Leeds Author Event 2016

Have you ever been told about a party in an off-hand way? Such as “hey this should be fun”. And you think that does sound like fun. And then you think – it’s too bad you can’t go. That’s the way I felt when I first heard about the Leeds’ Author Event. It sounded like it would be fun – so many authors all in one place and then a masquerade ball. All for a good benefit too. But, come on! I live in America and Leeds is across the pond. There’s no way I can go. So I wrote it off.

Then I heard a few more things and saw the list of authors. Some of whom I am friends with on Facebook. And again I thought – wow that would be fun for sure. But again – I live in America! There is no way I could actually go. Then one cold Saturday morning in January I got a little curious and started checking things out. An hour later I had a plan in place to get there. And then it wasn’t a question anymore about going to Leeds. It was now a fact.

I worked all day on Thursday March 3rd, jumped on a plane and the following morning touched down in Manchester – during a snow storm. About two hours later I arrived in Leeds and after checking in went to visit to the Royal Armory. Since I was leaving early on Sunday morning I decided to arrange for my taxi back to the airport.

My first realization that I was in for a special weekend was when I saw two young ladies approach me smiling. The dark haired girl said “are you David E. Gordon? The American author?” and smiling I nodded as a glimmer of recognition edged it’s way into my mind. Without warning the blonde girl jumped at me and wrapped me in a big hug and said “It’s me Georgiana!” Well – I don’t know a Georgiana, so I just smiled. Realization set in and I was hugging Francesca Marlow. Of course, it took about 20 minutes before I realized – with a little help – that the other woman was Victoria L. James.

We made our way into the hotel bar and met several more attendees – authors, bloggers, and writers. But, I nervously awaited the arrival of someone I thought I would never actually meet. Claire Allmendinger is my editor and without her I likely would not be a published author. I had an idea of when they were supposed to arrive so I headed out to the lobby on a whim. I looked through the crowd of people checking in and there she was – Claire. We hugged for a long moment – neither of us believing this would ever happen.

I spent the rest of the night meeting more authors and friends from Facebook like Lisa Fulham, Eleanor Lloyd-Jones, Cameron Lincoln, and so many more. We had a great time as we talked, laughed, drank, and even found a way to have dinner. Even if the first two places didn’t work out – at least I got to see Leeds from the ground up. Whether we drank the wine or splashed it on Lisa we still had a lot of fun and went to bed way too late.

Saturday was really cool for me as I had never been to an author signing. Especially one with about 30 or 40 authors. It was so cool to see the effort these people went to for the signing. With banners and swag all over it was hard to imagine all of their hard work. I have written two books of my own and taken part in two compilations. I carried both compilations with me so that I could get as many signatures as possible on my copies. I was also quite pleased to sign copies for my fellow authors who had their copies.

If the day was special, the evening was even more special with a masquerade ball to benefit the Mind charity. The hostesses Jo and Rachel from Hourglass Events did an amazing job with the event. The music was fun and it didn’t stop until very late in the night. It took awhile for me to get on the floor also, but once I saw “the worm” in person I just had to dance. There were give-aways, good food, and quite a few drinks consumed. When I finally went to bed that night I slept well and dreamt of what an amazing trip this had been.

There are a lot of lessons I could take away from this trip. About an author signing event, about how a well planned event is run, and about the hard work that an author always has to go through. The job doesn’t end when you type “the end” in fact some would say that is when the job actually starts.

But, what I will always take away from this trip is the adventure. The next time there is an opportunity to go somewhere or do something I haven’t done, my response won’t be “no I can’t”. Instead, I will start by saying I can – and then find out if I can’t. Too often in life we spend more time saying “I can’t” and not enough time saying “why not”. And if you have the passion to do something, to experience something then do it and experience it.IMG_3639

Traveling to Scotland – Part II

The following day we drove from a small seaside town named Nairn – with a Gordon Street – to the Culloden Battlefield. For those of you that watch Outlander, it is a real place. And quite amazing to see in person. It is a wide open field full of marsh and bog lands. There are the markers everywhere for the various clans. And of course the large memorial for those that died that day. The sense of history throughout the country is just amazing, but this really hits it out of the park. Simple yet strong in it’s silence.

  
From Culloden we drove through the beautiful countryside to Loch Ness. My wife is a believer and I wanted to share in her excitement for it. It was breathtakingly beautiful all around and the history and scientific research was rather amazing. My wife even got a copy of one of the books signed by the author who just happened to be there. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to cruise the lake, which is huge to say the least. If I was a Loch Ness Monster I couldn’t think of a better place to live out my days.

