World Travel: Confession by Carlton

telephone-1055044__180By Carlton Hughes

Today’s Confession by Carlton: I am not a world traveler.

I did visit Canada once when I was a toddler, but I have no recollection of that trip, other than some photos my parents took.

I have experienced world travel vicariously through the media, and one theme has emerged over the years: I love England!

It all started when I was a teenager, and my local PBS station showed a slate of British sitcoms. I connected with that wry sense of humor and became a fan.

My senior year of high school I was assigned to write a short story. I concocted a tale about an American who visits England and falls in love with a princess who is trying to break away from the Royal Family.  Yep, I had a serious case of British fever. And a weird outlook on things, but we’ll save that for another post.

Several years ago I discovered Keeping Up Appearances, and I adore Hyacinth Bucket (It’s Bouquet!) and the crazy lengths she goes to impress people. I’d love to visit her and enjoy a waterside supper with riparian entertainments. If you haven’t seen the show, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about—look it up!

goddards-1577410__180My latest obsession is The Great British Baking Show. Oh. My. Goodness.

It’s a competition show unlike any I’ve ever seen. First of all, it takes place in a BIG TENT on the lawn of an English country estate. I mean, could it be more British?

The hosts are the comedy duo of Mel and Sue, and they embody that British humor that I fell in love with years ago.

The judges? Their names are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. I did not make that up. Mary is evidently the Grande Dame of British cuisine and has the cutest name ever, and Paul is an expert baker with a glamorous moniker.

Contestants are put through a series of challenges, making biscuits (crispy cookies, not the fluffy things we Americans smother with gravy), puddings (still haven’t figured those out), meat pies, and more. They measure in grams instead of tablespoons. They have wonderful accents. Most importantly, they seem to truly like each other, with a prevailing spirit of camaraderie .

As Mary Berry often says, “It’s lovely.”

So . . . would anyone like to send me to England? You would be welcome to go with me, and we could sip tea, eat biscuits, and drive around until we find that baking tent.


WRITING PROMPT: You have been selected for a reality show in which you switch places with a person who lives in England. What would your first day be like?


World Travel-Guatemala

Guatemala chicken_busBy Lisa Worthey Smith

The mountains, lakes, volcanoes, and Mayan ruins made for a spectacular visit when I traveled to Guatemala in the mid-1970’s with my high school Spanish class. The visit to this little country nestled alongside Belize and the southernmost border of Mexico, was eye-opening for this middle-class American girl.

The dichotomy of donkeys pulling carts alongside the cars in the middle of the capital city spoke to the vast, economically diverse culture I was about to experience. In Guatemala City we visited the National Palace (outstanding tile work) and an ornate church where the decaying bodies of their saints were displayed in clear glass caskets on a top shelf inside the sanctuary. In the park, ladies dressed in hand-woven clothing sold flowers to tourists. Children with big brown eyes begged for money or asked us to buy trinkets they had woven from grass.

We used public transportation (chicken buses) to reach the outlying cities. These recycled school buses were highly decorated and filled to the brim (plus whoever can hold on to a rail or balance on the roof) with two-legged passengers plus goats, pigs, dogs, and chickens. The pigs were none too happy about the crowding; the goats were somewhat more tolerant. I was able to manage an open-window seat with a breeze and a view. When we stopped at a dusty shack of a service station, ladies brought out fried chicken feet (not legs) in baskets on top of their heads to tempt us to buy lunch from them through the bus windows.

Guatemala at Esquintla lunch on bus

Guatemala at Esquintla/ lunch on bus

Most passengers, wearing serious expressions, were dressed in traditional hand-loomed fabrics. The children were clean and quiet. The drive to 6,400 feet in the mountains to reach Chichicastenango in a rickety bus was not for the faint of heart. Blind hairpin turns were common on the rough two-lane roads. As we traveled along the absolute edge of the mountains, the bus driver always stopped well before the turn, honked the horn and waited for any return honk. If none echoed, we challenged the turn-back on the tiny road with our big bus. No shoulder or railing was visible from my window seat–only the memorial crosses just below the edge of the road.

The country is rich in spirituality, any spirit or superstition. In Chichicastenango we saw a Roman Catholic church built on a Mayan temple mount. There was a man swinging an incense pot at the door, and a Shaman/Witch Doctor performing within a few feet of each other. This blending of religions extended to the cemetery behind the church where chickens were sacrificed to pagan Mayan gods.

The renowned open-air market was filled with fresh produce, hand-loomed fabrics, pigs and goats on leashes tugged by young boys and girls. There was always a scout to help you find (drag you to) just what you need. Weavers with simple looms deftly created masterpieces with thick rough yarn that was probably dyed with berries. The ladies used these sturdy and colorful pieces of fabric to carry young children on their back, and produce on their heads.

Guatemala washing

In each community wall-less buildings sheltered concrete sinks along the edge of the creek where women and children gathered to wash clothes. Creek water was used to wash and rinse the clothes that were laid out on flat rocks to dry in the sun, then packed back into bundles or baskets and balanced on steady heads for the walk home.

Guatemala today is only slightly different from the 1970’s. The national parks have seen some improvements.  Visitors to Mayan ruins now walk on pathways, and some of the stone carvings now are protected with little sheds over them. The city streets no longer have carts and donkeys and seem wider and safer.

The chicken buses are still busy, but much more road-worthy! Modern buildings have sprung up, yet poverty is still rampant. In Guatemala City the city dump is home–yes HOME–to many children found homeless after years of war. The abandoned or poverty-stricken residents still try to sell whatever they can, shine shoes, or find an illegal way to survive.

The market at Chichicastenango now has a few tin and wooden rooftops. The church still has both Catholic and pagan worship blended together and clothes are still washed in the creek.

This video shows a woman weaving.

Writing prompt – She had never seen anything like it before, so she watched them intently. It had to be the most beautiful sight in the world when the little girl reached out her hand to…

9781490882178_COVER.inddOscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird: And Other Tales From Life In My Fathers World

Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird is an inspirational nonfiction about a severely injured hummingbird and an unlikely friendship with his new best friend. Their adventures and the author’s own health issues speak to a loving God and His provision. Oscar was recently named in the top 100 indie books to read for 2016! 

You can read the first chapter at

Oscar is available at


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headshotLong-time Bible student, Lisa Worthey Smith has been called the parable teacher. Finding truths in everyday events and nature itself, she uses those truths to point to the hand of God all around us. She, her husband, and their 21 pound of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama where she teaches an in-depth Bible study class and spends time in her garden.

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Lisa Worthey Smith

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An Unforgettable Vacation to Middle Earth

By Jennifer Hallmark

During our month of sharing favorite vacations, I lotrrevealed one item checked off my bucket list: a visit to my brother in Anchorage, Alaska. Since September is all about world travel, I thought I’d share another item: a Middle Earth journey to New Zealand.

Now if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The LOTR trilogy was filmed over an eighteen-month period in many parts of New Zealand.

I loved those movies.

When I found out you could take a fourteen-day journey to many of the places the movie was filmed through the travel company, Red Carpet Tours, I thought, “Sign me up!”

Well, maybe after I raise the tad bit of money it would cost to fly to New Zealand, stay there for several weeks, buy tons of souvenirs, then fly back.

Here’s the itinerary for my future trip.

First, I’ll fly to New Zealand from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Intl Airport. If my vacation began on Thursday, September 22nd of this year, I’d leave Atlanta at 6:30 p.m. and arrive at LAX (Los Angeles) at 8:20 their time. I’d have about a three-hour layover before boarding my flight to Auckland, New Zealand. I’d board at 11:10 p.m. and arrive at 7:20 a.m. Almost a twenty-one hour flight. Wow.

Day one-Red Carpet tours will meet me at the airport and transfer me to my hotel for the start of the tour. We gather informally this evening to meet each other and prepare for our early start tomorrow.

hobbiton-1586978__180Day two-We’ll leave at 8 a.m. where I’ll be enchanted by Hobbiton and take photos of the tranquil Shire, Bag End, Sam & Rosie’s cottage, and the Party Tree. I’ll enjoy a soda at The Green Dragon followed by lunch in a Marquee beside The Green Dragon.

Day Three-I’ll journey to Rotorua to Trollshaw Forest and delight in a wonderful guided tour of this Hobbit location, then enjoy a picnic lunch on our way to Mt. Ruapehu and the sites of Mordor, Emyn Muil and Mt Doom.

Day Four- On to Ohakune, then to Wellington. First, a Hobbit location of the Secret Entrance to Erebor and Lotr location of Gollum’s fishing pool, where Andy Serkis was careful not to plunge over the waterfall. Then, it’s on to Wellywood. We’ll dine at “The Green Parrot Restaurant” said to be a favorite of Viggo’s.

Day Five-Wellywood Day, Miramar – New Zealand’s movie capital. We’ll go to the Weta Workshop, Weta Cave, then the beautiful Roxy Theatre for lunch. I’ll visit the Embassy Theatre, where the ROTK and The Hobbit World Premiere were held.

Day Six-Presentation day with LOTR / Hobbit Calligrapher and Cartographer Daniel Reeve. Later, I’ll check out the “Get off the road!” location from FOTR, overlooking the city. During the afternoon, I’ll explore Te Papa Museum and visit other Wellington places of interest.

barrel rideDay Seven-Our North Island Adventure concludes and our South Island Adventure begins! I’ll catch the Inter-Island ferry from Wellington, then sail to Picton in the South Island. After lunch, I’ll drive to Nelson City, stopping along the way to view the famous river, where the Dwarfs escaped from the Elves, in barrels. I might even do some kayaking. 🙂

Day Eight-Weather permitting, I’ll ride a helicopter to the LOTR sites of “South of Rivendell”, at the top of Mt Olympus, then head back into Nelson city to meet and chat with the makers of the “One Ring”. I’ll also check out more wonderful LOTR and Hobbit jewelry.

Day Nine-An early start south along the East Coast this morning, stopping at a beautiful seaside cafe for 2nd breakfast. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? We’ll make stops for photographs of Fur Seals basking and at play along the rocky shoreline, before arriving in picturesque Kaikoura for lunch and souvenir shopping. We then travel on south to Christchurch where I’ll visit some of the ancient churches. An early night tonight for a big day tomorrow.

Day Ten-It’s time to head for EDORAS! It’s a 30-minute trek to reach the summit. I’ll stand where the Golden Hall once stood and survey the mountain panorama all around as they fly the Rohan flag! I’ll keep a lookout for their highest mountain; Aoraki, Mt Cook – the Cloud Piercer of 12,000 feet. I’ll also visit a local Hobbit-inspired seamstress and buy my own cloak.

battle on plainsDay Eleven-Today, I’ll see Pelennor Fields ~ an area that once rang to the thunderous sound of 250 horses on the charge, as King Theoden’s battle speech roused men to battle. Then on to a guided tour of the stunning location of Laketown. After lunch, I’ll try my archery skills and more souvenir shopping.

Day Twelve-I’ll head out to amazing Rohan country, where the Rohan village was burned and walk through the canyon where the leaf brooch was dropped and 2 other sites. Lunch will be in Alexandra, then on to Arrowtown ~ a charming old settlement, historically significant in the gold rush days of the 1860s. Finally Queenstown, where I’ll explore and shop to my heart’s content.

Day Thirteen-I’ll picnic at Mavora Lakes (the breaking of the Fellowship), visiting several LOTR sites – The calling up of Shadowfax -The Silverlode bridge -The Orc funeral pyre -Fangorn Forest – Nen Hithoel -The log which concealed Merry & Pippin before Frodo left the fellowship, -And where Sam and Frodo paddled away on the next stage of their journey. Then back to Queenstown.

Day Fourteen-My last day. It will consist of a Dart River Jet Wilderness Safari past LOTR & Hobbit sites. Then I’ll parasail over one of the breath-taking lakes and end my day with a hot air balloon ride.

Day Fifteen-Alas ~ my journey through Middle Earth with Red Carpet Tours is at an end. “Nai tiruvantel ar varyuvantel i Valar tielyanna nu vilya: May the Valar protect you on your path under the sky.”

Then, I’ll probably take a day or two to rest before my twenty-seven hour flight home. Do you think you’d like to undertake such an adventure also? Well, you’d better save some money. I figure the flight, tour, extra, and souvenirs will cost around $12,000.

But for a true fan, the trip would be once-in-a-lifetime.

See you in New Zealand!


Writing prompt: I couldn’t believe I was standing on Mt. Doom. A sudden chill ran through me as…

Opportunities Wait for You at Writers’ Conferences

Con OneBy Deborah Malone

After having several books published, I decided I had something to offer and have been teaching at writing conferences for three years. I love sharing with fellow writers what I’ve learned over time. One area I’ve been working on is how to balance my teaching/marketing and still leave time for writing – still working on that one.

Teaching gives me the opportunity to travel, meet other authors, and continue to learn from the best. Maybe teaching is something you’d like to look into sometime during your journey. For now, I’d like to give you five reasons I believe it’s important just to attend a writers’ conferences. You never know what opportunities might be waiting for you at your next conference.Con Two

  1. Meet other authors:  What better place to go than to a writers’ conference to meet those who are as passionate about writing as you are. Being around other writers can be encouraging. When I get home from one,  I’m always excited and ready to tackle my writing projects. Talking with others and learning about where they are on their journey to publication will give you inspiration.
  2. Networking: Attending writers’ conferences is a great way to network. I’ve had two articles published in magazines because I met someone affiliated with the publication. You will meet other writers who might be further along in their journey and may be willing to mentor you or even swap critiques.
  3. Sell your books: Conferences are great venues to sell your books. Most will have tables you can rent at a reasonable price where you can display and sell your books. People who write usually love to read so it’s a great opportunity.
  4. Learn the craft: Most conferences will have a keynote speaker and then have several writing-related classes to choose from. How many times have you heard things like, “tighten up your writing,” “deep POV,” and “show don’t tell?” Well, here’s your chance to ask those questions that have been burning inside you. You will also be able to keep up with the ever-changing world of publishing.
  5. Meet editors, agents, and publishers: Conferences afford a great opportunity to meet people who will further your journey to publication. For a small fee, you can have a chapter or two critiqued by an editor. I remember the thrill of having my first critique and the encouragement I gained from a one-on-one appointment with an editor. I had one editor tell the participants she was open for appointments and she would even welcome ideas. I had an idea for an article on writing cozy mysteries and I presented it to her. She wanted to publish the article so I went home and wrote it and submitted it to her.

So try to attend a writing conference sometime in the future. You never know what opportunities await…

Writing Prompt: The door creaked as it opened. Every person in class looked  up and were surprised to see…

Buckhead Deadbuckhead dead
Skye Southerland and Honey Truelove have just finished an interior design job for Sylvia Landmark, one of Buckhead’s most eccentric characters, and their designs are to die for. After a celebration at Sylvia’s home where they reveal the new décor, including a desk with a possible link to the pirate Blackbeard, Sylvia turns up dead, leaving the ladies wondering if this desk is worth more than they bargained for. Skye and Honey are now suspects in the murder of a woman who had few friends, and plenty of possible enemies.
In an attempt to clear their names, Skye, Honey, and Honey’s loveable cousin Ginger embark on a journey to find the real killer, figure out the history behind the desk, and clear their names before they end up going to jail, or even worse, becoming the next victims! With plenty of warnings from Skye’s husband Mitch, and the ruggedly handsome Detective Montaine assigned to Sylvia’s case, these girls still manage to get right in the middle of the investigation, while having time to enjoy all that Georgia has to offer.

DMalone (4)Deborah Malone’s first novel “Death in Dahlonega,” finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest! Deborah was nominated for 2012 and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Novel Category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, for the historic magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published and her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails,” edited by Olin Jackson, as well as in the “Christian Communicator” and “Southern Writer’s Magazine.” She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association, Advanced Writers and Speaker’s Association and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Next Stop…..Deadwood?

by Tammy Trail

Mt. Rushmore

One of the perks of working for a school district is not having to work during the summer months. This allows me to have quality time with my family and friends, and especially be able to spend time with my mom. I was able to do just that this year. She kept me busy cleaning out her basement, but we also enjoyed playing endless games of Five Crown and Yahtzee.

Another perk is traveling. Our family hasn’t always been able to take summer vacations. Our budget doesn’t allow for anything too extravagant, but they have become our excuse to visit relatives in other states. My favorite vacation to date was a trip we took to South Dakota last summer, originally intended as a Trail Cousin Reunion. However, it turned out to be just three families since the others were not able to make it after all.

Our host, my husband’s cousins from Minnesota, had recently finished building a large vacation home in South Dakota between Sturgis and Deadwood. We had never been north of Nebraska, so this was an adventure. My daughter, her husband and three boys traveled in one car, and my husband and I followed in another with two teen boys.

North Dakota scenery

North Dakota scenery

I absolutely loved the scenery. Big trees and wide open land. Breathtaking views. I loved everything about South Dakota. Our first morning there, I awoke to feel the awkward sensation of being watched. I looked out of the window near my bed to see a small doe wandering so close that if there had not been glass between us, I could’ve easily reached out and touched her.

Four wheeling was on the agenda for the first day. I stayed back with the little people, so that the big people could enjoy themselves. When the party returned to the lodge that evening, I heard the boys talking non-stop. You know how teen boys are— usually you have use a crowbar to pry anything out of them. They had enjoyed themselves riding four wheelers on trails over hills, through water, and close to the edge of dangerous roll-offs. That first evening was spent grilling and enjoying each other’s company.

North DakotaNorth Dakoa


The next day was my turn to go four wheeling. I opted to sit in a buggy type four wheeler called a “Razor” with my husband in control of the driving. It was everything the boys had told me and more. As we bumped through the wooded areas, all we could see were trees before taking a curve where a small stream crossed our trail. Although we got dirty and wet, the scenery was just breathtaking. My husband’s cousin led the pack, and more than once he had us stop before going over some rough terrain. Rocky would stand on the rocks to guide us by pointing in the direction he wanted the wheels to go, so we didn’t get the bottom of the vehicles hung up on large rocks or roll over in a dry ravine. He did a great job as our guide.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore


We also did some sightseeing at Mt. Rushmore, which was a great stop for the grown-ups but not so much for the little ones. Seeing the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt carved out of the rock was awesome. I can’t imagine the patience it must have required to undertake such a project. Later we made it up to the little ones by stopping for some ice cream in the park. The whole family agreed that it was a wonderful vacation, and we’re looking forward to doing it again–if not this year, next summer for sure!

North Dakota