Friday, June 29, 2018

Photo Friday: Backpacking with the kids

All this packing and sorting has me feeling sort of nostalgic, so I thought I'd take a deep dive into the photos for some of our earlier backpacking adventures with our boys. These are from the summer of 2005, when they were 6 & 7 years old.

We did several shorter trips in Colorado that summer, before we headed to Wyoming for our longer (I think 6 days, 5 nights) trip. The boys were small, so Mom and Dad were definitely packhorses--and we didn't know as much about lightweight gear then, either. Glad to put those days behind us, but it was fun to hike with our boys.

Did a quick overnight into the back side of the Maroon Bells Wilderness. Not the popular part, but rugged and scenic.
Kid-sized packs--you have to match the pack to the size of the kid, even if it can't hold much. Note the all-important stuffies poking their heads out to watch where we were going.
I think it was pretty early, given the amount of snow around!
A room with a view.
 Take kids outdoors and they will find their own fun! A bit of a drop-off on a snowbank, and they had an adventurous slide.
Note the judicious use of reasonably water-proof pants, though the sneakers just got wet.
The Rockies are noted for the wildflowers, and even that early in the season, we saw some. These sky pilots are a favorite--they only grow in the alpine, a dash of color in the most unlikely places.

A closer look.
In early August, we headed to Montana, to the Wind River Mountains.
With the little ones, it took a couple of days to get up here, but it was worth the wait.
Pop up a couple of tents, and we're all right at home.
 
We went even higher, until there was no shelter but the rocks.
I love camping in spots like this, but the kids always felt a little uncomfortable above tree line. We compromised and never spent too long in the alpine.
Sometimes we move camp late in the day, after exploring. The late afternoon light is the best!



Writing and drawing in camp started early for this one--he still does it, and inspires me to try to write some stories while we are out.



And, finally, a shot I really love!
You tell me what the caption should be!
If you like this, and you want more--or you want to inspire your own kids and take them hiking, consider ordering A is for Alpine--my picture book for little hikers!
https://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html
ebook from Amazon 

And don't forget that we are all heroes--and there are still a few days left in my Hero Month promotion for Halitor the Hero!


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



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cozy Review: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding

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Title: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (Royal Spyness Mystery #12)
Author: Rhys Bowen
Publisher: Berkely Books Expected publication date August 7, 2018. 304 pages in hardback.
Source:
Netgalley.com

Publisher's Summary:

Georgie is finally able to plan for her wedding in the summer. It is going to be a summer of weddings: her mother is marrying Max, her German beau; Georgie's grandfather is marrying his next door neighbor, Mrs. Huggins; and Darcy's father is getting up the courage to ask the princess to marry him. Georgie is staying at the princess's London house when she receives a letter from one of her mother's former husbands, Sir Hubert Anstruther. Georgie is now his sole heir, and he's offering her the use of his lovely country house. He suggests she move in right away to keep an eye on the place because all might not be well since his butler died.

Georgie talks this through with her husband-to-be, Darcy, who is off to Europe again, this time to Berlin. They decide that she will take Sir Hubert up on his offer. However, when Georgie arrives, it becomes clear that she is definitely not wanted in the house. Strange things are happening, including a lively ghost and a less than friendly reception from the new butler. When a body shows up, Georgie realizes that Sir Hubert's invitation may not have been entirely altruistic and begins to wonder if she'll even make it to her wedding day.
  


My Review:  
Another great addition to a great series! A few things I particularly liked:
*Georgie doesn't lean on Darcy in this one. She figures most of it out herself.
*Other characters who've been on the fringes get some real screen time, including Georgie's mother and her grandfather (the Cockney).
*Georgie's maid, Queenie, has finally become a human, not just a punchline. Big improvement.

So how's the mystery? That there is something pretty nasty going on at the house is obvious from the beginning. Georgie might even be a little slow to believe someone is really trying to get rid of her, but of course she's not the one reading a murder mystery. I even got a pretty good idea of what was up fairly early on, so again maybe thought Georgie could have been a little quicker on the uptake. But she is careful with her suspicions, and there are some real questions about who is involved in what ways. That's a big part of what she has to work out, and I loved that her beloved grandfather (a retired policeman) comes to help. He keeps them grounded in the right behaviors toward the police.

Since this is primarily a comedic series (aside from a tendency to strew corpses about), none of the really awful possibilities come to pass, and we have a great time watching the characters work it all out. Oh, and the setting is England between the wars, a favorite of mine, and the author does her research thoroughly, so it works well. What's not to like?

My Recommendation:

This is far and away my favorite of Rhy Bowen's series, and I think it just keeps getting better. There has been a tendency for Georgie to be sort of stupidly insecure vis-a-vis Darcy, and the author is getting that under control, which makes it all the stronger. We don't need romantic uncertainty to enjoy Georgie's trials and tribulations. This might be my favorite addition to the series, but that might just be that each on is my favorite while I'm reading it. ;)

FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher via Net Galley, and was given nothing further 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."  

