Wednesday, January 22, 2020

My Writing Published in 2019

Here's a roundup of my fiction and non-fiction published in 2019:

The leader of an unsustainably small space colony must weigh the value of peace vs population.  
And that cover art?  Done for my story!

A medical mystery set on the same ill-fated space colony as "Salvage Operations."

An essay about the night watchman in town where I lived in Mexico.

A short story about a strained friendship, plots of revenge...and a hot dog stand.

A guidebook for anyone who wants to lose themselves--very temporarily--in the extreme beauty of Alaska.  

Purposely Bad Worldbuilding:  Mini Contest #43 winner at On the Premises
This is a fun bit of microfiction I wrote with the express purpose of being the worst 75 words they read.  And don't worry, winning this sort of contest for terrible writing is a compliment.  You have to know what you're doing to write this bad.

"Radish Hunting" in Animal Uprising
Another tale set on the distant colony of New Eden, where a pregnant woman longing for beef turns her eyes on the resident "unicorns."   

A nice bit of flash fiction I don't want to spoil for you.  Read it free.  
    




Thursday, January 16, 2020

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

This is a very, very clever concept of a picture book.



It's all about perspective.

Check it out at your local library or get it on Amazon.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Bad Dog, by Mike Boldt

I just discovered this DARLING new picture book at the library:

If you like dogs...or cats...or funny kids' books...or cute illustrations...then read this.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Wildlife at Thunderbird Conservation Park, Glendale, Arizona

Today on my short hike along the Coachwhip trail at Thunderbird Conservation Park, I saw quite a bit of wildlife. 

Right out of the gate, I saw this beautiful Gambel's Quail:


As I was moving to get a better shot, I startled this little guy, who ran a few feet away and hid under a cholla cactus, then ran again before posing for this cotton-tail shot. 


Birds were out in full force, including many I didn't recognize, like this guy, but the picture shows how very green it was (for the desert) because of the recent rains.  Also note the nice black rock.


I saw lots of lizards, including this one with nice blue coloring (probably a common side-blotched lizard):


The little man-made lake had lots of water birds, but you could only see them from a distance, since the wildlife watching blinds they'd made had very little view of the water.  Maybe the bushes have grown up a lot since the blinds were built.  Since I didn't want to trespass, I didn't go down near the shore.  However, every once in a while I'd hear a noise sort of like an engine, but which was caused by a whole flock of birds taking off across the water or landing back down on it.  Such a cool sound. 

One bird I did see (though from rather far away, as evidenced by the fuzziness of the picture):


This beautiful little hummingbird was probably a Costa's hummingbird, but I'm not 100% sure.

Then, the crown jewel of the day, sitting perched on a saguaro:


A female American Kestrel, I believe.  So beautiful.  Such big talons, such a hooked little beak.  Such beautiful coloring. And such a twisty neck!  Look at this:


It was a fantastic day.  Beautiful weather, awesome wildlife, four geocaches...and most of the time I had the trail entirely to myself.

If you go:
-Thunderbird Conservation Park is in Glendale, part of the Phoenix metropolitan area.  If you take my route, you'll be walking part of the way along the backyards of mansions.  You're never far from the city.  So the wildlife was doubly amazing.
-I started at the bottom end of the Coachwhip trail, where 51st Avenue turns in Melinda Lane, more or less.  There's a little parking there.  I took the trail to the central parking lot off 59th Ave.
-Various other trails loop around the park from various trailheads.  Some give good views of the city.
-Though the Coachwhip trail was pretty easy and not very long, I recommend doing in in spring, winter, or fall. 
-Do not take ANY trail in Phoenix in summer unless you're used to the heat, have plenty of water, and start very early.
-Watch for snakes and don't stick your hands where you can't see. 
-Admission free


Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Plain Jane by Hand, Ashton, and Meadows




Want a fun supernatural literary mash-up?  Then try My Plain Jane.

It's sort of the story of Jane Eyre...but mostly not.  Charlotte Bronte herself is a character (my favorite one, I think).  It's fun to watch her weave reality into fiction and vice versa.  

Plus...ghosts!

I enjoyed most of the twists on the well-known characters, both literary and real.  

Sadly...I wasn't a huge fan of Jane's character revision.  I've read the real Jane Eyre two or three times and seen most of the movie versions more than once.  I feel almost like Jane's my friend.  I like her and respect her.  But in My Plain Jane she seemed rather passive and boy-crazy and sometimes almost stupid.  But...that's just my view of it.  

These same authors (its three of them, and how they managed such a cohesive novel is really quite impressive) also wrote My Lady Jane about Lady Jane Grey.  That book sparkled with humor.  I was really impressed by how it never started taking itself too seriously, which is what most humorous fantasy/paranormal/historical fantasy books end up doing.  My Plain Jane didn't quite match this standard, but it was still funny and a pleasant, light read.  

I recommend them both.


And the actual Jane Eyre:

  

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Gavan Hill Trail, Sitka

This summer in Sitka, Alaska, I'd planned to take the Indian River trail, but the info people told me there were too many bears at the moment to make it prudent to hike alone...without bear spray.  So I disappointedly decided to take the Gavan Hill Trail instead.  What a happy turn of events!  I LOVED it. 

Getting to the beginning of the actual trail was flattish and pretty (and rainy):




Then started the stairs, so humbly:


Then a little less humbly:



Then a few not-stairs:


Then some boardwalk stairs: 


And some ropes to help you:


And finally, the reward (well, in addition to the rewards of the climb itself and the beautiful greenery): 




It would have been even more stunning on a blue-sky day, but I liked the misty effect too, and my pictures don't really do it justice. 

I was going to be late meeting my party back in town, so I unfortunately couldn't go further, but next time I would love to. 

On the way back down, I tried counting stairs (and stair-like things, and stone steps).  I think I got to about 1800.  Fantastic day! 

Highly recommended trail. But...if you don't like stairs, you might not like it. 

If you go:

-Stairs.  Lots and lots of stairs.
-If you want good views, you don't really get them until you climb above the trees.  So, commit. 
-I recommend more than three hours. 
-You can access the trail via the Sitka Cross Trail and I walked with no problem right from downtown.  It's sometimes called the Harbor Mountain Trail, though if you go that far, you'll need even more time. 

For tips on having your own budget adventures in Alaska, read my travel guides:





Monday, December 9, 2019

Gastineau Peak Hike, Juneau, Alaska

As many times as I've been to Juneau, Alaska, I've never taken the Mt Roberts tram.  It seems rather expensive for what you get ($33 in 2019).  This year in August, however, my mom and I decided we'd splurge.


We took the tram up to the nature center and explored around there a bit.  Here's something to help you visualize the size of a brown bear:



Then we took the Alpine Loop (which, according to my mom, wasn't as easy as I'd promised).  She made it all the way to the cross, however.  Look at those views!


Then we parted ways and I headed uphill toward Gastineau Peak (which comes before the summit of Mt. Roberts).

More nice views:


Salmonberry snack:


Blueberry snack:


Mountain goat:


Beautiful grouse:


Black bear!!! 
He poked around for a long time in those patches of snow.  He even rolled around like a cat.  So cute (from a distance). 


Beautiful valley:


Marmot:
(one of several, and this one came so close I hardly even had to zoom for this picture)


What a fantastic hike!  I'm not sure if I've ever seen more varied and spectacular wildlife on a single hike.  Plus great views, wild berries...and very few people. What a great day.



For tips on having your own budget adventures in Alaska, read my travel guides: