It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing


Monday Morning Musing

Posted by mcm0704 on August 13, 2018 |

I had a busy weekend editing my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant And A Paycheck, getting it ready to publish. It will be on Kindle first, and available at the end of the month. This is a book I’ve been working on off and on for several years and is a compilation of weekly humor columns I wrote for a suburban Dallas newspaper for about five years. This was back when Carl and I were raising our kids, and I started writing about the nonsense that went on in the house, mainly to save my sanity.

For a while I basked in the glory of being known as The Erma Bombeck of Plano. What an honor.

This photo may or may not end up on the cover. Dany Russell is still working on the cover design.

Sometimes I find really interesting stories on TED Talks Daily.  In case you are not familiar with the podcast,TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. Many of the talks are about the latest innovations in those categories, and this one about computers creating farms really snagged my attention.

The question that Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab asked at the start of his talk was, “What if we could grow delicious, nutrient-dense food, indoors anywhere in the world?”

Then he talked about an apple he was holding. He asked the audience if they knew how much time had passed between the time the apple had been on a tree to when he bought it at a grocery store. The answer was astounding — a year. And even more astounding was the fact that it had lost all nutrients while being in cold storage on the various legs of the trip from tree to hand, so now it was nothing but a ball of sugar.

And here I thought I was being so nutrition-conscious by eating an apple every day. It was a habit I picked up from my father, and he lived well into his nineties. But now that I think of it, my mother outlived him by three years, and she rarely ate apples. She didn’t like them.


Anyway, while still in its infancy, Caleb created the Open Agriculture Initiative in 2015, the MIT lab has successfully made computers that can grow food. As he talked, I kept envisioning the computers aboard the fictional Star Trek spaceships that dispensed food when the passengers asked for it, and perhaps the process is similar. On the lab website there is a link for Build A Personal Food Computer.

This is an innovative, and necessary, advancement in farming as our world changes and not many are called to be farmers in the sense we have always known them. Part of me is excited for the advancement. Just think of having fresh apples right at our fingertips that are not just a ball of sugar. But another part of me is a little sad that the farmers as we have always known them will slowly disappear.

Technology may not be able to reproduce the same wisdom that farmers have passed from generation to generation for, well, generations. That is the beauty of the family farm where men and women work side by side and bring up their children with values treasured in the Heartland of America, and beyond. Will the computer scientists be passing on these tidbits of wisdom?

  • Live a good, honorable life. Then, when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don’t interfere with something that ain’t bothering you.
  •  If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
  • Sometimes you get — and sometimes you get got.
  • The biggest troublemaker you’ll ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every morning.

You can read more words of Wisdom HERE

Another uplifting story I found over the weekend was on Newsmax, and it has some good news about Alzheimer’s detection before symptoms start showing up.

The latest Alzheimer’s breakthrough is focused on eyes, which researchers are saying can be “read” for early detection of the disease.

A new study by the Washington School of Medicine, published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia journal, found a connection between degenerative eye diseases and Alzheimer’s disease, The Express reported.

People with eye conditions such age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma were found be at a higher risk of developing the degenerative brain disorder, which leads to cognitive decline and memory loss.

Read the full story at Newsmax: Eyes Can Be ‘Read’ for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s, Study Says |

I hope you’ll follow the links and read the stories and listen to some of the TED Talks. You never know what you will learn.

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#Fridayreads – Books to Consider

Posted by mcm0704 on August 10, 2018 |

For something just a little different on the blog today, I thought I’d share a bit about books that I recently read, or listened to. Between the news and the negative political ads that are cropping up, I want to disconnect from part of the real world, and for me, disconnecting has always meant getting lost in a good book.

Currently, I’m listening to The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty. This is the first book in the Sean Duffy series, set in Ireland in the 80s.

BOOK BLURB: Northern Ireland, spring 1981. Hunger strikes, riots, power cuts, a homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera, and a young woman’s suicide that may yet turn out to be murder: on the surface, the events are unconnected, but then things—and people—aren’t always what they seem. Detective Sergeant Duffy is the man tasked with trying to get to the bottom of it all. It’s no easy job—especially when it turns out that one of the victims was involved in the IRA but was last seen discussing business with someone from the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force. Add to this the fact that, as a Catholic policeman, it doesn’t matter which side he’s on because nobody trusts him, and Sergeant Duffy really is in a no-win situation. Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles—and of a cop treading a thin, thin line.

REVIEW :  My first introduction to Sean Duffy was the 6th book in this series, Police at the Station And They Don’t Look Friendly. It was a selection by an online book club to which I belong,  Mystery Addicts, and the title intrigued me. I found the book on audio, and enjoyed the story, and the central character, very much. The Troubles, as the Northern Ireland Conflict of 1968-1998 was called, plays an important part in all the books, and I liked getting to know more about the conflict and how it affected daily life for the people.

It was also interesting to see how Duffy evolved as a character from this first book, The Cold Cold Ground, to the sixth title, and while it is not necessary to read the series in order, it may be a good decision. It is the best way to see how the Troubles, as well as the demands of police work, create a cynicism in Duffy that is totally understandable and believable. Still, he maintains a self-deprecating humor that makes a reader smile. He’s a good guy.

Just before starting the Sean Duffy story, I listened to Open Season by Archer Mayer. It was one of the books suggested to me because of my interest in mysteries, and of course I had to check out a book that has the same title as one of mine. This is the first book in a series set in Vermont.

BOOK BLURB: Lt. Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont, police force has a serious problem: in a community where a decade could pass without a single murder, the body count is suddenly mounting. Innocent citizens are being killed – and others set up – seemingly orchestrated by a mysterious ski-masked man. Signs suggest that a three-year-old murder trial might lie at the heart of things, but it’s a case that many in the department would prefer remained closed. A man of quiet integrity, Lt. Gunther knows that he must pursue the case to its conclusion, wherever it leads.

REVIEW: While Joe Gunther is an interesting character and not plagued by too much drinking as so many detectives are, I’m not sure I will follow this series. There are 28 book in the series that started with Open Season, so for me to commit to reading so many books the writing and the characters has to be compelling. That didn’t happen for me in this book. It started off as a good thriller when the first murder is introduced, along with the mysterious man in the ski-mask, but too soon after that the momentum of the story slowed as background information about the main character’s personal life, or that of other officers in the department, was introduced. That, and some thin plotting toward the end, pulled me out of the story, and I started losing interest.

JUST FOR FUN:  It wouldn’t be Friday without a joke or two to start the weekend off with a chuckle, or a groan. These are from

Q. How much room is needed for fungi to grow?
A. As mushroom as possible

A lot of people cry when they cut an onion. The trick is not to form an emotional bond.

Every ten years, the monks in the monastery are allowed to break their vow of silence to speak two words. Ten years go by and it’s one monk’s first chance. He thinks for a second before saying, “Food bad.”

Ten years later, he says, “Bed hard.”

It’s the big day, a decade later. He gives the head monk a long stare and says, “I quit.”

“I’m not surprised,” the head monk says. “You’ve been complaining ever since you got here.”

That’s all for me folks. Have a terrific weekend. Be safe. Be happy.

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Think It’ll Rain?

Posted by mcm0704 on August 8, 2018 |

Slim Randles is today’s Wednesday’s Guest with an essay I can relate to today in a specific way as it is raining here, too. There is something so relaxing about rain in most circumstances, unless it turns into a raging storm. So far here, it is only rain, with an occasional rumble of thunder, just to keep us on our toes. Let’s have a nice cup of hot tea and enjoy Slim’s story.

It began as a whispered threat, this latest storm of ours. There was something in the air, a cleansing tonic, a murmur of sharpness.

The trees on the hills looked different, then, seeming to stand out in sharper focus, in cleaner profile. It was the magical paintbrush of a gentle sun brushing the front of them, against an ominous, creeping black background. And the blackness grew higher yet, until the western sky was a massive wall of black and swirling gray.

People stood outside and looked, and tried to find a weather report on the radio, and called in the children from play, and made sure the windows were rolled up in the cars, and let the dogs come in. In the fields, the cattle and horses trotted around, snorting softly as the dark sky swallowed our world.

And then it came, gently at first as a reminder to get in the house, then the wind brought buckets of rain, drenching the deep grass and slashing at our homes. Cars in town slowed to a crawl under the onslaught. People parked and then dashed to the nearest building, wondering as they did, just what was so important that they had to be out this afternoon.

We flinched with every flash of lightning, every smashing thunder. In the cafés, patrons looked out at the parking lots now turned into waterfalls and nodded as though in wisdom.

“Think it’ll rain?”

“If it don’t it’ll miss a good chance.”

We listened for something else, too, hoping it wouldn’t come. As the storm shut us down to tiny worlds inside, we kept one ear cocked for the tornado siren.



