Sunday, April 21, 2019

#Fi50: Exactly

It’s #FictionIn50 time again!  Please consider sharing your own 50-word creations, and join the hop.

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 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 on the #Fi50 page. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

This month’s prompt is Exactly.


What did we think we were doing, anyway? A few minutes of delusion, and you pay with your life. Simon convinced me we could do the climb and be back before the weather went bad. 

“I never would have thought it could change so fast,” he muttered.

Never thought. Exactly.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

WEP: Jewel Box

Apologies for a lack of polish and all the usual info about the amazing WEP (Write, Edit, Publish) Challenge! And I’m on the road again, so I’ll be commenting as I can on the everyone else’s posts. If you are a participant, I’ll be around to see you before June :).  If you aren’t, consider joining in!

I originally mixed this up with last April’s challenge (the road less traveled), which made me want to do a photo essay. Even though that’s not what the challenge is, I could see the jewel box working for some of my photos, so here goes...

New Zealand itself is a jewel box of fantastic scenery, so I had to narrow this down. I decide to share photos of... some beautiful rocks I’ve found here! We have spent most of our time in the mountains, but we did get to the beach a few times. When we did, I wanted to pick up and take home every stone and shell I saw. Mostly I took photos and put them back. Here are some of the “jewels” I left behind.

“I left my heart in New Zealand”

 And a few shells, too.

Some of the best rocks you just can’t haul home.
Harris Lake/Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track

Friday, April 12, 2019

Photo Friday: Gillespie Pass/Siberia Valley

My husband and I are spending several months traveling and tramping in New Zealand. We arrived on the South Island Dec. 28, 2018, and spent January hiking like crazy with our 21-year-old son, Dave’s brother, and his wife. February and March we spend largely based in Christchurch with our son, and now we are on the road for a final 3 weeks to visit the North Island. But I’m still catching up with January. This was the last of our four major multi-night tramps in that month.

Gillespie Pass/Siberia Valley semi-loop

This was a rugged tramp with some seriously steep ups and downs, and some poor weather in the forecast. My sister-in-law wisely decided to sit this one out, but the other four of us headed out boldly. The trip began with a five-minute jet-boat ride across and up the river, thus saving us either a potentially dangerous ford or an extra 2 or 3 miles of hiking (from the nearest bridge).

It was interesting to see how they handled the jet boats. The river is too erratic to allow for any permanent dock, so they trailer the boats across the road, and back a mobile dock into the river!
Launching the dock. He then drove the boat around and moored it to the dock.
It was forecast to be a wet day, but the early morning had only a few sprinkles and things started off promisingly. The trail mostly followed the river, with an occasional detour through a meadow to cut off a curve. Later the detours were up and over steep bluffs.
Hopeful—or deluded—trampers hit the trail.
By late morning the rain had begun, and the ponchos came out. We were following the Young River upstream; at this point the river split (actually, of course, two branches came together). We had to cross one, but happily there was a bridge.
That strange blob isn’t an alien—it’s my son!
Lunch—the only time we got to sit down on the whole hike, since it was so wet out. Note the rather small size of dry area under the shelter!
The tank on the right is water collected from the roof, to provide drinking water. This is untreated but generally safe—we never bothered treating any of the water provided. 
The next morning the weather was better, and kept improving. We enjoyed the first part of the hike, up to the upper valley where we turned to go over the pass. The stream was a beauty.

Things got more interesting when we started up.
Yes, that’s the track, and yes, it really is that steep.
The view from the summit was stunning—both for the beauty and wildness of what we could see, and because I realized how far down we had to go—and the trail on that side was nearly as steep, and a lot longer.
The hut is around to the left on that lowest meadow. Ow ow ow.
The views were in all directions, though, and many of them I didn’t have to climb (or descend).

In spite of everything (including a gratuitous 500’ climbout of the upper valley adding to the total descent!) we made it to the Siberia Hut, which is very nice and fairly new, having burned in the last 10 years or so and been rebuilt.
My husband (right) and his brother relaxing in front of the famous view.
Next day, not having damaged our knees enough, we did a day-hike to Crucible Lake, which involved a similar sort of no-nonsense trail. First we had to cross the Siberia River. Brrr!
Happily only knee deep
Then we started up.
Tree roots make a good staircase. 
 It took another wet stream crossing, but we finally reached the lake. It is tucked so deeply into a south-facing (dark side) cirque that it never fully melts out.
My feet didn’t thaw, either.
Lunch always helps.

Fortunately, the final day was fairly easy. It began with some beautiful clouds.

Then it was farewell to the valley. Though it started with an easy valley walk, the trail did climb about 600’ before dropping to the Wilkins River. In 1996, my husband and I explored well up that river, then hiked 2 days to get out. This time we picked up a jet boat after lunch, at the point where we started our second day of walking down the river last time. As that hike ended in a nearly disasterous river crossing, we were glad to have the ride.
High winds added to the speed of the boat made it a *very* breezy ride!
This was our last major hike with the group, and we were delighted to be met by Carol, who had dinner for us in a warm, dry cabin out of the wind. We were glad not to be tenting as the wind was fierce all night!

Still lots more NZ adventures to come!

Text and photo copyright Rebecca M. Douglass. Please do not use without permission. Link-backs are always appreciated!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate

Another beautiful blue cover!

