Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Writer's Wednesday: #amwriting

Yep, you read that correctly! I have actually resumed work on my MS, and while the first thing I did was get distracted and went down a rabbit hole (or maybe a wormhole) of fixing some issues with an earlier book, I HAVE started! I have also started my story for the IWSG anthology. Unfortunately, I've started that 4 times (maybe 5. About 2 for the story I dropped because it's fantasy and adventure but not necessarily historical, and 3 starts on the story I want to write, a pure historical adventure). So I can't say the writing is going well, but the very fact that it's happening at all is huge.

Oh, and I've been working over the blurb for the new book, because my cover artist gave me a nudge...

Yeah, there's some hope that I might be a writer.

On the happy dance list:
--started to work on the MS
--started on my IWSG story
--enjoying tons of garden produce--canned 7 quarts of tomatoes on Friday, and made a peach pie for Sunday dinner with the family
--working out daily and starting to feel the difference (in something besides pain)
--installed a new light and ceiling fan in my work space, making it much more livable

On the er, um list:
--still haven't finished unpacking the boxes of books
--still haven't got the garage sorted and the tools/workshop set up
--no one has vacuumed or mowed the lawn anytime recently (not my job!)
--haven't touched my NZ photos in weeks, and they won't edit themselves... (this is changing, thanks to scheduling a photo post for Friday!)
--the watering system is acting up and I'm a bit out of my depth with it

Okay, you get the picture! It's a mixed bag. I'm trying hard to hang onto the successes and not beat myself up about the failures.

An inspirational quote to keep me writing!
And, finally--if I'm writing, I need readers! So take advantage of the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale and get my books for bargain-basement prices.

Monday, July 15, 2019

YA Audiobook Review: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes


Title: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Author: Chris Crutcher. Read by Johnny Heller
Publication Info: Recorded Books LLC, 2007.  Original: Greenwillow Books, 1993. 224 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune have been friends for years. When they were children, his weight and her scars made them both outcasts. Now Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known—sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she’s hiding before its dark current pulls them both under. Will appeal to fans of Marieke Nijkamp, Andrew Smith, and John Corey Whaley.

My Review:  

I'd heard about this book for a while, though I can't now recall why or where. I was vaguely under the impression that it was a middle grade book (for the 8-12 crowd), but in spite of having gotten it from the Kids' section of the library's Overdrive collection, it is definitely YA. The book deals with some pretty heavy issues (including child abuse, suicide, abortion, and sex), and does so frankly.

Now that's out of the way, on to the review. 

I was totally gripped by this book. I had no idea what to expect, and in fact I didn't really even read the blurb. I was just looking for something to listen to while I do chores, and thought "oh, I've heard of that. It's supposed to be good." So I wasn't prepared for the emotional power of the story, which was expertly balanced with humor and a lot of insight into the teenaged mind. The story is narrated by Eric Calhoune, and I liked that he doesn't totally justify all the sometimes hurtful things he's done over the years. Instead, Sarah's crisis triggers him to make a step forward closer to adulthood, and to consider himself and his actions a little more carefully.

Some tense moments round out the story, some just plain adventure-story tense and some tense with importance and emotional power. I might offer a critique that the danger-tense part felt a little contrived, though it's consistent with characters' actions throughout. On the other hand, it is also told in Eric's note-perfect self-deprecating style, so that even while I held my breath about the outcome I was also close to laughter at the process. A larger criticism might be that the author's political position and opinions come through perhaps a bit too loudly at times. That didn't bother me, because I largely agreed with them, and because Eric isn't rabid, but rather is trying to understand things. In fact, the strongest stance, in my opinion, is against those who think they know all the answers.

My Recommendation:

This book has both won awards and been banned about as much as any YA book. I get why both have happened. I come down on the "awards" side, because the book offers teens an avenue to start thinking critically about important issues. That it also offers a strong argument for backing away from dogmatic beliefs will make some parents and teens uncomfortable. My recommendation is that they read it anyway, and keep an open mind. I don't recommend it for kids under at least age 12. 

