A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Picketpost Mountain, Arizona

A great Arizona hike--Picketpost Mountain, near Superior.

The mountain stands alone, giving great views all around from the top.  It's steep, the trail gaining more than 2100 feet (640 m) in about 2 miles (3.2 km).  It's also a bit of an adventure:  lots of rocks to climb over, lots of loose and slippery dirt, lots of places where you lose the trail and find it again after a little bushwhacking, lots of slightly scary heights.  I LOVE it.

Here's my brother, looking up at our path.  It goes through that gap in the vertical cliffs:

And here's one of those cliffs from halfway up:

My brother, climbing:

Views from the top:

Me at the famous mailbox at the top, where visitors can sign the log and read others' comments:

To get to the trailhead, turn off Highway 60 not far east of Superior, Arizona.  There are brown trail signs on the highway pointing the way.

If you go, go in spring or fall. Absolutely do not try this in 100+ temperatures (38 C+) unless you really know what you're getting into.  Even then, I don't recommend it.  Take plenty of water whenever you go.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Deer Mountain Trail, Ketchikan, Alaska

Deer Mountain Trail is Ketchikan's most easily accessible trail, and it's certainly a beauty. Steep and often very wet, it's a lush and peaceful environment to enjoy some of Alaska's beauty. If you get high enough, it'll also give you great views. I've hiked it twice, and I would hike it again tomorrow if I had the chance.

From my journal after the first hike up Deer Mountain:

From the second lookout, fog rose and fell, obscuring and revealing. I could see nothing but clouds, then islands would appear below me, then disappear again into the fog.”

View from Deer Mountain Trail

View  from same spot less than 1 minute later

Almost better in the rain, so green—shiny green and misty. And the sound of raindrops.”

My second hike up Deer Mountain was even rainier and foggier than the first. Here are a few snippets from my journal that night:

"The trail was wet wet--practically a river running down in. I had my emergency poncho (the heavy-duty one) but I was still immediately soaked from the ankles to knees and elbows to wrists. Then it started wicking up my sleeves and pant legs until I was completely soaked. My 'waterproof' boots stopped shedding water at about 1.5 miles, so my feet were in a swamp. But that made it easier to not care about the puddles and rivers. Adventure!"

I recognized where snow had covered the path last time. It was clear, so I went on, past a foggy pond, more scrub, sloping fields of some giant clover-looking plant, where the trail slanted through it and the land disappeared below and above into soft blankets of fog, as if the trail were an island. And then around one bend, half behind a bush, stood a deer, looking at me. Gorgeous. I spent a long time watching her, trying to photograph her through the mist, stalking her—and then a second deer. They munched on the plants, looked at me with just a touch of wariness, then began munching again. It was past the time when I should have turned back, in order to catch the boat, but I didn't want to leave the deer so quickly, so I watched and lurked and eventually turned—regretfully—back.”

My advice: plan more time than you think you'll need, so you don't have to turn back before you want to. The trailhead is uphill along Ketchikan Lakes Road from the small city park. From the trailhead, it's 2.75-mile (4.4 km) climb to the 3000-foot (914 m) summit, but you don't have to go all the way to experience the greenery, the boardwalks, the views, and even the alpine meadows. You can get a basic map at the visitor center.  

Do you want to know more about Deer Mountain Trail and other great hikes you can take while on an Alaskan cruise?  

Then Cruising Alaska on a Budget is for you.  It includes many free and inexpensive things to do in the ports, including hikes and/or easy walks in all the mainstream cruise destinations.  If you're traveling independently, you'll still find the information useful.  Sign up here or use the contact form in the right-hand column, and I'll let you know when it's available. You'll love Alaska.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Advice from Writers at the Glendale Chocolate Affair

I love the Glendale Chocolate Affair, partly for the chocolate, but mostly for the writing classes (sponsored by area romance writers--see the connection to February and chocolate?)   Every year I'm in the country, I go to some of the classes, and always learn something new or remember something I've forgotten.

This year I collected my favorite tidbit of advice from each class and compiled them at Writer's on the Move, a blog I contribute to about the art and business of writing.

Here's my favorite one:

Don't write linking scenes just to write them. If you do, they'll be boring. Skip all the boring scenes.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

All the Light we Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

This was a beautiful book. Sad, brutal at parts, but beautiful. It puts a very human face on the tragedy of war, and does so in a fresh way.

The writing is at times too descriptive for my personal tastes, a bit too poetic, and I do sometimes wonder if someone who uses the verb “purl” twice within twenty pages is maybe trying a little too hard. However, this is all very subjective, and overall I really liked and admired the writing itself: the velvety language and unusual combinations, the perfect choice of details, the slow builds.

The main characters were well-drawn and I the author made me love them.

The story moved slowly at times, but in that rich, beautiful way that I like.

The plot was engaging, all the separate strands working well together.

I did get temporarily confused sometimes with the time jumping because the author didn't always do enough to orient us at the beginning of each jump, instead just dating the sections and expecting us to remember the dates of the others sections. I never remember dates like that, so I had to flip back and forth a couple of times. Still, a minor issue.

I did wonder about a few small details, like the can of homemade peaches. Wouldn't it be a bottle? A few things about the resistance's communication didn't quite make sense to me either, but that was probably just me. Again, tiny issues in such an good novel.

The ending worked for me, though most if it was pretty sad. Yet amid all the sadness--through the whole book--there was hope and beauty too.

A very, very good book.

4.5 Stars   

Sunday, January 29, 2017

South Mountain Park, Phoenix, Arizona

South Mountain Park, Phoenix, Arizona

After having spent more than two years in Europe, the desert looks so beautiful again to me, especially when I see it through my Czech friends' eyes.  It's especially green here after a lot of rain.  Beautiful, beautiful place.

If you go to South Mountain Park, go in fall, winter, or spring.  Take water.  Enjoy.

Various cactus, South Mountain Park

Hummingbird in Ocotillo
Hedgehog cactus, I believe

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How to Handle Book Bigotry--Guest Post by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

How to Handle Book Bigotry

An excerpt from Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.

I thought I would share an excerpt from the newest book in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books titled How to Get Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically with Melinda’s readers. It was launched in a special BookBaby.com promotion and it is estimated that it was read by at least 20,000 authors, which makes me practically ecstatic that I can help that many in the its first months as an e-book. It is now available as a paperback, too.

I believe—know—that  attitudes toward self- and indie-publishers have become more accepted over the decades. When my first novel was published, any book published by anything other than university presses and New York’s Big Five were derisively called “vanity publishers.” Still, book bigotry or its near cousins hasn’t disappeared entirely.
That sounds discouraging, but it’s a reality. Some—including reviewers—find it convenient to let the name of a press help vet their final choices among hundreds of thousands of books available to them these days. Using the name of a respected press is an easy—though misguided—way to do that.
Brooke Warner, the author of Green Light Your Books and board member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers of America) says, “I advise authors with [print-on-demand books] never to specify how their books were printed [when they are] talking to book buyers, event hosts, booksellers, conference organizers or librarians . . . .”
Notice that Warner is not suggesting you fib about how the book is published. It seems she is suggesting we just omit that piece of information. But in some cases you can bravely face down book bigotry. That means owning up to however your book is published. My coauthor of the Celebration Series of Chapbooks Magdalena Ball and I list our poetry chapbooks (booklets) in the series as “proudly self-published in the time-honored tradition of poets since before Gutenberg invented the press.”
Honesty is essential. Reviewers and other contacts are not naïve. They know a digitally printed book, micro press, indie publisher or any number of entities now in the publishing business when they see it. But, as writers, we know that words and the way we use them are powerful and we should be willing to use the power to the best of our ability within the boundaries required by ethics.
It is your job—no matter who printed your books—to convince reviewers (and, yes, readers!) that your book is the one they want to spend time with. That your book has value that particular reader or reviewer can use, wants, or desperately needs. We do that:
§  By publishing or having someone else publish a professional, well edited book. Read more on how to do that in my multi award-winning The Frugal Editor and find more books that will help you with the journey in the Index of that book.
§  By building—and continuing to build—a platform that is respected by others in the publishing industry. (Read more on that in The Frugal Book Promoter).
§  By approaching reviewers (and other gatekeepers) with whom you have built a relationship and/or those you have researched so you are confident that they will have an interest in your genre. That requires lots of reading and research so you won’t waste sending a book to someone with no clout or who isn’t actually a reviewer. You’ll want to read How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career to learn more on getting and managing those reviews successfully.

Note: By being familiar with the reviewer or other contact and the media she writes for, you limit the chances your book or the content within will be misused. For more on that see the chapter on “Why Book Reviews Aren’t What You Think They Are” in How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.
You, the author of your book, are the one who is so passionate about it you will not be daunted by the review-garnering task. Persistence is the key. But here’s The Secret to getting around this to-tell-or-not-to-tell conundrum:
Pretend you are a florist and must put the best blooms in your book bouquet forward. You discard the wilted ones, or at least place them behind the more exquisite blossoms in your inventory.
·         So, you shout it out when it’s your advantage to tell and you do it with pride.
·         When you think your bloom will appear slightly wilted to your contact, you disguise it with the name of a professional publishing company you set up for your own books.
·         And when all else fails, you tactfully omit that information. You won’t fool anyone who finds this information super important, but there is no rule that you must flaunt it, either.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News. Other awards include Readers’ Views Literary Award, the top marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. And now, ta da! The third:  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Praise for Far-Knowing

“I've read a lot of books this year, and I think my favorite fantasy so far has been 'Far-Knowing' by Melinda Brasher. It's a coming-of-age with two female protags, with a relationship I found quite interesting: simple at first glance, yet very multifaceted.”

-John Blackport