Friday, August 17, 2018

Photo Friday: Into the Kaweah Basin

Part II: Shepherd Pass to the mid-Kaweah Basin

Last week, I shared the beginning of our 9-day backpacking trip into the Kaweah Basin in Sequoia NP. This week, I'll take us into the middle of the trip, and the middle of the basin. Give me a couple more weeks to get through the trip, because the scenery was amazing, and it's hard to pick just a few photos to share here.

Day 2

We left off in the middle of the second day of the trip, as we entered the National Park at 12,000' Shepherd Pass.
Descending from the pass. It's a broad, very gently sloping valley, in sharp contrast to the east side of the pass.
Still dropping from the pass. We have to descend to the confluence of the deep valleys in the center of the photo, then climb up the valley to the right, and up to the basin below the dark peaks.

We found more than one old cabin, probably reminders that before the area was a National Park, miners and sheep herders wandered everywhere. This cabin had a new door with new hinges, and we wondered if the Park Service used it in some way. We initially camped next to the cabin, as it was starting to rain fairly heavily. It was a poor site, with no views and no breeze, meaning plenty of mosquitoes.

After the rain ended, we went for a little walk and found this spot only a couple of minutes away. With views and an open field and few mosquitoes (at least until after sundown), we decided it was worth the effort of moving our camp.

Day 3

Our camp was located on the unmaintained Tyndall Creek trail, a direct route between the PCT/John Muir Trails and the Kern River. In the morning we continued the descent. The trail was pretty easy to follow, but the final descent was definitely steep.
We have to drop to the bottom of the valley, then keep dropping before we can start climbing again.
The Kern River trail wasn't exactly a heavily-used route, and we had to hunt a bit to find a safe (or at least dry) crossing of Tyndall Creek (of which more in a future installment).
The Spouse makes good use of his longer legs and agility.
By late morning we hit our low point (aside from the trailhead), about 8000' at Junction Meadows on the Kern River. At this point it's a beautiful, clear, slow-moving river, though not far upstream it was raging in the canyon far below the trail.
Collecting water. We have a good climb ahead of us, around 1500' before we have hopes of a camp.
Before beginning the hot climb up the Kern-Kaweah River we had to cross the Kern. Fortunately, the trail goes through an avalanche zone where the river is braided into at least 3 streams, and though changing our shoes was minor hassle, the water felt great on our feet and didn't wet us above the knees.
Note the jumbled broken trees from last winter's avalanches.
We went too far looking for the perfect spot, and had to backtrack a quarter mile to find a perch with room for our tent above "Rockslide Lake" in the narrow canyon. In the morning we'll cross the stream and make our way up a side canyon into the Kaweah Basin. Meanwhile, I always enjoy a room with a view.

An important part of our afternoon ritual on arriving in camp is the bath and laundry. Unless air and water are both icy, we go for full immersion whenever possible.
This water was just far enough from the snowfields to be more refreshing than painful, though we didn't linger.

Day 4: Into the Basin

The next morning we began the climb up the unnamed creek that drains the Kaweah Basin (we called it Kaweah Creek, but it is not to be confused with the Kaweah River, which runs on the west side of the range, or the Kern-Kaweah River, which ran down from Colby Pass and which we crossed to being our climb).
The way looked daunting from below, but as promised, very easy route-finding kept it a Class II hike--no hands required.
It only took an hour or so to reach the first lake on the way into the basin, but we knew we wouldn't really be there until we crossed the rim by the waterfall.
Studying the options. We ended up in the willows, which wasn't brilliant.
Topped out the waterfall, and we knew we had arrived. We still had a fair way to go to get to the heart of the basin, but this spot was so perfect we had to stop and absorb it for a while.
I was absorbing a snack as well as the view, while the occasional mosquito absorbed some of me.
By the time we reached the general area where we wanted to stop, it was getting urgent to make camp. The light afternoon rains of the previous two days were clearly going to give way to a more serious thunderstorm. We managed to get our baths just in time to dive into the tent as the storm hit, the first of 4 consecutive afternoons where we got hailed on.
Typical camp. Tent, clothesline, a bucket of water. And, in this case, my boots drying on a rock, because I'm not as agile as Dave is.
The author making a happy home.
After the storm, as it did every afternoon, the sun came out and the sky cleared (though each day it cleared later than the one before, so we didn't always get this lovely light). A little exploration revealed a tarn perfect for evening reflections.
On the left, Kaweah Peak, and in the middle, I believe it is Red Kaweah.
Next week, we'll delve into the heart of the Basin, climb to 12,800', and then begin the return journey.

