Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free Story!

The following rather long post is actually a short story.  Since the format doesn't work for traditional publication, I decided to offer it here for anyone who wants to read it.  The entire story is contained in a series of "honey do" notes.

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BLACKBERRIES


Copyright Rebecca M. Douglass
 


Dear Dana: I found these notes in Granddad's desk after he died in 1980. I think they will answer your questions about why they sold the old place in ‘72.
Yours, Jamie

May 1, 1971
Bob Dear, this weekend could you:
       Mend the garden fence
       Take down the storm windows
       The blackberries are getting awfully close to the pasture fence. Better trim them.
Thanks for the new notepad! Love, Mabel.

May 22, 1971
Honey, please:
        Finish spading the kitchen garden  (I have GOT to get things planted)
        Take down the storm windows
        Mow the lawn
        Cut the blackberries back from the pasture fence
Thanks! Mabel. (Yes, the cold weather is over. Take down the windows, Bob!)

May 29, 1971
        Put up the screens
        Mow the lawn. Borrow Joe's mower if you can't fix ours.
        Wash front windows
        Prune rhododendron by front gate
       Cut the blackberries back to the pasture fence
—Mabel

July 10, 1971
I gave you last weekend off for the Fourth, so quit your bellyaching, Bob.
        Wash the windows.
        Mow the part of the lawn that shows, okay?
        Prune the rhodie. I can't get the gate open!
        Please cut the blackberries away from the horse trough. There will still be plenty for jam.
—Mabel

July 31, 1971
       Weed the potatoes
        Pick peas and beans
        Dig the dandelions from the front lawn
        Cut the blackberries out of the horse trough
—Mabel

August 21, 1971
        Prune the rhodie on the front gate
        Weed the potatoes
        Water the lawn, Bob. I know it makes it grow. That's the idea.
        Cut the blackberries back from the pasture gate
—Mabel

August 28, 1971
       Pick blackberries, then cut them back from the gate.
       So MOW the lawn. It's your JOB!
       Weed the potatoes
       Repair the front gate
—Mabel

October 16, 1971
       Build a new front gate
       Cut the blackberries back to the pasture gate
       Put up the storm windows
—Mabel. I know it's too early for the storm windows. Nag now and avoid the rush!

October 23,1971
        Mow the lawn
        Spade under the garden
       Hack the blackberries off the bottom lawn
—Mabel. P.S. Thanks for the lovely new front gate.

November 13, 1971
       Put up the storm windows
       Tie up the rosebushes
       Cut blackberries on back lawn
—Mabel

November 27, 1971
       Hang Christmas lights
       Pick the winter squash
       Get Jim to plow the garden
       Get those blackberries now, while they're dormant!
   Happy Thanksgiving! Mabel

 December 4, 1971
        They are so dormant.
        Hang Christmas lights
        Get decorations down from the attic
 —Mabel

December 18, 1971
        Do your Christmas shopping. I wear size 12.
        Get those Christmas decorations down from the attic.
        Oh, leave the blackberries alone for once. Merry Christmas!
 —Love, Mabel

January 29, 1972
       Take down the Christmas lights
        Organize the tax stuff
        Repair the garden fence
        Cut the blackberries away from the roses below the garden
—Mabel. P.S. It's not that cold. You will NOT get frostbite taking down the lights.

March 4,1972
        Do the taxes
        Clean the mud off the front porch
        Get the blackberries away from the garden fence
        Order seed potatoes
—Mabel

 April 8, 1972
        Start the taxes—they're due next week.
        Call Jim to come and plow the garden for me.
        Beat the blackberries away from the garden plot.
        It really is time to take the storm windows down.
        Repair the garden fence. I saw deer tracks down there already.
—Mabel

April 15, 1972
       Tax forms are on your desk, pencils in the kitchen drawer, calculator in my purse.
—Mabel

April 22, 1972
        Go down to Gibson's Hardware and pick up the seeds
       Take down the storm windows
       The blackberries will not keep the deer away. Repair the fence.
—Mabel.
        P.S. Cut the blackberries back from the garden gate.  Bet you thought I forgot!

May 13,1972
        Plant the potatoes where Jim plowed for us
        Mow the lawn down to the garden
        Cut the blackberries off the garden gate
—Mabel.
       P.S. If you had cut the blackberries, you could have repaired the fence without
a trip to Doc Wilson.

June 3,1972
        Forget the rest of the garden.  Just keep the blackberries away from the tomatoes, okay?
        Mow the front lawn
        Put up the screens
—Mabel

June 17, 1972
        Put up the screens
        Mow the front lawn
        Rescue the tomatoes from the blackberries!
—Mabel

July 1, 1972
        Mow the front lawn
        Wash the windows
        Keep those blackberries off my tomatoes!
—Mabel


July 15, 1972
        Hack the blackberries off the upper garden fence
        Water the tomatoes I transplanted to the front flowerbeds
—Mabel
        P.S. I don't think we should have taken that week's vacation over the Fourth.

