the worksheet set here.

Stop Sabotaging Yourself

We have all said, “It’s too hard,” or “I don’t have time,” or “I’m waiting for inspiration.”

Ms. Fitzgerald offers the deeper meaning of these seemingly harmless statements, and then most importantly, she offers alternative self-talk to help end procrastination for good. We highlighted these and offered a final takeaway, courtesy of Fifth Harmony, “Baby, I’m Worth it!”.

If you don’t take your writing seriously, you cannot expect other people to.

People say this all the time, and there’s a reason: IT’S TRUE! Now start writing anywhere and everywhere with a newfound confidence!

“Seize the day. Carpe diem. Make your lives extraordinary!” -John Keating, Dead Poets Society (RIP Robin Williams).

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The Best Outlander Gift Guide

The Best Outlander Gift Guide

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In March, we had the pleasure of listening to Diana Gabaldon speak at the Tucson Festival of Books. We wrote about our experience in our most popular post to date. Read it here.

During this panel, Ms. Gabaldon talked about how she had been asked to write an episode for the show during Season 1, but had declined. Not so for Season 2. Tomorrow’s episode (Season 2, Episode 11), titled Vengeance is Mine, was written by Diana Gabaldon, herself.

According to her website, Ms. Gabaldon spent a month in Scotland while the episode was filming. A recent LA Times article discusses the experience, as told by stars of the show. This article also includes a fun and insightful 30 minute long video of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe discussing the show and its renewal for seasons 3 and 4. See it here: ‘Outlander’s’ stars thrill to the writer’s presence on set.

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In celebration, we have searched high and low for the best Outlander gifts and now we present them to you!

Order your favorite Outlander gifts and remember to watch this Saturday’s episode written by Ms. Gabaldon.

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Diana Gabaldon and Outlander: Cameos, and Cookbooks, and Claire Bears! Oh My!

Diana Gabaldon and Outlander: Cameos, and Cookbooks, and Claire Bears! Oh My!

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“Diana Gabaldon and Outlander” was the only ticketed panel we attended at this year’s Tucson Festival of Books. By the time the session started, there was not an empty chair in the 300-seat auditorium.

Here is Ms. Gabaldon, along with the moderator for the session, Barbara Peters, a friend of Ms. Gabaldon’s and the owner of The Poisoned Pen, an independent bookstore located in Scottsdale, AZ.

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diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

The Outlander series has been published in 42 countries and in 38 languages. The series has also been adapted into a television show that appears on the Starz Channel.

The show is currently streaming Season 1 right now for FREE!!!

From the time Outlander was published in 1991, Hollywood was very interested in creating an adaptation of the book. Ms. Gabaldon used these criteria to select the person she wanted working on a tv/movie adaptation of Outlander.

  1. Someone who has read the book
  2. Someone who has previously made a movie/tv show
  3. Someone who understands the book

Outlander, Book 1

In the end, Ronald D. Moore, of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek fame, fit the bill. He is the executive producer of the Outlander television series. It took 2 years of negotiation with Sony to make the show a reality.

Mr. Moore had previously signed a three pilot contract with Sony and the first two pilots he had created were not picked up. Outlander was his last shot.

Sony liked the pilot and agreed to produce the show. You can see Ronald in “Set Tour with Diana Gabaldon” below. Mr. Moore also creates a podcast to go along with each episode of Outlander, which can be found here.

diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

In Season 1, Episode 4 of the Outlander TV series, “The Gathering,” Ms. Gabaldon appeared as a guest star. She was originally going to play an extra in a crowd. However, if she did that then she would have to stand in the same spot for three days. Instead, they created a small speaking role for her, Iona MacTavish, that only required one day on set.