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Flash:

No, I haven't been writing enough to have a new flash for you today. But no fear--I have plenty of re-runs you probably didn't see or don't remember!

As a little encouragement to myself as I get back to work (at last!) on Death By Library, I have a short story from Pismawallops Island. Unlike the books, this is from the perspective of the town's police chief, Ron Karlson. I picked it in part because it features a character who plays a larger role in the new book.

In the Line of Duty

When his radio disturbed him, Ron Karlson was sitting in his police cruiser staring out to sea and thinking.

“Chief? You out there?” The Pismawallops Island police force, having precisely 2.5 officers, could be informal.

He reached for the handset. “Karlson here.”

“Homer’s lost his car again.” The dispatcher sounded like she was rolling her eyes.

Homer Roller. The biggest disaster ever to grace a cop car. He had a tendency to leave the car in odd places, forget where he’d parked, and hit the panic button, sure the car had been stolen. So far, it hadn’t been, but there was a first time for everything. Ron put the cruiser in gear and backed out of the overlook, not entirely sorry to leave his thoughts.

He picked up the deputy on the side of the road near old Mrs. Halsey’s place.

“Where did you leave it this time?” Ron asked, trying and failing to be patient.

“Right here. Honest, chief. I parked here, and was investigating a disturbance in the woods over there,” he gestured at the opposite side of the road from the ancient farmhouse where Mrs. Halsey refused to be removed. “There were some kids building a treehouse. I was my duty to ensure they weren’t trespassing.” Homer memorized a lot of his dialog in advance.

“Were they?” Ron pretended an interest.

“Naw. They said it was their old man’s property.”

Ron wondered if that were true, but didn’t press. He didn’t really want to know.

“And I came back here, and the car was gone. That’s all I know!”

“You left the keys in it?”

Homer kept his eyes on the floormat. “Yeah.”

Ron sighed. “So anyone could have taken it. Including one of those kids.”

“I don’t think so. They were little kids. Unless,” Homer conceded, “they had an older brother hiding somewhere. I didn’t hear any cars on the road,” he added before Ron could ask.

Ron drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, thinking. He knew what JJ would say about what he was about to do, but she’d lost the right to nag since she wasn’t talking to him. “We need to go ask Mrs. Halsey about this. She might have seen something.”

Homer turned pale. “The crazy lady? No way!”

“She’s not crazy. She’s old.” And suffering from dementia, which Ron knew very well was next door to crazy, at least by Homer’s standards. Ron wasn’t totally happy going in there himself. Mrs. Halsey had shot at him in the past. “I confiscated her shotgun last spring, so it should be safe.”

Homer sunk low in the seat as his boss drove them into the old woman’s yard.

“Huh. She’s not on the porch. Wonder where…” Ron had a sudden idea where the woman was, and he didn’t like it. They had to be sure, though, so he unbuckled and got out. He couldn’t help it; he twitched a little as he approached the front porch, but no one shot him, even after he hammered on the door.  He turned back to the car, where Homer continued to cower. “I’m going in—welfare check.”

“I’ve got you covered,” Homer quavered.

They needn’t have worried. No one was in the house. His suspicions confirmed, Ron went back out to the car. “I think I know who has your car,” he told Homer.

It took the deputy a minute, but he got it eventually. “Mrs. Halsey?!” His voice broke a little. “She can keep it!”

“No, she can’t,” Ron said, not that either of them needed telling. “She doesn’t have a license anymore.” Which was the least of it. He reached for the radio. “Tacy, we have a problem.”

They eventually found the car—and Mrs. Halsey—at the overlook. There were sometimes teens there necking, but they would have fled, not from the police car, but from Mrs. Halsey. She was in the car, grinning and playing with the lights and siren. Ron was happy to see that she hadn’t figured out how to remove the gun from its locked rack.

Even so, he approached with some caution. “Mrs. Halsey?” he called from a few feet away. She turned to greet him, still smiling. The car had made her happy, which made his task both harder and easier.

