Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Round-up

It's the end of another year (and what's with that, anyway? Used to be a year lasted for, well, months and months. Now it's about 15 minutes). and time for some reflection on what I've done, what I'm doing, and what I think I ought to be doing.

Don't worry. I'm not going to talk about losing weight (though I'm sorry to say I gained back all I lost trekking in Peru, and then some) or getting daily exercise (I do). I'm talking about writing.

The Year in Review:

This was a big year for me, writing-wise. I brought out the first mystery in the Pismawallops PTA series, Death By Ice Cream, in April. In November I not only published my first middle grade fantasy, Halitor the Hero, but joined forces with six other great writers and participated in the first Bookelves Anthology, a collection of holiday stories for children. I also managed to survive the April A to Z daily blogging challenge, and averaged about 2.5 posts per week the rest of the year, despite being out of the country for five weeks in June and July (and on the trail for three weeks of that time).

It was also a good reading year, as I kept up my better-than-two-books per week reading pace, posting reviews for many, both works for children and adults. I felt at times as though I wasn't reading enough (dang that Internet and its distractions!) and sometimes felt like I was being pushed too hard to read for a deadline. My reading and reviewing (and Internet usage) need to be examined.

I also began tentatively reaching a bit farther out to make more connections in the blogging world, although my reading and commenting dropped off sadly this fall. Rather, I never regained traction in reading or writing after our summer travels, though I did finish the not insignificant editing process for Halitor.

I also did several classroom visits at two different schools, and was well-received by the kids and teachers alike. These visits are highlights of my writing life!

What I didn't do was much new writing, aside from weekly (or nearly) flash fiction. Thank goodness for that, which keeps me sane when I'm revising! By a quick count, I did 37 Flash Fiction stories, if That is 37,500 words right there!

Reflections on 2014:

I feel like the year was a mixed bag. As my comments above suggest, I'm happy to have managed to publish two books in a single year, but those were both largely written before the year began, so I had a year very heavy on revisions. That was not ideal, and I need to work on making my revision process more efficient, so that I can spend more time writing!

My level of engagement with the profession went up, but not enough. Sales also went up, but again, not as much as I had hoped. I still need to work on the advance publicity for a book. I have my days of thinking that I need to hire both a maid and a marketing director, because I don't seem to be doing an adequate job in either area!

So...what about 2015?

So here's the deal about 2015: I want to write more than ever, and I want to shake up the blog a bit, connect more with more people, writers and readers, and use my time more effectively (online and off). Piece of cake, right?

My thoughts run something like this:
For the writing, I plan to finish editing Death By Trombone (the Pismawallops PTA #2), which I drafted during NaNoWriMo 2013! (I also don't want to get this far ahead of myself again; it was for that reason that I didn't do NaNo 2014). I hope to have my first cut done in a couple of weeks so that I can send it out to my first editor/beta reader. Then I can turn my attention to the next project: the Ninja Librarian's third book (still untitled). And I want to create my own short story anthology, using flash fiction I've published here, spruced up and expanded in some cases. And, of course, I'm starting to think about the next full-length novel after revisiting Skunk Corners. That's probably enough and then some!

As for shaking up the blog, I definitely intend to continue with the weekly Flash Fiction. I like it, and my readers seem to like it. I will also continue posting book reviews, but I may back off to one per week, so that I do children's books the 1st and 3rd weeks (to participate in the Kid Lit Blog Hop) and adult books the other weeks. I need to connect up with more people, so will look at participating in additional hops and tours.  Because I do want to continue to post three times/week, I will be filling in the other days with more varied posts, on writing and possibly on life (though my life isn't very interesting), and more photo essays of current and past journeys. I will also work on the flip side of blogging, visiting other blogs.

If I want a new time sink, I will endeavor to learn to make use of the Twitter account I set up last month!

What do you think? What should I do more or less of in my blog?

Oh--and Happy New Year!


Did you get a new eReader for Christmas? Load it with my new book, Halitor the Hero, a fantasy for 10-year-olds of all ages. Use the Smashwords code AV66V to get it at 40% off! Just click on the cover image:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/492388

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

I so much appreciated last week's Deja Vu post, that I decided to republish a Christmas Story from last year.

It can be hard to get into the holiday spirit when you're all alone in a space ship, but Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer, is determined to try.

Xavier Xanthum’s Xmas

Xavier Xanthum switched off his book with a sigh and stared at the window.  He was in deep hyperspace, so the window was black.  Whatever was out there, space travelers had long ago decided they didn’t wan to see it.  When he was in hyperspace, then, the window served as a vid-screen.  Xavier called out, “Larry, give me a snowy village scene.”  He turned away while the computer worked on the problem, and found the disembodied eyeballs that were Larry’s physical manifestation watching him.

“You are troubled, Xavier?”  Larry’s voice came from the speaker on the wall, not from the eyes.  It took some getting used to, but Xavier and Larry had been together a long time.

“Larry, how long until we make landfall?”

“Approximately four weeks.”

“And how long since we celebrated Christmas?”

“What?”  Larry was taken aback, not an easy thing to do to a computer.  He recovered almost at once, however, and said, “You were on Gobulan D on December 25th four galactic years past.  It is an Earth-colonized planet, so they presumably celebrate Earth holidays.”

“Huh.”  Xavier couldn’t recall, but four years was a long time in space.  “What’s the date now?”

“Stardate 27358.49.”

Xavier made a rude noise.  “What’s the Earth date?”

“That is a meaningless concept.  You are approximately 40,000 light years from earth.”  Hyperspace really was an amazing thing. 

“Count the days from the last time we were on Earth.”  He reconsidered.  It had been decades since he’d been on Earth.  “Or from that holiday on—where did you say?”

“Gobulan D.”

“Count the ship’s days on an Earth calendar.”  He waited a moment, then demanded impatiently, “well?”

“By that meaningless reckoning,” Larry said with disapproval in his allegedly synthetic voice, “this would be December 24th.  Do you wish to know the year?”  For a computer, Larry could be very sarcastic.

 Xavier ignored the sarcasm.  “December 24th?  Then we,” he announced, “are celebrating Christmas tomorrow.”

“Very well, Captain.”  Larry really could be sarcastic. “In what way do you wish to celebrate this event?”

“In the traditional manner!” Xavier said.  “You figure it out!”

“Very well.”

And then Larry refused to say anything more.  Xavier, for his part, went to work on creating decorations.  He had no access to pine boughs or holly in the ordinary way, but Larry, when asked if the replicator could generate a Christmas tree, gave a curt “of course.  Santa will bring it after you go to bed.”

Xavier thought that was unnecessarily sarcastic, but he forgave Larry.  The computer didn’t like it when Xavier got irrational.  It made Larry nervous.  He played around with the lights to give the single living-working space on his ship a Christmas feel.

The basic flaw in his holiday plans, Xavier realized, was the whole gift-giving thing.  He’d been reading what the computer library called “classics of earth childhood,” and Christmas definitely involved the exchanging of gifts.  Well, he would just have to give Larry a gift, since there wasn’t anyone else.

That left him with the dual challenge of finding a gift for a sentient computer, and doing it in secret when Larry knew every item on the ship and saw everything.

And who would give Xavier a present?  He tried not to think about that.  He even re-read the first chapter of Little Women to remind himself that it was better to give than receive.  He wished there might be some starving immigrants he could give his breakfast to.  He knew it was all silly anyway.  Just something to pass the time.

