Monday, February 26, 2018

Souper Blog Hop!

When fellow blogger and author Chris Fey appealed for people to help spread the word about her mom's new book, how could I say no? I mean, you have to support moms!

So here's the scoop on the soup... my part of this is to let you know my favorite soup, and the recipe. And it just so happens that I've recently gotten into making split pea soup, just like my mom used to make! I don't really follow an exact recipe... a pound of split green peas, a ham bone, a lot of water, onions, carrots, garlic, and boil until it's soup! Then you can take out the bone, pick off any meat that remains and dig in. I tried for years to make split pea soup without the ham bone, and I'm here to say... just don't. It's not right until you've cooked it with the bone!

And now for the book:

BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:
Website / Instagram / Litsy - @ElaineKaye

 And here's the hop info--jump around and visit some of the other participating bloggers.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Flashback Friday: The Baffling Case of the Missing Socks

 Flashback Friday is a monthly meme that takes place on the last Friday of the month.
The idea is to give a little more love to a post you’ve published on your blog before.  Maybe you just love it, maybe it’s appropriate for now, or maybe it just didn’t get the attention it deserved when you first published it.

Thanks to Michael d’Agostino, who started it all, there is a solution – join Flashback Friday!

Just join in whenever you like, repost one of your own blog posts, including any copyright notices on text or media, on the last Friday of the month.

Use the Flashback Friday logo above, as designed by Michael d’Agostino. Link it back to host Jemima Pett (there's a linky list!) and add a link to your post in the comments on Jemima's post (or mine, or any other participant's).

Since Friday is my flash fiction day, I've been sharing stories from the archives. This one dates back to 2013, and since it is a mystery featuring my heroine, JJ MacGregor of Pismawallops Island, and since JJ has a new book coming out next month, you can enjoy seeing the sleuth in action.

The Baffling Case of the Missing Socks

A Minor Domestic Mystery

“Mom!  I can’t find my socks!”

There are few words more chilling to the heart of a mother on a schedule. No use ignoring him, though. I’ve known Brian almost 16 years, and he doesn’t give up.

With a sigh, I hit “save” and turned from the computer to call up the stairs, “There were a dozen pairs in your sock drawer yesterday.”

“I mean my new running socks. The ones Coach brought me from Seattle.”

I began the standard litany. “Are they in your gym bag?”

“Did you leave them in your locker?”

“No!  Mom, this is important. We have a meet today in Sedro-Woolly!”

Brian runs the 1500 meter race for the Orcaville High track team. His socks bear a life-and-death importance to him on meet days. This was serious.

I stood up, preparing myself for a desperate search for the truth even as I made one last effort to avoid the crisis.  “Don’t you have any others?”

“Not like these.  I need the new ones for the meet!”

I hauled myself up the stairs, muttering to myself about useless males. Brian stood in the middle of his room, gym bag in one hand and book bag in the other, looking frantically about him.

I looked at my watch. We had about three minutes before we had to leave for school. I’d meant to spend those minutes finishing an article I was writing for the new “Rural Urbanites” magazine, but this took precedence.

“Finish getting ready. I’ll look.”

Brian dropped both bags and looked frantically around.  “What? I’ve got my uniform.”

“Hair.” I pointed. “And teeth. And shoes would probably be good.”

He clutched at his head and disappeared into the bathroom.

A few years ago I’d have wasted my time quizzing him about where he’d last seen the socks. I’m wiser now. It’s one of the mercifully few ways Brian resembles his father: Allen can’t find things either. Happily, Allen's not my problem anymore. Brian is.

I began with the sock drawer, rummaging hastily through the jumble of socks and underwear to see if Brian had really looked, or just glanced at the mess and given up. The new socks were neon green, which made it unlikely that even a guy could miss them.  Still, it was the most reasonable place to find a pair of socks. Ninety percent of the time, when a male can’t find something, it is right where it should be, only under something else.

I made that statistic up, but it’s true.

From the sock drawer I turned to the other drawers. Nothing. Then the desk. I was starting to feel the pressure of time slipping away, and I left an even worse mess than I’d found, and still no socks.