You can read more about Ms. Gabaldon’s cameo experience on her blog at My Brief Career As A TV Actor (Part I) and (Part II). Below is a clip of Ms. Gabaldon’s cameo, along with her commentary.


diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

In the above photo, along with the first image on this post, you can see the Claire Wedding Bear, released by Sony and created by the North American Bear Company. You can read more about the Claire Bear at Diana Gabaldon’s website and purchase an autographed bear on the Poisoned Pen’s website.

On June 14, 2016, the Outlander Kitchen will be available. It was written by chef and food writer Theresa Carle-Sanders. Ms. Carle-Sanders was a fan of the Outlander books and created recipes to the food items mentioned in them and posted them to her blog, which led to the cookbook. There is also an Outlander Coloring Book by Diana Gabaldon.

diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

Ms. Gabaldon is currently working on the ninth book of the Outlander series, which does not yet have a title. In the above photo, she is reading the audience an excerpt during the session.

She read the excerpt, “Moonlight and Howling,” which is available, along with other Book Nine excerpts, on Ms. Gabaldon’s webpage under the hashtag: #BookNine.

A few more nuggets from the panel:

  • Ms. Gabaldon wrote an episode for the upcoming season, Season 2, Episode 11.
  • Ms. Gabaldon doesn’t own the merchandise rights to anything related to her show; Sony does.
  • Ms. Gabaldon uses first person accounts as a base for intense content in her books like fight scenes and psychological damage after trauma.
  • Ms. Gabaldon writes 6-7 chunks of the story then moves them around to form the final book. It takes about 18 months to see the shape of the book, and it takes 2-3 years to complete a book.

We had a wonderful time at the panel and really enjoyed listening to Ms. Gabaldon.

By the way, on Thursday, April 7, USA Today will be hosting a live chat with Diana Gabaldon at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT. Read more at USA Today.

Are you a fan of Outlander? Let me know in the comments below!

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Porcupine at the TFOB: Quills, Porcupettes, and Homeward Bound

Porcupine at the TFOB: Quills, Porcupettes, and Homeward Bound

posted in: Entertainment, Nature, Photography, Travel | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The next animal in our Tucson Festival of Books roundup is Rue, a North American Porcupine, and a resident of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Thank you to Robin Kropp, Education Specialist from the Museum, for taking the time to show us Rue!

Rue is around six years old and guess where she was found… Downtown Tucson, on a porch! Being a desert dweller for most of my life, that really surprised me. I never would have guessed porcupines lived in Tucson.

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Yummy yummy snacks!

Rue weighs about 22 pounds. North American Porcupine’s can vary in size and color depending on where they live. You can see a map of the range of the North American Porcupine on National Museum of Natural History’s website.

In the southern United States, like in Tucson, these porcupines are smaller and of lighter color than those that live further north.

north american porcupine, porcupine, tucson festival of books, arizona sonora desert museum

As soon as Rue stepped out of her kennel, I fell in love with her. I felt like the emoji with hearts in her eyes. You know, like this: ?.

Look at Rue’s precious face! Look at it!

Porcupines can live 15-18 years. In the wild, these tree-climbing rodents consume the sweet inner bark of trees, bugs, leaves and flowers. Porcupines can retreat up trees to escape predators or wedge themselves into a hole and use their quills as protection.

north american porcupine, porcupine, tucson festival of books, arizona sonora desert museum
I love corn on the cob! How did you know?

A brief digression, for all you porcupine lovers:

Rue’s quills are hollow and have small barbs on the end, which allow the quills to burrow deep into the predator’s flesh. A porcupine has about 30,000 quills all over her body except her face, belly and paws. They shed their quills like hair and regenerate more.

north american porcupine, porcupine, tucson festival of books, arizona sonora desert museum

Porcupines usually give birth to one porcupette, but occasionally have two porcupettes. That’s really what they’re called!

The young are soft when they are born and then the quills harden a couple days after birth. Porcupines are very solitary animals and not very attentive to their young. These creatures do not have a good sense of sight however they have an excellent sense of smell.

north american porcupine, porcupine, tucson festival of books, arizona sonora desert museum
Carrots are pretty delicious, too!