Even so, Xavier felt a little excited when he woke the next morning.  He had found a sock and attached it to the sticky-tab nearest the air duct (as the nearest substitute he could think of for a chimney).

When he rolled out of bed—Xavier kept the g-field just strong enough that he didn’t have to strap in at night—and exchanged his sleep-suit for a work jumpsuit, he saw a small, weedy-looking fir tree next to the driving panel.

Instead of pushing the button to fold the bed back into the wall, Xavier took a closer look at the tree.  Two small, colored balls hung from branches too limp to support them.

“Larry?” Xavier called softly.  “Did you do this?”

The eyeballs appeared next to him.  “I studied 20th-Earth-Century holiday vids, and this seemed to be the most popular look.  It is something called a ‘Charlie Brown Christmas tree.’  And it was easy to replicate, using the program for—” Larry broke off, and finished lamely, “well, you could eat it if you wanted.”

“It’s lovely, Larry,” Xavier said not quite truthfully.  “And a tree needs a present.”  He pulled a small box from where he’d hidden it in his covers.  He thrust the box at the eyeballs, which got a little brighter.

“Thank you, Xavier.  Would you open it for me?”

Larry had no hands, since he didn’t really exist outside the computer.  Even the eyeballs were a projection, or possibly a hallucination.  Xavier opened the package, feeling a small surge of pleasure even though he’d filled and wrapped it.  “More memory for you!”

“I thank you,” Larry said.  Xavier could tell he was pleased.  He’d meant the memory plates as back-up, but Larry would make good use of the added capacity.

“I’ll install it right after breakfast.”

“I regret that I could not. . . .” Larry began, but Xavier was looking at the stocking he’d hung.  It was wriggling.  Xavier shoved off across the pod and lifted the sock, which definitely bulged and squirmed, from the sticky-pad.

“What in space?”  Man and computer spoke together, as a small, furry head popped out of the sock, uttering a plaintive mew.

“Where did it come from?”  Xavier asked.  You couldn’t make a kitten from the replicator.

“I have no idea,” Larry said.

“A stowaway?  For all these weeks?  And why come out now, to hide in my stocking?”  He cuddled the soft animal as he spoke, and it licked his hand.

“Larry, a bowl of milk, warm.”  The bowl appeared in the food slot, and Xavier held bowl and cat as the animal lapped the milk with enthusiasm.  He scanned the night’s instrument records, as his hand absently stroked the soft fur.  Only one anomaly appeared, far too close to them for a brief period and then gone, and that was too absurd to credit.

###

©Rebecca M. Douglass

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Amulet of Kings

12499346 

Title: Amulet of Kings
Author: Will Macmillan Jones
Publisher: Safkhet Fantasy, 2011, 176 pages.
Source: I'm not sure, but I think I bought this. Or picked the ebook up on a free day, or something.

Summary:
This isn't an easy book to summarize. So I'll crib from the publisher's blurb:
What could be worse? Having to take a holiday in the (rainy) Lake District in the Northwest of England, with an aunt who turns people into frogs for a hobby? Or battling the local Dark Lord, whose attempt at world domination starts with the nearby underground Dwarf Mansion, and its enormous collection of used pizza boxes? Or getting involved with a jazz-loving bog troll and his dwarven Rhythm and Blues band? Or is it being miles from a McDonalds? The teenagers find out as they fall into a Mad, Mad World, so close to our own that you can't tell the difference.

Review: 
Okay, I was predisposed to like this. I mean, not only has the writer made a lot of good contributions to Goodreads groups in which I participate, but what's not to love about trolls who play jazz and dwarves with housekeeping issues? Or surly teens...no, strike that. Plenty not to love about surly teens. But when they are someone else's problem, and in the hands of a writer like Will Macmillan Jones, even surly teens have their good side.

I didn't quite know what to expect when I picked this up, and what I found was both a fun fantasy with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and a commentary on society. Also a fair bit of humour, and I spelled it that way on purpose. I'm pretty sure that despite my life-long immersion in British novels, I missed a fair number of jokes. But that's okay, because the book has more than enough to go around, so that the US contingent needn't feel shorted.

In fact, the Banned Underground series is off to a good start as a bit of light humour, more than as serious fantasy. Those looking for serious fantasy, for a reprisal of Lord of the Rings with all grimness in place, should look elsewhere. Occasionally, the balance between the heroic fantasy story (yeah, there is one, really) and the absurdity tipped a bit too far one way or the other. But I never lost interest, and the story never dragged. I will definitely keep reading this series.

Recommendation: 
For those who like fantasy, but aren't all serious about it, and for those who like British humour. If you didn't like Monty Python, you might want to go elsewhere. Oh, and liking jazz isn't a requirement, though a little familiarity with musicians probably enriches the experience.
Full Disclosure: I bought, borrowed or stole Amulet of Kings all on my own, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

P.S. Have a great Christmas, if that is your holiday of choice! I probably won't be back to post until Friday. Unless I change my mind. And, come to think of it, I'll probably post another "deja vu" post on Friday, too, because I don't have a new holiday story!

####
Update, January 2015: Book Two is available again

Friday, December 19, 2014

Deja Vu Blogfest--flash fiction re-run

http://www.dlhammons.com/2014/10/the-deja-vu-blogfest-2014.html 


I'd almost forgotten, in the chaos of the season, that I have a little break here (if I can decide which post to re-post). I signed up for it and threw out some suggested re-runs here, but I guess that was one of those unread posts. So now I'm choosing...

Battle Dogs


George, Sally, Steve and Hadrian peered around the stone wall and considered the field before them.  Behind them, their mounts sniffed around, checking for signs of the enemy, or anything that could be eaten.  Their short legs and long hair made them look like oversized caterpillars.
“Dogapillars,” George insisted.  “Not any kind of cats.”  He spat out the word as though it tasted of filth.  The enemy mounted themselves on cats.

Steve was having trouble with his pointed hat.  "Why do we wear these things, anyway?" he grumbled as he centered the thing on his head once again.  “They’re just in the way.  And my corgi doesn’t like it, especially when it falls off and pokes him.”

"We're garden gnomes," Sally answered.  "If we didn't have the pointy colorful hats, we might be taken for mountain gnomes, or even, heaven help us, dwarves."

"They do make us awfully visible to the pixies, though," Steve pointed out.  “It’s hard to hide and peek when your hat sticks up a foot above your head.  And they fall off whenever we charge the enemy.”

“Well, the cats don’t like them either,” Sally said.  “That has to help.”

"Hush!" said Hadrian, who was the only one actually doing any scouting.  The others were letting him manage that part, while they sharpened their spades and grumbled about the hats.  "I see one!  They're out there.”  He backed away from the wall and turned, waving an arm toward the corgis clustered behind the next hedge.  “Sound the signal to mount up!"

Steve gave a loud, squawking squeeze on his concertina, and an army if gnomes burst from the shrubbery and ran for the corgis.  Grabbing the long hair, the gnomes swarmed to the backs of their eager mounts.  Tongues lolling from open mouths, the stubby-legged dogs charged forward almost without waiting for the gnomes, each of whom clutched corgi-fur with one hand and a garden tool-come-weapon with the other.

On the other side of the meadow a phalanx of Persian cats bounded through the tall grass, each with an evil-faced pixie astride.  Shrieking like a flock of banshees, they charged forward.