Moving to the bed as the clocked ticked down to doom, I vowed Brian would clean his room that very day. Well, maybe the next day. He’d be late coming home from the track meet.  Any time the team ran anywhere but at home, it was a major expedition for the same reason I couldn’t just run out and buy Brian new socks: tiny Pismawallops Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from everything.

No, the honor of Orcaville hung on the keen detective abilities of JJ MacGregor, and I wasn’t going to let the team down.

I grabbed the bedcovers, yanked them back to expose the interior, and shook. Brian needed clean sheets, but he wasn’t sleeping with the new socks. A few garments fell to the floor as I shook out the covers, but not the socks.

I swept the bedding back into place as I heard the bathroom door open. It was crunch time, and I had to come through.

As Brian’s footsteps sounded in the hall, I dropped to my stomach on the hardwood floor and stuck my head under the bed.

“Mom! Have you found them? We’ve got to go!”

I jerked when he yelled, banging my head on the underside of the bed so hard the bed moved. 

“Unspeakable excrescence of a cursed hunk of furniture,” I began, then stopped.

I reached out an arm, grabbed the glowing bundle that dropped from behind the bed, and back out from under before accepting Brian’s hand up.

Of course, when he saw the socks, he dropped my hand and grabbed them like a drowning man clutching a life ring. Or a lover clutching his true love. 

For a moment I saw red, which went well with the stars I was still seeing from cracking my head. Self-centered little beast, just like his father!

While Brian stowed the socks and gathered his belongings, I climbed more slowly to my feet.

Then he turned again. “You’re the greatest, Mom! A real Sherlock Holmes.” There was not a hint of irony in his tone.

I could almost feel my deerstalker hat and Inverness Cape as I followed him down the stairs. Not so much like his dad, after all. Brian had an actual sense of gratitude, as well as a sense of humor.

“Come on, Mom!” Brian called again. He already had the car keys and was leading the way out the door.

The last misty hints of the deerstalker faded away as I climbed into the passenger seat, and the greatest sleuth on Pismawallops Island became once again a driver training instructor. I tightened my seat belt and crossed myself, muttered three “om manis” and followed it up with “Now I lay me down to sleep,” just to cover all my bases. A real sleuth can face any danger, but not always without blanching.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Non-fiction Audio-Book Review: Valient Ambition


Title: Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American Revolution

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick; read by Scott Brick

Publisher: 2016, Books on Tape. Original by Viking, 2016, 427 pages.

Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Summary:
In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.

My Review: 
I think the publisher's summary nails it pretty well: "a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait." I appreciated that the author appeared to give a hard look at Washington's failings as well as his strengths (including recognizing that he learned to be a good general; he wasn't born that way). Unfortunately, the word "complex" also sums things up well. There is a lot in this book, and I found it hard to keep all the characters sorted out and to follow the history, or at least to fit it into what I already know. 

The key thread, however, of how Arnold went from hero of the rebellion to traitor, is pretty clear and pretty well presented, even if I had to sort it out from the many other threads and characters. That, in fact, is my main criticism: the author may have tried to take in too much, and there were far too many characters to keep track of, especially in the audio book. I ended up feeling as though there were a lot of life stories being told me, with often very little understanding on my part as to why this person mattered. Again, in print, a little flipping back and forth might have solved the problem, but in audio, it left me mostly feeling confused.

My Recommendation:
Interesting topic, educational, but hard to follow, at least as an audio book. Read it if you are in need of a better understanding of the American Revolution and have patience.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Valiant Ambition out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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." 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Middle Grade Review: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters

Below is the cover on the edition I read. Wonder why they made those small changes, but in any case, I prefer the first one. It's hard to see any of the details on the book I got from the library. It's a nice illustration of how small changes can improve a cover.

Title: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Momotaro series #1)
Author: Margaret Dilloway. Illustrations by Choong Yoon
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 309 pages
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. If Xander could do stuff he's good at instead, like draw comics and create computer programs, and if Lovey would stop harassing him for being half Asian, he might not be counting the minutes until the dismissal bell.