From there we rode the train – we both agreed that was enough driving – to Stirling where we visited Castle Doune and castle Stirling. Again, for your Outlander fans Castle Doune is quite amazing to see first hand. It is not large by any stretch of the imagination. But, you can just feel the history and imagine how the clans and their people must have lived in the 1700’s and well before. It was a foggy morning so we were not able to visit the William Wallace memorial, but by the time we were ready to leave the city the fog had cleared so we could see it. Castle Stirling was another example of the history of this country and how the lairds didn’t rule, but took care of everyone like they were family.

Our last two days were spent in Edinburgh and it was an amazing way to end the trip. Seeing this large city, and yet still feeling like we were in a small town at times. The new pubs, and expensive shops surrounding the Castle on the Hill. Once again, we can see how the castle wasn’t just for a laird but it was a huge part of the city. We were lucky to be there for the daily 1pm cannon firing and even that gave us a sense of history. Not that the cobblestones, small stone buildings, or tiny little chapel didn’t lend to the history. It was amazing to walk through these buildings and see the city from the top of the hill.

  
I started off thinking this was going to be a nice vacation. A good time for us to get away for a few days and enjoys the time away from work. But, it turned out to be an incredibly special trip. For example, finding a small Writer’s Museum. The Balmoral was quite the hotel and the bar had over 400 varieties of scotch. Of which the barman helped you find one by learning what you normally drank.

  
Every one we encountered was not just nice, but very friendly and eager to help. I will always remember the rolling hills, the snow capped mountains, the history, the scotch, the sheep, and especially the people. We were constantly on the move and it was tiring, but it was a great trip. For anyone considering a trip to Scotland I would highly recommend it. Bring your walking shoes and your camera, because there is a lot to see and you will not want to miss a thing.

Traveling to Scotland – Part I

About a month ago my wife and I traveled to Scotland for about a week. I was looking forward to getting away and visiting a country I had never seen before. I had read a couple of travel books, a website or two, and looked through several travel websites. I sort of knew what to expect – a country with big cities as well as small cities. A country known for it’s Scotch, for it’s history, and for it’s Loch Ness Monster. A country known for it’s clans, for it’s kilts, for it’s sheep, and for it’s mountains, and stone formations. And as I learned for very good shortbread biscuits and a good rail system as well. One other thing I knew about Scotland – they drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. Both opposite of the United States, where I have been driving for several decades.

We flew into Edinburgh and took a train to St. Andrews. The home of golf and this year the home to The Open Championship. The weather was typical for Scotland – which means it drizzled and rained. But, it didn’t matter – we were in Scotland on vacation. The Old Course Hotel was quite nice with a mix of new and old. We didn’t stay but after a short walk around town and the course, we had a nice relaxing tea looking out over the course. The train was delightful and rolling along through the countryside was a great way to travel and see the country. We rode along the coast and watched the small farms go past. The mountains, the hills, the green fields, and the sheep. All of which I was to learn where plentiful in Scotland. 

 We spent Friday night in Aberdeen near the airport so that in the morning it would be a quick walk to pick up our rental car. Yes, this was the start of a two day adventure behind the wheel of a car. The best way to describe driving in Scotland for me was – awkward. But, I got used to it and just had to keep telling myself – turn right, stay left. It was something we joked about doing, but I really enjoyed it. Mostly. And got used to it rather quickly. And even my wife – not a great passenger – said I did well. Saturday was to be “Gordon” day and it turned out to be so much more. And the weather turned out to be very un-Scottish – warm and sunny.

In the morning we went to visit the Gordon Highlander museum, as they are known for their military and strategic prowess. It was amazing to see the uniforms from Napoleon’s days and from all of the wars since. It was interesting to learn more about the history of the Clan. Everyone was so incredibly nice and helpful – especially Jeffrey Gordon (not my son). Words and sayings such as “When you burn our kilt you roast our pride. You can take away the tartan but you cannot quench the spirit of the Gordons.”

  

From there we drove to Glenfiddich (pronounced Glenfidick) Distillery which I really enjoyed. We did a two and half hour tour of the distillery and I was surprised to find that they still do a lot of things in the traditional ways. Something a lot of distilleries don’t do as much. One interesting note is that while it was formed by the Grant family, the Gordon’s married into the family and have been a large part of the success and growth of the distillery. It was a Gordon who started the “Single Malt” category of scotch. And it was a Gordon who took the scotch to the world. At the end of the tour we got to not just sample different barrels of 15 year old scotch, but got to blend our own.

A few notes about the distillery – they go through 400 tons of barley in a day. The land around the distillery was purchased specifically because of the fresh spring that ran through it. They use American oak – bourbon barrels and Spanish Sherry barrels.  Both of which give the scotch a very distinctive taste. And blending the different barrels makes for a very unique taste. I was also honored to share the tour with a descendent of the Grant family, and since the next day was my birthday he gave me his blended scotch.

   
 

The Shore

This past Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining the clouds were a nice white fluffy mix. We hemmed and hawed about what to do. Garden work or relax and enjoy the gift. We opted to relax. 

My wife recently got a convertible and we have been waiting for just such a day to drop the top and go for a ride. Here in New Jersey we don’t go to the beach. We go “down the shore”. And even though the forecasters said it would be chilly and cloudy we went. A day at the shore beats any other day. 

Driving down the highway, hair blowing across my head – not enough hair to blow through it – felt rejuvenating. So refreshing. Even when we got stuck in traffic at one of the few lights it didn’t matter. The sun was shining and oh so relaxing. 

Of course everyone else had the same idea so there was no place to park. We had intended on just grabbing a bite and walking around Cape May. But instead did the next best thing. We drove to the lighthouse. Parked and walked out onto the beach. 

I guess for April it was crowded. Ok not really. There was about 20 other people around us. But we didn’t notice. Christine took a nap while I sat down near the water enjoying the peace and serenity of the crashing waves. And a good Cuban cigar I bought in Scotland. 

I looked back over my right shoulder and then she stood. The lighthouse. All white with the red top. There is something about this place that relaxes me. Not a little bit. But a lot. I can sit and watch the waves roll in. The ducks float by. The occasional cruise ship far off on the horizon. The sun shimmering off the blue water. 

The joyful shouts of the kids chasing the waves lost in the peacefulness. Even the seagulls cries add to the feelings. My mind wanders to my book and I jot down some thoughts. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny day in April. 

    

A Cruise to Remember

As you know, my wife and are big Disney fans and would just as soon go for a long weekend or more than just about anywhere. We are Disney Vacation Club members – sort of a timeshare concept, but much better – so we can go as often as we like. And we do. This past weekend we took our third Disney cruise. They have all been great four-day cruises in true Disney style, but this one will definitely be remembered.

First, the bad part of the trip – it was quite windy on Saturday, and the boat was rocking a lot more than usual. Considering it was the Dream, one of the larger boats that is saying something. It wasn’t enough to make me nauseous, but my wife was glad she had her sea-sickness patch. Mostly it was just a light rock, but several times there was a lot of sway and pushed me to one side or the other.

Disney had decorated the entire ship for Christmas and as expected by Disney, it was amazing. The characters all had Christmas outfits on, and there was Christmas music mixed in with the normal Disney classics. Plus there were special events – like Santa arriving on board and making it snow. Yes, only Disney would make it snow inside of the ship.

Since it is a four-day cruise, one day is at Nassau and one day at Disney’s private Island Castaway Cay. There are no hotels there, and it is an extension of the cruise ship. But, done to the Disney extreme which means there is a place for small children, a family beach, and even an adults only beach. There are plenty of activities for people of all ages including bikes to rent, tubes, stingray feeding, boats to rent, and para-sailing. Just to mention a few.

The food and the service is also up to Disney standards and that is why we are such Disney fans. Because we always know the service, the food, and the entertainment will be amazing. This cruise did not disappoint, and in case you are thinking it’s just for kids – the whiskey tasting (we had to miss) the tequila tasting (we did not miss), or the champagne cocktail tasting (also missed) might change your mind.

But, the thing that made this cruise more memorable for me was the people. A couple of months ago my wife found a group of people on Facebook all going on the same cruise. So, we joined the cruise and interacted with these folks. They all seemed nice, and we did something called a “fish extender” group.

Basically you put up a stocking outside of your door and everyone exchanges small gifts. Each group – I think there were three – had about 15 families in them. So you give 15 gifts – knowing the ages and special likes or dislikes – and get fifteen back. Sounds like a nice idea, especially around Christmas. And it was a lot of fun exchanging the gifts and sneaking over to rooms to drop them off.

But, the really fun part of joining this group was eventually meeting the people. At first, it’s just people on Facebook and you can look at their photos, or read about them. But that doesn’t really tell you who they are. And since it is such a large cruise ship, out of the many people – I don’t know, a hundred or more – in the group, you don’t really expect to meet them or realize what great people they are.

We met people from Kentucky, Nebraska, California, Manchester in the UK, and many other places around the country. We met people who had just gotten married the week before, people on their first cruise, and people who were continuing on to Disney afterwards. People with kids and people without – or at least not on this trip. One who was in a wheelchair and two others who had to use scooters to get around.