Corgis barked.  Persians yowled.  Disaster appeared inevitable.

Then the truly inevitable happened.  A squirrel darted up a tree, and many of the corgis veered off in pursuit.  Then first one, then another, of the cats stopped.  They sniffed about, and several sat down to wash their bottoms, dumping the pixies onto the ground.  Chaos reigned, but battle was not joined.  After several minutes, Hadrian sounded the retreat, as did the leader of the pixies.

Back in the garden, Hadrian dismounted and sat with his head in his hand.  His pointed hat had fallen to the ground but he ignored it.  His corgi sniffed at him, and he patted it absently before the dog flopped down to take a nap.

"It could have been worse," Sally attempted consolation.  "At least the pixies didn't do any better, with their Persian cats.  Only an idiot would ride into battle on a cat!  Everyone knows they don’t take orders."

“Neither, apparently, do corgis,” Hadrian pointed out.

"No one got hurt," Steve tried a different consolation.

"But the pixies got away!" Hadrian shouted.  "We can't keep doing this.  We're supposed to be an army, for dog's sake!"  He looked up.  A half-circle of pointed noses and lolling tongues in smiling corgi mouths lay flopped on the ground, attached to the napping corgis.  "Okay, he sighed.  "One more chance." He looked at the corgis, then at his fellow garden gnomes, and raised his voice to rouse the sleepers.  "Send those cats running and the pixies flying, and there'll be treats for everyone!”

At the word "treats" the corgis roused themselves, climbing to their feet and smiling eagerly.  So did the gnomes. Or, rather, they stopped scowling and grew more interested.  Several even began planning with Hadrian how best to mount their attack.

***
Once again, the gnomes were mounted and ready.  The corgis sniffed the air, and Hadrian's mount raised his head and barked the signal.  Tawny fur flew across the meadow, stubby white legs barely visible under the shag.  A squirrel ran up a tree, but Hadrian shouted "Focus!  Treat!" and the fur-covered steeds hesitated only almost imperceptibly before continuing their charge across the meadow toward the grey fuzz-balls. 

Hadrian gave the command to deploy their most powerful weapon.  “Maximum shed rate!”
Dogs and cats met in a cloud of flying fur as corgi hair filled the air.  Moments later the cats turned tail, unable to see or breathe.  The furballs dumped the pixies to the ground as they fled.  In danger of being trampled by the flashing paws of the eager corgis or choked by lungsful of dog hair, the pixies saved themselves by dematerializing.  Once gone, they could only return to their own land.   It was a total victory for the gnomes and their mounts.

The gnomes encouraged their mounts to halt, and the sharp-nosed smiles turned to Hadrian.  He waved them back to camp.  "Cake all around!"  The victory cheers were nearly drowned by the ecstatic barking, as the fur settled slowly to the ground.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014

###
Corgis, ready for battle

Now, hop on around and visit some other bloggers who are giving themselves a little break and sharing some of their best work!



Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Middle Grade Classic: A Wrinkle in Time

317521 

Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Publisher:   Originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1962, 203 pages.
Source: I have owned a copy for years, though of a more recent (1980) paperback edition.

Summary:
This is a book for which the term "speculative fiction" might have been invented. Part science fiction, part fantasy, it is a great quest story with a twist. Meg Murray and her little brother, Charles Wallace, are misfits. They team up with another misfit, Calvin O'Keefe, and three very unusual entities, and travel through space and time to a planet where a single brain rules everything, and free will is non-existent, in order to rescue Meg's father. How they manage that and what it requires of them is the core of the story.

Review: 
There is a reason this is a classic and holder of a Newbery Medal. Although the story occasionally feels a little heavy-handed with morality, it has held up very well over time (possibly better than I have), and continues to work both as a great adventure with just a hint of teen romance and as an exploration into what it is to be human. The characters, especially Meg but also Charles Wallace and Calvin, are well-drawn. Meg is very human, which at times makes me squirm a bit, but I realize that is because I can recognize my own faults in her. It's nice to know that those faults are part of what allows her to succeed in her quest!

Reading this book as a writer I can also see the fun that L'Engle had writing characters like the three almost supernatural beings, Mrs Who, Mrs What and Mrs Which*--not to mention the Happy Medium. Like me, I suspect she didn't always care if her jokes went over the heads of her younger readers.

Wrinkle is a fun book to read, and one that leaves the reader something to think about when it's finished. What more could we ask?

Recommendation:
I recommend this for children and adults from about age 10 or 11 and up. I would be remiss if I did not address L'Engle's use of both an occasionally heavy-handed (in my opinion) Christian imagery and philosophy--and her use of quotations and beliefs from many other philosophies. L'Engle was a writer whose strong Christian faith informed her work, and while most of her characters are at the least questioning what they believe, the writer herself writes from a place of firm belief. As an agnostic reader, I am aware of times when I may not agree with everything she says, but I do not find that it destroys my enjoyment of a good read. Some readers may be more troubled by this than I am (and I suspect some of the most troubled readers will be Christians who are not comfortable asking questions).



*An interesting note of Who, What, and Which: L'Engle wished for the names to be printed as I have written them, English-style with no period on "Mrs," in order to emphasize their status as something Other. This, however, was apparently too much for the type-setters, and the only editions in which this was done were the British ones, where it of course did not communicate anything.  I no longer remember in which of her non-fiction works I read this.


Full Disclosure: I have owned a copy of  A Wrinkle in Time for many years, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Just two days left to enter to win a copy of Halitor the Hero! Remember, books make the best presents.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 15, 2014

Audiobook Review: Dancing at the Rascal Fair, by Ivan Doig

10327242   2809939

I've included both the audiobook cover (which I didn't ever see, because I was listening to it!) and the original hardback cover, which is what we have on our shelf.

Title: Dancing at the Rascal Fair
Author:  Ivan Doig; narrated by Robert Ian MacKenzie
Publisher: Originally published by Atheneum in 1987 (384 pages). Audio book published by Recorded Books, Inc., in 2010.
Source: Library. I also own a copy of the hardback, which I read back along about 1996.

Summary:
First, I want to note that although this was the second book Doig wrote about the McCaskill family it is chronologically the first. He created the family in English Creek in 1984, his first novel set in the Gros Ventre area (the land Doig wrote about most often and refers to as "The Two Medicine country" after the river that runs through it), but went back a generation with Dancing at the Rascal Fair to explore how the family got there.


In 1889, Rob Barclay and Angus McCaskill leave Scotland, a pair of single young men in search of a new life in a new country--the mythical land of Montana where Rob's uncle Lucas lives.They are all of 19 years old, and in  Angus's words, "green as the cheese of the moon." Despite their blind naivete, they survive, locate Lucas, and homestead the north fork of English Creek.  Angus tells us of their lives for the next 30 years, as they grow older and grow families in "Scotch Heaven." As a narrator Angus is insightful and witty, at times addressing Rob or others in second person, at others narrating in a more conventional first-person voice, and always with Doig's inimitable language, visual and imaginative and with a touch of humor.

The story is by no means all joy, just as life never is. This is an adult novel in the best sense of the word, with love, loss, and deep feelings running all directions. And every word of it is amazing.

Robert Ian MacKenzie's narration in a lovely Scots voice adds a crowning touch to the story, and lured me on to sit and listen when I should have been doing other things!

