Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A review of my story, "Foreign Bodies."



I just got a mention in an article by Karen Burnham in Locus Magazine.  She reviewed recent science fiction and fantasy in Deep Magic, Constellary Tales, Samovar, and Strange Horizons.  That included my sci-fi story, "Foreign Bodies," published in Deep Magic.  It's one of my favorite tales from my Colony series. 

Read here to see what she said about my work:  Focus Magazine:  Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction




Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

From my recent trip to Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska, mid August:

Sheer fjord walls carved by long-ago glaciers
Swimming-pool-blue water, the color caused by current glaciers depositing silt into water

One of the many waterfalls pouring into the fjord

For a bit of perspective, see that tiny-looking white boat on the bottom left?  It's not so tiny.  It's 143 feet long and has cabins for 54 passengers.

Views over the bow

Just another pretty view

Approaching Sawyer Glacier

Sawyer Glacier, impressive in white and blue.
We got far closer this trip than the first time we came. 

So blue and glassy on the far right side that I wonder if there was recently a big calving event there.  

Harbor seals hanging out on the ice.  Yes, those are all seals.
Here's a close-up:


And mountain goats

Sailing out in the afternoon.  A great day!


For more about Alaska...and how to see Tracy Arm for yourself, check out my books:



Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Graveyard of the Pacific by Anthony Dalton


I saw this book in the library, and because I'm planning a sea voyage that will pass that way, I thought I'd read it.  If I were a nervous sailor, that might have been a really stupid decision.  So many shipwrecks and tragedies have occurred in and around the Juan De Fuca Strait between Vancouver Island and the Washington coast, and this book tells about them in straightforward--but sometimes chilling--prose.  

The stories aren't dramatized much, but give enough information for your own imagination to take hold.

Though parts of the first chapter were quite dry, and I wished some of the nautical terms had been better explained, it was a very interesting read.  And a testament to the power of the sea.  

I loved the photographs and drawings throughout, but I would really have appreciated a map.  Thank goodness for Google.  

I would read more by Anthony Dalton.  





Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Kayaking by a Glacier

Wouldn't this be fun?
Kayaker on Mendenhall Lake, Juneau


I talked to this couple (there was a second kayak).  They were traveling around with their kayaks in their jeep, camping and going wherever they wanted.  Fantastic adventure. 



For more about Alaska...and how to get there and explore its nature, check out my books:

Monday, August 5, 2019

Snow in June in Arizona

Snow in June is not such a strange thing.  Hiking in Alaska, for example, it's not uncommon at all to find snow on the trail.  Hiking in Arizona is generally a different matter.  In much of the state, June hiking is a hot and downright dangerous affair because of the heat.  No snow allowed!  But this is the trail to Humphrey's Peak, at about 9000 feet of elevation.  And in the middle of June, this is what I found.



I was just training that day, breaking in new shoes and testing my high-elevation comfort level.

I plan to go back before summer ends and do the whole trail.  And I'll certainly post about it.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Free Town Shuttle in Ketchikan

If you're visiting Ketchikan, Alaska, consider yourself lucky.  I love the town.



To make it even better, there's a free town shuttle that runs every day May-September, every 20 minutes.  It'll take you to some popular Ketchikan sites, like:

-The entrance of Creek Street at Thomas Basin (Steadman Street/Thomas Basin is the closest stop, though you'll have to backtrack about 200-300 yards)

-The Totem Heritage Center (also the closest stop to the Deer Mountain trailhead, though the trailhead is still a bit of an uphill walk from there)

-The middle of Creek Street (The Museum stop is near the historical museum by the pedestrian bridge that crosses Ketchikan Creek)

-All the cruise ship docks

The free shuttle is super convenient for those with some mobility issues or those who want to save their energy for other walking.

Here's the Ketchikan bus schedule.  It includes both the free shuttle loop and the regular lines.  


For more on Ketchikan and more budget tips for cruising Alaska, check out my books:















Saturday, July 27, 2019

Veit Springs Trail, near Flagstaff

Aspen on the Veit Springs Trail near Flagstaff, on the way up to Snowbowl 
(park at the small parking lot at one of the nearly hairpin turns)


Wild irises, mid June:


An old building to protect and/or steal the spring from wildlife:


After exploring the Veit Springs area, I took a not-very-well-marked connector trail across the road to the famous Arizona Trail.  


There weren't a lot of views, but they were pretty:


And I met this guy:


More pretty trail, nearing Aspen Corner:


The views opened up:


My ride picked me up at Aspen Corner.

A great little hike.  I really enjoyed the Veit Springs area.  So green and pretty.




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Eclectic Reading List, 2019

 I was looking something up on my blog and found this old post from 2012 about my then-recent reading list, quite a random collection:  https://www.melindabrasher.com/2012/10/my-eclectic-reading-list.html

I'd just been thinking that my reading list so far this year is also pretty varied.  That's what you get from working at a library!  So here are some of my reads from the first half of 2019:

1)  Tales from the Inner City, by Shaun Tan.  A book of surreal short stories, poems, philosophy, and beautiful art.   

2)  City of Ghosts, a middle grade novel by Victoria Schwab about a girl who sees ghosts and who visits the rather haunted city of Edinburgh with her paranormal investigator parents.    

3)  Alaskan Holiday, by Debbie Macomber.  A badly written romance I read for the Alaska setting, but which didn't really give a good picture of said Alaska setting or the rigors of life in the bush.        
                       
4)  Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language  by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, a fascinating, depressing...and not entirely spin-free dictionary of business and political obfuscation, PC terms, etc.  

5)  The Other Side of Lost, by Jessi Kirby, a YA novel about a girl who takes a day hike to honor her dead cousin and ends up thru-hiking the John Muir trail.  Made me simultaneously want to try and not want to try a long-distance backpacking trip.

6)  Impeaching the President; Past, Present, and Future, by Alan Hirsch.  A fairly impartial explanation of the law and the precedents.   

7)  Dancing Home, by Alma Flor Ada, a middle grade novel about a US-born Mexican-American girl and her cousin, a recent immigrant, struggling with multicultural identity.  \

8)  Her Stories, by Virginia Hamilton, a beautifully illustrated collection of African-American folktales, fairy tales, and biographies.         





9)   The Simple Art of Flying, by Cory Leonardo, an absolutely beautiful story about an unhappy anthromorphic parrot trying to protect his sister.  Probably my favorite book of the year.  Another middle grade novel (yes, I've been reading a lot of them), but totally appropriate for adults.  

10)   Timmy Failure:  Mistakes were Made, by Stephan Pastis, a funny middle grade novel about a hilariously inept neighborhood detective kid.  I read this in my quest for other books to recommend to my library kids who love Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It really fit the bill.

11) Vordak the Incomprehensible:  How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Vordak the Incomprehensible (and Scott Seegert).  A very funny middle grade primer on how to be the bad guy and deal with pesky superheroes.  Very tongue-in-cheek.

12) The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 , Ed Rich Horton, a massive collection of some fantastic stories, some really good stories, and some stories too experimental, pretentious, or complex for their own good.

13)  Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  No real plot arc, but absolutely engrossing.  I loved learning about how they did daily tasks back then.

14)  The Surrogate, by Louise Jensen, a twisty thriller about a former best friend who volunteers to be a surrogate for our baby-obsessed main character and who may or may not be plotting something dark.  

15)  The Prophet Calls, by Melanie Sumrow, a middle grade novel about a girl in a strict, isolationist polygamist compound.

16)  The Ingenious Judge Dee, a play by Hock G Tjoa about an ancient Chinese judge and detective.

17)  The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah, a darkly beautiful character-driven novel that takes place in Alaska and REALLY takes place there...unlike the Alaskan Holiday fiasco. 

18)  Cloven, by Kady Monroe, a horror novella with some seriously creepy bits in the middle, all set on a tiny little island.  

19)  Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfař, a literary sci-fi story set both on a solitary near-future space journey and in small-town Bohemia around the Velvet Revolution.  A really great book for someone interested in Czechia, as I am.  

20)  Denali's Howl, by Andy Hall, about the worst climbing disaster on America's highest peak.  I don't know if this really counts, since I listened to it as an audio book, but it's set off a quest for more mountaineering books/ audio books / documentaries.   

I've read others this year, but this is a good sampling (though it is rather heavy on Alaska...and I didn't even mention a fourth book set there).  I've been reading a lot of juvi fiction, both in the search for books to recommend to my young library customers and simply because I see all these beautiful new middle grade novels coming into the library, and I just have to have them  :)    
     


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař



This is the story of Jakub, a Czech astronaut in the near future who goes on a solo mission to investigate a strange new and possibly threatening spacial phenomena.  But it's not just the story of his space journey and the effects of isolation in space.  It's also the story of his youth and a slice of the history of Czechia (the Czech Republic). 
I liked it a lot. 

The part in space was interesting, and I really loved Hanuš (read the book to find out who he is).

The part about Jakub's Czech childhood before and after (mostly after) the Velvet Revolution was fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking.  I admit I’m a bit biased because I have lived in and love Czechia (aka the Czech Republic, aka the former Czechoslovakia), but I thought the story was very moving.  The Czech history I know took on the faces of people I really cared about.  Very well done.  I also loved the references to bits of culture, foods, habits etc. that I remember from Czechia. 

The book sometimes waxed too poetic, abstract, and philosophical for my personal tastes, but some people will love the book even more for these aspects.

I would rather have had a bit more happy resolution at the end, but I think it was well done…and not what I expected. 

Overall, a great read.  I will certainly try more by Jaroslav Kalfař, especially if it takes place in Czechia.

4.5 stars

WARNING:  strong profanity and short but explicit sexual scenes and references.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Walnut Canyon National Monument, Flagstaff

Walnut Canyon National Monument just out of Flagstaff, Arizona, is a very cool complex of Native American cliff dwellings you can hike down to or view from the rim of the canyon.  The interpretive signs are particularly good, focusing on the daily life of the people who lived here.

Not everyone is prepared for the stairs that go down 185 vertical feet into the canyon.  Well...most people are okay with the going down.  Just remember you'll have to go up.  It's at nearly 7000 feet of elevation, so the air may be a little thinner than you're used to.  Take water.

From partway down the stairs of the Island Trail.  Observe some of the many dwelling scattered along the canyon walls:


From the Island Trail:


How it might have looked back in the day:



One of the things I found very interesting was the difference between the vegetation on the north-facing side of the "island" and the south-facing side.

Up on the rim of the canyon, you can take the easy and pretty Rim Trail.  And if you go at the right time, you might see something like this prickly pear flower (picture taken June 22):


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Brush Fire in Arizona

This brush fire closed the freeway near Sunset Point between Flagstaff and Phoenix the night before our planned trip a a couple of weekends ago.  They opened the freeway late that night.  These pictures are from mid-morning the next day.

Smoke (and look for the helicopter hauling a bucket):


The not-burned area meets the burned area:


The burn zone:


And here's some actual flame, not very threatening, but still...it was really close.  I can't imagine how scared those people must have been last year in California, driving through the raging heart of some of those wildfires, walls of flame on every side, like some Hollywood movie.




Sunday, June 30, 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019

Horton Springs Trail, Arizona

Earlier in June I took the beautiful Horton Springs Trail from near Kohl's Ranch, Arizona, just below the Mogollon Rim.  I'd done it before, and loved it, but this time I was training for Mt Humphreys, so I went all the way up the Rim and back down, making a loop with the Highline and Derrick trails.

Horton Creek
My trip stats:

Total distance (including my meandering, exploring, and getting lost):  17.1 km / 10.6 miles

Total elevation gain:  1086 meters / 3563 feet

Highest elevation:  2413 meters /  7917 feet above sea level

Difficulty:  Mostly easy to Horton Springs, with a bit of a climb toward the end and a bit of rock scrambling if you explore the creek.  Past Horton Springs, the trail is steep, exposed to the sun, and sometimes difficult to follow.  Having reliable GPS with an offline map is a good idea.  At minimum, carry a good paper topo map and don't stray far from one cairn until you can see the nextBecause of the lay of the land, you probably won't get dangerously lost (unless it's hot and you don't have enough water), but you might make things long, prickly, and unpleasant for yourself.  

Pictures don't really capture the panoramic views from the trail above Horton Springs
If you just go to Horton Springs and back:

Total distance: About 11.2 km / 7 miles  (but add some distance, time, and elevation for exploring the creek and the unofficial trails along it).  If you only want to go partway, it's a great hike for that.  You start seeing the creek after about 10-15 minutes on the trail, though the really pretty stuff begins at more like 20-30 minutes in.    

Total elevation gain:  384 meters / 1260 feet

Highest elevation:  2068 meters / 6785 feet above sea level

I saw lots of these beauties flowering this trip.  Not sure what they are. Claret cup?  
Trailhead:

At Upper Tonto Creek Campground, near Kohl's Ranch, which is northeast of Payson on highway 260..  Your turnoff heads north of the highway, and also leads to Tonto Creek Hatchery and Lower Tonto campground.  Parking is available at the Derrick trailhead or past the Upper Tonto Creek Campground (across the little bridge).  


Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


I read this because I'd seen it mentioned on a review of another book in which Alaska was just a flimsy and unrealistic backdrop for a love story.  The Great Alone, the review said, was an amazing depiction of life in the Alaskan bush.  The review wasn't wrong.  Whenever I read a book set in Alaska, I expect Alaska itself to be one of the characters.  And here it certainly is.  In fact, it's one of the main characters, complex and compelling.  A fascinating, beautiful, brutal place.

The human characters in The Great Alone are also interesting and multi-dimensional and imperfect.  I loved most of them—despite their flaws—and hated (yet somehow felt sorry for) one of them.  I think the book also sheds light on the struggles people go through and the dangers of certain types of relationships. 

The plot is often dark, but there are moments of light.

The details of survival on an Alaskan homestead are really interesting.

The writing is powerful and really transports you to Leni's Alaska.  At times the prose gets a bit repetitive or long, but it's a minor issue.
  
Overall, a great book.  Highly recommended, especially for those interested in how life was in an isolated part of Alaska in the 70s.  

I will certainly read more by Kristin Hannah.

4.5 stars.  Almost 5.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Guest Appearance on "My Writer's Life"




Fellow writer and artist, Deborah Lyn Stanley, recently hosted my new book on her site. 

https://lynstanleyart.com/writers-blog/2019/05/03/hiking-in-alaska-melindas-blog-tour/

Go check it out and look at some of her non-fiction and fiction, linked on the bar across the top.  I'm especially impressed by her article "Creating Hair for Portrait Art Quilts"

 https://lynstanleyart.com/writers-blog/creating-hair-for-portrait-art-quilts/