Dense – Weekly Photo Challenge


We recently enjoyed a weekend in Asheville, NC with our daughter and her best friend/roommate where I took in a model train show on Saturday, we enjoyed the Biltmore Estate on Sunday and then planned to do some hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway on Monday. When we started out that morning it had been raining during the night, and was still raining, so we weren’t sure if we would get to hike at all. Riding on the BRP northward we encountered ever worsening conditions, to the point that they closed the parkway at one point causing us to turn around and drive south of Asheville. As we descended in elevation things finally cleared up to allow our hike.


All photos are made with a DROID MAXX.

Posted in Blue ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, Fitness, Photo Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday – Order to Kill by Kyle Mills


On Tuesdays Bibliophile By the Sea hosts a weekly opportunity for anyone to share info about the book they are currently reading. In essence you provide the first chapter or two of the current book occupying your time or one you plan to read soon.

Order2Kill The book I plan to open next is the fifteenth book in the Mitch Rapp series by now deceased author Vince Flynn. MR. Flynn succumbed to cancer in 2013. Kyle Mills, another best-selling author has been tasked with the enviable job of continuing Mr. Flynn’s work, documenting the thrilling adventures of C.I.A. super-spy Mitch Rapp.

In The Last Man one of Rapp’s contemporaries, a man with vast knowledge of America’s covert secrets faked his abduction by terrorists and remains at large. While looking for his old friend Rapp must try to avert a crisis involving Pakistani nuclear missiles.

The first chapters:

order To Kill

I am anxious to find out if Mr. Mills can capture the magic Mr. Flynn conjured while creating 14 international best-selling novels. I invite you to come back for more First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday posts.

Posted in Novel, Suspense Novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

My List of Regular Blog Challenges – March 2017

A couple of years ago I put together a post about the regular blog challenges I enjoyed participating in with several friends I have made on WordPress. But at that time I only had the Mother Blog, Joe’s Musings. Since that time I have added a flower/nature blog, Chasing the Blooms, a fiction oriented one, the Fiction Playground, a faith-based one Living the J.O.Y. Principle and the newest relating to my model railroad hobby Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

Also I have found some new challenges while some mentioned in the previous post have fallen by the way side. The first challenges I will tell you about are the fiction ones. All of these post new challenges on the same day each week.

Friday Fictioneers is the one I have been with the longest. It is hosted by Rochelle-Wisoff Fields and although the name says Friday Fictioneers it actually begins early on Wednesday morning. Rochelle posts a photo and instructions to limit your work to 100 words or less. This is a very supportive community. On my latest post I have received 76 views and 53 comments.

Sunday Photo Fiction is hosted by a friend of mine who is international, at least to me. Allistair Forbes is in Great Britain and posts his photo prompt on Sunday morning. This group shares some of the same regulars as Friday Fictioneers, but all of us have a little bit easier time with the 200 word guideline.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction is hosted by Charli Mills and posts on Thursday. The limit here is the tightest at 99 words. Charli has a group of writers known as the Congress of Rough Writers that usually contribute to her post each week.

Two of the newest I frequent are the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers and Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. FFfAW is hosted by Priceless Joy and posts on Tuesday. You get between 75-175 words. I am ALWAYS on the upper end of that scale.

Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner is hosted by Roger Shipp of A Writer’s Community, also offers a photo prompt and is live on Wednesday. 200 words or less and a Linky List highlight the guidelines here.

I also partake in three non-fiction weekly photo-themed challenges. The biggest is the Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by WordPress. It changed recently from Friday at noon to Wednesday at noon. The Daily Post folks who run this suggest a linkback to make sure your post is seen by any who frequent the main post.

Also there is Floral Friday Foto, where you can share pictures along the theme of flowers. This is a Friday post with another Linky List.

Lastly on the weekly horizon is Skywatch Friday in which regulars share photos of the sky from around the world. Since I adore sky photos anyhow I was thrilled to stumble on this one.

The very last challenge I will share is one that comes in April of each year. Arlee Byrd, who blogs at Tossing It Out began something that is now utter madness in some ways. I am not being derisive toward his creation and I think you will see why in just a moment. In the moth of April during the A to Z Blogging Challenge upwards of 2000 bloggers seek to write 26 posts in 30 days along an A to Z alphabet theme. You think this is not bordering on utter madness? Then you haven’t tried it. But it is so0 much fun in madness that you will find it impossible to resist.

I hope to see some new faces at many if not all of these offerings. If you know of others please share in the comments.

