Featured Posts

<< >>

Title This Book!

I am having the hardest time coming up with a title for this book. The body of the book is all done now! And I just went and re-checked and plotted new GPS coordinates as well. I am finishing up collaborations with my illustrator for the cover – most of the interior images are completed!!!

Geocaching in Los Angeles California – Urban Geocaching

Image: Gerry Boughan / Shutterstock.com I had my first urban geocaching experience last week! First, I have to confess to a major geocaching/travel bug faux pas. Sadly I must admit to picking up a travel bug, Mini LED Flashlight Travel Bug Dog Tag, in March from Gargamel’s Realm and just dropping it last week (July)! I did

Adventures With Lem – Vol 4 “Destination Unknown”

…When I arrived at place Lem suggested in Elysian Park (34.080476″N, -118.233806″W) * I found him easily as he was near the footpath fading in and out from the side of the path to the center of the path. “Hello! I simply cannot wait for you to show me this technique. Walking all over this

Adventures with Lem – Vol 3 “The Good Student”

The professor awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and exhilarated. He knew he had mastered the slow, deep breathing his new friend, Lem had instructed him in the day before. As he set out to meet Lem he felt clear-headed and centered. It was a remarkable new feeling for the scatterbrained professor! “NO!” Lem looked

A New Way to Develop Characters

During the last third of the book, Discovering Magic, I introduce a new character. This character was pretty flat so I attempted to give them some more personality. But I did it in a really superficial way and it was not working. I kept thinking about this character and what I could do with him

Title This Book!

I am having the hardest time coming up with a title for this book.

The body of the book is all done now! And I just went and re-checked and plotted new GPS coordinates as well. I am finishing up collaborations with my illustrator for the cover – most of the interior images are completed!!! We’re in the home stretch and I still don’t have a title that I like.

I’ve been calling it Discovering Magic. I feel it’s just too obvious and not interesting. I have a couple of portals and interesting places in the book that I might refer to, but that also need proper names!

To give you an idea of what these proper names could be I’ll tell you that there are fantasy creatures from Shakespeare, and also general fantasy legend. There are great old talking trees, and also some creatures that are not so nice. :) There are portals and many other lands, and the worlds are kind of split into a dichotomy of fairytale creature lands and our (human/mundane) world.

So in the same way you fill in mad-libs with parts of speech I would like to see what you guys can come up with!

I would like to generate a massive list of proper fantasy names for trees or rocks or portals or lands as possible. And also a massive list of fantasy adjectives that could be paired up with the proper nouns. Please leave as many as you like in the comments below.

Thanks in advance for your help with this writer’s block!

Sara Murray

Geocaching in Los Angeles California – Urban Geocaching

shutterstock_78502579Image: Gerry Boughan / Shutterstock.com

I had my first urban geocaching experience last week!

First, I have to confess to a major geocaching/travel bug faux pas. Sadly I must admit to picking up a travel bug, Mini LED Flashlight Travel Bug Dog Tag, in March from Gargamel’s Realm and just dropping it last week (July)! I did go and post in the logs that I still had it and I would place it ASAP. The travel bug has a goal of reaching all 50 states and seemed to be stuck in the mid-west. I thought I would help it out and bring it to California! I dropped it in Follow the Yellow Brick Road on July 16th. (Narrowly forgetting to drop it, leaving only a few hours to find a cache large enough to drop it in!)

Urban geocaching is a different animal from the more traditional traipsing through the woods alone type of geocaching I’m used to. It comes with it’s own unique set of issues.

Muggles. This is the by far the biggest difference. They are EVERYWHERE! You simply cannot get away from them, so you must be extra stealthy. Timing your searching for moments when no one is around, and waiting patiently while people pass you by – all while trying not to attract too much attention and get the police involved.

The police and or security. You see, in the woods people stop to look at things, and sit down and enjoy the view, and wander off the trail to explore all the time. In the city someone standing on the side of the road near businesses is loitering, or worse. Someone digging through city bushes or business property is cause for alarm. Placing or digging out and then replacing plastic or AMMO containers (right!?) is definitely a reason to call the police in my opinion!

