Thursday, September 17, 2020

Writer Update... on the Road Again

 I seem to have missed by usual Wednesday update, but that's in keeping with how everything is going. After traveling to Colorado to deliver Eldest Son to start graduate school, I returned home with Second Son. Less than a week later, we left for Seattle, where he is spending his fall quarter (while attending UC San Diego... this is, indeed, a strange world we now inhabit!). Now I'm off again, for some exciting travel, including my first trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I'll share photos along the way, and maybe can come up with a story or two.

Amid all that, what of the writing? Well, I've been picking away at the edits on Death By Donut, and have some hopes that I will be able to make it a book. And I'm working away at planning my next novel, which will kick off an all-new mystery series. More on that as it actually happens (NANOWRIMO? Maybe).

And I still owe you all photos from the Weminuche Wilderness... 

For now, a few bits of travel to and from Seattle. I was up there when the West caught on fire, and the drive back to California was surreal, with smoke so thick that visibility was down to 1/2 mile, and I only got out of the car to race to the restroom, then back to the filtered air inside the car.

Amazing what you can fit in a Prius... bike, duffels, lunch... pet snake.

 The air in California was pretty smoky when we left, and we did a lot of exclaiming over it. If only we'd known..

Passing Lake Shasta, we were also struck by the devastation of the fires from 2018.

A hazy pink sun at the Weed rest area (yes, there really is a town called Weed in California).

When we arrived, the air in Seattle was clear and beautiful--and so cool and pleasant after triple-digit temps in CA!

The kind of summer evening that makes people move to Seattle.

The perfect conditions in Seattle blew up in a hurry when more fires broke out in Oregon and Washington. When I headed south, it was hard to tell where I was, because I couldn't see anything but the road!

A field in Oregon.

When I got home, I found everything covered in ash from our local fire.

A hard time to be a spider.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Cover Reveal! Princelings Revolution, by Jemima Pett

The long-running Princelings of the East series has reached the final book... and it's coming soon! Before we can tell you about the book, you have to see the stunning cover, by artist Danielle English (

Today is the Cover Reveal for the final book in the Princelings of the East series: Princelings Revolution.
Princelings Publications is also kicking off the Launch & Anniversary Giveaway, which will run until midnight on October 23rd, to cover Jemima's tenth blogoversary on 21st October! There may be additional options for entries added between now and then, so check whenever you see it.

Jemima Pett has come by to tell us about the Princelings series covers.

NL: Cover art is a challenge for author-publishers. How did you managed to get such fantastic art for yours?

JP: When I decided to publish the first three books, I needed a cover illustrator. Looking at the lists of people offering their services, I gulped. Then my niece mentioned her daughter was in her final year of art school, doing Design and Illustration. Danielle English said 'yes' when I asked her to do the first three. It was a way to get her name on something other than her college portfolio.

Little did we know it would lead to a run of ten books, and the start of her freelance illustrator career. See her Facebook page or Twitter feed for a better idea of what she's doing now - or buy cards, gifts and prints at her Etsy shop!

NL: In the interests of full transparency, we should note that Danielle has also done all of our covers. Thanks for sharing :)

So, are you going to show us the new cover?

JP: I thought you'd never ask! Here it is.

NL: (Drum roll, please!)

That is gorgeous, Jemima! Now, tell us about the book.
JP: First, I have to tell everyone that Book 10 of the Princelings of the East series – Princelings Revolution – the final book in the series, is on schedule for publication 1st October 2020.

Now here's the blurb:
The planes are crashing, George appears to be blowing things up, the people are angry at the changes and shortages. King Fred puts democracy to the test and finds it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  There’s an organised anti-monarchy group called the Causists, and they are spreading false information which the people seem to believe. Things are bad—but they are going to get worse…

Will Fred even keep his head, let alone the promise made to Lord Mariusz at the start of the whole adventure?

NL: Thanks for that teaser, and for sharing the fantastic cover art. Now we can have the banner with the whole series!

The Princelings Revolution ebook is now available for pre-order a very special price at iTunes, B&N, and Kobo. This special launch price is only for a few weeks. It’s also on pre-order at Amazon.

The Launch Giveaway
This giveaway is only valid in countries and states where such games are legal. Entries close 11.59 pm on 23rd October 2020.

Entry options may increase during the giveaway period - check back or when you see it on another post (including launch and guest posts on other blogs).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Watch for reviews, interviews and more during the launch tour!

