Saturday, April 30, 2016

PBW's Book of the Month

I didn't have a chance to read much during April, as work kept me pretty busy. That said, once I got my hands on Mary Balogh's Only Beloved it enchanted me so much I know it would have beat out anything else for book of the month.

The seventh and final novel in the Survivors' Club series is one of the best romances I've read in a long time. It tells the story of the George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanhope, who turned his country estate into a hospital and convalescent home for wounded veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. He also founded the Survivors Club by extending care to six terribly damaged patients, all of whom eventually became his friends, confidantes, and fellow club members. What's always interested me about George is what motivated him to do all that (he is, after all, a Duke), and this book reveals his own, heart-wrenching tragedy that led to his son being killed in battle, and his first wife's subsequent suicide.

Now that all the other members of the club have married, settled down and started families, George feels a little lonely and left out. Yet when he considers remarrying, there's only one lady who comes to mind -- spinster music teacher Dora Dobbins, the sister-in-law of one of the other survivors. Although George feels a bit old to be contemplating a second marriage, Dora is a woman he admires and believes would make him an excellent companion for the rest of his years. Once George does make up his mind, he goes directly to make an offer to Dora, who is understandably shocked (after all, he's a Duke) but after some honest discussion accepts his proposal. And from this point they should have lived happily ever after, but they both have issues they're hiding from each other. In fact, George's happens to come out right in the middle of their high-society weeding.

What I loved about this story is that the main characters are not young people (he's 48; she's 39), and that's pretty rare in this genre. Much as I adore you youngsters, it's a nice change to read about a mature couple's love story. Yes, believe it or not, older people like me still fall in love, all the time. The dynamics are very different from young love or first love, and not easy to pull off, either. I also admire the skill with which the author begins the story like the perfect fairy tale and gradually transforms it to something very different. There's as much hope as heartache, but the underlying suspense just keeps building and building; by the last couple of chapters I was mostly holding my breath between pages. When you do discover the depth and breadth of the secret George has been hiding for so long everything makes sense, but whew. It changes everything you think know about him and what he survived.

If you haven't read some or any of the Survivors' Club series you don't have to go back; Mary makes this final novel an excellent standalone while providing the necessary backstory to understand the gist of the other books and characters (although the whole series is pretty amazing, so it wouldn't waste your time to invest in any or all of them.) I highly recommend Only Beloved as a terrific novel that will keep you absorbed from start to finish.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A to Z

I never imagined so much work could go into recreating, printing and binding an old dictionary (narration, background music):

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I'm taking off today so I can catch up on some work and help my kid get through her finals. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Spring has delivered a lot of surprises this year. The cardinals are now both occupying my little maple by the porch to feed and watch over their triplets, which means if I'm very quiet I can snap pics like these through the screen:

The new parents will have plenty to feed this kids, too, as April is our month for plagues of moth catepillars. Usually we only have to deal with buck and tussock moths catepillars (they both sting), but I'm seeing some new varieties, like this one in the the yard right where I walk the dogs every day:

My best guess by comparing my pic to photos on the web is that it's a salt marsh catepillar, which isn't supposed to sting. My personal policy is not to touch anything with spines, so I scooped him up with a spade to relocate him.

In the mail I got my latest ARC from Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program:

So now I have something new to read in between stalking cardinals and ferrying catepillars.

What has spring delivered to your doorstep? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vet Contest

Here's a short story/poetry/creative nonfiction contest for veteran writers:

"The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

This creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel is hosted by The Iowa Review and made possible by a gift from the family of Jeff Sharlet (1942–69), a Vietnam veteran and antiwar writer and activist. The contest is open to veterans and active duty personnel writing in any genre and about any subject matter.

Judge: Phil Klay

Prizes: First place: $1,000 plus publication in the Spring 2017 issue of The Iowa Review. Second place: $750. Three runners-up: $500 each.
Submit between May 1 and June 1, 2016. No entry fee.

2016 Contest Rules

Submit a manuscript in any genre (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) of up to 20 pages. Prose submissions must be double-spaced. Work must be previously unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are fine, assuming you inform us of acceptance elsewhere.

The judge will select winners from a group of finalists chosen by Iowa Review editors. All manuscripts, whether selected as finalists or not, are considered for publication.

To submit online, please visit beginning May 1, 2016, and follow the instructions.

To submit via mail, please follow these guidelines:

Manuscripts must include a cover page listing your name, address, e-mail address and/or telephone number, and the title of each work, but your name should not appear on the manuscript itself.

Label your envelope as a contest entry and note its genre. For example: “Veterans’ Contest: Fiction.” One entry per envelope. (Note: multiple poems or prose pieces can comprise a single entry if the total number of pages does not exceed 20. For instance, you may submit two short stories of ten pages each in a single envelope, with a single entry fee.)

Enclose a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) for final word on your work. Manuscripts will not be returned.

Postmark submissions by June 1, 2016, and mail to the address below.

The Iowa Review
308 EPB
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242"

For more information, and to read some winning entries from past years, go to the contest page here.

Monday, April 25, 2016


On Sunday the cardinals nesting by our porch hatched their eggs, and here is the first glimpse we had of the newborns:

They're really tiny, adorable things; no bigger than the end of my guy's thumb. We waited until Mom and Dad left for dinner to snap our pics, and this next one was the best one we could get in the low light (we're not touching the nest or the babies, naturally):

Zooming in, we got a better look:

This is likely the last pictures we'll take, too, unless I can get some through the porch screen. We want to keep our distance so Mom and Dad can feel safe and look after them without freaking out.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Twenty-One (click on the title to go to the .pdf), with new material beginning on page 88.

For more details on Just Write, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: My kid. :)