October 26, 2014

Texas Love with Charity Kountz

In order to understand my love for Texas, you’d first have to understand how I came to this amazing state. In 2005 I moved from my home state of Florida after more than 20 years. I grew up in Florida and am a huge fan of this wild and untamable state surrounded on three sides by water. But my time there was unfortunately done and I was headed for a new destination: Indiana. I would quickly learn, snow and ice aren’t for me and after five freezing winters and a miserable economy, I began to hunt for the state that had the biggest combination of good weather, a solid economy with plenty of opportunities, and a thriving culture. It didn’t take long for Texas to be at the top of the list. So, in late January 2010, I hopped on a plane for my first visit to Texas. 

I arrived in Dallas-Fort Worth airport and was stunned by its size. And the warmth. Oh, the wonderful warmth, in January compared to where I had come from was a blessing. There was no snow, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful 46 degrees. So much better than the negative temperature I’d come from. But most of all, no snow! I never knew how sick I would become of seeing snow after living most of my life in Florida. And within a week, I’d rented an apartment, ordered furniture, returned to Indiana to pack my things and my daughter and we made the 18 hour drive south – at the tail end of a blizzard which caused icy conditions throughout the northeast no less! While the beginning of our time in Texas was rough – I was constantly getting lost on the myriad of highways in Dallas even with GPS – within a few months it began to feel like we belonged here.

Everything is Bigger
It’s no joke when people say, “Texas does it bigger”. We honestly do! Our state icons are bigger, our demolitions are bigger, our buildings are huge, and the highways are vast (and can be very confusing).
There’s so much to do and see, it’s overwhelming if you’re not a native. Here are some of my favorite moments and places since I’ve relocated here.

April 2010: Cowboy Stadium Demolition A beloved icon for the area, some people wept as the stadium imploded and the demolition, both before and after, was talked about for weeks. It’s quite an impressive video and a number of camera crews caught the action live.

Dallas, TX: Driving into Dallas, TX you can’t help but notice the traffic increase. Millions converge in and out of Dallas every day and while the traffic shows it, the next thing you’ll notice is the immense skyscrapers throughout the area. The only other area in Texas with skyscrapers this tall is Houston. The tallest building is JP Morgan Chase tower at an impressive 1,002 feet, built in 1982. It’s the 3rd most populated city in Texas. Since the 1900’s Texas has been known for building enormous buildings and that’s a tradition that will never change. DFW Airport is a major hub and allows you to reach almost any major city within 4 hours or less.
In addition to big buildings, there’s a thriving downtown area, including the Dallas Farmers Market, the Dallas Heritage Village and the JFK Memorial Plaza. The farmer’s market is the largest of its kind in the state, with farmers from as much as 150 miles away coming to sell or buy fresh produce. The Dallas Heritage Village is a collection of 19th century Victorian homes and frequently features special events to commemorate the time period. And of course, the JFK Memorial Plaza and Dealey Plaza are dedicated to JFK’s assassination. All are important areas not to miss. And you can’t forget the Texas State Fair every September, which features a 55-foot-tall icon that greets visitors, Big Tex (he waves, he talks, he even turns his head!).
But there’s more to Texas than Dallas.

San Antonio:  Another key area to visit is San Antonio. Renowned for its famous River walk, San Antonio also houses on of the most beautiful botanical gardens I’ve ever seen, the Japanese Tea Gardens

Fort Worth, TX
Home to beautiful botanical gardens on over 100 acres, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden should be first on your visit list. Next, is the top-rated Fort Worth Zoo, which in 2014 saw the births of two Asian elephants, Belle and Bowie, which made major headlines. Fort Worth is fifth most populous in the state of Texas. It’s also a major corporate hub for companies like Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin.

Houston, TX
NASA’s Johnson Space Center is a part of the thriving city and is the lead center for the International Space Station, which involves 16 nations collaborating together. 

Irving, TX
Many corporations look to Irving for their headquarters thanks to Irving’s financial initiatives, transportation options and lack of a state income tax. Irving is home to more than a dozen major Fortune 500 corporation headquarters, and these businesses employ over 22,000 residents from throughout the area. Irving is also well known for the majestic Mustangs of Las Colinas, a beautiful, full size sculpture of nine mustangs racing across a stream. A beautiful exhibit no matter what time of year, it was created in 1981 and is free to the public.

Arlington, TX
Home to a sprawling Six Flags theme park as well as the new AT & T Stadium (home of the Cowboys) and Rangers baseball stadium, this is a thriving sports-loving city. Not to be missed is the annual Christmas program held at Six Flags every year. This five week long celebration features local school children performing, dancing reindeer, and so much more. It’s an annual tradition not to miss if you’re in the area and sure to bring plenty of Christmas cheer.
So, I guess you could say, my love for Texas is, well, huge. Texas-sized even! Because in this state, there is something for everyone whether you enjoy the beautiful outdoors, sports, art, history, or are just looking to be in the thick of everything. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never run out of new adventures and experiences to explore in Texas!

About Charity Kountz
A Texas transplant, she is an award-winning children’s book author who freelances on the side for Coldwell Banker, Strategy Magazine, Moxie Lady, WOW Magazine, and more. She also owns a marketing firm, and has three children. Connect with her on her website, CharityKountz.com or via LinkedIn and Twitter.

October 19, 2014

Revisit Harris Channing of Tennessee

Let's face the sad truth, "Hee Haw" did more damage to Tennessee than any other show in television history. (And allow me to dispel this awful rumor--the truth is, most all of us do indeed wear shoes!) With that said, from a strictly personal POV I remember when learning we were moving to Tennessee my heart sank and I asked, "Really? There are so many hicks there." 
I quickly learned not to believe everything you see on T.V.
Tennessee is a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family and learn. The people are some of the warmest people you'll ever happen upon. I believe the phrase, "I'll give you the shirt off my back," is proved out daily in these parts. 
Growing up a military brat made me an orphan when it came to having a home state. My family tree has roots all over the country. While I was born in North Carolina, when someone asks me where I'm from I tell them, "the great state of Tennessee." 
What's so great about it you ask? 
Well, let's start of with the obvious--music. Nashville is known as "Music City" and for good reason. Many artists flock to downtown Nashville to pick and sing their way to stardom…and for some it works and for others it doesn't. But there are always new people to hear and enjoy and new songs to touch your heart or make you laugh. 
But let's don't forget Memphis. The Blues love Memphis. If you don't believe me head to Beale Street. And you can't forget one of, if not the best singer to ever grace the air waves--Elvis Presley. Big E first swiveled his hips at Sun Records in Memphis. 
And as much as I love music, it's not the only thing that makes Tennessee a wonderful place to visit or settle. The land itself offers loads of diversity. Bordered by the Great Smokey Mountains on the east and the Mighty Mississippi on the west, the land in between offers much to see and do. Hiking to waterskiing, you won't be bored. And remember the old song about Davy Crockett? Well, it really is "the greenest state in the land of the free".
Music and nature's beauty not your thing? We've got sports--Tennessee Titans, Nashville Sounds, Memphis Grizzlies and the Nashville Predators. Not to mention some of the best college teams out there. 
Colleges and Universities? Well, Vanderbilt, UT, MTSU, Austin Peay…and those are just off the top of my head. Education may not have always been a major focus here in Tennessee, but with two kids in the public school system, I do see that times are changing. Some of the things my girls bring home have me heading to Google for answers! 
As you can see, I'm pretty smitten with my state. In fact, I've incorporated Tennessee in four of my books and short stories--Speed Trap, The Groupie and The Body Double all take place in the fictional town of White Springs, Tennessee and Yesterday's Indiscretion takes place in Hamilton City, Tennessee. In my current work in progress my hero is from Tennessee and I like to think that he would get on just fine with some of the great historical figures that come from here---wonder how he'd like Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Davy Crockett, Alvin York or Andrew Johnson?
And in honor of Halloween, I will tell you…there are no shortage of haunted antebellum homes to visit--Rippavilla Plantation, Elm Springs Plantation, Carnton Plantation and Lotz House just to name a few…
Visit Harris Channing's website for info on all work available http://www.harrischanning.com  
or check out the informative blog http://harrischanningauthor.blogspot.com

October 12, 2014

Flashback to 2012 with Sui Lynn

Sui Lynn from the great state of South Dakota writes:  Where we don't carve statues from mountain rocks but we carve mountains into monuments. I live in Rapid City, about 30 miles north of Mount Rushmore, on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest. Most of the year, I love it here, but the weather can be a bit unpredictable at times.
For the most part, South Dakota is a rural state, our main industries are farming and ranching. We also get a portion of our revenue from tourism of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and much more. If you want to see what we have to offer, I'd recommend visiting the South Dakota Tourism website. On a personal note, I'd recommend coming in the fall of the year, after Labor Day. The weather is more stable, most of the tourists have gone home and the Black Hills National Forest becomes a kaleidoscope of fall colors as the trees begin to change.
Being a South Dakota Native, many of my books are centered around the area or places I've visited, not because I write what I know, but because I truly love it here and believe that feeling comes through in my work. Wrapped in one state are pine forests, grasslands, canyons and open skies. What more beautiful backdrops could I chose to write. 
I write M/M Romance. Something about two strong men growing emotionally and overcoming obstacles calls to me as a writer. I can't get enough of it, both in my reading choices and my writing. I don't set ever story in South Dakota, but most of my work either has the characters based here or starting out from here and branching out. Kind of like I did in my own life, only to return to the place I call home.
The Changing Moon series, The Pauper Prince and A Royal Bind, both take place in the Black Hills. This series is a gay paranormal romance between two shapeshifters, add in some born vampires, some drone vampires, a police chase, a few misunderstandings, attempted murder and you've got a couple of busy stories. If you are interested in more, check out my blog, 2 Cents, for the blurbs and excerpts from the stories, or go to Silver Publishing for purchase.
My other works span the mix from M/M Contemporary romance, Dark Chocolate and Raspberries, to M/M Yaoi Romance, Blue Rose with Dreamspinner Press. These two stories were the first and gave me the courage to expand into my true writing love, paranormal and Fantasy.
My M/M Fantasy Romance, the Elements of Love series comprised of Adel's Purr and Nico's Fire was soon to follow and I couldn't be more proud of my work.
Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think. I love hearing from the people who read my work.
Wishing you Love and Butterflies,
Sui Lynn~~
(Pictures provided by author)