Friday, January 30, 2015

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

A Cold Day for Murder, by Dana Stabenow, is set in the Alaska bush.  The heroine is an Alaskan native, and the tiny community is fascinating.  I'm rather obsessed with Alaska at the moment, so I found this especially fascinating:  gritty and real, far more complex than what I've seen as a tourist.  That said, it did sometimes feel like the book was an excuse to showcase this real Alaska bush life.  It was intriguing, but a touch heavy-handed in a work of fiction.

I found many of the descriptions too long—especially the ones detailing people’s houses.  A lot of the repetition could have been cut.  Kate, the main character, didn't have to retell the story of the missing ranger to every last character, and they didn't all have to describe him in their own way.  I also confused myself a little with all the characters, though I admit that happens to me in many mysteries.  It might have helped if they had more distinct names, instead of Bobby, Bernie, Billy Mike, Martin, Miller, Mac, etc.

Despite my quibbles, the characters were interesting, the dialogue snappy, the setting and culture unique, and the ending exciting and powerful.  I loved Alaska-as-a character and would definitely read more of the Kate Shugak series.

Four Stars

Click here to download A Cold Day for Murder (free on Amazon)
If you're looking for more about Alaska,
Try Dana Stabenow's Alaska Traveler:  Dispatches from America's Last Frontier (also free on Amazon)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snowy Hike in the Hostýnské vrchy, Czech Republic

I took a gorgeous hike yesterday, from Tesák to Svatý Hostýn in the Wallachian mountains in the Czech Republic.  It was the second day of near constant snow, and the effects were amazing.  Some snow drifts came up to my thighs, and everything had turned to lace.  This is one of the reasons I love it here.

Nature's cathedral
Near Tesák, Czech Republic
Snow caught like iron filings on a magnet
At least an inch thick
A wonderland of lace
Svatý Hostýn, Czech Republic
Nature is amazing

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Advice on How to Get Your Sci-Fi Published.

Do you write Science Fiction?  Want to get published?  I have a guest post over on James P Sumner's blog about tips for publishing in the field.

Check it out here:  "Advice on How To Get Your Sci-Fi Published"

From my story, "Foreign Bodies," in Intergalactic Medicine Show

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic

This is one of the more famous castle-palaces in the Czech Republic:  Hluboká.  We just wandered the grounds, as it was closed for the holiday, but it was opulent enough to give me writing inspiration.  Does it remind anyone else of Downton Abbey?

Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic

Funny Gargoyle, Hluboká nad Vltavou

Hluboká nad Vltavou

Monday, January 12, 2015

České Budějovice, Czech Republic

We spent Christmas in České Budějovice, Czech Republic.  Here's some of the great architecture in its beautiful old town.

Metal gargoyle on town hall, České Budějovice

Beautiful facade, České Budějovice

České Budějovice's square at night, at Christmas

The same square in the day

And you think YOUR house is small?  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Czech Christmas Cookies

One of the things about living abroad that I love is experiencing all the traditions you might not see while just traveling.  Here's one I think is amazing: Czech Christmas cookies.  Families bake anywhere from 5-30 varieties of traditional Christmas cookies every year.  Then they might not make any more cookies the entire rest of the year.  Of course, If I'd made 20 varieties in December, I probably wouldn't want to touch another cookie recipe for a good many months either.

Here's the plate of cookies my wonderful neighbors brought over:

Czech Christmas cookies--looks like a cookbook, but it's from my neighbors!
And here's the plate of cookies the owners of our pension--impressed that I was trying to speak Czech--brought us the day after Christmas:


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Czech Christmas Tradition--Decorating a Tree for the Animals

I don't know how traditional this really is here in the Czech Republic, but one of my students was telling me about her Christmas traditions, and how on the Dec 26 they always go on a walk in the woods and decorate a tree for the animals, using nuts and fruits and such.  I'd never heard of such a thing, and asked her if it was traditional.  She said she didn't really think so, but her family had always done it.  Then, a couple of weeks later, I was at Hluboká nad Vltavou (most of the way across the country), walking around the extensive forested castle grounds, and came upon this:

Those are apples and net bags of seeds. Underneath a nearby tree was a pile of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, bread, etc.  So I guess the tradition is alive and well!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Use your travels to inspire your writing

Here's a post I wrote over on Writers on the Move about how to get inspiration for your fiction from your travels.

Tip 1:  Steal from History. Told well, history is one long story.  When you travel, visit museums, read informational plaques, take walking tours.  You'll find fascinating details of history's crazy characters and its dark and bright moments.  Take elements from here and there and twist them into your own story.  When I was in Znojmo, Czech Republic, the history of the catacombs there fascinated me.  I later incorporated them--in my own style, with many details changed--into my novel, Far-Knowing.

Tip 2:...Click to read the rest of "Travel For Writing Inspiration"