Monday, June 25, 2018

Murder at the Marina--Release, Review, and a Visit from the Author



Title: Murder at the Marina (Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery #1)

Author: Ellen Jacobson
Publication Info: June, 2018, 192 pages (ebook) (Paperback 246 pages)
Source: Electronic ARC from the author
Purchase Links:
Amazon (US)
Amazon (CA) 
Amazon (UK)
Kobo 
Barnes & Noble 
Apple iBooks 
Google Play 



Blurb: 
A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Mollie McGhie is hoping for diamonds for her tenth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband presents her with a dilapidated sailboat. Just one problem—she doesn’t know anything about boats, nor does she want to.

When Mollie discovers someone murdered on board, she hopes it will convince her husband that owning a boat is a bad idea. Unfortunately, he’s more determined than ever to fix the boat up and set out to sea.

Mollie finds herself drawn into the tight-knit community living at Palm Tree Marina in Coconut Cove, a small town on the Florida coast. She uncovers a crime ring dealing in stolen marine equipment, investigates an alien abduction, eats way too many chocolate bars, adopts a cat, and learns far more about sailing than she ever wanted to.

Can Mollie discover who the murderer is before her nosiness gets her killed?

My Review:
I had the pleasure of being a beta reader for this cozy mystery, and enjoyed reading it even in draft form. When the author sent me a finished copy, I meant to just skim it, and look at the parts she said she'd changed most. I soon found myself reading the whole thing, zipping along happily and trying to remember who was guilty (I had it backwards, and the clues and red herrings are so nicely scattered about that I couldn't sort it out in my head). 

The story is well put together, the characters interesting and varied, and the red herrings abound. Some aspects of the story weren't totally to my taste--Mollie is a bit crazy in some areas, in my opinion, but she's believable, and the humor is strong. The details about the sailing life are convincing (they should be; the author is a sailor!) and because Mollie is a novice, we get to learn it as we go so the reader isn't left wallowing in a sea of nautical terminology.

Mollie and her husband make an interesting pair, and I look forward to seeing how they get on, especially with the addition of a very intelligent cat to their menage. About that cat: I like how the author used the cat to reveal a few clues, without making it into some kind of super-feline intelligence. There are, however, hints that Mollie's new furry companion may be the perfect sidekick for future investigations.

My Recommendation:
A perfect summer read! Light, cozy, with just enough of a puzzle to keep you going, and full of images of warm summer evenings on the water! Beware of chocolate cravings--these characters eat a LOT of chocolate!
FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Murder at the Marina from the author, and received nothing further 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."  

Now for the really exciting part--a visit from the author! 
Ellen Jacobson was kind enough to stop by and tell us a bit about how she came to write this sailing mystery.

Thanks for hosting me on your site today to celebrate the release of my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina. This is the first book in the lighthearted and humorous Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery series, featuring a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth.

My own sailing adventures and misadventures inspired me to write this series. My husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand in 2012. After a couple of years cruising in those beautiful waters, we returned to the States and bought a bigger boat which we moved onto in 2015. We've since cruised in Florida and the Bahamas, labored over endless boat projects, and worked to keep our cruising kitty (savings) topped up.

I wanted to reflect my experiences learning to sail, cruising and living aboard a boat, and being part of the boating community in my cozy mysteries. You could say that there's a little bit of me in my main character, Mollie.

I thought I'd share one of the boating tidbits which I wrote about in Murder at the Marina—namely, the layout of a sailboat. When Mollie first sees her new boat, she's not impressed with the close quarters. The cabins are small, the galley is even smaller, she has to duck her head to get to the rear of the boat, and she has to squeeze pass people when moving around.

Living on a small sailboat can be difficult to adapt to if you're used to a large land-based home. Our boat has around 400 square feet of living space down below. It's definitely “tiny house” living and you have to downsize your possessions accordingly. For my husband and me, it's absolutely fine, but it will be interesting to see how Mollie copes with living in such a small space.

Thanks for stopping by! We are downsizing, but I'm not sure I could go all the way down to 400 square feet! 

Author Bio

Ellen Jacobson writes mystery and scifi/fantasy stories. She is the author of the “Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery” series. She lives on a sailboat with her husband, exploring the world from the water. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she blogs about their adventures at The Cynical Sailor.

You can connect with Ellen on:
Author Website - https://ellenjacobsonauthor.com/
Author Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/EllenJacobsonAuthor/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17395138.Ellen_Jacobson
The Cynical Sailor Blog - http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/
The Cynical Sailor Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/TheCynicalSailor/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Ellen__Jacobson
Newsletter Sign-up - http://eepurl.com/dpy5sv



 

#Fi50: Cutting it Fine

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!
fiction in 50   image Fiction 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).

