Halloween Heads o’Doom

Heads o'Doom by Jennifer StevensonThese festive Day of the Dead Heads are easy to make. They take one day to make if you make the plaster heads up in the morning and decorate at night, or two days if you make the heads a day early, which is advisable, since it guarantees the heads will be dry enough to decorate and display. You need:

For head manufacture, a large table covered with many layers of newspaper, or, if the table is nice wood, a plastic tablecloth
For drying space, a basement clothesline, with newspaper laid on the surface under it to catch drips

Small (1-foot diameter) balloons, any color
Big paper clips bent into hooks
A cheap paint brush
Fishing line or other invisible string
Poles, wooden sticks, tree-branches (cut or still on the tree), or in-ground sunflower stalks or cornstalks for mounting the heads Continue reading


The Rambling Writer’s Hawaii, part 2: A Secluded Cove

Join Thor and me as we hike over lava fields on the Big Island to find a paradise cove and snorkel with a young Honu sea turtle.

NOTE: Thor and I decided on a quick trip to Hawaii’s Big Island to stretch out summer a bit as our gray, rainy Pacific Northwest winter was closing in. The airline and all venues in Hawaii are being super careful with Covid precautions, and it was a wonderful getaway. If you didn’t catch my blog series about our first Big Island trip, it started April 24, 2021. Check it out if you want to catch up on the full adventure, including a volcano, petroglyphs, snorkeling with wild dolphins, and a night swim with huge manta rays. And I promise I will finish the Retro Italy Vacation series soon.

The newly-erupting Kilauea caldera was spewing “vog” — irritating volcanic fog — that was circling around our condo area, so we decided to head north for cleaner air. We were eager to check out the secluded coves and beaches we had heard were north of Kekaha Kai State Park. So we packed our lunch and snorkel masks, leaving the lush gardens of the Kona Coast… Continue reading


New Worlds: Political Factions

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

When talking about democratic societies, sooner or later the phrase “political parties” will come up. But these are a specific manifestation of something found in many forms of government, which is the grouping of people into political factions. So this week, we’ll take a broader look at that phenomenon!

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1917: Knit Your Bit

Here’s more on the background research I did into life on the “home front” during World War I for What Lies Beneath.

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the government put out the call. Uncle Sam wanted young men to enlist…and he wanted everyone else to knit. The armed forces needed sweaters, vests, mittens, wristlets, caps, helmets, scarves, and above all, socks. Continue reading


Author Interview: Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff & the Archaeology Thieves

Fellow author Deborah J. Ross interviews Book View Cafe member and New York Times bestselling author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, About THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER, one of three stories she’s penned about diminutive PI Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko. In the novel, Gina goes undercover in the Mexican jungle to hunt down a ring of thieves responsible for looting pre-Columbian archaeology sites. Here DeborahI chats with Maya about her book, now out in trade paperback and eBook from Pegasus Crime:

Deborah J. Ross: How did you come up with Gina S. Miyoko?

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff: I honestly don’t remember except that she arose from a dream I had, the plot of which (yes, my dreams often have plots) I don’t remember. I knew I wanted to write her as the protagonist of a mystery novel, and I knew I wanted her to be different from the female P.I.s I’d read. I love mystery and crime fiction but I noticed that all the female protagonists were alienated and broken and party to dysfunctional relationships. I wanted Gina to be flawed and have enough pain in her life to be relatable, but I also wanted her to be part of a very functional, if quirky family and support network. Among the Japanese names I was considering, Gina Suzu Miyoko meant, “Silver Bell Temple;” Tinkerbell became an inevitable nickname. And her personality just grew out of that. Continue reading


Worldbuilding: Turns of Phrase, Aphorisms, Slang, and Metaphors

Worldbuilding is something we think about a lot when we’re writing fantasy and science fiction. Generally we mean the physical and perhaps metaphysical world when we talk about worldbuilding. On top of that, we mean society and culture — from broad questions about how society is structured to small-scale questions about how individuals behave toward one another, and how they think they should behave toward one another.

On top of all that, we have a lot of details to think about — among other things, and perhaps most important, details of the language. By “details of the language” I mean aphorisms, turns of phrase, slang, and metaphors. Continue reading


BVC Announces The Single Musketeer by Brenda W. Clough

The Single Musketeer by Brenda W. Clough
The Single Musketeer

The Thrilling Victorian Adventures of the Most Dangerous Woman in Europe
by Brenda W. Clough

Somewhere in a vast ruinous Italian garden is a treasure, Egyptian gold worth millions. Lester Camlet and her brother William plan to find it.

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Tricks with Global Search and Replace

Oh, the powers of word processing! If you have to deal with proofread and copy edit then there’s nothing like the power of something like Microsoft Word or Apache or Libreoffice. Jane Austen had no option but rewriting her manuscript by hand with ink and a goose quill pen. Ernest Hemingway had to pound it all out on a manual typewriter. But we fortunate moderns can do global search and replace!

Except … when it all goes sour. If you are careless you can utterly munge your manuscript. You may find yourself keying the entire thing in again, if you don’t take care with the dangerous Replace tool. An astute commentator likened Search and Replace to a magic spell. You have to word the incantation exactly, perform the ritual gestures with precision, or something demonic appears and bites off your head. So, here are a few hard-won pearls of wisdom when you sit down to modify your manuscript.

The very first thing, before you do anything at all to that document? Save a separate copy of it. Title it NovelMasterCopy or something. This means that in case of disaster you have something to go back to. If all your messing around works out, you can delete this copy. But if you make a horrible error, you have this to fall back on.

With that safety belt in place, onwards! The easiest changes involve words that are utterly distinctive and have no other forms in English. If you change the heroine’s car from a Chrysler to a Toyota, you are fairly safe. There’s not a lot you can do with a word like Chrysler. There are no words like chryslered, chryslerific, or chryslerfactual, that will trip you up when you peel out that pattern of letters and drop in Toyota.

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The crows come back

peanuts-roasted-in-shell-saltyIt’s the true first day of autumn.

I know this because the first wave of migrant crows came by my house in a gang today, hooting like teenagers, chasing around the neighborhood, celebrating the fresh clean cool dry air of autumn.

I got a ziploc full of roasted salted peanuts in the shell and went outside to hoot back. Here they came, three, four, fivesixseveneight, parking in the top of the towering elm tree across the street. I tossed down some peanuts, laughing at them, making kiss-me crow noises (a kind of low whiny-baby grizzle).

They weren’t interested in the peanuts. They wanted to play copycat. We cawed back and forth at each other. They were too excited to do it one at a time, so if two cawed at once, in different pitches, I copied one, then the other. Continue reading


Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Second in the Great Houses Posts

Casa Grande

It took 38 years for architect Julia Morgan, working with William Randolph Hearst and others, to complete the construction of La Questa Encantada, (The Enchanted Hill), on a hillside near San Simeon. Located roughly half-way between Monterey and Santa Barbara, the Hearst San Simeon property covered 40,000 acres along the California Central Coast. Hearst, with fond memories of the location he inherited from his father and the site of memorable family camping trips, was determined to build his own private “castle”. Starting out as a “bungalow” because Hearst felt he was getting too old for camping, the project soon swelled to a sprawling Spanish Colonial Revival compound embellished with the Renaissance and Baroque flourishes that Hearst loved. Morgan was more than happy to oblige, as his wishes blended well with her preferred architectural style.

According to Wikipedia, “Hearst Castle has a total of 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield and, during Hearst’s lifetime, the world’s largest private zoo.”  I believe it, because I’ve been there.

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