Posted in 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge, A to Z blogging challenge, Blogging Challenge, Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner, Friday Fictioneers, Photo Challenge, Skywatch Friday, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Road Taken – WPC – 03/01/17


This is a photo of Crabtree Falls one of a host of waterfalls that adorn the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. My wife and I visited this site in October of 2015 the week after Hurricane Joaquin churned off the US coast for several days pumping rain into the Carolinas. This photo has three times the water flow of an identical shot on calendars and a gift store of a shop in Little Switzerland where we spent the night.

Posted in Blue ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, Nature, Waterfalls, Weekly Photo Challenge, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

Today is finally, finally the day. Or as my son used to say when he was too young to really understand the concept “Today is today!” What day would make me so excited? The day when I get to unveil the topic I will square up to for the 26 post A to Z Challenge that begins April 1st.

o6cmeqFor those few unfamiliar with the A to Z challenge it is a blogging juggernaut in its 7th year, begun by Arlee Byrd @ Tossing it Out  and a wonderful way to do a number of things:

  1. Create great content
  2. Make new friends as you discover other blogs
  3.  Comment on others work, giving them meaningful feedback
  4. Be part of something so much bigger than you are

Why is it bigger? Because in the past years as many as 2,000 bloggers from various platforms have taken their swipes at the list I gave above. Can you imagine all the potential new friends you can make in the month of April?

If you want more of an official explanation or want to join, there is still time you know, you can click here: A to Z Challenge.

Okay, so enough background about the A to Z. Let’s unveil the theme, huh?

In November of 2016 I entered and completed my second National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I was able to write 71,000+. How did I do that? I had a clear idea of what I wanted my novel to say. That is right, I am a plotter. I like to outline my novel before I write it.

Continuing that idea I decided to approach the 2017 A to Z with a plan to map out another new novel idea. As I began to put together my novel premise it really filled in quickly as I used the A to Z letters. I may just do all my novel planning this way.

Yes, I know I am delaying, but part of promotion is getting you interested. Since you are likely very interested if you are still reading I will give you what you came for.

In November of 2016 I entered and completed my second National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I was able to write 71,000+. How did I do that? I had a clear idea of what I wanted my novel to say. That is right, I am a plotter. I like to outline my novel before I write it.

In the 2017 A to Z challenge I will be giving you the inside scoop of my new novel I will write called the Steel Horse Saviors. I will do this on my fiction blog, the Fiction Playground.

Steel Horse Saviors is about three Civil War veterans, two Yankees and one Rebel, who take their steam locomotive west to seek their post-war fortune. In the process they encounter Clementine O’Grady an auburn-haired beauty fighting to save the family business. There is a villain just as in any story, a rival lumber baron who is just days away from ripping control of O’Grady Timber & Lumber Company from Clementine O’Grady’s grasp. The locomotive team must decide if they have traveled far enough away from their own demons that they can stay around long enough to battle Clementine’s. The 29 year old beauty will find herself drawn to each of these strangers for different reasons.

As part of my promotion ahead of the A to Z Challenge  I have been using Hootsuite and Twitter to toss teasers using the #atozchallenge hashtag.


One of the exciting extensions of this is that one of the A to Z co-hosts, J Lenni Dorner has already endeared themselves to me by re-tweeting every single tweet I have generated over the last week. Not only that but others have joined in re-tweeting and have begun to generate some buzz. I guess that means my posts better be worth the time of my visitors, huh?

This is my third time with A to Z. I completed it once and failed miserably two years ago because of a death in my family and of our family pet. But this year I have decided to double down and make this a significant event in my writing life. I invite you to come back beginning April 1st to see what all this buzz is about.

Just know I intend to pop about reading theme reveals myself starting today so I can build a list of blogs I intend to visit and make my new haunts. If you want o read about other A to Z Themes click here: A to Z Theme Reveal.

Posted in 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge, A to Z blogging challenge, Writing | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments


joelibpb2In every life we seek someone to make it fuller, richer, something so special we will live every day with the knowledge that better is always yet to come. In three days I will celebrate the 26th anniversary of knowing someone like this. I met my wife three days past her 2oth birthday. If I had been as full of myself then as I am now I might have said I was the best birthday present she would ever get. But I might have also either received a full force punch or a respectful but heartfelt “Don’t ever call me again!”



Luckily I was a bit more reserved in 1991 and allowed nature to take its course. The prayers of thanks I give since that day have never stopped and won’t anytime soon. Thanks to Minnie Bryan I connected with someone who not only fulfills my expectations of a best friend and partner to live this life, but my wife adds so much to everything we do.