“It’s time to let Homer have his car back, Mrs. Halsey,” he said. “I’ll give you a ride home.”

The smile left her face. “I found this car. It’s mine.”

“No, it’s not. That’s not how it works. You know that.”

Her face fell. “I like it.” She showed no signs of moving.

Cursing the woman’s family, who dealt with her increasing dementia by staying as far away as they could, Ron tried another tack. “Come on with me, and you can run the lights and siren on my car, without the trouble of driving.” Creating a disturbance on the sparsely inhabited roads between the overlook and the Halsey home was a minor price to pay to get her out of the car.

“I like to drive.”

“Well, yes, but you know, it’s getting dark, and you don’t see so well in the dark. Better to let me drive and you have fun. Besides, the deputy needs the car. His mother’s expecting him home for dinner.”

“Fool kids,” the old woman muttered. Ron wasn’t sure to whom she referred—him, Homer, Homer’s mother, or all of them—but it didn’t matter. She climbed slowly out of the car, and followed him back to his cruiser.

Homer, seeing them coming, bolted. He was in his own car with the doors locked before Ron had helped Mrs. Halsey into the passenger seat. He made sure her seat belt was fastened.

Siren blaring, lights flashing, they headed back to the Halsey home.

The only thing the old woman said the whole way was, “Faster!”

Ron sighed. He liked happy endings.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Release Promo and Review: Poisoned By the Pier

I missed release day by a couple of weeks, but I'm here at last with a review the latest in Ellen Jacobson's delightful Mollie McGhie mystery series. I just finished a binge-read of the whole book!

Title: Poisoned by the Pier (Mollie McGhie Sailing Mysteries #3)
Author: Ellen Jacobson
Publication Info: June 2019, 242 pages
Source: I was given an ARC by the author in exchange for my honest review

Publisher's Blurb:

When Mollie's husband signs the two of them up for an extreme diet, she's not amused. When someone ends up poisoned by a cake, things get even worse.

While she tries to identify the killer, Coconut Cove’s annual boating festival is in full swing. In between getting ready for her first sailing race and cheating on her diet, Mollie and her cat, Mrs. Moto, uncover clues, interview suspects, and do their best to avoid rutabagas.

Can Mollie nab the killer before someone else is poisoned?

If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you'll love this cozy mystery. Pick up a copy of Poisoned by the Pier and laugh out loud from the first page to the last.

My Review:  

First, though this is my honest review of the book, I can't claim to be wholly unbiased. I didn't beta read this one, but have been a beta reader for the first two books in the series, Murder at the Marina and Bodies in the Boatyard (which I apparently didn't review). Still--it's the third in the series, and no one paid me to read it (in case you're wondering, I don't take money to read books), so you know I'm enjoying the adventures of the somewhat scatter-brained Mollie McGhie.

In fact, I think this is the strongest of the series so far. Ms. Jacobson has hit her stride, and her experience shows in the tight writing, and the more believable characters and situations. Mollie and her husband, in particular, have more depth to them and the book retains the signature humor and touch of absurdity without going over the top. I admit I had a pretty good idea who did it, and why, from about the mid-point, the author does a nice job of tracking Mollie's process of getting there. There's no question her route to the truth is more interesting than mine!

My Recommendation:

Summer's here and it's the perfect time to nab a copy for some vacation reading. Like the others in the series, it's a perfect beach read--nothing too substantial, and gripping enough to keep your attention. I do recommend reading the series in order, though there are no spoilers here--it's just more fun to watch the story unfold in order.

FTC Disclosure: I was given an ARC of Poisoned by the Pier, and received nothing further 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." 

Here's the info on the author, and where to pick up the book on sale.

Poisoned by the Pier, the third book in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, is now available in ebook, paperback, and large print.

New to the Series?

If you're new to the series, you might want to start with Murder at the Marina. Now is the perfect opportunity as the ebook is on sale for 99c/99p for a limited time.

