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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel

This is a darling little round-tailed ground squirrel we saw at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Arizona.  We sat and watched him run around, diligently enlarge his burrow, have a snack, etc.  So cute.

These guys are native to the southwest.  They look a lot like prairie dogs, but aren't related.

If you're visiting Phoenix (or if you live here)--I highly recommend the Desert Botanical Garden.  I recommend going in spring.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Butterfly Exhibit at the Botanical Gardens

Each spring at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens, they have a butterfly exhibit.  You can go inside a big mesh tent right with the butterflies.  Just swarms of them.  I'd never seen anything like it.  Very, very beautiful.

Here are some:

Giant swallowtail
White peacock
Zebra longwing

Gulf fritillary (top of wings)

Gulf fritillary (bottom of wings)
The display usually ends in mid May.  The rest of the botanical gardens are really awesome too.  Plan plenty of time.  Also, consider checking out a culture pass from the library--good for 2 admissions.  :)

Click here for more information on the Desert Botanical Garden  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cactus Flowers at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Arizona

Cactus blossoms at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden
Late April


The saguaro flowers in the picture above each bloom for only one day.  




The world is amazing.

Click here for more information on the Desert Botanical Garden  

Friday, May 26, 2017

ZooBorns by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Cuteness Factor:  11 million stars

This book is a very short read, but the real joy comes from lingering over the beautiful photos of darling baby animals.  The facts about each animal are interesting, educational, succinct, and well written.  The ethics of zoos are debatable, so if you're strongly opposed to keeping animals in captivity, you will not like it, but some of these animals would be extinct or nearly so without zoo breeding programs, so...well, the debate lives on.

And I just dare you to look into some of these babies' eyes and not melt.

As one reviewer on Goodreads says, "Help me!  My macho is melting!...Can't resist the pictures!!...Must overuse exclamation points!!!!...Too cute!!!!!!!!"  Thanks, Marvin, for that.  

Buy it on Amazon

And it looks like there are more books in the series.  Yippee!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wildings by Eleanor Glewwe

I used to like middle-grade novels a lot (as both a kid and an adult), but I hadn't read any in quite a while.  Recently I decided to do a little market research by reading some, and the first one I picked up was this one, which sounded like it had some elements similar to a novel I'm shopping around to agents.

I'm so glad I picked it up.  

The cover is absolutely beautiful, but the story is even better.  

The writing is good.  The premise is interesting but sad--and twistedly relevant.  I love the setting, a fun and creative mix of recent past and other world.  The main characters aren't ridiculously good at everything (a pet peeve of mine).  Nor are they assassins or thieves (character types that appear too often in YA for my taste.)  They're not massively talented.  They're not the chosen one.  Yet they work and struggle and grow and accomplish great things.  

The themes of prejudice, segregation, and social inequality are important, yet it doesn't feel preachy.  The ending is satisfying.  And my favorite part [WARNING--SEMI SPOILER] is that they fight for social change without violence.  It's awesome!  We need more books like this.  [END SPOILER]

Now I want to read Sparkers and anything else Eleanor Glewwe writes.

I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike.

Keep tuned for an interview here with the author!


   

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pen Name or No Pen Name


Have you ever wondered why some writers use pen names?  

If you're a writer, have you ever thought about using a pen name yourself?

Well, you're not alone.  Here's my little post on the subject, over at Writers On the Move  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Portage Glacier Hike from Whittier, Alaska

One of my favorite hikes in Alaska was the Portage Pass trail from Whittier.  Here are some photos:

The easy walk from the ship to the trailhead near the railroad tunnel:

Views from the top of the trail were beautiful, even with the gray skies.
Looking back toward Passage Canal:


Looking down toward Portage Glacier:


Tiny alpine plants--at amazingly low elevation


More misty beauty at the end of the trail:



For more details on this trail, check out my new book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget:


Plus...
-More hikes you can take from cruise ports
-Free and inexpensive things do do in Whittier and all other mainstream Alaskan cruise stops
-Tips on how to find good cruise prices, what to expect in hidden expenses, etc.
-Interesting tidbits and viewing tips for glaciers and Alaskan wildlife.
-Useful logistics for budget travelers, including public transportation and budget accommodations in the port cities.

Get it now for a budget price on Amazon