Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Blast: Keep Writing With Fey

On this "Writer's Wednesday," I'm pleased to announce Chrys Fey's new writing book, Keep Writing With Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout. The copy I bought has just landed in my Kindle, and I look forward to reading it. I've followed Chry's blog for some time, and gotten good tips from her about working through burnout, depression, and more. So take a look...

Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!


When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:


·        Writer's block

·        Depression

·        Writer's burnout

·        What a writer doesn’t need to succeed

·        Finding creativity boosts


With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.





Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo





When I shared my story about depression and writer’s burnout, I received many emails, comments, and Facebook messages from other writers thanking me for my bravery and telling me about their own trials. That really put into perspective for me how many people suffer from depression and/or burnout in silence. I had no idea those individuals were impacted by these things, just as they hadn’t known that I was, because my outward presence to others was always happy and smiley and bright.

After the supportive response and upon realizing how many writers in my online circles were struggling, too, I wanted to do something to help. I was candid with my experiences and blogged about the things that assisted me through the rough times in the hope that it would aid others.

During this time, I recognized the need for writers to receive support, guidance, tips, reminders, and encouragement during their writer’s block, depression, and burnout. That’s how I got the idea for this book. A book not just about depression or only about writer’s block, but both, and much more.

Since you have picked up this book, that means you may need assistance with one or all of these areas, and I sincerely hope you find what you need here…that tiny spark to get you through whatever you are going through.

As always, keep writing.

Keep believing.

Keep dreaming.

Chrys Fey


Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.



Friday, July 10, 2020

Photo Friday: Washington Dayhikes and Sunsets

My boys and I traveled to Seattle to spend a little time with family, especially my mom and my brother and his family. It was a good time to relax and get taken care of a bit, and we also fit in a couple of dayhikes with Dave's brother and his wife. Seattle was delightfully cool and while we never did see Mt. Rainier (never in the right place at the right time), we enjoyed some good views of other things.

Our first and best hike was a 9 1/2 or 10 mile hike to Melakwa Lake. Like most of the hikes near Seattle, I'd been there before--30 years ago. Funny, but I didn't remember much about it.

The hike starts out climbing up beneath the westbound lanes of I90. It felt a bit like the Ewok world in Star Wars--all forest and primitive, then up above there's this space-age transportation thing.

Fantastic waterfall 1/3 of the way up.

We enjoyed our lunch at the lake, but weren't inspired to swim, as temps were in the high 50s and there was still snow down to the water in places.

The second hike, up the Ira Spring trail to Mason Lake, was less scenic, and as we'd failed to realize Friday was the holiday for the 4th, far more crowded than we liked. I did get a few good shots, though.

Trufula trees, er, bear grass grew in several places along the trail.

I'm pretty sure these are a berry, but my mind refuses to come up with an ID.

Nearly every night gave us a beautiful sunset from my brother's home, too.

We were definitely a little sorry to come home, back to the land of way too hot!


All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Non-fiction Review: The Winter Army

Title: The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America's Elite Alpine Warriors
Author: Maurie Isserman. Narrated by Brian Troxell
Publication Info: Audible Audio, 2019. Hardcover 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pages
Source: Library digital resoures
Publisher's Blurb/Goodreads:
The epic story of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose elite soldiers broke the last line of German defenses in Italy’s mountains in 1945, spearheading the Allied advance to the Alps and final victory.

At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom by 1943 blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time it deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, they spearheaded the Allied drive in Italy to final victory.

Ranging from the ski slopes of Colorado to the towering cliffs of the Italian Alps, The Winter Army is a saga of an unlikely band of soldiers forged in the heat of combat into a brotherhood whose legacy lives on in US mountain fighters to this day.

My Review: 
I’m a sucker for interesting books about bits of WWII, as well as for books about mountaineering and outdoor adventures, so of course I had to check this one out. I got the audiobook from my library, and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it as compelling as I expected. The story is well-written, and many of the players are familiar: David Brower (Sierra Club), Fred Beckey (who wrote THE mountaineering guides to the Cascades), and a couple of other names I knew all showed up on the roster of the 10th Mountain Division.


What held it back was in part how much of the book was about the drive to create the force, and the initial struggles to get it going. The other disappointment was finding out just how little of their mountain training they ended up using. I knew about the elite mountain troops, and somehow I had thought they got to prove that their training and expertise were worth it. Instead, they had very little opportunity to do so, though they fought valiantly and well when they got to Italy, and played no small role in the Allied victory there. They just didn't get to do it on skis.


Reality interfered with a great story, and left us with a very good story, well told. This was an unusual bunch of men, many of whom chose to serve as enlisted men in the 10th rather than as officers elsewhere. They deserve their own chapter in the history books, and I am glad to have read it. Kudos to the narrator as well, for an excellent delivery that never called attention to itself.

My Recommendation:

Another worthwhile chapter for those interested in those who fought WWII, and how they did it, with a bonus for the skiing and mountaineering.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Winter Army 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 3, 2020

Photo Friday and Smashwords Sale!

So, before I get into sharing more photos from Antarctica, you have to hear about the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale. All my books are on sale, and for this first week of July, they are 75% off, which means the ones usually 99 cents are free--a great chance to get in at the start of each series! Jump on the chance, because I'm going to reduce the percentage off each week, unless I forget (yeah, I'm not really expecting great things of myself).

Find my books at my Author Page and stock up!
Just missing the latest, Death By Library and The Christmas Question--but you'll find them all on sale at Smashwords!

Okay, now for Antarctica #6, 

Cierva Harbor Zodiac Cruise

As with my last photo post, I'm offering minimal commentary. This was the next-to-last day of landings and adventures, and as you will see, weather was damp and dreary, but even under those conditions the light in Antarctica could be beautiful.

Coming into the harbor in the morning.
First view, an Argentine base. It was closed for the season, but is in regular summer use. The red buildings are a nice bit of color in an often black-and-white landscape.

Humans move out, penguins move in. I'm pretty sure this was a colony of gentoo penguins.
We then went off to look at icebergs and watch for wildlife in the harbor.

I'm still not sure exactly how these striations were formed. Has to have something to do with the layers in the snow (tilted 90 degrees).
Finally we found our critters--a leopard seal that checked out each zodiac in term, probably trying to decide if there was anything there it could eat.
Note that by now it's raining for real. You can see the rain hitting the water.

Our guide warned us not only to keep our hands out of the water, but to actually move away from that side of the boat, because they can lunge up and grab things, like tourists.

A farewell gleam of sun hitting the clear ice on one jagged mini-berg.

All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

IWSG: The Future of (indy) Publishing?

The first Wednesday of every month is the Insecure Writer's Support Group posting day, where writers can express their 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! Check it out here and join if you want support with your writing. 
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. 
Remember, the question is optional! 

July 1 question - There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade? 
The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox!


I've been writing quite a bit lately about my efforts to get back to being a writer after the death of my husband. That project continues as slowly as the general project of getting my life back--no, not back, because there is no "back", but getting my life moving on to somewhere. Since I haven't much to add on that, today I'll try to answer the question of the month.

Since I am an author-publisher, I was moved to think about changes in self-publishing. I have been publishing for about 9 years, I've already seen some change. Some of the changes I've seen over the years are good (like better software to make ebooks that really work), some not so good, so before I think about the future, I'll comment on the past.

When I first began publishing, Createspace was an independent company, not a part of Amazon, and the merging of those two is the key to pretty much all that I'd like to see change. In a nutshell: we've been moving to a total monopoly and that is a very bad idea.

I think Amazon is trying to crush Smashwords (my favored ebook platform), but I'm happy that Smashwords is holding on, providing an essential way to publish to all the ebook sales platforms aside from Amazon. Of course, Amazon would like all those other platforms to go away. I would like to see the distinction between .mobi and .epub go away, so all books could be bought and read from any platform on any device.

If Amazon is to lose its stranglehold, their Kindle Select program must drop the exclusivity agreement. As a writer, I am doing my tiny part to try to force this by refusing to sign the agreement, and thus losing out on whatever tiny income I might make from the program. For me, it's worth it.
I would also very much like to have an independent Createspace or similar back (I've not yet really tried to find another paperback publishing platform that would offer full distribution at no cost). Again, it's about breaking the monopoly Amazon has and is trying to increase. Their plan is bad for readers and writers alike. Without competition, Amazon can pay authors what they want to (very little) and charge readers what they want. Lose-lose.

I'd love for all sorts of other things to happen, like some way to sort out and mark self-published books that  meet a high standard of writing and formatting, and I'd love for someone to find a way to manage marketing that doesn't cost a fortune or require one to be an extrovert. But even more than that, I want to prevent the death-knell of an Amazon monopoly.

So I guess this month's question kind of triggered a rant :)  Sorry-not-sorry.   How about you? What would you like to see in the future for publishing?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Ghost, by Jason Reynolds


Title: Ghost (Track #1)
Author: Jason Reynolds. Read by Guy Locknard
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster audio, 2016. Hardback by Atheneum, 2016. 192 pages
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb (from Goodreads):
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

My Review:
This was another book from the GMGR list of books by Black authors. I'm not much into "sports books," but as a former runner I thought it looked intriguing, and it was. Ghost is a kid who clearly feels like he has long since been put in a pigeonhole and is pretty happy to stay there, though he never really intends to cause trouble... but he doesn't suffer bulllies and teasing with any patience, so trouble finds him. And he doesn't always make good decisions.

The author does a nice job of showing that Ghost is a kid who suffers as much from his own idea of how people are seeing him as from their actual perception of him, though he certainly gets picked on more than his share--and pushes back, hard. The middle school setting is key. I don't think at any other stage of life are kids so mean to other kids about stuff that is so unimportant. So Ghost has a load of anger to carry around, anger at his father and his classmates and the principal and the world. He also has PTSD from the terrifying experience of his dad trying to kill them. He's not on the way to any big trouble--yet--but he's not going anywhere else, either.

Will running track save Castle? We don't know. The author takes the story to the point where we know he has a chance. What he does with it--and how he runs when the pressure is on--are left for us to imagine (or maybe for the sequels, since Goodreads lists this as first in a series). The story is pretty strong, the characters a little bit running to "types," but generally clear, and the appeal to kids is clear. I wouldn't rate it as the best of what I've read, but for a sports book, this ranks pretty high with me.

The narration is good, and really brings Ghost (1st person narrator) to life.

My Recommendation:
A good read for the sports-minded, and one in which the race of the characters is significant, but isn't the point of the story--which to me is stronger story-telling. Ages 9-13 or 14, I think.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Ghost 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." 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Writer's Wednesday: #AmWriting

I am writing. At this point about 200 words at a sitting, once or twice in a day, and my story is growing. It's not a very good story; continuity is about what you'd expect. But that's not the point. I'm writing, and for 5 or 10 minutes at a time I am losing myself in the story, struggling to visualize a truly alien alien.

I have also made notes on two more chapters of Death By Donut, which brings me close to the end. I'm making notes on a part of the book I think will need a complete rewrite, but at least I'm getting clear on what I have and what will need to be kept, moved elsewhere, or otherwise modified.

I have also done routine maintenance on the blog, adding links to my posts from 2020 on the appropriate pages in the header. I'm still eying the mess those long lists are and thinking about organizing them--you know, reviews alphabetical by author, that sort of thing. The truth is, that's about a likely to happen as me color-coordinating my sock drawer (hint for those who don't know me: pigs may also fly).

My goals for the next couple of weeks: continue 1-2 paragraphs a day on the story, and finish the notes on the novel. And: make that LT edition of Death By Library. It really isn't that hard, and Mom's friends are waiting.

That's it. Plenty of goals for the next week or two. I'd like to promise more photos, but I can't make that a promise. I'm sharing when and how it feels okay.

One jagged, worn, but still beautiful iceberg:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: The Other Half of My Heart (audiobook review)

I'm not doing too well at reading real books right now. Mostly if it's words on paper (or e-ink), I'm re-reading comfortable old books. But I'm listening to a wider range of books. The Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads was nominating books by Black authors for our July read, and I ended up adding most of the nominees to my TBR list. I've been listening to the ones that I can find at the library. The first was The Other Half of My Heart, by Sundee T. Frazier.

Title: The Other Half of My Heart
Author: Sundee T. Frazier
Publication Info: Listening Library, 2011. Hardback published 2010 by Delacourt Books for Young Readers, 304 pages
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher's Blurb:
When Minerva and Keira King were born, they made headlines: Keira is black like Mama, but Minni is white like Daddy. Together the family might look like part of a chessboard row, but they are first and foremost the close-knit Kings. Then Grandmother Johnson calls, to invite the twins down South to compete for the title of Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America.
Minni dreads the spotlight, but Keira assures her that together they'll get through their stay with Grandmother Johnson. But when grandmother's bias against Keira reveals itself, Keira pulls away from her twin. Minni has always believed that no matter how different she and Keira are, they share a deep bond of the heart. Now she'll find out the truth.

My Review: 
This book is about race and blackness and the difficulties of a white person understanding the experience of a black person. But what makes it a good book is that it's also about the complexities of sibling relationships, the world of beauty pageants (oops--"Programs," as the organizers keep insisting: "It's not a pageant!"), and maybe even regional differences in the US.

What the blurb doesn't mention is that Minni and Keira live in Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State--about as far from the South as you can get, and not far from where I grew up. And I liked that what Minni sees as the most interesting thing about them isn't that they are a pair of bi-racial twins, but that they were born in their dad's airplane.

The story is narrated in the 3rd person, from Minni's perspective, and it is her uncertainly about where she fits that in many ways drives the narrative, because she looks white, but identifies as black--except... does she? That's the underlying uncertainly she feels, and the trip to the South clarifies a lot of things for her. In Port Townsend, she "fits in" and Keira is the odd one, the only black child in their classes, or their community. Minni thinks that the teasing she gets for her red hair and freckles (I identify with that, too!) allows her to understand her sister's experience, but she's forced to see that it really isn't the same.

And the pageant? The author isn't too hard on that, but she does poke fun (deservedly so, to this tomboy) at the culture of pageants, with the inevitable artificiality of at least some of the participants, and the over-involvement of too many of parents. Grandmother Johnson is another shallow (grand)mother, just wanting them to succeed to prove something for her... or is she? One of the many things Minni and Keira have to learn is that people are more complicated than they look from the outside.

My Recommendation:
This is a very good read, and is particularly timely right now. I wouldn't have minded a little more discussion from a feminist perspective of the whole pageant thing--the twins' mother sees it from there, but not much is made of it. But the questions of race, and of being an "ally," are very well presented, in my opinion. There are no easy answers, but the sisters' love is the thing that stands out.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Other Half of My Heart 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, June 19, 2020

Walking in the park

I am fortunate to live in a town with one of the best "city parks" anywhere. Bidwell Park offers tranquil walks along the creek in town, and "real" hikes in the upper park, up Chico Creek's scenic volcanic canyon. I've been spending a lot of time through the COVID lockdown hiking and biking the park, and occasionally stop for a photo or two.

Here's a sampling of photos from both the lower and upper parks.

In April, it was still green and lush, especially in the lower park.

Water and reflections are a great source of tranquility.

I'm particularly fond of the abstractions formed as water moves smoothly over and past obstructions.

The upper park is better for wildflowers, especially in April.
I sometimes take my cheap, heavy mountain bike (bought for hauling groceries, not biking trails!) into the upper park. It's a great workout, riding a heavy bike up very rough trails and roads.

The best is when thunderstorms come down from the mountains.

Storm clouds AND fractal trees!

The view up-canyon into the storm.

Wishing you all someplace as beautiful and comforting to hike and explore in these hard times.


All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WEP--Flash Fiction with a theme

Today is the Write, Edit, Publish flash fiction challenge. The June theme is...

urban nightmare

I'm not participating this month, but I'll encourage my readers to head on over to the sign-up list and check out the stories. The WEP authors always have some inventive takes on the prompts!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Voyagers

I have begun reading Voyagers: The Third Ghost, and I'm excited about the stories--the ones I've read so far are great! Voyagers  is the 2019 IWSG short-story anthology, and of course I'm extra excited because my story, "A World of Trouble," is in there.
Our Latest!

This isn't a review, but there have been some reviews, and posts about and by the authors, that I want to share now that I'm reading the book and thinking about it!

From the authors:

Reviews of Voyagers: The Third Ghost:

1. Check out lots of reviews and ratings at Goodreads and Amazon.

2. Roland Clarke's Bookshelf Review at his website Writing Wings features Voyagers:  
The Third Ghost.

3. Erin Kahn at The Wood Between the Worlds

Interviews with Authors:

1. Yvonne Ventresca with Stacy Horan at The Bookshop at the End of the Internet

2.  Sherry Ellis with June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic 

3. Roland Clarke with Laura Wolfe at The Sustainable Writer

Blog Features:

1. Voyager Authors with Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress (Part 1)

2. Voyager Authors with Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress (Part 2)

Thanks for your support!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Photo Friday: Antarctica #6

I have struggled a bit with looking at and selecting photos to continue sharing with you all. Not because I don't want to share them--I do. Photos are meant to be shared. It's just kind of hard right now to look at that other life. But I decided I could do it, with less commentary, but remembering the good times. It helps in a way that on most of these outings Dave and I were in separate groups. (For those who wonder, it's because I got ready much faster, and once dressed for outdoors in Antarctica, staying in the ship wasn't an option!)

This was Day 4 along the Antarctic Peninsula, where we spent the morning doing both a landing and a zodiac cruise at Portal Point. This was a whales, seals, and snow morning! I was in the group that landed first, then cruised, and it started snowing shortly after we landed. By the time the zodiac cruise ended, it was raining, and the weather worsened enough we didn't have an afternoon outing. I'll just share the photos with minimal captions and let you enjoy the amazing world that is still out there, somewhere beyond the COVID Curtain.

These guys were the welcome crew by the landing--a pair of crab eater seals, IIRC.

Seals on land are pretty funny!

Big wet snowflakes

As we approached the landing.

X marks the spot... for something? The pattern is from wave erosion suggesting several roll-overs.
We'd seen whales swimming and breaching from the shore, and it didn't take long for a closer look.
My best shot of a breaching whale--a little fuzzy due to excitement and a wobbly boat.
As photos go, this is awful--but I wanted to show the huge splash when the whale came back down!
Today's gratuitous penguins. If we'd returned to Ushuaia as intended, I might have bought one of these!

All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!