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Star Party: Astronomy Night at Playcard Environmental Education Center, Playcard, South Carolina

26 Feb

#Kepler sits atop the Starfinder Meade 16

Thursday night, I drove over to Playcard, South Carolina for a star party hosted by Horry County and the Playcard Environmental Education Center.  This free event took place in the open field next to the center, perfect for stargazing.

It was a beautiful night for the event–cloudless, lightly breezy, cool but not cold. The stars quickly came into view as the sun set.


Setting up

The host astronomers provided a variety of telescopes and binoculars for everyone to try out, and they assisted guests in setting up their own equipment correctly. A decent pair of binoculars is now on my shopping list.

One of the most helpful tips they gave for using binoculars is to look at the area you’d like to view, like the moon, first with your eyes. Keep your sight trained there as you bring the binoculars to your face. This prevents having to crane your head around to try to locate specific bodies through the binoculars. If you look at the area before you bring them to your eyes, the binoculars will already be pointed in the right direction. (Sounds obvious, but I’ve seen many a birder doing the “Where’s Waldo?” through their binoculars.)

Beyond my personal enthrallment with space, the event was an ideal setting to get #Kepler pics and to spread the news about Humans In My House and the Stars Above It. I made coloring books with the illustrations from the novel, packaged them up with a box of crayons and some Red Ink Enthusiast swag, and passed them out to the children in attendance. I made twenty packets and gave away all but two.

ch. 2

Coloring page from chapter 2 of Humans In My House and the Stars Above It

The event turnout was great, but it’s likely that you weren’t there. If you or your little one would like to get in on the coloring, download the Humans In My House and the Stars Above It Coloring Book or use the new Downloads tab on the menu to print the coloring pages.

My plans for this new tab include adding coloring pages from Humans book 1 and Nova June: Inventor (after it publishes), and kid’s book club discussions/reading comprehension topics for each of my novels, all free to download and print for personal and educational use.

In the meantime, happy coloring!


International Book Giving Day 2018

14 Feb

What’s better than giving valentines and chocolate? Giving BOOKS!

February 14th is International Book Giving Day. The goal is to get books into the hands of more children and to make them excited about reading. This is a volunteer-led initiative that anyone can participate in.

Some of the ways to participate include:

  • Gift a book to someone you know
  • Leave a book in a waiting room for children to read as they wait
  • Donate to local libraries, hospitals, shelters, and other organizations that can get the books to children who need them. (This includes international organizations!)

To top it off, “Publisher Book Island will donate one book to their hospital programme [sic] for each book sold via their website (14 – 28 February)” (International Book Giving Day 2018), so go buy some books!

Today, I got involved by donating a class set of Acephalous and Humans In My House to my local Boys and Girls Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the books will find a permanent home in the media rooms at their Club (elementary age) and Teen Center (middle and high school age). I’ll be volunteering to lead a book club on the books later on (if they read them before we move back to VA).

Here’s a photo of my visit!


After delivering books, Amanda Marsico holding #Kepler in front of the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

Follow this and other adventures on my Instagrams @KeplerSeesTheWorld (Kepler & kid-friendly book news) and @RedInkEnthusiast (Acephalous & Teen+ book news) and use #bookgivingday in your posts. Don’t forget to follow @BookGivingDay, too.

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation: Trip to The Center for Birds of Prey, Awendaw, South Carolina

29 Jan


Based on my children’s books, Humans In My House, you might think I’m only into cats. And while I am a crazy cat lady–I have five–I am also fascinated by and deeply concerned for wildlife. This is why Humans In My House and the Animals Beyond It (series book 3 coming Winter 2018) focuses on zoology and wildlife conservation.

As habitats dwindle and humans leave continually larger footprints on the lands they touch, wildlife around the world loses what they need to survive. Here, in South Carolina, we are fortunate to have many wildlife refuges, areas of land set aside for nature to run its course. With those refuges and conservation areas come teams of people who dedicate their careers to making sure these lands remain untouched and that the animals who live there are supported by the environment.

For those animals, on and off of refuges, who have run-ins with predators, humans both well-meaning and not, and dangerous environmental factors like (marine) debris and deforestation, we have organizations like The Center for Birds of Prey to research wildlife, doctor the sick, and educate the public.

I had the pleasure of visiting this weekend. We arrived just in time for the demonstration of various birds of prey, including the Eurasian Eagle Owl shown below.


Eurasian Eagle Owl, female, 3 years old, born in captivity and imprinted to her human handlers in order to reduce stress during handling and demonstrations.

We also witnessed the in-flight hunting practices of the Kite–who was very hard to get a picture of because he loved to fly and rarely landed–and a hybrid breed of Falcon (below) used exclusively in Falconry.


Hybrid breed of Falcon used in falconry. This bird spent the first part of his life hunting with his owner and came to the center when his owner took a job there. The hood he wears discourages what they called, “unauthorized flights,” during demonstrations and helps reduce stress. For a bird who hunts during flight at 200mph, mimicking nighttime darkness is the best way to dissuade him from those activities during a demo.

After the demonstration, we walked the property and visited the birds of prey living at the center. Some were born in captivity from breeding programs and parents who were rehabilitated there, and others are rescues in the process of healing for release or who are unable to return to the wild.

The owls, in particular, were fun to see because it is their breeding season, which meant they were very vocal and active even in the daytime. (Not to mention, owls are my favorite birds of prey.)


An owl whose name I’ve forgotten. But doesn’t he look so content?

Owl in owl, (sorry for the pun) I had a fantastic time at The Center for Birds of Prey and would recommend it to any animal-lover who is able to stop in. Check out their website for hours, admission, and special events like Photography Day and Owl Nights, or to participate in their citizen scientist program “Kite Sight” to aid in their research about South Carolina’s native Swallow-Tailed Kite population.

For more information on what you can do to help if you find an injured bird, here are some links from The Center for Birds of Prey and Audubon.

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