As with virtually everything Doig has written, I give this an enthusiastic five stars, two thumbs up, and a cheer, as well as a few tears (because that's life). Long may Doig write.

###
Full Disclosure: I checked Dancing at the Rascal Fair out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
###

Absurd though it feels to mention my work on the same page as Doig's, I'll still encourage you to enter the drawing for a free electronic copy of my newest book, Halitor the Hero.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Christmas Horror

This week's Wendig Challenge was to write a bit of holiday horror. He gave us up to 2000 words, but I restrained myself and didn't use them all, only 1375 of them. 

Note: it was only after I drafted this that I learned about the rather horrific "elf on the shelf thing" (thanks again to Chuck!). I thought I was being original, but it just goes to show that the marketing types are always ahead of me.

The Elf in the Closet

I love Christmas. At least, I used to, until last year. That was when one of Santa’s elves moved into my bedroom closet and began taking notes. That’s right: for the last year, ever since last December 1, to be exact, there has been an elf in my bedroom closet making notes on a smart phone and reporting everything I do.

Even at first I found it awkward. I had to start changing clothes in the bathroom. Not even for Santa would I undress in front of a boy elf!

Now I know it's a lot worse. He raids the kitchen at night, and I get blamed. I’m sure he’s the one who took the last slice of my birthday cake, the one I was saving for an after-school snack the next day. And Dad got real mad at my sister because he thought she’d been in the liquor cabinet, but I know she didn’t, because she was out with her boyfriend that night.

When the elf moved in last December, he claimed it was only for a few days. Just a spot-check for Santa’s naughty-and-nice list, you know. I suggested that he check up on my big sister, the one who sneaks out at night to meet her boyfriend, but he said she’d aged out of the system, whatever that meant.

So I asked him his name.

“Elf 37542.”

“That’s it? A number?” I was horrified. “You should have a name! You need a nice, Christmassy name. Let’s see…may I call you, uh, Jingle?”

“NO!” His voice was like ice and his glare gave me the shivers. If it had been a month earlier, I would have thought he was really a gremlin left over from Halloween.

“That’s not very nice,” I pointed out.

“Look, kid,” Elf 37542 growled, “it ain’t very nice to go calling a respectable surveillance elf by a name like ‘Jingle,’ see. You just stick with 37542.”

I meant to look up “surveillance” but I was busy, and forgot. Along about January 7th, I opened the closet and saw he was still there.

“Hey, Christmas is over! Shouldn’t you go back to the North Pole?”

“I’m not done watching this place.” He belched, and I saw an empty beer can among the litter of chip packages and candy wrappers on the floor. That was before the cake incident, and the first I knew about his eating habits.

“I thought this was just a spot check,” I protested.

“Some spots need more checking than others,” he said, unwrapping the last of our holiday chocolates with a sly grin. “This isn’t a bad assignment.”

That was when I remembered to look up “surveillance.” When I did, I decided I’d better tell Mom. She had thought I was being good for Santa when I insisted on putting my clothes away myself, but I was just scared to have her open my closet. If she saw him, if he was real and I wasn’t crazy, I was pretty sure there’d be trouble.

So when I finally decided we had plenty of trouble anyway, I told Mom. She didn’t believe me, but came along to prove I was nuts. When she opened the closet door, there he sat. She gave a little gasp, then pinched her lips into a tight line. Elf 37542 lounged on what was now a large pile of trash. Mom folded her arms and demanded, “What is the meaning of this?”

When I heard that tone, I jumped. But old 37542 just sat there and grinned.

“Santa Surveillance, checking the list.”

“Santa Surveillance my,” Mom glanced and me and finished up, “my hindquarters. It’s nearly February. Sarah has had her presents, and she’s a good girl anyway. Your job here is more than done, and I want you OUT!”

I don’t know what we expected. That he would leave just like that, because Mom said so? We couldn’t have been more wrong.

All spring we tried everything we could think of to make him go, but 37542 stayed put and kept reporting on me—to someone.

It was June before I completely stopped believing he was Santa’s elf.

“I think maybe he’s NSA,” I told Dad. We’d finally had to bring him into the secret, when Mom and I couldn’t budge the elf, and Dad noticed that his beer disappeared in a hurry. He was all set to ground Elaine.

“Nonsense, Sarah. What would the NSA want with a 10-year-old girl?”  He had a point. My life was so boring I was surprised the elf hadn’t died of it.

“Well, he’s something.”

“He’s a parasite. You should have told me about him at once, before he got so well established.”

“I thought it was cool!” I wailed. “Santa’s elf. Proof at last!”

“It’s proof of something,” Dad admitted. “Maybe that we’re all crazy.”

Dad spent the summer experimenting with ever-stronger forms of elf-repellant. Nothing did the job. We finally made our plan. It wasn’t very nice, but we were desperate. Mom made the reservations at Disneyland, and Dad arranged for the exterminators to come in while we were gone. They tented the house and fumigated, though of course we said that it was for cockroaches, not elves.

I loved Disneyland. Not only was it magical, and I only threw up on two rides, but for the first time in months I was free of the elf. He didn’t follow us there. I looked forward to returning home and finding him gone. I’d even have been happy to clean up his corpse.

But when I walked into my room, 37542 was sitting on my bed, and he was peeved.

“That wasn’t very nice, kid. I barely made it out alive.”

“Well, why didn’t you stay out?” I was a bit peeved myself.

“I have a job to do.”

“What? To drive me nuts? And don’t give me that Santa crap, because I don’t believe you.”

He tsked at me, and held up his phone. “Such language! All sent right to the boss.”

“Whoever that may be,” I muttered. “Dad! Mom! He’s still here!”

I heard Dad swear, and say something about twenty-five hundred bucks down the toilet, and Mom said that at least there were no more cockroaches in the kitchen. Dad stormed into my room, and he would have grabbed that elf and tossed him out the window, but old 37542 was too fast. He darted back into the closet and slammed the door. I tried nailing it shut, but he seemed to be able to slither under the door.

I finally wrote to Santa, even though I hadn’t really believed in him for several years.
Dear Santa,
One of your elves has been living in my closet all year. He says he is Elf 37542. Can you please come and get him? He is not at all well-behaved and is causing a lot of trouble.
Yours,
Sarah

I was shocked to get a letter back the next week:
Dear Sarah,
I am sorry you are being so troubled, but I have no such elf. My elves have real names, nice ones like ‘Jingle’ and ‘Snowy,’ and are all very well-behaved. Perhaps this one works for my anagrammatic rival.
Santa

I had to look up “anagrammatic,” and when I did I stared at the signature in horror. Then I screamed.

###
We’ve been on the run ever since. We just all walked out of the house one day like we were going to school or work, and met up at the corner a block away, got in Dad’s car, and kept on going.

If we stop anywhere for more than a few days, he finds us, so we just keep moving. It could be worse. We can circle back around to the house now and then, to pick up supplies and do the laundry. We just can’t stay.

My sister blames me, though I don’t see what I could have done. I have no idea why 37542 picked me. Dad is considering trying the witness protection program, though how he will explain the elf to the FBI I don’t know.

And now it’s December again, and there are elves everywhere. It gives me the creeps.

###

©Rebecca M. Douglass

If you enjoyed this, please enter the giveaway for a copy of my newest release! Or order today to get a copy of The BookElves Anthology of non-horrific holiday stories!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Middle Grade Review: Voyage on the Great Titanic



Bet you thought I wouldn't get my Wednesday review out!

