She was disembarking, but her gown was cumbersome. Charleston, South Carolina seems to have a most unique way to get a bride to the church. Somewhat less than elegant, the bride remained unruffled and finally got to walk into the place she would be joined with her man. Or perhaps she brought her man with her? Disconnected from the man she disembarked with, swed P1090806wed P1090800wed P1090801wed P1090802wed P1090803he does seem rather in a hurry to get into the P1090805

Quite unique. Don’t you think?



Painting by Earl Bodner, circa 1833

Painting by Earl Bodner, circa 1833

Life in a tipi offers a different kind of experience than life in the typical wood structure.  American Sioux built the tipi for daily living. Painted tipis had important kinds of pictographic writing. Based on Native American Architecture by Peter Nabokov and Robert Eastman, paintings on Plains Indian tipis depicted exploits of the head male occupant, or supernatural creatures associated with sacred powers he or his direct ancestors had received during visions.

Tipi Oglala with Lakota girl by front door 1891

Tipi Oglala with Lakota girl by front door 1891

A tipi is a conical tent and is constructed with wood poles, stakes, pins and covers of animal skins, although modern covers are usually made of canvas. To build a tipi, a straight and strong, long lodge pole of pine or red cedar was made into a three-or four pole frame and lifted into place. The tipi is durable, provides warmth and comfort in winter, is cool in summer, and stays dry during heavy rains. The detachable cover over the structure were buffalo skins or cloth lining and a door of canvas or bison calfskin. There may also be a partial interior ceiling that covers sleepers and protects the inhabitant from rain.

Tipi interior

Tipi interior

Rope or raw hide, and wooden pegs are required to bind the poles, close the cover, attach the lining and door, and anchor the resulting structure to the ground. Tipis are distinguished from other tents by two crucial innovations, the opening at the top and the smoke flaps, which allow the inhabitant to cook and heat themselves with an open fire. The flaps are lined for use in the winter, and can be opened for ventilation and to create a down draft for the fire.

Tipi covers are made by sewing together strips of canvas or tanned bison hide (historically) and has a semicircular shape. Trimming this shape yields a door and the smoke flaps that allow the dwellers to control the chimney effect to expel smoke from their fires. Old style traditional linings were hides, blankets, and rectangular pieces of cloth hanging about four to five feet above the ground tied to the poles or a rope. Today’s modern lining is the most difficult element to measure, since it consists of trapezoid-shaped strips of canvas assembled to form the shape of a truncated cone. The poles, made of peeled, polished and dried tapering saplings (historically pine) cut to measure about six feet more than the radius of the cover.

If you have an interest to build a tipi for camping, or you are just plain curious . . . Read more here:

What do you think? Are you surprised that it takes some ingenuity to build a tipi to inhabit?


Mark Hopkins mansion top of Nob Hill

Mark Hopkins mansion top of Nob Hill

Nob Hill, also known as Snob Hill, is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California, centered on the intersection of California Street and Powell Street. It is one of San Francisco’s 44 hills, and one of its original “Seven Hills.” Prior to the 1850s, Nob Hill was called California Hill (after California Street, which climbs its steep eastern face). It was renamed after the Central Pacific Railroad’s Big Four — called the Nobs — built mansions there. The British slang nob is a disparaging term for newly rich, derived from the Mughal India/Bengali word nawab that refers to an upper-class individual.

Mark Hopkins (September 1, 1813-March 29, 1878), an entrepreneur, was one of four principal investors who formed the Central Pacific Railroad along with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Collis Huntington in 1861.  Hopkins built an ornate mansion at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, California, close to the mansions of other Central Pacific Founders. The architects were the prominent San Francisco firm of Wright and Sanders. Hopkins was never going to see his mansion completed. He was having health problems, and died aboard a company train near Yuma, Arizona. The mansion, eventually finished and occupied by his wife Mary, burned to the ground in a fire caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The neighborhood was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, except for the granite walls surrounding the Stanford, Crocker, Huntington and Hopkins mansions. Those walls remain and you can see black scars caused by smoke from the intense fires that burned after the quake.

Mark Hopkins Hotel, built in 1926, renovated 2009

Mark Hopkins Hotel, built in 1926, renovated 2009

The Mark Hopkins Hotel (currently InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco) was built in its place in 1926.

In one of my lifetimes, I was privileged to be a guest at this magnificent, now four star, hotel and dine at the top of the mark. Walking down the hill and up were both challenging. Nob Hill, San Francisco (Looking west up California Street, Nob Hill district, San Francisco) - Photo by Dave Glass (, February 14, 2009San_Francisco_Street_on_Nob_Hill wild-parrots-of-telegraph-hill biker-steep-san-francisco-hill

Cable cars are the way up to Nob Hill and down to Union Square.

Is San Francisco a favorite city? Have you been to Scoma’s on Fisherman’s Wharf? Have you seen Seal rock?

The wild parrots in the image here are perched on branches on Telegraph Hill.

How would you like to bike there?


Architecture generally involves creating monuments to permanence from . . .  transient materials like paper tubes and plastic beer crates.

House of Cards Japanese Pavilion 2000

‘House of Cards’ Japanese Pavilion Expo 2000

The Japanese Pavilion for Expo 2000, held in Hannover, Germany, was a grid structure made ​​of recyclable paper tubes resulting in a building with honeycomb. Ban created the pavilion building in collaboration with the architect Frei Otto and structural engineer Buro Happold. The 72-meter-long gridshell structure was made with paper tubes. But due to stringent building laws in Germany, the roof had to be reinforced with a substructure. After the exhibition the structure was recycled and returned to paper pulp. Shigeru Ban, born in Tokyo, Japan, is an international architect, most famous for his innovative work with paper. His use of  recycled cardboard tubes affords prompt and efficient housing to disaster victims. In the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, Ban built temporary homes for Vietnamese refugees using beer crates filled with sandbags. In the mid-1990s, he was the first architect in Japan to construct a building primarily out of paper  and required special approval to pass Japan’s strict building codes. Ban has a romance with paper because of its low cost, recyclability, low-technology and replaceability. Another aspect of Ban’s influence is his humanitarianism and his attraction to ecological architecture. Ban’s work with paper and other materials is heavily based on its sustainability and its lack of waste.  As a result, Ban’s DIY refugee shelters (used in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, in Turkey, Rwanda and around the world) are very popular and effective for low-cost disaster relief-housing, as seen in the cardboard container housing in the image below.

Japanese housing complex

Japanese housing complex

Ban is referred to as an ecological architect, a modernist, an experimentalist and rationalist. Ban himself quotes, “I don’t like waste,” summing up his philosophy. He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st century innovators in the field of architecture and design. In 2014, Ban was named the 37th recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious prize in modernist architecture. The Pritzker Jury cited Ban for his innovative use of material and his dedication to humanitarian efforts around the world. If you are wondering about the use of paper in building–no worries–the paper tubes used for support in Ban’s buildings are protected from the elements  by a roof above and concrete floors below. Perhaps you would like to make your own paper architecture?

The Paper Architect: Fold-It-Yourself Buildings and Structures Hardcover-spiral, by Marivi Garrido (Author), Ingrid Siliakus (Author) can be found at Amazon. Here’s the Amazon link:


Raise your hand if you live in a converted barn. Not a new house that’s made to look like a barn, but an old nineteenth or early twentieth century converted barn. The old post and beam construction. I have some images for you to peruse.barn destruct to paint barn home1images barn house 2 barn house interiot 1 barn house rear1 barn house Thin-joint-construction-between-portals1 barnhouse 4The first one is my favorite. It is called deconstruction. Don’t be surprised if you see it in one of my paintings. LOL, really. The one that looks like it is under construction is being turned into a boutique office barnhouse 3&silobuilding.

There are some designs and workmanship that defy time. Some were built in the 1850s. They make intriguing transitions to the 20th century. These barnhomes are located in different areas across the country, and as you can see, can be quite handsome. Each one creates an entirely unique home and are usually the focus on the land that was farmland years ago. The images on the left are of a 2,450-square-foot home with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The image below still has its silo. Imagine a wrought iron circular staircase in the silo, like one in Sherlock Holmes detective stories. That staircase twisted at every turn, and took you into spooky, dark places, like old dusty libraries.

Do you have any friends that live in a converted barn? What do you think they smell like? Animals, timber, cedar, what?