I read a funny thing on Wikipedia about porcupines, but couldn’t find it’s original source. Usually that means I won’t quote it, but I think this is too funny to pass up.

“The porcupine is the only native North American mammal with antibiotics in its skin. Those antibiotics prevent infection when a porcupine falls out of a tree and is stuck with its own quills upon hitting the ground. Porcupines fall out of trees fairly often because they are highly tempted by the tender buds and twigs at the ends of the branches.”

Isn’t that adorable/cute/sad/adorable? Not sure if it’s true, but definitely adorable

What do you think of the beautiful Rue? Of porcupines in general?

One of my favorite memories of porcupines is from the movie, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Did you ever see that movie?

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Gila Monster at the TFOB: Osteoderms, ER Flashback, and Fat Tails

Gila Monster at the TFOB: Osteoderms, ER Flashback, and Fat Tails

posted in: Entertainment, Nature, Photography, Travel | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The first panel we attended at the 2016 Tucson Festival of Books was presented by the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. We arrived at the tent half an hour before the program was scheduled to begin so we could pick the perfect seats to view the animals. The tent was empty, and we decided the front row was the obvious best choice.

gila monster, arizona sonora desert museum, tucson festival of books

We were not disappointed! The first animal displayed and discussed was a magnificent male Gila Monster, a venomous lizard native to the Sonoran Desert. Thank you to Stephane Poulin, General Curator of the Desert Museum, for the presentation.

Gila Monsters have bony growths, called osteoderms, embedded in their skin that create a bumpy, tough exterior. Their coloring can range from an orange and black to a more pink and black pattern, used as camouflage to blend in with the rocky desert. Each Gila Monster’s pattern is unique, very much like a human fingerprint.

The first time I remember hearing about a Gila Monster was on an episode of ER (specifically Season 6, Episode 16, titled “Under Control” aired March 2000) in which one had latched onto a man’s arm, refusing to let go. Not a great first impression.

It’s worth noting that Gila Monster bites are usually not fatal to humans, according to the San Diego Zoo, and they usually avoid larger animals (including humans).

gila monster, arizona sonora desert museum, tucson festival of books

Gila Monsters are known as nest raiders due to their proclivity for stealing baby rodents and other eggs from nests. These lizards have the ability to store fat in their tails, which allows them to go long periods without eating a meal. Gila Monsters can eat as few as two or three meals a year. They are a fairly slow moving lizard with a top speed of about 1.5 miles per hour.

You can read more about Gila Monsters at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum website. Read my post about Big Horn Sheep at the Desert Museum here.

gila monster, arizona sonora desert museum, tucson festival of books

We visited the Gila Monster again at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum tent on Saturday afternoon. We discovered that Gila Monsters are adorable when they are sleeping, as you can see from the photo above!

While writing this article, I discovered another cool fact: Gila Monster venom can help fight diabetes! It’s not actually the venom, but rather a synthetic form. The drug is called Exenatide, and helps manage type 2 diabetes.

Who said that the first impression is the last impression? Gila Monsters are now in my good books.

What are your impressions of these lovely creatures?

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Tucson Festival of Books 2016: First Look

Tucson Festival of Books 2016: First Look

posted in: Entertainment, Nonfiction, Our Work, Photography | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Last Saturday at this time, I was packing up to take another trip to the University of Arizona. 2016 was my fifth year attending the Tucson Festival of Books.

Check out my posts from TFOB 2015 here and here.

This week, I will be blogging about the panels I attended this year and sharing photographs from the sessions. Today, I am giving you a first look.

Here is Sunny the Saguaro, the Saguaro National Park mascot, giving a high-five outside the National Parks Tent.

tucson festival of books, arizona, national parks

We spotted local meterologist, Erin Christiansen, at the KGUN 9 tent.

tucson festival of books, weather, kgun, erin christiansen

The next few images are from the Science Stage. Here is the Speckled Rattlesnake from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

tucson festival of books, speckled rattlesnake, snake, arizona sonora desert museum

View my previous Desert Museum post about Big Horn Sheep here.

