Showing posts from March, 2016

Night-hike to the Panamint Dunes

There was no Chuck Wendig Challenge this week, which fit nicely with my intention to do a little creative non-fiction, with photos. We spent Tues-Sunday last week visiting Death Valley and the environs in search of stunning desert landscapes and spring wildflowers. We found both. The Panamint Dunes are located in the far north end of the Panamint Valley, which is the next valley west of Death Valley proper and part of the National Park. Night Hike to the Panamint Dunes Six miles of rough dirt road behind us, and a hasty dinner prepared and eaten, we hoist loaded packs as the last of the evening light fades away. The sun set early behind the Inyo Mountains, and at 8 p.m. the full moon isn't up. Even so, we can see our goal: the Panamint Dunes are pale in contrast to the surrounding mountains and the scrub-covered alluvial fans that surrounded them. Headlamps, even though I forgot to replace the dying batteries, are enough to show us the footing and avoid injuries as we pick our way

Middle Grade Review: The Book of Kings (Mister Max #3)

  Title: The Book of Kings (Mister Max #3) Author: Cynthia Voigt; illustrated by Iacopo Bruno Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2015. 352 pages. Source: Library Publisher's Blurb:  Ever since Max’s parents were spirited away on a mysterious ship, he has longed to find them. He’s solved case after case for other people in his business as “solutioneer.” And he’s puzzled out the coded messages sent by his father. He doesn’t know exactly what’s happened, but he knows his parents are in danger—and it’s up to Max to save them. Max and his friends (and a few old foes) don disguises and set sail on a rescue mission. It will take all of Max’s cleverness and daring to outmaneuver the villains that lie in wait: power-hungry aristocrats, snake-handling assassins, and bombardier pastry chefs. And behind the scenes, a master solutioneer is pulling all the strings.... Has Max finally met his match? My Review: As you can see, I kept to my word and not only read Book 3 on paper

Review: The Vampire Mechanic by WIll MacMillan Jones

First off, yes, I know it's nearly Tuesday (or, depending where you are, already Tuesday). We spent most of last week in the desert chasing wildflowers and got home fairly late on Sunday. So sue me. Or wait patiently, and by the end of the week I'll have wildflower photos to share! Now for our featured review:             I tossed in both covers because a) I'm not sure which one is on my ebook, and b) I like them both. Also note: I do associate with the author on Goodreads. But he's never sent me cookies, cake, or vegemite (thank the gods), and our association has in no way influenced this review. Title: The Vampire Mechanic (The Banned Underground #3) Author: Will Macmillan Jones Publisher: Safkhet Fantasy, 2012. 173 pages Source: I bought this of my own free will and with my own money. Summary:  First, understand who the Banned Underground is (are?): a dwarf rhythm and blues band, with a bog troll on sax. And a dragon on bass. That's a good start. Now, give the

Friday Fiction: 5 sentence story

Last week, Chuck Wendig challenged us to write a story in 5 sentences, which I didn't do because I felt like writing more. This week, I'm out of town, so here is the story. Chuck suggested 100 words. I took 98, including the title. New Life The cliché “It was a dark and stormy night” doesn’t begin to describe the conditions the night Alexander Solomons died and I became the man you know. It happened in a hurricane—a typhoon, strictly speaking, since we were in the Indian Ocean—and I was a prisoner aboard a sinking pirate ship. I didn’t conjure the hurricane. I did curse the ship and steal the only seaworthy lifeboat. From my perilous position in the tiny craft I smiled as the ship went down with all hands, leaving no one to say who I had once been. ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016

Review: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

  Title: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print Author: Renni Browne & Dave King Publisher: William Morrow. Second Edition, 2004. 278 pages. Summary: This is a step-by-step walk through the major areas in which fiction can go wrong, below the plot level (the book discusses things that affect plot, but they do not discuss the big plot issues of story arc, etc.). It includes checklists, exercises, and a list of top books for writers. Review:  Each chapter of this book addresses a different area of concern in your manuscript, and includes lots of examples. At the end of each chapter there is a summary checklist of the things you might want to do/look for in your book, and a set of exercises to try. I failed to notice until I finished that there is an appendix with the authors' take on how those exercises might be completed (these are editing choices. There is no one right answer).  As I read through the book, I marked things that I thought were particul

YA Revew: All Fall Down, by Ally Carter

Title: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) Author: Ally Carter; narrated by Eileen Stevens Publisher: Scholastic Audio, 2015.  (Original Scholastic Press, 2015, 310 pages) Publisher's Summary: Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:    1. She is not crazy.      2. Her mother was murdered.      3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay. As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't

Camp NaNo and the A to Z Challenge

Yup, another post about writing, and deciding how best to keep myself motivated. And it's not even time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group! Every fall, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) gets a fair bit of attention as thousands and thousands of people undertake to write 50,000 words in a month. I've written about that, and done it, too. (See here and here and here and here and here .  I've had a lot to say on the subject!). In April, the organization sponsors Camp NaNo, a less structured event in which you set your own goals, with the focus on getting the work done and making connections/finding motivation. I haven't done that before, in part because April is ALSO Blogging from A to Z month. So here's the thing: I need a little more structure and some deadlines. So I want to sign up for Camp NaNo, though I'm debating which project to do. More on that in a minute. First, a word about the A to Z challenge. I love A to Z. It's fun, it helps

Middle Grade Fiction: The Book of Secrets

Title: The Book of Secrets (Mister Max #2) Author: Cynthia Voigt Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. 355 pages. Source: Digital Library Publisher's Summary: In Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things , Max Starling proved that he is more than a detective, he’s a Solutioneer. His reputation for problem-solving has been spreading—and now even the mayor wants his help. Someone is breaking windows and setting fires in the old city, but the shopkeepers won’t say a word about the culprits. Why are they keeping these thugs’ secrets? When the mayor begs for help, Max agrees to take the case, putting himself in grave danger. It’s a race to catch up with the vandals before they catch him. Meanwhile, Max is protecting secrets of his own. His parents are still missing, and the cryptic messages he gets from them make it clear—it’s going to be up to Max to rescue them. Can the Solutioneer handle cases this big? My Review: I reviewed the first book of this series (audio

Flash Fiction: Blanche and the Seven Brothers

Our Chuck Wendig challenge this week was to pick one of the Seven Deadly Sins and write a story about it--whatever sort of story we wanted. Naturally, I couldn't follow directions and picked all seven. That number just rang a few bells...not just the fairy tale, but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, too. And the story about the 7 Chinese brothers. Clearly something had to be done. It's exactly 1000 words, including the title, though mostly that's luck. Blanche and the Seven Brothers Blanche and the Seven Brothers The girl looked around the dingy cottage and nodded. It looked right enough. Just like in the stories. She’d be all right there. Blanche had made her escape from the usual home problems. Her Pa was all right, she guessed, but Marjorie—no way was Blanche ever going to call that woman “Ma”—was a real piece of work, and Pa was too weak to stop her. Whatever went on in this cottage, it would be better than staying with her. And the cottage was really rather charming un

Middle Grade review: How to Speak Dolphin

Title: How to Speak Dolphin Author: Ginny Rorby Publisher: Scholastic, 2015, 264 pages Source: Library Summary: It's been 2 years since Lily's mother died, and though she loves her little brother Adam, his severe autism has made him the focus of all their lives. Lily is frustrated because her step-dad doesn't seem willing to deal with Adam's problems, and she doesn't have any friends. That's a lot for a 12-year-old to cope with. But when Lily makes a friend at last, and Adam seems to respond well to dolphin therapy, it looks like things are getting better. But however much Adam loves Nori, Lily is beginning to see that a dolphin should be wild, not kept in a tank. My Review:  How to Speak Dolphin  is a well-written book that deals honestly with autism. In some ways, it seems a bit piled-on to have all of Lily's other problems, but the author handles it well. For example, my initial reaction to Lily's new friend being blind was that it seemed a bit gratui

Writing book revew: Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey

Title: Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey Author: Chuck Wendig Publisher: Terribleminds, 2011. 338 pages. Source: Purchased Summary:  This collection of 50+ essays covers many aspects of writing and the writing life, from why you should never be a writer, to why being a writer is amazing, to how to edit the living daylights out of your MS. It is profane, exaggerated, and totally inspiring. My Review: I guess I gave it away with the last sentence of the summary: the book is motivating. I didn't think every essay in the book was inspiring or fit me and my situation, but in general, when Wendig starts talking about writing, I have to listen--and usually to laugh before I get down to thinking seriously about what applies and how it matters. This book is one of a set of 8 e-books on writing, collections of essays posted on Chuck Wendig's blog,, over the years. Many in this book were written when he was just starting out, not as a writer (he clearly had been doin

Friday Flash: In the Soup

Chuck Wendig spent all last week collecting first lines from his readers. This week he gave us ten to choose from to write 1000-2000 words. For me the choice was clear. “Of all the things I expected to find in my tomato soup, this wasn’t one of them.” (Stella Wood) I think I ran a few words over my personal word count target of 1000 words. Nonetheless, I give you.... In the Soup Of all the things I expected to find in my tomato soup, this wasn't one of them. I opened the can and mixed it myself, and only turned me back for a minute. Next think I knew I was looking at a little green man doing the breast stroke. My first thought was that I was glad I hadn't heated the soup too hot. My second thought was that I was nuts. I was seeing naked green men in my soup. I had to be crazy. It got worse. I closed my eyes to shut out the hallucination and raised a spoonful of soup to my mouth. "Hey, watch it there, greedy-gullet! Whattaya think yer doing?" Even if I believed there

IWSG: Got the Revise-My-Novel, Looks-Like-Work Blues

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means time for the IWSG! The purpose of the IWSG: 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! Fear of Revisions Okay, that header is a lie. I'm not afraid of revisions. I'm just lazy. There. I said it. I'm at that point where I am taking the big globby gloppy mess that is my first draft, looking at it with a cold and detached eye, and considering what must be done to make it right. I got spoiled with my last two books. Those were not only pretty well planned, but things went right with the plan, and the first draft really wasn't too bad. This time, the plan was weak and the execution spotty, and now I'm looking at a lot of work. Work that maybe no one but me cares if I get done, some part of my mind tries to tell me. I'm s