Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Writer's Update

It has now been nearly three weeks since my entire world was upended, and I am making very small steps back to being a writer. This post is one of those steps--restarting my blog.

Getting the blog moving is going to require some changes. For now, I'm not accepting, reviewing, or much reading any mysteries. Mostly I'm sticking with rereading favorite books that offer me comfort (if only by being very familiar). So I apologize to anyone whose book I've promised to review--I assume at some point I will be able to do that, but for now, no.

That said, I have finished one review of a book I'd read and started to review before this happened, and will post that on Monday. Writing that review was okay, so when I'm ready I think I'll go back to at least Middle Grade reviews.

The other main recent feature of this blog has been photos from our travels. I do want to continue to share those, including perhaps more of my husband's amazing work, as I am able to look at it. I will probably include much less personal commentary, because it's just hard right now. So probably not this week, but maybe next, I'll share more Antarctica photos.

In other news: I've written most of a page of notes, and about 10 lines on a story for the next IWSG anthology. Because that call is for a science fiction story, I'm taking it as far from my reality as I can go, and using the need to research and imagine aliens and alien worlds as a distraction from my own shattered world. Thinking about the story seems to help me sleep, so even if nothing more comes of it, that's good.

I am still unsure what I'm going to do about continuing with the Pismawallops PTA #5, which is in early edits. I was tempted at first to just leave it, but a few days ago I was thinking about how Dave was my greatest fan, always telling the people we met in our travels that I'm a writer. If he were here, he'd be urging me to find a way forward.  I will; I just don't know when.

This is hard, but one thing I know: I am a writer, and in writing I find my sanity, though for now most of that writing isn't for sharing. 

One of Dave's wonderful penguin photos, because penguins are always good:

Monday, May 11, 2020


I will be letting this blog go on a break while I try to cope with loss and grief. I will not be keeping any commitments about posts or reviews.

My husband was killed in a car-bike crash on Friday night.

Dave Dempsey. 1955-2020

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Cozy Review: Mousse and Murder, with Character Guest Post!

We are delighted to be participating today in the Great Escapes Blog Tour for Mousse and Murder, by Elizabeth Logan!
Mousse and Murder (An Alaskan Diner Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (May 5, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0593100441
ISBN-13: 978-0593100448

Publisher's Blurb:
A young chef might bite off more than she can chew when she returns to her Alaskan hometown to take over her parents’ diner in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in an Alaskan tourist town.

When Chef Charlie Cooke is offered the chance to leave San Francisco and return home to Elkview, Alaska, to take over her mother’s diner, she doesn’t even consider saying no. After all–her love life has recently become a Love Life Crumble, and a chance to reconnect with her roots may be just what she needs. 

Determined to bring fresh life and flavors to the Bear Claw Diner, Charlie starts planning changes to the menu, which has grown stale over the years. But her plans are fried when her head cook Oliver turns up dead after a bitter and public fight over Charlie’s ideas–leaving Charlie as the only suspect in the case. 

With her career, freedom, and life all on thin ice, Charlie must find out who the real killer is, before it’s too late. 

My Review:
Way to make everyone want to visit Alaska, Ms. Logan! Or maybe that's just me--I want to drop in at the Bear Claw Diner and sample the wares, or hang out at the lake and watch the moose (preferably, of course, with a dish of mousse in hand). Or maybe that's just me--after all, Charlie has a thing or two to say about the weather, and then there's the issue of murder...

This was a quick and fun read, with characters that engaged me quickly. I admit that I solved the mystery before Charlie did, but that just upped the suspense for me.

My Recommendation:
A perfect read for times when you need to curl up in your favorite chair and escape to distant lands. Times like an Alaskan winter--or a Californian summer (or a COVID lockdown, needless to say). Mousse and Murder makes no great demands on the reader, and delivers exactly the delicious, cinnamon-scented read it promises.

FTC Disclosure: I received an electronic ARC of Mousse and Murder from Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher. This is my honest review, and the opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."   

To our delight, Charlie Cooke herself has stopped by with a guest post! Here's what she has to say about being the protagonist in this new series.

I’m Charlie Cooke, and I want to thank you for hosting me today. Usually, it’s my writer, Elizabeth Logan, who gets asked to talk about me.

And what does she know? She’s usually off doing her own thing when she should be taking care of me. Instead, she puts me in trouble, then walks away while she thinks about how to get me out of it. I never know how long it’s going to take her, while I’m on pins and needles, hanging out to dry.