About the Author

Ellen Jacobson lives on a sailboat with her husband and an imaginary cat named Simon. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she writes cozy mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy stories.

Connect with Ellen on her

You can also sign up for her newsletter for updates about new releases, current projects, sales and promotions, and other fun stuff.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Cozy Spotlight: Out of Options

Cozy novella spotlight!

Out of Options: A Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries by Dianne Ascroft

About the Book

Cozy Mystery Prequel Novella  
Independently Published (April 28, 2019) 
Paperback: 126 pages 
ISBN-10: 1096163373  
ISBN-13: 978-1096163374 D
igital ASIN: B07R4GQWQN
Out of Options is a prequel novella to the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, and introduces Lois Stone and her companions, Raggs and Ribbons, a pair of perceptive calico cats.
A dry district, a shocking secret, a missing person. When Lois Stone’s friend, Beth Darrow, arranges to meet her to reveal an astonishing discovery, Lois’s curiosity is piqued. Then Beth doesn’t keep their lunch date and Lois becomes worried. What has happened to her friend?
Middle-aged widow Lois is settling into life on her own in her neighbourhood and in the library where she works, and she is just about coping with her fear of strangers after her husband was mugged and died in the park at the end of their street. But her quiet existence is rocked when her friend and fellow local historical society researcher, Beth, arranges to meet her to reveal an exciting and shocking discovery she has made about the history of prohibition in West Toronto Junction, the last dry area in Toronto, and then goes missing before she can share her secret with Lois. There isn’t any proof that Beth is missing so the police won’t actively search for her. Only Lois and Beth’s niece Amy are convinced that Beth’s disappearance is very out of character, and they are worried about her. Where has Beth gone? Is she in danger? And, if she is, who might want to harm her and why? Lois knows she must find the answers to these questions fast if she wants to help and protect her friend.
And so begins a weekend of skulking in the park, apple and cinnamon pancakes, familiar faces staring out of old newspapers, calico cats, shadows on the windowpane, and more than one person who might want Beth to disappear from the quiet, leafy streets of the historic and staunchly dry West Toronto Junction neighbourhood.

About the Author

Dianne Ascroft is a Torontonian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland. She and her husband live on a small farm with an assortment of strong-willed animals. She is currently writing the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. Out of Options is a prequel to the series.

Her previous fiction works include The Yankee Years series of novels and short reads, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; An Unbidden Visitor (a tale inspired by Fermanagh’s famous Coonian ghost); Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves: A Collection of Short Stories (contemporary tales), and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, which explores Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross humanitarian endeavour.

Dianne writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her articles and short stories have been printed in Canadian and Irish magazines and newspapers. When she’s not writing, she enjoys walks in the countryside, evenings in front of her open fireplace and folk and traditional music.

Author Links

Website: http://  
Facebook page:  
Twitter: @DianneAscroft
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July 8 – I’m All About Books – GUEST POST
July 9 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 10 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT
July 10 – The Ninja Librarian – SPOTLIGHT
July 11 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
July 12 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 13 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
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July 15 – Sapphyria’s Books – REVIEW
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July 18 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW
July 19 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW
July 19 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 20 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
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Monday, July 8, 2019

YA Spotlight: Magic at Midnight

A few weeks ago I reviewed a short story/novella from Ronel Janse van Vuuren. I'm back today to spotlight another novella, just because it's free this week at Amazon! I'd hoped to do a review, but, yeah. Later :D I'll be picking up a copy while it's free!

Title: Magic at Midnight
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Publication Info: May, 2019. 98 pages

Publisher's Blurb:

Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?

About the author:
Award-winning author Ronel Janse van Vuuren mainly writes for teens and tweens, though she is known to write mythology-filled short stories for anthologies aimed at older readers. Her dark fantasy works, usually full of folklore, can be viewed on her website and on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase from major online retailers.

