Saturday, October 20, 2018

#Fi50 coming soon!

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link on my Fi50 page, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the last Sunday (or Saturday) of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

Posts can go up any time during the last week of the month (or any other time – we’re not fussy! My post will go up next Saturday, so it will be there when you are ready to add your link.

You’re welcome to pick your own topics or go along with the monthly prompt.

The October prompt is pretty simple, and in keeping with the season: 


Interpret it as a genre, or an exclamation, or however you want! Looking forward to seeing your 50 words anytime between now and the end of the month. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Photo Friday: Algonquin Provincial Park

Still working our way across the country! (And now I'm nearly a day late with my Friday post. Oops. So hard to keep track of the day of the week!)

After crossing several states I'd never before visited, we entered Canada at Sault Ste Marie, taking me into Ontario, which I'd also never visited (before we finished, we also visited Montreal, Quebec--another new Province, which is the only part of Canada that felt like a foreign country).

Our main target in Ontario was Algonquin Provincial Park. We didn't quite make it the first night, and ended up grabbing a campsite at another Provincial Park about an hour from Algonquin. We were fortunately well equipped to fix dinner in the dark.
In case anyone wants to see our kitchen set-up. The ice chest usually stayed in the car, being heavy and awkward.
Next day we were able to claim a spacious site at Algonquin, as the holiday weekend campers streamed out of the park, leaving lots of room for us!
The campsite really was almost that spacious, and space between sites was generous.
We made good use of our time in the park, with 2 hikes the day we arrived, and 2 the next day. Not all were long, but all were interesting! Trails were well constructed and well maintained.
Several of the trails had a lot of boardwalks, to get through streams and bogs without either getting soaked or churning the trail to muck.
Fungus became something of a theme for us, as we found many interesting specimens. I just admire them; no collecting here, so I don't know what they are.

Our longest hike was the Centennial Ridge interpretive trail, which was different from most such trails. For one thing, it was about 6 miles long. For another, the stops on the trail weren't about the flora and fauna, but about the history of the park and the people who made it what it is. Each stop told about an important person in the history of the park, though only one of the locations had anything to do with the person.
The six + miles included two beautiful ponds.
The trail climbed to some "ledges" with great views, before looping around, past one of the ponds, and up to more ledges even higher (we'd thought they faced opposite directions, from the sketch map, but in fact the views were all to the southwest).
The author enjoying one of the first viewpoints.
Too early for real fall colors, but there were a few trees showing the way. I bet it's stunning now (or was a week or so back).
Another hike was the Spruce Bog trail. I'd heard about spruce bogs in books I've read, so I was happy to learn what they were. Basically, a spruce bog is a wet area--often one created by a beaver dam--that has gradually filled in and is being colonized by black spruce, which are the most water-tolerant of the trees in the area.
More boardwalks! The bog transitions from open water to shrubs, to spruce, to other conifers and deciduous trees.
The boggy area provided us with a rare sighting of a plant that has, sadly, been pretty much wiped out within sight of the trails, because of people collecting them. I won't say where we found this pitcher plant.
The carnivorous plant drowns insects in the rainwater that collects in the "pitchers," then dissolves them and absorbs the nutrients. I hope they eat mosquitoes!
Ponds and bogs mean water lilies.
And other water plants. I'm not sure what these leaves were from, but they did appear anchored, not fallen from land plants.

Forests, hills, and water: all made more beautiful by a setting sun.

 Finally, we saw a moose! Sadly, the signs were the only moose we saw.
We were interested to see that the moose on the signs in Ontario were much more aggressive than the moose on signs south of the border.
I got the general impression that Algonquin is a park best seen and enjoyed by canoe or kayak. The one road through the park gave us access to a tine part of the backcountry, and trails are limited, partly because it's all pretty wet. We may never go back, but I'm glad we got a look at it!

For those interested in a visit, we arrived on Monday of Labor Day weekend, which is why the crowds were suddenly gone. It was clearly very busy over the weekend, and then on that day, they closed most of the campgrounds, so that we had only a couple of choices of campground (but since it was very nice and closest to our afternoon hike, it was good). By September, mosquitoes were few, temperatures were moderating (still pretty warm and humid for me), and as noted a few trees were starting to turn, so I'd say it was a good time to visit.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WEP: Deja Vu and Voodoo
Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is an online writing community now partnering with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). We post the third Wednesday of every second month. WEP challenges are open to all. 

I don't really like horror, so I took the prompt in a different direction, and wrote a short story from my Pismawallops PTA mystery series. You'll only get the "deja vu" part if you read Death By Trombone :)  I managed to hit 1000 words exactly, exclusive of the title.

Deja Vu All Over Again

“We’ve been over this, Kitty. With my new job at the library I don’t have time for everything. I really can’t do the Fall Formal.” I crossed my fingers as I said it; I worked a great deal less at the library than Kitty did at their gas station.

“We have been through it all before.” Kitty didn’t sound like she agreed with me. She sounded like she was laughing at me, or humoring me, which was worse. “You can afford one evening, and the library isn’t open Friday nights. Well, plus some time to decorate. Come on, JJ. You know I depend on you.”

Dang. She was invoking our friendship and all our shared history. How could I say no?

I made one last attempt to weasel out. “You know I hate how loud the school dances are, Kitty.”

“Wear earplugs,” was her heartless response.

I finally cut to the real issue. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time I chaperoned a dance?” That actually silenced her. We were unlikely to forget the body I’d found while taking a phone call behind the high school gym.

“You win.” Kitty sounded so contrite I almost felt bad.

I had to be supportive in my turn. “I’ll find you someone to help, or I’ll come myself. I won’t leave you in the lurch.” I knew as I said it that I’d probably end up doing it myself, but Kitty had been right there for me when I found that body. Finding volunteers was almost more painful than finding bodies, and nearly as rare. Staying in the gym through an entire high school dance might drive me crazy, so I was motivated.

Motivated or not, even I couldn’t accomplish the impossible. The day before the dance found me in the gym, swathed in bunting and strings of fake colorful leaves. Our local evergreens didn’t provide the desired ambiance, so we hit up the party store on the mainland for an affordable substitute.

I took another swig of my coffee—cold—and considered the logistics of affixing plastic leaves to cinder-block walls. There was only one logical solution, and the ringing of my phone gave me the excuse.

“Brian!” I summoned my son and his best friend. “You and Justin get started hanging this stuff. I need to answer this call.”

I headed for the front door, phone in hand. Not even to escape the decoration would I go out the back door. It was out that door, while decorating for the Senior Prom the previous spring, that I’d found the last body. I took my call and waited while a bevy of teenaged girls hauled in a giant basket of plastic jack-o-lanterns. In all the noise, I couldn’t make out who was on the other end of the call.

“Hang on! Let me get somewhere quieter!” The breezeway in front of the gym was still crowded with kids, so I headed around the side of the building, not thinking about where I was going.

“So have you taken up a career in steam-fitting?”

I knew that urbane and sarcastic voice, and snapped, “What do you want?” My Ex didn’t deserve a polite response. “I’m not letting you off the hook. I want the money you owe in my account by the end of the month.” Good God, I thought I was done battling with Allen.

“I really don’t think you—” he began, but I didn’t hear any more. I was too busy tripping over something in the near-darkness, and I didn’t like what it felt like. I gasped, but contrary to Allen’s later claims, I did not scream. I did hang up on him in the process of trying to find the flashlight app on my phone, but I assure you it was entirely unintentional. Well, mostly.

For some reason my hands were shaking. It was pretty cold out there; an October night on Pismawallops Island can be pretty chilly and damp. That must have been why I shook.

When I finally got the light on, I wished I hadn’t.

Someone was stretched out face-up on the ground, eyes open and unseeing.

Kitty told me later that I screamed, though I know she was exaggerating.

Ron told me I phoned him.

A dozen people told me a dozen different stories about what happened next, and I don’t remember any of it.

I must have called Ron, though, because the next thing I knew, the police chief was holding me in his arms and repeating my name.

“Huh?” It wasn’t a very articulate response, but it must have been better than he’d been getting, because he stopped saying my name.

“It’s okay,” he said instead.

“No, it isn’t,” I pointed out. “It’s another corpse. What killed this one?” I didn’t really want to know, but I was determined to appear calm, and settle all the people who were hovering around as though I needed help.

“Clear out, all of you,” Ron took care of the problem for me. “Don’t you have a gym to decorate or something?”

“You just want to get her alone,” someone quipped. It was probably either my kid or Kitty’s.

“Darn right I do,” Ron growled. “Now go!”

They went, and I assumed Ron would move into investigator mode, but he seemed to be a great deal more interested in investigating me than the corpse I’d tripped on.

“Stop that.” I pushed him away, though in general I liked the way he kissed. “Don’t you need to figure out who killed him?”

“I believe that would be Archie McPhee,” Ron said.

“Huh?” It took me a minute to recognize the name of the famous  purveyor of magic tricks, gag gifts, and tasteless practical jokes. Then the lightbulb went off, and I flipped on my flashlight again. Steeling myself, I brushed off Ron’s hand and took a closer look at the “corpse”. Someone had left the price tag on the left cheek.

I really hate Halloween.


 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.
Critique guidelines: FCA

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