I swear she spends more time on that next to last chapter—the one where the life is about to be smashed out of me by the killer—than all the other chapters combined.

I hear her talk to her writer friends about me, asking their advice about what readers will believe and what they won’t. I swear, she would not have one book published, let alone 25 or so, if it weren’t for these groups that help her. I wish they’d invite me, so I could at least get a vote when Ms. Logan (aka Ms. Minichino, in case she thinks she’s fooling someone) asks them, “Shall I put a gun to Charlie’s head?” or “Shall I leave Charlie in the woods for another chapter?”

But I shouldn’t complain, because Ms. Logan has put me in the most beautiful state in the country—Alaska! Everywhere I look there are beautiful mountains and lakes. And talk about things to do! Although she keeps me pretty busy, running a diner as well as helping local law enforcement, when I have free time, I can go hiking, kayaking, skiing, camping, fishing, rafting, boating, ice climbing, or just gaze upon a giant glacier. Then there’s the aurora borealis. What a sight that is. 

My writer has given me great companions. Chief among them is my orange tabby, Benny, aka Eggs Benedict, so nice to come home to. My mom, who left me the Bear Claw Diner and the cat when she was ready to retire, also left me a fine staff. Add to that, my BFF from grade school, Annie, has inherited her own family business, an inn down the street from the Bear Claw. And a very cute former army man, Chris, who’s the local newspaperman, is part of the team of sleuths.

She set it up for me to have known the Alaska State Trooper all my life, which is why I get to help him out now and then when he’s overloaded with the vast territory he’s responsible for. Alaska is the largest state in the union, by square miles —571,000, compared to the second largest, Texas, with only 262,000.

I guess there are trade-offs with every relationship, and I’m actually pretty happy with mine, with my writer. 

If I had one wish, it would be that Ms. Logan would let me know what Chris has in mind for our future. Am I just a pretty SUV he likes to drive, or is a romance budding? 

Maybe she’ll let me call the shots on that one!

Thanks again for letting have the floor!

Thanks, Charlie, for stopping by!


About Elizabeth Logan

Camille Minichino is turning every aspect of her life into a mystery series. A retired physicist, she’s the author of 28 mystery novels in 5 series, with different pen names. Her next book is “Mousse and Murder,” May 2020, by Elizabeth Logan. She's also written many short stories and articles. She teaches science at Golden Gate U. in San Francisco and writing workshops around the SF Bay Area. Details are at 
Author Links  
Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - IndieBound

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stop in and see what the other tour participants are saying, check out recipes, and enjoy more interviews and guest posts.

May 5 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW, RECIPE
May 5 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – GUEST POST
May 5 – I'm Into Books – SPOTLIGHT
May 5 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
May 6 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT
May 6 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
May 6 – The Power of Words – REVIEW
May 6 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT
May 6 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT
May 7 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST
May 7 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
May 7 – Reading Is My SuperPower - REVIEW
May 8 – Reading Reality – REVIEW
May 8 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT
May 8 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
May 8 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW
May 9 – Christy's Cozy Corners – REVIEW
May 9 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
May 9 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW, GUEST POST
May 9 – Eskimo Princess Book Reviews- SPOTLIGHT
May 10 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
May 10 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW
May 10 – Literary Gold- SPOTLIGHT
May 10 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW
May 11 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW
May 11 – Brianne's Book Reviews – REVIEW
May 11 – Sapphyria's Books – REVIEW
May 11 – A Wytch's Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
May 12 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
May 12 – Diary of a Book Fiend – REVIEW
May 12 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
May 12 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
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Friday, May 8, 2020

Photo Friday: Antarctica #6

Portal Point: Seals and Whales

Our 4th day in Antarctica was the only one where we didn't get to do two outings, thanks to the weather. But we did get both a landing and a cruise at Portal Point, and had some special wildlife sightings.

They split the group so only half of us landed at a time (due to constrained space on land), and I was in the batch that got dropped ashore first. This fantastic duo was there to greet us!
Crabeater seals, which do not in fact eat crabs (they mostly eat krill)

Seals are very fast and graceful in the water, but even more so than penguins they are at a disadvantage on land.

