Winter Connection #16: Natural Differences… and a Blogfest

Today’s post is two parts: first, the nature blog, featuring the differences between three closely related animals or trees; second, the Blogfest! Hope you’ll read the entire post, and enjoy learning about the work of a few of my other writer friends.

Part 1: What’s the Difference –?

Between an Elk and a Caribou?
In the U.S., a large North American deer, the wapiti, is called an elk. Europeans call what we call an elk a moose, the largest of the deer family. Elk are second largest – big males can weigh half a ton. Caribou are third largest, with males weighing 275 to 600 pounds. Female caribou ar the only female deer to have antlers.

European caribou are known as reindeer, but are not a different species. All caribou live in the far north and have large, concave, sharp-edged hoofs that help them walk on ice, snow, and soft tundra, and facilitate digging through snow for nutritious lichen. Reindeer are domesticaled for milk, meat, and pulling sleds. Elk are more wild, and range farther south – as far as New Mexico and Arizona.

Between a Weasel and an Ermine?

Weasels are long-bodied, short-legged, remarkably agile animals about 16 inches long, including the tail. They tent to be nervously active as they hunt live prey. Most weasels are brown on top with a white belly. In the fall, weasel species found in snow country over much of the world replace their brown summer coats with silky, pure white. The white weasels are then known as ermine.

In the United States, ermine are sometimes called short-tailed weasels; in Europe, they’re called stoats.

Unfortunately for ermine, important officials and the wealthy have long considered their gorgeous fur desirable, especially for royal robes. The black-tipped tails are used as decoration.

Between a Pine Tree and a Spruce Tree?

Pine needles are 3 to 5 inches long and flexible. They grow in bunches of two to five needles attached to a twiglike base. The pendent (hanging) pine cones range from 4 inches to a whopping 26 inches in length (sugar pine). Pine seeds are winged to scatter on the wind. During blossom season, pines eject copious clouds of yellow pollen.

Spruces have short, stiff, sometimes prickly needles about 3/8 inch to 1 inch long, growing out of all sides of their small twigs. Their pendent cones are much smaller than those of pines. The winged seeds are similar to those of the pine, but spruces do not throw pollen so obviously. The classic, cone-shaped Christmas tree is probably a spruce.

(Thanks to the “What’s the Difference? Sierra Club Knowledge Cards,” text by J. Baldwin, for today’s information. Learn more at )

Part 2: Next Big Thing

One of my writer friends, Jan Morrill, asked me if I’d like to participate in a Blogfest, an opportunity to share with my readers information about my upcoming publications and also help promote blogs by other writers I know. You might want to check these blogs out!

Jan’s blog, which provided notice of her participation in the Blogfest, appeared on December 5 at: Jan writes historical fiction, and is at work on her second book related to the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II; both books are based on the lives of her own relatives.
Here are the questions I was sent, and my answers.

What is the working title for your book? Over the next year, I hope to publish three of my books. Working titles are: Cobwebs (Book 1 of the Buried Secrets series); Anthills (Book 2 of the Buried Secrets series); and The Harbinger (a single title).

Where did the idea come from for the book? All three books are about families, the secrets we keep, our fears, and the things we consider to be most important. When comparing my parents’ generation to mine, one difference I see is the willingness of my generation to speak openly about feelings as well as family history and events. All three books investigate things kept ‘buried’ by our ancestors. 

What genre does your book fall under? Cobwebs is mystery/suspense; Anthills is a mystery; and Harbinger is mainstream fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition? Cobwebs and Anthills, as parts 1 and 2 of a series, feature the same characters. The main character, Jamie, is in her Forties. This might be an opportunity for Jennifer Aniston to break away from comedies and develop a new fan base. The male lead, Sam, needs a Native American actor of about the same age. 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? (How about 2 sentences?)

In Cobwebs, Jamie Aldrich returns to her great aunt’s Oklahoma home and learns that all she had formerly believed about her aunt’s identity and her family roots is a lie. She must keep herself out of jail and alive as she races to uncover the truth in the old Indian Territory town of Pawhuska, capital of the Osage Indian Nation.

In Anthills, Jamie Aldrich discovers that her dead husband, a professor of American Studies in Las Vegas, New Mexico, had a secret history and a secret life that included a high school nemesis and possibly a lover.  Jamie looks for answers and discovers the gritty world of human trafficking.

In The Harbinger, undercurrents of tension rumble in a hilltop neighborhood and erupt when a stray black dog appears. In this tale of one weekend, three families learn the value of relationships and trust when a child is lost.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I don’t know the answer to this yet, but with the current popularity and ease of publication through ebooks, it is likely I will self-publish, which means I will be heavily marketing my own books and they will be available much sooner than is possible through a large publishing house.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft of each of these manuscripts took about six months to write. Each book has gone through lengthy editing and rewrites over the last few years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Suspense is a popular genre with many successful writers. The historical elements and placement of my stories in Oklahoma and New Mexico sets them apart.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I’ve always had a vivid imagination, loved mysteries and loved history. Writing these books, and others, allows me to leave behind the stress of my day job and create something enjoyable while also learning local history.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? Hopefully I have created lifelike characters who have ‘lived’ life and learned from it. In addition, as a nature buff, I enjoy providing details which transport the reader into the story, both through location and seasonality. Also, watch for animals in my story. These furry friends play key roles. 

I hope you’ll travel to the suggested blogs of some of my writer friends, when the Next Big Thing Blogfest tour continues on December 19. Check my column for those urls next Monday!

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