Sign up to be notified of new releases, giveaways and pre-release specials – plus get a free eBook – when you join Ronel’s newsletter

Connect with Ronel online:
Amazon author page
Ronel the Mythmaker, Website of Dark Fantasy Author Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Friday, July 5, 2019

Photo Friday: Paddling and Hiking Abel Tasman NP

It's been a while since I got out a photo post, but I haven't forgotten that I've a bunch of trips and sights still to share! I also realize I still haven't shared a couple of other trips we did before this one, including the Milford Track, but since I've started here, I'll do this and get back to the others.

Our visit to Abel Tasman National Park on the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand (got all that? :D) was a special one. We broke from our standard hiking pattern, as well as from the huts, and rented kayaks and reserved spaces in the beach-front camping grounds. The three-night, four-day trip involved two days of kayaking, then two days hiking back.

Abel Tasman is probably the most heavily visited of New Zealand's national parks, with as many as 5-7000 people on the water, beaches, and trails on a peak-season day. I could see why (and was glad that we were a bit off the peak).

On the drive north from Christchurch, we spent 5 or 10 minutes waiting while this crew figured out how to get their very oversized load around the curve at the end of the one-lane bridge. New Zealand driving has its own challenges!

After getting into camp in Marahau just at dark, we grabbed a quick dinner and a night's sleep. Our trip began early on the first day, with a quick orientation from the rental company, and an even quicker on-water test to see if we could paddle the kayak.
Our first effort went well, but we were missing a crucial element.
A second attempt went better, and we passed our on-water test and headed out with food and gear for 4 days loaded into the boat.
Photos on the water are all done with my somewhat antique cell phone. Apologies for the quality!
The route up the coast included several islands that serve as nesting and resting areas for birds and seals, as well as for kayakers unused to spending long stretches in the boat. We were happy to reach our first stop on Fisherman's Island, both because we needed to get out and because our long crossing of Sandy Bay was a bit more wind-blown than was comfy for rank amateurs just starting out. We enjoyed wading in the water, as ocean temperatures were mild and the day warm.

A short time later, we stopped at Adele Island to enjoy a snack, the bird life, and a little psyching up for the "Mad Mile" we'd have to traverse to get to camp.
Making sure the boat is well above the tide, which in fact was going out.
Going to launch the boat again on the lee side of the sandspit where we'd stopped, we discovered just how heavy that boat full of food and gear was. Happily, we were able to team up with another couple who'd stopped there, and four of us managed to drag the two boats over to launch. 

The Mad Mile proved well within our ability, and we soon landed at our night's lodging. The campsite at Te Pukatea was small, so it had a wilderness feel we got nowhere else in the Park.
Te Pukatea Bay was about as perfect as you could get.
We had time for a walk before dinner, and a 2 or 3 mile loop took us to visit the giant, bustling campsite at nearby Anchorage.
In the forest
Sunrise from camp

Day two saw us back in the boat early. The idea was to do the paddling in the mornings, before the wind picked up in the afternoons, and it worked especially well the second day. We enjoyed cool temperatures and calm water (especially appreciated when we were doing our awkward landings and launches).

Our route to camp 2 was not that long, so we had plenty of time to explore some beautiful lagoons on the way. Happily, Sandfly Bay didn't live up to its name, and we enjoyed the calm water.
Deep into Sandfly Bay for a preview of the trail we'd hike out.
Bark Bay had another large campsite on the sandspit, but we paddled farther in and enjoyed the quiet, making it back to the entrance just in time to avoid an awkward portage over the bar!

Another hour of paddling, and we rounded Foul Point and crossed more open(ish) water to circle Tonga Island. The law said to keep 5 boat lengths off to protect the seals and birds, but that was close enough to enjoy the wildlife. The rocky shore didn't exactly beckon for a landing in any case! Finally, after our longest span in the boat, we drove right in to Onetahuti Beach for our camp, and managed our most graceless landing yet. My bum had gotten so stiff sitting on the hard kayak seat and pushing the rudders that my legs wouldn't work right! I narrowly avoided taking a swim right there (which wouldn't have been that bad except for the embarrassment. The water was nice, but there were too many witnesses).

