Word of the week: kermode bear (pronounced kerr-MO-dee) - also known as a "spirit bear"; a subspecies of the American Black Bear living in the central and north coast of British Columbia, Canada. It is noted for about 1/10 of their population having white or cream-coloured coats.

Indie Author of the Month: Please Come Meet . . . Jo Marshall

One thing I love just about as much as golden retrievers is reading YA and middle grade fantasy books—yes, even at forty-two years old—and indie author Jo Marshall’s middle grade fantasy series has captured my interest.

Back when I worked as an acquisitions editor for a small press, I was fortunate enough to had been “submitted for my consideration” a very intriguing synopsis about brave little twig creatures who lived in huge forests and had adventures of their own. Oh, sample chapters were an absolute must see!

But alas! Before I’d had a chance to request these, Ms. Marshall had decided to pull her projects from places submitted, including ours, and I thought for certain I’d never get the opportunity to read it.

Fortunately for us, Ms. Marshall had decided to indie publish her projects. What a thrill it was to discover these stories now available to readers! Please do consider connecting with and/or supporting this author and her projects. So well worth it!

But author Jo Marshall can explain it all so much better than I can. So here she is to present her wonderful middle grade fantasy series. . . .

* * *

Thanks, Kimberly, for sharing my children’s books Twig Stories with your group of friends. It’s great you’re curious about the series, and the underlying theme of conservation, too.

Twig Stories are eco-literary adventures about tiny, stick creatures living in an old growth forest, and are geared for children ages 8 to 12. They take place in the present day – the ‘anthropocene geologic era’ of earth’s history. That means man has changed the surface and atmosphere of the planet to such an extent the entire world’s environment is impacted. The consequences are profound.

The stories center on the exploits of one young, boyish Twig named Leaf. He lives in a giant cedar with his family, and dreams of exploring the world beyond his tree-home. Through his journeys the reader discovers his beautiful forest is under attack from a warmer world. Fun, thrilling fantasies are then set in the realm of scientific fact.

As the seasons are growing warmer in Leaf’s forest melting glaciers create violent floods. Also, insects attack wildlife and destroy trees. Explosive wildfires erupt. Even worse, the rare and beautiful creatures of the forest, prairies, and mountain peaks are vanishing! For example in the real world in British Columbia the critically endangered spirit bear, or kermode bear, just barely survives due to reduced habitat. The burrowing owls, which live in the grasslands, are under threat from wildfires. Beavers have to be reintroduced into western areas in the US where they are near extinction. Even worse, there may only be 40 woodland caribou left in the Pacific Northwest. Yet, Leaf and his companions endure with skill, optimism, humor, and courage.

In Leaf & the Rushing Waters an outburst flood from a melting glacier traps his family in their tree-home, so Leaf must search for goliath beavers to build a mighty dam. In the real world, the use of beaver dams is a natural solution to mitigate worsening flood and drought caused by an unusual climate shifts.


In Leaf & the Sky of Fire, Leaf leads an escape from swarms of mountain pine beetles, which in the real world have already destroyed entire forests in western North America. The dying trees infested by bark beetles also create uncontrollable wildfires.

In Leaf & the Long Ice, Leaf must journey to the shrinking glacier of Echo Peak to find his runaway brothers. During this wild and funny adventure we also learn many of the rare creatures of the ice may go extinct without their alpine habitat. The loss of the glacier’s ice and fresh water seems inevitable.

In the last story, Leaf & Echo Peak, climate change has reached its tipping point. The only choice left is to adapt to its inevitability. However, if Twigs are anything, they are enterprising and ingenious, so they persevere, confront their challenges, and along with the plants and animals in the forest adapt and survive.

One might wonder why go through all this trouble just to tell stories about shy, stick creatures, who have few resources to battle climate change? Twigs hope their heroic acts may urge children and adults to think of ways to protect their own local ecosystems. By taking care of our own tree-havens and being environmentally aware, we may help to lessen the impacts of global warming.

The best part of Twig Stories is the opportunity to contribute more to conservation youth programs and fundraising efforts. Twig Stories’ royalties are shared with wildlife and forest conservancy nonprofits.

Most recent release ~ 
Leaf & the Long Ice ~ Paperback 

The Twig Stories website offers a 20% discount on the paperbacks ~
Tweet Jo: @Twigstories.
Follow her Pinterest boards: @Twigstories
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Word of the Week: abhor /abˈhôr/ (hear it!) - transitive verb - to regard with disgust and hatred - (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Itty-bitty, Teeny-Tiny, Pocket-Sized Retrievers!

Anyone who knows me, knows I love, love, love the golden retriever. Goldens are large breed dogs who grow fast and love hard with an insurmountable affection for their owners . . . and well, all right, anyone else they happen to meet, be it human or animal.

Over the past thirteen years, I've been graced with owning two goldens, having lost my first one to stomach cancer. Now, mind you, I fully understand that (doggie) mothers aren't supposed to compare their (canine) children to one another. Yet I do. And while I see many fantastic similarities between Jake (my former) and Bailey (my current), differences still abound.

Goldenbrook's Jacob Hunter

Jake was sleeker, taller; a golden-blond boy who sported a longer snout and weighed in at 85 pounds. 

Harborview March Playpeekaboo

Bailey is more muscular, compact; a (smidge) darker-golden boy with a broader face—he weighs in at around 75 pounds.

Now, don't get me wrong. Bailey is near perfect; a beautiful boy from a litter of five males and five females (oddly enough, the same ratio as Jake's siblings) bred/produced by Jennifer Craig of Harborview Goldens, an excellent breeder with high standards for her pups. I have absolutely no complaints.

Yet because Bailey's more compact, thus smaller than Jake was . . . yes, I have affectionately dubbed him my “pocket-sized” retriever, even though he's a perfectly proportioned, perfectly sized golden, well-bred in every way.

Of course, this “pocket-sized” term eventually gave rise to a random thought: “What if there were pocket-sized retrievers? Goldens a wee bit slighter . . . ?” Yeah, well, all right. More than a wee bit, perhaps. I was thinking of a golden one could pick up and put into one's pocket. You know, like a Chihuahua.

Ah, alas . . .

. . . until I stumbled across the “miniature golden retriever,” a.k.a. "comfort retrievers."

Yee cats and little fishes! How cute. Itty-bitty, teeny-tiny, pocket-sized retrievers . . . er . . . well, kind of. And yet I'm torn. One thing I adore about the golden is their size. So should these wonderful animals, in reality, be downsized? I've read a host of comments.

Owners of full-sized purebred goldens seem to loathe the idea of these mini-golden breeders selling golden look-alike “designer dog” mutts (many of these minis are a mix—yikes! Say that ten times fast!) all for a profit. Mini-golden breeders seem to insist they're working to enhance their minis to echo the original (and larger) counterparts for those who love the golden but can't, or won't, own a large breed dog.

Who's truly right?

Well, didn't the majority of current purebreds begin as mixtures who were bred accordingly through many generations to enhance desired characteristics to create very distinct breeds? Purebred goldens were originally developed in the late 1800's from a Yellow Retriever mixed with the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, and from there bred to various setters and other wavy-coated retrievers (even a bloodhound, according to the AKC) to produce Goldens we know now, AKC recognized in 1925, earlier by the Kennel Club in England.

The first goldens (all right, they weren't true goldens—yet) were once mixed-breed dogs, and were even listed as golden flat-coats at the turn of the last century, but bred to obtain the desired golden retriever traits we know today. It took a quarter to a half-century for this breed (KC and AKC, respectively) to be recognized as true and distinct, in and of itself.

And I can hear it now: Yeah, yeah. That's different. Those breeds are all separate from one another: goldens, Labs, flat-coats, Irish setters, gordon setters, Newfoundlands, bassets, etc.

With these new mini-goldens, a sub-set of the full-sized golden . . .

Miniature schnauzers were developed by breeding a standard schnauzer to a poodle or an affenpinscher. Miniature poodles were developed by breeding naught but poodle to poodle—no other mix. Both types of minis are recognized by the KC and the AKC, yet the former originally came from a slight mix, while the latter came from pure lines only.

So again, who's truly right?

It might come down to this: knowledge, responsibility, and honesty. Complete knowledge of the original breed and a decent sense of responsibility to further better it (albeit in miniature) with the honesty to produce, to the best of their ability, proper litters of healthy, well-balanced pups . . . all without the driving factor of the almighty dollar.

I absolutely abhor the idea of some less than scrupulous breeders raking in hefty profits by offering “cool and unusual” canines or “designer dogs” to the unwitting as much as I abhor irresponsible breeders of goldens (for example) and Labs and at one point, dalmatians, to take advantage of a certain breed's popularity for monetary gain; this only spawns ill-bred animals who quite possibly end up in shelters later on.

But I'm not totally willing to discount the rise of these miniature goldens, either.

Ah, well. I'm not a breeder, so maybe I don't, or never will, understand the whole process. I do think miniature golden retrievers are cute; however, “cute” is not a good enough reason to create any new sub-set breed. Neither is money. Breeders blinded by fads, willing to pump out tons of pups all for profit, well . . . that's more than just poor judgment. It's wrong.

I'd love to see it done right, intact scruples and all. (Yes, that was an intentional doggie dig.) And there must be some loving, responsible breeder out there who will.

“Hey! Whoa! Hang on there!” you blurt out, possibly in confusion, but more likely in exasperation. “Why all this golden retriever talk when your blog has been focused on writing and indie publishing and being an author?”

Because of this:

. . . and I had to prep you somehow, didn't I?