Just to bend your brain a bit.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

#WEP Challenge: Change of Heart 

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

I'm supposed to post my feedback preferences, but I'm not sure what to ask for... I'll learn as we go here, so for now I'll just ask for whatever reactions you had to the story.

Change of Heart

“There you go, Ma’am. There was a bit of nastiness, but it’s all clear now.” Jason tipped his hat to the absurdly grateful homeowner and collected his payment, smothering his smile until he was out of sight in his van. Then he allowed a broad grin to escape as he straightened the bills—more than he had asked for, no doubt as a token of her gratitude for cleaning up that “bit of nastiness”—and filed them in his wallet.

“The spirits won’t like you mocking them.”

Jason shook his head. He kept hearing Great-Aunt Mathilda’s voice. How had the old biddy known what he was up to, anyway? He shook his head harder as he continued hearing her warnings. The old lady was crazy. What she said about the spirits proved it. Who but a crazy old lady would believe the ghosts were real?

Your clients do, a part of him argued.

“Well, they’re all crazy, too! Or just plain fools.” Jason realized he was talking aloud to the empty van and started the engine. “Next appointment, Siri?” That was talking to someone who wasn’t there as well, but it wasn’t considered crazy.

“Spirit clearance at 89 Witmore Lane.” The slightly sexy, slightly mechanical voice halted. “You’d better be ready for this one.”

What the hell? That hadn’t been part of his memo. Siri mostly sounded human, but she wasn’t. She couldn’t do that.

Jason shook off another wave of—not guilt, because he’d long since made sure he had no conscience. A frisson of fear? Well, hardly. Jason wasn’t one to be afraid of things that didn’t exist. His only fear was that someone would decide that ghost clearances were illegal, or that one of his clients would realize he was a fraud, because there were no spirits.

He pulled away from the curb and followed Siri’s directions to 89 Witmore Lane.

“I am so glad to see you, young man.” The well-aged homeowner greeted Jason effusively. “The spirits have been getting so obstreperous of late, I really didn’t know what to do, until I saw your ad.”

Jason nodded solemnly.

“And you have all that modern, up-to-date equipment,” Mrs. Smith said, gazing admiringly from the device in his hands to his van.

Jason, who knew that behind the curtained windows and gaudy paint the van was an ordinary camper badly in need of some house-cleaning, shifted a little, smiled, and gestured with the complicated device he carried. It was, in fact, a completely inert sculpture he’d picked up at a fund-raiser for the local middle school art department, but it impressed the clients. There were lots of dials and little windows with needles behind them.

“I’ll just get started, then, Ma’am.” He began walking toward the stairs, his eyes on the dials, pointing the ‘sensor’ around him. He was pretty sure that sensor had started life as the spray hose from someone’s kitchen sink, but the artist had turned it into a listening snake. Jason wished he’d been the one with that artistic talent.

He was upstairs when he caught the first movement. Not something seen out of the corner of his eye slipping around a doorway, which had happened several times before and which Jason attributed to an over-active imagination (though he in fact lacked imagination, he was not aware of this shortcoming). The movement he saw was in the main dial of the ghost-o-meter, known to his clients as a “spiritual emanations detector.”