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 acrossthebored.com) 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 below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

This month's all-too-apropos prompt is...

 Cutting it Fine

“Clive, you’re late with your report again.”

“No I’m not. It’s not past the deadline until midnight.”

I glared at my personal assistant and counted to ten. “One of these days, Clive. One of these days you’ll not talk your way out of it.”

“Chill, dude. We made the deadline.”

“Clive, you’re late with your report again.”

“No I’m not. It’s not past the deadline until midnight.”

I glared at my personal assistant and counted to ten. “One of these days, Clive. One of these days you’ll not talk your way out of it.”

“Chill, dude. We made the deadline.”

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Flash: In the Kingdom of Dust Bunnies

This week’s Friday Flash is truly flash fiction—something I’ve whipped off late Thursday because I’ve been too busy to do anything and now my guys are using my computer to watch Game of Thrones, so I can’t even do a photo page. But I did have dust bunnies on my mind, due to spending the last 3 days packing books. So here you have it... a 20-minute story.

In the Kingdom of Dust Bunnies

Everyone has heard about the dust bunnies that hold sway under the beds. They are large and fierce, it is true. But the dust bunnies most to be feared are the ones who have build their civilization behind the books on the shelves.
###

King Algernon had enjoyed a long and uneventful rule. No one had disturbed the Kingdom of Books for so long that the inhabitants had long since moved beyond the crude dust bunny stage and become sophisticated purveyors of a highly literate civilization. Rather than lurking under a bed, waiting to dodge a dust mop, Algernon lingered over his morning tea and surveyed the town. The light in the Kingdom of Books was diffuse, but adequate to admire the homes his followers had built, not to mention the elegant city hall they would be inaugurating that day.

Algernon had just finished his second cup of tea when Sneezix raced onto the terrace, horror and fear on his dusty face.

“Sire! Sire!”

“What is it, my lad?” Algernon prided himself on his eternal calm, and encouraged his followers to maintain the same. His example had no effect on the excitable Sneezix this time.

“Word has just come from the village of Second Shelf, my Lord.” The courtier stopped to pant, or possibly to gather himself in the face of horror.

“What is it?” Algernon asked again, more impatiently. “Have they a shortage of dust?” His laugh died as Sneezix responded.

“Far worse, Sire! The books have been removed, and the village destroyed. They were helpless in the face of the invasion of the giant Dust Rag, and only a few inhabitants survived to carry the word!”

Algernon leapt to his feet. “We must prepare! Sound the alarms and pass the word to prepare for evacuation!”

Even as he spoke, Algernon felt the change in the light and air. A gap appeared in the city wall, and bright light shone through, blinding the inhabitants.

Within minutes, the Kingdom of Books lay in ruins, the protective wall destroyed, and the deadly Dust Rag swooping low over the panicked populace.

Unable to stop the disaster, Algernon made his decision. He held his ground, defending his people with his own body, in the hopes that some would escape.

The sound of a vast sneeze was the last he heard.

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

Enjoy the story? Remember it’s Hero Month—and you can still get Halitor the Hero at bargain prices! But the month is going fast!
Want a personalized, signed copy? For the month of June, use the buy button here to order a copy at 30% off! Just $8 signed and shipped anywhere in the US (I'm sorry--international orders are possible, but I have to charge the actual shipping costs, which are awful).
Prefer to order from Amazon or B&N? I'm dropping the price to $7.99 for the paperback in those places as well (shipping costs are between you and the vendor).
Like ebooks? The ebook will be 99 cents at all outlets, just for the month of June!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Non-fiction Audio: Braving It,

34007634

Title: Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild
Author: James Campbell. Read by Roger Wayne
Publisher: Tantor Audio, 2017. Original by Crown Publishing, 384 pages
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

The powerful and affirming story of a father's journey with his teenage daughter to the far reaches of Alaska

Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to only a handful of people, is a harsh and lonely place. So when James Campbell's cousin Heimo Korth asked him to spend a summer building a cabin in the rugged Interior, Campbell hesitated about inviting his fifteen-year-old daughter, Aidan, to join him: Would she be able to withstand clouds of mosquitoes, the threat of grizzlies, bathing in an ice-cold river, and hours of grueling labor peeling and hauling logs?

But once there, Aidan embraced the wild. She even agreed to return a few months later to help the Korths work their traplines and hunt for caribou and moose. Despite windchills of 50 degrees below zero, father and daughter ventured out daily to track, hunt, and trap. Under the supervision of Edna, Heimo's Yupik Eskimo wife, Aidan grew more confident in the woods.

Campbell knew that in traditional Eskimo cultures, some daughters earned a rite of passage usually reserved for young men. So he decided to take Aidan back to Alaska one final time before she left home. It would be their third and most ambitious trip, backpacking over Alaska's Brooks Range to the headwaters of the mighty Hulahula River, where they would assemble a folding canoe and paddle to the Arctic Ocean. The journey would test them, and their relationship, in one of the planet's most remote places: a land of wolves, musk oxen, Dall sheep, golden eagles, and polar bears.

At turns poignant and humorous, Braving It is an ode to America's disappearing wilderness and a profound meditation on what it means for a child to grow up--and a parent to finally, fully let go.


My Review:  

This book gets some criticism for feeling at times a bit trivial, or not exciting enough, or even for focusing on the relationship between the author and his daughter (okay, that one puzzled me, since that's what the story is *about*). In some ways, though, the critics are right. This isn't an epic death-defying adventure, though there are moments. The thing is, it doesn't have to be. Maybe it only makes sense to people who spend a lot of time in the wilderness, but to me the details about life in the bush are important. I wanted to know what it was like to build a cabin by hand in the 21st Century. And I sympathized with the misery they all felt at times during that episode. The backpacking and boat trip flow more naturally out of the cabin-building and trap-line experiences that make up the first 2/3 of the book.

I get the criticism, though. The blurb makes it sound like the book is all about the river-running expedition, when in fact it is about a) the things that made it possible for James Campbell to believe his daughter could make that trip, and b) the relationship of father and daughter at a crucial turning point in her life. And maybe I'll add a c: the book is also about the way a wilderness addict is born.

Maybe it's because I'm a parent whose kids are making the shift to adulthood and independence, but I was fascinated by the delicate dance of parenting and freedom that Campbell engages in with his daughter. When he--and she--finally reach the point where he can trust her completely to do the job at hand, it's a triumph for him as much as for her. It's also a point we all have to reach some time with our children. Campbell just had the opportunity to experience it in a concrete, I'm-trusting-you-with-our-lives kind of way. And that's cool. The biggest thing that bothered me was the way Aidan's mom got left out of the growing-up adventures, and the sense that Aidan bonded in a very mother-daughter way with Edna. I'm not sure I could have been gracious about that if it were my daughter.

The writing is solid, with a believable memoir feel (not over-written; some might say it's a little under-written). The audio is excellent, really capturing Campbell's feelings as he recalls the important or scary moments.

My Recommendation:

So this might be a book more for people who are already into the idea (at least) of living in the wilderness than for those just looking for an adventure tale. It's also for parents wondering how you let your kids grow up.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Braving It 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, June 18, 2018

Middle Grade Fantasy: Granted, by John David Anderson

35068662

Title: Granted

Author: John David Anderson
Publisher: Walden Pond Press, 2018. 325 pages (hardback).
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, there is someone out there who hears it.

In a magical land called the Haven lives a young fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. Ophelia is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.

It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do, and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes gets granted.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going to get her very first wish-granting assignment.

And she’s about to discover that figuring out how to truly give someone what they want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.
 

My Review:  
This book has a lovely cover, and a story to match. Honestly, I'd have read it just for the pleasure of having a character named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. But the story is well worth it on it's own.

A co-worker recommended this to me in part because it reminded her of my own book, Halitor the Hero. Not the same story at all, but the books share a sort of gentle ironic humor, and a hero(ine) who tries perhaps too hard and keeps failing until the mission is accomplished. I loved the story, and felt that the tone was just right--a little funny, a little whimsical, and a whole lot adventurous.

My Recommendation:

This is a book that will probably delight readers from 7 or 8 on up. The writing is pretty accessible without being simplified, and the story is gentle enough for younger children to read and enjoy. And maybe we can all reclaim a little bit of magic!


FTC Disclosure: I checked Granted 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, June 17, 2018

#fi50 is coming!

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!
fiction in 50   image Fiction 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).

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. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
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 acrossthebored.com) 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 below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.



The June prompt is: 

Cutting it fine.

You can use the prompt as a title, or just as a spark, or a piece of the story, or ignore it completely. Really, there aren't many rules, other than 50 words or less. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Flash: The Tomb of the Strange Feast

The Wendig Challenge this week was to write a story that had something to do with food. I'm still neck deep in prepping our house for sale (looking at every. single. book. to decided if it goes or stays...), so there was no time or mental energy to write a story. But I remembered this one, which fits the requirement, though it feels a little odd to post humor in response to a memorial sort of thing--Wendig's call for stories was inspired by the death of Anthony Bourdain.

Still: food. And I don't think many of you saw if the first time around, in 2013!

This one is meant for the kiddies. Well, and the grownups.

The Tomb of the Strange Feast

Mom never was a good cook, but that night she really outdid herself.  Her smile when she brought in dinner didn't convince even Lily, and she's only five.

"Brussels sprout-tofu casserole, with non-fat cheese," Mom announced, all bright and enthusiastic, the way grown-ups sound when they are trying to convince kids of the wonderfulness of something they really don't like it.  Totally fake.  Mom could pretend, but we all knew she didn't like the food she made any more than we did.  She didn't even put crumbled potato chips on top of the stuff, the way Nana does, which at least means there's some part of her “hot dishes” a kid can eat.

Trouble was, Mom was on a health-food kick.  Health food and bad cooking are a really awful combination.  When my buddy Lianne's mom cooks healthy food, it's things like grilled veggies and chicken breasts.  Kind of boring, but you can eat it.  Sometimes she gets these veggie-burger things that are really good, especially with plenty of ketchup and mustard.  You’d hardly know they were healthy.  But my mom makes Brussels sprout-tofu casserole, and tofu "cheesecake" for dessert.  Sometimes I think I should run away from home.

So that night Mom put the pan on the table, and we all just sat looking at it.  Lily looked like she was about to cry, and Dad swallowed hard.  The stuff looked nasty and smelled worse.  Mom was still trying to smile, and she served each of us a nice big heaping pile, but she had to work harder and harder to keep smiling as she went on.  She knew.  That’s the worst part: Mom knows she's a lousy cook.  She always has been.  Used to be, she just went ahead and made hot dogs and frozen pizza and stuff like that, which was fine.  When she was dieting, she’d get those “Lean and Mean” frozen dinners, and I got pretty used to them, too.

But last month she got hold of this book about fat kids and how bad eating and junk food was going to kill us all, and maybe that’s true.  But in our family, Mom’s attempts to cook her idea of healthy food are going to kill us all a whole lot sooner.  Like this casserole we were all staring at like gawkers at a traffic accident.  Horrified and fascinated at the same time.

Dad’s a real hero.  He smiled at Mom and picked up his fork.  “I’m sure it’s marvelous, Dear,” he said, and plunged his fork into the heart of the steaming pile on his plate.  He didn’t take a bite, though.  I figure the telephone saved his life, because before he could lift the fork, his phone rang, and he got up to answer it.  Mom doesn’t allow our phones at the table, so he had to hunt for it, and when he found the right one, it was Mom’s phone that was ringing after all.  I don’t know why they don’t use different ringtones.  Maybe they haven’t figured out how.

Anyway, Mom got on the phone and came back a minute later with her purse in her hand.  “Poor old Mrs. Carruthers is sick, and she needs me to go pick up her medicines.  She uses that discount drug store on the other side of town, so I’ll be a while.  Don’t worry about saving dinner for me—I’ll grab something while I wait for her prescription.  Just clean up when you finish.”

Mom has a sort of business running errands for the old people in our neighborhood.  I’m not sure how many of them pay her, but she does it for all of them, regardless.  Mom’s a great person.  She just can’t cook.

When the door closed behind her, Dad, Lily and I looked at each other, then at the casserole.  Then Dad stood up.  “Karla, you get the shovel.  I’ll bring this stuff.”

“I’ll get that dessert thing,” Lily said.  We’d tasted that before and knew better than to do so again.  Of all the things to mess with, dessert is the cruelest. Your mouth is all set for something rich and sweet and instead you get tofu. There ought to be a law.

Dad began scraping plates back into the dish, and I got the shovel from the shed.  By the time I’d picked a good place, Dad and Lily were outside, and I held the dish while Dad dug a hole with a few quick stomps on the shovel.  We scraped in the mess, shoved the dirt back over it, and sprinkled some leaves over it to make it less obvious.  Then we loaded the dishwasher and Dad took us to the Burger Prince and got us burgers and strawberry shakes.  They make their shakes with real fruit, so we decided that was close enough to health food for tonight.

That was hours ago.  When I looked out my window just now, with the moon lighting up the yard, I swear I could see that fresh pile of dirt and leaves moving.

I really hope we’ve seen the last of that strange feast.


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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Release Day! Write With Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You From Idea to Publication



NEW RELEASE & GIVEAWAY!


Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book!

Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication offers an abundance of data in one handy book. From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. You’ll also discover how to write specific scenes and characters, adding depth to your work.

•        Spark One: Being a Writer
•        Spark Two: Story Essentials
•        Spark Three: A Book’s Stepping Stones
•        Spark Four: How To
•        Spark Five: Character ER
•        Spark Six: Editing
•        Spark Seven: Publishing
•        Spark Eight: Marketing
•        Spark Nine: Writing About
•        Spark Ten: Final Inspiration

With so much information, you’ll take notes, highlight, and flag pages to come back to again and again on your writing journey.


BUY LINKS:




 AUTHOR BIO:

 Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Fey realized she wanted to write by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes.
 
Chrys Fey’s Links:




GIVEAWAY!