As we celebrate another birthday I want to take this opportunity to say I am blessed beyond words. It is so great when your spouse is your best friend. Someone you can share everything with good or bad. It is said a good friend halves your trouble and multiplies your successes. Libby does that for me. Not three weeks ago she delivered first class aid as a nurse while I struggled through my first ever bout with Strep throat. She knows how to live the “in sickness and health” piece of the wedding vows.

Birthdays are celebrations at our house and this one will be no exception. Happy birthday to my wife and I hope we can celebrate together many more times!

Posted in Family, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro – The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer


On Tuesdays Bibliophile By the Sea hosts a weekly opportunity for anyone to share info about the book they are currently reading. In essence you provide the first chapter or two of the current book occupying your time.

Inner Circle



The book I am reading is actually the first in a series, but as it happens I read the second book first after finding it on sale on a bargain rack at a big box book seller.

Brad Meltzer is a new author to me. I have been a fan of Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn and Andrew Peterson, but the first two have passed on, so the amount of work coming that interests me has begun to be thin. I picked up The fifth Assassin, which is actually the next book in the Culper Ring Series after the Inner Circle and liked it so much I searched for the Inner Circle.

The first chapter:

He knew the room was designed to hold secrets.

Big Secrets.

The briefcase from Watergate was opened in a room like this. Same with the first reports from 9/11.

He knew that this room–sometimes called the Tank or the Vault–held presidential secrets, national secrets, and pine-box secrets, as in the kind of secrets that came with coffins.

The main character in The Culper Ring books is Beecher White, an employee at the National Archives. When Beecher’s friend Orlando mysteriously dies moments after they find a mysterious book in a secure room reserved for the President of the United States to read in private their is a fast-moving drama that will test Beecher’s skills.




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Use Twitter & Hootsuite to Promote Your Blog for the 2017 A to Z Challenge

COPYRIGHT – ALPINE ACRES PUBLISHING 2017  In 18 days a whoop will be heard from computers around the world as nearly two thousand brave souls make their best effort at creating 26 blog posts in as many days if not more if they are blogging one more than one theme. What is this madness? It is known as the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge.

2017 will mark my third try at the challenge. I have completed it once, but got too excited last time and made a big mess. This year I decided to focus on one blog in particular, my favorite, the Fiction Playground. I tend to blog about a wide variety of topics. Family, faith, gardening/flowers, my model railroading hobby and more, but by and large my passion lies with fiction writing.

I join in on three photo fiction prompts each week, all of which challenge the writer with word limits. I can tell my ability to pack a lot of possibility in my stories has developed markedly and I appreciate the kind of feed back others in these challenges provide. I anticipate the same kind of interaction in the A to Z Challenge.

Okay, that was too long of an introduction, especially since I am 200 words into this post without the first mention of my topic, Use Twitter & Hootsuite to Promote Your Blog for the 2017 A to Z Challenge. Who wants to write something that will just float around the internet for eternity with no one engaging or making any kind of comment? Not me! Sure you put it out there for the wolves to rip apart too, but writers create for consumption and the possibility of mass consumption by the A to Z pack is very real.

During this past November I played around a lot with Twitter as I took part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). One of the things I saw immediately is there is a tremendous amount of self-promotion going on there. At first I found that kind of off-putting, but as I took time to reflect between then and now I see the value. You have to make your product stand out. Why not use any tool you can understand to do so?

With that in mind I formulated a strategy to begin tweeting teasers for my April 2017 A To Z Challenge Theme. I guess I am jumping the gun a little, but I am going to share that theme with you here. Another thing I came to understand during NaNoWriMo 2016 is that the more you map out your novel ahead of time the easier it is to write. Keeping with that concept I began to flesh out a historical fiction novel I want to craft..

I used to be enthralled with wars, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World Wars. I suppose I still have some interest in all, but I am particularly fond of the Civil War. Perhaps it is because I live in Virginia, which was one of the most affected states in the sense of the amount of battles. Whatever the reason I have been knocking around the idea of writing a historical fiction about the Civil War. Pulling in the connection to my recent initiation of a model railroading hobby I came up with an idea that fused the two loves.

The Steel Horse Saviors is a story about the United States as it tries to right itself following four years of civil war. It is 1866 and three civil war veterans, two Yankees and a Rebel head to the western frontier with a nearly new steam engine to seek their fortune. On their way they encounter Clementine O’Grady, a breath-taking redhead struggling to keep her family’s Timber & Lumber company from collapsing. Civil War prejudices as well as our heroes’ past will combine to complicate their lives.

