Friday, August 31, 2012

"Only a Novel" by Amy Dashwood

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Dashwod. Ms. Dashwood published her first novel “Only a Novel” in June 2012. Here is a description:  

Elizabeth Markette has always led a quiet and privileged life under the guardianship of her wealthy grandmother. But when her grandmother dies and leaves twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth alone in the world and nearly penniless, she’s forced to earn her own living for the first time in her life. Taking inspiration from her favorite British novels, she sets sail for England to seek a position as a governess. Before she can do that, however, she is rather abruptly and overwhelmingly befriended by a lonely and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Bancroft, who introduces her to the sparkling world of London society. Yet Elizabeth still feels the need to make her own way, though once she actually acquires a position, she begins to have doubts as to whether she’s actually qualified. The children she’s teaching don’t seem to like her, the housemaid seems far too eager to be friends—who wants to be friends with a housemaid?—and the stable hand keeps interfering with the children. Elizabeth’s one hope and consolation is that somehow, some way, Mr. Darcy will come riding out of the mists very soon indeed to save her from a life of respectable servitude. There’s just one problem—where is he?

Show Le
Paula Tansey: How long did it take you to write “Only a Novel?
Amy Dashwood: I started it in November 2011 as part of the NaNoWriMo Challenge and finished it in June 2012.

PT: What's a typical writing day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
AD: In November for the challenge my goal was 2000 words per day. That leaves just enough time for sleeping, eating and school. After the challenge was complete, I wrote whenever I could and whatever I could finish each session.

PT: What does your family think of your writing?
AD: Carolyn (sister) likes it. And Mom, too. It's not really Dad's type of book. He started it, but I think he got bored with it. Robbie (who is 7) didn't like it because it's not about Legos.

PT: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
AD: I read, sew, blog. And I like to decorate cakes.

PT: How would you describe “Only a Novel” to those who have not read it?
AD: It's historical fiction inspired by Jane Austen but it's not fan fiction....although it's written by a Jane Austen fan.

PT: Would you tell my readers how old you are?
AD: 17.

PT: So how did you research for a story that takes place in the late 1800’s? And why did you choose that time period?
AD: I wanted it to take place after Jane Austen's novels were written and I wanted a time period when nothing dramatic was going on - no wars or economic disasters. I read a lot, mostly websites, to see what daily life would be like. I chose a more or less peaceful time so I didn't have to worry about too many dates or names of things that actually happened.

PT: Is there any significance to the naming of your characters?
AD:Elizabeth Bennet is the name of a Jane Austen character but beyond that they were just names I liked.

PT: Who is your favorite character in “Only a Novel”?
AD: (no hesitation) Rodney.

PT: If it’s possible without giving away anything important, can you tell us your favorite part of the book?
AD: When Elizabeth runs into Lavinia at Kensington Gardens. It was my favorite part to write. (laughs) Maybe I'm sadistic, because I enjoyed writing an embarrassing moment?

PT: The story is told from Elizabeth’s perspective. Is Elizabeth you?
AD: No. She's a little like me, but she's not me.

PT: Will there be a sequel to “Only a Novel”?
AD: Not planned.

PT: Will there be another book authored by Amy Dashwood?
AD: I hope so.

PT: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
AD: I think I always wanted to be a writer but got serious about it a few years ago. When I was 7, I was reading a lot. I started to wonder what would happen if I read all the books in the world and I ran out of good stuff to read? I started writing stories back then and stapling the pages together as "books".

PT: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
AD: Hmmm that's a good question. (Thinks about this for a few minutes) I guess " What would you change if you could edit the book now?" The answer is I would have done more character development especially near the end. I wrapped it up too quickly especially between Lavinia and Wilfred Pickering.

PT: Who?
AD: See.... He married Lavinia. I should have developed him better and you would have remembered him.

PT: If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
AD: Probably something along the lines of “I Cannot Live Without Books.”  That’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson and one of my favorites.
** End of Interview.

I read "Only a Novel before the interview. I have never read nor seen any of the movies of Jane Austen's novels. I had some concerns that perhaps I would have trouble following. I did not. I enjoyed the book a lot. Perhaps my enjoyment would have been greater had I read more Austen ahead of this but I do not feel like I failed to understand the story because of that.