This campsite was quite a bit larger, and much busier, though we got there before most people (in time for lunch) so got our choice of tent site.
I always like a room with a view.
 After lunch, the water taxi came and hauled away our boat. It was feet from here out.
A little sad to see it go. We enjoyed the paddling, and it was much faster than hiking.
 Again, we took the afternoon for a modest hike, following the Abel Tasman Track on to the north until we reached a viewpoint that allowed us to gaze off into eternity. We caught a glimpse of the long sandspit that is the northwesternmost bit of South Island. Beyond that, continuing in a straight line, you might just catch the north end of North Island. If you missed that, you'd keep going until you ran into eastern Siberia. 
My camera couldn't pick up Siberia, so I stuck with Awaroa Bay. That's the last pick-up for water taxis, and as far as rental kayaks are allowed. I suspect the coast, and the track, get a lot wilder from there.
 The main track is pretty much a highway, complete with some fantastic bridges.
Avoiding a wade across the end of the estuary.
The Onetahuti campsite is well-used, and the wekas (chicken-sized flightless birds with a taste for people-food and trouble) know it. Here and the next night, at Anchorage, pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down and zipped in was subject to theft by weka. We speculated that there must be quite a bit of trash in the woods around the camp, because we stopped several thefts from other peoples' camps, and were unable to stop several more. Most of what they took wasn't edible (like our map, which we got back).
A weka pulling snacks from an unattended pack.
The next morning saw us loading our packs and hitting the trail/track in the more usual way. We still wanted an early start, since even with the season shifting on towards fall it was plenty warm at mid-day. In any case, the light is best early and late.

It was interesting to walk back along the coast we'd paddled. Particularly fun was crossing the high bridge and taking the trail around the back of the lagoon at Bark Bay.
We'd paddled into this just 24 hours before.
We bypassed the chance for a 4-mile RT detour to Cascade Falls (by this point in our NZ trip, we'd seen a LOT of waterfalls!), but dropped our packs and took the shorter trip to Cleopatra's Pool. Lots of folks dayhike there from Anchorage after boating in, so it wasn't a solitary spot. If it had been, I'd've been skinny-dipping in there!

Even with the detour, we managed to reach camp by early afternoon, and were able once again to pick a site with a water view. It was a bit of a madhouse for much of the day.
Serious kayak parking lot.
Once the last water taxis left, however, things got a lot quieter and we enjoyed a peaceful night--aside from periodic weka attacks, which fortunately ceased with darkness. In the morning, the beach which had been teeming the previous afternoon was utterly deserted when we started off at 7.

For a coastal walk, we found that the track did a lot of climbing and descending. One of the biggest climbs was up from Anchorage (the other biggest was just before dropping into it at the end of the previous day), but the view back was worth it.
Looking back in the early light.
The last day's hike was the least scenic, but it was still worthwhile as we circled above one cove after another. Nonetheless, we were happy to reach the trail's end (or beginning), though we had to flip a coin to see who'd walk another 3/4 of a mile to get the car (actually, I volunteered, as my husband was having foot issues).

Another trip successfully concluded! The kayak rental included showers at the end of our trip, even though our boats had been returned two days before. So we were able to eat lunch in a civilized manner before driving to Picton to catch the ferry for the North Island.
Half fish & chips, half vegetable sandwich. Our last meal on South Island.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

By the way, don't forget to check out the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale for great bargains on my books and thousands more!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IWSG: Writing yourself into your characters

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. 

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. 

Remember, the question is optional!

July 3 question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!
Before I get into the fun of answering the question--which is a great one--just a quick note on my writing status. Moving has taken a lot more time and a lot more out of me than anticipated, so I'm still hovering just on the brink of working on the edits for Death By Library. But I *am* getting back to work on being a writer. I succeeded in writing a story for the WEP, and (insert triumphal trumpet blast) I managed to read all the stories! Incidentally, it's a great bunch of tales, as always, so take a look.