Montana barn

Montana barn

Barns are simple structures of basic post and beam construction. I love barns, I love barn shapes, and barn roofs.  I love to paint barns . . . on canvas that is. Barns not only keep animals, but are large enough to invite friends, family and all your neighbors and have a barn dance, a wedding, or become a quirky,  marvelous architectural space. Some folks live in barns.

Barns are sometimes a large shed used for storing vehicles. It’s been said that a barn is a large and unattractive building. Buildings are sometimes referred to as a barn of a house. Is a barn the same as a stable? Wasn’t Jesus born in a barn, or was it a stable? Do you think they are the same? Barns are also known as a large building for storing grain, hay or straw and housing livestock. And tools, lots of tools. barn inside w. tools barn montana elevator barn smiles barn traditional  barn w. clothes barn w. roof shapes barn wind gauge barn barn tree 747cdae123ad7d1447282a0d4fa3fe77 barn w.storm barns and cowsSquare dances are fun in a barn. Which barn would you like to see me paint? Do you like barn paintings? Do you have a barn you love? Here’s more for your viewing pleasure. Which one is your favorite?mtnplay_dancers2


Leila on her horse

Leila on her horse

Leila’s back hurt, her insides were rolling, the sun blinded her. The irony was her mother had insisted she learn to ride the way a woman would be expected to. But nothing she knew was useful. She was about to retch again.

“Tom, Tom, wait up,” she called. “I can’t do this.” She leaned over the side of her horse and vomited what was left of her lunch. She ran her arm over her mouth, wiping away the residue. “Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” She jumped down and plopped onto the dried grass and dirt. A puff of soft soil rose around her getting into her eyes and mouth. She closed her eyes and rested her face in her hands.

“Girl, get yourself together. Ain’t gonna help to feel sorry for yerself.”

Leila lifted her face to peer at Tom, the tears running through the dirt on her cheeks. “Damn Tom, what am I to do? I feel so awful.”

Charles_Marion_Russell_-_Waiting_and_Mad“We’ll spend the night here. Here’s a blanket, set it down and take a rest.  I’ll make us a fire and some food. Then ye’ll feel better and tommora we can git on our way.”

“Do you think this stomach problem will get better then?”

“Nah, ye got a problem that ain’t goin’ away right quick.”

“I’m exhausted. I’ll get some sleep then I’ll feel better. I know it’s important to you to catch those killers.”

She slept through supper, slept through sundown, slept until the first light, when the sounds of chirping and fluttering wings close by sent a breeze across her face. The first thing she did when she stood was to dry wretch.

“Come here child, I have something for ye.”

Tom gave her a swig from his canteen. She swallowed then spit. “Are you trying to kill me? That was awful.”

“That there is my best whiskey. I figured it would counter-act your problem and make yer to feel better.”

“I didn’t like the taste, but we’ll see if it settles my belly.”

The ground rumbled. Hard. A sound Leila had never before heard. She sucked in air and said, “What’s all that Tom?”

Bison herd on the plains

Bison herd on the plains

“Sounds like the pack of bison I been hearing is coming closer. We best get out of harm’s way.”

Tom picked up their gear. Leila picked up what she could. They got on their horses and rode up toward the mountains. “Will we be out of the way?”

“They hardly never cross the mountains, they follow the river, but stay on the plains till they cross the river, so we’ll be safe.”

They rode a distance then Tom pulled up on his horse and stopped. “Why are we stopping?”

“I have to pack this gear, can’t hold it all day. There were no time back there.”

“Darn if that whiskey didn’t make me stop retching. Guess I’m going to be okay. It was just a passing chill.

Want to guess if Leila suffered from a passing chill? This is a snippet idea for my coming book, Haze of Innocence.


Ameila Island pelicansWe took a wrong turn, rather a right turn, on the way home from Florida, and ended up on Amelia Island. Nestled among centuries-old live oaks, majestic maritime forests, tranquil salt marshes and the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Island Plantation exemplifies environmental sensitivity and the luxury of a leisure lifestyle as is life at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where we hung out for almost a month. We missed the snows that covered the northeast. Weather in south Florida is warm and sunny most days.  Amelia Island, more north, in the Jacksonville area, sometimes has slightly cooler days. Still, it’s rare to see snow here.