Cross walks, dead end streets and parking. Parking in Los Angeles is horrendous! Near this particular cache that I found there was literally no parking at all. You had to park down a residential side-street up to 2 blocks away and then travel to the cache. This I guess would be the equivalent to parking in a lot at a park and hiking through the woods to the cache. :) When you’re looking on a map and you can see your cache and you see all the streets leading to it and or nearby you cannot assume that the rout you think is going to get you there will. You can encounter high fences, tall hedges, and extended/strange property lines.

I was parked near the street in Culver City that I would need to travel on so that was not an issue for me. I was on what I think was the south eastern side of the street, and the cache was on the north western side. I looked right down the block and saw a major intersection with a cross walk way down. I looked left down the block and saw a light with a cross walk close-by. The cache looked to be about half way to the right, and there appeared to be a street right there – and maybe a crosswalk? NOPE. should have taken the close cross walk to the left!

Once I got across the street it became clear that I would be digging in the bushes on Sony property. I assume they have cameras all over, and I know for a fact that there is security at every gate and this cache was very close to a gate. I would have to determine if I could see the cache or if I would have to actually dig in the bushes for it.

Leaving out major details so as not to ruin the find for anyone else, I did find it without any issues – dropped the travel bug and replaced it without being arrested or alarming any muggles. :)

I prefer the woods by far – the reason I got involved in geocaching in the first place, but this was a great and unique experience. Share your story below about a unique geocaching environment you’ve explored!

Adventures With Lem – Vol 4 “Destination Unknown”

…When I arrived at place Lem suggested in Elysian Park (34.080476″N, -118.233806″W) * I found him easily as he was near the footpath fading in and out from the side of the path to the center of the path.

“Hello! I simply cannot wait for you to show me this technique. Walking all over this city is giving me blisters!” The professor walked to where Lem was now waiting on the side of the footpath. “Let’s get to it! All I have to learn now is how to imagine the place I want to be right?”

“Yes, you must be very specific, so you don’t fade in someplace you don’t want to be. You will want to pick a place that is hidden from potential passers-by, so as not to shock other humans in the area.” Lem explained.

“Alright then. Someplace close by…” The professor looked around decided on a tree a few yards away. “So, I ‘slow’ my breath, imagine the place, and step through… is that it?”

“Yes. Remember to be specific, and don’t think of anything else.” Lem said.

“Okay then, here I go.” The professor held his breath, imagined the tree, started one foot forward very slowly and… he remembered that he forgot to brush his teeth this morning… put his foot down in… his bathroom!

“Oh snail tails! This is what Lem meant by not thinking of anything else.” The professor picked up his toothbrush and began brushing.

*   *   *

Lem blinked and teleported to the tree he thought the professor was trying for. The professor was gone. Just gone!

He must have thought of someplace else at the last moment! You’ve got to be kidding me! Thought Lem, Now what!? I don’t even know if he was remotely successful! He could have teleported off planet or to the bottom of the sea for all I know! Lem walked around the tree a few times just to make sure the professor really wasn’t there.

Lem tried not to think about the professor teleporting to someplace harmful, or worse yet, full of people. The council had rules about this sort of thing! Lem was definitely bending a few when it came to teaching this to a full-blooded human. He should have at least asked for permission first. He honestly didn’t think it would work. But it had! Now what would he do…

Lem would have to try to search for him somehow…

*   *   *

With nice clean teeth the professor tried again. He tried imagining the tree he was trying for in Elysian Park with as much detail as possible. He held the image in his mind and shut out all other thoughts. He held his breath, slowly moved his foot forward to take a step, began putting it down as the wind blew by him, and remembered he had to go to the lab in a few hours to finish reading a book that was due to the library the next day, and stepped right into the Silver Lake library!

He was completely disoriented.

I thought about my lab. How did I end up here? OOooohh… the book is from the library. Of course.

Luckily he was in the physics section, and no one was around.