On Sunday, Disney has a 5k they run on the private island. It’s not a race although some do run it. I had plans to power walk as I did the last time we were there. But, instead I took it easy and ended up walking with an amazing group of ladies. We didn’t break the land speed records, although Kim tried with her scooter. But, we all finished. Including wheelchair bound Rhian who doesn’t let a wheelchair slow her down.

She has the spirit, good nature, and energy of anyone else I know. And her new husband Seamus is a good man. Although he did not seem to complain too much when I grabbed her wheelchair and took off running. We were both too busy laughing and flying with arms outstretched to care. And at the end of the race, her strong will got her out of the chair so she could put Seamus in it and push him across.

Sandwiched between Scooter Kim, Jalene, Kimmie, Dol, Rhian, and Seamus was the only way to cross that finish line. The Disney cast members were cheering us on also, and handed us each our medals. They may have been plastic, but they were pure gold to me. And will always remind me of this great group of strong, fun, people.

Thank you Disney for a great cruise!!!

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Disney Vacation

I had perfect intentions of writing this blog for each day that we were here. But, as you can see that didn’t quite happen. I would love to tell you that we have been busy running around with a couple of little kids enjoying everything there is to love about Disney. But that would be a lie.

In fact, it is just the 3 of us kids here and the youngest is 15 – about to be 16. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying everything. The past two days have been incredibly fun, and also a little stressful. Riding rides, eating good food, meeting Anna and Elsa, and walking miles and miles.

The stressful part was my wife losing her purse on the Buzz Lightyear. The good news is that we got it back – the next morning. Fully intact including a brand new set of tire tracks across both the front and the back of the bag. We were pretty stressed at the ride when they couldn’t find it. But, a fantastic guest relations person named Sylvia was able to put our minds a little more at ease.

Day 3 included two of the kids – my wife and son – riding Splash mountain before we all went to Big Thunder. Afterwards, my son attempted to beat me at Buzz Lightyear’s ride – which he was able to finally do. It was almost 2am by the time we got back to the room, but you have to relax at some point.

Our last day at Disney was a “Frozen”, which unfortunately did not include the actual weather. We bought a Frozen package which got us preferred seating/standing at the morning parade, snacks – including much needed ice cream, preferred seating at a sing-a-long, and a Frozen themed dessert party. Even the fireworks were Frozen themed – which still didn’t help with the heat at 930pm.

Mixed in we managed to have some good meals – breakfast at Whispering Canyon was not just entertaining, but also good. But, the “big” meal was at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside of the castle. We got to have photos taken with Cinderella before dinner, and the got to see and take pictures with Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Jasmine. Oh yes – and the food was good too.

For me, the best part was the entire trip. But, if I had to pick one part it was getting the chance to spend quality time with my son while he laughed about my screaming through Tower of Terror and Rockin Rollercoaster. Disney is certainly not for everyone, but they certainly do know how to take care of their guests and make all of the kids happy – even those that are over 50.

Disney Vacation – Day One

Before I start, I should “warn” you. I like Disney, in fact you could probably say I love Disney. We are members of the Disney Vacation Club, which is like a timeshare but – at least in my opinion – much better. Aside from the flexibility, it is also Disney. And no matter what negative comments you can make, Disney just does it better.

As my 15 – ok almost 16 – year old son put it the other day. If someone were going to build an Atlantis (hotel underwater) it would be Disney. And they would do it well. Disney, just has a customer service ethic that goes above and beyond. I won’t say they are perfect, no one is. But, they do their best to try to be.

Yesterday we spent the day at Epcot going on Soarin which is a really fun ride, and Disney is shutting down because it is time for a renew. But, it is still fun. We also did Test Track which is a little on the jerky side, and may not be the best for a soon new driver. But then again, we don’t have roads like these at home – or anywhere.

In the afternoon and early evening it rained – actually a good thunderstorm rolled through – so we opted for an afternoon nap. I think that parents sometimes forget about this concept. They get up at the crack of dawn with little kids, or even big kids, and expect them to be on the go all day. And then they wonder why they (the kids) get cranky?

In the evening we opted for a simple dinner at the Polynesian and then decided to go to Magic Kingdom. What started as “oh, we will just walk through the shops” turned into going on Buzz Lightyear (love it) twice, Space Mountain, and then Pirates of the Caribbean. We laughed – because my son says I cheated in the Buzz ride just to beat him. And we had a really good time.

On to day two now… I am up a little early (as usual) so I got myself coffee and a danish. Sitting by the fireplace – one of many – here at the Wilderness Lodge villas. It is relatively quiet and even fairly peaceful. It’s a good way to start a day at Disney.

Oh and by the way – a good way to END the day is at the Polynesian with a Lupa Lupa. It is dark rum, pineapple juice, and topped off with Bacardi 151. Oh and it is served in a full pineapple.