Guns, Gail and St. Mary's River

Guns, Gail and St. Mary’s River

We found the most amazing property here in Amelia, and it wasn’t a fancy hotel. It was a Fort. Built during the years of 1847 and 1864, on the northern end of the Island, at the Florida-Georgia border, it was built to guard the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, protect coastal and interior shipping, and defend the deep water port of Fernandina, Florida. Fort Clinch was built specifically to keep away invaders, built for war, not for safety.

The drive to the Fort

The drive to the Fort

Visitors are encouraged to take the three mile drive to the property that is right on the banks of the St. Mary’s River. We walked through the buildings, walked on the buildings.



Active fireplaces this day, I smelled the smoke from the several chimneys at the tops of the buildings.

Roofs were clad in steel, and dropped in the middle, as you can see here, to catch rainwater. The water flowed into opening at either end of the roof, piped into holding tanks in the ground.



A water pump made water accessible.

I thought about the men that bed down there.



That is, if and when the men were still alive, and needed a place to rest their weary bodies.

Wind whipped around and swirled at the flag. flag550 pxP1080971

It rippled and stood at attention like a soldier on a mission.

Uniforms and more

Uniforms and more

Never fully completed, the fort still served as a military post during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II.

P1080932This certainly was a right turn. Amongst the beautiful beaches, coastal grasslands, and dunes,  hides American history.

Imagine yourself here cooking for the soldiers. They do have reenactments. A great place to visit and participate in life of 1864.

Do I have your curiosity? You can visit, and find a place to stay in this magnificent part of our country.


images images-3 images-2 Ha! End of winter is some kind of dream. Winter has never ended in the beginning of P1080613P1080598February, at least not in my lifetime. Unless, of course, you hang out in Florida. It doesn’t snow in southern Florida. Ever . . . it rains occasionally but it never snows. In southern Florida raindrops are warm. You know how you like to catch a snowflake on your tongue? Try a warm raindrop.

The astronomical winter (Northern Hemisphere) ends Wednesday, March 19. Still, it could snow, sometimes in April. But not in southern Florida. At this point, you probably think winter will never end, and we’ll all be cold and freezing for the rest of our lives. It isn’t hopeless, just watch the trees bud and the crocuses poke out of the ground in the not too far off future. We. Can. Dream.

END winter NOW! Your thoughts?


Today we are interviewing Sandy Tritt of Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

Sandy Tritt, President Inspiration For Writers

Sandy Tritt, President Inspiration for Writers

Gail: Good morning, Sandy.
Sandy: Good morning, Gail.
Gail: What can you tell us about Inspiration for Writers, Inc.?
Sandy: IFW is my heartbeat. We’ve been in business since 1999, and, at first, “we” consisted of “me.” Now we’ve grown and we have twelve editors and writers onboard. We’re different than most editing companies because we never bid on projects or give projects to the highest bidder. Instead, I handpick the editor best qualified to work on each project.
Gail: What genres do you edit?
Sandy: Just about anything! Our editors have quite the variety of backgrounds. Jimmy Carl is a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major and university professor. He has an EdD in history. After three tours in Vietnam, he’s a great resource for war scenes. Charlotte Firbank-King is the author of fourteen books, most of which are historical romance. She’s also a world-renowned artist. Rhonda has a background in medicine (as well as a master’s of fine arts in creative writing). Sherry teaches creative writing both online and locally. And on and on. Our editors represent every age group and cover every genre. We live or have lived in five different countries. We all give workshops. We’ve all been published.
Gail: I wanted to interview you because of a blog you posted on the Inspiration for Writers, Inc., site. Is it okay for me to print that here?
Sandy: Sure.
Gail: Then we can finish up with the rest of your questions.
Sandy: Thank you.

She smiled.
GRRR . . .
And Sandy frowned. In one page–in approximately 250 words–the characters in this manuscript have smiled seven times, laughed four, grinned twice, and frowned once. Oh, and between all that smiling and laughing, there were four sighs. FOUR SIGHS! (Not counting the ones coming from me).

And, no, these characters were not in the audience of Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, or any other show. They were eating dinner and discussing a recent murder.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common problems I see in manuscripts. In fact, I’d be willing to say that at least 90% of the fiction manuscripts I see overuse the common actions of smiling (always the worst offender), laughing, frowning, nodding, shaking a head, and grinning.