He took a second look, but the dial was inert, as always. Just to be sure, he shook the box a bit. The needle didn’t budge. He turned it over and checked the dials on the other side. No movement.

He turned it back over and resumed his “scan” of the room, and the needle jumped again.

“Dag-nabbit!” He practiced a kind of folksy clean-cut persona for the old ladies. They ate it up. Mrs. Smith wasn’t in the room, but you never knew when the client might be spying on you. Some were so scared they left the house while he “cleared” the ghosts, but others wanted to learn how you did it. Jason always put on a good show. “Dag-nabbit! Am I going to start imagining things now?”

He twiddled with the control knobs for good measure, then continued his sweep, trying to ignore the needle that now jumped with each new movement of the sensor.

By the third bedroom, Jason had forgotten about putting on a show, and was alternately cursing and muttering to himself that there was no such thing as a ghost. If Mrs. Smith heard him, the jig might be up, but he was starting to hear whispers behind him and didn’t care anymore what she thought. He just wanted them to go away.

Actually, he cared enough to want to finish the job and get paid. The greedy part of his mind wondered if he could milk this one for a second visit. The rest of him was fast abandoning his lack of belief in ghosts and just wanted to get out.

He compromised, taking one last sweep around the upstairs hall, then turning to the stairs.

“I do particularly feel them on the stairs, dearie,” Mrs. Smith called from below. “Be sure you do a thorough job there.” She emerged from the kitchen to peer up at him as he made a great show of sweeping each step, peering into the dials and adjusting the knobs.

Jason was on the third step down from the top when he felt the hands in the middle of his back. He had time while he fell to reflect that there wasn’t anyone upstairs.

His neck broke when he hit the landing. The last thing he heard before he died was Mrs. Smith’s voice.

“You were warned not to mock the spirits. They don’t like it. Not one little bit.”

He believed her.

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: The Shadow of the Minotaur


The Shadow of the Minotaur (Shadows from the Past #2)
Author: Wendy Leighton-Porter
Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing, 2012. 234 pages.
Source: Purchased from Amazon

Publisher's Blurb:

Ten-year-old twins Joe and Jemima Lancelot continue the search for their missing parents who are trapped somewhere in the past. Together with their friend, Charlie, and their unusual talking cat, Max, they are whisked back in time to ancient Crete and the palace of Knossos, where the fearsome Minotaur resides in its labyrinth, feeding on human flesh. Can they help Prince Theseus of Athens overcome the terrifying monster before it devours them all? And will the children survive the terrible storm which threatens to wreck their ship as they attempt to flee the island?

My Review: 
This is such a great series! The adventure ramps up right from the start, and doesn't quit. It helps that this time, the kids know what's happening, and what to expect (they learned fast from their first adventure!).  There's no time lost in trying to figure out what's happening. It's also nice that Max can communicate. I love his outsized ego and decidedly cat-like personality. Max may be one of the great cats of literature.

The author does an amazing job of balancing the scary aspects of the story--there are real threats to the children--with a level of humor that keeps it "safe" for younger readers (Max is a big help here). Leighton-Porter also makes good use of the myths that are out there for the reading, not changing "history," but filling in some of the, er, shadows around them. In particular, she gives personality to the mythical characters [minor spoilers!], so that we find that Theseus is a bit of a jerk, and Ariadne, to my delight, is shocked out of her infatuation with a little help from Jemima, and her ending may not be quite what the more ancient sources thought. Nice to introduce a little feminism to the early civilizations!

I greatly enjoyed the first book in the series, and I think this one might be even better. I have #3 queued up and look forward to continuing the series--I think there are 8 books, and since this is one of my choices for the GMGR "Finish the Series" challenge, I have a lot of reading to do!

Note: Wendy Leighton-Porter has a story in the BookElves Anthology, as do I. This association may have influenced my decision to start reading the series, but it did not influence my review, and the decision to continue with the series is purely the result of a great reading experience.

