Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dallas Aquarium

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...but I'm so far behind on my blogs that I'm still on Thanksgiving! On the way to a holiday feast at my brother Benjamin's new house in Leander, Texas (near Austin), Mom, Dad, and I stopped by the Dallas aquarium. Now I've seen aquariums all over the world (or at least in Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, India, and the U.S.), so I've got to say it takes a lot to impress me. This one did the trick!

It was more like a zoo than just an aquarium, a full rain forest indoors! You start at the top of the canopy and work your way down. I think the goal was the display the entire ecosystem rather than try to isolate the rivers and oceans. Everything is interconnected, and if the land were to suddenly disappear, most water-dwelling creatures wouldn't last long.

We saw this jungle vulture as we came in. I didn't know they lived there! Maybe it's actually a parrot...I'm not sure. I have a fascination in vultures because of my novel Treasure Traitor, but I've only researched the desert-dwelling ones. 





And here's the world's smallest monkey, the pygmy marmoset. So cute!

 

Feed the toucan, tuppence a bag... Actually three blueberries are free, but you better have your camera ready, 'cause they grab 'em fast!
Here's the South American otter, the largest otter in the world:
 They're interesting, but my favorite are still the smallest, Asian river otters. They makes noises like squeak toys! What can top that?

I got my map a little too close to the Emperor Tamarin cage!




  Little owl snacking on a mousy lunch:



Next, we went downstairs and saw the small tunnel: 

 And the big tunnel. This sword fish has decided to sleep right on top of the glass!





And here are some sea snakes swimming on the bottom of the ocean...actually, they're garden eels peeking out of their holes:


And the deep-dwelling glow fish. They have bio-luminescent bacteria in a special organ that lights them up like that, only because it's so dark, the picture didn't turn out so great.

 

 The world's coolest fish, the leafy sea dragon:



How about this one? If you can see them, say hello to the weedy sea dragons!

Of course, the classic sea horse:

  video
Afterwards, we had a wonderful, relaxing time with my brother and sister-in-law's house with lots of delicious food! I'm looking forward to seeing them again at Christmas, with my brother Tony and his wife Emily too!

Prayer Requests: I started teaching another class at the YWCA last week. Two of the students aren't Christian, but I've been praying before and after class, and they don't seem to mind. Please pray for Zahidul and Tao Bai, and that I will be able to "reveal the Gospel clearly, as I should." (Colasians 4:4.)

Also, I have a friend Marisa who's been sick for a long time. The doctors don't know what's wrong with her, but Lord willing, I'll be moving in with her sometime early next year. Please pray for this transition, for wisdom on where to live, and her speedy recovery.

Finally, I'd like prayers for my teacher's certification. There have been a lot of bumps along the road, but praise God I'm finally being paid for some of my work!

Until next time, keep loving and praying,

L.J. Popp

P.S., Treasure Traitor is doing reasonably, well, but it could do even better with your help! If you haven't ordered a copy for your local library yet, it would be a great help to me! Also, reviews on Amazon.com and goodreads are very useful.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Baby Lions!



Friday, October 19th during Fall Break, Mom and I got to visit Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Gentry, Arkansas. It was awesome!

It's not just a drive through. First we went through the walk-through.
 

 There we saw all kinds of baby farm animals. Cows, chicks, and 8-day-old pigs!
 
 Next we saw the "exotic" animals and fed them bread. Here were my favorites. A peacock with some white feathers:
 
A fox that eats bread:
 
 And a lemur that reminds me of King Julian from the movie Madagascar.
    
There was also this really crazy swinging monkey who kept whooping and howling like he really wanted attention (or food). We kept trying to throw him bread, but couldn't get it through his cage bars:
 
video
 A very cute, smart-looking red lemur:

  video

 Then we had the most glorious surprise. We got to hold baby 12-week-old lions! To think, it cost Mom and me $40 each in Thailand to simply pet baby tigers for 10 minutes, and you have to get a time card. This was included in the price of admission, just $10! ($9 if you count the dollar coupon discount we got at the Arkansas visitor's welcome center.) And to think, just an hour away in Arkansas. You don't even have to fly all the way to Thailand! The two sleepy little boys just climbed right up onto my lap.
 



 I got more than my lion's share of time with them. They were so tired, they were just lyin' around! (But later they got feisty and were playin', and that was cute!)
 We even got to bottle feed them!
video

  That was definitely the highlight of the visit, but a close runner up was the time we got to spend in the monkey cage! They were jumping all over us, unzipping our pockets and searching them. One stole a bead off my hair scrunchy. No use trying to get it back. I'm glad we didn't take our cameras in!

 Finally we went through the drive through where we got to see all kinds of animals. For one, I'd never seen prairie dogs in their natural habitat. It was so neat! They were yipping to each other and playing. We weren't supposed to feed them, but they were so cute we did anyway. Oops!




 Also very interesting were the mixed cattle. They had buffalo (American bison) crossed with all kinds of domestic bovine, including Scottish Highlanders, Texas longhorns, and Jerseys. We saw quite a few white buffalo too, which are rare in nature, but I suppose they've been bred.
 
Here's an interesting deer in the bushes.
Wild European piglets (notice how they're striped, unlike domesticated piglets)
 
Just before we left, we got to see the owner come out and feed the mob of Kangaroos. (That's what they're called, a "mob," just like a bunch of cattle is a "herd" and many birds are a "flock.")
Several of the mothers had Joeys:
We asked the owner some questions about her zoo. She said that it's a family business, part of their ranch since the 1950s, and they don't take donations! They're the only zoo I've ever been to that doesn't. We had been planning to go leaf viewing after the zoo, but there wasn't time. The owner had told us on the phone to spend the whole day there, and we had, and we could have easily stayed longer! (We actually didn't leave until one hour after closing, 6:00.) It's the best zoo I've ever been too, and I've seen zoos all over the world, so that's saying something! We'll definitely be back. 

One week prior to that, Mom, Dad, my brothers, and I all went to a family friend's wedding. Heather Buchanan (our friend) married Chris Fatur. Raina (my younger brother Benjamin's wife) and Emily (my older brother Tony's wife) threw a bachelorette party for her. I didn't want to go, so I just had lunch with them beforehand. Here I am, all dressed up for that:
Heather got married at Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City, a two hour drive, so Mom, Dad, and me decided to make a day of it and went to the Oklahoma City zoo. It rained all day, but it was still fun. In the Australian lorikeet house, someone gave me their nectar and I got attacked!
Man, with the rain, logistics for the wedding were crazy! The ceremony was supposed to be outside, but ended up in the reception room. Many people got soaked, but fortunately Heather was picked up and dropped off in a car, so her dress stayed dry. I was a brides maid, so fortunately I stayed pretty dry, too. Despite all the craziness, the ceremony was lovely, and I'm very proud of my adopted little sister!

This is the room we had many of the pictures taken in:

Here's my brother Benjamin (who first introduced Heather to our family 19 years ago), Heather, and me:
 









 And here's the whole Popp family with Heather
 










Don't forget, my book comes out November 10th! You can pre-order on Amazon.com.

Until next time, keep reading and praying,
L.J. Popp


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yes, my dream has finally come true! My first shipment of Treasure Traitor came Monday! I sold out of all 25 copies in four days! It'll be available to the general public on November 10th. You can pre-order a copy from Amazon! It’s also available RIGHT NOW at Steve’s Books in Tulsa.  Soon it’ll also be available on my publisher’s website and other book stores. Still got my fingers cross on Barnes & Noble.

But here’s one of the greatest ways to get a copy. It’s the best kept secret in the literary world. Shh, promise not to tell anyone?  Go on your local library's website or call them and order a copy.  Libraries have a budget for that, so they’re likely to order whatever their patrons want, especially if two or more request it!

All for now. More soon!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Website!

I have a new author website! You can click on the "My books" tab above or this link:

That's http://ljpopp.wordpress.com/. It has my bio, answers about writing, contact info, and upcoming events. I update the site weekly, so you can look forward to deleted scenes, world-building, character bios and other such goodies from the Fate's War universe!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Treasure Traitor Photo Shoot 1

So, since the cover doesn't have the main character on it, lots of people are asking me what she looks like (apart from the short description given in the book). I did a photo shoot recently to give you an idea...though keep in mind, this is me, not her. Rena is only sixteen (versus me being 26) would have darker skin and wear a blue zeeara, which is somewhat like a sari, only inverted. She also fights with two scimitars, not one. But this was the best I could do given the props I have to work with:

My first speaking engagement, at the Elm Creek Estates block party.  I'm actually talking about my trip to India, but I spoke about my book too.
 
Then I had some fun posing at my house:
 
 What sword?

Oh, this sword.
You're getting on my nerves.
 
You asked for it!

Going in for the kill.

On second thought, I'd better pray about this.
 
That's what I have so far. Stay tuned for more pics, updates, and events as we get closer to the release!

 
 





Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Story of a Book Cover

Ever wondered how a book cover is designed? Many authors don't have a say in their covers, but I'm so blessed because I get to work directly with the artist. She uses shutter stock to manipulate various backgrounds. This is the story of our process to create the perfect cover for Treasure Traitor. My first email: "Plot: Sixteen-year-old Renagada (RENA) just wants to fit in. That’s not easy when her best friend’s a vulture. Rena shares a special bond with her carrion-eater ACHA that allows them to exchange mental pictures, sensations, and emotions. But when Rena overhears her parents plotting to kill Acha because of a silly superstition, she must leave her fiancĂ© and home of sheltered luxury to flee with Acha into the desert where danger and adventure await. Here's just a rough idea I have: How about a single vulture's silhouette flying in the sunset/sunrise (maybe even so that it's hard to tell whether it's a sunrise or sunset). Such an image portrays freedom, ending, beginning, and Acha as the main conflict of the book. I'm thinking it's better not to have Rena on the cover, because I know the way I am, and no matter how good of an artist anyone is, I know a cover like that would always bother me because Rena wouldn't look exactly how I imagine her. Possible other themes: Maybe an abandoned battlefield under the flying bird, or two long, curved knives stuck in the ground (Rena's weapon of choice). Simple might be better, though. You know the original cover for Hunger Games (before the movie came out)? That's a very simple cover, but elegant and memorable. I'm eager to hear your thoughts and ideas! If you'd like to read the book or just exerts of it, please let me know!"

Here's what she came up with:


Here was my response: OK, I've had some time to really think about it. I totally love the concept! It actually reminds me a lot of the covers of the old Dune books. It rings very nicely of fantasy. I love the sun on the spine of the book. I have just three minor suggestions. 1.) Maybe we could add a tiny bit of color into the clouds? Light pink or purple, just to give the sky some character, and possibly a tinge of purple into the title too? 2.) What would it look like to have some rays radiating from the sun representing God? Good or bad? 3.) Could my name on the front be L.J. Popp? I still like the idea of a cursive or fancy-type font for my name. Could we see what it looks like, and if it's no good, we can change it back? Anyway, that's my two cents. Thanks again for all your hard work!

Here's the second design:


My response: OK, sorry it's taken me soooooo long to get back to you! I've been in India with spotty internet access and just got back. Anywho, I've been thinking about the cover a lot. There seems to be a general consensus between me and my writer friends that the first cover is best. It's stark and looks just like where Rena lives. If there's any way you could possibly put a little color into the title and my name, L.J. Popp, that would be cool. Maybe some purples and pinks or blues? I don't know; maybe you could play around with it? Next, I love the knives on the back in the second design! Is there any way you can make them scimitars? That's Rena's (the main character's) weapon of choice. A scimitar is a long curved knife, kind of like a machete, or the swords used in the Arabian Nights/Aladdin. Make sense? Finally, maybe my name and the title should go across the spine, like you did in the second design. Perhaps "Popp" could go above the sun, and "Treasure Traitor" under it? Would that work? You're awesome! Totally love what you're doing. Thanks again!

So here's the latest design with Lynda's explanation:


"Okay, here's the original background with more color in the title. ^_^ And our friendly vulture flying high. On the back I created a semi-opaque box for text and for the floating blades. Layout is not exact at this point, as I have no idea what text will fill the back cover. Do you have a tag line? And let me tell you, scimitars are hard to find! Let me know if these are acceptable. Once we get the okay on all images used, we can purchase them and create the real deal."

 That's what we have so far! The book is scheduled for release in November, but the exact date of the release party at Steve's Books and Magazines in Tulsa, Oklahoma is not set. We still have to do the final edits, copy edits, and lay out. As soon as I have them, I'll be sending out reader's copies for review. If you'd be interested in doing a review or having me guest post on your blog or if you're in charge of acquisitions for a bookstore or library, please feel free to contact me: laurajanepopp (at) ymail.com.

Prayer Requests: Just that the final stages of the publishing process will go smoothly and get done on time! Also, I've started teaching two English classes for foreigners at the YWCA in Tulsa. Right now it's just volunteer, but I've applied for my state certification, so as soon as that comes through I'll start getting paid. Please pray I get my certification soon and I'll find creative waves of sharing the Gospel with my students!

Until next time, keep loving and praying,
L.J. Popp