Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Penguins and a Giveaway

With Nancy J. Farrier

When I thought about what to write for my blog this month, I considered all my friends and family who are going through extreme cold temperatures and record snowfall. I also thought of a couple of extra gifts that I ordered for Christmas and didn’t use. The mugs I have both are penguin mugs, so I thought we should explore a little history of penguins. When I picture penguins, I picture snow and cold, so they seemed fitting for a blog.

Ferdinand Magellan

Imagine what early explorers must have thought when they found these flightless birds the walked in such an awkward manner and dove into the water. It is said penguins were not afraid of people because they had no natural predators on land. Penguins were known to walk right up to groups of people, bold and curious.

Vasco de Gama
There are differing opinions on which explorer first found penguins. Some people believe Vasco da Gama was first; others believe Ferdinand Magellan did. Those who back Ferdinand Magellan often think he named the Magellanic Penguin, but opposing views believe that penguin was named after the Straits of Magellan.  

Earliest occurrences of the word penguin are similar to the word ‘great auk.’ Some feel the early Explorers thought the penguins were similar to the great auk and that is where there name came from, even though the birds are not close relations.

was surprised in my research to find so many different types of penguins and they range across a wide area of the southern hemisphere and one is native in the northern hemisphere. There are seventeen to twenty different living species, although, once again, there is some debate about which are simply color variants and which are different species. I won’t go through all of them, but will show you a few of the different ones and where they are native.

Emperor Penguin

The Emperor penguin is a familiar one to us. This penguin lives in Antarctica, and is the largest of these birds. They are known for living in very harsh conditions, trekking for miles across the ice, and being part of colonies that can be in the thousands. The female of this species lays one egg, which is cared for by the male while the female travels back to the sea to get nourishment. Then they share in the care and raising of the young one.

Adelie Penguin

Adelie penguins also live in Anarctica, but they inhabit the coast instead of trekking inland. They are well known for their snow white breast and stomach. A 1910 expedition reported the Adelie penguins were so fearless, they would often jump right onto the ice where the sled dogs were tethered. Many of the birds met their demise this way.

Magellanic Penguin

The Magellanic penguin, mentioned earlier, lives in South America. These birds breed along the coast of Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. Some have even been seen as far north as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

The smallest of the penguins, the Galapagos penguin, lives right at the equator
Galapagos Penguin
and sometimes north of the equator in the Galapagos islands. This small bird is only about five pounds. They tend to stay in the water most of the day and return to land at night when the temperatures cool.

Here are some fun facts I discovered about penguins.

Hearing- Penguins have some unique speech patterns, but don’t have very good hearing. Their other senses are more developed and they have very good eyesight, both in the water and on land. Studies have shown they probably see in color.

Water – Penguins can spend a long time in the water. If you have seen documentaries on penguins, you know that when they swim they appear to be flying through the water. They are beautiful to watch. They can dive up to 1,700 feet, depending on the species. They do need to surface for air, but can stay submerged for up to twenty minutes.

Sleep – Penguins sleep standing up, so many times people have thought they don’t sleep. How much they sleep depends on the environment and whether they are molting.

Sun – Penguins use the sun to guide them as they travel across the ice. They are also subject to sunburn. This is why they cover their feet with their flippers when they sleep.

Rockhopper Penguin

I would love to have seen the early explorers when they found these flightless birds. I wonder what they thought of them. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted to brave the cold and hardships of travel to places like Antarctica or those climes to see them. Maybe some day I would enjoy traveling to the southern hemisphere in their summer to see these birds.

Have you ever seen a penguin in the wild? Do you have a favorite species? Leave a comment, along with your email, on the blog to be entered in the drawing for one of these mugs. I am giving two of them away. I will accept comments until midnight on January 18th. (PST) These mugs were designed by my daughter, who has her artwork here.

Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Reasons to Love Mississippi AND Cover Reveal!

by Pam Hillman

Having been born and raised in Mississippi, I’d like to share FIVE reasons that make Mississippi an amazing place to set an entire series in my home state.

1) Mississippi River - The Mississippi River runs North/South all the way from Minnesota along the western border of Mississippi to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Native Americans, mostly hunter-gatherers and Mound Builders formed agricultural societies up and down its banks.

The river was (and still is) a major transportation hub as well as a barrier and boundary for those without the means to cross. Farms, plantations, cities, shipping, barges, flatboats, riverboats all vied for a place on or near the Mississippi River.

2) Natchez Trace - The Natchez Trace, also known as the "Old Natchez Trace" and “The Devil’s Backbone”, runs roughly 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

The Old Sunken Trace and Cole's Creek

The trail follows a ridge line, and animals naturally followed the pathway to distant grazing lands, the salt licks in Tennessee, and to the Mississippi River. Native Americans, then European and American explorers, traders, and settlers followed in their paths, improving and widening the road with each passing year.

3) Natchez, MS - Natchez, at one time the capital of the Mississippi Territory, is one of the oldest and most important European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley. Changing hands from France, Spain, Great Britian and eventually becoming part of the United States of America, the city is a smorgasbord of nationalities, cultures, and architecture.

The strategic location on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and at the Southern end of the Natchez Trace ensured its place as a center of trade and commerce for well over two centuries from its founding.

4) Plantations - Plantations are self-sustaining and self-contained settlements. The proximity of the Mississippi River and the Natchez Trace, and later, the invention of the steamboats plying the river in conjunction with the vast tracks of fertile land in the surrounding lowlands enticed wealthy Southern planters to take up residence, growing cotton and sugarcane and to lesser degrees, indigo and tobacco. Natchez became the principal port from which these crops were exported, both upriver and downriver to New Orleans and to Europe.

5) Highwaymen - Highwaymen weren’t confined to the English countryside. Because of the high rate of traffic on the Natchez Trace before the steamboat was launched on the Mississippi River in 1811, thieves and robbers plied the trace, stealing and killing unsuspecting travelers.

With all these fascinating people, places, events within a few hours of me, how could I not write about them? So I did.

The Promise of Breeze Hill - Available for preorder from your favorite Retailer

The Promise of Breeze Hill, A Natchez Trace Novel
Natchez, MS; 1791

Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady.

The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage.

Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?


Visit Pam at www.pamhillman.com