5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather and Turkey Sandwiches

I was just a young pup last November, my first. Chewing on slippers. Dish towels. Wayward fingers. Learning Come. Down. Jump. Sit and Stay. Also how to jitterbug. That just kinda happened. I mean, who can listen to In the Mood sitting still?

Anyway. Now that I’m coming up on a year-and-a-half, I’m leaving all that baby stuff behind. Well, some of it. But I’ve gotten pretty good at chasing fallen leaves. Wearing that stupid red “doggie jacket” Mom insists on when the temperature drops below forty degrees. Swiping turkey sandwiches when no one’s lookin’.

Even though it’s cold and crisp outside, it’s not all bad. A neighbor’s cat, Sir Puddleglum, is staying indoors most of the time. (That’s not the orange tabby’s real name. I just call him that because it gets his goat. Or his cat nip. Whatever.)

Anyway again. Apple cider. Crunching leaves. Snoozing by the fireplace. Mom says fall is a great time to re-read some favorite authors. She showed me her list. I’m passing it on to you at no extra charge. (Don’t tell anyone.)

5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather (in no particular order):

1. Earl Hamner, Jr.

Hamner is best known as the creator, executive producer, and warm narrative voice of The Waltons. He wrote several books, including the autobiographical Spencer’s Mountain and The Homecoming. The latter inspired the movie of the same name. It became the pilot that launched The Waltons. You can almost hear the snow fall… G’night John Boy…

2. Jill Hucklesby

Never heard of her? Me neither. Until Mom swooped into the library and yanked Samphire Song off a shelf. The librarian said it was on the “weeding” (death) list. She felt sorry for it. Read it. Loved it. Said it’s brisk. Engaging. Beautifully written, with memorable characters. The story revolves around a young girl, Jodie, and her half-wild stallion, Samphire. Both are damaged. They inch their ways toward healing together.

3. John Eldredge

A multi-published author of best sellers like Wild at Heart, John is a Mom perennial favorite. He has a warm, cogent, and down-to-earth writing style.  Bonus points: I hear John’s a Dog Guy.

4. Richard Paul Evans

Mom says this guy is a prolific, award-winning author perhaps best known for The Christmas Box. Richard publishes a book every year, usually when temperatures start dropping. His latest, The Noel Diary, was released two days ago! Says Mom: Richard’s gentle, uplifting stories are a great choice for curl-up-near-the-fireplace reading!

5. Gary Paulsen

Looking for larger-than-life outdoor adventure told with a keen eye for detail and a gritty, spunky writing style? Gary Paulsen’s your guy, according to Mom.  His many books include The Hatchet series, Dogsong, Harris and Me,  Woodsong, and Winterdance.

Even Sir Puddleglum can’t complain about that.

Hey. You gonna to finish that turkey sandwich? Askin’ for a friend.

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8 Fabulous Fiction Reads for Fall!

“Fall is in the air!” Mom announced the other day. I’m not sure what that means, exactly. But Mom is skipping merrily around the house, chirping about “fall colors,” “sweater weather” and “hot chocolate.” I’d be just as happy with a nice, thick New York steak. Whatever.

I figure it’s only a matter of time until Mom breaks out that stupid red and white polka-dot thingy she hauls me into whenever we go out in cold weather. Pay off: Coming home to cozy spot in front of a nice, warm fireplace.

Anyway, Mom says fall is a great time to grab a hot cuppa whatever and curl up next to a roaring fire with a good book! She’s got a list. Checked it twice. (I helped. The first list didn’t smell right.)

Here are some of Mom’s top fiction picks for the season. Mostly YA. In no particular order:

The Lost Letter – Jillian Cantor

Based on the work of the Austrian resistance to Nazi invaders via postage stamps (stamps!), this historical novel bridges two continents and 50 years. It spans 1938/39 Austria and 1989+ Southern California and Wales in two distinct, overlapping storylines.

The 1939 story follows a bittersweet romance between young Kristoff, an apprentice engraver, and master engraver Frederick Faber’s beautiful, audacious daughter, Elena.

Fast forward 50 years to a “nearly divorced” reporter “Kate the Great,” her philatelist (stamp collector) father, Ted, and a mysterious letter with a secret in its stamp. Unopened and unmailed, the letter is addressed to a woman in an Austrian town that no longer exists. Why?

This bittersweet story chronicles the indomitability of the human spirit, enduring hope, and ageless love. Riveting!

Legend – Marie Lu

Taut and engaging, with well-rounded characters and plenty “didn’t see that comin'” surprises.

The plot grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final Sydney Carton-ish pages. You may want to buckle up tight for this roller coaster ride. (And yes, Chian, Commander Jameson and a certain Republic captain are pond scum. Some orphans, Sitz fighters and brothers are not.)

Out of the Dust – Karen Hesse

Powerful and poignant, this award-winning story is set in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. The author’s masterful use of spare free verse propels this story right off the pages. You can almost taste the dust and hear Billie Jo’s piano.

The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan –  Atia Abawi

Cruelty. Kindness. Despair. Hope.  Menacing evil. Compassion and courage. Ancient rivalries and new wounds. This story them all. And when a Hazara girl, Fatima, and a Pashtun boy, Samiullah, fall in love in war-time Afghanistan, there’s hell to pay. Especially from self-righteous Rashid, Sami’s cousin.

A heart-breaking, haunting story of forbidden love, loyalty, betrayal and hope.

A Torch Against the Night – Sabaa Tahir

An escaped slave girl and a ruthless warrior of the Empire form an unlikely alliance as they run for their lives. Together, Laia and Elias hatch a daring rescue of Laia’s brother, an artist with an eye for detail. Led by Elias’s former best friend and newly minted Blood Shrike, Hellene, the Black Guard is hot on their heels. So is Elias’s mother, the ruthless, bloodthirsty Blackcliff Commandant. (She makes Lord Voldemort look like a piker.)

The second installment in the “Ember” series is a high octane read with plenty of room for a sequel. Brisk and compelling, the prose is as colorful as Mama Rila’s painted wagons, the plot twists as clever as a red-haired ally who may not be an ally after all. (Spoiler: the “torch” isn’t a What, but a Who. Don’t tell anyone.)

A gripping read from start to finish. You may want to stock up on bandaids. And tea with honey.

An Eagle in the Snow – Michael Morpugo

In a mountain tunnel outside London (1940),  a train waits out an attack from a German Messerschmidt 109. One car is occupied by a young boy, Barney, his Ma, and a mysterious “stranger” with matches. The boy and his Ma are fleeing the night’s bombing of Coventry which destroyed their home and killed Barney’s father.

To keep the frightened young boy’s mind off the suffocating darkness, the stranger unravels a tale about a fellow orphan, Billy Byron, and his experiences during the first world war. They include Byron’s merciful choice to allow a German corporal with a mustache to walk away from the end of the Battle of Marcoing as the WWI concludes. Byron is horrified when the corporal resurfaces years later as Der Fuhrer.

A classic What If? story.

Library of Lost Souls – Ransom Riggs

Library of Souls” serves up a fantastical smorgasborg of plucky heroes and heroines like Jacob and Emma, stubborn ymbrenes like Miss Peregrine, dastardly, double-crossing siblings (Caul and Bentham), and incredible  adventures amid a riveting plot peppered with alternate realities. It packs a wallop from start to finish. The prose is also top-notch, with enough dry humor and rapier wit to thaw the chilliest Yeth-faru or wake the worst ambro addict.

This may be the best book in the entire “Peculiar” series.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia – Candace Fleming

Almost Shakespeare-eque in its scope, depth, and sense of tragedy, this is a history that reads like a novel. Meticulously researched and thoroughly documented, this intriguing look at Russia’s last tsar and his family may be the definitive work on the subject.

Candace Fleming pierces the veil of mystery and secrecy surrounding the final, tragic fate of the Romanovs with primary source material, a generous amount of photos, and great dignity. If you want to better understand what happened to Russia’s last family dynasty and why, this book is for you.

What would you add?

***

Now if I can just remember where Mom stashed that steak. Hmmm.

Storytime and 1600+ Kinds of Beautiful  

Moms are a Special Kind of someone. Silent and strong. Mouthy and mushy. 1600+ kinds of beautiful. 

I know this is so because Mom says so.

Moms are sometimes sentimental. Like the other day. Mom, The Kid and me were walking home from the library. All of a sudden Mom gets all misty-eyed. Something about Fridays and Storytime at the library.

 “Do you remember how we used to walk over to the library every week for Storytime when you were a little kid?” she says to my brother. He’s the youngest. I have three other brothers older than him. “How did you get to be 18 so fast?”she asks.

The Kid smiles and says, “One day at a time.” 

They’re both lugging home a bag full of books. YA books. Adventure books. Science fiction/fantasy books. Biographies. Historical fiction. Authors like Kristin Cashore. Rick Yancey. Laini Taylor. Rick Riordan. Max Lucado.

I’m investigating recent evidence of a Lhasa Apso. They’re taking in the ‘fall colors.’ Tip-toeing down Memory Lane. Seems like 20 years of kids and weekly Storytimes at the library is a lot of ground to cover.

“I remember when you kind of lost interest in Storytime,” Mom says to The Kid. 

Still looking for that Lhasa Apso. Wait. Is that pizza I smell? With sausage?

“You were around six years old” recalls Mom.  “You wanted longer stories with more words. You wanted to roam the library shelves and select books yourself.”

“I still do” says The Kid. 

Besides the library, Mom read aloud to my bros every day. For at least an hour. More if it was a good story. Like Treasure Island. Swiss Family Robinson. The  Three Musketeers. The Count of Monte Cristo. A Tale of Two Cities or The Last of the Mohicans. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Make Way for Ducklings.

The whole family was practically on a first name basis with Jim Trelease.  Rarely went anywhere without his Read Aloud Handbook. Serious PAwesome!

I know this is so because a Mom says it is. That, and our house is crammed with books. All. Over. The. Place.

Anyway, The Kid still visits the library regularly. He loves that place. He loves books and reading. Maybe there’s something to this Storytime thing? And 1601 kinds of beautiful?

Do I smell pepperoni? 

Visit our sister site at: Hiker Babe. Making the most of your trail miles, one step at a time.

Steaks, Reads, & Rascals

My humans were doing the backyard barbecue thing the other day. Something about “summer’s last hurrah.”

They plopped four delicious “New York steaks” on the grill. Yes, four. Clearly that meant one each for Mom and Dad. One for The Kid. One for me. Right?

Rather than waiting for my hunk of happiness to fall off the grill, I figured I’d just hop right up and help myself. No sense standing on ceremony, right? So I didn’t.

Speaking of which, I thought “fall” was something you do. Apparently that’s not always the case. For example. Mom says “fall” is her favorite season. Something about leaves changing. “Crisp.” Curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. 

I get that. In fact, I know a couple good books that are just right for this “fall” thing: Winterdance: the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod and Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers. Both are by Gary Paulsen  He’s a great adventure/outdoorsy writer. Also a pretty cool dog dude, according to Mom.

Winterdance is non-fiction. It was published in 1994. It’s the inspiration for the Disney movie, Snow Dogs. 

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers celebrates Gary’s lead dog and longtime companion, Cookie. “Paulsen takes readers inside the kennel as Cookie’s last litter of pups grow and learn to pull sleds across the snowy frontier.”

Sounds like a couple of good “hot cocoa” and “fall” books to me. Whatever that means.

Back to the steaks. Thick, delectable, delicious steaks. How was I supposed to know Uncle Jimmy is “coming over later”?

By the way. Just what, exactly, is a “little rascal”? Askin’ for a friend.


Steak photo credit

Libraries and The ‘Dog Days’ of Summer

What do humans mean when they say ‘dog days of summer’? That I can better hang my nose out the car window on warmish days? That it’s too hot to do anything except lie in the shade and dream about kibble and surfing? Something related to Sirius, the ‘dog star’?

‘Dog star,’ huh? I kinda like the sound of that.

Wait. Kid on a bicycle going by.

Now. Where was I? Oh, yeah ‘Dog days.’ We’ve had several this summer. Temperatures ticked up to the mid and upper nineties. That may not sound like much to you Phoenix or Las Vegas types. But in  western Washington, that’s as rare as a smart cat. It’s so rare in fact, that most houses don’t have air conditioning. Pontoons, maybe. But not A/C.

Thankfully, the library does. Have A/C, that is.  So Mom went there a lot, especially during the ‘dog days of summer.’ I’m not crazy about the place. Only service animals are allowed inside. So whenever we walked there – the book place is about 10 minutes away by paw – I’d have to sit outside with one of my brothers or…

Is that the neighbor’s cat?

… or they’d take me for a walk while Mom scooped up some new books. I don’t know why she has to take so long.

Anyway, here’s what I learned about libraries during the ‘dog days of summer’:

  •  The front lawn has lots of nice shade.
  • People say ‘hi’ to me when they go in or out. I cannot jump on them. Cannot, cannot, canno… ugh!
  • The library manager, Mary, has a Cairn Terrier. His name is Max.
  • Libraries have ‘computers’ inside that my humans can use for free.
  • It’s okay to talk in the library. Just don’t bark.
  • Writers are readers.
  • ‘Stacks’ mean ‘books.’ Books are things some humans love. They say they can’t live without them. That reading is like breathing. Like eating. I don’t quite understand this.
  • Some people don’t do this reading thing enough. If they did, they would be better people, says Mom. Smarter. More well-rounded. Creative and thoughtful. They’d probably throw a Frisbee better, too.

I may like libraries after all. Even during the ‘dog days of summer.’

Turning a Corner  

It’s official. This blog is under New Management. Well, maybe “Management” isn’t the right word. Let me explain.

My name is Kimber. At least I think it’s Kimber. My humans – Mom, Dad, and four brothers, two of whom still live at home – sometimes use other names. Kimmi. Good girl. Hey Babe. 

Anyway, I was born on June 22, 2016. I’m a Golden Retriever/Black Lab/Border Collie mix. Mom says that means I’m super friendly, super smart, and super hyper. Whatever that means. I’m just me. 

Wait. Did the Powder Puff just saunter past? That’s what my humans sometimes call the neighbor’s dog. At least I think she’s a dog. It’s hard to tell under all that fur.

As I was saying, Mom says I’m a rescue dog. I’m not sure what that means either. But it sounds good when she says it. I joined my family in August of last year. We live on the Olympic Peninsula. We go on long walks and hikes, explore the Cascades, and play football, Frisbee and other games and activities when it’s not raining. It rains here a lot. Dad says that’s one reason why this place is called “The Evergreen State.”

Do I smell bacon?

False alarm. Beef jerky.

So, I guess you could say this blog is under new “dog-agement.” It will focus on adventures in writing, reading, and life in the rural hinterlands of western Washington. Narrated by me. Why me? Because Mom says I’m a “natural.” And that I’m way smarter than she is. I’m not sure what that means, either. But I like the way it sounds when she says it. 

See you again soon!

Perks!

Are you a book lover? Do you skip meals in order to “finish the next chapter”? Do you await your favorite author’s next release like a kid counting down to Christmas? Is a trip to the library a grand adventure?

I am rarely as content as when I’m neck-deep in a good story. Or even a mediocre one. I’ve never read “competitively” or to win prizes. I just love books. And I love to read. 

But every once in awhile it’s nice to get a little perk. Call it a reading bonus. 

I was delighted to get a phone call from my local library yesterday saying I’d won not one but two prizes in conjunction with this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program: an Amazon gift card and a book bag filled with goodies. I ambled over to the library today to pick up my prizes, pictured above.

The book bag is sturdy and zippered.  I can use it to haul checkouts and returns to and from the library, which I usually walk to. The bag was filled with some pretty cool stuff, including note cards, chocolate, a mini metallic notebook, and a giant coffee mug (for curling up with a good book). And who can resist Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark? Also four brand new hard book backs I haven’t yet read! The $25 gift card arrives next week.

 I read 136 audio and hard copy books in 92 days for this summer’s Adult Reading Program. Re-reading old favorites and discovering new ones was “prize” enough. But it still feels like Christmas.

Know what I mean?

How I Read 100+ Books in 90 Days

Sample

It took some creative juggling, but I met my summer reading goal: 100+ books in 90 days. Sound like a lot? Well, yeah.

When I set that goal per my local library’s Adult Summer Reading Program, I knew it was a pretty high bar. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I could clear it. But I liked the challenge. That’s one reason I set it. And made it. With room to spare.

Here’s how I read 100+ books in 90* days (the short version):

1. As a freelance writer, my schedule is flexible. I mostly work from home and set my own hours. I can choose which assignments I accept or decline. So I did. I also got up early every day, usually finishing my work by early afternoon-ish. I could then devote a large chunk of the rest of the afternoon and evening to my “other” job: reading.

2. I multi-tasked, reading audio books while cooking, doing dishes, driving, etc.

3. I turned off the TV.

4. I used voice mail. Prodigously.

5. I recruited my husband and kiddos . (Our youngest is 18.) They agreed to pitch in on time consuming tasks like running errands, grocery shopping, and walking the dog. They also picked up books I placed on hold at the library and/or helped with returns. They helped with book selections when I was out of ideas.

6. I asked the library staff for help. A lot. They were a huge help, from placing inter-library loans to suggestions for every category and genre.

7. I decided sleep is over-rated. I don’t really need 8 – 9 hours of sleep a night. I’m usually fine with 5 – 6 hours.  That’s an extra 3 – 4 hours a day to get busy.

8. I had a ‘reading buddy.‘ My good dog, Kimber, happily joined me through thousands of pages. (A golden retriever/black lab/border collie mix, Kimber isn’t really a ‘lap dog.’ She just thinks she is.)

9. I set up “reading roosts” – places where I could disappear (or almost disappear) for a while and read, undisturbed. Like a recliner off a living room window with lots of light, pillows, a big fluffy quilt and a snack stash. Or a closet off the spare room upstairs. I cleaned it out, moved in a rocking chair and ottoman, added a space heater for early mornings, and cleared shelves for books – in – progress. I grabbed reading lists, munchies and a note pad, and closed the door. No electronic devices allowed. (A library cubby hole also makes a pretty good “roost.”)

10. OverDrive. Library ebooks and audiobooks via Amazon. If you don’t have the app, now would be good.

11. I re-prioritized. If I was going to finish 100 paper and/or audio books in 90 days, some thing had to give. At least for 90 days. So I cut out unnecessary meetings. This freed up about 8 hours a week. I also dialed back on social media, limiting my time to no more than 30 minutes a day. Often less. I also dropped endeavors with limited ROIs (return on investment), like regular posting to other blogs/guest posting.

Yep, 100 books in 90 days is a lot. Some titles were better or quicker than others. For example, the sparse free verse of Karen Hesse’s Out of The Dust or Calvin Miller’s The Singer read much faster than the detail-laden, history-heavy style of Robert Matzen’s Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, or Dinesh D’Souza’s magnum opus, Stealing America: What My Experience With Criminal Gangs Taught Me About Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party. Since I’m already familiar with the plots, re-reads were also swift.

I also discovered some new genres and authors that turned out to be delightful surprises. Others, not so much. (Most Over-Rated: Anne LaMott, Diane Setterfield. Most Promising: Steve Sheinkin, Robert Morasco.) You can read my reviews of select titles on Goodreads.

Here are some stand-outs. In no particular order:

MOST UNUSUAL and IMAGINATIVE:

Miss Peregrine Peculiar Children series – Ransom Riggs

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy – Laini Taylor

The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

Legend – Marie Yu

MOST INTRIGUING:

The Lost Letter – Jillian Cantor

The Secret Sky – Atia Abawi

An Eagle in the Snow – Michael Morpurgo

Shelter – Harlan Coben

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

NOTABLE NON-FICTION:

Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp – Jerry Stanley

The Family Romanov – Candace Fleming

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery – Steve Sheinkin

Unquestioned Integrity: The Hill-Thomas Hearings (adapted directly from the actual transcripts)

Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northrup

JUST PLAIN FUN:

Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery– Spencer Quinn. (Told from the dog’s point of view)

Bunnicula – Deborah and James Howe. (Narrated by the family dog, Harold)

The Best of the West (Lux Radio Theatre Audiobook): Destry Rides Again, Gunsmoke, Fort Apache, and the best Western ever filmed:Shane.

FAVORITE RE-READS:

Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis (on disc)

King of the Wind – Marguerite Henry. Newbery Medal winner.

Tuck Everlasting– Natalie Babbitt. Christopher Award winner.

Anything by Walt Morey, O. Henry, Gary Paulsen, or E.B. White (like The Ransom of Red Chief and Stuart Little. I also confess a perennial fondness for a little monkey and a man in a yellow hat.)

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. Caldecott Medal winner.

Fury – Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch – Albert Miller

Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Flash of Phantom Canyon – Agnes Ranney

Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell. Newbery Medal winner.

The Silver Brumby – Elyne Mitchell. Set in Australia, it’s the book that made me want to become a writer.

MOST POIGNANT:
This is a tough category. It’s highly subjective. Of all the books I read this summer, however, the stand-out here would have to be: Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man, by William Shatner (2016).

Meticulously researched and carefully crafted, this biography/memoir/history is a moving tribute to a complicated, talented man by another complicated, talented man. (Talk about rapier wit. Who knew “Captain Kirk” could be so hilarious – or so heartbreaking?)

Hence, the most poignant line I read all summer is probably Bill Shatner’s final sentence in this fascinating read. Toward the end of the book, Shatner chronicles how a rift in the relationship developed over an apparent misunderstanding. Despite Shatner’s efforts to mend fences, Nimoy stopped talking to Bill. Leonard died (2015) before the two old friends could reconcile. Shatner closes this warm, rich memoir with this final elegiac line:

“LLAP** my friend, my dear, dear friend.”

#1 FAVORITES

Of the 100+ books I read this summer, only two moved me to tears: Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me (Jon Katz), and  The Dog Who Was There (Ron Morasco).

A story of faithful love, unswerving devotion, and understanding without words, Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me effervesces like a bottle of Cristal Brut Methusalah.

An abandoned, half-feral border collie reluctantly taken in by author Jon Katz, Izzy becomes a hospice dog. Somehow Izzy learns what can’t be taught: how to help the dying leave this world with dignity – “Oh! A dog! Where on earth did you come from, you handsome thing?” – and how to best comfort those left behind.

Lenore – from the Edgar Allen Poe poem – is a “portable happiness generator.” “The UPS driver threatened to steal her,” says Katz. Big hearted and good natured, Lenore can pierce the armor of the hardest heart. As Katz battles a deep depression and phantoms from his past, the rambunctious Lab pup gently reminds him why he wanted to work with animals in the first place.

Set in first century Jerusalem,  The Dog Who Was There is a heart-warming, surprising story about a little dog, Barley (that’s not a typo), and a Teacher from Galilee. This wonderful story is soaked in loss, loyalty, sadness, promise, and Great Joy. I’ve never read anything quite like it. You won’t want to miss this one.

Indeed, The Dog Who Was There and Izzy & Lenore get the dual nod for Top Books. Paws down.

HONORABLE MENTION (You may detect a pattern here 😉):

Scrub Dog of Alaska – Walt Morey

Now, the real secret to reading 100+ books in 90* days? I. Love. Books. And I love to read. Always have. Ever since I was ‘knee-high to a grasshopper.’ For more, see: Hard Night: Growing Up in the Land of Endless Summer.

Is the library open yet?

*To be precise, June has 30 days. July and August have 31, for a total of 92 days. I slowed some but didn’t stop when I hit 100 titles in mid-August.

                   FINAL summer reading tally: 136 books in 92 days.


**Live Long And Prosper.  While you’re at it, grab a book. With a good dog.


NOTE: This blog will be turning a corner soon. A big one.

 Same URL.  New name. New look. New voice. 

Stay tuned.



Group Blogging? Look Before You Leap

Big crashing waveYou’re in! The group blog you inquired about said “Yes.” And you’re golden.

Or are you?

Joining a group blog as a contributing author can be a great opportunity. It can help sharpen your writing skills, build contacts and camaraderie, expand your audience and interests, extend your reach, and meet some great people. It can also be another Nightmare on Elm Street. Before joining any group blog, do your homework. Here are some questions to ask before you leap:

  • How will joining this blog advance your writing career?
  • Is the writing on the blog in question up to snuff? Are posts thoughtful, witty, engaging and compelling? Is the writing sloppy or careful?
  • Can you wholeheartedly support the blog’s overall mission, theme, views, tone and style?
  • Is there anything on the blog that you wouldn’t want your mother to see?
  • Have you studied the blog thoroughly? Chances are good that you won’t agree with every post by every author. But if you find content that frequently violates your standards or conscience, don’t bite.
  • Does the blog include writer’s guidelines? Are they clear?
  • Have you inquired about expectations related to frequency of posting? Can you meet them?
  • Do you retain copyright/control of your work?
  • Can you expect compensation?
  • Did you check out other authors? Are you comfortable being associated with them? You may not agree with fellow contributors on everything, but adding your name to a group blog may imply tacit approval of its content. If this gives you cause for pause, move on.

A reputable group blog should also offer to post your author’s bio and link back to your site or blog.

Some “speed bumps” are common in a group blog as writers and readers get to know one another and establish rapport. Most can be negotiated gracefully. But if you have an issue or question, be honest. Take it up with the author and/or blog owner/admin. Most will be willing to address your concerns and work with you toward an amicable solution. If not, find another blog – or start one yourself and recruit your own writing team!

Group blogging can open doors and provide opportunities not always available when flying solo. When it comes to group blogging, however, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Be selective and look before you leap.

Are you part of a group blog? Was your experience positive, negative, or somewhere in between? What mis-steps should be avoided?