He ran his fingers through his messy gray hair. He tried to calm his mind. I must focus! Just when he said that every horrible place he could imagine ran through his mind. The cave of spiders he encountered exploring in Costa Rica last year, The wood bridge he didn’t think he would get across high in the Swiss Alps, the hot sticky swamp where he was convinced he would be eaten by an alligator or bitten by a huge amazon snake. NO! He sighed. He needed to get a grip!

He thought about the tree. He pictured it calmly in his mind. He waited a long time to make sure he really had it. He became very calm. He almost felt like he was actually looking at the tree. He quickly held his breath and took one slow smooth step forward. The wind blasted him in the face, his foot touched down on the other side, and in front of him he saw the tree that was pictured in his mind exactly. He was startled as the imagined picture in his brain became real life.

“BENJAMIN! I thought I would never see you again! You could have ended up anywhere! The moon even! Where were you? What happened?” Lem practically shook with relief at the return of the professor.

“I took a few detours.” The professor replied as he polished his eyeglasses. “Just as I was leaving for the tree I remembered that I hadn’t brushed my teeth this morning and just like that I was in my bathroom! From there I found myself in the physics section of the Silver Lake library because at the last possible moment I remembered some reading I have to do before returning the book tomorrow. It was there that I realized how dangerous this time traveling business could be and I took more time to focus my image. After taking enough time with the image I was finally able to get back here to the tree! It’s all quite dizzying!” The professor took a deep breath when he finished his story.

“Yes, please take your time! It never occurred to me that it would come so easily to you. It can be dangerous, but more often a mistake is just inconvenient.” Lem told him. “Let’s practice a few more times and then I’ll take you somewhere more interesting.”

*You will be going to Chavez Ridge disk golf course. A beautiful course! You will be parking in the lot close to the first tee, so if you have the inclination bring your disks!

Adventures with Lem – Vol 3 “The Good Student”

The professor awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and exhilarated. He knew he had mastered the slow, deep breathing his new friend, Lem had instructed him in the day before. As he set out to meet Lem he felt clear-headed and centered. It was a remarkable new feeling for the scatterbrained professor!

“NO!” Lem looked down and a great sigh escaped him. He was clearly impressed with my natural learning ability. I just needed to breathe a little slower.

“Alright, alright my good friend. Slower still you say.” I calmed myself, and breathed so slowly I didn’t even know if I was actually breathing or not.

Lem’s head stretched out far from his shell. Was this deplorable human actually going to do it? His eyes got very wide. So close!

“NO!!!! No! No! No! Disgusting! An utter failure! I give up! I never should have started. What a waste of a day.” Lem turned his back and started into the bushes.

“Wait! I can do better! I’ve got it this time. If course. How silly of me. Once more now.” Lem looked back over his shoulder and stopped walking. I could tell he was tense with anticipation.

I centered myself, and slowed my breathing. I took a long slow deep breath in, and HELD it.

“That’s it! Don’t move! I can’t believe it!” Lem scrambled back out to me, his neck stretched so far out of his shell it looked as if he were going to climb right out of it. “Don’t. Move.”

I held my breath as long as I could. I started seeing stars. I had to breathe! Very slowly I exhaled, I tried to go so slow I didn’t notice but I had held my breath for so long I couldn’t help it!

“Wow. I never would have guessed you could actually do it!” Lem was stepping to the right, then back to the left as if he were looking for something. “Well, Alright! Next step! Allowing your mind to develop an image of the place you want to go.”

“Simple.” I said.

“Yes, much easier than the breathing. And then the moment of taking the step. Shall we try it?” Lem looked hopeful. “We’ll just do a small jump at first. Meet me in Elysian park and we’ll practice!” He faded out immediately, and I started walking to the park.

*   *   *

“Uncle Ben, where are WE going to go once I learn how to do it?” Thomas asked the professor.

“Let’s see now, I know I put the itinerary somewhere here…” He started unzipping and re-zipping and looking in all manner of pockets on his fishing vest and pants. “Ah yes, here we go.” He pulled out a crumpled blue sticky note and smoothed it out.

