Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWSG: The Inner Beast - Keep Hands and Feet Inside the Boat!


One of the great things about being a writer is boldly going where others only venture on the page. I LOVE research (one of the reasons I enjoyed the college experience and had more library cards - remember those? - than credit cards!). Sorting and arranging facts then laying them out like puzzle pieces to form a picture in the mind’s eye might just be my super power, so I’m all over this month’s IWSG question: What’s the weirdest/coolest thing you’ve ever had to research for your story . . . but first, I’m really thrilled to be part of this month’s welcoming spiel.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 3rd posting of the IWSG will be Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone! 
Squee, that's me!! I can't wait to begin my second tour of co-hostessy duties, and visit with many of you! But first, my top research moment:
After writing the first book in my “By Moonlight” shape-shifter series, I knew that to get an extra layer of authenticity, I wanted to experience my setting up close and personal. So, it was off to New Orleans with two of my critique partners for a week-long immersion into the sight, sounds, scents and tastes of my favorite city. I quickly discovered there was no way to adequately describe walking face first into the heavy humidity, the savory bouquet and exquisite tingle of Cajun cooking, the sense of history steeped in every stone, the rocking jostle of the street car, the intriguing music of accented voices and the carefree joie de vie crowding the uneven sidewalks at all hours without having felt their embrace. I’d been in the city before during conferences and knew those unique vibes but I hadn’t ventured beyond those regimented boundaries into the heart of Louisiana.



Taking an airboat into the tangled, sweaty and wildly gorgeous center of the bayou, I found the untamed pulse for my series. The raw beauty, the unexpected twists and turns, the isolation, and . . . the very real danger. One of the touristy things to enjoy is the guide coaxing alligators up to the side of the boat. What a show! Each inch from snout to brow is a powerful foot of body length. Those gliding beauties can leap more than just a few feet straight up out of the water with the thrust of their tail. A fact I truly appreciated when the concerned guide advised me not to move as a big boy nudged up alongside the boat where I was sitting, apparently thinking my white sneaker looked just like one of those tasty marshmallows they so enjoy. I wisely froze like a box lunch while the guide used his oar to gently dissuade the would-be diner. In that heart-in-the-throat moment, I truly understood the non-human characters in my books. No matter how docile and obliging they might seem floating lazily on the surface in their Armani suits, underneath, they’re powerful, dangerously unpredictable creatures of instinct and survival that can snap at any given second with a bite that has sharp teeth. And they’re almost always hungry. That revelation was the nugget of truth behind my whole trip, that, and deciding that maybe sitting on the edge isn’t always best idea when wearing white shoes. Who knew?




You can get a look at these sleek, not quite tamed predators in my new spin-off series “House of Terriot.” I’m busily typing Book 3 while keeping a careful eye out for that massive bite radius.




What favorite research recollections surface for my fellow authors? Follow the links below to find out.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!


Twitter hashtag is #IWSG 

104 comments:

  1. Now thats the way to "research" lol. I'd love to see New Orleans. Thanks for the awesome tour here Nancy.

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    1. It is SO well worth the trip! Like stepping into a different world.

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  2. "No matter how docile and obliging they might seem floating lazily on the surface in their Armani suits, underneath, they’re powerful, dangerously unpredictable creatures of instinct and survival that can snap at any given second with a bite that has sharp teeth." Love that! Sounds like you had an amazing research trip :-)

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    1. Outstanding trip! Better than sitting through a reunion in Iowa that I used in one of my books! Not that it wasn't fun . . .

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  3. Thanks for co-hosting today. Always wanted to visit New Orleans, during Mardi Gras, but never had the opportunity. And yikes, I would've frozen too and more.

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    1. I'd love to go to Mardi Gras but it'd be so crowded you wouldn't get to really appreciate the city. I did get Mardi Gras beads at the Easter Parade off Decatur St. though!

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  4. Excellent example how life and fiction can be imitate each other. This passage caught my attention.
    “…I truly understood the non-human characters in my books. No matter how docile and obliging they might seem floating lazily on the surface in their Armani suits, underneath, they’re powerful, dangerously unpredictable creatures of instinct and survival that can snap at any given second with a bite that has sharp teeth…”

    I had to smile when I noticed Ronel Jansen van Vuuren quoted the same section.

    White sneakers and marsh mellows! Who would have thought of that unless you experienced it? Your examples drove home the power of research.

    Thanks for co-hosting the May IWSG. Cheers

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    1. I never thought of it before that big piece of luggage thought I looked like a snack! There's a second when you think "Holy crap! So much for dinner tonight at K Paul's!"

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  5. I got married in New Orleans, so it will always be special. We took a boat trip out on the Atchfalaya swamp (not as part of the ceremony!) - beautiful and deadly.
    Thanks for hosting today!

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    1. Lucky you! I bet it was beautiful amid all that old world charm.

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  6. Oh My! I can see Max in my head when reading this ... "in their Armani suits, underneath, they’re powerful, dangerously unpredictable creatures of instinct and survival that can snap at any given second with a bite that has sharp teeth." Perfect description of him, his essence, his predatory presence. What a great, productive "research" trip! Thanks for hosting this month, Nancy. And thanks for continuing to write the books we all love to read.

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    1. I knew that's where you're mind would be going the minute I wrote it!

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  7. I can't think of much better research than hands-on being-there types. I'd love going on a travel research trip. Your experience sounds great.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I don't get to do it enough! And it being a write off isn't bad, either!

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  8. Hi, Nancy, nice to meet you. I always wanted to visit New Orleans. Sounds and looks like a great way to research!

    Thank you for co-hosting!

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    1. I love hands on! If you get the chance, go! It's amazing.

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  9. Love that you went to visit your setting in person. How fun! I wish I could do that. Maybe someday... Thanks for co-hosting!

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    1. It was a long time coming and a lot of planning. Fortunately, I'm OCD and planning is what I do!

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  10. What a cool research trip! I haven't done anything like that, but hours upon hours of fly fishing has given me many moments to capture and consider for print.

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    1. I've done many a mental plot session on the seat of a bass boat! Grow where you're planted.

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  11. I would LOVE to go on a research trip! I need a project which would pay enough o warrant it, unfortunately. Lucky you! :) X

    Shah Wharton
    http://shahwharton.com

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    1. Thank goodness for the tidy advances NY used to hand out! I made every penny count.

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  12. What a great post. Now THAT is the way to do research--hands on, senses alive. No sitting at the computer for hours or digging through stacks in the library. Thanks for co hosting!!
    JQ Rose

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    1. Oh, I've done more than my fair share on Google . . . but in person is awesome!

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  13. I love New Orleans so much and I think you described it JUST perfectly! Great hands-on research!

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    1. My favorite place. I'm jonesing to go back.

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  14. Thanks for co-hosting today!
    Wow, I would've frozen as well. That sounds a little too close for me. But experiencing the rest of New Orleans sounds amazing. Blogger buddy Roland Yeomans lives there and his books just ooze with New Orleans culture.

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    1. There's so much atmosphere there, it can't help but drip! Enjoying my co-hosting mantle!

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  15. Thanks for co-hosting.

    I've been to New Orleans for math conferences, but did have a chance to walk around, enjoy the restaurants and the aquarium. I would love to visit the bayous though. I've had alligator encounters aplenty on Kiawah Island, SC from a baby truckin' down a road to an seven-footer parked in front of a pool gate.

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    1. During conferences, I was always able to sneak away for a quick look around but a week . . . still wasn't enough time. I've gotten pretty upclose and personal with them in Florida, too. I prefer them on a belt (after they die of old age, of course).

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  16. How awesome that you got to travel and do some research. I use Google Maps a lot. I love research. In fact, I was in a class of students in university who loved research as much as I did, and the professors had to limit our essays to 20 pages or else they be three times as long! Thanks for co-hosting today.

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    1. LOL! I hear you on those essays. Got me through college!

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  17. Thanks for co-hosting!

    I love doing research too. I still use note cards with different points of back story or plot I want to wiggle into the story puzzle. It's good to be a nerd.

    I've never been to Louisiana. I'd love to visit.

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    1. It's gorgeous and wild and sweaty! We rented a car and got out and about to things like the Raine Frog Festival - I did not make that up - and visited haunted sites. Great fodder!

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  18. Thank you for co-hosting Nancy. Adding all of the links for the hop is going above and beyond! Wow

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    1. You are so welcome! I love to visit!

