Book Review:  FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King.

 renee kimball dog photo Written by Renee Kimball

 “From the start . . . I felt that the best fiction was both propulsive and assaultive.  It gets in your face.  Sometimes it shouts in your face.  I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers.  Making them think as they read is not my deal.” (Full Dark, No Stars. p.365).

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“Stephen King” by Stephanie Lawton licensed under CC BY-SA-2.0, via Flickr

There are some who avoid works by Stephen King.  Literary elitists have shown disdain towards King for years arguing his writing is story-telling for the masses.  This review isn’t about the literary merits of King’s works, or his overwhelming success, or even about the monumental effect King’s life-long dedication to writing has had on the horror genre.  This brief review is a discussion of four novellas which are found in Full Dark, No Stars, released in 2010.

Short stories and novellas are not a new format for King.  King has published very successful short stories and multiple novellas over his 35-year long career.  He has clearly succeeded yet again, with Full Dark, No StarsFull Dark contains a common theme of each novella, a theme that explores the darker human psyche, retribution, revenge, and a sense of twisted justice.  Redemption is not found, but retribution appears in each.  Even evil acts can result in a twisted kind of justice–a black and damaging kind of justice, but justice nonetheless.


The first novella, 1922, is set in Depression era Nebraska.  The story involves a barely solvable working family farm, a life of constant work, brutally harsh and unrelenting.  The wife and mother, Arlette, is a bitter and manipulative character who constantly harps to her husband to sell the farm and a plot of 100 acres that Arlette inherited from her father.  Arlette’s dream is to leave the country life and start again in the city of Omaha.

09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL PIXABAY CC0rodent-3229592_640The husband, Wilfred “Wilf,” verbally dominated and hen-pecked, is the browbeaten beleaguered husband whose only desire is to stay on his land.  Wilf tells Henry, their only child, of Arlette’s plan.  Wilf then convinces Henry to help him murder Arlette.  Wilf intones that if Henry does not help with this, then they will be forced to leave the farm, and Henry will never see his girlfriend, who lives on a close by, ever again.  Henry, a meek and obedient boy, resists but finally agrees to help with the murder of his mother.

As Arlette’s demands to sell increase, Wilf and Henry determine it is the time for murder.  It is a clumsy and brutal murder; both father and son are deeply shaken afterwards.   Arlette’s murder becomes the prelude to the story that evolves into a twisted tale of backwoods justice and supernatural interference.  Their deed results into the ultimate destruction of both father and son.  The darker psyche of Wilf bobs and weaves throughout the tale, and in the end, destruction follows. (Spoiler:  If you have a phobia against rats, you may not want to read this dark tale).


09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL Semi double truck trailerBig Driver is the second story in the collection.  The main character, Tess, is a resourceful and successful mystery writer.  She is the author of a “cozy” mysteries series and well known for her work in that type of genre.  To ensure a little extra for retirement, Tess travels and gives readings of her books.  She receives an invitation to read in a small-town library not too far from her home, and readily accepts.  After reading, she takes a shortcut home on the advice of her hostess, the local librarian.

Things become dangerous when she has a flat tire in an isolated and abandoned area.  When a seemingly well-intentioned good Samaritan stops to change her tire, instead of helping her, Tess is beaten and raped.  Left for dead, Tess awakes to find herself in a culvert along with several decomposing female bodies.  Pulling herself together, she leaves the area on foot and begins walking towards her home.  She reaches her home and begins to plans her revenge.

Tess shows both sharp intelligence and quiet bravery, and no one portrays a woman’s strength better than King.   Tess is a force who leaves the reader applauding her quiet inner strength and problem solving skills.  When she meets up with her rapist/ would be killer, Tess achieves her revenge on a much larger scale than she imagined.


While King’s Tess is resourceful and brave, the third novella, Fair Extension, is written from the perspective of a male, Streeter, who is a bitter and unlikable character.

“Faust” by Harry Clarke. (Project Gutenberg Open Library System) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Streeter, suffers from incurable cancer secretly blames his bad health, career, marriage, and lack of income, on the twisted idea that if he had not promoted and helped his best friend, Tom Goodhugh, through high school, Streeter would have had all the successes that Tom enjoys –money and success and a perfect family.  Streeter believes that Tom should suffer the trials and tribulations Streeter has endured, after all, it is only fair.

Late on evening on his way home, Streeter takes an unplanned detour to a kind of roadside market.  He had seen a sign reading “FAIR EXTENSION,” and became curious.  A lone man named George Elvid, sits at the table with the sign.  When Street asks what kind of “extensions” Elvid offers, Elvid responds all kinds but the type of extension depends upon the requestor.  All extensions are tailored made and could be anything–credit extensions, love potions, to corrective eyesight.  A Faustian trade ensues, and Streeter exchanges the extension of his life for the life of his best friend, Tom.

The Streeter story is a black tale of harbored grudges and selfishness.  As Tom experiences horrific setbacks and death, he is slowly physically and mentally broken.  As this is happening to Tom, Streeter becomes healthy and rich.  In the end, Streeter remains unrepentant by his part in Tom’s tragic decline.  FAIR EXTENSION fails to arouse the reader’s sympathy, and there is no retribution, rather, it is a tale of cruelty and Jealousy.


The fourth and last story, A Good Marriage, is thought-provoking and believable.  The main character is a stay-at-home wife, Darcy, whose children have gone to college and left to start their lives. Darcy has been married to the same man, Bob Anderson, (who she believes she knows well), for over 25 years.  She thinks she is living the American dream, or a semblance there of – not perfect, but predictable.  Then, by sheer accident, she trips over a misaligned carton in the garage.  Darcy then realizes that the man that she believes she knows as well as herself, has a double life and is a serial killer.

09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL Wedding_ringsOnce Darcy does her research and confirms her suspicions, she realizes that there has not been a killing for 16 years.  She attempts to come to grips with what she knows for certain.  Her husband, Bob, intuits that she knows about his secret life realizing that the carton has been moved.  Bob confronts Darcy, and manages to convince her that it is all up to her what happens. But that as long as she keeps quiet, he will suppress his killing urges, he then promises he won’t kill again.

Bob explains Darcy is the reason he took a break from killing, being with her has allowed him to suppress and ignore his need to kill.  Bob also says that it can all start up again if she doesn’t keep quiet and if she turns him in, then the children’s lives will be ruined and Darcy will suffer the consequences and will be ostracized by the very people she believes to be her friends.

Several years go by with both partners ignoring their shared secret and no killings.  But Darcy, never feels at ease and in limbo.  Darcy is ashamed and feels responsible because she knows she is the only one that can reveal the truth and bring Bob to justice.

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“Winder stairs” by Martin2Reid, licensed under CC SA-BY-3.0 via Wikipedia

Finally, Darcy stages and then succeeds in killing Bob.  When a bit too tipsy from an evening celebration, Darcy manages to push Bob down a flight of stairs.   Darcy is cleared of any foul play, but she knows there will be someone knocking on the door sooner or later who knows she staged Bob’s murder.  And the day did come, and someone came knocking, but it wasn’t who she expected.

There is retribution in the end, and a good dose of twisted justice, but you have to read the book.

You will enjoy this collection; it is something that will make you think, even if that is not King’s aim, and may even surprise you.  One can never really know what they might do if pushed to the absolute edge.

Happy Reading . . .


From the Afterword:

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Via Amazon

I have tried my best in Full Dark, No Stars to record what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire circumstances. The people in these stories are not without hope, but they acknowledge that even our fondest hopes (and our fondest wishes for our fellowmen and the society in which we live) may sometimes be vain. Often, even. But I think they also say that nobility most fully resides not in success but in trying to do the right thing…and that when we fail to do that, or willfully turn away from the challenge, hell follows.” (Stephen King).

“Stephen King has proven himself to be one of the finest chroniclers of the dark side of the human psyche over the 35 years of his successful career. While literary snobs sometimes cock a snoot at his mainstream appeal, there is no doubt that on his day he can spin as compelling a yarn as anyone . . . These tense tales delve into the dark heart of a knitting society and a serial killer’s last stand.” Doug Johnstone. Independent. November 14, 2010.


King, Stephen.  FULL DARK, NO STARS, 2010Simon & Schuster, New York., New York.

Kirkus Review.  “Deals with the darkest recesses of the human soul. . .” Kirkus Review. Nov 10, 2010.

Johnstone, Doug. Independent. November 14, 2010.


Image of semi double truck licensed via Wikipedia under CC0
Image of wedding rings via Pixabay under CC0
Image of rat via Pixabay under CC0


A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.


Talking Dirty by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanks to the Magic of Stories for inspiring this post. Karen J. Mossman talks, in a way, about creating a balance between being realistic and providing an escape for our readers.

Can you think of any scenes where people go to the bathroom? I’m going to be vain and tell you that in my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I talk about going to the bathroom a lot. In one scene, I’m making oatmeal, and my husband Bill, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes, is sitting at the kitchen table in his wheelchair. Suddenly, he says, “Oooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.” This gives my readers an idea of what I went through as a caregiver.

What about farting? In Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, there’s a scene in which a high school football coach flatulates while lying in bed, reading the newspaper, much to his wife’s annoyance. This gives you some idea of what kind of guy the coach is. Bill also liked to expel wind through his posterior, but I couldn’t find a way to bring that into my story since it wasn’t related.

How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she belches for emphasis. Again, I’m showing you her character.

Eating is another bodily function often portrayed. One great example of this is in the book, Prizzie’s Honor. Charlie, a mafia crook, is eating lunch with his boss. It’s an Italian ten-course meal. This emphasizes the irony that evil people enjoy the good things in life.

I suppose we ought to talk about sex, but I’d rather not. None of my work has vivid descriptions, and frankly, such scenes bog a story down. Hand holding, kissing, and embracing are enough to show the reader two people are in love.

What do you think? Do bodily functions, including sex, enhance a story or slow it down too much?


I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir and am currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, Magnets and Ladders, and other publications. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. I also taught braille, facilitated a support group for the visually impaired, and served on the advisory board for a state trust fund that allows people with low vision or blindness to purchase adaptive equipment. For more information, please visit my website and blog.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.


I Love You, Peter Guillam…Thoughts on Point of View

helen-currie-foster-hotxsinc Written by Helen Currie Foster


2018-09-16 HELEN FOSTER WWW IMG_1910Okay, I’m addicted to John Le Carré. I’ve repeatedly re-read his “Smiley Trilogy.”  As you may know (but no spoilers), the seminal Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy tells us how George Smiley unmasked a mole in the British secret service (the “Circus”). Remember Alec Guinness as Smiley? Wonderful, but not as short and tubby as we imagine Smiley to be. When Smiley’s People was reissued, Le Carré wrote a preface referring to his completion of a trilogy: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974); The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley’s People (1979). Was he done, then? We’d hear no more about finding the Circus mole and foiling the Russian mastermind Karla? Could Smiley retire to study German poetry, maybe retrieve his beautiful unfaithful Ann?

John Le Carré will be 87 on October 19. In 2017, with A Legacy of Spies, Le Carré reaches back before Tinker, Tailor into The Spy Who Came in from The Cold (1963), where Alec Leamas (Richard Burton starred in the movie), is killed at the Berlin Wall. Indeed, Le Carré goes back to his 1961 debut, Call for the Dead, where we first meet Smiley, his subordinate Peter Guillam, and the German assassin Hans-Dieter Mundt.

Part of Le Carré’s genius is his use of point of view. Legacy is all told, first person, by Peter Guillam—described as “tall, tough and charming” in The Honourable Schoolboy, but always just a supporting character, never at the seat of power. In Legacy, the aging Guillam (white hair, hearing aids) is called back to a hostile Circus from his Brittany home. and informed he’s a defendant in a lawsuit concerning Leamas’s death. In Legacy Guillam is protagonist, not just narrator. He’s thrown into painful memories of the Leamas (apparent) debacle as, at the instruction of the current unlovable Circus bureaucrats, he slogs through years of records, some of which he wrote himself, including the one he wrote about the loss of his beloved—never mind. No spoilers.

In contrast, Tinker, Tailor builds the story with three points of view: first, that of George Smiley himself, forced to retire from the Circus by the nefarious Russian “Witchcraft” plot, and currently abandoned by his beautiful and unfaithful wife; second, that of Bill Roach, a “new boy” with “no friends” at the horrid Thursgood school where the wounded spy Jim Prideaux now teaches French; and third, that of Peter Guillam, another “Witchcraft” victim now banished to a dead-end Circus assignment in Brixton.

Roach’s observations of the new teacher, Prideaux, show us both Prideaux’s strength and charm, and the daily pain and fear left by his capture and torture. Prideaux names Roach a “watcher,” the “best watcher.” Roach worries himself sick, watching, fearing for Prideaux, and he’s the one who tells Prideaux that his peaceful isolation at this school has ended. Strangers are asking about Prideaux in the village. With sinking stomach Roach watches through the rainy window of Prideaux’s trailer as Prideaux reassembles his gun.

2018-09-06 HELEN FOSTER WWW IMG_1909Guillam’s narration, as he helps Smiley undertake the search for the Circus’s Russian mole, tells us how he lies for Smiley and, heart thumping, sweat pouring down his back, steals records from the Circus that Smiley asks him to get.  Guillam shares thoughts about Smiley that Smiley himself could never convey—his brilliance, his invincible calm in interrogation, his vulnerable invulnerability. We see Guillam as a romantic, still attached to the Circus by idealism and the drive for adventure that (we suspect) also characterize the author.

All three points of view build purpose and suspense. Without Roach, we could not share Roach’s acute terror about Prideaux’s situation. Without Roach we would not have seen Prideaux try to level his trailer in the rain, drink vodka to dull the pain of the bullet in his back, teach perfect French to his students, engage them in wildly wonderful play. Roach has made us care about Prideaux.

Smiley sees himself as a fat balding spy, cuckolded by his beautiful wife. Without Smiley’s point of view we would not feel his guilt as he opens bills reflecting his wife’s unfaithfulness, feel his irritation with the pompous ambition of the not particularly competent men running the Circus, feel his terror at waiting, feel his satisfaction as pieces fall into place, feel his conflicted but unshakable determination to find the mole.

Without Guillam’s point of view, we might not understand that he so admires Smiley that at Smiley’s instruction he’ll attempt the perilous theft of records about the Witchcraft plot, and coolly lie about his presence in the building (sweat running down his back) while he’s interrogated by superiors.  With Guillam we feel a field man’s terror and joy in completing a successful field operation, but also his puzzlement about the multiple layers of the plot.

Back to the first-person narrative Le Carré uses in Legacy.  One character, the reliable but somehow removed Peter Guillam, suddenly bears the emotional weight of decades of deception. We like him. Perhaps we feel he’s one of us: a field man, not a cerebral strategist like Smiley; still human, still romantic, but longing for rest. In Legacy we, with Guillam, come face to face with the secret he has suppressed for so long.  We so want him to find rest. No spoilers., though.

John Le Carré! I’m drinking a toast to you tonight. Happy almost birthday!


Helen  Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery series: GHOST CAVE, GHOST LETTER, GHOST DOG, and GHOST DAGGER. She works as a lawyer in Austin. Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros.



A Dick Francis Race to the Finish

helen-currie-foster-hotxsinc Written by Helen Currie Foster

 Dick Francis wrote over 40 international best-selling mystery thrillers touching the world of horse racing. He won celebrity status as a British jockey, even serving as the Queen Mother’s jockey. In World War II he served in the RAF, flying Spitfires and hurricanes.

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By Paul Holloway from Leeds, United Kingdom (Steeplechase) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Many fans will recognize that he often uses a particular formula. The formula includes a young male protagonist with an offbeat background and some sort of hole in his soul, who winds up solving a murder. Let’s take just three examples: foreign service officer Peter Darwin in Comeback, movie director Thomas Lyon in Wild Horses, and architect/restorer of old buildings Lee Morris in Decider.

Each book uses first-person narrative.

Each man worries about something missing in his life. The young diplomat longs for love. The movie director fears he lacks the courage to take risks and make a movie his way. The architect fears his marriage no longer contains love, but knows he can’t leave his six children.

Francis uses his own jockey experience for horse racing features in each book, though these three protagonists do not race professionally. The foreign service officer, finding himself back in the small English racing village where he grew up, draws on childhood memories of the personalities and scandals of the village’s trainers and owners to find a murderer. The movie director, who grew too tall to race professionally, races real jockeys in his film to convince them he knows what he’s doing, and to persuade the producer to let him create the “wild horses” scene that caps the movie. The architect still owns shares in a decrepit racetrack owned by his vindictive father, who horribly abused the architect’s dead mother, and a cast of cruel and dysfunctional relatives who mistrust the architect. After an uphill fight the architect rebuilds both his family connections and the falling-down racetrack.

Each book depends on meticulous research on arcane subjects. Francis knows how to feed us this information without making us drink from a fire hose. With the diplomat, we try to determine who had both opportunity and skill to kill horses in a vet clinic without being caught—upholstery needles hidden in horse feed, the wrong anesthetic, the wrong blood plasma electrolytes during surgery. With the director, we see his cinematographic skill as he develops the climactic scene he has imagined, a scene revealing the solution to the long-ago death of a horse-trainer’s wife. We stand with him on the beach, filming as Norse horses led by one woman on horseback, her veils streaming, race along the dunes at dawn. With the architect, we determine who blew up the old racetrack stadium, why the proposed plans for a new stadium are bogus, and how to save the racing season with circus tents.

Of course, along the way, we worry with each protagonist. Will the diplomat find love with the bishop’s daughter? Will the director gain confidence enough to make the movie he believes in? Will the architect repair not only the racetrack, but his marriage? Plus, tension builds because in each book the protagonist’s determination to solve a murder imperils himself and/or those he cherishes.

In addition—and it reflects Francis’s genius in character development—Francis aficionados will recognize a recurrent scene in which the protagonist, viciously attacked, turns the other cheek (figuratively) instead of fighting back. This can perplex and frustrate the reader, who longs for revenge and the hero’s vindication. Francis makes us wait. The diplomat, slugged by a vicious horse trainer, backs off and drives away, seemingly cowed. The architect, beaten up by his own estranged family members, doesn’t retaliate. The movie director, after a first knife attack intended to scare him off the movie set, dons a home-made knife-proof vest and keeps filming, knowing he’s inviting further attack.

I think Francis ultimately uses these episodes for two reasons. First, he contrasts the villains’ nefarious motives with the protagonist’s disciplined determination to finish the job, to find the murderer. But the episodes are structural as well: the reader finally understands the protagonist must refuse to fight back specifically so he can maintain his disguise, conceal his knowledge, and succeed in solving the murder. These books aren’t police procedurals. The amateur sleuth protagonists can’t rely on police authority to win. These cheek-turning scenes demonstrate discipline and—ultimately—a gritty desire to win.  The thriller component comes as the protagonist’s desire to win also imperils him or his family.

By the time we’re identifying with the off-beat character (our first-person narrator), wallowing in the wealth of meticulous arcane research around the subplots, and turning pages rapidly to see the narrator safely escape peril—we’re pretty sure this formula works.


Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery seriesGHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.


Would You Like More Reviews for Your Book? by Stevie Turner

I thought authors might be interested in checking out or even joining a reading/reviewing group that I started last month on Facebook. There are currently 14 members of the Verified Purchase Review Group at the moment, and the first month’s reading and reviewing is going very well. There are already 6 reviews completed for July/August:

Here are the rules for authors:

1. At the given time, reduce the price of your book to $0.99 /£0.99 on Amazon UK and US sites for 5 days and post a link to it on the new buying thread on Facebook within a 5-day deadline. You can also advertise it as a reduced-price book as you normally would, so you may even get more sales!
2. Buy the (reduced price) book of the author in the post before yours in the buying thread before the same 5-day deadline is up (so I know when to end the thread) and then the first person will know to review the last book. Reply to the post of the author whose book you have bought with the order number.
3. Read and post your review within a 6-week deadline on your Amazon home site and on Goodreads. Leave a link to your review on that month’s review thread.

When there are enough members then I can separate out the genres, so that everybody gets to read and review a book in their favourite genre. At the moment there is one buying thread on Facebook, but hopefully before long there will be several.

Interested? The next September/October buying thread will be posted at the end of August, where you will be able to add your reduced-price book. Any queries please contact me on

One of our members was as pleased as anything to receive a second review for his book, as the first one was 7 years’ ago!


S J Brown Photo verticalBy S. J. Brown

I am stealing this title from a previous post I wrote in 2015. Sharing is something I was taught to do as a young child and still do today. As a child on a daily basis I shared with my big sister, even when she didn’t want to share with me. In more recent years my sister and I have shared our memories and put them into a manuscript that we hope to publish.
S J Brown SistersAs an author I share my thoughts and experiences. As a wildlife photographer I share my images and my love of the natural world. For this blog I thought I would share some of both. I think it is more important than ever for all of us to be mindful of our wild places and the critters that live there.

S J Brown Mule DeerI think living with nature can be challenging, but so well worth it. Even when the birds get to our strawberries and raspberries before we do.
S J Brown Blue JayI think we can all do our part to help out the natural world. I do what I can be sharing my images, recycling, reusing, and reducing when I can. I flip horseshoe crabs, tag monarch butterflies, and plant trees.

S J Brown Horseshoe Crab

Each week I share a wildlife image with my social media community.

2 KodiakIs there something your parents taught you as a child that you still do today? Have you shard that lesson with your children?

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my thoughts.

My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap. Bennie the Butterfly and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website


The West Virginia 6 Pack


Let me tell you about the West Virginia 6 Pack. No, I am not talking about a beverage or food of any kind. The WV 6 pack is what I am calling 6 people from WV who traveled to Delaware to visit the beaches along the bay and rescue some wild critters.
Our little group consisted of me, my hubby Jay, our Granddaughter, two former neighbors and their grandson. This was the first year we were able to include our granddaughter in this annual rescue mission. She is 13 and lives in the Parkersburg WV area so just getting her to our home was a 5 hour drive.
The following morning we were up before the sun for the 3 hour drive to Delaware. There we met up with the rest of our group. We were all anxious to get started despite the nasty weather that greeted us. We donned our rain gear and proceed to the beach to brave the wind and rain.

SJBrown BeachOne by one we approached the horseshoe crabs that were in distress. The motion of the waves they rode to shore on forced some of the horseshoe crabs onto their backs. Like turtles horseshoe crabs cannot always turn themselves over when they land on their backs. Some beckoned to us by waving their claws, while others chose to save their strength and remain motionless.

SJBrown Crab ClawThis annual journey to lay their eggs could leave numerous horseshoe crabs baking in the sun if people didn’t come to their rescue. Migrating shore birds also come to witness this yearly occurrence. They come to gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs before continuing on their journey to their summer homes.

SJBrown BirdsOur strategy is really quite simple we walk along the top of the waterline flipping horseshoe crabs as we go. On our return trip we venture along the water’s edge. Our little group saved dozens of Horseshoe crabs, a turtle and a blue crab, all before lunch.

SJBrown Horseshoe Crabs

SJBrown Crab 1On the long ride home we discussed our plans for next year. Yes my granddaughter wants to do this again, despite the hours of driving required. She does think we should pack our lunch next time.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website



10 Days on the Road

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

On the eve of my latest photo trip the living room was filled with duffle bags, camera equipment and anticipation. Jay and I were hoping for sunny skies, warmer weather and co operative critters. Our plan was to take the scenic route to Texas with stops in several states along the way.
Mother Nature decided she didn’t like our planned route and was not very nice to us the first 2 days. There was a major storm heading East across the country while we headed West. When we learned this storm was spewing out tornados Jay and I decided to take a more southern route.

Jay’s job while we are on the road is to drive, spot critters, and watch my back. More than once a critter has approached me from behind while I was photographing. On this trip Jay did an excellent job of protecting me from a bear.

sjbrown1 JAy with BearIn Alabama we discovered that Alabama isn’t very good at posting signs for most of our destinations. Mississippi was a bit better at this and I was able to capture a number of critters during our short stay. Louisiana is where we spent a chunk of time. However we did have to change our plans again. Most of the locations we planned to visit were flooded from that nasty storm. Still I captured over 2 dozen species of birds, mammals and reptiles. The flooding at one refuge worked in my favor. The high waters forced the migrating birds closer to the road and within the view of my lens.

sjbrown 3 Stilt

I was able to photograph more than one alligator on this trip. One was quite intrigued by the camera, while another was more interested in bathing in the sun; a third was a bit camera shy.

sjbrown 5 alligatorWe continued our travels and ventured into Texas, our furthest most west point for this trip. After a few days we proceeded toward home. We had just 2 days to get back to the real world.

These trips are about more than capturing critters on film. They are a chance to escape from everyday responsibilities and rejuvenate. What do you do to escape? Is there something special you do just for you, for an hour or an entire day?

sjbrown 2 EgretAs a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

My Other Life

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

All of my online friends know I am a wildlife photographer and Author. Hubby and I travel quite a lot and visit out of the way places to get close to critters.

SJBrown FoxWhat few people realize is I have a day job. For years hubby has asked me to quit my day job and write and photograph full time. I may just do that one day, but not yet. Wildlife photography is expensive. Yes when we travel I skimp on accommodations and meals, but I still have to put gas in the car and film in the cameras and replace equipment from time to time.

SJBrown FrogWhen we are on the road I promise hubby one decent meal a day and a bed to sleep in. That means Knights Inn instead of Marriot. Our breakfast id generally served through a drive thru window and lunch might be peanut butter and crackers. However dinner is generally a nice meal.

SJBrown JayThe income from wildlife photography and writing are sporadic at best. Yes I have sold a single image for $500 dollars. I have also sold an image for $25 which doesn’t cover the cost of getting the image. The latter is much more common and that is why I work part time.

SJBrown PelicanSo what does a wildlife photographer do when she is not out in the field? This wildlife photographer is a cosmetic merchandiser. Yep I play with makeup. That means I go into grocery stores and stock their makeup departments. Then I tell the computer what I want it to send to the store and what to stop sending because it isn’t selling.
This job allows me to be done work for the week at noon on Thursdays. This leaves me over 3 days a week, every afternoon and every evening to write, photograph and submit. On our longer trips my boss covers my territory and is very glad to see me when I return.

SJBrown with PoniesIt’s actually not a bad job, I have had worse. How about you what was your worst job? What was the best job you ever had? I will be back on the road again soon, but I look forward to reading your comments when I return.

Thanks for stopping by.

My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website to view more of my images

S J Brown Photo vertical

Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website to view more of my images