Wild Onions Guest Blog with Author Sarah Black

Standard

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is welcoming Sarah Black this week to talk about her latest two releases Wild Onions and The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari.  In today’s post, the author talks about her love for Idaho, the setting for Wild Onions.

During this four day Sarah Black event, we will be giving away one copy of The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari to one lucky person who comments on any Sarah Black blog from10/22 to 10/26 with the winner to be announced on Saturday.   Visit

Leave a comment below.

Falling in Love with Idaho: An Illustrated Adventure by Sarah Black

A few years ago, on one of my periodic urges to explore the world, I took a locum job as the Nurse Practitioner at a small clinic in an Athabascan village in Alaska. The village was on the Yukon, about 130 air miles from Fairbanks. We moved in February, and all I will say about that is if you are going to move to Alaska, consider waiting until the summer. On the positive side, my son got to experience the joy of having his boogers freeze at forty below zero, which is the sort of thing boys love and moms will never understand.

In July, I bought a truck in Fairbanks and we left, (I might say ‘fled’ if I was being very honest) driving back to America on the ALCAN Highway. Since I had no intention of ever returning to Alaska, we took the opportunity to visit the National Parks. It is my avowed intention of visiting all of America’s National Parks in my lifetime. Except the Everglades, because I missed my chance and I’m not going back to Florida. That story for another time.

Here’s my baby on our first trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my favorite of the National Parks, wearing my college sweatshirt!SB -James at North Run Grand Canyon

Anyway, we had a very good time visiting gorgeous Denali and Kenai and Katmai and staring a glacier in the face; I couldn’t help but wonder if they would still be around in another fifty years. The scenery was gorgeous, but we didn’t see any wildlife. My only near miss with a bear was actually a hiker, sleeping in the grass, who popped up so suddenly I thought he was a bear and I nearly keeled over in shock. Also a flasher at the Grizzly Café outside Denali who looked like Santa, but I’m not sure if he was an intentional flasher, or if he just forgot both his underwear and zipper. Either way I classified him as wildlife.

One of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords:
SB Alaska Glacier 2
After Flasher-Santa, I said, screw it, let’s head to Canada. Almost as soon as we crossed the border, we found all the wildlife. I don’t know why the eagles and bears and wolves were in Canada- perhaps the IRS turned their eye on them and they sought asylum? Either way, we drove slowly, and the bears ambled across the road, babies bouncing behind, and my kid stared at them out the window and said, ‘they look just like they do in the pictures!’ And that was my exact thought as well.SB JamesGlacierNatnPark002_zps00698238

We crossed the border with the US at Glacier National Park in Montana, and immediately had a lecture about bear safety. I tried to tell the Ranger the bears were all up in Canada, but he doubted my theory about the wildlife moving north. My son adores Park Rangers and always has many questions for them.

He takes their rules, usually posted near the bathrooms, for gospel and we always follow the safety rules to the letter. Which is why we had our toothbrushes in plastic bags, and locked in the truck. Because bears can smell Crest. We ate our hotdogs and marshmallows and then lay in a very small tent, and SB Glacier Park with boatsI stayed awake all night, listening for the grunt and rasp of ursine breathing through very thin nylon. The bighorn sheep were crawling all over the mountains, the lakes and rivers were icy cold, and we experienced the terror and delight of Going to the Sun Road.

After all this fun, I told the kid we needed to head on to Boise, where I had received a job offer. Frankly I was exhausted by all the adventure.

So we started driving through Montana, heading to Idaho.

The Northern Rockies are like nothing I’d even seen before. Huge, stark, forbidding, but sort of protective, too. The valleys were encircled, and the mountains were big andSB Northern Rockies strong, and I was safe there, safe surrounded by these old grandfathers. It was a

strange feeling. I was used to being the tough one, strong myself, taking care of everyone, and in these mountains, I felt like they were watching out for me. I was astounded. Astounded and so relieved I felt like weeping.

The rivers are not like the rivers I’d grown up with back east. These rivers are noisy, muscular, tumbling and roaring. Idaho has a masculine spirit, the landscape strong and tough and silent as a cowboy. No wonder I fell in love! And the people are like the landscape—tough and still, very strong, but with hearts as big as the mountains.

SB Salmon River #6

These are the Grand Tetons. The French fur trappers in the mountains called them Les Tois Tetons, which means, of course, The Three Breasts. What did I say about the masculine spirit? Some historians suggest the mountains were named for the Teton Sioux. There were many Native tribes in this area, Bannock, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfoot. I used the past tense just then, but small groups of Bannock and Arapahoe still live in these mountains. I’ve always been fond of the Blackfoot, since they were the only tribe to try and ambush Louis and Clark.

SB Grand Tetons
When I first moved out to Navajo country to work, I took my usual view of the world, and since I like to listen to people talk, found myself hearing really different perspectives on things. I worked at a tribal boarding school, and I heard a couple of the teachers talking about what they were going to do to teach Lewis and Clark’s trip west. One of the teachers just shook his head, said, “Those bastards.”SB Idaho Lewis and Clark Trail
I’ve always been a bit of a Corps of Discovery nerd. This was the first time I’d heard an opinion from the other side! This is just off of the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Northern Rockies.

Buy Link to Wild Onions:HERE IT IS!

Review of Wild Onions

Review: Demolished by Astrid Amara

Standard

Rating:  4 stars out of 5

DemolishedWhen Calvin Quarry meets up with his anonymous hookup, he is startled and upset to find out that the man is none other than Felix Bracks.  Felix Bracks was responsible for the death of Calvin’s closest friend in high school and several of their classmates.  Calvin flees from the encounter, horrified.  But Felix pursues him, calling and texting Calvin over the next week or so.  Felix wants Calvin to hear his side of the story.  While it’s not something Calvin wants to hear, eventually he gives in and listens to a version of the story that differs greatly from the one he knew.

Felix Bracks has spent years as a social outcast because of that accident in high school.  Physically and emotionally scarred, he thought he had recovered.  But feeling the distain and hate from Calvin after all these years, hurts him.  He is attracted to Calvin and wants the man to like him.  But Felix only tells Calvin part of the truth, keeping the full story to himself.

When Calvin’s cousin Robbie gets involved in something sinister, something that is derailing his life, Calvin decides to investigate.  After all Calvin is an journalism major, this is something he knows how to do.  But as Robbie falls deeper and deeper into trouble, Calvin’s investigation starts to lead him not only to Robbie’s problem but Felix’s past as well.  As the past starts to intrude on Calvin and Felix’s relationship, will they be able to trust each other or will the revelations from the past demolish the love they have found with each other?

Astrid Amara is an automatic go to author for me.  I love her stories, especially her holidays with The Bellskis which rank among my favorite.  So when I heard she had a new story coming out, I was thrilled.  Demolished has all the elements I have come to expect from this author.  Great characters and an mystery that involves the reader emotionally as well as mentally.

Amara starts us off with Calvin agreeing to meet his online hookup, Bikenut, in person for some hot, and decidedly casual sex.

After four weeks of online flirtations and cybersex, Calvin Quarry finally got up the nerve to meet Bikenut in person.

Meet wasn’t the correct term. Screw worked better. Bikenut agreed to host. Cal would knock on the man’s apartment door five times, walk in, and he would be grabbed and taken aggressively and quickly. Then he’d depart.

It was the kind of online hookup Cal always dreamed of engaging in but never had the nerve to. But after weeks of conversations online with the guy with the username Bikenut, a series of photographs showing the man’s impressive endowments, and the guy’s general sense of good humor and intelligence, Cal gave in to his fantasies and arranged the meeting.

But from the moment, Calvin and his online buddy meet face to face, everything starts to go wrong.  Because Bikenut turns out to be Felix Brachs, the boy Calvin and his community love to hate.  Felix was involved in a car accident turned fatal for several high school students, including Calvin’s best friend and secret crush.  For that alone Calvin has hated Felix all these years.  Amara does a wonderful job in making Calvin and then Felix, open and appealing young men.  We understand the emotions each person is feeling and can relate to each of them, easily seeing that horrendous event from both sides of the story.  As created by Amara, these are earnest young men with their futures ahead of them.  But both Calvin and Felix have a joined past that they need to put behind them before they can go forward.  The author’s characterizations give Calvin and Felix each a layer of vulnerability that goes hand in hand with their youthfulness.  Each has experienced past angst and trauma, from the devastation of the accident to their coming out as gay youths.  And in every scene, Astrid Amara makes us feel their pain and confusion with a vividness that is heartbreaking.

Robbie is another wonderfully engaging character.  Younger than Calvin and Felix, Robbie is in trouble.  His grades have fallen, he is sullen and keeping secrets.  All the hallmarks of drug and alcohol abuse.  Robbie’s situation becomes increasingly grave over the course of the story and the reader’s anxiety over Robbie’s future deepens as clues from the past intertwine with revelations about Robbie’s current predicament.  For me, this is where Amara really shined.  Amara’s portrait of Robbie, a youth in trouble,  is  both realistic and grim and handled with sensitivity.  The author ticks off the boxes of the parental check sheet of things to look out for to see if a child is in trouble.  But she incorporates that knowledge seamlessly into Robbie’s personality and behavioral changes noticed by Calvin and Robbie’s parents.   We watch it happening, we see the missteps by Calvin that we know can be laid at his youthfulness and inexperience, and the dread just seeps into the reader, spreading over the story as we wait to see how it will all play out.

I have a few quibbles with Demolished.  The first of which I am not sure really mattered in the end.   Perhaps I have watched far too many police procedurals on cable, but I could see some of the plot twists and turns coming, including the biggest of them all.   That said, the journey to  that point was so suspenseful and thrilling it didn’t matter so much that I knew where we were headed to begin with.  The other quibble was the almost instantaneous love that sprang between a young man with hatred in his heart and the object of his distain.  I wondered if Calvin could really push all those carefully hoarded feelings away and fall in love almost immediately with Felix.  Maybe or then again, maybe not.  That was a harder bump in the road to get over.   But once I accepted their relationship, the story moved forward quickly, attaching my feelings in the process.

If you are new to Astrid Amara, there are so many books out there for you to start with.  Whether it is the science fiction of Hell Cop,  the contemporary holiday romance of The Carol of the Bellskis, or the mystery romance of Demolished, you can’t go wrong.   Start here and work your way through her backlist.  Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington, the wildly quirky town that is home to another one of my favorite authors, Nicole Kimberling.  I have never been to Bellingham but feel a road trip coming on.  What a place it must be to have such wonderful authors residing there and writing such amazing stories.  No matter, Astrid Amara is a terrific author. Begin your journey with her here.

Cover artist, Valerie Tibbs, has created a terrific cover for Demolished, the red is the perfect color in tone and emotion for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Loose-ID
ISBN13 9781623004156
edition language English

Review: In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey

Standard

Rating: 3.25 stars

In Search of a story coverReporter Brad Torrence is worried about his job. Brad hasn’t been able to write the stories he knows is inside of him, and he is stuck proofreading and fact checking other  reporters stories.  When his boss tells him that the stories he submitted are boring and to try and find one in the classified ads, Brad can’t believe it.  But disobeying the boss means being out of a job, and Brad does as he was instructed.  Brad is frustrated and ready to give up when a ad jumps out and captures his attention. For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used.  Thinking that a story of loss and regret would be a perfect subject for his next deadline, Brad contacts the person behind the ad and finds more than he had expected.

Anesthesiologist Cory Wolfe is still grieving over the loss of his best friend and the child he was to adopt.  When reporter Brad Torrence contacts him about the ad he placed, Cory agrees to an interview, thinking it might help him obtain the closure he needs.  During the interview, Cory finds the process of sharing his story emotionally liberating and healing while Brad gets something he can personally relate to in Cory’s story.  After the interview is finished, both men find themselves attracted to and wanting to see each other again.

Cory and Brad find themselves in a relationship that is growing stronger by the day but another mystery finds its way onto Brad’s desk.  Soon Brad is pursuing leads that threaten their new relationship and imperil their lives.   What will Brad do in search of a story?

I love Andrew Grey’s work and look forward to each new story he writes.  The last few books published, especially The Good Fight series, has been outstanding.  I only wish I could say the same about In Search of a Story, but that is not the case.

In Search of a Story has a interesting premise, one that drew me in immediately.  Who doesn’t look through the classified ads and find tantalizing bits of human history offered up in just a few lines.  So I couldn’t wait to see where Grey took this plot and what spin he put on the narrative.  And as far as the outline of the plot goes, the author did a good job.  I thought the idea of a grief stricken almost parent mourning the loss of a child compelling. So too the idea that a connection between the reporter and the person who filled the classified ad is made.  There was so much promise here, so much ground that could have been covered and turned into an amazing story.  But two things kept that from happening. And unfortunately, they are the two main characters.

For some strange reason, neither Brad nor Cory are especially compelling.  These characters came across as oddly flat from the very beginning. While “listening” to Cory tell his story, I was never really engaged in the personal tragedy that was being revealed, there was a distance from the characters and their history almost immediately.  Brad too felt one dimensional, too cub reporter in search of a story that I have seen before.  Much is made of his background with his mother but again the author has problems making that a part of the much larger picture of grief over the loss of a child after highlighting it in the narrative.  From scene to scene, I kept hoping to find a spark that would let me feel part of their story and romance, but it never came about.

There is a secondary mystery here for Brad to solve.  It serves to introduce a measure of suspense and danger into a story that really needs it.  But again, this interesting segment was not given the attention or resolution that it was due and the outcome of this investigation ended up frustrating me with its incomplete story, rather than buttressing up the original plot as I am sure the author intended.

In the end, the story just has an off feel to it.  It leaves the reader wondering more what went wrong, than happy over the characters and their relationship.  If you are new to Andrew Grey as an author, there are so many great books of his out there to start with, so give this a pass.  If Andrew Grey is an automatic must read, then take this as a note of caution and make up your own mind.  Either way, I will be looking forward to his next book as always, because given how prolific Mr. Grey is, even he must have an off day at times.  Consider this one of his.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I think the cover is ok, but nothing on the dramatic side.  However, it is in line with the story inside the covers.

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published May 31st 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623806143 (ISBN13: 9781623806149)
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3825