A Great Horned Owl named Lute from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

tucson festival of books, Great Horned Owl, arizona sonora desert museum

A North American Porcupine named Rue from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

tucson festival of books, porcupine, arizona sonora desert museum, north american porcupine

A Mexican Military Macaw from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

tucson festival of books, parrot, mexican military macaw, arizona sonora desert museum

Panelists from “Understanding our Nearest Neighbors in the Solar System” at the Science Stage.

tucson festival of books, arizona,  space, lunar and planetary lab, kuiper belt

A rock sample of Azurite and Malachite at the University of Arizona Mineral Museum located on the lower level of the Flandrau Science Center.

tucson festival of books, flandrau, geology, rocks, azurite, malachite, bisbee, arizona

Diana Gabaldon at the panel: “Diana Gabaldon and Outlander.”

tucson festival of books, outlander, diana gabaldon, starz

I hope these photos of TFOB 2016 whetted your appetite for more posts! I’ll be back soon.

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Tucson Festival of Books: Longmire

Tucson Festival of Books: Longmire

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Our Work, Television | 7 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

In my earlier post about the Tucson Festival of Books, I promised to tell you about the ticket process at the Festival and my time at the panel, “Longmire and Me.” Here is the low down:

Presenting…Ticket Time!

During previous years (when there were no tickets), we had observed the long lines of people waiting to see famous authors speaking in the largest venue at the Festival, the Student Union Ballroom. We just shook our heads and said,

“That will never be us. No one could be worth waiting to see in that long line.”

But when we heard there would be tickets available for the largest venues this year, our interest was piqued. Maybe, just maybe, we could see a famous author or two.

When we heard that Craig Johnson would be there with Walt (Robert Taylor) and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), we were ready to log onto the Festival website and reserve the tickets as soon as they were available. While we were at it, we also reserved tickets to see a panel featuring Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan.

Ticket Reality…

So Saturday arrived and we were excited to try out the new powerful tickets. These magical tickets surely meant that we could bypass the never-ending line of misery…

We arrived to the Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan panel twenty minutes before the start, just like the tickets had prescribed. We saw the line stretched down the hallway and sighed. Then we started to follow it.

It just kept going and going and going and going.

The line snaked in and out of rooms and down hallways. By the time we reached the end, they had already merged the ticket line with the non-ticket line (25% of the seats were reserved for walk-ins) and we just gave up. Instead, we decided to attend a different panel of two animators turned illustrators, Molly Idle and John Rocco. It was excellent and no tickets were required.

Newbies No More!

With this experience in mind, we decided more drastic measures were required for Sunday’s Longmire session.

We arrived at 10:15 (even though the panel was not set to begin until 11:30). There were already about fifty people in line! We were surprised, but pleased that we were at least assured a good seat. We had brought sandwiches with us and chowed down on a nice brunch while waiting.

(Side note: The lines for food at the vendors for lunch are SO long during the peak lunch hours (11-1). It takes at least an hour out of your day if you buy your lunch. The breaks between panels are only half an hour. We bought our lunches our first year attending the festival, and have brought our lunches every year since.)

The time went by pretty quickly because we had our phones. Whenever you have your phone, you will never be bored. The Internet was practically invented to cure boredom. I spent most of my time on StumbleUpon. My favorite stumble was a post: “15 Before-And-After Photos Of Cats Growing Up.” Click it! You know you need some more cute cats in your life right now!

At about 11:15, they opened the doors and we began to file into the ballroom. The first three rows in the middle section were reserved, but we snagged seats in the sixth row, which were not too shabby (especially since the tickets were FREE!) On the whole, the ticketing system was a brilliant idea by the organizers of the Festival. The process was extremely smooth and all the volunteers were kind and informative.

Walt, Henry, and The Creator

We settled into our seats and waited for the hundreds of others behind us in line to do the same. There was a gentle buzz of excited conversation filling the ballroom. (We are here to see a famous writer AND actors! How lucky are we?) A couple people proudly sported “The Red Pony Bar & Grill” shirts, which we admired with envy. We found them later as being available for purchase on Craig Johnson’s website.

Here is a picture of their empty seats.

Empty Seats

Finally, they arrived and the crowd erupted.

Please Be Seated

Confession Time

We have not read a single Longmire book. Pretty terrible, right? We have however, seen every single episode of the Longmire television show. We own the first book by Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery, but just have not found the time to read it yet… but hopefully that will change soon.

The show is absolutely fantastic! We happened onto it during the second season on A&E. They were playing a marathon before the new episode that evening.

The first scene we saw was of a black horse running free, mane ripping through the wind, nostrils flared as the beautiful creature drew in each ragged breath. The sky was so pure blue, like lapis lazuli, and the ground was golden brown, dust flying in a haze behind the horse. Then this rugged cowboy appeared on screen, raising a lasso above his head. It was like a painting!

I mean, COME ON!

How could you not be hooked? This show captures the very essence of the romance of the West. I could next go on a rant about how ridiculous it was of A&E to cancel Longmire, but no matter. We will definitely be watching season 4 on Netflix. And you should too! It is an AMAZING show.

Highlights of the Panel

Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry Standing Bear) is a very engaging and funny man! He was excited to be back in Tucson because the last time he had visited was for filming Young Guns II, released in 1990.

  •      Prior to auditioning, Mr. Phillips read all the Longmire books to get a sense of his character. He knows Henry so well that he has pointed out to the writers that Henry Standing Bear doesn’t (does not) use contractions.
  •      When Mr. Phillips joined Longmire’s cast, he visited with Cheyenne elders in Montana. He had played Native Americans before, but never a Cheyenne. He wanted to go the extra step to really make sure he was faithfully representing the Cheyenne Nation.

Robert Taylor (who plays Walt Longmire) is a man of few words. He didn’t have much of an Australian accent that day, but he did give a little sample for the audience.

  •      He admitted he was a bit nervous as he looked out across the hoard of fans. (We must confess that this surprised us. He seems so calm and collected, on TV and in person.)
  •      He told us a bit about how he got into acting in Australia: He saw an ad for an acting school in the newspaper. When asked how his character, Walt, has developed over the seasons, he remarked in an understated way, “Not much.” He really is just like Walt!
  •      On a separate note, we recently saw Mr. Taylor on PBS on an Australian show, Mr. and Mrs. Murder (specific episode: “A Flare for Murder”). It was great to hear his Australian accent in all its glory. Also, did you know he was in The Matrix?

Craig Johnson is a well-spoken and down-to-earth guy. He talked about how he used to be precious about his writing time. He had to be at his desk, sitting in his chair, drinking from his coffee cup. But in the past year, he spent more than two hundred days on the road on a global book tour. Now he writes wherever he is, be that in his hotel or waiting at a train station. He commented that no matter where he writes, whenever he writes Longmire, he feels like he is home.

We shall close with an excellent story about Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Recently, Mr. Johnson was invited to give a graduation speech for a high school on a local Native American reservation in Wyoming. However, he found out he was scheduled for a book tour stop elsewhere on that day. He was really bummed that he couldn’t give the speech. Then he mentioned it in passing to Lou Diamond Phillips, who promptly offered to give the speech for him. Craig Johnson accepted, Lou Diamond Phillips did as promised, and the high school had the biggest turnout ever for a graduation ceremony. What a heart-warming story!

If that doesn’t make you want to support the Longmire franchise, what will? Plus, there is a wonderful community of Longmire fans on Twitter, lead by the supreme Longmire Posse. You should follow them! While you’re at it, follow Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips!

Happy Saturday everyone!

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Tucson Festival of Books: Weirdness, Memoir and YODA!

Tucson Festival of Books: Weirdness, Memoir and YODA!

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The Year of the Bobcat. That’s what 2015 was at the Tucson Festival of Books. Our fourth year attending the festival was our best yet!

This year was also the first year the festival has offered tickets for the most popular panels. We attended one (Longmire and Me) and it was a very smooth process. However, we will be writing more about that in a later post.

The rest of this post is full of highlights and nuggets from MG and YA authors who generously shared their time and expertise with festival attendees.


“Story Interrupted: Moving In and Out of Time and Space in YA”

E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Andrew Smith



1. Jo Knowles emphasized the importance of writing from the heart and writing what speaks to you. (So true!!!) She also discussed how she frequently writes (much to her chagrin) a “discovery draft” in which she writes the story in a different tense and point of view from what the story eventually ends up being.


2. Andrew Smith usually wakes at three in the morning to write. He can do this because he does not watch television. (How is this possible?) He writes from beginning to end and then presses send (All in one draft! Wow!).


3. E. Lockhart often writes fifteen to twenty full drafts with “global changes” (big plot or character additions or deletions) before she gets to the story she wants to tell. She also said my favorite quote of the panel, “I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” (That’s true for everyone!)



“I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” -E. Lockhart



“Memoirs Matter: Our Lives as Story”

Jacqueline Woodson, Marilyn Nelson, Katherine Paterson



1. All three panelists stressed that when writing a memoir, there are many ways to tell the story of your life.

2. You have the power to leave things out. It is your truth to tell.

3. Also remember to “talk to the old folks,” because they won’t be around forever.


On Jacqueline Woodson:

The main reason we attended this panel was to see Ms. Jacqueline Woodson. We first discovered Ms. Woodson’s work while perusing audiobooks at the local library.  Miracle’s Boys looked interesting and was read by Dulé Hill. That book made me cry several times! Highly recommend it. I am currently reading After Tupac and D Foster and find it just as captivating and insightful. Ms. Woodson has a gift!

Here are two points Ms. Woodson made during the panel that we found particularly insightful.

1. In fiction, you write characters from the outside-in. As you write, you get to know them better. In memoir, you already know the characters, so you need to write them inside-out. (Brilliant way of describing it!)

2. Ms. Woodson also said in her writing, she always tries to provide the reader mirrors to see themselves, as well as windows to see others. (That is so spot on! Even though I am a twenty something woman, I felt all of Lafayette’s pain and confusion in Miracle’s Boys. Laf, Ty’ree and Charlie were all mirrors and windows for me as a reader.)


The "Where's Waldo" Scavenger Hunt was a fun attraction at the festival.
The “Where’s Waldo” Scavenger Hunt was a fun attraction at the festival.


“Girl Power: Stand Up! Take Charge!”

Ally Carter, Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski



1. Ally Carter: Always ask yourself “How can things go wrong?” and “What’s the worst that can happen?”


2. Jenny Han: Be honest and truthful to the characters and the story. Always ask yourself what feels realistic to the character? Won’t work if it sounds contrived


3. Sarah Mlynowski: It’s ok to mess up. It may even end up being a better situation. (This applies in Whatever After series and in real life). Also, she said that she writes a full outline of the book. Whenever she gets stuck, she moves to a different part of the outline.


“Art2-D2: An Origami Yoda Folding Workshop”

Tom Angleberger



We are huge Origami Yoda fans. We first saw Mr. Angleberger at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in 2013.  It was a pleasure to see him again this past weekend.

I have no idea how many times we walked straight past his books at Costco and Barnes and Noble, but I now regret that lost time- especially since the series has ended with Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. The books capture the exact essence of my middle school experience. Just amazing!

Here are some pictures from the session:

An Ewok named Larry
My very own Origami Yoda!!!
Origami Star Wars Galaxy and Tom Angleberger



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