Most writers are not aware they do this. They’ve been told to use action, use body language. They’ve been told to cut passive verbs like was, were, is, are and so forth. They’ve been told to omit helping verbs like could have, would’ve, beginning to, starting to and so on. They dutifully have scanned their manuscript and cut back on these things.

I challenge you to do a FIND for the word “smiled.” See how many times you’ve used that word. Surprised? Try “laughed.” “Grinned.” “Frowned.” “Shook.” “Nodded.” Oh, oh, oh. One more. “Felt.”

I challenge you to replace as many as you can with more descriptive body language. First, consider the emotion this character is actually feeling. Is he bored? Joyous? Frustrated? Then, figure out a unique way to show your reader this emotion. (Or, cheat. Pick up a great book like The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi or Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda  Edelstein). Then, have your characters scratch a mole until it bleeds or drop pieces of steak on the floor when no one is watching or polish the diamond on their rings. Or growl.

“Doing this one thing will bring your writing up to the next level,” Sandy said and smiled. “I promise.”

Gail: Thanks, Sandy.
Sandy: You’re welcome.
Gail: Shall we get to the rest of the questions?
Sandy: Sure!
Gail: What do you love about being an editor?
Sandy: Everything! It is my dream job. After more than 15 years in this business, I wake up each morning and think, “Yes! Another day to work!”  I can’t wait to get on my computer. This company is my heartbeat. Why? First, the people. I get to work with talented people from all over the globe. So many of our clients—and all our editors—have become personal friends. Second, the work itself. Editing is a combination of everything I love doing—writing, reading, and teaching. Third, I get to hold in my hands the books my clients published. What a thrill! Fourth, did I mention the people?
Gail:  What annoys you most about the publishing industry at the moment?
Sandy: I try my best never to be annoyed. So, let me put a spin on this question. What do I love about the publishing industry? That it is changing, that it is evolving, that today, writers have so many choices. Just a few years ago, there was only one way to publishing success, and that was to score a high profile literary agent who could, in turn, unlock the doors to the NYC publishing houses. But today, there are many ways writers can have publishing success. The e-book phenomenon has sprung open the doors for writers. Additionally, mid-level publishers, who were once swept to the corners, have become viable and approachable alternatives to the agent-protected Big Six. Today is a great day to be a writer.
Gail: What do you think new writers should know that they don’t seem to?
Sandy: Writing is a craft. Writing is something we get better at the more we study and the more we practice. If a writer is serious about writing, he/she will invest in his/her career—take classes, attend workshops, read books on the craft of writing, and practice. Writers conferences are a great place to meet other writers, attend workshops, and learn about what is going on in the publishing world.
Gail: What mistakes do you see new writers making?
Sandy: (laughs). When I first started editing, I found myself telling writers the same things, over and over. So, I wrote some “tip sheets” and included these in the package when I returned the manuscript (In the 1990s, editing was done through snail mail. Now, 99.8% of our edits are done through email). Eventually, I put the tip sheets on the Inspiration for Writers website.  Later, I combined all the tip sheets, added in some worksheets, and created the Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook. I’m happy to give a free download of our e-workbook to the first ten of your readers who email me at and ask for it.
Gail: Thanks, Sandy. One last question. What kind of plot do you think has been done to death?
Sandy: Since long before Shakespeare, writers have worried about plots. Some academics say there are only three plots: man vs. man, man vs. machine, and man vs. himself. Others say there are seven. The one thing no one argues is that truly, there is a very limited number of plots. They ALL have been overdone. And, yet, at the same time, any one of them can be new all over again. What makes the difference? The writer. A skilled writer can take any plot, no matter how many times it’s been done, and make it fresh all over again by using an intriguing writer’s voice, sharp dialogue, and just plain excellent writing skills.
Gail: Thank you, Sandy. I appreciate our time here today.
Sandy: You’re welcome, Gail. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you. If any of your followers have a question for me, I’m happy to answer. Ask away! And don’t forget to email me to receive a free download of our Tips and Techniques Workbook. Thanks for having me on your site today.
Gail: My pleasure, Sandy. I have your Tips and Techniques Workbook, thank you. If it were a hard copy it would be in tatters from use. Every writer should have one!