  Badge for the Princelings Revolution launch tour

Friday, September 11, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday: Someone's Dragon Is Double-Parked

 I haven't written any new flash fiction to share, but I thought this Friday deserved a bit of light-hearted fiction. I first posted this in 2017. Enjoy a little pre-weekend distraction from all the dreadful news out there.

Someone’s Dragon is Double-Parked Outside

"I'm not gong to tell him."

"Don’t look at me!”

"Someone has to."

"Why?" A silence followed the question.

"It's blocking traffic," Redbeard offered hesitantly.

"Then let the traffic complain," Sharpears replied. "A dragon means an elf, and you know how they are when anyone tells them they're doing something wrong."

Redbeard nodded. He did know. Elves all thought they knew everything, and they didn’t like anyone suggesting otherwise. Not even the meter maids, and certainly not a pair of dwarfs with a tavern to run. Redbeard and Sharpears turned back to their work. Three dwarfs, five ogres, a pair of banshees and an elf all demanded to be served immediately if not sooner.

Redbeard kept a wary eye on the elf. It was his dragon parked outside, blocking most of the westbound lanes of Rowan Street, named by some misguided fool in a futile attempt to keep the elves away.

In the rush of work, the dwarfish bartenders forgot about the dragon. A couple of hours later, they were still running drinks about the bar, which was now filled to capacity. The elf, now also nearly filled to capacity, was still on the stool at the left end of the bar, a pint in front of him. Company policy was that no one was too drunk until he fell off his stool.

Redbeard had just served the banshee what he predicted would be the final drink when a troll ripped the door half off its hinges. Redbeard sighed. Trolls always had to make an entrance, but in this case it was more clumsiness than intention.

“HEY!” the huge lump of humanoid rock shouted. After her entrance, she didn’t really need to shout to get everyone’s attention, but that was trolls for you. No sense of decorum. Everyone looked at her as she continued, “Someone’s dragon is double-parked outside.”

Everyone looked from her to the window, though which the dragon could be seen in the lantern-light of the backed-up traffic. Everyone, that is, but the elf. He continued to gaze into his beer.

Redbeard looked from the troll to Sharpears, and shrugged. “I'm still not going to tell him.”

“He must know by now.” Everyone on the block must have heard the troll’s announcement.

The troll surveyed the room, spotted the elf, and stumped across the bottle-strewn floor.


At last the elf stirred. He turned his head very carefully, as though it might  come loose were he careless, and enunciated carefully, “That’s not my dragon.”

“Nonsense,” someone chimed from the back of the crowd. “You are here, it’s outside. Who else would have come on a dragon?” Dragons would carry no riders but elves, and there was no elf present but the drinker.

“He’s his own dragon,” the elf explained.

Silence fell over the room.

His own dragon? Could dragons be their own masters?

They must have been wondering quite loudly, because the elf said, “He told me so. So not my dragon now.”

“Well,” said the troll, who might be clumsy and uncouth but had a good grip on the essentials of the case, “he’s been blocking up half the street for hours, and the traffic jam is a bit nasty. Go tell him to move.”

“Do it yourself,” the elf said.

“Done that,” the troll replied. “He don’t seem to care.”

The elf shrugged and returned to his beer.

The troll began to get steamed up. Redbeard could tell that, because there was steam coming out of her ears. Experience told him what came next.

Most of the bar’s patrons knew, too. Those that didn’t caught on when they saw the others diving for cover, fingers in their ears.

“Move your bloomin’ dragon, you drunken oaf!”

The shout cracked a few glasses behind the bar, but the elf didn’t flinch.

“How’re we going to get them two out of here?” Sharpears muttered to Redbeard when they could hear again.  

“The usual way,” Redbeard said. He stood, climbed onto the bar, and pulled out a large silver whistle. Blowing a piercing blast, he shouted, “Raid!”

Every creature in the bar ran for the door.

Five minutes later, when the other patrons had gotten themselves untangled and run off into the night, Redbeard and Sharpears stood looking from the troll to the elf, who hadn’t budged.

Finally Sharpears sighed. He walked around the end of the bar, picked up the elf, and slung him over a shoulder. The elf dragged on the ground here and there, but he seemed to be past noticing. Redbeard gave the troll a sharp nudge in the ribs, then stood rubbing his sore elbow while the troll lumbered across the room and opened the door, tearing loose the last hinge.

Sharpears lugged the somnolent elf to the curb, stepped between two brewer’s drays that had been stuck there all evening, and approached the dragon.

Here he encountered the usual problem. The back of the dragon was well beyond his reach. That was where the troll came in, and she caught on fast enough.