“First we’re going to a practice spot in southern Arizona. An old abandoned mining town. Lots of great places and old buildings to explore! Then some relaxation at a hot spring in New Mexico. There’s a great place nearby for practicing small jumps called City of Rocks. You’re going to love it!” He searched the messy writing for the next stop. “Oh yes, then Garden of the Gods in Colorado, and last we’re going to visit a friend of mine at N.O.R.A.D. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station! A city inside a mountain! I am looking forward to that. No one even gets tours these days things are so locked down inside that mountain!” The professor crumpled the note back up and stuffed it into a pocket.

Thomas was amazed at the cool places his uncle was going to take him!

“So how did it feel when you finally did it!?” Thomas was very excited to get back to the story.

“Hmmm… A little tingly, and like a rush of air. As if a huge giant is blowing out a birthday candle, and you are the candle!” Thomas tried to imagine what that would be like. “And then all of a sudden *poof* you’re there!” His uncle finished.

“Did it take long to get it?” Thomas asked.

“Well, not too long.” The professor continued his story…

A New Way to Develop Characters

During the last third of the book, Discovering Magic, I introduce a new character. This character was pretty flat so I attempted to give them some more personality. But I did it in a really superficial way and it was not working. I kept thinking about this character and what I could do with him to make him come to life. A few days passed and I decided to devote a notebook to character development!

I opened to the fresh front page and put the character’s name at the top. I then delved headlong into describing him. Everything about him. How he looked, how he dressed, how he did his hair, his thoughts on certain things, his parents, his hobbies, his likes and dislikes, his friends EVERYTHING! Everything and anything I could think of I wrote down. When I was done I had a real sense of who this person was.

When I went back to my writing I knew *exactly* what to do to make him come to life. It worked out perfectly. I almost feel like I had to get to know him better in order to know what he would say, or how he would act!

I have done this with several other characters and I love the result. You really end up with a three-dimensional, very real person by taking the time to do this.

Just thought I would share!

Sara

My First Munzee Find(s)

If you like geocaching you’ve got to give Munzee a try.

It’s very similar to geocaching, but IMO it’s faster and bit easier. It is also easy to “hide” a Munzee in an Urban area – making it available for hunting everywhere! Another notable difference (at least where geocaching.com is concerned) is that the folks at Munzee do not mind if you use the game for marketing a business or product.

I found out about Munzee over a year ago! I was just setting up my Twitter account for geocachebooks.com and one person I followed was following Munzee. I followed them and started to learn about the game.

For Munzee you need a smart phone – one with a camera that can read QR bar codes. You download the app, create an account and off you go! You can pull up a map of the area around you and see where there are Munzees hidden, travel to them, zap the QR code and BAM! Your first find. :)

I was feeling bored last night after having worked and written a ton during the day. I had about 1.5 hours of daylight left, which is pretty short for geocaching or disk golf which I had hoped to get in yesterday. Then I remembered Munzee!

I pulled up the app on my phone and found several nearby that looked pretty easy and off I went. The first one was the hardest, since I had never seen a Munzee QR code piece before. I didn’t know how it would be attached, or if it was a sticker, or how large it would be or if it would be camouflaged in any way.

The group of Munzees I was targeting were all attached to trees by a plastic zip-tie, they were about 1″ by 1″ and inside a small clear plastic sleeve.

There are 9 in the group total, and I found 5 last night before I had to stop due to mosquito feeding time! It was a blast. It was very fun and very fast.

Whenever I am at a park I always check my geocaching app to see if there are any caches nearby, now *anywhere* I go I will be checking to see if there are any Munzees around!

Thanks Munzee!  http://www.munzee.com/

Adventures with Lem – Vol 2 “How To”

As The airplane taxied to it’s takeoff point Thomas had to interrupt.

“So wait, uncle Ben, how can a tortoise talk? Their mouths are completely different from ours.” Thomas took off his ‘ball-cap and itched his forehead.

“That was another peculiar thing. I was speaking normally to Lem, but when Lem spoke to me it was more like I was hearing him inside my head.”

“ESP!!?” Thomas exclaimed.

