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!

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?