Thursday, March 31, 2016


What is the April A to Z Challenge?
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

For this year's challenge, my theme is The Fun in Writing. Each of my 26 posts for April is aimed at illustrating fun parts of an author's day. A writer doesn't only write. Creating a story or an essay requires research, revision, editing, and lots of coffee and chocolate. For me, the chocolate part keeps me going like an energizer hare (although, between hair touch-ups, a more appropriate analogy might be old grey mare!)

*****   *****   *****

One of the most fun things a writer can do is to participate in the annual April A to Z Challenge. You will accomplish a valuable goal. And, as a blogger, you encounter a new writing technique.

By blocking your inner editor, you allow thoughts to rise from your subconscious. You have a plethora of information stored in your mind that has been accumulating since before you were aware of thought processes. Allowing thoughts to flow freely onto the page/computer screen is comparable to opening a water faucet. If you stop in mid-stream, starting to write again becomes more difficult. Thoughts that only started to surface may sink and be lost forever.

As long as you don't obstruct the stream of words, more will come.

This means not editing while you are writing the first draft of your blog post, essay, short story, or novel. The story is in your head. Let it flow onto the page.
BUT ... BUT ... aren’t you supposed to
Edit! Edit! Edit!
Isn’t writing all about editing!?
But you can’t edit what’s in your head. You need to see it on paper!
Writing 26 posts for the month of April is a terrific way to begin writing faster, and an excellent method for developing a new habit, one that will serve you well throughout your writing career.
If you want to be a writer, you must write . . . regularly.
The best way to do that is to discover
The Fun in Writing
Davy Crochet having fun with April A to Z Blogging Challenge


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PAYING IT FORWARD: Author and Checker Maven Bob Newell

Not every person who invites me to join a writer's group is a master of his or her own universe. With Bob Newell, however, this is indeed the case. Bob has been blogging about Checkers and strategic checker moves for over a decade. To me, that makes him the master of the game. That he also writes short stories about checker-mysteries truly elevates his status in my eyes.

My reasons for thanking Bob in the "Paying It Forward" spotlight today have nothing to do with board games or sly moves, though.
When Bob invited me to join Waikiki Word Wranglers, his writer's group, I quickly accepted. How ideal to have local authors help me improve my writing, and in the shadow of Waikiki's iconic landmark Diamond Head, no less.
Over the months and years, this group has become 'Ohana, a family. Bob directs the meetings to keep everyone on track, notifying us of time or date changes along the way. For his group, he has chosen authors who write in various genres, are from diverse backgrounds, and hold very definite opinions on life in general.
Courting Jane
by Bob Newell
Available at Amazon

Before I published my latest novel, Bob agreed to do a read-through and offer any ideas for improvement. I was especially grateful for his comments and suggestions. He has a tendency to "tell it like it is." Serious writers know that honesty is the only advice worth receiving during the final editing process of a work-in-progress.

For Bob's expert advice, constant support, and good-hearted laughs over comfort food and drink such as poke (pronounced poe-key; raw ahi fish) bowls and frozen hot chocolate at gatherings around O'ahu, I say Mahalo plenty.

*****     *****     *****

You can visit Bob at:

Blog site:

Amazon Author Page:

Jane Austen Society, JASNA Hawai'i:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#26 COURTYARD - A Flight of Fantasy

On lazy sun-washed afternoons
imagination turns to thoughts of
courtyard pubs, where friends gather to discuss
whatever most consumes their waking hours.
Tucked away behind the Seine in Paris, or
in a secluded nook of Gloucester’s boat harbor,
topics range from art and plotlines, to the
tantalizing satchel in the local consignment shop.
Gossip reigns.
Food arrives, sporadically.
People pick at plates of
battered squid and cherry peppers.
Wash down Gorgonzola cheese-stuffed mushrooms
with dark beer and fresh-brewed coffee.
Or some exotic drink,
served in mugs sporting
a hodge-podge of designs.
Each holding a life story at the bottom,
shimmering for patrons to review
at leisure between sips.
Reality appears on no menu
in these flights of fantasy,
these parcels of precious moments,
free of conflict.
Close your eyes, relax.
Breathe deep.
***** *****
Life’s too short to live in the world of reality 24/7/365. Every so often, take an unscheduled flight of fantasy away from the planned schedules that dominate your life. A flight of fantasy is not an attempt to escape career or family. Taking a “thought” break is merely a way to refresh your mind, and your attitude.
As you envision an impressionistic painting, soar to le Louvre. Think of cherry blossoms and immediately be transported to Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival. On a too-yellow-bright summer’s day, let your imagination take you to Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula for the fabulous changing colors of autumn. (Just don’t let your imagination land you in Green Bay on a winter’s day!)
Stressed, but still too much work? Take a flight of fantasy to an eastern, uncrowded beach in Waikiki. Rent a lounge chair, sit back, and observe. Surfers wait to catch their next wave, free hula shows spring up; yachts cruise out for sunset.
Close your eyes, relax.
Breathe deep.

Monday, March 28, 2016

THE HANGED MAN'S NOOSE by Judy Penz Sheluk #MysteryReview

A tweet about an interview with editor Lourdes Venard led me to freelance reporter and author Judy Penz Sheluk’s blog site and the discovery of her debut mystery novel, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE. These opening lines of the book’s synopsis hooked me:

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment
as the editor of a niche magazine
 based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after
a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor.


As the novel unfolded, I quickly developed a liking for the protagonist, freelance writer Emily Garland, and felt the tension in her emotional and tentative decision to relocate for a new job assignment. The history of Lount’s Landing is presented with an intrigue that supports the mystery behind events occurring in the small town.
Emily’s assignment to expose a real estate developer’s intentions soon serves to introduce several well-developed characters with a kaleidoscope of conflicting personalities. As the vibrant colors of splintered-glass events swirl around the town, in and out of a cozy tavern with its own infamous history, the wounds cut deep.
And then, as the expression goes, murder happens.
I admit to thinking, more than once while reading The Hanged Man's Noose, “I didn’t see that coming.” Sheluk holds the reader captive with hints of secrets and promises of revelations that, when finally unveiled, do not disappoint.
*****     *****     *****
You can visit Judy at:
Twitter: @JudyPenzSheluk

Sunday, March 27, 2016

SEMBLANCE OF ORDER A Poem - Out of Chaos

Semblance of Order

In the confines of a fenced-yard garden
sprouting seeds, in stick straight rows, abound.
Flower blossoms trim the weathered bench 

Pumpkins soon dwarf the acorn squash,
as veggies seize control, and
tomatoes in their rapid growth are judged
Sweet fruit ripens in its time
Apples first;
zucchini next - and evermore;
Retaining order isn’t easy in the courtyard

****  ****  **** 

While the words of this poem were written with a wink of the eye to the legal system, they could also address the controlled chaos of raising a family. Children sprout up in growing spurts that require frequent trips to the mall to replace outgrown clothes and shoes.
Some children soon dwarf their siblings and class mates, and often without warning even their parents. Retaining order becomes an illusion kept alive for sanity’s sake.
Branching into society, and beyond borders to include the world, semblance of order is questioned when war becomes the actual order of the day. Who is charged with judging the wisdom of rapid growth in business tied to banking, the stock market, or pharmaceuticals?
A semblance of order is required in every walk of life, from the family unit to team sports to the machinations of local, state, and national government. Within our own minds, don’t we strive to keep our thoughts in order?
In the first Jurassic Park movie, Jeff Goldblum’s character compulsively focuses on the theory of chaos. The opposite of order, chaos leads to destruction. When you’re talking apples and zucchini, chaos isn’t a great concern. But to function successfully, some semblance of order is required in a family unit; and for the legal system, raising the bar (pun intended) of awareness is required. For safety purposes alone, order becomes a necessity.
Don’t you think the visitors to Jurassic Park would agree?

Friday, March 25, 2016

THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA by Susan Vreeland #FridayReads

After reading and enjoying Girl In Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, I was eager to read another of her novels.

In The Passion of Artemisia the author expresses with tantalizing narrative the artist Artemisia’s passion for life and for her life’s calling as an artist. Each chapter is written with an intensity that allowed me to savor the fine details along with the broad strokes of the story as it unfolded.

The anguish displayed in the first four chapters created such emotional tension in me that reading became halting as my mind assimilated the injustice in the life of Artemisia.

Artemisia Gentileschi is only one of a few female post-Renaissance painters who achieved fame during her own era. After she is raped by her painting teacher, she is humiliated for being a “loose woman.” When she appears in the papal court to testify against her rapist, her testimony is dismissed. Rather than become involved in a planned marriage, she heads from Rome to Florence where she is befriended by none other than Galileo. But can she reconcile family life, passion, and genius in her lifetime?