I tend to read more than one book at  a time and this one became my 'on the nightstand read before going to sleep' book. Several nights I stayed up too late reading :)

I admit to figuring out some of the ending before I got there but that happens a lot with me. Even so, it was fun to see how exactly the characters got to what I thought I already knew.

“Only a Novel” is available in kindle and paperback at You can follow Amy on her blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Firehouse Pickle Run in the Streets

Last night (Wednesday) I ran a Run the Day pickle prediction run. The race went through the streets of Garden City and ended at the firhouse with a BBQ. Here is a picture of our group prior to the run.

Chief Cheerleader and
Keeper of the contraband
If you don't know, in a prediction run the goal is to predict your finish time in advance and try to see how close you can get to it. It's a lot of fun and the winners are not necessarily the first people to cross the finish line.

Now, a key thing in a prediction run is that the participants can not use timing devices. Duh, right? Unfortunatley not all of us rememberd that fact. Dave graciously offered to keep all the rule breaking devices for the group.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Helping Others Smile and Move

On Sunday, Dave and I volunteered at the Perk Up Half Marathon, aka the Hurricane Half. Sunday marked the second attempt at the race's innaugural event. In 2011, Hurricane Irene and her flooding rains and tree felling winds put the kabash on attempt number 1. 

Several of my running and walking buddies participated in the event. Here is a photo of them after they all finished! I was only back from vacation the Tuesday before and did not feel I'd be ready. This makes me wimp #1. For two of the ladies in this photo, Perk up was their second in as many weeks and another had just returned from vacation the DAY before. These people are rock stars! 

Anyway, the race sounded like fun and when the organizers put a call for more volunteers I decided to sign up for that. Someone asked me if Perki, our running group mascot would be there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I am not a fan of amusement parks ......

Probably never will be. I AM a huge Harry Potter fan so I decided to, bite the bullet and open the wallet and go to Universal Islands of Adventure to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was so worth it!!!!!
We arrived shortly after 10 and headed straight to Hogsmead. What a fantastic recreation. We went to the castle first as we had been warned that the line can get long quick. I don't think we were on line more than an hour and it moved the whole time. I was impressed with the use of fingerprints instead of keys for the lockers. Cool technology and handy since there really isn't a way to keep a backpack while on the ride. I remarked to Dave that a key can get lost but hopefully one will come off the ride with all one's fingers. He replied that it was good incentive to keep your hands inside the car. 

The walk to the actual ride is entertaining from talking portraits to a welcome by Dumbledore and an appearance by Harry, Ron and Hermione from out of the invisibility cloak. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 6- WaWa Coffee: Cure for Persistent Cough

We decided that WaWa probably shouldn't promote that but it seemed to work for KT today. She was plagued - or maybe suffering from it - with a nasty cold these past few days. The source is likely the motel we stayed at in Miami :(   Lots of rest and husband TLC had her feeling better this morning save for a bit of cough until she had the coffee. Do the math....
We drove to St. Augustine today. Interesting old town. We took the trolley tour and dodged rain. We visited the lighthouse here but did not go up. More than twice as high with what were described as "Restful Platforms" on the way up. To me this translates to "Panic Platforms". Whose idea is it to make see-through stairs anyway?

We stopped at JT's Seafood House for dinner. Nice hole in the wall local place. Good food served up with a heavy dose of southern hospitality. The waitress managed to use some term of endearment to each of us at some point. Noticeable but not over the top. 

Day 5: You Can't Get There From Here..

Saturday was a day to not do a whole lot. After being on the road most of Friday we were happy to hang around in the morning and get a slow start. 

On a recommendation from Jl we headed to the Main Street Cafe in Celebration for breakfast/lunch. We tried first to visit the AAA office so Dave could get a map of the area. Dave LOVES maps. Unfortunately they were closed. 

After eating we took a walk around Celebration. There are a series of ponds here all connected by walking bridges. We wandered around the ponds and paths which meandered every which way. We saw a variety of birds and at least one alligator. The alligator was mostly submerged. Dave offered to take a photo if I stepped into the pond to get his attention. I guess 13 years is enough for him. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Living without Electricity

As we travelled the endless strip mall that is route 1 from Miami to Melbourne my mind wandered a bit. (No worries it was Dave's turn to drive. I drove us from Key West to Miami.) Anyway, somehow I started thinking about what it would be like to live without electricity. Could I do it even for a day? 

My  brother in law JL pointed out that sleeping for the day would be ok but the challenge would be living for a day. He's right. So what are the things we'd do without?

The obvious things are anything with an on off switch or that plugs in. 

Driving the car is out. Riding a bike would be ok but only during the day would it be safe. I can't imagine riding with a candle on my handlebars. :)

There wouldn't be refrigeration without electricity. So does operation of the stove, microwave and toaster oven. Would I be willing and/or able to not use them? And still eat healthy? For one day, probably. I think it becomes a challenge for most of us beyond that. 

Day 5 Key West to Orlando

After breakfast and check out we drove to the 0 mile marker for route 1 and took the required photo. Then off we went..... and immediately hit a detour. Not a problem however because a) we came in on route 1 (the only way in) and b) the detour took us out along the coastline and it was gorgeous! 
Back on the actual route 1 we retraced our miles back just south of Miami. We drove in and out of rain storms the whole way. Fortunately it was clear when we got to the sign for Marathon for a Phillyfit photo.
We stopped for lunch at Lorelai's a mostly bar/ restaurant on the water. This was at the far end of Islamaroda. We watched a white and a blue heron wait out the storm. As we left the rain let up and I spotted something that looked like an upside down jellyfish in the water. As we watched it move to the surface, turn over and drop back down we realized the floor of the inlet was covered with them! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 4 - It Started with Chickens and Ended with Frogs

In between there were lots of fish, some really cool coral and lots of geckos and lizards. 

The B&B breakfast was served at 8:30 so at 7:30 I headed out for a run. My Garmin was being fussy about finding the satellites so I used my phone and went 15 min out and 15 min back. The humidity was already in 70% plus range and the temps about the same. Still I enjoyed getting out somewhere new. The hustle and bustle of Duval street from the night before had been traded in for quiet. A few shop-owners were getting ready to open up. I was running along minding my own business and taking this all in when a chicken ( they are roaming free everywhere here) popped out in front of me. It startled me but no harm done. Still what is it about wildlife that makes them think I'm the one to jump in front of?

We enjoyed good coffee ( not Wawa but good enough) and a light breakfast in an outdoor courtyard area. We had to share the space with geckos but they kept their distance. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vacation Day 3: Arrive Key West

Day 3 
Left Miami around 7:30 a.m. Stopped at Ihop for breakfast. Usually we'd prefer to eat somewhere we can't do at home but there didn't seem to be any options heading out of town. By 8:15 we decided it was time to give up the hunt. 

We drove straight thru then to Key West mostly on route 1. We had made a decision before starting the trip that we would save stopping anywhere for the return trip. 

We arrived at " The Grand Guesthouse" in Key west about 12:30. Too early to check in and after getting a mini tour via map from the innkeeper, Derek, we headed out on foot to explore. We stopped for ice cream cones which melted almost faster than we could eat them. Dave had a defective cone to boot. We had our picture taken at the southernmost spot and mostly just walked around. 

Vacation Day 2 Phillies - Marlins

Day 2
Laid out my running gear last night with no promises to myself or the gear.. Just a thought that if I woke up early enough I'd head out for 3 around the development here. As it turned out I did wake up a little before 5 and it was still pretty dark out. I really wasn't in the mood for that (although I did bring my headlamp) so I decided to wait for the sun. Unfortunately (as far as running goes) the next thing I knew it was 7:00. Since there had been talk about getting on the road early and somewhere there was mention of 8 am I decided a shower and repacking the bags (it's different from going through security than day travel) was a better use of my time. It's just a little before 8 now and we aren't really anywhere near leaving that I can see. That's fine with me. It's vacation and taking our time is part of the deal. If I'd really had my heart  set on running I would have asked for clearer instructions before going to bed last night. 

It's a beautiful sunny morning. I'm sitting out on the pool deck as I write this, beginning efforts to rehydrate. (Warning likely TMI alert for some of you.) I went to bed passing the pee test and woke up failing big time. THAT's one of the side effects of air conditioning for me. Last night was better than some. I didn't get as far as headache or puffy eyes. And for my Phillyfit friends, I am not whining I'm just explaining. :) However, it sure does look like whining so I'll probably not mention it after this. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Great Wawa Hoagie Debate of 2012

It came down to boys against girls and we all know what that means.......:)

I walked to MY Wawa in Media, PA and at 5:30 a.m. ordered an Italian classic, little oil, provolone cheese, roasted peppers, lettuce, tomato, salt, pepper, oregano and grated cheese. The hoagie was carefully wrapped and placed in our backpack which was carried on the planes. (Can you spot the flaw in this plan yet?)

The flights were uneventful save for three things. 1)TSA was re- checking large carry-ons in Philadelphia. The agent was very friendly and I was quick to tell her that the missile shaped object in the pack was a Wawa hoagie. 2) In Ft. Myers TSA walked around the gate area with dogs. Fortunately they were explosive sniffing dogs without a penchant for Wawa hoagies. 3) And this perhaps the strangest thing about the trip was having to fly by way of Ft. Myers. We were barely airborne before we landed again in Orlando. But it was better than waiting until 5:30 pm to leave Philadelphia.

Friday, August 10, 2012

You Are You Own Gym

My friend Maggi introduced me to the "You Are Your Own Gym" app. It's based on the book of the same name by Mark Lauren. The concept is exercise using your own body weight instead of equipment. Right away I was intrigued. Maggi gave me a quick demo of the app on her phone one night after speed workouts.

I went home and took a closer look at the program via the website. For $1.99 what did I have to lose? Nothing actually because I still had $5 left on an I-tunes gift card I received for my birthday! :) It's on my Ipad now. (There is also an Iphone app)

Besides the simplicity of no equipment I love that the workouts have the timers and repetition counters built in. One less thing to think about makes it easier to focus on form and not obsess about how much is left. The pre-fab workouts - each ten weeks long/4 days per week - have four levels from beginner to elite. Within each workout you can also modify the exercise easier or harder. Oh and it saves your workouts so you can see your progress. 

For now I've been exploring the different exercises, trying some of them and getting familiar with the various types of workouts - ladder, interval etc. I'm going to start the basic 10 week program when I return from vacation. (Aug 22)

Maybe you'd like to join me.

I'd recommend giving yourself the chance to look the program over first. it's pretty easy to figure out but I wouldn't want to be trying to do that and starting the program at the same time. 

Check it out and let me know what you think.  The beauty of this challenge - I'll call it that since I know some of you can't resist a challenge - is that you are on your own and on your honor. Take on the workout in the privacy of your own home and get or give support to others through this blog or this blog's Facebook page

Meanwhile, I'm officially on vacation now and it's just two days until we head to Florida. I have a 10 mile run with Phillyfit tomorrow and then I've left my days unscheduled through vacation. I'll bring running stuff but I've decided not to expect any miles.

While at first glance that may sound like the easy way out, for me it's the opposite. I've spent too much time in previous years obsessing about getting in some miles on vacation and then being disappointed to the point of letting it affect my miles after I got home. I've been having some good runs (this past Tuesday aside) and I feel like I'm in a good place with my training for Philly RNR (9/16) and OC Half (9/30). Vacation is going to rock! 

I'll update the blog if I can while away. Depends on time and wifi availability. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Is a Wawa Hoagie Always a Wawa Hoagie?

Does geography or - more importantly - the roll really matter? I hope to answer that question next week.

On Monday morning before we leave I will purchase a Wawa classic hoagie- a) because they are on sale during Hoagiefest and b) it will divide into 4 decent size pieces for a taste test to be conducted by me with the assistance of Dave and my sister KT and her husband JL. Upon arrival in Orlando I hope to make a stop at the Orlando Wawa (KT, did I tell you this yet?) and purchase the identical hoagie and the four of us will conduct the test. The flaw I just noticed is that there is the possiblity of a 2-2 tie. We may have to enlist the help of an unsuspecting paser by. Won't THAT be fun :)

Photos and a full report will be posted here. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Adding On: Build On

My friend Kristie is raising money for Build On. She will be travelling with this organization in February to help build a school in Nepal. She is currently on a missioin to raise $5000 to make this happen.

Recently I participated in a fund raising effort to help Kristie and I came away the winner of two items in her raffle. (pictured on either side of this post). I'm raffling them again to help her raise more funds. For every contribution to Kristie's campaign between today and August 17th you can have a chance to win one of these prizes. I'd like to see Kristie's total increased by $400 in one week. For every $10 contributed is worth one entry in the drawing.

These are nice prizes folks. And worth much more than $10 each.

CLICK HERE for to make your donation and be entered into the drawing.

WAIT!!! There's more.

- Share this post on your Facebook timeline and get an extra entry in the drawing.
- Share a link to this post in an email and get another extra entry. Put Kristie's email in the BCC so she will know you did it.
- Share this post on Twitter and get yet one more extra entry. @riantrunner

Saturday, August 4, 2012

12.5 times 2

Today was one of the more humid days we've run in. It seemd to be split between the Saturday morning gang as to which was worse - this week or last. I think this one wins by a nose. The only blessing today was the cloud cover which kept the sun at bay for most of the run. It also kept the humidty from burning off but you can't have everything.

I ran 12.5 with Angela and Michelle mostly. Maggie was there for part of it and so was Marjorie. We did 2 and 1 intervals. I think this is going to be my interval of choice at least until the soupy hot weather clears. The difference for me was being tired at the end but not ready to quit or die. I do have to watch out in the early miles. It feels really good and I'm still going too fast. Even so, toward the end when I did start to feel it in my legs I was able to say "it's only 2 minutes" just do it. I had a great run down at Kelly Drive using 2 and 1's too. So for now, that's what I'm going to do.

After the last walker made it back to home base - Valley Forge Visitor Center this week - I took my bike out on the trail for another 12.5 miles. I headed out from the park over the 422 bridge to the SRT and to the left toward the Oaks. Then out and back out to the dog park and back. I was only at 12 when I returned so I rode around the parking lot to make it an even 12.5 for both feet and bike miles today. Yeah I know - dork!

The bike ride was uneventful. No large rodents. It was rather pleasant actually.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If You Are Not Having Fun ... Take a Detour

If you know me well you know about my family connection to the Olympics - Brendan Hansen, 2012 Bronze Medal in the 100m Breaststroke. I hesitated to write this post because I worry about boring peope. "OH there she goes again talking about that..." but I really believe there is a lesson to be learned by Brendan's story. Here is a recap:

  • 2004 world record holder in 100 and 200 m breastroke; Silver and Bronze in the Olympics
  • 2008 Olympcs failed to qualify for 200 m event and was edged out to 4th place in the 100; No individual medal; although he did take home a gold as part of the relay team that won Michael Phelps is 8th medal of the games.
  • QUIT swimming competively in his signature event - the breastroke .

Why did he quit? He was working his butt off (seriously did you notice how small an olympic swimmer's butt is?) and not taking home the prize. Expectations were high and it wasn't happening. The articles written would say things like frustrated or "Why am I doing this?". Although I never saw these specific words being used, in my mind it boils down to he wasn't having any fun.

So he took a step back. He refocused his energy on something else. In his case the something else was competing in triathalons, getting married and (I'm sure) finding all sorts of other fun stuff to fill his time.

In 2012 he came back to take the bronze in a race that was truly fun to watch even if you aren't me or one of my extended family members. He became only the 13th swimmer in Olympic history to win a medal after turning 30.

Although most of us are not olympic caliber athletes we do have similar struggles. Sometimes the thing we are doing - even if it is something we love - stops being fun. Whether it be athletics, our work, or just life in general. Sometimes we have to take a step back and regroup or recover. Sometimes it's not a full step back but just a mixing up a little. Adding some fun or goofiness to what we are doing.

So when it's not fun anymore don't forget to keep smiling (it's next to impossible to stay down when you smile) and keep moving (even if you have to move in a different direction for a little bit).

Think about your goals for August. How will you get there? What will you do to keep the road to yoru goal fun and interesting?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Vacation is 12 days away. And believe it or not I was able to make and tolerate changes to our plan this close to the date.

Although I wish I was more so, spontaneity is not my forte...especially when it comes to spending money. I'm not a scrooge but I like to make sure I get the most that I can for the buck. Vacations can be a rather large ticket item so lots of advance planning ususally go into it and after spending that much time analyzing the possibliites I am reluctant to change.

Anyway, the car has been acting up. The mechanic isn't positive what the issue is and now I'm feeling less comfortable taking it on this trip. Truthfully I've felt that way since we first thought of it but the alternatives (renting a car) seemed out of our budget. So on Monday I started checking the alternatives again to see what we could manage: