Saturday, January 30, 2021

Flashback Friday: Take the Kids Outside

This post is from 2015, but the retrospective photos date back, in at least some cases, to 1998 when our first-born was a toddler. The message still seems completely relevant. Maybe I should do a second edition, showing our boys as teens and now adults, enjoying the outdoors with the family. (Oh, and yes, I know this Friday post is on Saturday. I consider knowing what day of the week it is a triumph!)

[Apparently I'd made some kind of plan to spiff up the blog, something I do on a regular basis--make the plans, that is, not necessarily carry them through]

In keeping with my new blog plan, instead of a book review, today I'm doing a sort of a trip review...a few shots of the kids enjoying the outdoors through the years, in hopes of reminding folks that there's no gift for the kids like taking them outside. I apologize for some of the photos--many of these pre-date our digital photography, and not all the scans turned out well.

Start them right from the beginning. Remember, the kid is a science experiment. Watch and see what happens!

Arches National Park, at 9 months    

 Teach them things like scrambling early, and they will gain skill and confidence even faster than Mom's hair turns grey with worry. Guess what, Mom? They need to learn, and you have to deal with it!

Joshua Tree National Park

Yes, getting very, very dirty is part of the deal. It doesn't hurt them. I learned that from a woman's diary of the Oregon Trail! I never forgot where she wrote that "we learned that a baby doesn't die if it's not bathed for 3 months." Oy. One week? I can do it! (Tip: when they are babies, find or make nylon pants. Those brush off easily when they've been crawling in the dirt. By the time they are 4 & 5, as here, it's a lost cause).
Green Lake, Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

Even when they still need furry friends in their packs, they can hike and camp and have a great time!
Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

Kids can always find things to do and play with in the outdoors. Amazing how much there is to explore when the screens and keyboards are gone, and especially if there is a body of water about (note to parents: plan hikes and camping trips around water, but be careful of whitewater or deep water!)
Caribou Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO

In the mountains or at the beach, there are toys everywhere! Our boys, at least, seem to be able to throw things into water/float them away endlessly.
Stinson Beach, CA
Expose kids to as many varied environments as you can, so that they see that the world has endless variety.
 The Desert!
Death Valley NP, CA, during the record bloom of 2005

Go Underground! Science lurks everywhere, like when you discover that it's cold underground, even when it's hot hot hot on the surface
Lava Beds National Monument, CA.

Get cold! A single-digit day with high winds, and walking on a lake were new concepts for our California boys (tip for other warm-climate folks visiting the cold: we made a thrift shop nearly our  first stop, and picked up a couple of warm jackets for the boys, which could be left behind when we finished).
Maine at the NewYear. It made sense to us.

If you go outdoors, maybe you can even make some new friends.
A boy and someone else's dog--the only kind he got to experience.

When camping you will almost certainly enjoy some quality family time.
If there's only one chair, you might get a kid on your lap.

And, finally, the kids might even spend more time reading!
A tent is a good place to read at the end of a long day.

I just wanted to share a few photos and remind everyone that being outside, in whatever kind of nature you have, is good for kids. If you can take them to experience different kinds of places, it's even better. But everyone can visit the park, or dig a hole in the back yard. Let kids experience the earth!
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Visit From Author Chrys Fey

I'm exited to have Chrys Fey here today to talk about her new book, #6 in the "Disaster Crimes" series. She's shared some background on the book and other important news! Here's the beautiful cover to start with:

Here's what I asked Chrys:
Why did you give Disaster Crimes Book 6 a different title from the rest of the series (Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, etc.)?

Chrys Fey’s Answer:
Book 6 of the Disaster Crimes series is titled A Fighting Chance because it’s featuring a different couple than the previous 5 books and it can be read as a standalone. Thorn and Amanda are the main characters in A Fighting Chance. The previous (unlucky) couple was Beth and Donovan, whom we followed from Hurricane Crimes (Book 1) to Frozen Crimes (Book 5). With a different couple as the focus, I didn’t want to continue the title trend by having the word “Crimes” paired with a word for the disaster that takes place. If I were to do that, readers could assume the book is still about Beth and Donovan. To set this book apart (as well as Book 7, which is a short story that follows A Fighting Chance), I needed a new title.

In the Disaster Crimes series, Beth Kennedy/Goldwyn owns a self-defense studio called The Fighting Chance. We see this studio several times throughout the books. Amanda becomes Beth’s assistant in Flaming Crimes (Book 4), and Thorn comes in a lot to speak to the students who need a law enforcer’s advice.