Today's book is another entry in a really solid series, the "Dear America Diaries," historical fiction presented as the diaries of young girls living through significant events and periods. I want to say that I do like the look and feel of the hardback editions of these books which are carried by our library. The covers carry an image meant to be the girl in question, superimposed on a historical photo. The size is that of many diaries, and feels just right in the hand!

247982


Title: Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady
Author: Ellen Emerson White
Publisher: Scholastic, 1998, 204 pages

Summary: 
Margaret Ann Brady, age 13, is living in an orphanage in London and dreaming of the day when her older brother will earn enough to bring her to America to join him. She gets her lucky chance when she is selected as companion for a wealthy American woman who must cross the Atlantic without her husband and doesn't wish to do so alone. Their crossing will be the maiden voyage of the biggest liner ever, the RMS Titanic.

Review:
The first thing to strike me about this book (and it's not a criticism, just an observation given the series) is that it is really an English story, not an American one.  Margaret is of Irish descent and London upbringing, and while she is eager to get to America, she is also a keen and at times critical observer of her American patroness and her friends. But she is a sympathetic and engaging narrator as well, and the reader will root for her to find her brother and root herself into the American life.

The premise felt a little strained--I had trouble believing that a woman of that class would look for a companion both so young and so lower-class (though the nuns have done their best to give Margaret good manners and educated speech, she is clearly a poor orphan girl). Sadly, it is entirely believable that in 1912 a child would simply be turned over to a random adult with few or no formalities.

In Margaret's case, this is a temporary arrangement that gets her what she really needs, and if her employer is a bit clueless (to put it kindly!), she does get the girl to America. Of course, the focus of the story is the Titanic. First there is the intriguing perspective of a poor girl riding first class--feeling like an imposter but also unashamedly enjoying the luxury. Then there is the disaster, a narrow escape from the sinking ship, and the horror of the hundreds of people freezing and drowning through that night. If Margaret expresses this with a sophistication well beyond her 13 years, we can forgive the author for the sake of the immediacy she brings to that event.

Like all the "Dear America" books, the story is followed by an epilogue that summarizes the life stories of the key characters and a historical overview of the times and, in this case, an examination of the Titanic, with loads of pictures.

Recommendation:
Voyage on the Great Titanic is a worthy addition to the series, and can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in that disaster (dare I say even by boys?). As always, I appreciated the historical background and found the book a pleasant way to pick up a few more details about the period.

Full Disclosure: I checked Voyage on the Great Titanic out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


###

Read Tuesday isn't over--deals on many books, including mine, continue through the end of the week.

Nor is my Giveaway over! Enter now to win an ebook of Halitor the Hero!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't Forget...Read Tuesday is TODAY!

Like Black Friday for books, it's a huge sale where you can find new authors at low cost--even free!

Read more: http://readtuesday.com/2014/12/09/reading-is-what-readtuesday-is-all-about-black-friday-type-of-dec-9-book-sale/

Get my paperbacks cheap! Use coupon code PLT2XALB for 20% off all (except A is For Alpine)
Halitor the Hero
The Ninja Librarian
Return to Skunk Corners
Death By Ice Cream

Coupon is good through the end of the week, but after that, prices go back up!

Ebook discounts available from Smashwords.com: From cheap to free!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nonfiction Review: The War that Ended Peace


17345257 

 Title: The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Author: Margaret MacMillan
Publisher: Random House, 2013, Kindle Edition, 784 pages.
Source: Library

Summary:
The War that Ended Peace follows Europe through the final decades of the 19th Century and into the years leading up to World War I. It is a detailed study of the mystifying and multifarious causes of that war, introducing all the key players and offering some insight into how and why they let--or made--such an awful war happen.
Review:
MacMillan tackled an immense and difficult subject here, and the resultant tome--nearly 800 pages, though mercifully I couldn't see that while reading on my Kindle--reflects that. In some ways, all my review needs to do is note that it took me six months to get through this. But get through it I did, and not solely because I'm too stubborn to give up. The subject is dense, and the writing not, in my opinion, sterling. But the topic is also one which fascinates me, and in the end I did come away with a better understanding of the origins of the Great War, a war that put an end to one of the longest periods of peace (in a general way) that Europe has ever known.

The book's strength is also it's greatest weakness: the amount of detail the author provides on everything from the political situation in Turkey to the life of the Russian Ambassador to Germany. Only by considering all those details can one begin to really understand what happened in 1914, but at the same time, that detail makes it almost impossible to keep it all straight.

I do feel that a defter pen might have made this a bit more accessible and rendered me more likely to read larger chunks at a time, which would have improved my understanding. I found myself at times mentally rewriting to produce a simpler sort of prose, something I would argue is a good thing to bring to a complex topic, and at times a lack of commas (or full-stops) forced me to read twice to sort out the meaning of a sentence.

Recommendation:
I can only recommend this book for die-hard students of the Great War. For those truly wanting or needed to know what made that happen, it is invaluable, and well worth the effort of reading it. For the casual history buff, I don't know if there are better books on the same subject, but I know that the drive to finish it may not match up to the task at hand.
###

Full Disclosure: I checked  The War that Ended Peace out of my (digital) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


And now...don't forget to enter the drawing for an electronic copy of Halitor the Hero!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget 

Find discounts on all my books there, and a large catalog of other titles!

Visit my Smashwords Author Page and use the coupon codes below:
Death By Ice Cream: QV56V
The Ninja Librarian: HQ98Z
Return to Skunk Corners: GC78E
A is for Alpine: LQ62L

Or use the coupon PLT2XALB at Createspace.com to get 20% off any of my paperbacks (except A is for Alpine,  which is always priced to be affordable!).

These offers are only good through the end of the week!

 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Choice or Destiny?

One more story from the Douglass-Pett challenge! Jemima sent me this title since there was no proper Wendig Challege this week.


Choice or Destiny?


‘You must decide.’ That was what the Elders always said, and I was beginning to doubt them.

Rather, I was beginning to doubt that my choices made any difference. For nearly two decades I had been choosing: choosing to be different, choosing to fight where others fled, choosing to lead. And at every turn I have felt that I had no choice, only one possible route I could envision taking.

Now Remon had said it: “It seems like you’ve been guided—or forced—to this point, Tama.” It did. Everything I ever did brought me back to the question I now faced: fight, or submit. Was it even a choice any longer? And if not, what had taken my choices from me?

As far back as I can remember, our kingdom has been under threat from one force or another. When I was very young, it was coastal raiders. I chose to stay with Father when Mother fled with most of the other women and children. I had fought alongside the men, in my own childish way: gathering arrows and using a sling to fling stones at the enemy.

Later, there was the time of plague. Father and I both fought and fled that time: we ventured into the wild hills and risked much to collect the herbs the healers needed. We had to fight there, too, so I learned both herb lore and more of fighting. There were other times, as well, and each time I chose to do something, rather than nothing.

I had never chosen acceptance, always struggle, and now I wondered if that in itself had been a choice—or my doom. Had I ever truly made any choices?

Did I have a choice now?

Our tiny kingdom faced its biggest threat yet, and there were far too few fighting men in the kingdom to face down the neighboring kingdom, when that ruler decided he wished to control all the lands. This threat required a different solution, one which neither the old king nor his young son could offer. It was perhaps best addressed by a woman still young, who had spent her life honing all types of skills: fighting and herb-lore and thinking. Even the feminine skills of seduction and deception mattered here. If I chose, I could save the kingdom, but at what cost to myself?

“Remon, if I have spent my life being pushed to this point, is it even a choice now?”

“What else?” he asked. “Destiny? Do you even believe in Destiny?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Do you?”

“For myself, no. But for you? Maybe. You are different, Tama, and you know it.”

“I do,” I admitted, though I hated to. “It’s not much fun.” Then I gave a bitter laugh. “I know. No one ever promised life would be fun. But this—” I couldn’t finish. This was horrible.

“It is necessary.” The deep voice belonged to Lord Ervin, the Eldest of the Elders. I made a face, but I am far beyond the age when I could let him see it, so I kept my back to him and my face to the wall—and Remon. 

“It is necessary that I sacrifice myself for the kingdom,” I said without inflection, controlling my anger.

“Yes.”

“Destiny, then,” I said to Remon, and turned at last to look at the Elder.

Lord Ervin fixed me with an eagle’s gaze from eyes that should have been too old for that. “Not destiny, you young fool. What is necessary is not what is destined. The choice is yours.”

“I don’t see that.” It made no sense to me. If I had to do it, what was different from Destiny in that? Remon, too, looked doubtful.

“Listen!” Lord Elvin pounded his staff against the stone floor to get our full attention.  “Fate may play a part. You may be in a position that gives you few or no options. But that does not mean there is any force—or Destiny—that guides your path. It may well be luck, or chance. And ever the choice, however limited, is yours.”  He calmed himself as I nodded. I did understand, up to a point.

“And yet,” I said, and this time I could not look at Remon, “it is really no choice at all.” If I did this thing it would hurt him, too.

“I know,” Elvin said more gently. “No Destiny has led you to this point, but your life has. All the choices you have made, all that has gone before, has shaped you into the one person who can—perhaps—stop King Karlon.”

“By marrying him. And then slaying him,” I added with deliberately brutal directness. “No one says so, but marriage in itself would not stop the invasion, even were I royal. But I could stop Karlon.”

“If you so choose,” Elvin repeated.

And then I would be tried in Karlon’s courts and executed. I should embrace it, or at least shrug it off, if it was Destiny that drove me.

Choice was harder. Would I choose to commit murder and then die for the sake of the kingdom?
###
I made my decision some weeks later: I would kill, but not die, not then. King Karlon lay dead in a pool of his own blood, but the window stood open, and Remon’s boat lay off the coast. I left the tiny knife—a weapon too small to be noticed, but large enough to do the job—in Karlon’s hand, below the slit throat. Let them think he had slain himself.

I stripped and climbed through the window. It was perhaps 20 feet down to the waters of the high tide; a distance great enough but not deadly. The splash as I struck was lost in the general crash of waves, and the rough surf tumbled me for a moment before I could gain control and strike out for deep water and Remon’s single light. I had chosen.

###
©Rebecca M. Douglass

Like the story? Consider purchasing one of my books!
Halitor the Hero is a slightly tongue-in-cheek fantasy for 10-year-olds of all ages!
www.amazon.com/Halitor-Hero-Rebecca-M-Douglass/dp/1502738597/

 And every one of my books has some kind of special deal going for Read Tuesday! Check the catalog Dec. 9, and save, save, save on books of all kinds!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Picture Book Review: Librarian on the Roof!

http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com/kid-lit-blog-hop-50/


Once again I have been lured from the paths of Middle Grade fiction (or adult) into the world of picture books! I saw this while looking at fellow Book-Elf M.G. King's books, and simply had to have it.
7986382


Title: Librarian on the Roof!
Author: M. G. King   Illustrator: Stephen Gilpin
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co., 2010; 32 pages

Publisher's Summary:
When RoseAleta Laurell begins her new job at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas, she is surprised that the children of the town think the library is for adults. She vows to raise the money for a children's section and spends a week living and working on the library roof, even surviving a dangerous storm. With the help of the entire town, RoseAleta raises over $39,000 from within the community and across the country.

Today if you look through the front window of the Eugene Clark Library, you will see shelves stacked full with children's books and tables and chairs just the right size. You will see artwork on the walls, and a row of busy computers. Best of all, you will always find crowds of children who love to read and learn inside the walls of the oldest library in Texas.


My Review:
As I said above, when I saw this book I just had to have it. RoseAleta Laurell is a librarian after my own heart, and one the Ninja Librarian would be proud to call a colleague!  The story is pretty simple, and fully summed up above, and it's as delightful as it sounds. It is non-fiction, but reads like a flight of the author's imagination, and is charmingly told and wonderfully illustrated. I very much enjoyed Stephen Gilpin's illustrations, and thought they complemented the story perfectly.

There is a full page (for the adults) at the beginning which tells the true story of RoseAleta Laurell's efforts to revive the library in Lockhart, Texas in 2000.

Recommendation:
I first recommend this for every librarian I know, because it's just wonderful. But I'll also recommend for anyone, adult or child, who loves books or loves their library.

Full Disclosure: I bought Librarian on the Roof! with my own money and of my own volition, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


###

And...taking care of business!

Don't miss the Goodreads BookElves Anthology Giveaway!  

Also: Check out Read Tuesday next week! Hundreds of great deals of books--it's Black Friday for Books!


And last, but by no means least, be sure to enter the drawing for an ebook of Halitor the Hero!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unpacking the new books:
Open the big heavy box!

Remove many layers of paper packing.

Ooo! Books! Pretty!

{Big Smile}

Fully restocked supply shelf! Ready to take orders! Special pre-order price is good until Dec. 10!
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

As Promised: An International HTH Giveaway (ebook)!

I said I'd do it, and I am: since finances forced me to limit my paperback Goodreads giveaway to US residents, I am going to do a giveaway right here for 5 ebooks of Halitor the Hero.



A Fair Maiden who breaks all the rules.
A would-be Hero who fails everything by the book.
It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime…if they survive past breakfast.




Halitor wants to be a Hero and ride through the world rescuing Princesses and Fair Maidens in distress, but he’s hindered by a tendency to trip over his own feet and drop his sword when he gets excited. So when his Hero apprentice-master abandons him at an inn in Loria, he resigns himself to life as a kitchen boy. But he’s reckoned without Melly, the young kitchen wench. She wants his help finding her father, and she won’t quit until she has it. Soon Halitor is tramping through the mountains fighting ogres and dragons and just trying to stay alive. Along the way he learns a lot more than just how to be a Hero. This fun fantasy adventure has a good dose of humor and plenty of excitement to keep kids turning pages.

Now enter the giveaway and win your copy, just in time for Christmas!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's here!

Here we are--release day #2!

For all those of you who have been waiting with bated breath, Halitor the Hero released today!

http://www.amazon.com/Halitor-Hero-Rebecca-M-Douglass/dp/1502738597/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1417361431&sr=8-1
I am a Hero! I AM a Hero!



Halitor has failed at every apprenticeship his parents can imagine. He figures it’s his last chance when they foist him on Bovrell the Bold as an apprentice Hero, and he eagerly studies the Hero’s Guide to Battles, Rescues, and the Slaying of Monsters. But Halitor infuriates his master when he drops his sword and gets rattled around Fair Maidens. When his master abandons him at an inn in Loria, Halitor is ready to give up and just be a kitchen boy. But Melly, the young kitchen wench, has other ideas. She wants to go find her father, and soon the two are battling monsters and worse on a wild journey to her home. Before they are done, Halitor has learned more than just how to be a Hero.

For ten-year-olds of all ages.

Read a great review by Jemima Pett!

And follow the links to get your own copy:
And any e-reader format your little heart could desire, at Smashwords.com

While you are at it, don't forget to check out the BookElves Anthology!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction

Oops!  Lost track a little, so I'm late with today's story!

The final installment of the Douglass-Pett challenge involved writing a story using five random items. I'll include the list at the end. By coincidence (I wrote it before Wendig's challenge came out) it can also be interpreted to fit the Wendig Challenge, which was to write a superhero story in one of ten sub-genres. I sort of cheated--this doesn't quite fit his genres, but really it's just like space opera, only at sea...

 It's a bit over the word count, at 1128

Adventure at Sea


Captain James stood on the deck and surveyed his ship, his kingdom. It had been a long voyage, and a hard one. The Warhammer had been storm-tossed for weeks, and of all the sailors aboard, only James had been spared the dreadful, wrenching sea-sickness. If not for him, the Warhammer would have been lost, and its precious cargo with it.

Captain James thought about that cargo now, as the sun came back out at last and shone on the damage the storms had inflicted. The glorious Window of the West, hundreds of panes of colored glass, lay in the hold, swaddled in layer upon layer of protective wrapping. The crystal perfume bottle in his own cabin was strictly his own business, and he would not think about the beautiful Madeleine. The window, that was what mattered. The Window was for the Nation. But she would like the perfume bottle.

Through storm after storm he had stood on that deck and called out orders as calmly as if he sat under the apple tree in his father’s yard. The men had looked up and seen him and taken heart to overcome their sickness and carry on. They’d furled the sails and set the rudder and run before the wind and puked, while Captain James looked on impassively.

But the storm had blown them far off course! The Master’s Mate had come to Captain James.  “Captain, sir, I cain’t rightly say where we are.” The man had trembled violently while he made his confession, but Captain James was never unreasonable.

“You cannot be blamed for the storms. But do your best, and do not speak of this,” he commanded, dismissing the Master and looked about for his First Lieutenant. There he was. Lt. Cornwall, the closest thing to a friend James could have. He nodded, and the Lieutenant hurried over.

“Sir?”

“Walk with me a bit, Corny.” This was their signal to look calm, no matter what was said. Whatever was to come, the men must not be frightened. They had suffered so much, it would take very little to make them give up.

“We have been blown far off course, and the chronometer was smashed. Will Smith cannot tell for certain where we are. What is the state of our supplies?”

Lt. Cornwall paled, though he remained outwardly calm. “We’ve little enough, Captain. Some of the water barrels were smashed or contaminated during the storm. And the salt beef is running low. We have perhaps enough water for three days, and less food. We still have three of the pigs, but they won’t feed this crew even a whole day.

Captain James nodded. The young pigs had also been seasick. Three scrawny little pigs they had been when they came aboard in the Islands, and three scrawny little pigs they remained.

“We won’t eat them unless we have to. Have we rum?”

“Aye, sir! One small cask.”

“Order a ration of grog all around. That will put some heart into the men. Then fall in the men to put the ship in order. I shall call for gun drill at four bells.”

“Aye aye.”

Captain James smiled to himself as the Lieutenant hurried off. Cornwall thought his Captain was driving the men too hard, but James knew that they must be kept busy, or they would grow frightened and restless. And they must be ready if the enemy should appear.

Hours later the Warhammer sailed smoothly north—they didn’t know where they were, but had a general idea where they needed to go—when the lookout called, “Sail, ho! Off the starboard bow on the horizon!”

“What flag?”

“Can’t make it out, sir!”

The Captain hid another smile as he reached for the ratlines and began to climb. He swung himself into the crow’s nest and took the glass. Focusing on the approaching ship he muttered, “British, no question.” The sailor next to him went pale, and Captain James handed him back the glass. “Buck up, man! We’re fast enough to outrun any Limeys, and tough enough to fight if we must.”

The sailor grinned. “Right you are, Captain! We’ll give ’em hell, hey?”

“Aye, we will.” James could feel the man’s admiring eyes on him as he swung out and slid down the stays to the deck, already bellowing orders for the men to make all sail. They moved fast, but not wildly. Their training held.

As the British ship drew closer, Captain James knew that they would have to fight. And they were badly out-gunned. He went below and put on his best uniform before giving the order to clear for action. When the men saw him, dressed defiantly in the uniform of a Captain in the U. S. Navy, they gave three cheers.

Training or no, when battle was joined it was chaos. James still stood bravely on the deck, controlling the battle as best he could. He never saw the musket ball that took him down, only knew he was falling. Lt. Corny was there, appearing out of nowhere to ease him to the deck.

“Easy, Captain. We’ll stop the bleeding and get you below.”

“No. I must stay on deck, where the men can see me!” Captain James closed his eyes for just a moment. He could hear a voice crying, “Jimmy! Jiiiimmmy!”

Jimmy opened his eyes and saw his mother. “You need to get those cows, and get them now. This is no time for daydreaming!”


Jack rose from his place beneath the apple tree, grimacing as he put his hand down in a rotten apple. “Right, mother. I’m off then.”

He closed his eyes briefly as he headed for the pasture. Back on the deck of the Warhammer, the sounds of battle had faded with the roaring in his ears.  But he heard Corny’s voice, frightened but also commanding. “Don’t let go, Captain! We need you!”

Captain James opened his eyes and looked at his worried second in command. “All right. I’m still here.” His voice was a croak, and Corny gave him some water. “Help me up!”

“But sir!” Lt. Cornwall protested. “Your leg!”

James glanced at the bandage around his leg. “It will do. I have work to do!” He forced himself to stand, and the men cheered, and fought on harder for his sake.

He could feel the wind…it favored them. There was another squall coming. They could make their escape behind it.

Captain James leaned heavily on his Lieutenant, and smiled a little. They would deliver the Window. And when they had escaped this battle, they would eat the pigs. No injury and no enemy could bring him down! He was Captain James, the invincible Hero of the Warhammer.

Where were those dratted cows, anyway?

###
©Rebecca M. Douglass
P.S. The five elements were a sailing ship, a perfume bottle, three little pigs, a rotten apple and of course a stained glass window.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MG Review: Fearless Joe Dearborne


Fearless Joe Dearborne by Lisa Whitney Mitchell



Title: Fearless Joe Dearborne
Author: Lisa Whitney Mitchell
Publisher: Independent; 2014. 198 pages
Source: Electronic Review Copy

Publisher's Summary:
Some might say he’s courageous, while others would say he’s daring, maybe even a little crazy. But when Joe Dearborne risked his life and ran into a burning building to save a puppy, the local newspaper referred to him as “fearless”—and that’s a pretty big title for a sixth-grader to live up to.
 
Plus, Joe already has plenty else to worry about. After other daring feats in the past, Joe promised his father he wouldn’t do anything dangerous again, and, alas, he’s just broken that promise.

But whatever trouble he expects to get into with his father, and despite the dangers he’s triumphed over in the past, nothing could prepare Joe for what he’s about to encounter when a cold, bitterness creeps into his home.

A mysterious and peculiar woman named Mrs. Chill has just been hired to care for Joe while his father is away on business. In no time, however, Joe discovers that she’s up to more than cooking and cleaning, and she has plans to destroy his family. Joe’s effort to save them results in perilous, sometimes humorous, encounters, and leads him on a journey through the threatening wilderness where he faces his greatest challenge yet.

My Review:
This was a quick read that kept me turning the pages. It wasn't quite what I expected from the summary--I think I expected more slapstick humor. But despite the over-played Mrs. Chill, the story really is the tale of a boy who's suffered a lot of loss and is trying to figure out who he is. Joe has been dealing with it--or not--by being recklessly brave, until he goes too far and loses his fearlessness. Now he has to learn that courage is going on even when you are scared.

My biggest criticism of this book lies in the contrast between the stock characters (Mrs. Chill and dotty Aunt P) and the very human boy at the center of the story. Mrs. Chill is like every other evil boarding-school mistress of literature--from Mrs. Minchen (A Little Princess) and Mrs. Monday (Nancy and Plum) to Count Olaf (A Series of Unfortunate Events): her perfidy is obvious to both Joe and the reader, but the adults in the case seem oblivious. I think this is intentional: the comedic aspects tone down what could otherwise be a pretty intense story. But I'm not sure it's necessary. I'd like to see how Joe copes with his real-world problems in the real world.

Recommendation:
This is a fun and easy read for kids from about 8 and up. Kids are apt to really enjoy the goofy aspects, though older children (used to books with more intense issues) may share some of my complaints.

Full Disclosure: I was given an electronic ARC of Fearless Joe Dearborne by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Guest Post from A Year in the Secret Garden



A Year in the Secret Garden - Blog Tour Button 



I am happy today to host Valarie Budayr, co-author of the beautiful and charming book, A Year in the Secret Garden, a companion to the beloved classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Title: A Year in the Life of the Secret Garden
Author: Valarie Budayr Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters
Publication Date: November, 2014
Publisher: Audrey Press
Pages: 144 
Recommended Ages: 5 to 99


Book Description: Award-winning authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book. Over 140 pages, with 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room.

And now, a word from Valarie Budayr!

A Year in the Secret Garden - coverThank you Rebecca for inviting me today to be a guest blogger today on Ninja Librarian. It is such an honor and I'm so happy to be here.

Over the past year I've had the great pleasure of working with Marilyn Scott-Waters aka The Toymaker as we created our book A Year in the Secret Garden.

One of our favorite childhood books is The Secret Garden. We wanted to bring the book to life for a new generation of readers. We've created a month by month guide to the Secret Garden bringing this magical story to life. Inside are crafts with step by step instructions, easy-to-make recipes, gardening activities, beautiful and fully illustrated paper toys to download, and historical information. We've even added a Yorkshire dialect guide. It's our wish that you have many magical moments inside the Secret Garden.

Today let's go exploring into the month of July. July is a beautiful sunny month in the Secret Garden. The garden is in full bloom, the bees are buzzing and there is always a gentle breeze found under blue skies. The Secret Garden is fully awake in summer and beckoning one and all to enter it's walls. July holds many wonderful adventures to be add as well as many wonderful things to eat. July explores the world of  The Secret Meal with a tin foil breakfast. Also included in July are Colin's exercises, a blindfolded garden walk, creating a garden journal, a character study on Susan Sowerby, creating beautiful affirmation stones and eating some lovely scones and ginger tea.


affirmation stones
Today I'd like to share some fun eating with a real Secret Meal, our tin foil breakfast. Mary, Dickon, and Colin enjoyed eating a breakfast by the campfire. It's one of my favorite things to do as well.

campfire 2 Tin Foil Breakfast

Makes enough for 1 person per foil package. Ingredients
  • Hash brown potatoes
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 sausage link (optional)
  • Feel free to add ham, cheese, or bell peppers as well
  • Salt and pepper
  • Aluminium foil
  • Cooking Spray
Instructions Tear off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to hold your eggs and potatoes. Spray the non-shiny surface of your foil with cooking spray. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them until well mixed. Place potatoes, beaten eggs ( uncooked), sausage, and salt and pepper to fast in the aluminum foil. Wrap securely Place on hot white coals of your campfire or grill for approximately 15 minutes. Turn and rotate as needed.

Wishing you many happy adventures inside the Secret Garden.
--Valarie Budayr

About the Author: Valarie Budayr

Valarie BudayrValarie Budayr loves reading and bringing books alive. Her popular website, www.jumpintoabook.com, inspires children and adults alike to experience their books through play, discovery, and adventure.
She is founder of Audrey Press, an independent publishing house, as well as an Amazon and iTunes best-selling author. She has written The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and encouraging families and schools to pull books off the shelves and stories off the pages.

Book Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Pinterest | Google+ | Goodreads



About the Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters

Marilyn Scott-WatersMarilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website, www.thetoymaker.com, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things.
She is the creator of a paper toy craft book series The Toymakers Christmas: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling), and The Toymakers Workshop: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling). She is also the co-creator with J. H. Everett of the middle grade nonfiction series, Haunted Histories, (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). Ms. Scott-Waters illustrated The Search For Vile Things (Scholastic), and created paper engineering for Pop & Sniff Fruit (Piggy Toes Press).

Website | Facebook | Google+

* $100 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 100 gift card
Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest ends: December 7, 11:59 pm, 2014
Open: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Year in the Secret Garden Rafflecopter Giveaway!

A Year in the Secret Garden Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

EXPLORING SEPTEMBER
November 1
Coffee Books & Art (Guest Post)
WS Momma Readers Nook (Book Review)
November 2
Hope to Read (Excerpt)
November 3
Eloquent Articulation (Book Review)
EXPLORING OCTOBER
November 4
BeachBoundBooks (Excerpt)
November 5
Monique’s Musings (Book Review)
November 6
SOS-Supply (Book Review)
EXPLORING NOVEMBER
November 7
Randomly Reading (Book Review)
November 8
Adalinc to Life (Book Review)
EXPLORING DECEMBER
November 9
100 Pages a Day (Book Review)
November 10
Edventures With Kids (Book Review)
EXPLORING JANUARY
November 11
November 12
Girl of 1000 Wonders (Book Review)
EXPLORING FEBRUARY
November 13
Seraphina Reads (Guest Post)
November 14
Juggling Act Mama (Book Review)
EXPLORING MARCH
November 15
Pragmatic Mom (Illustrator Interview)
November 16
Stacking Books (Book Review)
EXPLORING APRIL
November 17
Oh My Bookness (Book Review)
November 18
EXPLORING MAY
November 19
The Blended Blog (Book Review)
November 20
All Done Monkey (Book Review)
November 21
Geo Librarian (Book Review)
EXPLORING JUNE
November 22
My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews (Book Review)
November 23
November 24
Bookaholic Chick (Excerpt)
EXPLORING JULY
November 25
Ninja Librarian (Guest Post)
November 26
Jane Ritz (Book Review)
Rockin’ Book Reviews (Book Review)
November 27
EXPLORING AUGUST
November 28
Deal Sharing Aunt (Book Review)
November 29
Mommynificent (Book Review)
November 30
This Kid Reviews Books (Book Review)
Java John Z’s (Author/Illustrator Interview)
Grandbooking (Author/Illustrator Interview)

MDBR Book Promotion Services