The storm lasted for two rinses down at the Curl Up ‘N Dye beauty parlor, through a light trim at Kelley’s Barber Shop, and half a chicken-fried steak at the Mule Barn truck stop.

Then it was over except for the gutters running like trout streams, the new sun contrasting with the blackness of the rest of the sky, and the dripping of our world.

We won’t have to water the lawn today.

Life is good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Windy Wilson fans can listen to his philosophies on Home Country with Slim Randles on your local country music station.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.  If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It has some of the best of his offerings through the years he has been writing columns.

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Book Preview- Contract For Chaos by Judy Alter

Posted by mcm0704 on August 6, 2018 |

In my continuing commitment to support my fellow authors and celebrate strong women, I am happy to share the cover reveal for a new book by Judy Alter. She is a Texas author who writes three mystery series, several young adult novels, and a number of cook books. Contract For Chaos is  the 8th title in the Kelly O’Connell Mystery Series. I received an advance review copy of the book, so stay tuned for a review later this month. 

When four young men sign the rental contract on a Fairmount House, realtor Kelly O’Connell has no idea she has just signed a contract for chaos. But the racial tensions sweeping the country erupt in Fort Worth, and her tenants fan the flames. A young black policeman shoots an unarmed white teenage thief who charged him, the chief of police is shot by a sniper, and Kelly’s husband, Mike, is appointed interim chief of police. Life changes dramatically for Kelly and her family. Protests, threats, beatings, and graffiti mark daily life in Kelly’s beloved city. She must protect her infant, reassure her older daughters, and support Mike as he deals with the racism and dissension creeping through the police force and the city. How can she keep her family safe and stop the hate? Will the mayor’s city-wide Celebration of Neighbors calm a city on the edge?

Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, two books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement and inducted her into its Hall of Fame in June 2015.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie. You can find out more about Judy and her books on her website:  and follow her at Amajudyalter.comzon, read her blog, Judy’s Stew, and follow her on Facebook.

That’s all for me for today, folks. I hope your week has started off on a good note. Be safe. Be happy. 

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Writing News and Tips

Posted by mcm0704 on August 3, 2018 |

First off, I want to share this pretty picture of a sunset sky in Texas that I took a couple of days ago. I do love the beautiful way Mother Nature splashes color across the sky at sunrise and sunset. 

Next, I want to let readers know that I am one of the sponsoring authors for a great summer contest at Kindle Book Reviews. There are some great prizes! A few lucky folks will win either a Kindle Paperwhite Travel Bundle ($200 value), Kindle eReaders ($160 value), an 8″ Kindle Fire HD ($100 value), or a $25 Amazon eCard. Just click the link and enter (everyday if you want). It’s easy & fun. If you love #reading, enter now; giveaway ends Aug. 31, 2018. Click here for details

With all the negative stuff in the news of late, I decided to share good news today.

I’m a member of Sisters In Crime, SinC, and I received this press release the other day:

Sisters in Crime is pleased to announce the winner of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award for 2018 — Mia Manansala. Making the announcement, the judges stated that, “Manansala exhibits sophisticated genre awareness and playfulness with genre conventions and we believe the manuscript—which features a very funny, millennial, Filipina-American protagonist—makes a new, worthy, and worthwhile contribution to crime fiction.”

The award, which honors the memory of pioneering African-American crime fiction author Eleanor Taylor Bland with a $1,500 grant to an emerging writer of color, was created in 2014 to support SinC’s vision statement that the organization should serve as the voice for excellence and diversity in crime writing. The grant is intended to support the recipient in such developmental and research activities as workshops, seminars, conferences and retreats, online courses, and other opportunities required for completion of their debut crime fiction work. Past recipients include Maria Kelson (2014), Vera H-C Chan (2015), Stephane Dunn (2016), and Jessica Ellis Laine (2017).

Congratulations to Ms. Manansala and all the past winners of this award.

Next up is a short lesson in writing from C.S. Lakin who was a guest on Kristen Lamb’s blog the other day with an article about plot twists. The following is just a short excerpt from the post, which is most helpful.

Often, the trick is to set up hints, or foreshadowing, in earlier scenes, so that when the truth of the twist is discovered, your reader won’t get mad because they feel cheated or tricked. Having a new character show up at the climax to save the day for the hero will do just that.

No setup, no believability (and no satisfaction on the reader’s part).

If your novel has twists at the start of the story, immediately misdirecting due to appearances, that’s fine . . . again, so long as it’s believable. We humans make assumptions and come to conclusions about events we experience, and it’s believable that we may misinterpret what we see and hear.

For Example:
Your character is walking down the street of her city at dawn. Two men come running out of a bank, holding black briefcases. The bank alarm is blaring. She hears screaming from inside the bank, then an explosion. Not wanting to stick around, she runs . . . only to turn a corner, where she crashes into the two men . . .

Your reader might reasonably presume these men are bank robbers. And what transpires upon encountering them may also reinforce this belief when one points a gun at her and tells her to get lost and quick.

It’s only later, when she is pouring herself a stiff drink and trembling behind her locked apartment door that she sees on the news that a gang of Goth girls, sent by a mob boss, robbed the bank, using plastic explosives to blow up the vault.

This plants doubt in your character’s head: Is the news wrong or did I misinterpret what happened?

Later in the story, events may unfold that have her realize the men she encountered were not the “bad guys” but, rather, secret agents who, tipped off about the impending robbery, managed to get the highly classified plans from the safe-deposit box in time, before the Goth girls entered.

But then, another twist might show that to be false information given to the police. The men are actually from a rival mob, and they have even worse plans.

I really liked the fact that the opening action in the example could have so many possible twists. Taking the reader down the path the first twist goes, only to “twist” that into another possible path, and another, and maybe even another, is some good plotting. As Larkin says in the post, don’t give the reader the expected. Surprise them every step of the way.

Have any of you read a book recently that did just that? Please do share with a comment.

That’s all for me, folks. Have a safe and happy weekend.

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Preachers and Bicycles and Guilt

Posted by mcm0704 on August 1, 2018 |

I was so busy with an editing job, I nearly forgot to post Slim Randles latest offering for our reading pleasure. I am always grateful to Slim for sharing his columns with us here, as well as the readers in the hundreds of newspapers across the country where his column, Home Country,  appears. He is a kind, generous, writer. You can thank him by checking out his BOOKS and perhaps buying one or two. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s almost time for my afternoon snack, and I am happy to share with you. I know, apples and peanuts are not very appealing, but at least I have them on a lovely plate that was a gift from my brother and his partner. Enjoy…


Dud was out rambling around the other day, and was surprised to find the new preacher sitting beside an irrigation ditch. Dud plopped down and asked him what was wrong.

“I’ve only been here two weeks,” he said, “and someone’s stolen my bicycle. I really liked that bike.”

“Reverend,” said Dud, “everyone in this town knows everyone else, and thievery is almost unheard of. I wouldn’t take this personally as something against you, but I do have a suggestion.”

The preacher looked at Dud.

“Can you preach on the Ten Commandments?” Dud asked.

“Sure,” said the preacher. “I’m a whiz bang at the Ten Commandments.”

“Well, why not give them both barrels this Sunday? You know, the whole deal. Guilt complexes that blossom forth and I’ll bet you get your bike back.”

“Great idea,” he said, “I’ll do it!”

Dud didn’t see the preacher until the following Monday, as it turned out.

“Well, Reverend, did you roast ‘em alive with Thou Shalt Not Steal and get your bike back?”

“Not exactly,” he told Dud. “Actually I got only as far as Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, and then I remembered where I’d left it.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Windy Wilson fans can listen to his philosophies on Home Country with Slim Randles on your local country music station.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.  If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It has some of the best of his offerings through the years he has been writing columns.


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Meet the Authors

Posted by mcm0704 on July 30, 2018 |

Today I’m going to do something a bit different on the blog. I am on a really tight deadline to finish an edit for a client, so I decided to devote this post to a quick introduction to a few writers and their books. My go-to drink while working is always coffee – good strong coffee – so why don’t you join me and enjoy a cup while meeting some writers. 

First off is  Mike Faricy who writes crime fiction. In a recent newsletter he shared about why he writes: 

“I think the first thing I ever wrote was probably on the wall with a color crayon, and like most of us I was sent to my room. I view that as my first creative rejection. I started writing crime fiction with a half dozen stand alone novels that no one wanted to publish, never realizing at the time that the groundwork was being laid for the Dev Haskell series.

Luckily for me, ebooks provided a side gate into the publishing playground and the Dev Haskell series began with RUSSIAN ROULETTE. Dev would be a wild, crazy weekend date, but you’d never tell your girlfriends, at least not for ten years and then there’d probably be some wine involved in making that decision. I wrote the first ten books in the series in the dark; before sunrise or after sunset. To date there are sixteen Dev Haskell tales. Tales about people who find themselves in the position they’re in because of bad decisions. And no one makes bad decisions like Dev, but then, bad decisions can make for entertaining reading.”

I had to chuckle when I read about him writing on the wall and then viewing the consequences as his first creative rejection. But when I thought more about it, I realized we parents do have a responsibility not to curtail our kids’ creativity. Not that we should encourage marring the walls, but there are so many ways to foster  creative impulses that don’t involve crayons on walls.

Next up is author Leigh Lyn who has written a thriller, The 8th Sky. I have not read the book, but it has received some positive reviews, so it may be worth a read. 

BOOK BLURB: When the puppet masters sacrifice the people to gain power, what would you give up to keep your sanity? Your integrity? Or your life?

Lin Lee, the lead architect of a science park project, wakes up at an asylum after 3 all-nighters fried her brain. She insists she has discovered a menacing plot hole in the narrative of her client’s charitable image. Through it, she saw a glimpse of a secret so horrific her mind can barely face. No one believes her. To restore her credibility, she starts a memoir. Venture with her into a bewildering expedition to discover the truth.

Next up is an offering from Sharon Kleve. She writes in a variety of genres, but her favorite is romantic comedy. Her books are fun, easy reads, and her latest is Vegas Dumb Luck

BOOK BLURB: P.J. Stone has a special knack for matchmaking the most unlikely of souls in the glitzy town of Las Vegas.

Her brother Max isn’t so lucky when it comes to gambling. P.J. has to find Max’s loan shark, a soulmate before vital parts of her brother’s anatomy are removed.

Bruno Swain, P.J.’s sexy-as-hell boyfriend, is a driving instructor at Exotic Race Cars Inc. He loves to drive fast, to eat Pop Tarts in bed with P.J. and wants more than anything for her to be happy and safe.

But keeping her safe isn’t always an easy task.

That’s all for me for today, folks. I do hope you enjoyed meeting these authors and may try one, or all, of the books. Be safe. Be happy.

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“I’m a Wanderer”

Posted by mcm0704 on July 25, 2018 |

Please help me welcome Katherine Prairie to the blog today. She is the author of Blue Fire, a suspense novel releasing tomorrow. I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC and  reviewed the book last  Sunday. As I mentioned in the review, the story took me to places I’d never been to visit and introduced me to the inner workings of the mining industry. 

I did some research and found out that Chai Tea is a favorite drink in Tanzania, so I thought we could have a cup while reading Katherine’s post. They are quite good. The post and the tea.


Thanks for having me here today, Maryann.

I’m a traveller at heart. An explorer. Even as I write this, I’m at sea following in the footsteps of the Vikings from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

I’ve met people from all over the world on this voyage, most of them with heavily-stamped passports. We all share a love of adventure and the desire to learn more about the world around us, but there the similarities end.

Among my travel mates, the die-hard explorers are easiest to spot. From their layers of fleece and quick-dry clothing, heavy backpacks and walking sticks, I know they’re heading away from civilization. They’re first off the ship setting off in the direction of distant mountains, and they won’t be seen again until we leave port.

There are others who make a bee-line for the shops or the advertised attractions and museums. These travellers are explorers too, in that they seek to find the uniqueness associated with a country. Colourful balls of Shetland Island wool, or intricately-patterned Icelandic sweaters tell the story about the people, especially the women, of a country. Art and historical artifacts reveal the past and present in ways that make the country come alive.

I find myself somewhere in the middle. As a geologist, there are places that attract me like a moth to a flame — volcanoes, fossil beds and rugged mountain peaks to name a few! But I can also be found lingering in town, enjoying coffee or a meal, or browsing the museums or shops. In these moments, I am privileged to meet the locals and experience a little of their culture. It’s this sense of the people that I carry with me when I later hike the hills and take in the scenery. This is their home, not just a tourist destination.

Tanzania was like that for me. It had long been on the top of my bucket list, and when I finally managed a trip there, it did not disappoint. The Great Rift Valley is a Mecca for geologists and I was thrilled to hike to the site of Louis Leakey’s first fossil discoveries. The animals drew me too, and I spent days with the big cats, elephants and giraffes of the Serengeti taking more photos than I could ever imagine! But only when I met the people of Tanzania did I truly feel as though I was seeing the country.

There was never a doubt that I would set an Alex Graham thriller in Tanzania, and Blue Fire is the result. For the past two years, I’ve delved deep into the cultures of Brazil, Tanzania and China, adding to my personal experiences in each country. Out of that research came Jorge Silva, Mosi Ongeti and Shen Li, three of my most fascinating characters. And through all of this, I am a little closer to getting to know these countries and their people.

I’ve travelled the world, but I feel as though I’m only just beginning to really experience it. Geologist Alex Graham allows me to indulge my passion for exploration and pushes me to dig deeper, to bring a true sense of people and place to my stories. I invite you to join me on the journey.



Tanzanite, a rare blue gem born in fire and revealed by lightning, is found only in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania. But now the death of a gem smuggler points to another possibility. A South American mine owned by Tabitha Metals may hold the find of a century. But why is it kept hidden from the world? Geologist Brian Graham can draw only one conclusion: the mine’s untraceable wealth is used to fund terrorism. And he must reveal the truth.

Brian heads to Colombia to check out mines there while his geologist daughter Alex and Tanzanian miner Mosi Ongeti start in Brazil. But their daring plan ends with a gunshot, and they are now pursued by the henchmen of a sinister, powerful arms dealer.

In a high-stakes race across two continents, Alex fights to expose the mine before the man behind Tabitha Metals can stop her.




Katherine Prairie brings her own experience as an international geologist to the Alex Graham thriller series. Her debut novel THIRST was shortlisted for the 2017 Whistler Independent Book Awards. She served as the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Canada West, and she is a 2018-19 Crime Writers of Canada director. You can find out more about Katherine at her WEBSITE. and follow her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER 

I hope you enjoyed this peek at a country that many of us did not know much about. Reading Katherine’s book was like having a geography lesson, and I learned a lot about Tanzania, mining, and some rare gems. Have you seen the rare tanzanite? Have you ever been to Tanzania? I wonder how close the color is to the color of this type.

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Book Review – Blue Fire by Katherine Prairie

Posted by mcm0704 on July 22, 2018 |

Blue Fire
Katherine Prairie
ISBN-10: 099493775X
ISBN-13: 978-0994937759
Stonedrift Press Ltd.
Trade Paper, 368 pgs
July 26, 2018 $14.95
Series: Alex Graham
Also available for Kindle

Book Blurb:  An incredible discovery. A race for the truth.

Tanzanite, a rare blue gem born in fire and revealed by lightning, is found only in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania. But now the death of a gem smuggler points to another possibility.

A South American mine owned by Tabitha Metals may hold the find of a century. But why is it kept hidden from the world? Geologist Brian Graham can draw only one conclusion: the mine’s untraceable wealth is used to fund terrorism. And he must reveal the truth.

Brian heads to Colombia to check out mines there while his geologist daughter Alex and Tanzanian miner Mosi Ongeti start in Brazil. But their daring plan ends with a gunshot, and they are now pursued by the henchmen of a sinister, powerful arms dealer.

In a high-stakes race across two continents, Alex fights to expose the mine before the man behind Tabitha Metals can stop her.

Review: Even though it is a much different story, I couldn’t help but think of “Romancing the Stone” as I read Blue Fire. Maybe because both stories have strong women lead characters, not to mention the races against time across dangerous territories to save themselves and others.

The secondary characters in Blue Fire were as finely drawn as Alex, and I especially liked Mosi Ongeti. The long-time relationship they share in almost a father/daughter manner came across in telling moments when Alex would not abandon Mosi after he had been shot as they escaped from the mine.

The romantic relationship between Alex and her boyfirend Eric is handled nicely, too, and early on the reader can tell that they care deeply about each other. The fact that Eric agrees to help treat Mosi’s terrible infection speaks strongly about the depth of the relationship.

Reading this book I was introduced to countries that I didn’t know details about, as well as mining for a variety of gems. Tanzanite is a gem new to me, and I am eager to see the Blue Fire in person. The description of the gem gave me a good visual, but I would still like to see one.

The mystery of why Alex’s father, Brian, has disappeared, added to the mystery of who controls the mine in Brazil that is apparently mining tanzanite when it had previously only been mined in Arusha, Tanzania, keeps the tension high and the suspense going. My only quibble is that I would have preferred less about Shen and the Chinese, as both came across as stereotypical bad guys. Much less could have been written about them, and the focus stay on Alex and her attempts to solve the mysteries. Those were the chapters I enjoyed the most.

About the Author:  Katherine Prairie brings her own experience as an international geologist to the Alex Graham thriller series. Her debut novel Thirst was shortlisted for the 2017 Whistler Independent Book Awards. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of The Essential PROC SQL Handbook for SAS Users. She is the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Canada West, and a 2018-19 Crime Writers of Canada director. You can find out more about Katherine at her WEBSITE. and follow her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER 

Please come back on Wednesday when Katherine will be my guest here on the blog and give her a warm welcome.

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Disgraceful Helsinki Summit

Posted by mcm0704 on July 20, 2018 |

Before getting into the heart of this blog, I wanted to share a couple of pretty pictures with you. Looking at some of the beauty around us can help us keep the stress levels down.

When I go for a walk here in the city where I now live, I don’t see nearly as many of the wildflowers I used to when I lived in a rural area, but I was lucky to see these two the other day.

These look almost like the wild irises that I would see in my pasture out in the country. But it is a different plant.

I have no idea what wildflower this is. Sure is pretty.

When I was in high school, we were given an assignment in a social studies class to write something related to current events. This was the time of the Cold War when Russia was an open enemy of the United States, and we all were all-too aware of the threat of nuclear attack. For some reason, maybe because this was also at the very beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, I decided that Russia would not have to bomb the U.S. Russian leaders could just wait for us to implode and then come in and pick up the pieces.

I remember my teacher was a little alarmed at my premise, but she did give me an A for the writing and the reading I’d done to support my claims.

Move ahead about 60 years – okay, I am really old – and here we are imploding.

Even if you voted for our current president, I hope you can put your party loyalty aside long enough to consider what a disaster the meeting in Helsinki on Monday was. To truly know what transpired between the two world leaders we have to hope that the call for transparency is heeded.

According to a story by Jen Hayden in Daily Kos, there is now an effort to compel the United States translator to reveal what was said between the two men.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has now suggested the translator meet with Congress to report directly to them about what was said in this private meeting between Trump and Putin. After all, the security and interests of the United States and our western allies are at-risk.

That is the best suggestion I’ve heard in all the responses to the meeting. The president and the translator are both public servants, and we the people have a right to know what transpired during those hours the two world leaders talked. From what I gleaned from 45’s comments to reporters at a press conference following the meeting, it all went favorably for Putin. He has been cleared of any connection to the interference in the 2016 election, and 45 had the gall to second Putin’s assertion that the tensions between the two countries is all the fault of the United States and its agencies that falsely accused Russia of cyber attacks.

This just three days after the indictment of 12 Russian operatives for interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking Democratic political organizations and releasing stolen files. (Read the full indictment HERE)

During his campaign, 45 denied ever knowing Putin, or ever having contact with any Russian government leaders, but questions arose about possible connections. Was he doing business in Russia? Had his son, Donald Trump Jr., met with Russian officials? Who was brokering the deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow?

According to another report by Jen Heyden at Daily Kos, it is possible that Russia has been “playing” the Trumps for years.

The Russians don’t act impulsively, they play the long game. Is it a coincidence that Russians started throwing money at Donald Trump years before he ran for president? In 2013, Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov and his son Emin entered into a business relationship to host a beauty pageant with Trump in Moscow. Reuters reports Russians have spent at least $100 million buying Trump condos.

They so successfully penetrated the inner circle that even as Donald Trump was close to securing the Republican nomination, Don Jr. hosted a very special guest at a private NRA dinner, Alexander Torshin, governor of Russia’s central bank and boss of the recently arrested Russian spy, Maria Butina.

Butina is a Russian gun advocate who is charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation. Ms. Butina was arrested on Sunday in Washington and accused of being an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. On Wednesday, a judge ordered her held without bond during an appearance in federal court in Washington.

Sad, sad, times for our country, and I am dismayed at all the verbal juggling that has gone on all week to try to put bandages on the wounds 45 inflicted.

So as not to leave you with a totally dismal feeling, here is a joke to make you smile.

I went down the street to a 24-hour grocery store. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, “Hey! The sign says you’re open 24 hours.”

He Said, “Yes, but not in a row!”

That’s it for me folks. I hope you have a great weekend. Be safe. Be happy. Disconnect from the news, which is what I plan to do. I do welcome comments about what I’ve posted here, whether you agree or not, but please be respectful and civil on both sides.

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