Title: Wishtree
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publication Info: Feiwel And Friends, 2017. 254 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

My Review: 
Wishtree was the selection for the March book of the month for the Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads. I was a little hesitant as I started it, both because a few people who’d gotten an earlier start on it didn’t entirely like it, and because of the timing. It’s a book that deals, in part, with anti-Muslim hatred—and I started it just before the Friday attacks on the mosques in Christchurch (where we are spending February and March). I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about more hatred.

I should have known better. Katherine Applegate addresses some tough issues in her books (see, for example, The One and Only Ivan), but she does it in ways that lead the reader to hope and understanding, not sorrow and frustration. A rather whimsical tale of love and community, the book might be described as magical realism—the situation is all too real, but the sentient tree who narrates it provides a unique perspective.

While some readers disliked the use of a patently unrealistic element (talking tree) in an otherwise realistic story, I found that it was easy to engage Wordsworth’s “willing suspension of disbelief” and accept the insider-outsider perspective the tree provides, and I think children will generally be happy with it as well.

Applegate’s writing is smooth and easy to read, without talking down to the children. There are some good giggles provided by the critters that inhabit Red (the tree), which will appeal to readers of all ages.

My Recommendation:

I think this is a good book for a gentle introduction to the issues, as well as being an enjoyable story with a generally happy ending. It’s suitable for kids perhaps as young as 7, as the writing is simple and straight-forward without being simplistic (thus maintaining the appeal for older children).

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Wishtree from my library, and received nothing from the author or the 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."   

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

IWSG: On the Road Again

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.

 This month's fantastic co-hosts:  J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken! 
IWSG: On the Road Again

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

Before I get to the IWSG question—which is kind of a fun one—let’s play catch-up on the news. First and beyond all expectations (though I hoped for it), I have beaten the draft of Death By Library into a shape I’m willing to share with beta readers.
If you’d like to give the book a read, let me know! It is Book 4 of the series, but will stand alone (and it’s always good to have readers who haven’t read the previous books). I really need at least 2 more readers, and the schedule is lax—I don’t even want to see it again until June!
Here’s the gist of the matter, since that effort hasn’t left me time to polish a blurb:

JJ has a new job at the library, and everything is looking peachy. But when things in the stacks turn deadly, she has to figure out who might have killed the local gadfly. It’s not like she has a lot of spare time. Her personal life just keeps getting more chaotic, and there’s never enough time to spend with her sweetheart, police chief Ron Karlson. That’s especially true with Thanksgiving on the horizon and her mother coming to visit!

This is unquestionably the fastest turn-around I’ve ever done from first draft to something I can share (of course, that’s because usually I alternate, and in January I edit the book drafted a full year earlier; this time I ploughed straight through). I like the continuity this provides, and may try to keep it up.

On other fronts: after 2 months of semi-settled life in Christchurch, NZ, we have gone back on the road/trail. In fact, this is posting automatically while we are kayaking and hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. I’ll respond to comments and make visits as soon as I can! This is kicking off 2 full months of travel—I don’t expect to be settled again until  June. The thought is kind of daunting—especially when I consider that we aren’t 100% sure how things will work when we finally get back to California.

Now for the question: if I could use a wish to help me write just one scene (of the book just finished, I’ll say), I’d pick the one where we unravel the mystery. That gave me trouble, and I’m hoping my beta-readers won’t tell me I failed :) That’s a good scene to pick anyway, since so much depends on that moment being convincing and reasonable, but not visible from a mile away.

How about you? Share your news, or tell me what part of a story is the hardest for you to write!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Middle Grade Audio Book: Almost Paradise, by Corabel Shofner

Title: Almost Paradise
Author: Corabel Shofner. Read by Eileen Stevens
Publication Info: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 288 pages in hardback. Audio edition by Blackstone Audio, 2017.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb: 
Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor's home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she's the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn't always mean going back to where you came from.

My Review:
Ruby Clyde is one of those characters who captures your heart from the opening lines. Her life has been challenging from the get-go, but waking up in the back seat of the car on her way to who knows where tells her things have just gotten worse. Building from event to event the author creates a story that shows the adults in Ruby Clyde’s life both failing spectacularly to do right by her—and going above and beyond to be sure she is okay.

After a lifetime of being the adult to her mother’s inability to function, Ruby Clyde meets up with something too big for her to handle. Her successes—rescuing Bunny, reaching out to her aunt—come from a combination of her own gumption and adult help, and don’t always work quite as planned. There is no illusion here: Ruby can’t go it alone. But neither can she sit back and do nothing in hopes that the adults will take care of matters.

The ending took me a bit by surprise, and I’m still not sure what I think of it. The book does leave the reader all too aware that the criminal justice system sometimes fails spectacularly, and sometimes drastic measures are necessary to fix it (more than that I won’t say, lest it be a spoiler).

The narrator is superb, capturing Ruby Clyde’s voice perfectly. As I listened I could see the whole thing, the result of a lovely combination of good writing and good reading.

My Recommendation:
I’d save this one for somewhat older kids, who are ready for the idea that “the system” is broken. Be prepared to discuss the ending with your young reader. I’ll say 10-12 years old for this, though aside from the difficult issues, the writing is quite accessible without talking down to the reader at all.

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Almost Paradise from my library, and received nothing from the author or the 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."