Too long away

There are few excuses for neglecting a blog but here are mine.

2016 was a difficult year for us. My husband’s cousin, a youngish man of 64(young from our perspective) died in the late Spring, a shock to all his family. Late in the summer our beloved dog Charlie became ill and died of a small tumour in her great heart. Health issues, since partially resolved, both our own and those of close friends, occupied the rest of the year.

But we are in a new year, and the pain of those losses is receding. Not to say the world is comfortable with a man with a clear personality disorder in the White House, but one can carry on.

My plans to become a writer of non-fiction have faltered, mainly because I write fiction and that seems to be that. However, there is a good deal more to learn about writing fiction and I am looking forward to a retreat in April with the kind friends of Writescape. Before that, I  will travel to Bermuda to visit my sister and her family. One of my journeys there resulted in No Motive for Murder, the third in my Dangerous Journeys series.

Another book, currently titled Painting of Sorrow, is under consideration by an agent. Fingers crossed.

Bad news is that my long-time publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words Inc. has closed up shop. Soon I hope to republish the books under my own imprint. so many thanks due to Arline for taking a chance on a beginning writer when she published Murderous Roots. All best wishes to Arline going forward.

Because of Arline’s retirement, I’ve been studying self-publishing both at CreateSpace and at Smashwords, where my books currently have a home. When I’m ready, I’ll reissue all four plus in the fall, the fifth in the series.

Of course, I read. Today I finished a book by a writer friend, Crozier Green. His novel of the early days of the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, titled The Little Wagons, was a terrific read. Please see the review below.

Crozier Green has written an engrossing, action-filled novel of the beginnings of the Cosa Nostra in Italy, seen through the eyes of three men and the woman they all desired. Two of the men rose from sulphur mines, graduated to the prison of Palermo and battled for supremacy in the nascent crime families of nineteenth-century Sicily. The woman, a wild and wildly-intelligent daughter of one of the bosses, manipulates both men and the officer of the Carabinieri who loved her, to gain power of her own.

The Little Wagons is suspense-full, fast-paced, well-written book that deserves five stars for its vivid characterization. Even minor characters are well-described. I won’t forget any of them soon.

The plot, involving as it does the entwined lives of four different people, is handled well. The opening description of the sulphur mines brings the reader into a hellish, claustrophobic world. The setting alone is sufficient to explain why men would do anything, including murder to escape from it.

The Little Wagons is a great read and terrific history.

That’s about it for a sunny and warm Saturday in the Kawartha Lakes.





Home from the Holiday

We have been back from Italy for about a month now. Back to fall settling in, leaves scarlet and yellow and orange, the grass still vivid green, the sky that vibrant, impossible blue, to a garden that needs to be put to bed, and a dog that had given us up as lost.

We spent a week in Venice, staying in an apartment in Castello, one of the sestiere or districts of the city. Castello is off in the east of the city, a workday world for Venetians and a few tourists, but not many since the Biennale ended.

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi was a canal until Napoleon conquered the city and thought it would be more efficient as a street, and so it was filled in and is now one of the few wide streets in the city. But no cars. The only noise at night comes from the bar down below and it ends early as the locals have to get up for bed next day.

There is a Canadian connection on the street. The house on the corner, where the street meets the Riva, was owned by John Cabot. A plaque placed there by the Province of Newfoundland, marks the event. Another by the city of Venice recognizes further explorations to Paraguay by Sebastian Cabot.

Spain, final thoughts

Two weeks is a short visit to another country, barely time enough to get a limited sense of the geography, no time at all to get a sense of the people, no time except to feel the otherness of the place.

“How was your vacation?” people always ask.

“Loved Madrid, didn’t like Sevilla, thought the pueblos blancos and the mountains beautiful and overwhelming,” I would say.

But even a brief two weeks, alters perception, preconceived notions of a country, and creates a desire to know what is going on there, how are the people doing, what is preoccupying the nation. Before October, I didn’t care whether the banks were failing, or what was happening to the mortgage market, or how many were unemployed, and what that would mean for the people we met, and the way of life we observed.

Madrid was happy, the plazas full of families, the museums with Spaniards on vacation, the skyline with cranes. Sevilla was sad, the streets, where we were anyway filled with tourists, the clerks in the stores and hotels and bars glum, the pueblos blancos, photo-ops that they all were, closed in and except for the British, oblivious to the visitor.

The news from Spain economically isn’t good, especially for the immigrants from the Spanish-speaking countries of the new world. An article today in the New York Times, and late in October in the Globe and Mail talked about the draconian banking laws that prevent individual bankruptcy  proceedings from including a mortgage. The result: the borrower and the guarantor are tied for life to the bank, paying off a debt even though the house is no longer theirs.The banks say this prevented their failure during the economic crisis. The entire sorry tale is available here:


Spain has beautiful cities, ancient villages where Phoenicians and Romans and Berbers walked before we did, and an unexpected, vast landscape. It’s in Europe, yet partly outside it too. I’m glad we went, even it was only two weeks.

My new book, The Facepainter Murders is available at and at

Olvera and Setenil

We left Acinipo, turning left instead of right as the GPS advised, and followed a winding road down the mountain, en route to Olvera. We stumbled upon Setenil, a town set into the mountain, like the pueblos in New Mexico, the roofs of some of the houses formed by overhanging rock. Leaving Setenil, we followed tiny roads through miles of olive trees and mountain vistas to Olvera.

There has been human population at Olvera for 12,000 years according to a website found here: . Construction of the village as it stands was begun by the Berbers(Moors) whose castle stands high above it . One of the most beautiful of the white towns, it has steep, very steep streets(with handrails) leading up to the church which dominates the view up to the fortress. We had lunch in the plaza, in a restaurant run by an English couple. “Why are you here,” one of us asked. “I followed her,” he said, jerking his thumb towards the kitchen.

I have attached some pictures.

Off to Spain

I have been watching a lecture series on DVD, produced by The Teaching Company, taught by Professor Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa,  entitled Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. This is my first exposure to a university level course in writing, although I have taken other on-line practical writing courses and attended workshops, and read books on the subject, all practical, none with the in-depth discussion of the sentence as an art form, not considering just its function, but the way in which phrases and clauses, vowels and consonants play against and with each other. I’m enjoying this series, although some of the concepts are so new to me, that I will watch it a second time, take notes, do the exercises and explore at greater length some of the concepts, as well, I might add, as learning the new vocabulary, not included in the language I learned in medical school. It seems a practical course in many ways and it is great fun.

Sakineh: She’s still in that prison. I see that the Iranians have accepted five hundred thousand dollars as the price of an American woman accused of spying and released this week. Some people in Oman arranged it, so we are told. I wonder what it would cost to buy the freedom of Sakineh and the others.

Spain: I’ve spent the last few months trying to learn some Spanish, using the course supplied by RosettaStone, enough to be polite, and not assume that everyone that I meet speaks English. I did the same with Italian several years ago, finding that it took at least two years to gain enough language to communicate a little. It becomes more difficult as I get older, or so it seems. We’re leaving shortly, so this will be my last posting for a while, unless I have access to a computer somewhere along the way.


Our vacation in Spain is drawing closer. Our hotel in Madrid is on Plaza Santa Ana, ringed with cafes, bars and a highly-rated restaurant! The hotel itself is in a converted office building– high ceilings and large windows overlooking the plaza. We hope to visit the Reina Sofia museum of modern art to see Picasso’s Guernica on the first day, if we aren’t too tired after the plane.

So much else to do and see in Madrid that it would likely take three weeks rather than the three days we have there to begin to see it all.

We leave Madrid by the AVE, the fast train to Seville, arriving at yet another hotel in a converted building, this one in Barrio Santa Cruz. We haven’t an plan for Sevilla, although visiting the cathedral, the third largest medieval in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London, is on the list. We are there for three nights, before meeting Anne and Alan in Ronda.

The trip to Ronda will be an adventure: a bus trip through the Serrano Mountains. The owner of the villa we are renting promised to meet us that day and drive us to her finca(country property). She is also making dinner for us that evening. Visiting Ronda, a fabled town renowned in the nineteenth century for bandits and bullfights, should take at least two days of the seven we will be staying there. After that, visiting the Pueblos Blancos, the white villages, beginning, I think, with Arcos de la Frontera, the furthest from Ronda, situated on the edge of the sherry district. All the villages with frontera in their names were on the frontier, built for defence, high on the hills, the front lines of the battles to retake Spain from the Moors.

I can hardly wait!

Sunday Roundup2


My latest book went to the publisher some time ago. Two errors, both mine, merged to give both the editor and me headaches. First, I had sent the wrong version, unedited and unrevised. During May and June I had worked on the manuscript and then carefully saved it — to a usb drive. I didn’t remember that and sent the most recent one on the computer. The next mistake was in using Word. I didn’t know that there was a small button in the reviewing toolbar that I had to click in order to accept all my edits and create a final version. The editor received a file full of corrections, strike-throughs, and sidebar comments.  Once the Microsoft tech told me what to do — success. The publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words Inc. and  Cambridge Books, has been great about it and I have sent along the revised  version to the editor.

Tech Support

I needed support from both Apple and Microsoft to solve the problem, and both technicians were great. The wait time was brief and the information clear. It was Saturday evening, so not too much traffic at support, I imagine.

Another outfit that has an efficient website and great service is Rail Europe. I used them to book our tickets from Madrid to Seville in the fall. From booking to the UPS driver at my door took three days, including a border crossing!


Sakineh still waits in that prison in Iran, while they review her sentence for a murder she says she didn’t commit and of which she was acquitted. Through an intermediary she says that the international pressure is embarrassing Iran. I hope that this country, once such a pearl, can be saved, with Sakineh, from the madmen at the top. Please continue to embarrass them and sign the petition. Website follows.

The census, still.

This week, Sylvia Ostry, former chief of Stats Can and an internationally known economist is quoted in Michael Valpy’s article at the Globe and Mail, as saying it is “shocking” and “ridiculous” that Ottawa should have abandoned the long form census. She was receiving an award for public policy at the Couchiching Conference.

Why the government is staying with this sorry decision is difficult to understand, unless it is Harper’s ego in play again. Hubris best describes it I think.


I went to a summer theatre this week, to see a play, out of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, by way of Hitchcock’s film, filtered through an English music hall. The actors were excellent, but I didn’t enjoy seeing Buchan’s work turned into burlesque.

I hadn’t read the book for many years, so I reread it this week. It’s a cracking good yarn, with lots of adventure in the Scottish highlands of a century ago. John Buchan was also Lord Tweedsmuir and served as Canada’s fifteenth Governor-General from 1935-1940.

One thing I noticed, as I have in Christie, Naigo Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and other writers from England of that period is the pervasive and off-hand anti-semitism. Buchan, though, confines it to a character who is soon murdered, and whose attitude towards Jews is called “strange”.

More Spain

The new year has arrived, very quietly for us. It will be memorable, though for several reasons, starting with our retirement in March, going on to our fortieth anniversary in May, and then our trip to Spain.
The trip arrangements are going well. I found a terrific website called Inns of Spain, and booked hotels in Madrid and Seville. Nick, at Inns of Spain has offered to help if I can’t sort out the trains!
We also booked a villa at Ronda, where a nice lady called Caro will cook us our dinner the first night. Looking at the hotels on Google Earth, especially the street level views, is a lot of fun.
My story, Clarice is up at Gumshoe Review It’s a great site and I am very pleased to have Clarice accepted there.
Last year’s writing goal was to get something published, and I have been very happy to have reached it. Looking forward to 2010!

Our trip to Spain

Now that the holidays are almost over, it’s time to plan a trip to Spain in the fall. This will be our first holiday after we retire, and our third to Europe, travelling with the same friends. I’ve started to study some Spanish, putting Italian on hold for the time being. Our tentative plan is to fly into Madrid, fly on to Granada, take the train to Seville and then meet our friends in Ronda. The flights will be easy to arrange. Air Transat flies open jaw into Madrid and out of Malaga. The train is another story.
Rick Steves has a very helpful brochure on trains in Europe which is available as a pdf download, but even with its help I remain confused about taking a train from Granada to Ronda or Seville.
I have just now found some helpful information about the white villages of Spain.