What's more, I've begun working on my entry for the IWSG anthology contest, and have some hope it will be a decent entry (though I'll admit it's a little early to tell).

Since our house is starting to look a little more like a home and less like a storage unit, or the aftermath of a disaster, I have hopes that my creative energy will be returning and I'll soon be up and running!

Now, for the question...
What personal traits have I written into my character(s)? Certainly people who know me and read my books see me in both my female main characters (Big Al of the Ninja Libarian series, and JJ McGregor of the Pismawallops PTA Mysteries). I have given both characters a certain sense of independence and self-reliance that I aspire to, and maybe I share the bristly personality that shows up in each of them, too! 
While Al shares my tomboy tendencies--carried farther than I have ever done--JJ reflects more of my "community rabble-rouser" self. And that aspect of her is also much more pronounced than in me (she may have more in common with my aunt than with me; I wasn't much at that kind of involvement until dragged kicking and screaming into it). That she shares my love of coffee and chocolate is more a stereotype than a reflection of me in her!
While a superficial look might make one think I've just written them like myself, my characters are wholly alive and independent in my mind. Neither Al nor JJ is me. On the other hand, every character carries some aspect of the author,* and even Halitor, the hapless hero of my eponymous tale, shares some of my traits and feelings. 

*While I might want to deny that this is true of my villains, I have to figure that some parts of their personalities come from me. If I think about it, I can probably figure out which parts.

So how about you? Do your characters resemble you in obvious ways, or in more subtle ones? Do you agree that all the characters we create carry some germ of ourselves?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!

All of my books are discounted or free as part of the huge Smashwords Summer/Winter sale! That link will take you to the main sale page, your portal to thousands of books free or deeply discounted.

But you don't want just any books. You want MY books. And you shall have them. Just go HERE and you'll find them all, none for more than $1.00!

This sale is only good a, but here's the good news: when you buy my books from Smashwords, you can download whatever version you need, and you can do more than one. Buy Death By Ice Cream at Smashwords, and you can download a .mobi file for your Kindle, and an epub file for your Nook. All I ask is that you do them for only your own devices. Here's another secret: Smashwords pays authors better than Amazon does. Are you surprised?

So pop on over and get some fantastic books! (While you're there, pick up mine, too.)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Cozy review & Guest Post: Death By Dissertation

 Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Nebraska
Emerald Prairie Press (April 17, 2019)
Paperback: 355 pages
ISBN-10: 1733742409
ISBN-13: 978-1733742405
Digital ASIN: B07PKRD658

Publisher's Blurb:
Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.
A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.
Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.
My Review: 
Having nearly died my own death by dissertation (admittedly a long time ago, but I haven’t forgotten), when I saw this title I had to read the book! I’ve also spent my life in or on the edge of academia, so there was a certain familiarity to the setting and the issues Cassandra faces. Of course, small-town Nebraska is kind of out of my area (though I think the story is set not too far from where my family left back in 1904...), but it all added to the fun.

I expected a well-structured mystery, and I got it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book also took on issues of racism—our understanding of the deaf. These added layers more than compensated for any weaknesses in the mystery. I do think the mystery is well done, but I admit to finding myself a little lost at times in the motivations (or maybe, a little unwilling to believe in the scenario, especially given the strong need of the administrators to protect the school from any bad publicity). The unraveling at the end felt a bit abrupt, and left me a little confused—it might take two readings to get the whole story worked out.

Though I had a pretty good idea early on who did it, the author still managed some surprises for me. Maybe the most pleasant surprise was the depth of character development of the main character. If other characters remained a little less clearly defined, that felt right, as they are seen through Cassandra’s eyes, and she’s still getting to know most of them.

Romantic balance was right on, in my opinion—it was definitely present, but equally was definitely not the focus of the story. The greater distraction from the mystery was the serious story about change, adapting, and acceptance of others. I’ll take that distraction.

A cut above a beach read. I’d call it a solid mystery, and a series with promise. I’m pretty sure there will be more romance as the series goes on, but was glad to find no recipes, patterns, or talking cats, so I have hopes that the romance won’t ever dominate the story.

FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Death By Dissertation from Great Escapes Free Book Tours, 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 what you're really waiting for--author Kelly Brakenhoff has been kind enough to stop by and talk about the process of bringing the book from keyboard to publication--and what kind of rewards that calls for :)

Before we do that, let me introduce Kelly:

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.

Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.

When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.

Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, released April 22, 2019.

Now, here's Kelly.

Like a good bottle of wine, writing a book takes time.

Whether your goal is losing weight, running your first 5K race, or writing a novel, how do you know when you deserve praise for a job well done? Is it when your scale says you hit the magic number, you crossed the finish line, or you hit the New York Times best seller list?

I dreamed of publishing a book for almost as long as I can remember. Granted, in the four plus years it's taken me to publish Death by Dissertation, the average vineyard has probably produced four or five vintages worth of wine. It took me nearly two months of writing 1,657 words a day just to get the 80,000 word first draft on paper. I did pause then and eat a special family dinner and drink a large glass of wine to celebrate.

About sixteen months ago, my friend and I took a girls' getaway trip to Napa Valley. Normally my husband and I are cheap wine people, but that weekend I splurged big on a bottle of 2015 Barnett Vineyards Merlot. I might have been influenced by the gorgeous view from their hillside vineyard.

I told myself I'd save that bottle for a special day. It sat in the wine rack with a little sticker so we wouldn't mistake it for a Trader Joe's everyday wine. Months and months passed. I rewrote the opening chapters twenty times, got comments from early readers, suggestions from my editor, and procrastinated like a champion.
No day seemed special enough to break open the good wine. Eventually I became more uncomfortable with not finishing the book, than my fear of whether the book launch would be successful. Isn’t that what holds us back from accomplishing our goals? What if I did the thing I’d dreamed of forever, and it was so bad that even my sainted mother hated it?

I had to find an internal motivation for finishing my dream, because a fancy glass of wine wasn’t enough incentive to get through my fear of failure. Letting go of the results and focusing on doing the work in small portions was the only approach that helped me stop procrastinating. I did a little bit each week until it was done. Works in losing weight, eating healthy, or running races. 

Finally, in January this year, I circled April 22nd on the calendar and wrote “Publication Day.” Working backward from that date, I hired a cover designer and took a crash course in launching a book. Even though I’ve studied and worked harder on this than practically anything else I’ve previously attempted, it has also been rewarding. Not because I hit the NYT bestseller list (because c’mon, very few authors do), but because I’m doing The Thing I Was Meant to Do.
Uncorking that Barnett Vineyards wine bottle on April 22nd was exhilarating. The wine was smooth, fruity, oak-y and delicious. I’m so glad we paused to celebrate that moment and looked back at how far I’ve come the last four years. I already have more dates circled on my calendar and plan to celebrate them, too.

I’d love to hear from you how you took a big project and broke it down into small enough chunks that you were able to accomplish your dream. What have you always wanted to do? And what do you do to motivate yourself if it’s not a fancy bottle of wine or a piece of chocolate cheesecake?
Thanks for sharing that, Kelly! As for me, I choose frequent chocolate rewards, and, um, yeah. I don't actually have to accomplish anything to get chocolate so I'll get back to you on that one!

Author Links
Website –
Amazon – Https://
Instagram –  @kellybrak

Purchase Link – Amazon  June 22 – 30 – Just $0.99!!

June 17 – The Layaway Dragon – REVIEW
June 17 – Only By Grace Reviews – REVIEW
June 18 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE
June 18 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
June 19 – Island Confidential – REVIEW
June 20 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 20 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
June 21 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW  
June 21 – That’s What She’s Reading – GUEST POST
June 22 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW
June 22 – MJB Reviewers – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 23 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
June 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
June 24 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
June 25 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW
June 25 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 26 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
June 26 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
June 27 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW  
June 27 – I’m All About Books – GUEST POST
June 28 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
June 29 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW, GUEST POST
June 30 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW