Monday, August 26, 2019

Hairspray, or, Why Haven’t We Been Going to the Theater?

So last week we were passing through Ashland, OR, and stopped over for the night with friends (because it's a long way from Seattle to home). We were just going to stay the night and move on, but they suggested we stay an extra night and see if we could get last-minute rush tickets for one of the plays. If you aren't familiar with it, Ashland is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which puts on about 8 or 10 different plays every summer. Several of the plays are by Shakespeare, but the rest are a mix, some well-known, others written or adapted for the festival. On Tuesday, the one with tickets available was Hairspray.

I can't say I knew much about the show, but our friends assured us it was fantastic--and it was. Which is what led to the question in my title: why haven't we been going to the theater?

Well, okay, there are some good reasons. Theater in San Francisco was ruinously expensive, plus you have to deal with the hassle of getting downtown to see it (and back in the middle of the night). We were busy, and tired, and for years the cost and hassle of getting a babysitter just made it too hard. It's been 6 or 8 years since a sitter was needed, but we got out of the habit.

And now I want back in. It'll maybe have to be community theater, college shows, etc., but all the better: those are affordable. I just want the magic of the dark theater and the lit stage taking me away to another world.

Everything on offer in Ashland this summer.
Yes, the fat girl can dance. So can a number of actors with physical handicaps who were part of the cast and performed well.

Friday, August 23, 2019

#Fi50: One Drop Too Many

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month (well, lately I’ve been using it for a Friday Flash near the end of the month as the spirit moves me). I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in! I didn't do a heads-up post this month, but feel free to jump in at any time.
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.

And here's the Linky List so you can add your post!
This is a Blog Hop!

You are next... Click here to enter
This list will close in 2030 days, 23 hrs, 43 min (1/26/2025 11:59 PM GMT)

What is a blog hop?
Get the code here...

Or just add your link in the comments below!  Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

The August prompt is...
One Drop Too Many

One Drop Too Many

The drought lasted so long. We prayed for rain for months.

When the rains finally came, we danced and hugged and gave thanks in the pouring rain, soaked to the skin and delighted.

When it didn’t stop, we prayed for the dam to hold.

The rain finally stopped.

Too late.


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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

WEP: Winter Heart 

Squeaking in under the wire, here's my entry for the August WEP (Write, Edit, Publish) hop! I've put a wheelbarrow in, but that's definitely not the title of my story, which is kind of a work in progress, as I let time slip away from me. 

I'm open to any level of critique; I may revise this and try to do more with it if I'm inspired :)

700 words; FCA

Winter Heart

One more load, Ilya told herseolf. One more load, and you can sit down in the shade for a few minutes. The unrelenting sun beat on her like a hammer as noon approached, bleaching whatever color there had ever been out of the summer landscape. Out of the everything.

The wheelbarrow that hauled Ilya’s firewood—what irony that, firewood when the mercury tickled the top of the long thermometer—had once been red, but like everything else, the color was long since faded to something mockingly like rust. No rust where there’s no water, Ilya reminded herself. In this climate, there was just color, drained away.

Drained away like all their hopes. Like Jacob’s life, sucked away by the dust that got in his lungs and no amount of coughing would dislodge.

That’s all water over the dam, was her message to herself. Water over that damned dam that had lured them in and never materialized.

“The damn dam,” she repeated aloud, and laughed. There were some compensations to living alone. No one to be shocked that while doing the work of two men, she’d learned to cuss like one. And there was that home-brewed beer in the cellar. She’d learned to make it because Jacob liked it. When he died, the unused bottles had sat in the cellar, until the water in the well fell so low that she’d drunk it in desperation. Now she made a batch every year, grew the hops herself, and when the well water grew warm and tasted richly of the algae that grew in any still water, those cool bottles in the cellar were a treasure.

Dry-land farming had never been their plan. There were to have been canals and irrigation ditches all over, creating a verdant paradise here on the bench so high above the river. The man who sold them the land sold an entire vision with it, but only the scorched dirt held any reality.

She’d finished the last load, pushing a barrow of sticks up from the thicket where the creek ran in the winter. Ilya stacked the wood and went into the house, down to the cellar.

In the cool dim of the cellar she stood a moment and let the heat and weariness of the day drain out of her. In the cellar she could almost remember the winter.

Winter. It was the winters that kept Ilya from leaving, trying her luck elsewhere, however difficult it might be. Life returned with the first rains of autumn. When the snows locked her into her cabin, she began to live again.

Ilya leaned against the cool earthen wall of the cellar, remembering. That first summer, when she had so longed to leave, to return to… no, not to that. But to leave, certainly. Only Jacob had kept her on the farm. For love?

She no longer knew if she had ever loved Jacob. She had gone with him when he asked, too grateful for what he did for her to care where he took her. She had stayed with him, and then with the homestead, from that same gratitude and, yes, perhaps it was love, that feeling that to abandon his homestead dream was to abandon Jacob himself.

By now, there was little of Jacob left about the homestead, and it wasn’t his dream that kept her there. It was fear.

Fear that if she left, she wouldn’t know what to do.

Fear that if she went back, she would know too well what to do.

Anyway, it was only in the summer she wanted to leave. Soon the fall rains would start, and she would come to life again, just like the plants that had turned brown and blown away under the sharp sun.

In the fall, Ilya worked with a will, and the creek returned to life.

But winter. It was winter that kept her there, more than fear, more than need. Winter, when the snow trapped her in the cabin for days and weeks, and no one could come near. When the creek might freeze, or might run swift, deep and icy.

Winter, when at last she was safe.

Winter, when her heart was at rest.


Wrong setting, wrong gender, but it is a wheelbarrow full of firewood, or something

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Guest Post today! Author Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Today, while I'm busy with visiting my family, Young Adult author Ronel Janse van Vuuren has come by to offer some thoughts on the special pleasures of the novella. Ronel is the author of Once... Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie; Dark Desires, The Fae Realm, and more, including her latest release, Magic at Midnight.

Power of Novellas

When you ask someone how they are, the standard answer has become: “I’ve been incredibly busy!”
“Busy”. That seems to be what we all are at any given moment. Work, children, relationships, hobbies, exercise – we are kept quite busy. Unexpected things happen and we have to somehow fit it into our busy lives.

There are ways to be less busy, of course. Hiring someone to do your laundry/clean your house/cook your meals/take care of your garden/chauffeur the children/pick up your dry cleaning/answer your emails: the list is endless on how you can outsource the stuff that eats up you time. Freeing you to do more work. To be more “busy”.

But we need to take some time for ourselves. We need to set boundaries. Maybe it’s that hour before bed, or waiting in line/at the doctor’s office, taking a break in the afternoon, or that hour in the morning before anyone else wakes up.

How do we fill that hour just for ourselves? We escape into another world: we read.

Regular length novels, read at a pace of an hour a day, can take a week to get through, leaving the reader in constant anticipation – or worse – adding unnecessary stress.

But a novella can be read in two hours. It offers an escape and a proper conclusion. In other words: a fulfilling read.

That’s why shorter reads are becoming more and more popular on online stores. Novellas can come in ebook, audiobook and paperback. They can come in series, standalone or standalone-in-series. They come in any genre and for any age group (well, those that have long novels).

Novellas fill the void, help those with “no time to read” and brings back the delicious escape that only stories can bring.

“Magic at Midnight” is one of these powerful novellas. Magic, intrigue, conspiracies, romance – what more do you need? There are pegasi, princesses and whispers of war. And did I mention that you can read it in two hours?

Even if you can only find five minutes for yourself a day, you can fill it with reading pleasure. And you can still look “busy” if you really want to.

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

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?

Friday, August 9, 2019

On the road again

This was supposed to be an excited "gone hiking" post about heading into the Canadian Rockies for a few weeks. Sadly, I developed a bad case of plantar fasciitis (if you don't know what that is... consider yourself lucky indeed), and won't be hiking for the next month or two, at best. But we're off to visit the family in Seattle, so there's that :) 

Since we are staying closer to civilization, I'll have wi-fi more often than I'd expected, but since I'll be busy, I've lined up a guest post, as well as a few pre-arranged posts of my own, and am letting the book reviews go a bit.

Please forgive me if I'm slow responding to comments, but I will get back to you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG: Writers' Surprises

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! 

August 7 question - Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming? 
The awesome co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray,Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

I talked about my writing last week, so I'll skip past that quickly and get to the question of the month. I'm making slow progress on my MS, working on polishing the writing, since it came back from the editors without any demands for significant rewriting. It's rewarding rewording (sorry!), but tiring so I don't try to do too much at a time.

Still hoping for better inspiration for the IWSG Anthology contest. My struggles here frustrate me because children's historical fiction is one of the things I most love to read, and I have a novel drafted that I haven't quite been able to bring to fruition. So why can't I make the story work?

Now for surprises from my writing.

Aside from the unpleasant surprise of having so much trouble with my story for the contest, I've had a few disconcerting shocks along the way. Sadly, never the happy one suggested in the prompt, but I've had some endings that didn't do what I expected. Biggest one I think was getting to the final chapters of my first draft of Death By Adverb--and discovering that I'd been fingering the wrong perp! That definitely was a surprise. It also made for a lot of work; once I'd figured out whodunnit and why I had to go back and rewrite a lot of scenes to make it work right.

My flash fiction (something I haven't been doing enough of lately!) has led to some disconcerting moments, as well. Usually that's when I look at a story and wonder uneasily just where *that* came from. Who knows what lurks in the subconscious mind? Apparently my keyboard does.

How about  you? Any fun surprises? Or scary ones? 

Surprising developments... like a downpour in the desert.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Photo Friday: The Milford Track

After driving the long way around from Christchurch to Te Anau (documented here and here), We launched into the 3-night, 4 day, 33 1/2 mile Milford Track tramp. Possibly the most famous track in New Zealand, this requires a lot of planning and advance booking--a year or more in advance. In fact, we had intended to do it first thing back in January, but a tiny delay in booking the huts meant we got late February instead. As it happened, that was a good thing: the January attempt by others in our party was rained out, while we enjoyed fine weather, at least where it mattered. The participants were my husband, Eldest Son, Friend B, and myself.

 The trip begins with an hour's boat ride up Lake Ta Anau; the start of the Milford Track isn't accessible by road (neither is the end, come to think of it). There are two or three boats per day; we were on the last boat, which was well-filled with those who would become our fellow trampers. A note on that: many of the Great Walks in New Zealand have parallel hut systems, for those doing Guided Walks (catered, allowing them to hike with just daypacks), and independent walkers (like us), who carry all their food and gear. The piles of packs on the boat were neatly segregated.
The first day's hike is only about 3 miles, so our late start wasn't at all a problem. The track on that day is an easy walk up the Clinton river to Clinton Hut.
Friend B and Eldest Son on the first of several swing bridges, a staple of NZ tracks.
 Most of the day's walk was in the forest, but a short side-trip took us into a marshy area, where we could not only see more of the peaks around us, but also some interesting plants, including the carnivorous sundew.
Not big enough to eat a hiker. The little pouches that close around small insects are about the size of my pinkie finger.
The independent-walker huts on the Milford Track sleep about 40 people. Since everyone must have a hut reservation to hike the track, they are full, but not overflowing. The biggest issue is that in a bunkroom with 20 people, there *will* be at least one snorer. Some of us employed ear plugs, while my husband ended up finding that the best sleep was to be had in the common room or even on the deck.
Getting ready to start on the second morning. Mixed clouds and drizzle greeted us when we eventually got started.
The early sun and blue skies combined with tantalizing glimpses of the valley and peaks ahead.
After the damp start, it looked very promising.
By noon, however, it was back to clouds and drizzle. But even that was scenic, as the mountainsides began to flow with countless waterfalls and cascades.

The second hut, Mintaro, was well draped in drying gear and boots, but with a fire inside we were toasty. And when the rain stopped (before sunset), we found we were being visited by a family of wekas, chicken-sized flightless birds with a tendency to explore and snatch anything left unattended.
Baby wekas, adorable balls of fluff.
Morning found us with more sun than cloud, and we made an early start in hopes of getting over Mackinnon Pass (the high point of the track in more ways than one) before the weather shifted again in the afternoon.

Morning clouds burned off for the most part.
The well-engineered track sometimes left me wondering if it was too engineered. The trees tapped to support this swing bridge probably would agree. I was happy not to have to ford the river, though.
As we move toward the coast, the annual rainfall increases. It was wet enough at the start, but Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world. The forest shows the effects of all that rain (measured in meters).
We topped the pass early, with the sun still burning through the mists.
Approaching the saddle
My husband and I climbed a ways up the peak on one side of the pass (he went much farther than I did because I'm not crazy). The view back down showed clearly why the track doesn't go right through at the low point, but in fact follows the ridge line into the background before dropping across the face of the distant peak.
The monument at the saddle is to the two men who pioneered the route, at least for the Europeans (pretty sure the Maori already knew about it).
We are going down there. My knees cuss me out at the very thought.
Near the high point there is a shelter, the 6th in that location (the others have literally blown off the mountain, as the saddle funnels very high winds through).
Looking back at the head of the Clinton river valley we came up.
There are regularly spaced "long-drops" along the track (the huts had flush toilets), including at the Mackibbon shelter. This one sported a window in the door so occupants can appreciate what was advertised as the best view from any long-drop in NZ. Might even be true.
With so many hikers coming through, I found myself standing in the queue for the loo with a view.
 Dropping into the valley of the Arthur River, the track had to be even more engineered in places.
The boardwalks and stairs took the track down alongside the Roaring Burn.
Because the day wasn't already long enough (11 or more miles, with the large climb and descent), nearly all the trampers take a 2-mile side trip to see Sutherland Falls, at 580 meters the highest in New Zealand, and by some standards the 5th highest in the world. It was worth the detour, though we barely reached the hut in time for dinner (which we had to cook ourselves, of course).
Too bad the photo can't capture the roar of the water striking the pool at the base.
The 4th and final day, hiking from Dumpling Hut to the landing at Sandfly Point was 11 miles, but once again we were hiking mainly on the flat valley floor. Because of our schedule (needing to catch a water taxi by 1 p.m. to catch a bus at 2), we made a very early start, and hiked briskly. That allowed us to do much of the distance in the pleasant early morning hours.
My husband saw an eel in the river here, but I missed it.
Because we hadn't already seen enough waterfalls... you can never have too many.
Mackay Falls
An occasional climb on the way downriver was more refreshing than tiring. This bit of trail was blasted out of the hillside above the river.

As a result of our early start and diligent hiking, we reached the landing with an hour to spare for the noon boat. With time to eat lunch and clean up, we were ready for our taxi when it arrived. By that time about 4 other hikers had arrived, at least one a women with a recent knee replacement who had worried she wouldn't reach the landing in time for the last boat at 4 p.m.

The Milford Track is one of the world's most famous walks, and justifiably so. The scenery was glorious and the track well designed. But for us, in many ways, it was the people on the track that made it most special (not something I usually say about a hike!). From the pleasure of taking Friend B on his first backpacking expedition to our awe at a family 8 and 12 year old kids who were doing the track as part of a year-long trip around the world, to a Chinese-American family from New Jersey learning the hard way how to backpack, we found no lack of interest in the people we saw each evening in the huts. I'm often skeptical of trips that require booking a year in advance, but this one was worth it.

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