Picking up the elf in one giant stone fist, she deposited him on the neck of the dragon. Sharpears climbed up and fastened the flying harness himself, since the troll might have ripped it apart in the attempt. Climbing down, he gave the dragon a swift kick in the hindquarters, then jumped back between the drays as the beast woke up and turned to see what had tickled his hide.

“Home, you winged lizard,” Redbeard called in his best imitation of a drunken elf.

It worked. To the relief of all concerned, especially a pair of traffic cops who had been dispatched with orders to remove the obstruction to traffic at all costs, the giant dragon spread its wings and took flight.

The dwarfs turned back to their tavern, flipped the sign from “Open” to “Go Away,” and propped the door into place before dousing the lights. The bar was closed.


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

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Writer's Wednesday: Some Writing Errors to Avoid

 I've been reading and listening to books more than I'm writing, but my writer brain is clearly turned on, because I've stumbled on--or over--some writing mistakes that I certainly felt shouldn't have gotten by the editor. 

The worst, a constant irritant in an otherwise pleasant (if somewhat saccharine) series, have to do with what I'd have to classify as info dumps. I'll call this one, "The dog had three legs, he remembered." The particular author I'm listening to (who I see no reason to name) has a tendency that I don't think I noticed so much when it was on paper, to use "John remembered that blah blah" in order to get info dumps out there. To make it worse, some of them don't really even matter to the story at any time. 

A subset of this, equally a clunky device for sharing background the reader may need but shouldn't trip over (from a different writer, whose works I also usually really enjoy), is, "She remembered she'd been meaning to ask about X." Apropos of nothing, we learn of something that suddenly will become important to know.

Back to the first author, another thing that's irritating me as that at times the books, set in an Irish village, read as though they are meant to introduce the American reader to the language, customs, and culture of Ireland, rather than just to tell a story. I wonder at times in an editor told the author he needed to explain all this stuff for then poor idiots across the pond. The result is lots of awkward leveraging of "he knew the Americans would call that soccer." (In fact, do I have hold of an edition meant for the US market, or is it all that way, because the sport is consistently referred to as soccer by the narrator and I think even the characters, which jars on my ear every time).

Enough of my ranting. I think it boils down to: if your backstory and local colo(u)r don't fit into the story organically, leave them the heck out! This is a hard one for me to believe sometimes, but: your reader doesn't need to know everything you do about the characters, the setting, or the history.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Photo Friday: Random shots

 I didn't feel like putting together a proper post for this week, so I'm just going to share a few random photos from my recent trip to Colorado (I wasn't traveling frivolously, lest you wonder. I was delivering Eldest Son to Boulder to start graduate school. I admit that while I was there I took the opportunity to do some backpacking, though!).

A too-friendly deer

One of the millions of Colorado trees killed by bark beetles.

Virga--rain shafts that never reach the ground (though some very soon after this made the ground very wet indeed).

Nevada sunset

More Nevada sunsets

A bit of the burn area in Glenwood Canyon along I70 in Colorado. We were lucky that the freeway reopened a day before we headed back west. (Photo on my phone by Griffen Dempsey)

Train crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats

I promised you random! I think that delivers :)

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

IWSG: The best Beta-partner? & Writer's Update


 It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means IWSG posting! 

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!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 2 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, J Lenni Dorner, Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Louise - Fundy Blue! 

Every month there is an OPTIONAL question:

September 2 question - If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?


I've had some fun thinking about who I'd like to have as my beta partner. I mean, I already have some of the best, members of this group with a keen eye to plot and prose. But what could I learn from Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie? 

Maybe not as much as I think. I love their books, but there's no denying their writing styles are dated. So maybe I can think about someone contemporary... I'll pick on a few mystery writers I really admire, and whose style I think would compliment my own. Here's the short list off the top of my head: 

Jacqueline Winspeare. Her Maisie Dobbs mysteries are beautifully crafted, both plot-wise and linguistically. And I bet she could help me get a grip on my characters' feelings. 

Rhys Bowen: Her "Royal Spyness" series proves she knows a lot about goofiness and sometimes wild plots, developing characters that are just a touch over the top, and how to balance humor with murder.

Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell. She knows a thing or two about quirky small towns, as well as about humor in murder mysteries. Plus she set her first series in Bellingham, WA, just a stone's throw from Pismawallops Island. 

Finally, just for the sake of some of the best prose I've ever read, I'll take Ivan Doig (see an example of my ravings about his writing here or here). 


