Monday, July 26, 2021

#Writephoto: Underwater

As always, thanks to KL Caley of for the weekly #WritePhoto prompts! A photo and a word, and off we go. Have a look at the other offerings either linked in the comments of the Thursday lunchtime prompt post, or in the round-up this Thursday. 

This week's word is Subsea


Photo by KL Caley


Since I'm so deep in working on my novel, I didn't want to write a full-length flash. I came up with a sorta silly hiaku instead.


The rainbow’s end fell

Into the fish bowl and spilled.

Which fish ate the gold?


Now it's your turn!


Friday, July 23, 2021

Photo Friday: The Grand Canyon, Part 8

The final chapter! Days 14-16

The previous posts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5

Part 6
Part 7

Day 14
After the fun splash ride through Lava Falls rapid, it was kind of nice to have a mostly calm drift down the river in the morning.

A note on footwear: while bare feet in sandals is probably the most practical on the river, I didn't want to get sunburned. The Sealskinz socks I borrowed proved a good compromise, as they didn't get sodden and stretched out of shape the way normal socks would. They helped some with my cold feet, but I suspect bare feet would have been warmer, as having some hope of drying.

As mentioned in Part 7, just above Lava Falls we entered the volcanic portion of the canyon. That made for some great geology, between the intrusions of lava and some beautiful columnar basalt. For those who aren't geology geeks, that's the postpiles of Devil's Postpile, or the pavers of the Giant's Causeway. The columns are formed as the lava cools and shrinks.

A close-up of the columns, which in this case seem to have from four to six sides.

In the middle of this volcanic theme park, we stopped for a hike, to be followed by lunch. The Whitmore Trail leads up to the North Rim, or at least to a spot below the rim where the land is broken enough for a road to lead down to within 1000' of the river. The climb was hot, but as always, worth the effort.

Heading up. Note the general sense that the canyon walls aren't as steep now. This is not an impression that holds while you are climbing the trail, which gains 1000' in a mile.

As always, climbing rapidly puts the river in perspective.

Looking back at our boats. We waded the channel between the sandbar and the shore before starting our climb.

Finally close enough for a photo of the ocatillo

Partway up, we passed under an overhang that proved to be the underside of some of the columns.

Although in a way I was sorry to do this hike--it brought the outside world back to us, both with the sight of the road (and the jeeps camping at the end of the road) and in the form of day-hikers, an alien species after two weeks on the river--the views were not to be missed.

Ocatillo, looking upstream

Basalt flows and the Hurricane Fault both run through here.

Back down at the base of the cliff, before wading over to lunch, I detoured to check out some prehistoric pictographs.

Then on down the river, to camp below Parashant Wash at Mile 199.

There was a lot of drying going on. The map suggested none of our rapids was very big, but we got wet anyway. Size of rapids does not necessarily correlate to how wet you are.

Day 15
A 20-mile river day, we didn't make any significant stops on this final full day of the trip.

Our camp at 220 Mile Canyon did permit a rare free-hiking opportunity. I waited as late in the afternoon as I could to dodge some of the heat but still have time to explore before dinner. To my delight, the ramble up the wash revealed far and away the best flower garden of the trip.

Up the wash.

It was another of those canyons that could go on all the way to the rim and beyond, but I resisted the urge to continue beyond the end of the narrow gulch.

Rock nettle. Never saw so many and so lush.

Close-up of the rock nettle flower.

Globe mallow
The cocktail hour (i.e., waiting for dinner) brought out the spirit of fun in everyone, and we indulged in games of balance and agility. I was okay at the egg-and-spoon race, but skipped the single-leg no-hands stick collection game.
Mostly the guides could do this.

Planking was more the mode for some of us.

Day 16
Our final day on the river, and we were in no hurry to leave. We had only six miles to float, and a target take-out time of 9:30--no problem for this seasoned crew!

Shoving off

Arrival at our take-out meant a flurry of activity, de-rigging the boats and loading the truck. Passengers were encouraged to help. Because the take-out is on Havasupai land, we masked up as soon as we landed, and stayed that way all the way back to Flagstaff.

Cleaning the boats gave some an opportunity they couldn't pass up to give some splashes back to the crew.

Loading the dory on the trailer.

The rafts got piled up and deflated. That was our signal to flop on the squishy stack and take a break. That's me in the foreground; my brother-in-law Tom Dempsey of took the picture.

Back on the bus! The trip to town starts with ten miles up Diamond Creek, which takes an hour in the bus. The road is very rough in places, though nothing I wouldn't take the Prius down... In the wash, we spotted some of the feral donkeys made famous by Marguerite Henry's Brighty of the Grand Canyon, but I didn't get any photos.

Our lunch stop in Seligman meant we were on the famous Route 66 for a time.

It was sad to finish the trip, though no denying that a hot shower felt wonderful. I can't say too much how fantastic the whole thing was for me.

One final image to close with: some socks you just don't want to put in your washer, and ones that have hiked the side canyons and waded the streams are at the top of the list!

Hope you've enjoyed the trip!

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Writer Update

I just realized this week that I should have signed up for Camp NaNo. Oh well, the words are coming as well as--no, better than I could have hoped.

I'm now up to 26,500+, and have sent in one application for an artist's residency. On the novel, I've finally gone back to the outline, realized some important things had gotten left out, and decided to write the missing scenes but worry later about working them in at the right place. Then I carry on from wherever I left off as though it had been that way all along. I suspect editing this one is going to be a tough project.

I'm also getting up at 6 or earlier almost every day to hike/bike before it gets too hot, and I'm struggling with the side-effects of that. Napping morning and afternoon feels a bit decadent, but I find it impossible to keep writing when I'm that sleepy! 

Finally, watch this space--the blog will be moving soon (probably in September) to a new home on my soon-to-be unveiled author web site! There will be a re-direct, but you will need to sign up to follow the new blog. Don't worry--I'll be sure to let you know the details!

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Plastic-Free July?

 Well, maybe not exactly plastic-free, but I'm working on reducing my use of single-use plastics. I began by saving it all for about 10 days (was supposed to be a week but I lost track). I was pretty shocked at how much I accumulated, though it was higher than usual due to a couple of clean-out-the-cupboards projects and some on-line shopping.

It's a little hard to see here, because the bags and wrappings are all stuffed into the big wrap that disappears off the top of the photo. But it's just over a pound, some recyclable, more of it not.

Here's the breakdown:

On the left, we have all the bags, wrappers, and some worn-out ziplocks. None of this is effectively recyclable in my community. Next to it the non-recylable hard bits. l'd been reusing the plastic spoon, but of course it gave up. The Amazon mailer is another that says it's recyclable but I have no place to do so. I reuse a lot of these, but I don't need that many. The other two bags would be nice, reusable plastic bags with zippers--except they have holes neatly punched in them. Some pants I ordered came in those.

On the far right is the stuff that can go in my recycling bin: a couple of bottles, a couple of clamshells, and a yogurt tub.

Honestly, I'm pretty horrified. This is for one person, and that a person who tries to be conscious of my plastic usage! 

Looking at it, I'm trying to figure out what I can avoid. I can stop mail-ordering things, except... those are things I couldn't find locally. I realized when I look that almost everything in the store comes in some kind of plastic. I made the choice to buy frozen chicken rather than fresh, because all the fresh came in plastic trays. On the other hand, those are (theoretically) recyclable, while the bag isn't. I can buy fruit at the farmer's market, taking my own bags... but berries always come in some kind of container, usually plastic.

One thing you don't see there is any shampoo bottles. I've already made the switch to shampoo/conditioner bars, and am perfectly happy with those. I'm probably going to make my own laundry detergent, if I can find that recipe again, because I can't seem to find decent powder that is unscented.

At least the size of the pile has me looking more carefully at everything I buy!

Oh, and here's a couple of links to some helpful tips on reducing plastic in your life:

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Photo Friday: Grand Canyon, Part 7

Rafting the Grand Canyon, Day 13. This trip was April 3-18, 2021, with AZRA--Arizona Raft Adventures.

See previous reports:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Remember how back on the 3rd day I wondered if 16 days was going to be too long? By the morning of the 13th day, with only 3 more real river days to go, I knew it wasn't going to be long enough. It would have been wonderful to have spent more days moseying through the upper parts of the canyon, because now with ocatillo on the shores and lower walls, we could feel the beginning of the end.

Still: I thought this would be a final report and cover the last 4 days, but when I looked at the photos... nope. There was still a lot going on, including the exciting passage through Lava Falls Rapid. A big day, it deserves a post of its own.

Day 13

There may have been some who felt a little nervous about our 13th day being the one we would run Lava Falls Rapid, possibly the single most famous (after Crystal?). But for most of us, we probably didn't know what day it was, and in any case by that time I had enough faith in our guides to feel only a little excitement, no more fear (a nice contrast to my terror at the idea of rapids before we began running them).

As usual, the morning started about 5:30 with the coffee and a quick packing job.

By this point in the trip, we were masters at packing, and had learned to stage the gear based on what the guides would want on each boat.

Breakfast was something new every day. This day, we had lox and bagels with cream cheese.

It's the garnishes. Our 13th morning on the river and there are garnishes on breakfast!

Before we left, guide Jed Tarlow drew a dynamic diagram of Lava Falls rapids in the sand, and illustrated how we would like to go through, and a few of the less desirable things that could happen. In spite of this most of the paddlers wanted to ride the paddle raft through!

Into the calm

Even with the Big Rapids looming ahead of us, we had time to stop for a really nice hike up Mohawk Canyon, though the guides may have regretted it later, when the wind came up something fierce.


Not everything we saw was beautiful, and not every bighorn is a survivor, apparently.

I don't know if this ram lost a fight or lost it's footing, though from the location of the skeleton, probably the former.

The hike up the canyon was a perfect blend of really pretty and some fun scrambles.

People wait their turn, and try to decide which of three routes to take. For the record, I chose badly.

In this case, our leader chose badly. The rest of us walked around on the obvious ledge.

Water in the desert. Even this close to the big river, it feels magical.

A trickle reflects the gold of the canyon walls.

Even a little stream can create a miniature wetlands.

It felt like passing through the gates of heaven. I'd have loved to spend a whole day exploring way up the canyon, but we had a rapid to run.

It was a long eight miles from Mohawk Canyon to Lava Falls rapids, with the wind picking up to the point that the guides had to find their own ways to cope. Our leader, Lorna, with the wisdom of decades on the river, pulled out a couple of paddles and got her passengers to help. The paddle raft got a tow from a motor raft. And my guide asked us to tell him jokes and stories. I dug deep for silly songs and bad jokes, and at least we saw Vulcan's Anvil, the sign we were entering the volcanic portion of the canyon and nearing the rapids at last.

A sentinel marking another gate.

For anyone into omens, a small herd of bighorns with lambs at the Lava Falls scouting point was a good one.

We did stop to scout the rapids, our guides pointing out how this water matched the diagram Jed drew for us in the morning. It's hard to get perspective on it from up here, but we saw soon just how big that water was.

Proof of the big water: That motor raft is about six times the size of our rafts.

I decided to follow the guides' advice about dealing with places where you get wet: skin to wind. Honestly, if not for the sunburn issue, I'd have done it a lot more, as it was much less unpleasant to get clobbered by waves without wet clothing sticking to you.

Photo by Tom Dempsey,

Through the first half, with a moment to look back before "Son of Lava Falls" nailed us.

After Lava Falls comes Tequila Beach, and we managed to be early enough to snag the campsite.

We enjoyed our post-rapids party, but were mellow enough to enjoy the evening light, as well.

Huge mounds of evening primrose distinguished the camp

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Writer's Report

 I'm pretty sure I'm trying to do too much. At least it keeps me busy!

Current word count on the new novel, 15,435. That's not up to NaNo numbers, but I've beaten the 1000 words/day target I set myself as a minimum, even knowing it won't get me a complete draft before I head to the mountains. I'd love to up my game, but while I'm writing, it's still harder than it has been sometimes in the past.

I'm also working on applications for Artist-in-Residence spots for next year. This is a new thing for me, so it's hard, and because I need to submit samples of my work I need to beat some stories into submission, in addition to coming up with semi-intelligent prose about what I want to do and why they should pick me to do it.


So: no submissions so far this month.

I still want to get the paperback collected collections out, but haven't taken time to work on it yet. That one is probably going to have to wait until September.

That's about it. 

Here's a picture of Mt. Rainier from my visit up there with my mom three weeks ago. The famous Reflection Lakes were just a wee bit iced over. It was nice to see some mountains with snow still on them, as California's mountains never had much to speak of this year.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Non-fiction audiobook review: The Ice at the End of the World

 I missed Friday's post entirely. I noticed it late in the day, but didn't really feel like rushing something together even for a "photo Saturday" post. Instead, I'm skipping ahead, and getting a start on this week's posts. The thing is--I'm writing!

Still, I have a review for today.

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Title: The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future
Author: Jon Gertner; read by Fred Sanders
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2019. 13 hrs. Original hardback published 2019, Random House. 418 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher’s Blurb:
Greenland: a remote, mysterious island five times the size of California but with a population of just 56,000. The ice sheet that covers it is 700 miles wide and 1,500 miles long, and is composed of nearly three quadrillion tons of ice. For the last 150 years, explorers and scientists have sought to understand Greenland--at first hoping that it would serve as a gateway to the North Pole, and later coming to realize that it contained essential information about our climate. Locked within this vast and frozen white desert are some of the most profound secrets about our planet and its future. Greenland's ice doesn't just tell us where we've been. More urgently, it tells us where we're headed.

In The Ice at the End of the World, Jon Gertner explains how Greenland has evolved from one of earth's last frontiers to its largest scientific laboratory. The history of Greenland's ice begins with the explorers who arrived here at the turn of the twentieth century--first on foot, then on skis, then on crude, motorized sleds--and embarked on grueling expeditions that took as long as a year and often ended in frostbitten tragedy. Their original goal was simple: to conquer Greenland's seemingly infinite interior. Yet their efforts eventually gave way to scientists who built lonely encampments out on the ice and began drilling--one mile, two miles down. Their aim was to pull up ice cores that could reveal the deepest mysteries of earth's past, going back hundreds of thousands of years.

Today, scientists from all over the world are deploying every technological tool available to uncover the secrets of this frozen island before it's too late. As Greenland's ice melts and runs off into the sea, it not only threatens to affect hundreds of millions of people who live in coastal areas. It will also have drastic effects on ocean currents, weather systems, economies, and migration patterns.

Gertner chronicles the unfathomable hardships, amazing discoveries, and scientific achievements of the Arctic's explorers and researchers with a transporting, deeply intelligent style--and a keen sense of what this work means for the rest of us. The melting ice sheet in Greenland is, in a way, an analog for time. It contains the past. It reflects the present. It can also tell us how much time we might have left.

My Review:
In some ways, I don't think that blurb has left me much to say! I found the book solidly written, if not always gripping, and I appreciated the way it encompassed not only the adventurous-explorer era and the real and important science that has been and is being done on the ice sheet. 
My interest in the topic stems from several sources. Of course, I'm always up for a good story about explorers and adventures, and Gertner does a good job with this, picking up different explorers from some I've read about recently. More importantly, I consider climate change to be the biggest threat to just about everything we know and love. Gertner presents, in the final chapters, a clear accounting of how Earth's rising temperature is already deeply entrenched, and the speed with which it is melting the ice. If I may be forgiven the inappropriate metaphor, it's a chilling set of statistics.

Of course, I already knew this. A friend has been doing ice sheet research for quite a few years now, and he's been clear about the unprecedented extent of melting they find there. It doesn't take much thinking to figure out why, while the early explorers and scientists did much if not most of their work during the summer, scientists now are pretty much limited to the spring. By summer, the ice sheet is too wet, melting with enthusiasm.

There may be a certain irony, indeed, in the way the tale of the loss of the ice matches the progression of ever more advanced means of transportation to study it. The same motorized sleds and airplanes that make it possible to study in the middle of the ice without excessive risk to life and limb are part of the problem, as it were.

My Recommendation:
An interesting read for lovers of exploration and science, and an important book for the dispassionate presentation of the reality of the melting ice sheet.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of The Ice at the End of the World from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

#IWSG: Why I Keep Writing 7/7


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!

Every month, the IWSG provides an optional question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt advice, insight, a personal experience or story.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! 

The awesome co-hosts for the July 7 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

Before I get to this month's optional question, I have to report (with great excitement and not a little relief) that after weeks of struggle, and my rather despairing post last Wednesday, the new novel has fallen into line and I have begun the draft! I couldn't be more pleased. Though the writing isn't pouring forth it is coming, and that's huge. I'm managing about 1100 words/day when I'm able to write at all, which is well behind my usual NaNo output but way above anything in the last year.

In other news, many of my books are participating in the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale.


This month's optional question is: What would make you quit writing?

I choose to turn the question on its head and ask instead, "Why do you continue writing?" 

There are plenty of reasons for any of us to quit writing. Thinking about my own reasons for twenty seconds or so gives me a good list: Sales suck. I am traveling so much it's hard to find time. Grief makes it hard to focus and makes it even harder to write about death (i.e. murder mysteries). Writing is work. It's hot. I need another cup of coffee... the list is endless. When my kids were little, I didn't write for long periods, because I was too busy and too tired--and because I hadn't learned the tricks to write when you have no time or energy. But I didn't stop entirely.

So why do I keep writing? 

The answer might actually lie in my report above: because when it's happening, there's no excitement like it. It's addictive, the stories really do want to be written, even when they are hard to start.

There are other reasons, too: writing has become my identity, in many important ways. If I'm not writing, I don't have a lot left.

So: I keep writing because I need to. The only thing I can think of that would really make me stop permanently would be disability.

How about you? Why do you keep writing?

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Monday, July 5, 2021

Ebook Bargains--Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

After celebrating the 4th of July with a bang (and, I hope, without igniting any fires--holding my breath for the news in the next day or two), what better way to recover than with an e-reader full of bargain books!

Free books:

    --Death By Ice Cream (Pismawallops PTA #1)
    --The Ninja Librarian (Ninja Librarian #1)
    --Return to Skunk Corners (Ninja Librarian #2)
    --Clues, Cops, and Corpses: A Flash Mystery Collection
    --BookElves Anthologies 1 & 2

 Reduced Price books--25% to 50% off: 

    --Death By Trombone (Pismawallops PTA #2)
    --Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA #3)
    --Death By Library (Pismawallops PTA #4)
    --The Problem With Peggy (Ninja Librarian #3)

And, of course, the rest of my short story collections, A Is For Alpine, and Halitor the Hero  are always just 99 cents!

A final note on behalf of all authors: when you download and read cheap or free books especially, please consider leaving a review. Writers live and die by reviews.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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