This is how Amanda and Thorn meet, and it’s the cutest thing ever to see Thorn, a man who enjoys flirting with Beth just to annoy Donovan, become head-over-heels for a woman who is a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. We see them interact and get a tiny bit closer in Frozen Crimes, but it’s not until A Fighting Chance when their story truly begins. Right in the beginning of the book, Thorn is entering The Fighting Chance to see Amanda, and he wonders if the two of them have a fighting chance. Will they ever have a relationship? Will he ever be able to show Amanda love? Lightbulb moment. The title has to be a nod toward the self-defense studio where they met, and Thorn had literally just said it…A Fighting Chance.


Pages: 154

Genre: Romantic-Suspense

Heat Rating: Hot



*A FIGHTING CHANCE is Book 6 in the Disaster Crimes series, but it’s a spin-off featuring a new couple, so it can be read as a standalone.*

Thorn has loved Amanda from afar, giving her whatever she needs as a survivor of abuse—space, protection, and stability. He yearns to give her more, though, to share his feelings, kiss her, love her, but he's worried the truth will frighten her away.

And Amanda is afraid. She’s scared of her attraction for Thorn. Most of all, she’s terrified of her ex-boyfriend, who is lurking nearby where no one can find him. When she grows closer to Thorn, Damon retaliates, jeopardizing their happy ending.

Up against an abusive ex and Mother Nature, do Thorn and Amanda have a fighting chance?


Book Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iTunes



Amanda looked up from the current list of up-to-date payments for classes. A movement outside the glass storefront caught her eye. She tilted her head to see a man coming up the sidewalk from the side where the picnic bench sat. Through the vertical blinds, she glimpsed a square face—a short, rugged beard and long, dark hair pulled into a man bun. Her breath fled from her lungs. Her body went from icy cold to flaming hot in the span of a millisecond. She dropped to the floor and slid under the counter, beneath the ledge where they put their purses and cell phones.

“What—” Beth peeked at the windows. Then she snapped her fingers at April and pointed at the stools.

April jumped into action. She pushed the stools in so they blocked Amanda. The bell attached to the door jingled as April removed the jacket she wore and draped it across the stools, creating a curtain to shield Amanda.

From a crack, Amanda watched Beth move to stand in front of the twins, who were in their walkers playing peacefully. “I’m sorry, but we’re going to be closing.”

“I don’t give a shit. I’m here for Amanda.”

The sound of Damon’s voice had her heart beating even harder. That voice had haunted her nightmares, had come back to life in her memories.

Beth cocked her head to the side. “Who? There’s no one by that name here.”

“Don’t bullshit me. I know she works here.”

His voice was closer now.






Book Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iTunes

Author’s Note: I wrote The Disaster Curse to answer a few lingering questions readers may have after reading A Fighting Chance, and to tie the whole series together with a neat, shiny, perfect little bow. Plus, there was one disaster that I hadn’t written about yet. *wink*


The Disaster Crimes Series:

*The Crime Before the Storm (prequel)

Hurricane Crimes (novella, #1)

Seismic Crimes (#2)

Lightning Crimes (free short, #2.5)

Tsunami Crimes (#3)

Flaming Crimes (#4)

Frozen Crimes (#5)

A Fighting Chance (spin-off, #6)

The Disaster Curse (short story, #7)

*Free exclusive story to newsletter subscribers.



***LAUNCHING A WEBSITE*** is a website dedicated to domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. Inspired by the Disaster Crimes series.




Prizes: Hurricane Crimes (Disaster Crimes 1) and Seismic Crimes (Disaster Crimes 2) eBooks (mobi or epub), Hurricane Crimes Playing Cards, Girl Boss Sign, and a Volcanic Blast Scented Candle

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Chrys Fey is author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept that blends disasters, crimes, and romance. She runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club on Goodreads and edits for Dancing Lemur Press.

Author Links:

 Newsletter / Website / Facebook Group /Blog / BookBub

Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon





Friday, January 22, 2021

Photo Friday: Cueva de Las Manos

In February 2020--remember those days when we could still travel and move about?--my husband, brother-in-law, and I traveled through Patagonia. I'm starting to be able to go through those photos again and share some. I have used more of my husband's photos than I have in the past, in part because they are better than mine, and in part so that his talent can be shared.

One of our early stops on an 11-day, 1600-mile road trip on both sides of the Chile-Argentina border, was the Cueva de Las Manos (Cave of the Hands), a UNESCO World Heritage Site established in 1999. In a canyon carved by the Rio Pinturas into the basalt, a lengthy section of overhang (not really a cave) is covered with thousands of pictographs, primarily the silhouettes of hands.

The drive down Argentina's Ruta 40 over the Patagonia steppe felt a lot like driving minor backroads through the US Southwest. At least it, unlike the 17-miles road to the cave, was mostly paved (though we learned to read at least three different kinds of sign warning of potholes, some of them bad enough to require slowing to dirt-road speeds).

The tip-off that we weren't in Utah (besides highway signs in Spanish) was the fauna.

Guanaco crossing the road. These are the camelids from which llamas were bred. (Photo by Dave Dempsey)

Darwin's Rhea, a smallish version of the large, flightless birds endemic to South America (photo by Dave Dempsey)

At the end of the dirt road lay a visitor's center and a staff of multi-lingual guides to interpret and protect the site. We were the first visitors that morning and had a guide to ourselves. She had been an archaeology student before leaving university to work full-time at the Cueva de las Manos, and had just enough English to get the job done. She led us off down the roughly 1-mile trail to the cave, which is high on the banks about the line of green marking the Rio Pintura.

Photo by Dave Dempsey

As I have found with ancient rock art throughout the Colorado Plateau and beyond, it is humbling and moving to be in the presence of such ancient works of personal expression.

This panel includes one of the few right hands. Since the images were made by holding a blow-tube of pigment to the lips with one hand and blowing it over the other to create a stencil, most of the artists used their left hands as models.
The area was inhabited for about 8000 years, starting as early as 9300 years ago (dated at least in part by analysis of the organic compounds in the pigments). As a result some of the panels are palimpsests, showing the changing styles as well.

Over time, more images beyond hands crept in. Herds of guanaco and occasionally other animals may celebrate the hunt--or even in some cases, record where and how a successful hunt took place.

The cave, really more of an overhang, has protected the images from sun and weather through the centuries, maintaining the at times surprisingly vibrant colors. The zig-zags and dotted lines seen above are also common in rock art throughout the US, and are usually thought to represent rivers or routes through the land.  

Like any wise travelers to such remote sites, we came prepared, and enjoyed a typical roadside lunch on the way back to the highway, in a canyon that felt very familiar and at the same time alien.

Our trusty rental, a small Volkswagon wagon.

Provisions--always essential--we also carried some jugs of water in these remote lands.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Writer's Wednesday

 Not much to report this week. The collections are coming along, and I have begun processing feedback from my Beta readers for Death By Donut. I don't think I'll need to make any major changes, but some good points were brought up that I do want to address.

And the cover is ready! I'm going to do a reveal Feb. 3, so if you want to participate, let me know and I'll send the info! I'm thinking that should give me enough time to get the pre-order pages up, and bravely set a release date--a deadline I've been afraid to set so far. I think it's time.

The Wizard Libraries and Dragon Archives collection is just waiting on some more proof-reading, and will be joining Missing Snow and Strange Drinks: Tavern Tales Short and Tall any day now.

Maybe the most exciting thing for me as a writer is that "Accountability dates" are working, and I'm at least working well on those two days, with some carry-over to other days.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Photo Friday: Sunsets

 Today's photo treat is a few local sunsets. These are all simple cell-phone shots, since I don't usually carry my camera when out for a walk, so not necessarily the top quality you deserve.

And I can't resist throwing in just one more, from a more exotic location.

Thanks for visiting!

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Writer's Wednesday: Accountability

 Last week, I started something new: "Accountability" meetings. A writer friend invited me to be part of her accountability group, which entails a bit of Zooming during a morning dedicated to work--in other words, someone to be accountable to. After admittedly only one session, I have high hopes that this may help me move back into being a writer in a more meaningful sense. Our first session induced me to work on writing projects--mostly editing those short stories, some work on book covers, and answering a couple of writing-related emails--for a full three hours.

What this session made clear is that once I get to the computer and start working, I'm good. I feel good while I'm working, and I can lose myself in the work. Here's hoping I can sustain that, for the two days a week I've signed on for, at any rate! So far, I don't seem to be able to find that level of discipline without the external supports.

Still, the third of my flash-fiction e-collections is nearly ready, with a cover I like a lot. I'm still having fun with making covers, and learning more about Photoshop as I go.

This one will be out as soon as my proofreaders finish and come up with a blurb.

Meanwhile--my wonderful cover artist, Danielle English, has finished the cover for Death By Donut! Watch this space for a cover reveal, or sign on to help me spread the good news!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Nonfiction Audiobook: Labyrinth of Ice


 I used the hardback cover image because the Goodreads image for the audiobook was really lousy!

Title: Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition
Author: Buddy Levy. Read by Will Damron
Publication Info: Audible Audio 2019, 13 1/4 hours. Hardback St. Martin's Press, 2019. 400 pages. 
Source: Library digital resources

Blurb (Goodreads): 
In July 1881, Lt. A.W. Greely and his crew of 24 scientists and explorers were bound for the last region unmarked on global maps. Their goal: Farthest North. What would follow was one of the most extraordinary and terrible voyages ever made.

Greely and his men confronted every possible challenge—vicious wolves, sub-zero temperatures, and months of total darkness—as they set about exploring one of the most remote, unrelenting environments on the planet. In May 1882, they broke the 300-year-old record, and returned to camp to eagerly await the resupply ship scheduled to return at the end of the year. Only nothing came.

250 miles south, a wall of ice prevented any rescue from reaching them. Provisions thinned and a second winter descended. Back home, Greely's wife worked tirelessly against government resistance to rally a rescue mission.

Months passed, and Greely made a drastic choice: he and his men loaded the remaining provisions and tools onto their five small boats, and pushed off into the treacherous waters. After just two weeks, dangerous floes surrounded them. Now new dangers awaited: insanity, threats of mutiny, and cannibalism. As food dwindled and the men weakened, Greely's expedition clung desperately to life.

Labyrinth of Ice tells the true story of the heroic lives and deaths of these voyagers hell-bent on fame and fortune—at any cost—and how their journey changed the world.

My Review:
A worthy addition to my growing pile of books on polar explorations and way-out-there travel/survival! I don't think I even knew about this expedition, though as a key US exploration and one that seems to have given a push to understanding the arctic, I probably should have.

When reading about 19th-Century exploration I am often intrigued and maybe a bit put off by the mix between desire for scientific knowledge and the desire for some kind of glory that has nothing to do with science or knoweldge. This expedition was no exception. The drive to gain "furthest north" seems to have been mostly about national pride, and yet all those efforts to reach the North Pole also served a genuine purpose: debunking the idea of the "warm polar sea" and learning the real nature of the Earth's poles.
Greely's party collected vast amounts of data on weather, geology, geography, and more, and perhaps the most amazing part of this amazing survival tale is that the data survived, including the extensive diaries kept by most of the men as part of their duties (i.e, they were always meant to be part of the data, not private diaries, though many seem to have written pretty private stuff). Their records provide a baseline for some of our current studies of how climate change is affecting the arctic.

Initially I wanted more analysis of what went wrong, and whether Greely should have stayed put at their more secure camp instead of taking to the boats and moving south. But I think the author's dismissal is correct: for Greely, a military man from his mid-teens, not to follow orders (even his own) would be unthinkable. They followed the plan. In the end, whose fault it was is less important than the information they brought back. 
I do wonder if anyone has studied what made some of the men give up or even go mad while others were able to remain strong, even as their bodies gave up (I think there was a suggestion that some studies have been made). The author raises and then essentially ignores the questions of whether cannibalism occurred, which I also think is the right choice. The accusations tarnished the survivors' homecoming, but ultimately it doesn't matter, unless perhaps for those psychological studies!
Damron's excellent reading definitely adds to the feelings of growing tension and "you are there" immediacy.

My Recommendation:
Anyone who has an interest in the history of arctic exploration and scientific discovery should read this. If you just like tales of endurance and rising to meet challenges, that will do too. Warning: there are some grim parts and graphic descriptions of the results of starvation and freezing.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Labyrinth of Ice 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, January 8, 2021

Photo Friday: Reflections

What better theme for the first photo post of the year than reflections! I'm not going to reflect on 2020--that hot mess of a year is just too hard to look at. Nope, I'm going for literal reflections, of beautiful trees in beautiful water. I hope my photos give you a little space of calm in this crazy time.

All of these photos were taken at the One-Mile pool in Bidwell Park, Chico, CA.

Love how those trees make a perfect X--or a perfect diamond.

This one may take some study--it's the reflection of the bridge rail where the water goes over the sluice gate.

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, January 6, 2021

IWSG: What Makes Me Stop Reading?

It's time for the monthly 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!

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!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.   

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books? 
The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!


This is a question I've actually addressed before, but it's one well worth revisiting, and I don't have much to say about my own writing, so...

Some books I quit in annoyance, and know I'm quitting--if the writing is just not good, or the story gets gruesome or the like. Other books I set aside and realize that I just somehow never got back to them. Those often require a second look (and often when I'm in a different mood, I'll finish them).  

Here's a list of things that can ruin a story for me:

  • poor writing/editing (abuse of the English language)
  • anachronisms. If you are writing medieval fantasy and people are looking at clocks and using centimeters, I'll get annoyed.
  • wrong kind of story for me. Obviously this isn't something a writer needs to fix.
  • breaking the "fourth wall" with history/geography/language lessons or backstory thinly disguised as dialog or--worse--musing by a character.
  • lack of any likable/relatable characters. If everyone is too bad or too good, I'll probably quit.

Pretty sure I could go on, but that will do!

 December writing report:

We had a holiday, and I had company. Very very little writing, editing, or even blogging happened this month. That means that after getting my holiday story collection out at the beginning of the month, I ground to a halt with the other 3 collections that close to finished. I've also gotten feedback from several beta readers on my new Pismawallops PTA mystery, so that's waiting for my attention. I've only gotten back at it starting on New Year's Eve (because what else do you do with a holiday that's about parties, when you can't party, and about being with your loved ones, when they aren't around?), but I'm hitting the ground running! Well, okay, I'm continuing my hobble/crawl/ooze in the direction of productivity. The newest short-story collection goes live shortly, and I'm on to the next collection, Wizard Libraries and Dragon Archives.

This one is already live:


Monday, January 4, 2021

Middle Grade Classics: Seacrow Island



Title: Seacrow Island
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Publication Info: Kindle Edition NYR Children's Collection, 2015. First English edition, Viking Books for Young Readers, 1969 (original Swedish publication 1964). 287 pages.
Source: Library digital services

Goodreads Blurb:
Tiny Seacrow Island is one of hundreds of islands in the sparkling blue of the Baltic Sea. Though small, it has everything you’d want in an island: woods to wander in, flowers to pick, fish to catch, boats to sail in, all kinds of animals. But it doesn’t have very many young people. So when the four Melkerson kids and their father move into Carpenter’s Cottage one June day, they’re immediately welcomed by the resourceful islanders: Johan and Niklas Melkerson, at twelve and thirteen, are natural companions for adventurous Freddy and Teddy (girls exactly their age); dreamy Pelle, the baby of the family, gets up to trouble with bossy Tjorven and fanciful Stina; and ever-responsible Malin, who at nineteen looks after her scatterbrained father as well as her brothers, catches the eye of all the island’s young men. Before long Seacrow Island and Carpenter’s Cottage (tumbledown and leaky though it may be) have become a real home for the Melkersons. 

Seacrow Island is a remarkable story, filled with sweetness and sorrow, humor and suspense, and peopled with the vivid, unexpected, wonderfully winning characters we’ve come to expect from the creator of the unforgettable Pippi Longstocking.

My Review:
I no longer remember exactly why this was on my TBR list--I saw it somewhere and thought it sounded charming. And, indeed, it is. I haven't read Pippi for a long time, but this felt better to me than I remembered Pippi (as a child I always worried about the trouble she was getting Tommy and Annika into). Compared to most modern children's books, the story is slower-moving, more about a feel for a wonderful place, maybe creating a fantasy of that wonderful summer life on a magical island. But in the end, it had a lot more plot than I expected, and every bit as much charm as promised. 

There are a lot of characters, and the author moves the point of view among them scene by scene, but never in a way to confuse the reader, and for me it created a feeling that every one of the children was important, and deserving of attention. If pressed to pick the main characters, I'd choose three: Pelle, Tjorven, and Malin. It may be a bit odd to have an almost-adult as one of the main characters, and we don't see things so much from her adult perspective most of the time, but her changes and development are definitely central to the story.

Read it for a calming dip into a more peaceful time. There are adventures, but nothing madcap as Pippi Longstocking delivers. I found it a soothing read.