Now for my writer's update. I spent a lot of the last month on the road, or in the wilderness, so much of my writing was mundane journalling, with some less mundane entries, and a little work on the main character of the new mystery series I'm contemplating. 

But all is not about hiking: I did manage to complete and send in my entry for the new IWSG anthology, and am still plowing, little by little, through the edits on Death By Donut.  I have a lot more travel on my agenda now through October, but I do have some hopes of completing the book and bringing it out early in the new year, though I don't think I can make the pre-Xmas target I was trying for before the world turned upside down.

My mind wants to skip around, too. I still have other stories and some anthologies in mind to work on. Maybe as my ability to focus returns (not that it's ever great), and when I settle in this fall to stay home for a couple of months (mostly), I'll be able to at least edit the shorts and put together those anthologies! 

Every word written, every page edited, is a triumph.

This month's photo treat: a couple of really nice moose. Meese? Mooses?


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



Monday, August 31, 2020

Non-Fiction Review: Here If You Need Me


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Title: Here If You Need Me: A True Story
Author: Kate Braestrup
Publication Info: Little Brown & Co., 2007. 211 pages
Source: Gift from a friend
Publisher's Blurb:
Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup and her husband Drew were enjoying the life they shared together. They had four young children, and Drew, a Maine state trooper, would soon begin training to become a minister as well. Then early one morning Drew left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he protected every day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband.

Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to continue her husband's dream and became a minister herself. And in that capacity she found a most unusual mission: serving as the minister on search and rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing, and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with awful outcomes. Whether she is with the parents of a 6-year-old girl who had wandered into the woods, with wardens as they search for a snowmobile rider trapped under the ice, or assisting a man whose sister left an infant seat and a suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, understanding, and spiritual guidance when it's needed most.

Here if You Need Me is the story of Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness. It is dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable, an uplifting account about finding God through helping others, and the tale of the small miracles that occur every day when life and love are restored. 

My Review: 
For my regular readers, it is probably obvious why my friend gifted me this book. In addition to the parallels to my situation (though thank heavens I have adult children, not small ones), there is the Maine connection--my husband and spent about 4 or 5 months out of the last 2 years in Maine. 

I was taken aback at first by the religious aspect of the book, but Braestrup is a Unitarian Universalist minister, not one to ram religion down anyone's throat (that may make her perfect for a position like hers, as chaplain to the Maine (game) Warden's Service). I can't agree with everything she says on that front, but her blunt explanations of what she does think and feel were at the least food for thought. More to the point, for me, were her thoughts on grief and loss, and on making a life after a catastrophic loss. On that score, I think she nailed most of it.

I'll just share one quote: "Death alters the reality of our lives; the death of an intimate changes it completely. No part of my life, from my most ethereal notions of God to the most mundane detail of tooth brushing, was the same after Drew died. Life consisted of one rending novelty after another" (p. 202). She also talks early on about the things you can do while crying, and I can relate, even as she made me laugh. 

There is another aspect to the book: the nature of her work, and the reason she does it, and the Wardens do it. There is a strong recognition that for some of us, nature is the place of healing, maybe at times the only place where a person can be made whole again. A lot of what she writes about the Maine woods, in summer or winter, resonates.

I don't agree with everything Braestrup says. But I think this is a helpful book for those who have suffered a loss--and maybe even more for those who wonder how to relate to someone who has suffered a catastrophic loss.

My Recommendation:

If any of what I said above strikes a chord with you, give this a read. I will note that I made a start a little too soon, and had to set the book aside for a couple of months. There was too much in the beginning, especially, that matched my own pain too well.

FTC Disclosure: I was given this book as a gift, 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." 


Note: I have turned on captchas for comments, at least for now, due to a spate of annoying spam comments. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it seems the easiest way to prevent spam.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

WEP: Long Shadow



The WEP posts every second month with a prompt and a bunch of short stories or other creative writing. This month's prompt has inspired me to something a little less conventional, but I'm feeling ready to write a little about it. This is non-fiction, and personal.

 291 words; Comments only.


A small decision can cast a long shadow. The choice to go for an evening bike ride. Or how far back do you trace the decisions? A move to a new town? The refusal to give night rides after one accident? Or can we blame it on COVID? Because if not for the pandemic, we would have been deep in training for a strenuous July trip to the Swiss Alps. Or was May 8 too early to have shifted from bikes to trails? I can't be sure now.