When spring break begins at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. Xander's father briefly distracts him with a comic book about some samurai warrior that pops out of a peach pit. Xander tosses it aside, but Peyton finds it more interesting.

Little does either boy know that the comic is a warning. They are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives-a journey wilder than any Xander has ever imagined, full of weird monsters even worse than Lovey. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr Stedman about the weather after all. . . .

My Review:  
 This one gets a mixed review. It wasn't bad, but especially in the early stages, I found myself wandering away from it to read some non-fiction I was plowing through. That's not usually a good sign for an exciting work of fiction. So I did some thinking about what the problem was.

I've mentioned before that I'm not super keen on books where ordinary kids find out they are some super-hero in another world, or in an unseen part of this world. Thanks to someone from the Great Middle Grade Reads group for pointing out that this is the Percy Jackson formula, and that this book suffers a bit from feeling like a PJ-wannabe, because that is the problem. Not only is it overused, but the result is a fairly predictable story line (even the use of 3 kids to make up our hero team seems to be pretty standard), and Xander is even the conventional unheroic hero who doesn't know what powers he could have because he's just so average.

On the other hand... once I hit the tipping point, I had no trouble sticking with the book and finishing it, and I found some aspects of it commendable, and some were better than PJ. Really big in that area was the pacing. I recently read the 2nd Percy Jackson (The Sea of Monsters) and found that it felt like nothing but a race from one crisis to the next, with little character development or plot subtlety. In this book, there was a little slower pace and the characters have some depth, including relationships that change and develop.

I appreciated that the author chose to use a non-Western mythology (I haven't checked to see if she made it up or borrowed it). I also thought she handled the parent question really well. I've had discussions before about the need to get parents out of the way in order to let the kids have their adventure. In this case, the adventure is to rescue the parent, and I thought she handled it well when Xander's father is finally found, and of course wants to take over and keep Xander safe--but he can't, and they both have to deal with that. (Come to think of it, that part is not unlike what happens in A Wrinkle in Time). It rang true, in any case.

My Recommendation:
This was something I probably wouldn't have read if it weren't our GMGR book of the month (and fills the X spot on my reading challenges). But it's a pretty good read, and I'd recommend it for kids who like adventure. Anyone who liked Percy Jackson will probably like this, though I think this is aimed at a slightly younger audience than he is--the peril feels a little less scary and there is definitely less gore.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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."  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

#Fi50: Make a Note

fiction in 50   imageFiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

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). I post a theme for each month's Fi50 here.

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less.
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….
4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
I'm playing with my posting dates, but somewhere in the second half of the month. 
This was supposed to have gone up Sunday morning, but I slipped. This one's kind in in honor of the women making news by standing up and saying "no more."

Make a Note

“Candy, come take a memo!” The boss patted the sofa next to him. Candace shook her head.

“You do need this job, don’t you?” She sat. 

“Why did you wear such a high-necked blouse?” He reached for the top button and she stood, video camera rolling.

“I took a memo.”


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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Photo Friday: Bring me (to) flowers

In honor of Valentine's Day this week, I'll share some of the many flowers that my husband, rather than bringing to me, and gone with me to see. I like it better that way. (I don't promise I haven't shared any of these photos before).

First the desert. Most of these are from Death Valley or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California.
Brittlebush, the old reliable. There's usually some in even the driest years.
Brown-eyed primrose
Sand verbena
Beavertail cactus.
Into the heart of the beavertail
Prickly poppy in the Panamint Dunes, Death Valley NP
Desert primrose, Eureka Dunes, East Mojave Natural Preserve.

On second thoughts, I think I'll let the mountains wait until another time! Have a great weekend, and my the flowers in your life be as nice as these.

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Talking about writing...

I'm posting today at the Tick Tock blog for our new IWSG anthology. Please jump on over there and see what I have to say about writing my mystery for that collection!

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

The clock is ticking…
Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?

Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda Renée, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting…

Mystery & Detective / Crime / Thrillers
Print ISBN 9781939844545
eBook ISBN 9781939844552
Amazon * * * B&N * * * Goodreads * * * Kobo * * * ITunes


Also--if you are willing or able to help get the word out on or around release day for Death By Adverb, please let me know! Here's the pretty cover:
Just drop me a note in the comments if you want to help!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#Fi50 Heads-Up

fiction in 50   imageFiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Just a reminder--I'll be posting the February Fiction in 50 post on the 18th. Grab your blogs and join the fun!

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). I post a theme for each month's Fi50 here.

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less.
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 (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at to your post (or one of them) or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
I'm now posting on the next-to-last Sunday of the Month to provide more time to get your links in, but feel free to post anytime (you'll just have to wait until mine goes up to share your link).

The theme for February is:

Make a note.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Children's Classic: Harriet the Spy


Title: Harriet the Spy
Author: Louise Fitzhugh; read by Anne Bobby
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio, 2003. Originally published by Harper & Row, 1964. 298 pages.
Source: Library Digital resources

Publisher's Summary:

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?

My Review:  
Somehow I was never tempted to read this as a kid. Since lately I've been going back and picking up some classics I missed, when I saw this available as an audio book download through my library, I decided it was time.

Honestly, I'm not sure I'm glad I bothered. I was more than a little taken aback by Harriet, who has a personality that isn't very appealing, and, in my opinion, doesn't learn much from the disaster. Frankly, Harriet is a bit of a spoiled brat. Really, throwing temper tantrums at age 12?

More disturbing is the way her observations of people play out. She does have a keen ability to see and describe people, but she absolutely lacks empathy. Early on, when this was bothering me, I assumed that the story would create a significant change in her, as she learned to feel more. But even when her friends find her notebook and are deeply hurt (and seriously mad at her), she never seems to feel bad about saying those things (which she sees merely as "true" but which in fact are opinions). All she feels is bad about them finding out. 

In the end, too, she is given advice on how to "fix" the problem, but as far as I can see, it merely turns her to writing observations about other people, locals who aren't in her class at school but who are still human beings she dismisses with various unkind descriptions. It looked for a time as though there would be some evolution of her relationship with Ole Golly (into Harriet seeing her as a human being), but that didn't really seem to go anywhere.

My Recommendation:

If you loved this as a kid, I'd recommend not re-reading. If you haven't read it, I think there are better options. Those prizes it won make me wonder if I'm missing something, so if you have read it recently and can argue for a better opinion of the book, please do!

FTC Disclosure: I checked Harriet the Spy out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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." 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Friday Flash: 333

We were back this week to one of my favorite flash fiction challenges, over there in Wendig land: the subgenre mash-up. After a few tries (to avoid some genres I don't deal in), the magic dice gave me "comic fantasy" and "occult detective." That seemed to go nicely with a story I had already begun, based on some half-sleeping idea that came to me early one morning. 1000 words exactly.


“Really, 333, you must try harder.”

Disturbed from his reading, the demon pushed his glasses up and folded the morning edition of The Infernal Times into a better position for reading.

“I must?”

“You aren’t half the demon your father was, may he rest in pieces.”

333 raised a chiseled eyebrow. “No one is half the demon Dear Old Dad was.”

“But we had such hopes of you! That’s why they gave you that number!”

“To remind me every day that I’m at best half of what old 666 was?”

The Demonic Division Chief ground his teeth. He did that a lot, especially around 333. That was why he had tender stubs instead of intimidating fangs.  333 gave in.

“Very well.” He laid the newspaper aside. “I’ll go see what I can do in the world.”

“I want souls, 333, do you hear me?”

333 popped into existence on a street corner in one of the ritzier neighborhoods of the city. He figured it was easiest to harvest souls among the rich. That dreadful text about the chap Jesus even said so. Now to go find someone who was doing what he shouldn’t, and push him a little farther that way.

Fading himself until only the most perceptive would see him even in bright sunlight, 333 drifted in and out of houses for hours.

Maybe this wasn’t the best plan. No one was home—ah! Here was someone! Lying on the floor, too. Drink was always a good way to the doomed soul.

333 hovered over the sprawled body, then drew back with a sigh. Too late. This one wasn’t drunk, he was dead. Either a heart attack or… 333 bent closer and sniffed. Yes, poison.

There was something. All he had to do was find the killer, and he had a soul for the DDC.

The door opened, a woman entered the room, saw the corpse, and exited screaming. 333 settled himself in a corner and waited. After a while, the woman came back, still a bit hysterical, but able to explain to the police that she had been out shopping and came back to find her husband lying on the floor dead.

That’s interesting, 333 thought. He had had to get a lot closer than she did to be sure the man was dead. Was that inexperience, or did the heartbroken wife know before she opened the door that her husband was dead?

The police did what police do, and eventually the body was carted away. That was fine with 333, since that soul was out of his reach. He stayed put, and watched the wife. She sat alone and cried for a while after the police left, then went and poured herself a drink. She chose to open a fresh bottle, he saw, but that made sense when she must at least guess her husband had been poisoned.

It also made sense if she’d done the poisoning.

After a while, a younger woman arrived, and led the wife away into another part of the house. 333 drifted out of his corner and inspected the bottles in the liquor cabinet. Sure enough, one contained a substance very unhealthy for humans. Careless of the police to leave it there, but they had pretty clearly not believed it was murder. Old rich guys had heart attacks. Old rich important guys had heart attacks even when there were knives sticking in their backs.

333 passed through the door and followed the two women into the kitchen, where the younger was making tea for the elder. He avoided the steam from the tea-kettle—bad for his vibrations—and settled in to listen.

“Well, Mom, you know he’s had a bad heart for years.”

“I know he’s had it well under control, too!” The old woman had more snap in her than 333 expected. “That was no heart attack, and you know it as well as I do.”

The daughter tried to look skeptical, but didn’t succeed very well. “Who on earth do you think would kill Papa?”

“Lord knows. Any number of people, I should think. He really was an SOB, you know,” was the next surprising reply.

333 thought that made it sound like maybe the wife did it. But if so, why would she give herself such a motive right out loud to her daughter?

“Oh, Mom!” The daughter didn’t seem to have much else to say, but helped her mother off to “go lie down and try to rest.”

Back in the kitchen, the younger woman pulled out a phone. “No one suspects a thing, dear,” she said when her call was answered. “I’ll start at once getting Mom to transfer control of the money to me.”

Well, that answered that question, 333 thought. Here was a soul ripe for the picking. Just get her to commit to him, and she was his. Maybe he could nab the “dear” on the other end of the phone line, too.

Remaining invisible, 333 pushed his voice out just enough to whisper in her ear. “There are easier ways.”

It really was absurdly easy. The police ignored the old woman’s insistence that someone had killed her husband, and still further ignored her insistence that someone was trying to kill her. She did her best to eat and drink nothing she hadn’t bought and opened or prepared herself.

And 333 signed an agreement with the daughter to keep the police out of it in exchange for her soul and that of her partner.

Too bad they weren’t so good at reading the invisible print. 333 needed souls now, not in 30 years. As soon as the old lady was dead—to his surprise, she was promptly collected by the other side—and the younger couple had inherited, 333 came collecting.

They protested, but he had the contract, signed in their blood.  Besides, they’d never miss their souls. Plenty of people in their line of work got on fine without them.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG: Updates and Writing Genre Fiction

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

This month's question: What do you love about the genre you write in most?

Before I get to the question of the month, time for a bit of an update. It's been exciting this last month as the IWSG anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime moves forward and we work on publicity. We have a lovely cover: 

And a blog--check it for an IWSG post today:
We have some  nice banners to tweet (if you want to tweet, we are using #ticktockmystery):
That one just happens to feature the teaser for my story :)

Okay, enough adverts (though really I am also just being very excited about this, because hey, it's exciting!). On the writing front, I have finished yet another round of edits/revisions of Death By Adverb, and have some hope that I will make my release day, March 19. The cover is ready, so I'm going to share it right here and now. Isn't it cool?
If you would like to help out with a post on release day, let me know in the comments!