“Yes, I suppose that’s what it is. It’s hard to tell because it sounds just like he’s speaking regularly.” Ben replied. “After quite a bit of coaxing, Lem did agree to possibly tell me how the space/time traveling is done, and he told me how to get to his home. He made some joke about humans not being smart enough to grasp the concept and then, faded back out to meet me at his place.”

Thomas listened intently as his uncle continued to describe the most fantastic tale he’d ever heard.

*  *  *

After my encounter with Lem I stood on the sidewalk dumbfound. I looked up Hyperion, and back to the bushes Lem had said he was aiming for. I couldn’t quite believe what had just happened. However, I was so interested in this new phenomenon I pushed past all disbelief in talking tortoises and focused on the space/time travel. I had studied quantum physics for years, and that is what I pondered as I made my way to Lem’s home. (34°06’57.9″N 118°16’18.0″W OR 34.116077, -118.271655)

*  *  *

Upon reaching my destination I quickly found the sandy area near some trees and bushes that Lem had told me to look for. Lem was there waiting for me.

“So how many time did you get lost then?” Lem asked.

“Oh, it was no problem at all. It was quite a long walk though!” I replied. “Teleportation sure would have been easier! Are all tortoises intelligent time/space travelers?”

“No, I am part of a magical race of tortoise. We are not from this noisy, over-populated human land. We only live here because we can time and space travel using PFS because of the physical laws of your world. Otherwise you wouldn’t ever catch me this close to… humans.” He spat the last word out of his mouth as if it tasted bad.

“So… do you think I could learn how to teleport using the uh…”

“Point Field Synchronizing.” He stared at me for a long moment. “I’m not sure. It requires a substantial slowing of your mind and body; something I RARELY see humans do.” Lem cocked his head to the side. He seemed to size me up, possibly deciding if I was up to the task or maybe just admiring my vest.

“How is it done?” I asked trying to get any kind of information from him.

“Hmmm… I guess I could tell you that much at least. You do seem to possess an underlying calm, and a patient demeanor. You seem to be slightly… different that other common humans.” He agreed. “The basis behind PFS travel is to slow your mind and body down to the speed of existence where everything in this world is flowing at the same rate. This is also the reason for the fading in and out. The slowing down process is gradual.

“I usually begin by slowing down my breathing. Making my breaths deeper, and inhaling and exhaling so slowly I can barely notice the change at all. The first attempt I made at PFS it took me almost 10 minutes just to slow my breath to that pace.

“Clearing your mind of thoughts, especially racing thoughts, is the next key. Turn off your brain’s constant analysis and contemplation of everything and just be your eyes. Very slowly envision in your mind’s eye the place you would like to end up. Try not to think thoughts or words about it, just allow it to come into your imagination.

“Once you have that down with the breathing the only other thing to do is physically move forward at an extremely slow pace. If you move too quickly at this point you may break the spell and have to start over, if you ever get to this point, that is. You only have to take half of one step and you will fade out, to take the rest of the step in the new place. Much like walking through a doorway from one room to the next.”

Nodding I replied, “So we have 1. Deepen and Slow the breathing. 2. Clear your mind and focus on the destination. and 3. Move your body forward at an extremely slow pace to step through space and time and end up at your destination.” I looked at Lem to make sure I had the steps correct.

“Yes, that’s it. I have to warn you, it is easier said than done by far. I think tonight you should just work on your breathing and see how that goes. Let’s meet back here tomorrow and see if there’s any hope of getting beyond just that.” Lem started to walk away under a bush and I concluded that our visit was over.

I straightened my pants and bid farewell to Lem for the day. As I walked to my lab and home away from home in California I thought about all the space and time experiments done by physicists throughout the years. If I could complete the tasks that Lem had set before me I could potentially change the face of space/time science forever.

I vowed to do my best to master the deep slow breathing tonight so we could move to the next lesson in the morning.

 

Writing Mega Update

So many projects, so little time…

Dream! – The ultra-short trilogy that I started last summer – will be concluding very shortly. I know how the story ends, I know where Dream ends up and I can easily get the coords to complete it. This story starts in Minnesota, goes to Seattle WA, and ends up in Beverly Hills CA. So many people will get a chance to see what geocachebooks.com is all about.