My Recommendation:
This is a great series for readers 8-12. A bit of exposure to mythology, in the wrapping of an exciting adventure with a touch of humor. What more could you want?

FTC Disclosure: I purchased The Shadow of the Minotaur, 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, August 10, 2018

Photo Friday: Shepherd Pass

I'm finally ready to start my trip report on our recent backpacking extravaganza, 9 days into the Kaweah Basin in Sequoia National Park.

The trip really began back in 2015, when my husband, Eldest Son, and I backpacked out of Mineral King in Sequoia NP. Midway down that trip report is a picture of the Kaweah Peaks, one jagged and intriguing crest. I'm not sure how we got from "those are impressive peaks" to "I hear there's an amazing basin on the other side of those peaks," but we did, and found a couple of on-line accounts of accessing the (trail-less) basin. Thus was a plan begun, but until this summer we didn't have the two-week time block we needed to acclimatize and tackle what we would want to do as a 9-10 day trip.

Fast-forward to July, 2018. My husband retired, I quit work, and we had the time to train and to do the trip right. I shared some of our acclimatization activities here. Now we had 10 days food, and a plan to enter the Sierra via Shepherd Pass (out of Independence, CA, in the Owens Valley), cross the crest, drop down to the Kern River, and climb back up to the Kaweah Basin from the east. That approach, while long and involving some off-trail route-finding, doesn't involve finding a route across the jagged Kaweah Crest, which was a good thing.

Ten days' food is a lot (I got it to a hair over 1.5 lbs/person/day, so you can do the math). Because of that, our trip actually began 3 days before our start date when we loaded up most of our gear, hauled it 6 1/2 miles into the mountains, and cached it. Thanks to that effort (which was also good training!), when we started at sunrise on July 17 our packs were small. That was nice, because the first day's hike to camp was 8 1/2 miles, with 4400' of climbing (and about 500' of descending as you pass from one creek drainage to another). The final mile or two, after we collected our gear, told us how hard it would have been to have carried everything the whole way--we estimate that for those 2 miles pack weights were 40 lbs or more. Once upon a time, that was normal, but we aren't in our 20s anymore.

Day 1-1 1/2: Trailhead to Shepherd Pass (national park boundary)

We camped at the trailhead, putting ourselves in position to start our hike almost as soon as the sun was up. I'm ready to hit the trail at 6:30 a.m., hoping to beat the (not insignificant) heat.
Nice little pack to start a long trip!
On both our earlier gear-haul and the first day of the trip we took advantage of the final creek crossing (before beginning a 2000'+ climb out of Symes Creek) to fill our hats as well as our water bags with cold water.

The climb was long and grueling, but long views and near alike helped make it feel like an outing rather than a slog.
Blazing star. Apparently one of several wildflowers with that name!
High above the Owens Valley, which was already showing signs of smoke impacts from assorted CA wildfires. Happily, we were never affected by any of the smoke.

Thanks to some extra stops it took us until lunchtime to cross the divide from Symes Creek to Shepherd Creek. Now we can see where we're going, though the pass is out of sight around to the left.
Wait--we have to go up *there*??
The climb took most of the day, what with the extras (including time to pick up, sort, and pack the rest of our gear several hundred feet below "Anvil Camp," one of only 2 or maybe 3 camping places along the 10-mile, 6000' climb to the pass). Always nice after a hike like that to have a hearty dinner. I put in the work at home, and in camp my cooking is purely of the "add water" variety. In this case, also "add salmon." Thanks to Teresa Dicentra Black for her fantastic cookbooks!
The Amazon mailing bag is my "cozy" for keeping meals hot while they rehydrate.
Camp felt like we were perched at the top of the world, but the next morning we kept going up.
Dave, making his way past tree line.
And higher!

Finally seeing the pass. We know we have to cross the top of that snowfield, and we've heard stories.