Whenever we were ashore, members of the expedition staff went ahead of us with markers to show where we shouldn't go. Sometimes they wanted to keep us away from penguin rookeries or cranky seals. In this case, it was to keep us from the unstable edges of the snowfield, which dropped off 100' or so into the ocean.
Being smart enough to know I don't know everything, I stayed behind the guide.
 Then it started to snow, which was actually amazing and fantastic, even if my camera did want to focus on the snowflakes, making for a lot of photos I had to toss.
 Snow in Antarctica--what could be more appropriate?
I'm not sure who I got to snap this one of me, enjoyed the weather and trying to keep my hood on my head. Note our ship in the background.
Snow made everything more beautiful, and reminded us that a) the weather can turn bad any time of year, and b) it was nearly the autumn equinox, so summer was over.
Snow on the rocks at our landing--I was being very careful!

After an hour ashore, we swapped with those who'd been out cruising, and headed out to look for whales. We'd already seen several from up on the bluff, including one breeching.

We also checked out the ice bergs, which as usual were beautiful.
Waves sculpt the lower reaches of the bergs.
 My husband took the photo below. I include it because it not only shows the color of the ice and water, but also the dirt stripes. The vertical dark stripes show that this berg is lying 90 degrees from how it stood as part of the glacier. The stripes are dirt, laid down in several seasons, perhaps when slopes above the glacier slid and dumped dirt on the ice.
I had to use his photo because most of mine didn't come out. Too much snow on the lens :)
 I'm pretty sure this berg has some history.
The wave-erosion patterns show that the berg has tipped over, probably more than once.
 I promised you whales. This was the only place I saw breeching whales. Apologies for the quality of the photo, but long telephotos on a wildly rocking zodiac make for less-than-perfect photos.
It's also just possible I was too excited to take care with my photos.
 Just for fun--this is blurry, but gives some idea of the splash that thing made when it came back down.
It was kind of loud, too.
Not long after that, we got called back to the ship, as conditions were deteriorating. The snow had turned to rain, and we were getting cold and wet. It was certainly a luxury and a delight to have a hot shower after outings like this. I felt bad for the early explorers, who must have pretty much been cold and wet for weeks at a time (other times they would have dried out, but still been cold).

As the seals had greeted us, the whales waved goodbye.
All humpback whales again.

 All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

IWSG: Getting into the Zone

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.
The awesome co-hosts for the May 6 posting of the IWSG are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken!  Be sure to visit and give them some love!

Optional May 6 question - Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? 

This is definitely a good question for me this month! Regular readers of this blog have seen my "Writer's Wednesday" posts that seem to keep saying the same thing: "I can't make myself settle down and attack my edits."

Since that is still true, I probably don't have much good advice about getting into the zone (I have to wonder if it would be easier if I were in drafting mode--I can kind of see falling into a new story, and I'm tempted to just do it). Here's what I've been trying.
  •  Doing some beta reads. This has helped a lot in the past--kind of get my mind in the editorial groove and keep on going. This time? Maybe helped a little. At least I got feedback to my writer friends in a timely fashion!
  • Making outlines and notes.  This is something that has to be done in any case, and is looking helpful in the long run. But I'm still finding it a lot easier to take another look to see if anyone's shared a funny FB meme than to even do the relatively easy task of sorting out what I've written and what needs to change. I haven't even gotten to the really hard work of actually making those changes. At least the multi-color outline is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Picking off other tasks that are distracting. I'm chipping away at editing photos from our extensive travels in Patagonia and Antarctica, as well as finally got started on our taxes (note: I have NEVER before procrastinated about our taxes. Not sure what's up with that!).
  • Finally, I'm kind of trying to accept my restlessness and do things to keep sane: lots of exercise, a bit of effort at imposing order on the house and garden, and planning summer backpacking trips as though I'm confident they'll happen.
 I'm not sure this is about getting into the "zone", but it is what I'm doing to try to keep working, at least a little bit. How about you? Anything working for you in these unsettling times?

And my obligatory gratuitous photos for the day:
It's okay to feel like we're adrift in an alien space.
The cave is beautiful, but deadly. I hope that's not true of our hidey-holes as we shelter in place!
And, finally, stare at the snow and be mesmerized. Let your mind go blank...
 All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Launch day! IWSG Voyagers Anthology

The long-anticipated IWSG Anthology is here! Voyagers: The Third Ghost releases today, including my story "A World of Trouble."

Voyagers: The Third Ghost
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Journey into the past…

  • Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives?
  •  Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again?
  • What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany?
  • Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? 
  • And sneaking off to see their first aeroplane – what could go wrong?
Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales 
will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Release date – May 5, 2020
$13.95, 6x9 trade paperback, 168 pages
Print ISBN 9781939844729 / EBook ISBN 9781939844736
Juvenile fiction – historical/action & adventure/fantasy & magic 
Links:Amazon -
Barnes & Noble -
ITunes -
Kobo -
Goodreads -


In other news: The Smashwords Authors Give Back sale is still going on, and I've changed up my sale items. The 3rd books in the series are now 60% off. That's Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA #3) and The Problem With Peggy (Ninja Librarian #3) at 60% off. And my novella, The Christmas Question (PPTA #4.5), is free! Last week's specials (book #2 in each series) are still on sale as well, at 30% off.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Audio-book Review: The Hired Girl

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Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz; read by Rachel Botchan
Publication Info: 2015 by Recorded Books; hardback 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

Ever since the untimely death of her mother, 14-year-old Joan Skraggs has been desperately unhappy. Under the thumb of her cruel father and three sullen brothers, Joan lives like a servant on their farm just outside of Lancaster, forever cooking, cleaning, and attending to the many demands of the home. But she has little freedom and less support from her family for her love of reading and blossoming interest in education. But when her father tells Joan she can't go to school anymore, it sets off a journey that will see her become first a runaway, then a hired girl on $6 a week, and finally her very own young woman.

Set in America during the optimistic years before the First World War, and told through a series of journal entries, The Hired Girl is the story of a young girl in search of real life and true love. It takes in feminism and housework; money, religion, and social class; literature and education, romanticism and realism, first love and sexual yearnings, cats, hats, and bunions. And it's a comedy. 

My Review: 

I listened to this right after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and there were certain similarities that would provide fodder for a lengthy term paper on the changes in children's literature in the last 3/4 of a century. I won't write that, so don't panic!

I was struck by the power of the writing about Joan's miserable life before she runs away. The author has made masterful use of the journal approach; Joan is given a distinctive voice and her writing is just the right amount of over-blown prose (reflective of her age and education), combined with very well-chosen words to carry the feelings. It certainly made me want to clobber her awful father!

The maturing of Joan over the year is interesting to watch and well done, if perhaps too accelerated. She continually sees her own immaturity in actions of even a few months earlier, while missing the naivete of what she is thinking and writing at the time. And (like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), she at times comes to believe the lie she's told about her age. Perhaps the most brilliant illustration of this (and the one that is most aggravating) is how she falls in love. She does remind herself occasionally that she is only 14, but most of the time she acts and fantasized as though she were 18, only without the understanding you can bet she'll have in four more years! The careful (or maybe adult) reader can also see the difference between how she sees the young man she's in love with and what he really is--himself a callow youth without the ability to think his actions through.

The narration is very well done, and I have to wonder if I'd have felt Joan's excitement and misery so strongly if I were just reading the words on the page.

My recommendation: 
I'm not quite sure if I consider this one MG or YA. There are enough adult issues that I'll tag it for 12 and up. There's nothing explicit or inappropriate but there is a lot of adolescent angst. There is a fair amount of discussion of religion, both in terms of addressing antisemitism and of Joan's Catholic faith. I think the value of the former--including recognition of those who don't see their own prejudice--more than offsets any problem a reader might have with the latter.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Hired Girl out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Photo Friday: Antarctica #5

Zodiac cruise with icebergs--and some wildlife

I'm working my way through the Antarctica photos, and I'm kind of amazed to realize from the post numbering that we've been home for 5 weeks. Still have about 5 more posts to do from Antarctica, and then I can get moving on all the hikes in Patagonia. 

Today I'm featuring our Day 3 (along the Antarctic Peninsula--it was day 6 of the cruise) afternoon zodiac cruise in Andvord Bay. This was the after-lunch outing following my amazing penguin encounters.  

We sailed from Neko Harbor to Andvord Bay while we lunched, and the rain stopped, to everyone's relief.
We sailed past lots of these
And parked about here
 Pile into zodiacs and head out with Rustyn Mesdag at the helm. I snagged the seat by the bows, which can be damp but also allows for some good views.
For obvious reasons, I'm not really sure who was on the boat with me!
 There's not a lot of narration needed for the next 2 1/2 hours, though that doesn't mean I won't add any.
Just like a cartoon!

Some of the ice hunks that come off the glaciers are pretty dirty, while others are sparkling white.
Many of the bergs were amazing shades of blue, above and below the water

It took a little cruising around, but eventually we found the wildlife.
A crabeater seal taking a rest.
Penguin naps
And whales! These are all humpback whales, which was most of what we saw.

And to finish off--a little whale video. It's a bit shaky, because I was in the zodiac and that's not a very stable platform (and maybe because I was excited). If you listen to the sound, you'll hear the whale breathe (and me getting excited).

All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!