Lem’s Cross Country Time Travel Adventure – The serial story I started last summer – I need to dedicate some time to this story. It has so many cool parts to it, and it actually follows a road trip that I took from Los Angeles, CA to Burnsville, MN last fall. It was quite an adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you all via Lem! I am going to attempt to put out 1 volume per week and maybe that will get things rolling again.

Discovering Magic – the first full length geocaching book – Here’s the scoop, I had it “finished,” I was editing it with Matthew Karner, We got to the last 2-3 chapters and I realized that I had suffered from a serious case of horrible writing for the remainder of the book. It was a horrifying discovery! We finished the editing even though I knew I was probably just going to send those pages to a fiery death. I then spent 2 nights overhauling the entire last 3rd of the book. I love what happened, but the state that it is in right now is printed pages with scribbles and writing all over them and numbered events. The next step is to sit down and actually write it all out, and hope I’m not hit with another case of horrible writing!

The other thing is that I started reading it to my writing circle, and I have subtle but pervasive edits to make throughout the whole book now. They are really great notes and changes, and I am excited about the direction it’s going, but I am starting from the beginning AGAIN!

I just want this book to be great. I want it to stand on it’s own and be super interesting to my readers. I want it to be good whether you can go look for the coordinates or not. I am so excited for the over-arching story as well. I have some great mythology that I am excited to share and reveal to you all!!

So here’s the strategy: Write for at least one hour or more per day (I have a day job and 2 kiddos to look after as well, so we’ll see how this goes), complete one serial of Lem’s story per week, and just finish Dream already!! Finish it!

Thanks for reading everyone.

Sara

Hats Off to Vlogers

Vlogging is HARD!

After trying my hand at video blogging, I really admire the video bloggers I know. THE GEOCACHING VLOGGER, and THE GEOCACHING DOC in particular.

I recently tried putting up a weekly vlog and failed miserably! The time and dedication it takes is quite substantial. Planning your topic and content, choosing your site/setting, actual shooting of the video, EDITING (omg the editing…), posting, tagging, announcing, social media-ING… Wheew!

It’s pretty amazing what these guys put out.

By the time I got to the editing (EDITING) section a few days have already passed from the time I shot the video. I *really* wanted to do this cool idea where my kids and I would build a fairy house(s) and people could go find it and build on at the end of each episode, but if it takes me 3-5 days to get it live that is not going to work out!!! :-)

AND then by the time it is all EDITED and ready to go I am so burned out that I think the video stinks, and am too tired to post post post to social media. So, you’re seeing a video that was shot about 1-2 weeks before!

That’s my vlogging rant. I hope to someday have enough time and experience EDITING to be able to put out more videos, but right now I just better get my head down and keep writing!

Buying a Handheld GPS Device

For years I have been using an old handheld GPS device that I bought used from someone on E-Bay. It is a Magellan eXplorist 200.

magellan-200

It was very inexpensive, and it has a TON of features. The only catch is that it is 100000% user-not-friendly. It takes forever to input anything because all you have to work with is the little joystick in the center of the buttons. AND Most of the images on my buttons are worn off.

You can track-back, store waypoints, store GPS searches, save notes etc etc etc… all with that one little joystick. It’s horrible. I need a new one ASAP.

I keep shamelessly posting on twitter that I need a new device hoping some travel magazine or camping company will send me one to review! Alas, no luck so far.

I would really like a topographical map. I am in LA hiking quite a bit and it’s always nice to take elevation changes into consideration when you’re hiking in the mountains! In MN I can get away with an as-the-bird-flies GPS device, but not in LA!

I would also love to be able to send geocaches from geocaching.com or opencaching.com straight to my device.

I do use my smart phone for geocaching when I’m in the city, but as I get more and more into it – and write more stories – I find myself without service in the coolest spots. I always want to save some GPS coords for later, but many times I just let the opportunity go because it’s going to take me 15-20 minutes just to get them into the GPS device I have now.

I would love to hear any recommendations you guys have. I am probably looking in the $150-$200 range.

I plan to go shopping soon, and I will report back my findings. :)

Take care!

Sara