Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You meet the most interesting people at Comic Cons


Mobile, Alabama, May 27, 28, & 29 

Balloon Man and his tiny human sidekick. They only fear pins.

It's not easy being blue-green

Who knew you could get a flight suit in size XXXXXXL?

I wonder if what they say about a guy with big hands is true?

Someone got up on the wrong side of the yurt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Release Day for My New Book

Spirit Ridge

L. A. Kelley

A dark shadow rises.

San Francisco in 1885 was a dangerous place for those who crossed Colin Doyle. To Nob Hill elite he was a successful businessman. To the underbelly of San Francisco he was The Mick, a criminal mastermind ruling from the shadows. If a buyer’s tastes ran to opium, a whore, or a politician, The Mick could name a price. No one who betrayed him ever escaped the city alive.

Until now.

Nell Bishop is a fearless investigative reporter for the San Francisco Dispatch. She’s on the run to the Arizona Territory with the one witness who can expose Doyle’s corrupt empire and stop the plan to extend his evil dominion to the West.

Marshal Sam Tanner of Spirit Ridge in the Arizona Territory fought the visions sent by his Apache blood. They always foretold a death he couldn’t prevent. Then Sam dreamed of the coyote with golden brown eyes who warned of a black shadow spreading evil across the land. Did the message call him to help the beautiful woman who stepped off the stagecoach? Can Sam and Nell elude the mysterious dark riders who dog their trail or will the next vision mean death for both of them?

Adventure, romance, humor, and the call of Apache spirits weave together a Wild West adventure where either murder or justice can come at the twitch of a trigger finger.

Surprise shot through Bart’s expression. “Never reckoned you smart enough to figure the truth. The Mick’s reward ain’t for fetching you alive.” His tongue flicked in and out again. “Please me, and I’ll make it quick.”
Tears sprung to Daisy’s eyes. “Sweet Jesus, help me.”
Bart’s heartless chuckle encased Nell’s heart in ice. “Ain’t no God nor man gonna help a whore.”
“Get away from her this instant!” Nell stepped into the alley, right hand hidden in the tunic, finger on the trigger.
Bart raised the gun to meet the new arrival. “Where’d you come from? Best be on your way. This ain’t no concern of yours.”
Nell strode toward them through the fog. The gaslight shone on her white wimple and the scapular under the veil.
Daisy gasped. “She’s a nun, Bart. You can’t shoot a nun.”
“Shut up,” he barked, backhanding her across the mouth. “For five thousand, I’ll shoot anyone.”
  “Get out of here, Sister,” Daisy moaned. “Please, don’t get hurt on my account. I ain’t worth it.”
“Release her.” Nell’s tone betrayed not a single tremor. “If you beg trouble, sir, let fly. I guarantee you won’t live long enough for regrets.”
Bart’s thumb pulled back to cock the trigger. “Your words don’t cut nothing. The devil claimed me as his own long ago.”
“Then perhaps,” she responded coolly, “the time has come to meet your maker and beg forgiveness in person.”
A shot rang out. Daisy shut her eyes and screamed.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Book Review: Dead Wake by Eric Larson

The best historical fiction transports a reader to a different time and place, so much so that pages come alive. The story is real. The same can be said for the best historical nonfiction. All senses are engaged; taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight. The reader not only comes away with a better understanding of historical events, but a complete picture of the world in a far-removed time. It’s the mark of a great book when you root for people to survive and forget they are long dead.

New York Times Bestseller, Dead Wake, is a vibrant telling of the last crossing of the steamship Lusitania. No stuffy compilation of facts, no dull recitation of times and dates. As Larson relates the story of the doomed ship and the passengers, readers are drawn along. It doesn’t take long to become vested in their survival. Will the young man headed to England for his engagement live? What about the little boy with measles confined to bed? His pregnant mother? The spiritualist? The book dealer with his priceless package? Larson uses a treasure trove of letters, diaries, and written reminisces to give each a unique voice.

Larson flicks the story between the major players; the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, the British Admiralty, President Woodrow Wilson, and the U-boat commander Schwieger. This is in no way confusing, but instead, reveals surprising details. Some are sweet. President Wilson wrote gushy love letters for his soon-to-be wife, Edith. Others are simply amusing. I never expected a description of life aboard a U-boat to include a dachshund with puppies who cuddled with the crew.  

Tragedy can sometimes approach a comedy of errors. The sinking of the Lusitania is no exception. Warnings of submarines sightings were ignored or never sent. People who needed vital information didn’t get it. Even simple pride played a large part. Few took seriously the German government’s warning that all ships flying the British flag were fair game. Even when they did, destroying the Lusitania was unthinkable. She was the biggest, fastest passenger ship afloat with more than enough lifeboats. Too bad safety drills weren’t mandatory. Maybe then passengers would have actually learned how to put on their life jackets.

Larson’s face-paced chapters build tension until the final moment when U-20 fires the torpedo. After that, the story turns to nail-biting anxiety as the ship quickly sinks. Heartbreaking tragedy follows when who lived and who died is revealed.

Dead Wake has no overly technical jargon or dull details. No one is painted as a villain. This is simply a great read that recreates a tragic historical event in remarkable detail. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys getting lost in another time and place, whether fictional or real. Any quibbles? Yes. Other than one map and one photograph of the Lusitania, the book contains no illustrations or pictures. The omission is disappointing.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Review of The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde

When Being a Passionate Preservationist Meant Shooting Lots of Stuff

Naturalists are hunters for science who collect biological specimens for display and skins for study. These early collectors made natural history available to the general populace and played a major role in turning the study into a serious scientific pursuit. In this well-researched book, author Darrin Lunde focuses on Theodore Roosevelt’s passion as a naturalist and his influence on early environmentalism in the United States. The biography concentrates on the years from Roosevelt’s birth to his great African safari after he left the White House, and describes the events and people in his life that turned him into an avid outdoorsman.

Roosevelt came to his love early. Although a sickly child, he grew up in a time of Victorian beliefs that a weak constitution can be overcome by manly pursuits. So with the blessing of his parents little Teddy spent many happy hours rambling through the outdoors, slaughtering animals to skin and stuff. (He became an expert taxidermist.) Roosevelt was a serious student of the natural world, even studying science in Harvard. His decision to enter politics was an economic one; natural scientists made a poor living. Throughout his life Roosevelt surrounded himself with scientists, cultivating their friendships, and later inviting many to the White House.

Nowadays, naturalists are readily identified as preservationists, but not in Roosevelt’s era. He shot hundreds of animals for collections, many whose numbers were already in decline. The rationale being it’s better to kill a good specimen before they’re all gone so people will know what they once looked like. Readers will be surprised to learn how many of his contributions are in collections of the American Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian.

How times have changed. One of the things I liked about this book is that it doesn’t sugarcoat. There is a weird horror in reading the number of animals killed during Roosevelt’s hunting trips and safaris, and yet he and others like him laid the foundation for both the National Park system and conservation movement. Perhaps Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishment was conveying his enthusiasm for the natural world to the general populace through his writings and collection of species for exhibit.

Another interesting aspect is how the notion of preservationist has changed over the years. Roosevelt had no qualms about hunting, even endangered species. He believed predation was a natural part of life. One of the reasons he gave for supporting nature preserves in the first place was so enough big game would be left for his son to shoot when he came of age. “Laws should so far as possible provide for the continued existence of the game in sufficient numbers to allow a reasonable amount of hunting on fair terms to any hardy and vigorous man.”

The book was enjoyable, giving a real flavor for not only the work of early naturalists, but life in the Victorian Age as well. (Victorians also believe nicotine helped asthma and I snickered over Lunde’s appalling description of wheezy little Teddy as a child smoking stogies in bed.) I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Theodore Roosevelt, the Victorian Age, or natural history.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.