July 29, 1972
        Chop the blackberries off the upper lawn
        Pick up potatoes, lettuce, and turnips at the grocery store
        Mow the front lawn
        Water the tomatoes
—Mabel

August 12, 1972
        Chop the blackberries off the back porch
        Water the front lawn and the tomatoes
        Edge the front walk
 —Mabel

 August 26, 1972
        Hack the blackberries away from the back door
        Trim the rhodies at the front gate
        Wash the front windows
        Mow the front lawn
 —Mabel. P.S. Have you noticed those nice new houses in town, over on Maple Street?

 September 2, 1972
       Repaint front porch and fence
       Pick the tomatoes from flowerbeds
       Get those blackberries out of the back hall!
       Open house at the Development Sunday afternoon. Let's just go take a look.
—Mabel

September 23, 1972
        Hack blackberries off the hall door
        Take out the trash
        Talk to Mary Pat over at the Realty
 —Mabel

 October 7, 1972
        Barricade kitchen door against blackberries
        Clean your den
        Don't forget, escrow closes Tuesday afternoon
 —Mabel


October 14, 1972
        Wash the front windows
        Mow the lawn
        Put up the storm windows
        Mail change-of-address forms
—Mabel

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Give-away on Goodreads.com

Check it out if you are a Goodreads member! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Ninja Librarian by Rebecca Douglass

The Ninja Librarian

by Rebecca Douglass

Giveaway ends March 08, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Seeing is. . .

We drove up to my in-laws for the weekend, up through the Central Valley late at night.  Nearing Chico, we were startled to see what appeared to be a large flock of moths fluttering in the headlights.  This being after 11 p.m., it took us an amazingly long time to process through the options.  Not moths.  Leaves, they must be leaves blowing in the wind.

No, not leaves.  In the end, we remembered that it is February and that the almond trees are in bloom.  We were driving through a shower of flower petals.

On Sunday I took my bike and rode through the orchards, admiring the trees.  I could have wished for a sunny blue-sky day, but the blossoms were beautiful in any case.

Pedaling through miles of orchards on tiny roads, sometimes the scent of the blossoms was striking.

Individual flowers are waiting for bees--I hope that the reason I didn't see any is that it was too cold, not that there aren't enough bees.

A quintessential California scene: a giant Valley Oak standing protectively over the almond orchard.  There are no leaves on the trees yet, just the see of slightly pink white flowers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Read any good books lately?

Along with just about everyone else, I just finished reading (listening to, actually), the Hunger Games trilogy.  What a great read, in a distopian-future-with-lots-of-death kind of way!  I listen to books when doing housework and working out, and these books were gripping enough to result in a clean house and a fit body, because I really didn't want to stop until I reached the end.

Although at times I felt that Katness's inability to understand what was going on (or to move out of herself and deal with it) was annoying, it was probably pretty realistic.  She's not an amazing heroine; she's a fairly ordinary teen girl who's abruptly thrust into something a lot bigger than she is.  I give the series 5 stars.
 


Monday, February 20, 2012

Filling the tank

I had to put gas in the car yesterday.  I know that for many of you, that's a pretty common event, but I hadn't done it for a month.  Imagine my shock when I realized that gas prices had gone up by 40 cents a gallon.  I guess there's a downside to everything.  On the plus side, we get 40 mpg and hardly drive anyway.  On the down side, I can sure get sticker shock when it's that long between fill-ups.  I'll take the trade-off.

Ironically, while we drive so little because we commute and largely run errands on our bikes, I filled the tank yesterday so I could drive somewhere. . . to ride my bike.  That was worth some contemplation while I ground my way up and over the coastal mountains (and back again) in compound low.  On the bike, that is.  Sometimes it's worth being a little inconsistent for the sake of enjoying life. (Yes, riding to the hairy edge of exhaustion is a way of enjoying life!)

Which brings us to chocolate.  How, you say?  Well, aside from the obvious connection to enjoying life, I generally try to eat a healthy diet and almost never touch candy.  But I am a sucker for high-quality dark chocolate.  Yeah, I know that there are some possible healthy compounds in chocolate.  But we all know that there's not enough to offset the negatives of sugar and fat.  Again, a little inconsistency is sometimes worth it.  I have a friend who eats essentially nothing sweetened, everything organic and vegan and healthy.  But she eats chocolate, because, well, there are limits.

So kick back and enjoy some chocolate.  And really good coffee.  That's another one that pushes me out of the "everything I eat should be healthy" mindset.

Chocolate, coffee, and a good book.  I'm ready for another evening.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just Dreaming

We've reached that point in the middle of winter. . . the point when I start looking at photos from summers past and dreaming about taking up my pack and hitting the trails.  It's great at this point--no solid plans, so I can fantasize about hiking whatever mountains I want.  Later, we'll get to reality and pick one or two main trips, find ourselves in this state or that one, and narrow it down.  For now, every article I read, every photo I see, generates a new plan.

The Sierra Nevada:



Weminuche Wilderness:





Maybe Glacier.  I have some unfinished business with Glacier N.P.  We spent our vacation there two years ago.  I spent the whole time getting, having, and recovering from pneumonia.  Spouse and companions saw bighorns, griz, and some incredible scenery.  I did get to have some close encounters with a mountain goat:

Or the Wind River Range.  Can't believe how long ago that was.  My boys were little then:


Then there are the Cascades, Sawtooths, and who knows where. 

But it's February.  So I'll keep looking at pictures. . . and go and tend my garden.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thinking about themes

No big surprise, but I've been spending a lot of time over at Amazon making my book's page look better.  One of the things I found was a spot to enter "themes and motifs."  My original reaction was that, heck, I'd just written some fun stories, no serious matter here. 

Naturally, I thought about it some more, and realized that, of course, I'd actually had a pretty obvious theme going.  In each chapter, the Ninja Librarian, or the narrator (Big Al), is faced with some problem, and has to solve it with a combination of brains and Ninja skills.  That was pretty obvious.  What I hadn't really thought about (the truth comes out about writers--a lot of the time, stuff in books just happens, and we get to think about it later), was that the whole arch of the book has to do with changing the stereotypes that define you. 

I mean, you live in a place called Skunk Corners, a place with a reputation for sending librarians packing because who needs 'em?  So you're nobody and going nowhere.  But along comes someone who says you can be someone, and is prepared to kick you into the middle of next week if you don't do what needs doing.  (Come to think of it, maybe I need that motivator!)  So you do what needs doing, and discover that maybe you're not such a loser. 

Nothing terribly original there.  I'm pretty sure that's the underlying theme of 90% of kids' books. 

But it's nice to know that maybe I wrote a little more than I thought I did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's here!

Sort of like having a baby, only a longer period of gestation and a much easier delivery.

My book is out at last!  The Ninja Librarian is available from my Createspace store (https://www.createspace.com/3762567), and will be up on Amazon within days.  It felt like it took forever.  Not the writing--that took a couple of years, but was fun all the way.  But fussing over the details, designing a cover, and then proofing over and over until I have some realistic hope that there aren't any embarrassing typos there.  Then the longest wait of all, though it really only took three days: waiting for a proof to arrive.

Finally, I held it in my hand, a real book.  Just a collection of fun stories for kids from 10 to 100, but it means a lot to me.

So while I was riding today it occurred to me that if making a book is like having a baby, there's a real key difference.  No diapers.  The NL is out there and ready to face the world on his own.  Then it hit me that that's not really true.  Want to sell the book?  Blog about it.  Hold a launch event.  Send email to everyone you know.

Having this book might not be so different from another baby after all.













Friday, February 10, 2012

Welcome to Skunk Corners

This is my first ever blog post, so some introductions seem in order.  Why Skunk Corners?  And who is the Ninja Librarian? 

Skunk Corners is the home of the Ninja Librarian, hero of my Young Adult novel of that name.  So I'm just the author, but I like to think that he'd approve.  Skunk Corners is a highly fictional town in a mythic past in a place that might look a fair bit like the California foothills around 1900.  Just don't look too close, because the stories are tall tales, and sticking to the history isn't the point.

But this is a blog, so I get to write about whatever I want, right?  Today, what I want to write about is my book.  This week, I submitted the final text for approval and am awaiting my final proof.  To celebrate, I went for a swim, then went to work on the sequel.  Because that's the funny thing about writing: the more you do, the more you want to do.  And after a lifetime of writing, I am finally sharing my work.

But going for that swim was important, too.  I've been pretty absorbed in putting the finishing touches on the book.  That's been fun, but it's stressful, too.  I needed that break, time to think about nothing (if you are experiencing productive thoughts, you probably aren't working out hard enough).

 When I'm not writing or working or being a Mom, I like to swim, bike, or run every day.  Last year, I tried something new: I bicycled two "Centuries," 100-mile bike rides.  Here I am on the road about 3/4 of the way through the second one.  I'm the rider in neon yellow green.  I really want to be seen when I'm on the road! 


And when the summer rolls around and everyone's out of school and we're free to travel, you'll find the whole family in the mountains somewhere, enjoying the scenery.  There really is nothing like a morning in the mountains.