Now to the Twitter and Hootsuite connection. Hootsuite is an application that allows you to schedule tweets or Facebook posts, if you like, to post whenever you choose. I immediately grasped the process and find Hootsuite to be easy to use. Here is an example of some posts I scheduled:


You will notice I have employed the use of hash tags. One was pre-existing, #atozchallenge, which I hope will become really popular in the next days as people get excited about the challenge. The other is my own creation, #steelhorsesaviors. By doing this I can go specifically to that hashtag on Twitter to see what is going on. There is another hash tag I am trying to use, provided by the A to Z Challenge @Aprilatoz, but so far Hootsuite does not recognize it.

Here is a calendar on Hootsuite showing the various tweets I have already sent to twitter. You will also have a similar display for the tweets scheduled to post:


I want to take this moment to give a shout out to one of the A to Z Challenge C0-Hosts who has been re-tweeting my scheduled posts since I began four days ago. J Lenni Dorner should get a kudo for living the role as a co-host. I mean really, it is 18 days until the real madness kicks off and this representative of the A to Z team is in full-on “Get It Done” mode!


So what value is their in this re-tweet? I have a grand total of 398 followers, of which I am not sure how many actually check my tweets regularly. Conversely J Lenni has 7,392! That is almost 16 times as many opportunities for someone to see the tweet. You cannot beat that kind of possibility for promotion of your work.

So you ask, am I concerned my effort will get smothered out by the torrent of similar effort when the real challenge begins? Concerned? No. Expecting it? Yes. I am not the only one to ever consider this, but am thankful it occurred to me early enough to work out the logistics and get it rolling now.  Tell me if you like this idea or if you have tried anything similar.

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Abstract – Daily Post – March 10,2017

noun: abstract; plural noun: abstracts; noun: the abstract
  1. 1.
    a summary of the contents of a book, article, or formal speech.
    Today’s Daily Post prompt triggered a though about my love of fiction writing, so I thought I would cross promote something from my fiction blog, the Fiction Playground. In three weeks I will join about 2,000 other bloggers in something called the 2017 A to Z Challenge. Basically bloggers are encouraged to blog through the month of April on every day but Sunday using the letter of the day.

    So how does this tie to abstract? Well basically my A to Z challenge will be a prolonged opportunity to deliver the abstract of a new historical novel I am brainstorming. You see when I have an idea hit my radar I let it percolate for a few months. I try to see what kind of legs it has: short story, novella or novel potential. Or perhaps it is just a dry mine.

To whet you whistle here is a quick pitch I would deliver in an elevator if I had a few seconds to pique the interest of an agent or publisher:

Clementine O’Grady is trying to save her family business from ruin in the months following the American Civil War. When three strangers, two Yankees and a Rebel  show up in town with the new steam locomotive that could solve all her troubles she must reassess her unwillingness to share her life and heart with another. Steel Horse Saviors tells the story of a nation divided trying to find its balance.

If you find this concept intriguing I invite you to check into the Fiction Playground beginning April 1st, when you can begin to meet the characters and learn about the setting and plot of this new novel. Of course you are certainly welcome to pop in at any time to check out the weekly photo fiction that I collect on the blog.




Posted in A to Z blogging challenge, Daily Prompt, Novel, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

My Writing Goals for 2017 – Bi-Monthly Check in 03/08/17

Beginning a new year for me is always about the potential for growth. I enjoy the swell of optimism that no matter how the preceding twelve months have gone the coming 12 will be better. With that mantra I peered over the hurdle into 2017 and made some pretty ambitious plans. Now two months into the fray I wanted to circle back and check my progress.

My first three goals are more of a long term nature: Find an Agent/Publisher and submit a manuscript for publication. I am still working on edits to the novel, so this one is the well-known work in progress. I still believe 2017 will be the year I see success, so hang in with me and I will share my experience. I could start 2018 with a totally different goal.

Goal 4 was to write more. In all of 2016 I created 119 posts over all my blogs which generated 5,500 visitors. I set a target of 250 posts this year, which is an average of 21 per month. So far I have posted 61 times, above that average, so I am on pace. But warmer weather is nearing and the time I spend behind this electronic device will wane.

Goal 5 was to write every day. This is much more difficult to do. Especially when the weather is gorgeous or I am struggling through illness like the four days of strep throat war last week. My daily charting got to be burdensome as well, so I cannot really say if I actually have written every day. Sometimes it is just a good day for writing and others not so much.

Goal 6 was to develop the circle of writers I can connect with. Everyone loves support. I have delved into this a little, and found the Insecure Writer’s Support Group as well as the R.O.W. 80 (Round of words in 80 days). I need to spend more time understanding how to be a good citizen of each so that I am not taking without giving.

One happy connection to this goal is a noticeable pick-up in the amount of readers deciding to follow by blogs. I wanted to quantify this for my own curiosity as much as to share, but at the moment WordPress is just not wanting to play nice to allow it. I think a key to enabling the likelihood is to engage your readers/commenters. I just read a fantastic post from the A to Z Challenge blog called 10 Misconceptions About Blog Comments. Author of the post, J Lenni Dormer makes some great points including the one that everyone loves a comment. When you engage the reader/commenter they want to know more, read more, talk more. Writing is very unfulfilling if there is no feedback.

Goal 7 is to attend writing classes and conferences. If there is a robust organization that promotes this is my area I am unaware. I suspect I will have to lean on the shoulders of people like Kristin Lamb or Joanna Penn for this kind of help. Online course or conferences is better than none however.

Goal 8 is to enter writing contests. The challenge here is to find a contest with a deadline far enough out to craft a worthy entry. As with all things it is about scheduling and prioritization. With effort all things are possible, so when I make that effort it will come.

Goal 9 is to read more. Now that I have done. So far this year I have finished one Vince Flynn novel, as well as a couple of books from a new writer I stumbled upon when I snatched a book off the bargain cart at Books-a-Million. Yeah I know I am hurting the sales, but finding a new author can be kind of a crap shoot sometimes.

The new guy I am reading is Brad Meltzer. While new to me he has several books in print. I am in Book 2 of the Culper Ring Series. The Culper Ring was something established by George Washington as sort of a spy ring. As the book series explains the Culper ring has evolved into a protective order of the United States Presidency. Not the office holder mind you, but the ideal.

Goal 10 is to read and watch more critically. The funny thing is I already was without realizing it. I recently watched the new NBC show Taken and immediately ferreted out the Initiating Incident upon which the whole show is predicated. I compare that with the masterpiece of storytelling now this time around as 24: Legacy. With multiple characters comes multiple individual storylines. Sure, l real life is like that since everyone has their own hopes, desires and dreams, but try fitting them all in one novel and your plot can quickly become unwieldy and just ugly!

The final goal is to find a good place to beta test story ideas to determine what kind of potential they have. Not every idea deserves a lot of time and effort. Sometimes when I write a 200 word response to a weekly photo prompt I think I could make a longer story out of it. Perhaps when I get enough of these my issue identified in Goal 8 will be solved.

Progress can be measured in so many ways. But until you have a target you are doomed to fail every time. Now I have some measures to assess my writing effort. As a metrics guy that is something I can analyze and work with.



Posted in Activity Tracker, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Wish – WPC – 03/08/17


Everyone has wishes. Things that mean so much to us we concentrate on them for weeks, months or years before they actually come to pass. Right now my fondest wish is to see this guy pictured above take his “walk” across the stage at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN on Saturday May 6, 2017. Coincidentally his 22nd birthday follows on the next day so I will be trying to convince him his birthday present and graduation present are one and the same!

Posted in children, Family, school, Writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

A Good Match – WPC – 02/22/17

027.jpgFor the weekly photo challenge this time our subject is a good match. When I was searching for someone to spend my life with I prayed quite a bit about the type of girl that would be the best match for me. I wanted someone who shared my beliefs, not only as a Christian but those that would have to do with our family when we had one. God blessed me with an exceptional partner for my lifetime and also with two fabulous kids which I consider to be a very good match.


Posted in Faith, Family, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Against the Odds – WPC -02/15/17

Our challenge this week is to ferret out something from our photography collection that shows a situation that is against the odds. While I have a large photograph repository at my disposal it did  not take me long to identify what I wanted to share. It is two pictures from the early to mid 1970s when a freak weather occurrence rolled up snow in our yard.

You may find it hard to believe, but my brother and I had nothing to do with the roll of snow I am pointing to in this photo. It was a natural occurrence and a fantastic one at that.



Posted in Photo Challenge, Photography, weather, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Shadow – WPC – 02/08/17

The Weekly Photo Challenge has asked us to find photographs of shadows this time and I know that I have some of my miniature Sheltie somewhere, but I could not track it down. So I included three I found during the search. I look forward to seeing others finds.

Posted in Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Skywatch Friday – 2/03/17 – Joe O., VA, USA


Xunantonich Mayan Ruins, December 2015

For Skywatch Friday

Posted in Belize, Skywatch Friday, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments