Monday Musings: Away for the Weekend

Mt. Washington, Clay Adams

We spent the past weekend in North Conway, NH. North Conway is a lovely little place in the White Mountain region of the state. We were up there for their annual Chilly Chili Stroll, running the judging for the professional chef’s division of the Stroll.

We got involved with this event a few years ago, when they contacted us about adding an ICS category to their annual cook off. We did the ICS cook off for two years. It was fun, but the Chamber of Commerce (who organize the event) decided they wanted to concentrate their efforts on promoting local businesses, and they dropped the ICS event. It was disappointing, but I understand their point.

At any rate, the next year, they contacted us again and asked if we might be interested in coming up and doing the judging for the professional chef division of the Chili Stroll. They do have a People’s Choice part, as well, which gives some of the non-profit service organizations the chance to get themselves out there for the public to see- and taste chili! And, of course, the professional division is for the chefs from local restaurants to cook some nice chili and cornbread, and get their restaurants some publicity.

It’s a fun event, and we enjoy doing it. We run it just like we would an ICS event- blind judging by invited judges and no one knows who the winner is until we tally everything up. Our judges this year included several trained chefs, a certified barbecue judge, media people, and folks from the community. It’s always a good group and they take the judging very seriously. It was a good event again.

One of the reasons I like this one is that they do the judging for the chili in the morning, and since there are only two categories, we are done early. We had the judges go to the different booths to taste the cornbread, so that wasn’t blind judged, but we didn’t really think about that much beforehand. Next year, we may try to figure out how to do that. And we had a best decorated display award, as well. Still, we were done in time to get back to the hotel for a little down time before the awards ceremony.

We do enjoy this weekend. Everyone at the Chamber of Commerce is so very nice, and we’ve become friends. We look forward to seeing them every year. Good people, good place, good fun- what more could you ask of a weekend away?

The mountain region is a very pretty part of the state. The highest peaks are living up to their name of White Mountains. There is snow in the valley, but not as much as we have down here in the “south”. It was cold, but Saturday was bright and sunny with no wind, so the cold didn’t feel too bad. We drove past the lakes both coming and going. There are a lot of icehouses out there this year. It’s been good and cold, so I suppose the ice is nice and frozen for the hardier fishermen. We also drive by a lake or pond where they have dogsled races, so we get to see them running the sleds.

All in all, it is a really nice weekend, and we look forward to next year.

(The picture is Mounts Jefferson, Clay, and Washington from Mount Tom on the Appalachian Mountain Club site (www.outdoors.gov). Photo by Pete Ingraham.)

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Friday Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

Mockingbird (Miriam Black, #2)Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Miriam Black book from Chuck Wendig. In the first, Blackbirds, we are introduced to Miriam Black, who can see how someone will die if she touches them. In this story, Miriam is trying, really trying, to settle down with her truck driver/sometime lover, Louis. She is working at a job she hates, and she is often alone while Louis is on the road. When she sees a brutal death about to happen where she works, she does what she swore to herself not to do: she gets involved. She saves lives, but it costs her the job. She decides to go back on the road, like she did before, but Louis finds her and convinces her to see a friend of his, a teacher at an exclusive girls’ school. The teacher wants to know how and when she will die. While there, Miriam also sees the grisly death of one of the students at the hands of a psychotic serial killer. And she knows she has to really get involved this time.

I like Miriam- she’s damaged goods, for sure, but she is also determined, gutsy, and under all the anger and foul language, she cares. And she has a killer, if a bit abusive, sense of humor. Not that she would admit that, of course. Louis is a good foil for Miriam. He’s steady, grounded, and not afraid to care. They make a good team, and it’s a team they must be to get through this twisted, ugly world they find themselves in.

Like all of Wendig’s stories, this one starts off with a bang, and keeps running from there. It’s a wild rollercoaster of a thriller. Miriam and her allies are put through hell and back, and then run through it all again. The story reads in quick bites, a bit like Miriam herself- jumpy, full speed, and headlong into the dark. It’s not a pretty story, but then, Miriam is really not a pretty person, and her dark side has gotten even darker since Blackbirds. The plot twists and turns, keeping the reader as off-center as Miriam is.

Anyone who likes dark fantasy, with a fast-paced plot, quirky characters, and a good thriller mystery should get acquainted with Miriam Black.

View all my reviews

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Wednesday Wanderings: Fairytale Forests, Movie Myths, Evil Wizard Blunders, and Motivational (?) Posters

Want to go Into the Woods for real? Here are five real forests that look like they could have come out of a fairytale:

Fairytale Forests

We all know movies take liberties with what is real. Here are ten movie myths that simply aren’t so:

Movie Myths

Why does the bad guy always lose? Here are the blunders evil wizards make that cause their downfall:

Evil Wizard Blunders

You know those motivational posters? The ones that have pretty pictures and pithy sayings to get you excited and raring to go? Yeah. What if they were written for people haters?:

Posters for the Rest of Us

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Winter Pond: Revisiting an Old Essay

C0_Img

I wrote this piece in 2003. It placed second in a contest on a pond blog I followed. Since we are having a rather cold, snowy Winter this year, I thought I’d repost it here today. Yes, I wrote the piece in November, but it seems somehow appropriate for February.

 

 

A Pond In Winter

by

M.A. Kropp

It’s November in New Hampshire. The sky is gray, the weather is raw and winter is most definitely in the air. There is a bit of snow on the ground, and the promise of more to come before spring returns. Everything, including the pond in the backyard, is closed and silent, awaiting the return of warmth and green.

And yet, there is a beauty in the winter pond. Not the lush, vibrant green beauty of the warmer weather, but a stark, clean beauty that is not apparent under spring and summer’s cover of growth. Most of the plants are out of the pond, tender tropicals that require the relative warmth and light of the basement to survive the cold. But a few remain, stalwart, hardy individuals that brush off the cold with dormant nonchalance, awaiting the signals of sun and warmer temperatures to send up new growth. For now, they sleep in the deepest water, dark, barely seen reminders of the wonders of the seasonal cycles of life.

Around the pond, too, the plants have changed with the season. Perennials, like the garden mum, raise clean, skeletal stalks out of the snow cover. The vinca that creeps along the waterfall is a splash of bright green and cream, incongruous against the bare branches and clean outlines of the rest of the garden. Thyme, another evergreen, is a deep green mound, another plant whose special beauty stands out in winter.

Even the water changes at this time of year. It appears dark, probably because the sky is gray and dark above it so often. The inky depth even looks cold. Standing at the edge of the pond, looking into the almost impenetrable darkness, broken now and again by a flash of orange and white as a fish darts among the cover of bottom plants, one seems to be peering into a well of Winter.

Frosty days mean the heater must go into the water, to keep it from freezing over and killing the fish. But even this ever so mundane a device helps add to the beauty of the winter pond. The warmth from the heater causes fog to rise off the pond, reflecting the half-light of early morning and the lights surrounding the pond edge at night. Like fairy mist from some magical water garden, ghost tendrils of mist rise from the surface of the water, dancing slowly upward to disappear into the cold air. It is almost as if the pond breathes, each breath a frosty reminder that life remains.

Winter is a time of special beauty in a pond, but only if you look closely. It is too easy to think only of dead plants, bare water and fish that have dropped out of sight into the depths of the colder water. But there is beauty there, waiting to be seen and appreciated until spring comes again to renew our havens of water.

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Friday Review: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the third book in Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, and it is quite as good as the other two. In Without A Summer, Jane and Vincent are commissioned to construct a glamour in London. They bring Jane’s sister, Melody, along because Melody’s “prospects” (chances of finding a husband) will be better during London’s society season than at the family estate. While working, Jane uncovers evidence of a plot to change the balance of power in the government.

The story takes place in 1816, the Year Without a Summer, and the weather figures into the plot on several levels. We are also introduced to Vincent’s family, and learn more about the coldmonger glamourists. But the main element here is still the relationship between Jane and Vincent. Their lives had been torn apart in more than one way in the last installment, and they are still recovering from the emotional scars. Woven around the political intrigue is the relationship that is central to these stories, and it is portrayed in real terms with all the fear, doubt, tenderness, and love that make up a marriage. We learn more about not only Jane and Vincent, but also Melody, who is, if not central to the story, at least a strong secondary character.

The world continues to grow around the Regency era setting. The addition of glamour, the magical ability to create illusion by bending strands of light, is a good fit for the time period. We are treated to wonderful gowns and bonnets, manor houses and estates, and the upper levels of London society of the period. At the same time, the story doesn’t suffer. Kowal draws together the strands of social commentary, budding technology and those who don’t trust it, science versus superstition, and political intrigue as deftly as Jane creates a glamour.

These are wonderful, intriguing stories that have been called “Jane Austen with magic” and the description is accurate. Fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and light romance will all find these enjoyable.

View all my reviews

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Wednesday Wanderings: Diving the Thames to Save a Font, Labeling Bookstore Sections, HD TimeLapse Earth from ISS, and Mardi Gras

Early in this century, the designer of a really lovely typeface dumped into the Thames by its designer to save it from industrialization. Now, this man has found some of the original type and designed a typeface based on it:

Doves Type

This man went into a bookstore and rearranged and relabeled some sections into ones that make far more sense:

Book Store Labels

This astronaut took six months’ worth of HD images of Earth from the ISS and made this spectacular time-lapse video:

HD Earth

And just because it is Fat Tuesday while I write this post, here are a few photos from a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans:

Mardi Gras

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Monday Musings: An Open Letter to Winter

Dear Sir,

I think we get it: You are cold. You are wet. You are mighty and swift to punish. But, really, enough is enough. Oh, sure, I live in an area where Winter is expected to be cold and snowy, but this is getting just a bit ridiculous, don’t you think?

I will freely admit that you are not my favorite of you four siblings. I much prefer Spring’s company. However, I have not fled you, nor do I completey shun you by leaving you behind to exist without me for your tenure every year. I expect snow. I expect cold. And wind and ice and less than stellar driving conditions. Just not all at once, and constantly over a three week period. You used to spread it around a little. A bit of snow here. A few days of cold there. But lately, you have gotten rather stubborn, almost as if you think we could possibly forget you unless you give us constant reminder. It is not necessary, and, frankly, it is becoming an annoyance.

I am putting you on notice. Stop stalking us! Back off and give us a break. If I must employ the services of an attorney to compose a cease-and-desist letter, I shall. If that is not sufficient, I may have to ask for a restraining order. You would not be happy with that, would you?

Please show that you have at least a small, as yet unfrozen corner of your heart, and calm down for a bit. We will all be the happier for that.

Sincerely,
Nearly Everyone, Nearly Everywhere

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Friday Review: Hellhole: Awakening by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Hellhole Awakening (Hellhole, #2)Hellhole Awakening by Brian Herbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not read the first book in the series. I got this one in a contest, and decided to give it a try and if I needed to read the first, I could always shelve this until I did. As it turned out, I don’t think it is necessary to read the first before this one. Sure, some of the nuance may have been lost, but most of what I needed to know was recapped as the story went along.

As this second book opens, Tiber Adolphus is gathering his Deep Zone allies and preparing for the coming assault from the Constellation. Adolphus and his rebels broke from the Constellation and have established their own Deep Zone alliance. The Constellation is sending a huge fleet, commanded by Escobar Hallholme, the son of the man who defeated Adolphus in the first book. The Deep Zone rebels have their own fleet, and the help of the native aliens on Hellhole, most of whom are preserved as consciousnesses in the slickwater pools on the planet. If a human chooses to enter the pools, a Xayan consciousness will meld with the human in a symbiotic relationship. There are also a few of the original Xayans still alive. The Xayans possess telemancy, which is a bit like telekinesis blended with telepathy. Sort of. The plan is to use the telemancy to assist in the defeat of the Constellation armada. But as things come to the final confrontation, a new, separate threat arrives which changes the plans of both the rebels on Hellhole, and the Xayan natives. And sets up book three.

Overall, it was not a bad story. It dragged a bit in spots, and seemed a bit wordy and long-winded through the middle. The space-faring worlds are typical for the most part. The stringlines which link the planets and proved the “highways” for the ships to travel are an interesting twist on space travel. Characters are a bit typical. Adolphus is the honorable Robin Hood, leading his followers against the oppressive Constellation government. His second and lover, Sophie, is strong and competent, but still has an emotional side. The Diadem, leader of the Constellation, is scheming and politically savvy, despite her age. And her underlords are scheming and ambitious. There isn’t one that stands out as really different, but all are interesting in their own way. The plot is full of intrigue, political maneuvering, and a fair bit of action.

The story is part space opera, part political thriller, and part alien contact story. It’s not terrible, if a bit slow in spots. I haven’t read a straight science fiction story in a while, and this was a decent re-entry to that part of the genre.

View all my reviews

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Wednesday Wanderings: Cumberbatch, How To Be A Successful Writer, What Not to Wear, and Upside-Down Iceberg

Benedict Cumberbatch, in a skit for Jimmy Kimmel Live, takes on a variety of names, both real and fictional, to see how well they sound if he were trying to pick up a date. Sorry, but he had me at “Hi”:

What’s In A Name

In this response to a tumblr question, Neil Gaiman gives the secret to becoming a successful writer. Apparently, we have been doing it all wrong:

Success As A Writer

We’ve all seen those posts- What Not To Wear After 40, 50, etc. Here’s the only one you need. It says after 59, but I think these could apply to any age:

What Not To Wear

Last, I have two links. Photographer Alex Cornell was in Antarctica and he got to photograph the rare occurrence of an iceberg flipping over. It is eerily beautiful. The first link is to the story:

Iceberg

This second is to more of his photos from the Antarctica trip on his website:

Antarctica Photos

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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Monday Musings: Enough, Already!

The snow continues. I think I am going to just go ahead and call this whole winter Snowmageddopacalypzilla! It is like a huge, white, frozen monster that just keeps attacking and swallowing everything. I can just barely see the tops of a few of the corner post finials on the garden fence. When I walk through the back yard, I bump my head on the birdfeeders. I’m pretty sure the dog would be buried if he were one to dive into the deep stuff.

So, which one of you pissed off Mother Nature this much? Could you please, please go and apologise? There is nowhere to put the stuff anymore. And it just keeps on comin’. At this rate, we will be buried until June.

And that was really all I wanted to say today.

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