Open to all from June 4th 2018 – July 6th 2018
Click here to enter or use the form below.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 11, 2018

Middle Grade Historical Fiction, Audio book review: The War I Finally Won

This book is a great addition to my "Hero Month," because there are a whole lot of heroes in here, mostly people just managing to go on in spite of terrible things. Ordinary heroes, you might say.

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Title: The War I Finally Won
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Read by Jayne Entwistle
Publisher: Dial Books, 2017. 389 pages. Audio book by Listening Library
Source: Library digital services

Publisher's Summary:

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?
 

My Review:  

This sequel made me want to go back and re-read The War That Saved My Life. Not so much because I needed to know details that I've forgotten (though that wouldn't hurt; this follows right on and it took me a bit to come up to speed, though everything is adequately explained to allow you to read it as a stand-alone), as because the books are so good.

In some ways, there isn't as much of a story arc here as in the first book. The really big questions have been settled: Ada and Jamie are living with Susan, and her clubfoot has been fixed, allowing Ada to stop seeing herself as something worthless. Now she has to learn to be a normal child, and it's a struggle. That struggle, along with the blows that war brings to those around her (even while Ada is aware that the war has brought her far more good than ill), is what makes this story interesting.

Narrator Jayne Entwistle is excellent, as always. It caught me by surprise, as familiar narrators often do, since I strongly associate her voice with Flavia du Luce. But after a chapter or so I was firmly clear on this being Ada (though she probably could have used a bit more East End in her accent).


My Recommendation:

I'll peg this series for kids about 8 and up. It deals with some fairly heavy stuff--war and death--but in ways that I think make it accessible and not frightening for younger children. The lessons about acceptance and human value are still here, but where at times I felt in the first book that the author was a little heavy-handed with them, in this one the balance feels right. In print or audio, this is well worth reading.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The War I Finally Won out of my (digital) 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, June 8, 2018

Friday Flash: Halitor the Hero excerpt

Told you it's Hero Month! That's why today's flash is an excerpt from Halitor the Hero.


Isn't that a lovely cover?
 Title: Halitor the Hero
Author: Rebecca M. Douglass
Publication Info: 2014, 159 pages (paperback). Available in paper and all ebook formats
Genre: Humorous fantasy
Age Level: Middle grades (roughly age 8 or 9) and up
 
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.


Blurb:
Halitor wants to be a Hero and ride through the world rescuing Princesses and Fair Maidens in distress. Too bad he tends to trip over his own feet and drop his sword when he gets excited! 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 hoping 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.

Excerpt--From Chapter 3, "Encounters With Ogres"

Melly clutched Halitor’s arm and pointed into the woods. A pair of small ogres stared at them, growling and gnashing their teeth. When the young people drew their swords, the ogres slunk away. Ogres wouldn’t attack people who could put up a fight. Still, after that, Melly and Halitor walked a little faster and a little closer together. The next ogres might not be so quick to take flight. It began to drizzle, and Halitor thought of his stable loft. If not for Melly, he would have been there, warm and dry, and with a full belly.

“We need to get onto a main road,” Melly said. “There’s bound to be more monsters about and I don’t want to meet them.”

“What about Derker? Won’t he be looking on the road for us?”

“Not in the rain, not him. And anyway, he’ll think we’ve gone south, or off by the Great Road. Not up towards the Ice Castle with winter coming on.”

Halitor didn’t much like the sound of that, but he liked the idea of following a road, where more traffic might mean fewer ogres. They found a path that after much winding joined the road, and turned again toward the mountains.

Around noon they smelled the smoke of a cooking fire—smoke mingled with something that made Halitor’s stomach growl.

“I bet it’s a trader’s caravan,” Melly whispered, peeking around a tree at the camp where half a dozen wagons were stopped for a mid-day meal. “Maybe we can join them, if they’re going our way.”

Halitor remembered that she and her Da had been traders. She must be used to that sort of thing. “I’ll go in first,” he said, trying to think what a Hero would do. “What if they’re slave-hunters, or bandits?” Melly nodded, as though Halitor could somehow protect her. He knew that if they were bandits, the most he could do was occupy them long enough for her to escape. Well, that was something, and it was what a Hero would do.

The merchants were just merchants, and shared their meal in exchange for news. They would have preferred coin, but there was much the young travelers did not have, and coins were among them. The caravan-master was a kindly sort, so he let them eat. They looked like a pair of boys out for adventure and discovering it to be hungry work, as well as cold and wet. He asked about the road ahead, on down across Loria to Carthor and the other towns.

Halitor and Melly, disappointed the caravan wasn’t going their way, told what they could about the road, without mentioning that they hadn’t been using it.

When they parted, the caravan master warned them, “Ye’d do well to take care. Find a caravan if ye can. The ogres are bad this year.”

“Were you attacked?” Halitor asked, feeling to be sure his sword was still in place.

“Nay, not us. They won’t attack a large party, seein’ as they can’t work together, not more than two at a time anyhow. A pair of younglings like ye, though, they might think were easy pickins.”

Melly thanked him for his concern, and, hitching her sword to a more comfortable position under her hand, promised they’d be careful. “We can’t wait for another group. We are in a bit of a hurry.”

“Ay. Ye’d best move on fast in any case. It’s fair cold up high, and the weather has a changing feel. This rain could turn to snow up there any time, if it hasn’t already.”

Halitor felt a deeper chill than the drizzle caused. Until now he hadn’t grasped that their way led through a high pass. Melly led him off before he could ask any more questions.

They kept a sharp, nervous eye out front and back after they started on. After a mile or so, however, they started arguing again and forgot to watch.

“Why do we have to cross the mountains, anyway?” Halitor asked.

“Because my home lies on the other side,” Melly answered, in that too-patient voice that means both parties are about to be aggravated.

“But why can’t we go south? We could take the Great Road,” he suggested, referring to the largest road that linked the valley states of Loria, Garan, Duria and Kargor, which spread out from the Ice Castle like the splayed fingers of a hand. “Or even the desert route.” He and Bovrell had gone around the south end of the range that separated Duria and Garan, and it had been warm, even in the dead of winter. Maybe her home—what had she called it? Gandaria?—was in the far north. That would explain why he’d never heard of it.

“How long did all that riding around take you?” Melly asked in a tone that didn’t encourage him to answer. He did anyway.

“I don’t know, maybe a few months? We did stuff along the way, you know.”

He wanted to tell her that they had rescued maidens and freed a village from a cruel overlord. And they had done those things, but Halitor had always dropped his sword or ridden the wrong way or fallen from his horse. Every single time. By the time they had reached Loria and rescued Melly, Bovrell was scarcely speaking to him. He didn’t want to talk about it.

“Say, Melly,” he said to change the subject, since the idea of going south didn’t seem to go over well, especially as they had walked north for three days already and would have to go back towards Carthor and the Inn. “I never did ask how you got taken by that ogre in the first place. I mean, if you were at the inn and all.” Ogres would never come into a town, though according to the Hero’s Guide they might enter a lone castle to take a princess.

“I, um,” she glanced at him and went ahead and said it. “I was trying to run off.”

The news didn’t shock or surprise him as it might have once. After all, they were running away now because she wanted to. Of course she’d tried before. He thought of something else. “Ogres are only supposed to kidnap Princesses. The Guide says so. So why you?”

“Maybe they only kidnap princesses, but I’m pretty sure they’ll eat anyone.” She sighed. “I suppose that was what it would have done. How should I know?”

Halitor didn’t answer, because he didn’t know how to tell if an ogre was kidnapping a Princess or looking for dinner. And what did they do with the ones who weren’t rescued? It wasn’t like the ogres did it just so Heroes could have someone to rescue. That wouldn’t be a good bargain for the ogres, who nearly always ended up killed by the Heroes, if the Guide was right.

Thinking made his head hurt, so he stopped thinking and went back to watching for ogres. Fighting monsters he understood, even if he wasn’t any good at it.

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


Enjoyed the excerpt? Here's the cool part... you can get a copy of the book at a sale price, no matter what format you prefer.
Want a personalized, signed copy? For the month of June, use the buy button here to order a copy at 30% off! Just $8 signed and shipped anywhere in the US (I'm sorry--international orders are possible, but I have to charge the actual shipping costs, which are awful).
Prefer to order from Amazon or B&N? I'm dropping the price to $7.99 for the paperback in those places as well (shipping costs are between you and the vendor).
Like ebooks? The ebook will be 99 cents at all outlets, just for the month of June!




Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#IWSG: Book Titles and Character Names

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
Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.


Hey, guess what? Today's IWSG post is actually on the Tick Tock blog, so please jump on over and take a look, leave a comment, and share your experiences with naming things!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hero Month

I'm kicking off "Hero Month" with today's post. What is Hero Month? Just me, promoting my backlist title Halitor the Hero.
Isn't that a lovely cover?
 Title: Halitor the Hero
Author: Rebecca M. Douglass
Publication Info: 2014, 159 pages (paperback). Available in paper and all ebook formats
Genre: Humorous fantasy
Age Level: Middle grades (roughly age 8 or 9) and up
 
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.


Blurb:
Halitor wants to be a Hero and ride through the world rescuing Princesses and Fair Maidens in distress. Too bad he tends to trip over his own feet and drop his sword when he gets excited! 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 hoping 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 here's the fun part... you can get a copy at a sale price, no matter how you want it. 
Want a personalized, signed copy? For the month of June, use the buy button here to order a copy at 30% off! Just $8 signed and shipped anywhere in the US (I'm sorry--international orders are possible, but I have to charge the actual shipping costs, which are awful).
Prefer to order from Amazon or B&N? I'm dropping the price to $7.99 for the paperback in those places as well (shipping costs are between you and the vendor).
Like ebooks? The ebook will be 99 cents at all outlets, just for the month of June! (this may take a day to take effect).


Come back and watch this space--I'll be discounting direct sales of different books all summer!

Who's your hero? Leave a comment and tell us about her/him.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Photo Friday: Biking the Gold Country Challenge

A couple of weeks ago we drove up to Grass Valley, CA (no jokes, now. At least, no until you realize that CA not only has Grass Valley but also Weed. Some jokes just make themselves) to ride the Gold Country Challenge Century. It's a new ride--this was only the 5th year--so it's not big, but it was worthwhile. It's also a fundraiser for the local Rotary Club, so about 30% of the entry cost goes to local projects (the rest goes to the costs of putting it on).

The Gold Country is the Sierra foothills (west side), and my Ninja Librarian books are set in a town that would be something like the little places on the higher end of the area. 

A few stats on the course: it is 98 miles, and every bit of it is either up or down, for a total of 9600' of climbing (or more, or less, depending on the mapping software you use). That total had me pretty intimidated, but in fact none of the hills was as steep or as long as many we ride routinely, so I wasn't as slow as I feared. It was hard, though, to be over 90 miles and still hitting hills (see below).

I had to borrow more photos than usual from my husband, since he does a better job of photographing these things than I do. I get a bit single-minded.
The Route. That 4:30 dinner cut-off was my panic button.
We always like to take before and after shots. This is before. It was about 6:15 a.m., at almost 2500', so though the day would get plenty warm, it was chilly to start.
Start and finish--the Nevada County Fairgrounds
Started off with a little tour of Grass Valley. It's a cute town with a historic downtown, just a little depressed-looking.
Heavy traffic for 6:30 on Saturday morning!
The scenery was mostly fantastic, and with the hills, we were going slowly enough to appreciate the flowers, especially some expansive displays of purple lupine.

Our first major river crossing.
Old bridge over the South Yuba River. We were on the new highway bridge.
This covered bridge spans the Yuba River. We crossed the South Yuba once, and the Yuba 3 times (twice in the same spot on the northern loop). Each crossing required a long drop and an equally long climb, but they were scenic highlights. This one felt remote, coming after a single-lane winding descent.

Rest stops roughly every 20 miles kept us fueled. The selection wasn't up to the standards set by the Chico Wildflower Century, but it was good and it was plentiful. I've heard of rides where it was nothing but PB&J sandwiches every time, so it could have been much worse.
This shot captured some of the younger riders, but for the most part, these rides lean to the 50+ crowd, probably because retirees have enough time to train for them--and have been injured too often to go on running.
The lunch crew was adorable. They took their work seriously, and fed us well.
Students from the Williams Ranch Elementary School, I presume, since that's where the stop was.
The final 20 miles or so ran through some really pretty woodlands, winding up and down and up and down and up and down... you get the picture.
It was while riding this stretch that I wrote the following in my head, later typing it into my phone. It kept me from thinking so much about what hurt, or maybe just helped me keep a sense of humor about it as each hill disappointed me when I though I might be done with climbing. I gave it a proper  title a la the Romantic poets. Read it in an excessively dramatic voice with meaningful pauses. (My apologies if anyone is offended by a few naughty words).

The Cyclist's Lament on the Final 10 miles of the Gold Country Challenge

I sweat, and I want my dinner.
The geography is unkind.
The sweat drips from my nose
and again there is a hill.
My butt hurts.

There is a curve, and another hill.
Damn the hills. They mock me.
Damn them.
Damn the hills.
My butt hurts.

After that, this sign was the most beautiful thing.
Okay, actually this was the most beautiful thing. And they were serving free beer!

Final ride time (for me; my husband was about 15 minutes faster due to being better at hills than I am): 7 hours, 32 minutes.

And still able to smile.
You can't see the crusted salt from all the sweat.
My Recommendation:
This was a good century. Rest stops were frequent enough, the food adequate, and the BBQ dinner more than adequate. The scenery was excellent, and the only real drawback were a couple of more heavily-traveled stretches of road where locals in large trucks and SUVs were unwilling to give cyclists adequate space. Grass Valley is a cute town and worth the visit. We found a great place to stay through Air B&B, cheap enough to allow us to stay 2 nights (thanks Ed & Louise!). The climbing does make it not a ride for the untrained, but if you've done some centuries and want a bigger challenge (but aren't up for a double), it's a good choice.


Oh, and in case anyone wonders, the usual disclaimers apply: this is my opinion and not that of anyone else, and no one paid me anything to offer it.

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