Monday, August 30, 2021

Flash Fiction--Portal #writephoto

I had to pull it together at the last minute, but I couldn't pass up this week's #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at, because the photo is mine! 


Through the Portal

It was just a walk in the park.

Lady Wilhemina Anscott-Bartleby, known to her friends as Willie and to all the old biddies as “that dreadful daughter of Lord Bartleby, poor man,” snuck out of the house as soon as the rain stopped. Three days shut up with the family and her parents’ dreadful friends was more than enough. Fresh air was required.

To avoid problems with servants and relations, she dressed in boy’s clothes and snuck out the back door, her outfit crowned by the most disreputable newsboy’s hat. Actually, Willie knew Tommy for a perfectly respectable newsboy with an excellent reputation. What’s more, he had a head for business. He’d driven a hard bargain about that hat. She’d ended up not only paying him full replacement costs but an extra charge for the time he’d spent breaking it in for her. Now Tommy wore a very natty new cap, and Willie hid her mass of shining red-brown hair under the ratty one.

That afternoon in the park she discovered the drawbacks of her disguise.

She was ambling down one of the paths covered by dripping trees when she found herself confronted by a local gang of urchins. They’d marked her down as a strange boy, always fair game. Cornered before she knew she needed to flee, Willie faced a half a dozen truly disreputable boys, at least three of them larger than her.

“Want to fight?” The largest and most belligerent offered. The others laughed.

Willie had to agree. It was absurd for her to fight a hulking brute on the cusp of manhood. Flight was her best option.

She took one step toward the boys, fists clenched. They stepped back in momentary confusion. She whirled and ran.

Willie splashed through several dark, dirty puddles, uncaring. Glancing down as her dripping foot approached another puddle, she saw reflected in it... blue sky through white branches? In the second before her foot hit the ground, she registered the impossibility.

Her foot hit the water cradled in a shallow depression of the pavement—and kept going. She was falling. She gave herself up for lost. Once down, she’d be at the mercy of the boys she could hear closing on her.

She didn’t hit the pavement.

The ground where she’d stepped simply wasn’t there. In a moment, neither were the voices of the boys. She thought she heard the tone of their shouts change from triumph to fear in the moment before they were cut off.

A moment or two later, she did stop falling. With a thud. Fortunately, the branches she’d seen in the pool broke her fall. She was stunned, but when she recovered her breath, she decided she wasn’t injured.

Still lying in the mud, she peered about as best she could, and saw not a single tree or plant she recognized. The day was pleasantly warm, with sun filtered through the thick forest canopy, dominated by smooth white bark. The path was unpaved, but the puddle remained, now mostly soaked into her breeches.

At that juncture, Willie thought her walk in the rain-washed park might have been the most ill-judged decision of her life. When she realized that there were half a dozen children looking at her, every bit as dirty and suspicious as the boys she’d escaped, she was sure of it. When she saw that these children were armed with spears, she gave herself up for lost.

The oldest child—a girl, as far as Willie could tell, though all wore breeches—said something. Willie didn’t understand a word. It wasn’t English, and it wasn’t any of the three or four other languages she’d dabbled in at school.

“Does anyone speak English?” she asked without much hope.

The only answer was a prodding with the spears that communicated that she was to go with them. Moving cautiously, checking to see if anything was broken, Willie pulled herself to her feet. When she found she was whole, she went where she was directed.

Aided by an occasional poke in the backside with a spear—and indignity she resented but couldn’t prevent—Willie found herself entering a sort of a  castle.

In the center of a warm and sunny courtyard, the children told their tale to a man with a sword and an air of authority. Their gestures told of seeing the strange person falling out of the treetops and into the puddle.

Not knowing what else to do, Willie stood there and smiled at the man. When the children finished, he smiled back at her. He gave the children some sort of order, and they scampered off.

She and the man stood and looked at each other, unable to communicate except by smiles. He didn’t seem in any doubt that she was female, perhaps because her cap had come off in her fall and was now being worn by the oldest child.

After a minute, an elderly man appeared from a doorway. He wore a worn tweed suit, and brightened at the sight of her.

“Gracious! A pleasure to meet you, um, miss?” He glanced at her breeches and chose to overlook them, returning his gaze to her face. “So someone else has discovered the portal at last.”

“I stumbled on it, yes,” Willie admitted. “I do apologize for my appearance.”

“Oh, not to worry. I was equally muddy on my arrival. But how did you know to wear trousers?”

It took a lot of explaining, both ways.

In the end, Willie accepted that there was no going back. She wasn’t sure she wanted to. Women here, her new friend told her, were equal with men. There was the little problem of needing to train to fight ogres and dragons, but aside from that...

And there was the man in charge. Such a very different sort from the fashionable young men her father wanted her to marry. Really, it was a most fortunate thing.

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

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Book Review: 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste



Title: 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste
Katheryn Kellog

Publication Info:
Countryman Press, 2019

Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
We all know how important it is to reduce our environmental footprint, but it can be daunting to know where to begin. Enter Kathryn Kellogg, who can fit all her trash from the past two years into a 16-ounce mason jar. How? She starts by saying “no” to straws and grocery bags, and “yes” to a reusable water bottle and compostable dish scrubbers.

In 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, Kellogg shares these tips and more, along with DIY recipes for beauty and home; advice for responsible consumption and making better choices for home goods, fashion, and the office; and even secrets for how to go waste free at the airport. “It’s not about perfection,” she says. “It’s about making better choices.”

This is a practical, friendly blueprint of realistic lifestyle changes for anyone who wants to reduce their waste.

My Review:
I found the tone of this book to be annoying (a little too cute and conversational), but there is a lot of solid, helpful info in there. Much of it is perhaps too basic for those of us who have been aware for decades of the problem of plastic, but for those starting out, Kellogg communicates clearly how to manage the simplest lifestyle changes--ditching bottled water and single-use grocery sacks (tip: with a few exceptions, in developed countries, tap water is safer--and better regulated--than bottled water).

I did bookmark a number of suggestions and recipes for my own use. Since the library book expired while I was out hiking, I'll have to check it out again and copy those tips. I was particularly interested in recipes and tips for cleaning, as most cleaning supplies, in addition to coming in plastic bottles, are pretty toxic. I'm not freaked out by chemicals, but I am conscious of what we are putting into the waste stream, including wastewater.

There were whole chapters I skipped, on makeup and other things I simply don't use, but which could be very helpful to those who do.

In the end, maybe the best take-away, besides reminders to stop "wish-cycling" and really make sure you are recycling correctly, and not introducing contaminants into the recycling stream, is that we should concentrate on the first two words of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra. With the emphasis on the first.

My Recommendation:
This isn't the be-all and end-all of waste-reduction books, but there are a lot of practical tips, and it's presented in a way that allows for quick browsing. It's worth taking a look, and taking some notes.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste 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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Friday, August 20, 2021

More hiking... less writing.

But not zero writing! I have continued to write every day when camped in the front country, and the novel is now nearing 65K. I took a break while backpacking this week, but came up with a vision (I think) for where it goes from here more or less to the end. Since that vision was developed while hiking at over 11,000', I will believe it when it actually works out on paper!

For those who are wondering, the new book is a new heroine, new setting, and as yet lacks a title. I'm just calling it Seffi's Book for now. More updates on that when inspiration strikes!

We are enjoying three nights of front-country camping, then four more of backpacking, before I head home and try to tie up the loose ends. By the time we end the trip, I expect to be over 70K words and have the end in sight--today is a total rest day, so a good writing day (well, rest, groceries, laundry, and a few other errands, but mostly entertaining ourselves).

Here are a few more teaser photos from the cell phone.

Looking back toward Brainerd Lake on a beautiful dayhike out of Big Pine.

Not sure which kind of pine this was, on the Brainerd Lake trail.

We also went up into the White Mountains and visited my old friends the bristlecone pines.

Growing roots wherever they can, and clinging to life in the most unlikely places, the bristlecones can live more than 4000 years (we know that, because some still living are more than that old). This one might have given up the fight, but if a tree has even one little strip of bark continuous to one green branch, it's alive and well.

When the trees, or parts of a tree, die, the wood is eroded by wind, sand, and blowing snow, and inhabited by various bacteria that turn the wood beautiful colors. Bristlecones that have grown in difficult places are so strong and tough that the wood of downed trees erodes, more than it rots.

We have now just returned from 3 nights backpacking up Pine Creek near Bishop, CA, up to the most amazing alpine basin called Granite Park.

Looking up toward the second day's goal, nestled below those pointy peaks.

Morning in Granite Park. Although the wind nearly blew us out of there the previous afternoon, in the morning we got just enough calm for some reflections. I didn't remember the cell phone until the best light and conditions were past, so you'll have to wait for the really good photos :D

Of course, every good backpack trip deserves a good post-hike dinner. In this case, chicken pesto pizza and beer in Mammoth.

Carry on, reader and writer friends, and I'll work on a full trip report in a week or a bit. I've got a couple of books to report on, too--might even get one of those done before I hike again.

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

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Writer update!

 We are back in civilization for an hour or two to do laundry. It comes to every camper and hiker! So here's my chance to catch up. Yes, as a writer!

Since our hikes have started typically by 7:15 or 7:30 a.m., we've been done and in camp by mid-afternoon. That's enough time to do some writing, and so far I have written every day, I think at least 1000 words. The new novel is up to 59,237  words as of this writing, and keeping the daily momentum means it's kind of coming together. I do think there will be a lot of moving scenes around--I'm envisioning a lot of notecards to rearrange on a big wall.

Meanwhile, here is proof I've been writing:

Outside when conditions allow.

When the mosquitoes are too bad, I move into my BiL/SiL's camper

Mornings are spent soaking up the soul-healing beauty of the Sierra Nevada.

Little Lakes Valley, Rock Creek

The beauty of the ancient trees

Table Mountain, above Bishop Creek.

Treasure Lake, S. Fork Bishop Creek

Three happy hikers

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#IWSG: Writing craft

 It's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly post! 


The IWSG is a fantastic group of writers and bloggers who share posts the first Wednesday of each  month.

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 August 4 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!
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!

August 4 question - What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

I'm skipping the question this month. I've talked before about writing books, but right now I'm not feeling the love. Actually, I'm feeling pretty good as a writer, because (cue blaring of trumpets and clashing of symbols)... I'm actually writing! I'm 49,000 words into a really horrid, messy, glop of a draft of a new novel for a new mystery series. Okay, I also just picked up another rejection for a short story, but I've turned it around and sent it back out. I also got much-needed insights (thanks, Jemima Pett!) into why another story kept coming back. I've got that one queued up for a complete rewrite--the plot is sound, the execution... well, the less said, the better. Not sure exactly when that will happen, but maybe while I'm hiking?

Because, yup, it's August and Rebecca is headed to the High Sierra. Cross your fingers and toes for us, that we won't get smoked out! And meanwhile, tell us about the writing books that help you. I'm sure I'll need them again. In fact, given the mess I'm looking at with the new novel, I'll be especially grateful for books that address messy rewrites!

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

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Monday, August 2, 2021

Plastics Update

After studying the pile of plastic waste that I collected in only 10 days (see this post), I am still at loss how to avoid many of the sources of single-use plastic. I have found that at least one local store still takes some bags, and will recycle what I can, but as I remain skeptical that much will actually get recycled, I have identified a few places where I can make a little extra effort and reduce my use of single-use bags in the first place (note: I do try to re-use whatever I can, as many times as I can. In the end, they are still plastic waste).

1. I will make more fabric produce bags, and shop where I can use them. I made a LOT of these a couple of years ago and gave them out at Christmas. In the end, I didn't have enough left for myself. They're a little fussy to make and I've been lazy, and never got around to making more. Time to fix that! (BTW, the fabric is another case of re-using something that would otherwise be waste, a set of worn-out sheer curtains I knew there was some reason I never threw away).

2. I will dodge fruit that only comes in clamshell plastic. This will hurt a little--I know of no other way to get fresh blueberries, when my own bush isn't producing (which it does for about 1 month a year). I will probably keep buying frozen berries out of season, though of course they come in single-use plastic bags.

3. No plastic meat trays. Again, this is a half-satisfactory trade-off, as even the meats from the butcher counter are wrapped in plastic before I get them. If the trays are truly recycled, they may be a better option than plastic wrap, but again, I'm dubious about how much plastic really gets recycled in a meaningful way.

4. I have already stopped buying liquid shampoo and conditioner, though there is a lot around here to use up. Sometimes (like for trips to the gym) it's more convenient, so I'll use the liquid for that until it's gone. This one is easy--I'm very happy with my shampoo bars (from Trader Joe's, and I hope they don't discontinue them), but am open to suggestions for the best place to get conditioner bars.

5. Finally, I'm also shifting away from plastic bags and plastic wrap for food storage in my own kitchen. I have a lifetime supply of storage containers, and plenty of room in my fridge, so this is easy. I will keep on using plastic wrap when I repackage meats for the freezer, but that's really about the only place it seems necessary.

Of course, "grow your own" is a great way to avoid packaging, at least during the growing season!

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

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