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  19. What a vivid description of your gator encounter. I tried fried gator meat for the first time in my only visit to New Orleans. Sounds like a great research trip!

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    1. I had jerky - probably my little pal's grandfather!

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  20. Oh, I love researching, too!! It can be distracting. :)

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    1. I know! What a way to lose 3 hours of your life on line!

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  21. Research, a good excuse to visit New Orleans, huh? :)

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  22. We hit New Orleans a couple years back, and wow. There really is so much history there, and it's such a unique place, albeit, not a place I'd want to stay long term. Just no.

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    1. It gets mighty sticky and kinda stinky, too, at times. I don't think I'd ever run out of new things to do, though.

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  23. Hi Nancy, thank you for co-hosting IWSG. We writers can be big on research, but its a vital part of our preparations. Only after the research can we start writing.

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    1. So true. I've been known to fill in the blanks later just to keep the momentum going but plot hangs on fact.

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  24. I love research also. Always have.
    Thank you so much for being a co-host this month.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Loved doing it!! (researching AND co-hosting!)

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  25. Woah! I didn't know alligators could leap up out of the water. And no white shoes while watching alligators, thanks, Nancy! Alligators have always frightened me because their jaws are so strong. Once they clench down, there is no way to get them to release. Scary!

    Thanks so much for co-hosting the IWSG May question. I've joined your blog and have followed you on social media.

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    1. The pitbulls of the pond! The first time I saw one jump I about had a heart attack.

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  26. It's amazing how much your pics remind me of San Blas in Mexico, only there was crocodiles. Awesome photographs, Nancy. Thanks for co-hosting.

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    1. I took a ton of them! Amazing everywhere you looked!

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  27. Those were great pics! Thanks for sharing and for co-hosting this month's IWSG. :)

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    1. No close-ups with those guys! Maybe a reeeeeeally big zoom lens.

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  28. Well now that you know about the white shoes, this sounds like something that should make its way into your book.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG post.

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    1. Duh! Why have I not thought of that? Note to self . . .

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  29. What an amazing place to research. I need to set one of my stories there too, so I would have an excuse for a trip.

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    1. Every place I travel, I keep an eye open for a potential plot to appear . . .

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  30. The joys of writing are research and going places you wouldn't ordinarily choose to go. I love writers. Thanks for showing us some of what you research.

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    1. Going to conferences got me started because of the write off. Now I don't need an excuse.

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  31. Thanks Nancy, for co-hosting! I LOVE NOLA too, and what a great time you had in the swamps!

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    1. Besides that moment of excessive cardio, you mean.

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  32. I've always wanted to ride on one of those. Looks like fun. Thanks for hosting this month.
    ' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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    1. Fun and extremely loud. You wear percussion earphones and it still feels like you're sitting in front of a jet engine because . . . well, you are!

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  33. Wow, that had to be an exciting boat ride. The thing I remember most about Louisiana is the heat & humidity. I hate to sweat and, boy, do you sweat there. Excellent fodder for your stories. Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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    1. Sweat off 5 lbs. Eat your way down Chartre to find 10 more!

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  34. What a fun way to research to go on a trip. Thanks for being a co-host this month.

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    1. I'm always to food and entertainment guide on these ventures. OCD rules!

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  35. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Research is a great excuse for taking a trip to New Orleans. I've been; it's a great place. I can't wait to take a trip purely for research. I have a feeling it will change the way I experience things.

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    1. Totally! Half the research was done before hand to find the best side trips to take.

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  36. What a fun post, Nancy! There is nothing like experiencing the setting for your story. The story about your white sneaker and alligator was a little scary just to read about! I didn't know that the distance from snout to brow would reveal the length of an alligator. Next time I'm out in a bayou somewhere and I see an alligator, I'll be estimating its length. Enjoy your IWSG Day!

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  37. Oh my, that IS a big boy. What a great nugget you came away with.

    I loooove NOLA! I've only been twice but it's in my heart and soul and I must get back. Did you see swimming pigs? Enchanting things.

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    1. Swimming pigs?! How did I miss them? Field trip . . .

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  38. That's a cool thing to do for research!

    Thanks for co-hosting.

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    1. The path less taken is always the richest.

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  39. New Orleans is a world unto itself - you were so right to take that trip! And I love the imagery of the real life alligators "floating lazily on the surface in their Armani suits." Those words really set my imagination to work. Thanks for that nudge and for co-hosting today.

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    1. When set around conferences, I never had the chance to real see the city and beyond. Money well spent!

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  40. I love New Orleans. My sister lives in Picayune, MS so we've visited The Big Easy and it is an experience. I would love to try the air boat adventure.

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    1. Hold onto your kidneys. It's a fast bumpy ride. Could be its own theme park destination!

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  41. Wow, Nancy! Even in this very non-fiction blog post, you manage to pull the reader into the page. :-) Love it!

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  42. Amazing post! nothing beats writing research travel. I love NOLA, thank you for taking us through your experience. Thank you for co-hosting!

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    1. You are welcome! It gave me a chance to reconnect to my palate. Oh man, the food . . . Sigh!

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  43. I love this story. I've never been on one of those boat tours, but they sound like the right blend of scary and thrilling. One of my favorite authors is Yasmine Galenorn, and I think one of the secrets to her stories is how well she captures Seattle--the grit of the city, and the beauty of the region as well. You really feel like you're driving down the road with the D'Artigo sisters, or creeping through the wild beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest. Excellent post, Nancy!

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    1. I LOVE Yasmine! Setting is an often overlooked necessity to a really good read!

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  44. I've visited New Orleans once and after reading your post I seriously want to go back again one day.

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  45. I love research too - especially the practical little details, such as how something tastes, or which flowers would be in bloom at the time and place the story is set.

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    1. It's the little things. The sight of the fog rolling in from the river, layering a chill over the humidity. Oh, I made myself shiver just remembering.

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  46. New Orleans is a fantastic city. I never did a tour like that though. Wow! Amazing. Thank you for co-hosting!

    FYI, I made the big move away from Blogger and can be found at:

    Elsie Amata


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    1. I'd done the sedate boat tour under the canopy before but it was nowhere near as high octane as the air boat. Gone heart pumping on so many levels!

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  47. I need to do more "setting" research like you did!

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    1. When I wrote my early Western romances, I had readers ask how long I'd lived out west because they felt like they were there through my vivid descriptions. I had to admit that I'd never been on the other side of the Mississippi (except to Iowa) from where I live in Michigan. My first trip there, I was like "This is exactly how I imagined it!!" Still, actually being there brings a whole new level of depth.

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  48. I love to research in person too. It makes total sense to dive right in with all of five senses. The internet can only do so much! Terrific pics:)

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    1. Research in books or on the Net can give you texture!

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  49. I'm a researcher by training. For me, the joy of writing is getting to research exactly what I want. Other than writers, who has such marvelous freedom?

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  50. Literally going into the heart of the story (or its setting) must be the best ever research possible. How else can you explore with all senses?

    I have seen a few house sits come up in New Orleans, which sounds like a great place to experience in depth. So far, I have only been there a day at a time. Whenever we "move" to the East Coast again, we hope to make it there to house and pet sit.

    Crocs are not to be underestimated. On a backpacking trip to Australia, when I was much younger, we got to inspect the teeth of the salties (salt water crocodiles) up close during a boat tour, when the guide fed them prey from up high and they jumped to grab it. Exhilarating to say the least! :-)
    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. At coferences, we always stayed at the Marriot which is like any Marriot n any other city. When we went for our weekend trip, we rented a condo in the Quarter complete with original brick walls and a fabulous interior terrace with fountain and hot tub (described quite yummily in PRINCE OF POWER). Made all the difference!

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  51. That's pretty cool you got to be there in the face of danger. I'm glad you got survived and your sneaker didn't get you eaten. :)

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    1. LOL! I was worried about more than just that sneaker!

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  52. I loved Savannah when I went. It was less than a week post-hurricane, yet incredibly welcoming and beautiful. My husband and I fell in love with the city. We see more dangerous animals around our home in Colorado than we saw there, but we did get to see a dolphin frolicking in the river! I understand now why Savannah is such a perfect book setting.

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  53. I've always wanted to visit New Orleans.
    I heard about the alligator attack at a Disney World resort that tragically left a young child dead. I would agree with your assessment that these creatures can be dangerous and unpredictable.

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