What I haven't done this month (and I vow to do it in Feb) is submit any more stories--and that even though I have one ready to go. To be honest, I kind of dropped everything (except Tick Tock) in my struggle with DBA. I have a couple of possibilities, so I really will follow through this month.

Okay, now for the question.
First I had to decided what genre I write in most. Since lately it's been mysteries, I guess I'll go with that (I also write fantasy and children's fiction, and a range of genres show up in my flash fiction).

But mysteries. What is it that makes those so much fun to write? Of course, since I love to read them, that's part of it. But I also have to admit right off the top that writing genre fiction takes care of a problem that I often have when I try to write "serious" fiction: in a mystery, you never have to ask yourself what the point is. Nor does it have to have any great import. I can just kick back, enjoy playing with my characters, and let my sense of humor lead the way. What's not to love about that?

How about you? What kind of writing do you love best? Or what do you love to read, and why?

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


Monday, February 5, 2018

Meta Review Wild Things:The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult


Title: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult
Author: Bruce Handy
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2017. 307 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:

An irresistible, nostalgic, and insightful -- and totally original -- ramble through classic children's literature from Vanity Fair contributing editor (and father) Bruce Handy.

In 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children's book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as "Strive to learn" and "Be not a dunce," it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to "Let the wild rumpus start"? And now that we're living in a golden age of children's literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte's Web and Little House on the Prairie?

In Wild Things, Bruce Handy revisits the classics of every American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the back stories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes link The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy's Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby.

It's a profound, eye-opening experience to reencounter books that you once treasured after decades apart. A clear-eyed love letter to the greatest children's books and authors, from Louisa May Alcott and L. Frank Baum to Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mildred D. Taylor, and E.B. White, Wild Things will bring back fond memories for readers of all ages, along with a few surprises.

My Review:  

I was excited to stumble on this book at the library (while sorting books, as usual). Someone who wrote about the joy of doing something I do quite a lot? I had to read it.

What I got, I think tilted a bit more to the "adult" than the "joy" part of the premise. The blurb is pretty honest; the book is using a fairly scholarly approach to understand children's books and their appeal as well as their underlying meaning and significance. And don't get me wrong: that was interesting. But I often felt that the joy of reading those stories got lost in the lit crit.

I may also have been a little put out that Handy spent most of his time on books I've not read, and which aren't part of my psyche. That's right: for whatever reason, I never read Beezus and Ramona or the Wizard of Oz books (the former I might remedy; Handy convinced me I had some inner wisdom in not reading the latter). He did a good job of rehabilitating C.S. Lewis for those of us who aren't religious (and of explaining why I never liked either The Magician's Nephew or The Last Battle all that much), but turned around and annoyed me not so much by his accurate assessment of Little Women (caught between Alcott's feminism and a need to conform to societal standards) as by his out-of-hand dismissal of Anne of Green Gables.

Honestly, that inability on Handy's part to see that the somewhat irritating young Anne (who talks too much and often nonsense) is herself a character struggling against the stifling norms of her society really bothered me. Maybe his disgust with Anne for naming the geranium and giving it anthropomorphic feelings springs from a gender difference, but to me Anne's actions seem completely reasonable. As children, don't most of us imagine and half-believe that certain toys or other things are actually alive? Since Handy didn't finish the book, he doesn't get to see how Montgomery developed that uncontrolled imagination into something that could carry Anne out of the normal realms of Avonlea little girls. (That Montgomery later felt it necessary to push Anne into adulthood and back into what amounts to a very traditional female role is another issue, and one that could lead me down side-trails for pages.)

In the end, however much I did or didn't agree with everything Bruce Handy wrote, his book is an interesting look at the context, history, and significance of a number of childhood classics, and it is worth a look. It may just be, though, that analyzing joy is like analyzing humor: it has a rather crushing effect on it.

My Recommendation:
Read this for the backstories of the books, and the better understanding of the evolution of children's literature.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Wild Things out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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."  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday Flash: Revisiting Hell

Chuck Wendig challenged us this week to write a story about travel woes. I'm kind of busy working on those pesky novel edits, but I remembered this story, and hunted through the archives to find it. I know I just did a flashback last week, but sometimes you just have to go with it. 853 words.

The Devil’s in the Details

“Watch your step as you exit the bus. The ground may be uneven or extremely hot. Watch your step…” The guide droned on, words and intonation exactly the same as each person stepped down out of the tour bus. He seemed unaffected by the exclamations of the tourists.

“It’s sure hot here!”
“Hope the hotel has AC.”
“Darling, I don’t know…”
“Well you said you wanted to go someplace warm.”

The man and woman, dressed in plaid Bermuda shorts (him) and a hibiscus-print sundress (her) clutched each other’s arms as they looked around the blasted volcanic landscape. It all looked very close.

“Hey! Keep moving!” Someone behind them called. “We want to get off this bus and see too, you know!”

“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” the woman whispered to the man as they moved out of the way, eyeing a volcanic vent that oozed lava sluggishly onto the road a dozen feet away.

“Those fires are awfully close,” he admitted. “But you must admit it’s warm here. Not like Buffalo.”

The woman shuddered. It had been three degrees and snowing when they left home. She hated winter. This was an improvement, despite the sweat that now dripped from their pudgy faces.

The posters had been so tantalizing: “Tired of winter?” Weren’t they just! “Take a bus tour to Hell and warm right up!” The photo had shown a stream of lava glowing beautifully against a pitch dark night, and they had guessed it was a goofy come-on for a Hawaiian holiday. The price seemed low, but they figured it was the off-season. They didn’t think about the logistics of a bus tour to Hawaii. Neither of them was terribly bright, but they knew what they wanted. They’d jumped at the chance of a warm vacation they could afford, put on their tropical clothing, and boarded the bus.

Now they weren’t so sure. The woman shifted uneasily. She could feel the hot ground through her thin sandals.

“Shouldn’t it have taken longer to get to Hawaii?”

“I don’t know how long we were on the bus. I fell asleep.”

“Me too. But I’m awfully stiff, like we were sitting a long time. Maybe it was long enough?”

“Even if this isn’t Hawaii, it’s better than that time we visited your aunt in Poughkeepsie.”

She might have taken offense, but they both knew it hadn’t been the aunt’s fault. It had been the weather (freezing) and the neighborhood (ugly and prone to random acts of vandalism), and there was the food poisoning from that dreadful deli. Aunt Sylvia had been charming through it all, but that wasn’t enough.

“In any case,” the woman said instead, “We paid for this vacation. We have to go through with it.”

Some of their fellow travelers were already trying to return to the bus, as the heat from the volcanic vents was really intolerable. The man and woman linked arms and worked their way up to where they could hear the guide talking.

“…is the hottest realm right here. We promised you heat! But if perhaps you find this a bit much, just follow me through this gate and down the stairs…”

They looked at each other, shrugged, and surged down the stairs with the others. The woman noticed a curious bulge at the back of the guide’s trousers. She nudged the man. “He needs a better tailor. Those pants make him look like he’s hiding a tail.” They giggled together, and took a closer look.

“I do wonder if this trip was the best decision,” he said.

“We’re here, and we’re going to enjoy it. All of it,” she said firmly. “We go through it all and out the other side.”

She had no idea how accurate that was.

“I must say, the guides did seem surprised by our determination to go all the way,” he said while he uploaded the photos from the camera to the computer. It was snowing outside, but he’d cranked the thermostat in their apartment up to 80, and they were happy.

“We paid for the full tour, of course we would take the whole thing,” she said. It only made sense. It was the others, the quitters, who amazed her.

“I do have to wonder why the bus was so much emptier going back than when we went. Do you suppose they let the others go back and sent a special bus just for us?”