Apologies to the squeamish for the next photo. I'll leave it small so you don't have to see too much. Last  November an unusually heavy early snowstorm caught deer herds on the wrong side of the Sierra crest (they graze well into the mountains in summer, but winter in the Owens Valley). It dumped a lot of snow and ice, and when the deer tried to cross the pass many fell to their deaths. The evidence remains at the base of the more or less permanent snowfield. Assorted predators and scavengers have reduced the evidence pretty much to bones and hair.
Grim reminder that steep snowfields can have real dangers.
And, of course, we had to cross the snowfield. We'd been hearing from hikers coming down, with opinions ranging from "scary" and "kinda sketchy" to "no problem." We expected to find it somewhere in between, but by the time we got there the snow was soft in the mid-day sun, and though we stepped carefully it felt safe.
We reached the pass in time for lunch, and launched ourselves into the Park. For the record, when we got our wilderness permit, they issued two--one for the National Forest (east of the pass) and one for the National Park (west of the divide), but we were able to get both at the same place (the Bishop Ranger Station).

Lunch was sometimes crackers and peanut butter, with other munchies, and sometimes hearty main-dish salads I'd made and dried at home, then rehydrated in my pack all morning. Those proved to be really tasty and filling, and I'll be doing more of them! Either way, we got mixed nuts for trail snacks, and chocolate to top off our lunch.
Juice and a taste of carrot-raisin salad, and chocolate. Always must have chocolate!
 Watch this space on Fridays for the rest of the trip--the scenery just gets better.
Shepherd Pass, looking west toward our goal--at the base of the dark jagged peaks on the far left, far distance.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood


Priestdaddy: A Memoir
Author: Patricia Lockwood
Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2017. 336 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:
The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed "The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas" by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI - despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family's simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.

My Review: 
I got this book from the library on the recommendation of a friend, and while it was not my usual reading, it was a good recommendation. Lockwood's language is highly visual, and that nick-name in the blurb is justified, but she made me laugh, as well as cringe.
Having to move back home as a married woman of 30 has to be hard for anyone, but it is particularly weird for Lockwood. Her father is a Catholic priest, and (as far as I can tell) a red-necked good-old-boy to the Nth degree. Where many people might just crawl into their shells and mope, or get into endless fights with parents whose belief system is so completely antithetical to their own, Lockwood takes a course that makes total sense to me: she begins to write a memoir of her childhood and her parents, observing and making notes on everything they say and do. It becomes more and more clear over the course of the book that Lockwood is moderately messed up in her own head, and that it's pretty easy to blame her parents. She manages to resist this urge to an admirable degree, and the book is remarkably non-judgemental.
You might wonder how the child of such religious parents gets so far out the other end of the spectrum, but I know myself that the children of preachers tend to either become preachers or atheists (we have both in my family), so in a way it makes perfect sense. And maybe it's partly that unreal world she's raised in that makes Lockwood think she can make a living as a poet (a poor bet, though at the time of writing the book she was starting to make progress, and I'm sure the memoir helped the bottom line). Even in her prose, Lockwood's roots as a poet show, and while sometimes the language slips over the top into too-arty (or too dirty), most of the time it works. I kept reading for both the outrageous story and the outrageous language.
My Recommendation:
I will recommend this, but not for the easily offended, either by naughty language or by irreligion. In fact, I think Lockwood treats her parents' Catholicism with a fair level of respect, but there is no denying it's also under scrutiny, and Lockwood doesn't hide her own feelings. The narrow-minded will almost certainly consider some parts of the book blasphemous.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Priestdaddy 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, August 6, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Seed Savers #2: Lily


Title: Lily (Seed Savers #2)
Author: S. Smith
Publication Info: Published 2012, 184 pages.
Source: Either a purchase or a giveaway

Publisher's Blurb:

It’s definitely not what she had in mind for summer vacation.

When her friends disappear under mysterious circumstances, thirteen-year-old Lily sets out to discover more about the secret organization with which they had become involved. Her investigation unearths a disturbing secret from her own past, unsettling her world even more. In the meantime, Lily makes a new friend and falls for a mysterious young man, even as she remains unsure about whom she should trust. As her world crashes down around her, Lily struggles to decide what to do next.

Lily is volume two of the Seed Savers series but can easily be read out of order. It is is a suspenseful and reflective book with themes of self-empowerment, trust, acceptance of diversity, gardening, and politics.

My Review: 

First: I shared space in the BookElves Anthology, Vol. 1 with S. Smith, so you could say we are connected. But that tenuous connection in no way influenced by review(s) (see my review of the first book, Treasure). Now, the review.

I'm going to start by disagreeing with the final statement of the blurb--these books should be read in order. Yes, this is a complete story on its own, but it will make more sense after the first, and offers some spoilers for the first book (inevitably).

I like the way the author has done this series (so far--I haven't read beyond this, though Book 3 is queued up on my Kindle) by focusing on different kids, friends and connected, but each with her own story. So this follows on Treasure, but doesn't actually continue Clare and Dante's story (I took a peek at the next book and I think that we may get back to them there). That does make each book stand alone, though as noted I think it's better to read in order.

What I'm less sure about is the strength of the story itself. There is an underlying tension because what Lily is doing with plants is illegal, but I admit I spent most of the book waiting for something to happen. The peril in this book is very gentle, suitable for young readers but probably a bit too gentle for the older elementary or middle-school kids who would better understand the message about food and government control. There is an interest in the revelations about Lily's family, but that isn't built up much--it just happens, and I wanted something more.

In fact, the most terrifying aspect of this dystopia is that 6 years have passed since it was published, and we are only moving closer to the author's vision of an authoritarian government, though the anti-corporate-food movement is still strong, at least in California. But the general lack of understanding of where food actually comes from rings all too true for far too many people.

Now, having looked at my review of the first in the series, I'm taking a minute here to think about why my reaction to this one was more lukewarm. Yes, I took issue with some aspect of Treasure, but I thought the story was strong and exciting. In this case, it just doesn't measure up. It's good, but I think I have to stick by my "medium" rating (I don't use stars on this blog, but you get the picture).

My Recommendation:
I think this series is important, because it's a dystopia that's all too easy to imagine actually happening. But I suspect the book will have trouble competing with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, though in fact it's aimed at younger readers than those (but we all know that the little ones are reading those books, and there's been a lot of escalation of story expectations in children's lit). It will make any reader want to learn more about gardening and cooking, though!

FTC Disclosure: I can no longer remember if I bought the Seed Savers Trilogy, or got it as a free book on a give-away, but either way I 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, August 3, 2018

Flashback Friday!

 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! And thanks to Jemima Pett, who has kept it going--visit her blog to add your name to the list!

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.

Yes, I know that was supposed to be last week. But I was confused, and shared photos instead. So here's a good flashback story. I wrote this about 3 years ago after a pack trip, and it's not really fiction. We had some good t-storms again this time, so I thought I'd pull it out. It's super short.

Fear and Trembling in a Tent

It is midnight in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and suddenly we are not sleeping. The weather was pleasant when we went to bed, and two days of hard hiking made it easy to drop off. I wouldn’t have been surprised had I slept soundly all night.

Thor and Odin and the crew have a different idea. The first boom of thunder—if it was the first; it was the first I woke to hear—is loud and close. The flashes of lightning sear the retina even with the eyes closed. We count off the seconds between flash and boom. Do the math. Two miles. One. Half a mile. A quarter. Then: holy shit it’s in the tent!

It isn’t. The mind knows that, because the mind is still there to think about it. But when the gap between lightning and thunder drops to near zero, and the ground shakes with the booming air, the mind is given very little say in my reactions. The gut takes over.

I am not scared of thunder. We are camped below tree line, well back from the lake and not atop anything, in the trees but not near a particularly tall tree. Even with the storm right atop us we are reasonably safe. As a general rule, I like thunderstorms.

And yet. My gut is haunted by the memory of a friend who died under a fallen tree, asleep—we can only hope—in his hammock. This isn’t at all the same thing; the wind is oddly light, though the same can’t be said of the rain. Some of it might be hail, but I’m not looking out to see. And if a tree has my name on it… there is nothing to be done now.

The storm is moving away. Because we are among big peaks and big canyons, the thunder continues to echo ominously even as it moves on. Eventually I drift off again, when the flashes no longer burn my vision.

Every time I wake up to roll over or adjust my sleeping bag, I can hear thunder, however distant. The storms go on all night, but I sleep anyway.


This year's t-storms weren't quite so much on top of us, and were in the afternoons rather than at night. But we got one good storm while camped in a high basin, surrounded by high peaks that made a great curving wall for the thunder to echo off of, so that every crack seem to roll on forever. And we had hail. Plenty of hail, which is amazingly loud on the top of a tent!

Storm clouds moving away after dumping rain and hail on us.

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG: Writing Pitfalls

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.

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August 1 question - What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

I like this month's question. Maybe that's because I can so easily answer: "If you want to finish your novel and be published, avoid major life changes like selling your home of 20 years." Okay, that's a legit stumbling block, but maybe not really all that helpful. 
I have learned a few real things in the course of writing and publishing 8 books, though. Probably the biggest pitfall for me in the early years was thinking that I couldn't write unless I had large blocks of uninterrupted time so I could really immerse myself. Not surprisingly, that kept me from writing at all until after the kids were in school and old enough to be sort of independent. The standard inability of a mom to complete an uninterrupted thought, let alone a novel, kept me from even trying.

Big chunks of time are nice, but what if you're in the 'grab a minute here and there' stage of your life? My best take-away from the two novels I wrote under those conditions (one of which rests quietly in peace and privacy; the other eventually became Death By Ice Cream) is that outlining is your friend. I wasted so much of the little time I had trying to figure out where I'd been and where I was going. Characters changed randomly, as well, so really, notes and character sketches and all that would have been helpful. With luck, these things will help focus the mental energy whenever a bit of it can be found.
Another pitfall, especially for the self-published author, is the deadline. This one cuts both ways. If you set no deadlines, you are very apt to never actually declare a book finished and publish. But if you hurry too fast to the target, you may release something that isn't ready. I've done both (fortunately I haven't had to pull a book entirely for a major re-write, but I have had to make a lot of fixes after publication on some of my books. This is partly because editing and proofing are done by barter, but more because I got in a hurry and didn't check everything).
That leads me to something that I really need to do for myself: make a pre-publication checklist, with all the steps I need to take, as well as a summary of the formatting that needs to happen (I have failed to justify more than one of my books; one I did on purpose as an experiment, but others have just been oversights, which I quickly corrected). As an author-publisher, I don't do this often enough for it to truly be second nature, so I need visuals and reminders.
I guess my advice all comes from my essential distractedness and lack of organization, because it's really all about making aids to keep scatteredness from derailing my progress.
I've been using this space to report on stories submitted, etc., but I have to admit (see initial comment about selling the house) that I haven't written or submitted anything since April, or maybe March? I did make a start on a short story during our recent backpacking trip, and I would like to work it up to something submittable. It's out of my usual genres (more "serious" fiction, or as serious as I can be), so it will take some work. I'm still trying to figure out how to get it to go where I want it it. 
I am also still turning over the ideas and plans for the next Pismawallops PTA mystery. Death By Library is starting to take some shape, if only in my mind. We can probably look for me to draft it in November (during NaNo), with publication in 2020 unless I get very efficient (or very bored) after we return from our extended travels in the first 5 months of 2019.
And there's still that poor mess of an MS from NaNo 2017, or was it 2016? Lots to work on, whenever I find time and mental energy (see above about learning to use whatever bits of time you have efficiently).