The decision he made was to ride his bike after dinner, when it was a little cooler, and the sun was no longer beating down on everything. It seemed like a reasonable choice at the time. As far as I know, it was the last decision he made, and the shadow it cast will last the rest of my life, and our sons' lives.

The consequences of that decision reach out into every part of our lives, and the long shadow feels like a good metaphor for it. There is still life and love and joy, but everything is a bit dimmed by that shadow. At first, up close to the source, the shadow makes everything so dark you can't see anything else. Time moves us farther out, and the shadow thins, is less total, but it never goes away.

But there is another long shadow, that cast by the love and generosity and the giving heart that was stilled that night. The hundreds of lives he touched in a 29-year teaching career. All the people he listened to and cared about and swapped stories with all over the world. Some part of him lives on in all of them.

Every life casts a long shadow, and every loss casts a long shadow. The same metaphor, but almost opposite meaning: the gift of self, and the loss of half my self.

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

Photo Friday: Antarctica #7: Remains of the Whaling Past

These reports from our trip are feeling more and more like glimpses of a distant past, both personally and in this world where no one is traveling anywhere too far from home. Certainly not internationally! It's good to look back and remember, and this post is the first of two where it's all about history. In particular, the grim history of whaling.
Mikkelsen Harbor was used first by sealers, then in the early 20th Century by whalers. It's not much of a place, and I think they must have mostly just done some basic butchering before hauling the blubber off to someplace else (like Deception Island--I'll get to that in a couple of weeks) to be processed.

Approaching the island in the harbor, where the whalers had what look like seriously inadequate shelter. (Photo by Dave Dempsey)

The skeleton of the whaling boat is poignantly set off by hundred of whale bones.

The animals rule here now. We tourists slogged a long way around through the mud when a large seal (out of sight behind the boat) took possession of the beach. Penguins hopped around on the bones of boat and whales alike.

Dave caught some wonderful views of a parent feeding its nearly-grown chick. As noted, the island now belongs to the animals.

Dave had his moment of communing with a curious gentoo penguin.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Writer's Wednesday

Somehow I missed my usual Monday post... again. Maybe it's not usual anymore. I'm kind of off reviews, so that doesn't leave a lot.

But this is Wednesday, and time to check in on the progress with the works in progress.

IWSG story: working my way through editorial suggestions--thanks Roland and Jemima for offering both suggestions and the encouragement to keep going.

Death By Donut: Progress on the edits got a bit shoved aside by the need to make real progress on the story if I'm going to make the Sept. 2 IWSG deadline. That's because we're off again at the end of this week, this time to take Eldest Son to Colorado to start graduate school.

If it seems like I'm spending a lot of time traveling away from home... that's deliberate (though this trip had to be made regardless, it didn't have to be extended with some backpacking...). I know in this time of COVID I probably shouldn't travel more than necessary, but I'm trying to stick to the wilderness as much as possible. Between the heat and the memories, home isn't a great place for me right now.

Still working my way through Chrys Fey's encouraging book, and the Emotion Thesaurus as well--and Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility, which is giving me some interesting thoughts on characters and emotions!

My biggest writing surprise has been that it's actually easier for me to lose myself in revisions than in new writing right now. Usually I struggle more with revising, but I think having something concrete to work with helps. 


Here are a couple of pictures that might have aliens coming in for a landing to encourage the writing of science fiction for the IWSG contest. Okay, actually it's four photos because I couldn't make up my mind.

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

Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday Flash: The Space Explorer is back!

That's right--I'm back with a bit of new flash fiction after all these months, and it's everyone's favorite Space Explorer! It ran a little long, at 1175 words, including the title.

Xavier Xanthum and the Galactic Sandwich

Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer, relaxed aboard his good ship Wanderlust. Kitty Comet hovered over his lap in the zero-g living space. For the moment, Xavier was content to let Larry drive the ship.

Comet mewed, and Xavier stroked the cat’s back, pressing it into his lap. Immediately the mewling changed to a roaring purr. Cat and spaceman alike relaxed, content.

“Captain, your presence on the bridge.”

Xavier groaned. The AI only got formal when something was wrong. Xavier set the cat gently aside and shoved off toward the control room. Comet continued to float in a curled position, drifting slowly with the air currents until she came to rest against the ventilation grate.

Xavier shot into the control room, which Larry had so grandly called the bridge. “What’s gone wrong now?”

“What do you make of this, Captain?”

Still with the “captain” thing. Xavier peered at the vidscreen. “It looks like… a sandwich?” He fiddled with the controls, zooming in on the strange object.

Not a sandwich. A holographic picture of a sandwich, projected from a nearby moon. Xavier was approaching an inhabited planet. That was according to plan. He needed supplies.

Suddenly, he also desperately needed a sandwich.

“’Bob’s Galactic Sandwich Shop,’” Xavier read from the holographic billboard.

“There is no such business listed in the directory,” Larry said. For an AI, he was pretty good at the doubt-filled voice.

“It’s new. How out of date must that directory be, anyway?”

“About three hours.” Larry’s voice went full artificial, as usual when Xavier was about to do something the AI considered foolish.

“Never mind. So this Bob fellow didn’t register with the authorities. Doesn’t mean he can’t make a sandwich. Take us down to the moon.”

“Redirecting.” The AI had little choice when Xavier issued a direct order, though Larry had been trying to get some new programing to allow him to stop Xavier from making big mistakes. He manifested, a pair of glowing eyeballs drifting around the room and pinning Xavier with a disapproving glare. But he obeyed orders.

Wanderlust shifted direction, bringing the billboard into better focus. The sandwich contained layers of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, though Xavier couldn’t name all of them. His mouth watered.

“What’s wrong?” Xavier didn’t like to be bossed by his own AI, but he knew that Larry had reasons for any opinion, voiced or not. After all, an AI couldn’t have hunches, so if Larry didn’t like the sandwich shop, something must be wrong.

“Why does this Bob advertise with an extra-planetary banner?”

“All the big outfits in the major ports do it.”

“Shiva isn’t a major port. It’s a minor moon around a modest colonial outpost.”

“I want that sandwich.” Which was all the answer Xavier needed to give.


They docked smoothly at the moon, which admittedly seemed a little too small and shiny to fit the usual run of extra-planetary orbs. Xavier had seen all kinds, but he’d never seen a moon-sized sandwich shop. The place was huge, and ships were docked at nearly all the fly-up portals.

It wasn’t until he left the ship for a closer look that Xavier began to share Larry’s unease.

There were no people about. All those ships, all those sandwiches… where were the customers? It was unnerving, but the smells of the roasting meats and toasted breads made his mouth water. Xavier wandered out in search of a menu. A gate closed behind him, cutting him off from return to the ship.

Xavier’s head jerked from side to side as he sought another route back to the Wanderlust, even as he cursed himself for not listening to Larry. He had a nasty feeling that he knew why he didn’t recognize the meat in that billboard sandwich. There were enough alien ships docked at Bob’s Sandwich Shop to provide a lot of unknown proteins.

He resigned himself to the loss of that imagined sandwich. Even if he got out of there, he wouldn’t be eating anything prepared on Shiva.

For the moment, the corridor was empty. Gates blocked both ends, and he made his way systematically down the hall, testing doors. If a knob turned under his hand, he planned to open it just enough to peek through before committing himself. Who knew what might lie behind an unsecured door in a place like this?

He needn’t have worried. Xavier found no doors that yielded to his touch. About to give up in despair, he heard a voice in his ear and whirled around. No one was behind me.

“It’s me, you idiot.” The voice came from his communicator, still clipped to his jumpsuit, and Xavier’s AI was annoyed with him.

“I'm trapped,” the intrepid space explorer whined.

“I know. I saw it happen. I’m scanning for a way out. Be patient.”

Be patient? Xavier didn’t see much future in that. How long before some machine came to turn him into a sandwich? He scanned the walls again, spotted a grate-covered opening midway along.

The ventilation system, Xavier reckoned. He moved toward the potential escape route, digging in a pocket for the tool kit he carried everywhere. Removing the screws should be a piece of cake, and then he just had to find his way back to the ship, with some guidance from Larry.

Heck, it wouldn’t even require tools. The cover had a latch and hinges.

“Don’t do it,” Larry’s voice warned.

“Don’t do it?” Xavier fought to keep from yelling. If no one had noticed him yet, he wanted to keep it that way.

“It’s not an air system.” Larry didn’t elaborate, which made Xavier think. He shuddered and headed as quickly as he could back toward the point where he’d entered the hall.

“Ah. I have it. I can’t raise the grates that block the hall, but I have unlocked the first door. It will take you through two more rooms, and a door into the hall by our docking port. I recommend haste, as I may have triggered an alarm.”

Xavier didn’t need urging. Xavier twisted the doorknob, ran through the next room, barely aware he scattered a couple of workers at desks and computers, passed through the second room the same way, and burst out into the hall as alarms sounded.

“Right ten paces, then left through your boarding port.”

Several clerks in hot pursuit, Xavier dove through his port just ahead of another gate, meant to block access. It caught his left shoe. He abandoned it, wriggled through Wanderlust’s port, and lay in the lock as Larry secured the doors and separated from the dock.

Only when the acceleration alarm sounded did Xavier manage to pull himself together and head to the control room. He strapped in just as the ship hit max pre-warp acceleration, and let Larry pick a new destination for a bit of R&R dirtside. One far from the deadly moon Shiva.

“Larry, make it someplace where they’ve never heard of sandwiches, okay? I seem to have lost my taste for them.”


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, August 5, 2020

IWSG: Writer’s Update

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 this 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 to change it as Google+ is going away in January. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.   
The next posting day is August 5th. 

Sign up here.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

My update:

It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 months, during which I have managed to write 3 not-very-good short stories—and about 12,000 words for my eyes only. It helped a little in my fear that I’m not a writer anymore, when I realized just how much journaling I had actually done!

Where things stand now as a writer: I wrote and on Friday will share on my blog another silly SF story about my favorite hapless, er, intrepid space explorer, Xavier Xanthum. I produced a very poor draft of a story for the IWSG Anthology, which I have some rather small hopes of being able to spiff up enough to submit in time. I have also resumed edits on my new Pismawallops PTA novel, and am finding that going much better than expected. I've regained enough focus to work for 45 minutes or an hour, and the editing at the front end of the novel is pretty simple, so it's soothing.  I have also worked on an exercise to try to write a character who accepts her feelings, rather than trying to hide/deny them as most of my main characters do. That one isn’t producing any kind of story, but it is good writing practice.

That leads me to a question I asked a couple of weeks ago about fictional characters who are good with feelings, and that’s sent me to start re-reading Jane Austin, but I also realized as I was relaxing with a new mystery that Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisy Dobbs is someone who is very much in tune with feelings, her own and others’. While she may not always show them, she at least doesn’t deny them to herself, which may be what we are really looking for. It’s not that one—or one’s character—needs to wear her heart on her sleeve, but that feelings should be acknowledged and accepted, not condemned as a weakness. I'm reading through The Emotion Thesaurus, and giving some thought to how my characters express emotion--and how they reveal it when not speaking of it, too.

That brings me to Chrys Fey's new book, Keep Writing With Fey. It's blog hop day for the book as well as the IWSG, and since the hop is about dealing with depression, burnout, or writer's block, my update is right on topic! I've been reading at this book, too, and considering what might help me from Chrys's many smart and thoughtful suggestions. So far, the big one for me is to do *something* every day--and celebrate having done so!

Hop around to get inspiration from the other writers participating in the hop, as well as to the other IWSG bloggers!

I’ll take a pass on this month’s optional question, but feel free to leave comments about genre or about your own struggles with writer's block, depression, grief, or anything else that you want to talk about.

Oh, and I'm out of the mountains, home for a couple of weeks. So here's a random pretty picture:

Monday, August 3, 2020

Repost: Create a Teacher's Guide...

... a great post from fellow Voyagers anthology author Louise Barbour.

Congratulations, you have written and published a children's book!
Now comes the hard part, promoting and selling your book.

          "My" Book ~ The Anthology Containing My Short Story
                                        "Dare Double Dare"
                                        The IWSG on Instagram 
                       Background Photo by Louise MacBeath Barbour

One way to do this is to create a user-friendly teacher's guide 
that you can use during school and library visits, in presentations
at conferences, or as an exhibiter at industry events.

Yes, it's fun to share your book with children, 
but make your book user-friendly for teachers  
and they will buy copies to use in their classrooms.
Also, parents who homeschool their children
will appreciate a good book with an easy-to-use guide.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Gone Hiking

The Ninja Librarian is out hiking and camping. I have prepared a few posts during this 2-week period, but won’t be around much as wi-fi is hard to come by.

Meanwhile, check out the IWSG Anthology blog for some nice resources for writers.
Part 1
Part 2

And a picture:

Monday, July 20, 2020

Mystery Monday: Love and Death Among the Cheetahs


Publication Info:
Publisher's Blurb (per Amazon):
Georgie and Darcy are finally on their honeymoon in Kenya's Happy Valley, but murder crashes the party in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling series.

I was so excited when Darcy announced out of the blue that we were flying to Kenya for our extended honeymoon. Now that we are here, I suspect he has actually been sent to fulfill another secret mission. I am trying very hard not to pick a fight about it, because after all, we are in paradise! Darcy finally confides that there have been robberies in London and Paris. It seems the thief was a member of the aristocracy and may have fled to Kenya. Since we are staying in the Happy Valley—the center of upper-class English life—we are well positioned to hunt for clues and ferret out possible suspects.
Now that I am a sophisticated married woman, I am doing my best to sound like one. But crikey! These aristocrats are a thoroughly loathsome sort enjoying a completely decadent lifestyle filled with wild parties and rampant infidelity. And one of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, has the nerve to make a play for me. While I am on my honeymoon! Of course, I put an end to that right off.
When he is found bloodied and lifeless along a lonely stretch of road, it appears he fell victim to a lion. But it seems that the Happy Valley community wants to close the case a bit too quickly. Darcy and I soon discover that there is much more than a simple robbery and an animal attack to contend with here in Kenya. Nearly everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead and some will go to great lengths to silence anyone who asks too many questions. The hunt is on! I just hope I can survive my honeymoon long enough to catch a killer. . . . 

My Review: 
This is a series I have been enjoying from the beginning. In this book, Bowen ventures into perhaps more complex territory, as British colonial life in the 20s and 30s is fraught with racism, not to mention environmental destruction. I think the author handles this matter well, but it does (for me) detract a little from the delightful lightness of the series in general, a lightness with which the book nicely opens.

Or maybe it's the mood of the moment. For whatever reason, though I was happy to see the couple moving ahead with their life together, the mystery itself felt a bit rushed and not as satisfying as some. Not a bad yarn, but not quite what I hoped, either.

On the other hand, the look into colonial life in Kenya (which the author's note assures us is pretty accurate) is eye-opening, to say the least. And I'm grateful that she perhaps moved a little away from reality to have our heroes enjoy photographing, rather than hunting, the local fauna.

My Recommendation:
Not a bad read at all, and certainly nothing to put me off the series. I don't recommend starting here, but this is a series that I think benefits from being read in order in any case.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Love and Death Among the Cheetahs 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 17, 2020

Photo Friday: Mt. Lassen National Park

Before I let you look a the pretty pictures, I have a request. It's come to my attention that my main characters are women who are pretty good at hiding their feelings. In fact, they seem to have some issues with admitting they have them at all. When I started thinking about writing a character who is more open, I realized how pervasive this attitude is in our American culture (and British too, I think). So here's what I'm looking for: books with main characters who are unafraid to have and express their feelings. Whatever the heck that looks like.

Okay, leave your suggestions in the comments, and enjoy the photos. Oh, and to see what I mean about my books, head over to the Smashwords sale and nab my books before the prices go up more!

Last weekend the "Land of Way Too Hot" (as I called Chico last week) was too much, and I headed up to Lassen with one of my sons for an overnight backpack trip. The scenic highlight was the comet, though we weren't able to get any photos of that. I have a few pictures from the hike, which was a good chance to refresh my son's skills (it's been several years since he backpacked with us), and to see how it felt. I missed my husband fiercely, but proved to myself that the wilderness is still where I need to be.

I'll start the photos this time with an abstract. The Impressionists would be proud of the lake's artistry.

Our trip was a rather modest hike in Lassen National Park, from the Juniper Lake trailhead to Snag Lake and back. Since we got a rather late start, the 3 1/2 to 4 mile hike in was about perfect.
 A brief hunt along the shore found us a site well away from other hikers--of which there were quite a few on this beautiful weekend.

The main feature of Snag Lake (besides water that wasn't half bad for a swim) is a view of the Cinder Cone. We'd thought to climb it, but didn't want to hike that far, especially as we ended up finding a camp on the opposite side of the lake! Below are a few views of the cone and the Fantastic Lava Beds (yes, that's the real official name).

It was breezy in the afternoon and evening--good for keeping bugs away--but very calm in the morning, good for reflections, even as the breeze picked up again.

On the way out we took a detour and visited Horseshoe Lake, which offered a hint of a peek at the peak. Mt. Lassen was just visible over the ridge there, unlike at Snag Lake.

As we climbed the ridge between Horseshoe Lake and Juniper, we got further glimpses of the volcano, but never a clear view.

When we drove down from Seattle a couple of weeks ago we got views of all the Cascade volcanoes from Rainier south (well, we weren't sure we saw St. Helens. It has gotten rather short and hard to sort out from the other hills). Lassen is the last of the Cascade range, and being both well south and not very tall, it had the least snow, on this southeast face anyway.

We enjoyed our 24-hour trip, and I hope you enjoyed the photos!


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!