“I don’t care. I enjoyed it all, except when we had to pass that frozen lake. They promised us a vacation in a warm place, and then they throw that in! Maybe that’s why they didn’t want people doing the whole tour. Afraid of a lawsuit for false advertising.”

“Anyway, we’ve got some great vacation photos, dear. I’m sure that no one we know has done anything quite like it.”

“And really, for a vacation in Hell, it was really quite pleasant, and very affordable. My feet were warm for the first time in months. We might want to think about doing that again next winter.”


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

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Cozy Review and Tour: The Phantom of Oz

Title: The Phantom of Oz (5th in series)
Author: Cindy Brown
Publisher: Henery Press, 2018. 268 pages (paperback)
Source: Electronic ARC from Great Escapes Book Tours

Publisher's Blurb:
Creepy munchkins. A mysterious phantom. And a real Wicked Witch. Are you ready for it?

Actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows has been hired to uncover the cause of the creepy accidents that plague the roadshow The Wizard: A Space OZpera and find out who dropped a chandelier on the Wicked Witch of the East.

Was it the ghost who haunts the Grand Phoenician Theatre? A “wicked witch” in the cast? Or is it someone—or something—more sinister?

It’s Ivy’s most personal case so far.

Her best friend Candy, who’s touring with the show, is caught in a downward spiral of self-destruction, and is in more danger than she knows. To save her friend and the show, Ivy must answer even tougher questions: Do spirits really exist? What is real beauty? What does friendship mean?

Ivy needs to learn the answers, and fast—before Candy reaches the point of no return.

My Review:
I had the pleasure of reviewing the 3rd book in the Ivy Meadows series back in 2016, and since I enjoyed it, when I saw this one come up (not sure how I missed the one in between) I had to join the tour.

Once again, Cindy Brown has spun a compelling tale about her likable detective. Ivy is a very human protagonist, with a lot of skills and a fair ability to screw up. I have to admit that her comedy of errors in the theater made me cringe a bit, but it felt like a believable bad week.

The real issue in this book isn't murder, though. It's about relationships, friendship in particular, but also body image, sexism, and being judgemental. If Ivy is stumbling a bit as an actress (thanks in large part to a very ill-timed cold), she is falling all over herself as a friend. And why? In part because she want too badly to help everyone, to make their lives better. But she's also suffering from some serious insecurity due to that bit about body image.

Somehow, Ms. Brown manages to make the serious themes fit perfectly into a light-hearted cozy mystery without weighing it down. Ivy is still a novice detective, but she handles it pretty well this time around. I knew who the perp was well before the end, but here's the thing: so did Ivy. She just wasn't ready to believe it, and it was interesting to watch her work through still more permutations of relationships to get there. She has to take a good hard look at herself before she can do what needs to be done.

Probably my only disappointment here was the ghost. That always bugs me a little, because I don't believe in ghosts. But I'll admit that a  ghost kind of works in the theater, since as Ivy notes every theater has its ghost, and theater people love to believe in them. Or "believe" in them. So it's kind of fun to see what comes of this one, and the mixing in of special effects makes it all the more fun.

This is a great addition to the world of cozies, and in my opinion is a cut above because the author deftly addresses some serious issues without ever losing her grip on the fun of the story. I took about 2 chapters to get wholly gripped, and then read through it in only a few sittings. the Author:
Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

Author Links
Website & Blog:
Twitter handle: @friendlybrown

Purchase Links
AMAZON – B&N  kobo

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Tour Participants
January 30 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
January 30 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT
January 31 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW
January 31 – Valerie’s Musings – INTERVIEW
February 1 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW
February 1 – Carstairs Considers – REVIEW
February 1 – Christa Reads and Writes – GUEST POST
February 2 – The Layaway Dragon – REVIEW
February 2 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
February 2 – Readsalot – SPOTLIGHT
February 3 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – SPOTLIGHT
February 3 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
February 4 – The Montana Bookaholic – REVIEW
February 4 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
February 4 – Because I said so – Adventures in Parenting – REVIEW
February 5 – Girl with Book Lungs – REVIEW
February 5 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT