March 22, 2015

Idaho: A Hidden Gem with Beth Hanggeli



Idaho. Yes, the Potato State. It’s even on our license plates: Famous Potatoes. Although truth be told, the famous ones are grown nine hours south of where I live in the northern panhandle. In fact, we don’t see Idaho potatoes in our stores; they’re exported so you can enjoy them!

Up here, we relate more to our nickname, the Gem State, because Idaho truly is the jewel of the Northwest. Emerald green mountains, crystal blue lakes, shimmering white snow and black lava combine to form a kaleidoscope of color that fills your senses.

We’re located in the northwest corner of the country, sandwiched between Montana and Washington. (You’d be surprised how many people think we’re in the Midwest: “Aren’t you one of those ‘I’ states?”) We’re the 14th largest state, yet the 7th least densely populated, with 19.2 people per square mile. Most of those folks live in the southern part of the state, though; less than 10% of the population calls my county home. So we have plenty of room to stretch out.

You’ve probably never met anyone from Idaho; we don’t travel very far. There’s too much to do here! Winters are spent snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and cuddling by the fire. Spring and fall, it’s hiking, whitewater rafting, bike riding, or hunting. But summer...ah, summer. With 16 hours of daylight on the longest day, there’s plenty of time to swim, sail, kayak, sunbathe, and camp. The days are warm, the nights cool, there’s no humidity, and very few bugs!

 

My little town, Coeur d’Alene, is nestled on Lake Coeur d’Alene, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Whether it’s sipping a latte at a sidewalk cafe, schussing down a run at one of five nearby ski areas, riding your bike on a rails-to-trails bike path, or playing golf at the Coeur d’Alene Resort (home of the world-famous floating green), you’ll find something to love here. In the summer, baskets filled with fragrant petunias grace the downtown light posts; in the winter, fireworks light up the night as Santa parades through town the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, our holiday light display was voted #4 in the country by USA Today!

If you do find yourself in our neck of the woods, be sure to stop at Michael D’s for breakfast. Thirsty? Slate Creek Brewery offers locally made microbrews and free peanuts (just toss the shells on the floor). Don’t miss the huckleberry ice cream at Roger’s, handmade gourmet pizza at Capone’s, or the Bowl of Soul (a Mexican mocha, complete with hand-whipped cream) at Java on Sherman.

As a writer living in Idaho, I’m in grand company: think Papa Hemingway. My first book, Soul Searching, the story of a house that teaches a woman the truth about her past, can be found at Amazon.com and in most eReader formats. My second, Forget Me Not, will be available as soon as I find time to finish editing it.

Stunning natural beauty, gourmet dining, art galleries, shopping, recreational activities, and a host of other amenities make Coeur d’Alene — and North Idaho — the perfect vacation spot. Come visit us!

If you’ll leave a comment, I’ll give away an autographed copy of Soul Searching to one lucky winner (or an e-version, if you prefer, although obviously I can’t autograph it).  Easy contact information please, so I can find you to award your prize!

Beth Hanggeli is a writer and a lyricist. She loves the beach and the mountains, friends and family, tequila and chocolate, although not necessarily in that order. While she has spent most of her life traveling the world, these days she calls North Idaho home. When she’s not working on her next novel, she dreams about sipping a cold drink at a tiki bar and listening to a Trop Rock band. Visit www.bethhanggeli.com or follow her on Facebook to learn more about Beth and her work. Her lyrics can be heard on Radio Margaritaville and on your local CD player. http://www.bethhanggeli.com/
To my book on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/mwcru29 (both paperback and Kindle)
(information provided by author)

March 15, 2015

Aloha! Hawaiian Resident Amy Reade Shares the Heart of Her Island



Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “If you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, you’re lucky enough.” Since I live a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, I hear it all the time. I’m sure there are variations of the phrase depending on where you live; e.g., if you live in the mountains, if you live in a cabin, if you live on a lake, etc. The list is endless.



Here’s my favorite variation: If you’re lucky enough to have visited Hawaii, you’re lucky enough.  
The State of Hawaii is made up of eight major islands and countless smaller islands and atolls. The island with which I’m most familiar is the island of Hawaii, often called the Big Island to avoid confusion with the state’s name. I’ve been lucky enough to spend lots of time there. The Big Island, as its name suggests, is the largest of the Hawaiian islands. 

I’m going to take you on a quick counter-clockwise trip around the island, starting in Kona. 

Kona is on the sunny and dry west side of the island. We’ll take the Queen Kaahumanu Highway (the Queen K) north out of Kona and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the bright blue Pacific Ocean to your left.


If you’re there in the winter months into spring, keep a sharp lookout for humpback whales, as you’re likely to see them playing and performing their courtship and mating rituals, including tail slapping, fin slapping, and even breaching. If you see their telltale water spouts, pull over and keep watching! These huge migratory mammals might just put on an incredible show for you.

You’ll pass some beautiful resorts as you travel north, as well as some incredible beaches. One of the most popular is Hapuna Beach, but if I were you I’d stop instead at Kauna’oa Beach. Get there early in the
morning, because there are very limited parking spots and once those are gone, you’re out of luck. The sand is beautiful, warm and white, and the water is crystal-clear and blue. Watch for sea turtles (called “honu”), but don’t get near them. They’re endangered and you can get a huge fine for bothering them.

After you’ve spent some time at the beach, continue driving north until you come to a fork in the road. You can either turn right and head up the mountain to the town of Waimea or you can go left and head to North Kohala and all the breathtaking beauty (not to mention the Hamakua Nut Factory) it has to offer. Let’s go to Waimea this time and head around to the east side of the island.

Waimea is a paniolo (cowboy) town nestled between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea. It’s home to the famous Parker Ranch, and boasts an abundance of great restaurants and shops to fit any taste and any budget. 

Leaving Waimea, drive east along Highway 19 toward Hilo. This is where you’ll start noticing the weather change and the rainforest begin. It may very well be raining as you get closer to Hilo, and it’s green and lush and gorgeous. Stop for a snack at Tex’s (you can’t miss it) for one of their malasadas (my favorite is the mango-filled), then get back on the road. 

And don’t miss a chance to stop at Akaka Falls, a waterfall of over four thousand feet and an incredible experience of sight and sound.

When you get to Hilo, stop for lunch at Royal Siam, my favorite Thai restaurant. It’s on Mamo Street, right off Kamehameha Avenue. Take a little while to walk around Hilo. It’s an old city with lots of Hawaiian history. If you’re there around Easter, try to score some tickets to the Merrie Monarch festival, an annual celebration of hula that is one of the most popular events of the entire year on the island.

After Hilo, you’ll make a right onto Highway 11 for the trip around the southern part of the island. Do not miss Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you may get to see part of the current eruption of Kilauea. You can explore various parts of the park that aren’t closed due to eruptions and hike through a lava tube (pretty cool, huh?). 

Next, you’ll pass near South Point, which is the southernmost point in the U.S. If you want to actually see South Point, you’ll have to get out of your car and hike. Make a quick stop at Punalu’u Black Sand beach, where you’re likely to see lots of honu resting on the sand.
 
If you’re hungry for dinner as you drive back into Kona, consider some delicious poke at Da Poke Shack. Or head over to the Kona Brewing Company for the Naalehu Nachos with kalua pork and a pizza (it doesn’t matter which one—they’re all delicious).

On your next visit, start in Kona and go clockwise. That way you can stop at the coffee farms just south of town in the early morning and sample their rich offerings!  

Amy M. Reade is an author of romantic suspense. Her books include Secrets of Hallstead House, set in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York, and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, set on an antebellum plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina. You can find her online at http://www.amymreade.com (website), http://amreade.wordpress.com (blog), http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor, and on Twitter @readeandwrite. 


Amy Reade offers an ebook giveaway! Up for grabs is one copy of Secrets of Hallstead House and one copy of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. There's a delay in delivering The Ghosts of Peppernell until April 28th as it won't be released until then -so if you win, you’d be one of the first to get your hands on it. Leave your links so we can contact you. 
(all pictures provided by author)

March 8, 2015

Georgia Always On My Mind By New York Times Bestseller Dianna Love


I had mixed feelings when I arrived in Atlanta at the beginning of 1975, because Georgia was so different from where I grew up in Tampa, Florida.  I started life in a place where we wore sandals during the winter, which we considered cold if the temps dropped into the low fifties.  I drove to Atlanta in a faded green Mercury Capri with 110,000+ miles and no working heater--which hadn’t been a problem in the Sunshine State.  I’d left the laid back world of beach life for a business opportunity in Georgia, but I began to question that decision after waking up to heavy traffic in a sprawling city with thick humidity in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. 

At the end of the first year, I had serious doubts about staying.  

Then something happened to change all that.   I paused one weekend from working around the clock and took notice of what was going on around me.   The short story is that a ginormous corporation had bought property in the heart of downtown Atlanta, and there was an old, closed-down theater on it. The company intended to tear it down and build a beautiful new skyscraper.  
End of story, right? 

It might have been, if the theater were anywhere else. But not in Atlanta.  Residents came together to start a movement that became the legendary Save The Fox campaign.
And save it they did. 

I watched in shock as the city took on the monumental task of saving The Fox Theater, a historical treasure that remains today. I donated, as much out of curiosity to see how it would end as anything else.  Saving that theater took on a life of its own and I still get chills remembering that time.  Oh, and the skyscraper got built … a block away. 

The Fox Theater’s outstanding acoustics have made it a premier location for concerts and plays. In 1978, the Rolling Stones refused to perform anywhere but the Fox, and we worried that it would pandemonium since that band could pack the much-larger stadium twice over.  Not a bad statement for a theater slated to be demolished at one time. 

That was the moment I fell in love with Atlanta, and here’s why you would love Georgia.
Since we’re in Atlanta already, let’s start there. It’s a city steeped in history, from national parks where Civil War battles were fought, to the home of Martin Luther King, Jr., to parks and stadiums built for hosting the Olympics®.  The first home my husband and I built was on a piece of property that had once been part of a battlefield. We ended up with a benign ghost who I’ve always felt was a former soldier.  Not what I expected after building a brand new structure. 

Just a little way northeast of the city, even more history is carved into a massive granite rock belched out of the ground in Stone Mountain.  Geologists know how the magma formed 350 million years ago, but not how it became exposed.  It’s the largest known granite formation. You have to visit Stone Mountain Park during the springtime when the Dogwood trees are blooming.  After enjoying a day full of all the park’s activities, bring your blanket, wine and cheese, to sit on the lawn where you can listen to a free concert with the famous Civil War carving as the backdrop.  


If you enjoy the outdoors, Georgia is a state you’ll want to visit for what seems like endless miles of bike paths as part of the Rails-to-Trails program, to incredible golf courses, including the legendary Augusta National, or you can drive north of Atlanta until you reach the town of Blue Ridge, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 
  I want to spend a week just trying out all of the wonderful restaurants there. You should definitely treat yourself to the Harvest On Main for artistic seasonal choices. 


If being up in the mountains is not for you, head southeast to over four hundred thousand acres filled with wildlife in the Okefenokee Swamp. Seeing the mountains, the swamp and the eastern coast will give you an appreciation for just how different the parts of Georgia can be—all in one state.  Before you leave the Okefenokee area, take a trip straight east to the little coastal town of St. Marys, the location of a scene in one of my Belador urban fantasy stories.
  
While in St. Marys, take the ferry ride to Cumberland Island, which is full of history about the philanthropic Carnegies, who built four massive mansions on the island, and a famous secret Kennedy wedding in a tiny church.  Take the time to walk on a sugar-white beach that is often empty except for wild horses that come out to face the soft ocean breeze.


I’ve visited all these places and many more in Georgia, traveling sometimes by motorcycle to find new settings to include in future books.  But no matter where I am, I’m all about good food.  I have so many favorites just in Georgia, that I could fill up a book. Here are a few foodie tips.  Try The Flying Biscuit for breakfast, but visit the original one in Midtown Atlanta and ask for Paula. Or enjoy Italian cuisine at Pasta Da Pulcinella, another charming Atlanta restaurant, and one you’d have to know about since it’s not in the main traffic areas.

 If you’re over in Marietta, visit Thaicoon and Sushi bar,  When I’m up for seafood and want to wear my jeans, I head to Six Feet Under, the iconic restaurant across the street from the historic Oakland Cemetery  and one of Evalle Kincaid’s favorite places in the Belador series.


I’ve traveled back and forth across this great country, setting stories in different locations, but the Slye Temp romantic thrillers and the Belador urban fantasy are both set in Atlanta, because there’s a saying in writing to “write what you know.” I think we always know home the best.  



Dianna is giving away her e-book box set of the first three Slye Temp Romantic Suspense novels (winner must have an Amazon or Barnes & Noble account) plus a set of signed Keeper Kase® cards, to one person who comments here.  Please leave your contact information so she can reach you.

For all information on Author Dianna Love, visit here:

(all info provided by author)