For many authors, drawing reaction from the reader, whether favorable or negative, is the purpose of writing. As a reader, my goal is to experience that reaction through the development of characters within a story. While reading The Passion of Artemisia, my reactions to events were immediate, and often my opinions of these events were strong. A novel that can create this type of response from the reader is always a welcome find.

Next up for review (in May - after April’s A to Z Challenge) is:
The Litigators by John Grisham
American Pain by John Temple



Wednesday, March 23, 2016


How often have you heard a writer say their protagonist started calling the shots during the writing process of a novel? That the character in question objected when the words felt wrong? Or twisted the plot in a completely different direction, even though the author had outlined the scene or chapter in excruciating detail?

When a writer's subconscious takes over and dictates the next move, chances are it is a sign of a well-developed character.

In the case of my Pepper Bibeau mysteries, the protagonist has even taken over some of my cooking duties. Below is a recipe Pepper developed, with little or no help from me. Chili is one of my favorite meals. And while Pepper leans toward pie whenever possible, it comes as no surprise that she also loves to prepare a kettle of chili for football game week-ends, especially when the snow is deep and the wind chill factor dips below minus 20 degrees in the land known as the frozen tundra.

But chili always tastes great, no matter if Pepper is working in Chicago or Green Bay. Even her home town of Honolulu has famous restaurants noted for their ono (delicious) chili. In Hawaii, though, the chili is served with "two scoops rice."

Pepper's Wisconsin Chili

1 softball-sized sweet onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup walnut oil
3 lbs. 85% lean Ground Round
3 cans chili beans in medium sauce
2 pkgs. chili seasoning mix
2 - 29oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 - 14.5 oz. can of beef broth
3 cups dried macaroni noodles, cooked

Heat oil and add chopped onion, cook until tender.


Add Ground Round, and brown the meat in the onion mix.
Shake chili seasoning onto the meat; add chili beans with sauce, tomato sauce, and the can of beef broth.
Let chili simmer while boiling the macaroni, then add the cooked macaroni to the chili. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Serve with freshly grated Wisconsin cheddar cheese and oyster crackers.
(Salad and Wine optional . . . nah, just kidding, they're necessary!)


These two Pepper Bibeau mysteries
are set in Wisconsin:
(Brown County, Wisconsin)
(Manitowoc County, Wisconsin)

Warm up with the chili, stay cozy with a soft-boiled mystery!



Monday, March 21, 2016

A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest

For this year's challenge, my theme is The Fun in Writing. Each of my 26 posts for April is aimed at illustrating fun parts of an author's day. A writer doesn't only write. Creating a story or an essay requires research, revision, editing, and lots and lots of coffee and chocolate. For me, the chocolate part keeps me going like an energizer hare...

Luv this colorful bunny crafted by close friend, Kristen.
The multi-hued hare energizes me!
 (...although, between hair touch-ups, a more appropriate analogy might be old grey mare!)
Yes, I know this doesn't look like a mare, and it's not grey,
but you have to admit, he is really, really cute!
You may have noticed the predominance of the color brown in this post.
That's because my mind is always thinking:
In one word, my theme is FUN.
What is your theme for April, in one word?
Just leave one word below, and I'll visit your site to check out your theme plans.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

DISTANT MEMORIES Like water seeping through a crack

Distant Memory


The freedom of packing
at a moment’s notice
Easy as pie 

Developing an idea
step by step,
Fine tuning,

Click the “on” button
slide in the VHS tape
Wind the cuckoo clock
And flush the . . . wait . . .

Forgotten are the days of
remembering everything in
Some semblance of order.
****  ****  **** 

Watching a loved one search in confusion for a word or a simple thought that has escaped them quickly turns from impatience, to heart-rending empathy, to acceptance. However, I do not accept the belief that a person with dementia does not realize there is a problem with memory.
As the difficulty with remembering progresses, a feeling of panic creeps in. Slow awareness of a loss of control morphs into fear of helplessness. This creates anger. After a lifetime of toiling and struggling to maintain control of who you are and how you live, it is impossible to sit idly by and watch all that hard effort drain away.

Like water seeping through a crack
at the bottom of a brick well,
forever lost to the sands of time,
nothing can stop or even slow
the progress of memory loss
to the satisfaction of its owner. 

Imagine realizing that, one day, memories of walks along the riverbank and Sundays in the park will no longer exist. Familiar and loving faces may slowly melt away, replaced by “strangers” leaning close to whisper, “Do you know who I am?” 

Denial replaces acknowledgement. “I put it right here. Someone must have moved it.”

Confusion brings tears. “Why is the dryer running with nothing inside?”

Humor easies the pain of loss. “Don’t mind me, I have Alzheimer’s.” 

Accept that we all reach a moment when: forgotten are the days of remembering everything in some semblance of order.


Friday, March 18, 2016

SPEAKING IN BONES with Temperance Brennan #FridayReads

Kathy Reichs’ Speaking In Bones is her 2015 novel involving alter ego Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist based in North Carolina and Quebec, Canada. And, of course, the template for the television series, Bones, for which Reichs is writer and advisor and role model.

Brennan's latest case is set in the backwoods, cliffs, and towns spread throughout her home state of North Carolina. The events covered in this story are well-researched: web-sleuthing; religious fanaticism; and personality disorders - specifically DID - dissociative identity disorder.

Once again, Brennan becomes actively involved in the investigation and places herself prominently in harm’s way.

I haven’t watched the television series since Season Four, when they did those really weird things to poor Zak. That’s when the shift occurred and I found Kathy Reichs’ novels more entertaining than the series. Reading her medical thrillers is a cross between experiencing tension-filled entertainment and attending an uncredited college course.

The shorter length of this review is no reflection on the quality of the story’s plot or the writing. I’ve just run out of words. Actually, I’m eager to watch more DVD replays of the (original) X-Files - Mythology Collection. My taste in entertainment reflects multi-levels of weird.

Next up for review is:
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland


Sunday, March 13, 2016

FORGOTTEN LOSSES Poem #23 What Happens in Vegas . . .

Forgotten Losses

Sin City, rub Buddha for luck
Seafood buffets, pineapple platters
and choke* coconut drinks. 

Celebrate 50, front row at “O”
Wet and Wild; Divine M,
boogey-woogey Honolulu girl. 

Commute Aloha Air
then stay Fremont or Main.
Don Ho in the desert, 

With Tiny Bubbles,
and horseshoe maile lei.
Mahalo, Vacations Hawai‘i 

But even with Blue Suede Elvis
Desire to “Go Vegas”
now only one distant memory. 

*choke is a Hawaiian pidgin word meaning: very many, a lot of. (Ho, brah, you catch choke fish at the lake or wat?) 

***  ***  ***

Thanks to Honolulu’s travel agency, Vacations Hawai‘i, Las Vegas is considered another Hawaiian Island. Reservations include air fare, hotel, vouchers for all meals including seafood buffets, luggage pick-up, and transportation between Vegas airport and hotel. Aloha Air is no longer in business but was still flying when I made my “commutes” to meet up with relatives and friends for a long week-end.
The California, Fremont, and Main Street hotels are extensions of Hawai‘i. If you don’t leave the immediate area, it is difficult to know you are off-island. Even the evening entertainment is slanted in that direction with local singers and entertainers filling the stages.
In the lobby of the California, which is a Boyd property, a huge statue of Buddha greets guests. Everyone who walks past the Buddha, rubs its belly for luck.
On one trip, I attended a performance by Bette Midler (the boogey-woogey girl from Honolulu.) Elvis, so visible in Vegas with its multiple impersonators, will always be remembered for his ties to the Hawaiian Islands. His Aloha from Hawai‘i concert was broadcast around the world on January 14, 1973 (except in the USA.) Even Don Ho did Vegas.
I no longer have a desire to “Go Vegas” but I love the memories.



Friday, March 11, 2016


The Pearl Harbor Murders by Max Allan Collins is a novel set in the last few days preceding the Pearl Harbor attack on O‘ahu. Much of the story’s action takes place in Waikiki. The fictionalized protagonists are the world-famous (real life) Edgar Rice Burroughs of Tarzan fame and his son, Hully, who share narrative and investigative roles within this murder mystery.

One of the central figures is a popular singer at a local night club. Her name, Pearl Harada, couldn’t be more apt for this tale leading up to a day that “lives in infamy.”
Woven throughout the story are details of first and second generation (issei and nisei) Japanese immigrants and citizens living in Hawaii, and how their lives were affected by incidents leading up to December 7, 1941. Some of the characters are either composites or pure fiction. Others, along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, are based on persons who played prominently in the making of history.
The author is noted for his historical fiction novels such as Saving Private Ryan, In the Line of Fire, and Air Force One; and his syndicated comic strip, Dick Tracy from 1977 through 1993. His research for this novel fills the narrative with titillating information about O‘ahu in 1941, focusing on A‘ala Market in Chinatown; Fort DeRussy; Aloha Tower; and Kewalo Basin. Also of note are the Halekulani Hotel (the location of the famous ‘House Without a Key’ Restaurant named for the eponymous Charlie Chan novel) and the War Memorial Natatorium.
The story may have fascinated me more as a guided tour of the area, but I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery within the tour, and was pleasantly surprised with the solution. 

Next up for review is:
Speaking In Bones by Kathy Reichs



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#WriterWednesday - Book Review/Interview: SANDRA NIKOLAI

My guest today is Sandra Nikolai, author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery series. Icy Silence is the third novel in this series. I recently received my new e-reader in the mail and this is the first novel I read on it. A great choice.

This is the author's synopsis of the novel:

When ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott agree to speak at an exclusive boarding school, the undisclosed deaths of two students overshadow their agenda. Fear mounts as a powerful ice storm cuts them off from the rest of the world—harboring a potential murderer in their midst.

Without access to outside help, Megan and Michael are forced to rely on their wits. Desperate measures drive them beneath the protective fa├žade of the elite high school in a frantic search for a coldblooded killer. What they discover are secrets more terrifying than anyone could ever expect.

Two Interview Questions Relating to Icy Silence

Sandra Nikolai lives in Canada where the winter weather can be a bit unpredictable at times. She mentions on Goodreads that a real ice storm inspired her to write this story. I decided enquiring minds would want to know more so I decided to ask, and Sandra graciously answered.

Without giving away pertinent plot lines, Sandra, can you tell us about your experience with an ice storm and how such weather can be life threatening?

SANDRA NIKOLAII’ll never forget the North American Ice Storm of January 1998. It was a system of successive ice storms that hit Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia in Canada, and extended from New York to Maine in the US. Millions of people had no electricity for weeks—some even longer. Tree branches, overhead power lines, and rooftops collapsed under the weight of heavy ice and caused considerable damage. Schools were closed, transport shut down, and people stayed home from work. Major Canadian cities declared a state of emergency, and thousands of military personnel were deployed to help clear debris and restore power at the height of the storm.

Everyone knows that electrical appliances are useless without power. Good thing we’d heeded the government advisory and kept an emergency kit on hand that included candles and matches. We stockpiled bottled water and canned goods that required no heating or cooking, along with a manual can opener. Our wood fireplace in the living room provided the only heat source, so that’s where family members slept. We were lucky that the power outage lasted only a few days in our area. Even so, the whole experience took us back decades when reading by candlelight was the norm!

Research is an integral part of writing a convincing story. Again, without divulging strategic plot lines, can you share some of your research avenues for this novel, and your normal process of research before and during the creation of a novel?

SANDRA NIKOLAIAside from researching the ice storm as a backdrop for Icy Silence, I researched several private boarding schools in Canada to help create the elite school setting in my story. I adapted tidbits of information I collected about private school guidelines and etiquette and wove them through the narrative. I also researched old abandoned mines. Yes, mines! I’ll leave this peculiar aspect for readers to discover.

I try to do most of my research for the story beforehand so I don’t interrupt the flow of writing, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I’m always on the lookout for that little extra something to enhance reader experience, especially if it evokes any of the five senses. Since Icy Silence is told in the first person through Megan’s perspective, her thrilling ordeals should impact readers all the more.
Thank you, Sandra, and best of success with your Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mysteries.

***** ***** *****

Posting a review of a book you enjoyed reading is the best compliment you can give to an author about their work. With that in mind, I posted my review of Icy Silence, which follows here, along with Amazon and Goodreads

Icy Silence E-Book Review Title: Chilling Tale of Terror

After reading the first two novels in Sandra Nikolai's Megan Scott/Michael Elliot mystery, I was eager for the publication of the next in the series.  I enjoy following the cases of these two likeable protagonists because they work so well together, without undue friction that often comes from mixing business and personal relationships.

Megan Scott puts a romantic interlude on hold to accompany Michael Elliott on a trip to an exclusive college where he will give a talk on investigative reporting. Without warning, students lives are in danger not only from unexplained human sources but from the dangers of a widespread and extended ice storm. The author presents a consistently suspenseful atmosphere, introducing circumstantial evidence that points to an unresolved event in Megan's past.

Nikolai once again maintains a high level of tension as the story progresses to a final satisfying climax. I am already looking forward to the fourth novel in this mystery series.

***** ***** *****
LINKS to Sandra Nikolai:


Amazon Author page:

Twitter: @SandraNikolai