19 February 2018

The Call Of The Luddites Beckons, Or Technology Sucks

Sometimes, technology sucks. A couple of nights ago, a loud beeping noise interrupted my sleep. Here’s what ran through my head:

“Am I about to die from carbon monoxide poisoning?”

“Has the Dalek invasion started?”

“Is a garbage truck backing up into my boat?”

Turns out it was none of these things. My computer was just suffering a catastrophic failure. Which, I guess is *marginally* better than an invasion by the Daleks.

I think the fan is broken, causing it to overheat. I’ve ordered a new one, but it won’t be here until later this week. Hopefully, that solves the problem.

Then my cell phone became infected with some sort of bug. I thought I had that sorted, but it happened again. I’ve tried something else. Fingers crossed it works, otherwise I’ll have to reset the thing back to factory settings.

All of this had made me realize two things:

1 - I’m way too dependent on my computer. 

I was on fire working on >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< (the second book in my Mollie McGhie sailing mystery series), but without a computer, I’ve come to a standstill.

2 - The Luddites may be onto something. 

Technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe I should just write the old-fashioned way, using pen and paper?

By the way, I’m typing this on an old iPad my mom gave me. It’s a real pain, so if I’m slow to respond to comments or visit your blog, that’s why.

Have you ever had technology problems? Ever been tempted to become a Luddite?

17 February 2018

Saturday Spotlight | Around The World In 80 Books, Update #15

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about our travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.

Remember when I started that "Around the World in 80 Books" challenge? The one I was so gung-ho about, but then never finished. Yeah, I had completely forgotten about it too until my mother reminded me about it. So, while we're land-locked and working on boat projects, I thought this would be a good time to start ticking more countries off of the list.

The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in five more countries – Cambodia, Hungary, Italy, Singapore, and South Africa.

That makes a total of 75 books since I started the challenge - only 5 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6, Update #7, Update #8, Update #9, Update #10, Update #11, Update #12, Update #13, and Update #14.


GRAVE SECRETS by Kathy Reichs | Guatemala

Grave Secrets is part of the Dr. Temperance Brennan series, which you may know better as the inspiration for the TV show, Bones. In this book, Dr. Brennan is working in Guatemala as part of a team of forensic anthropologists investigating the "disappearance" of villagers (women and children) in the 1970s who were brutally raped and murdered by members of the army. While in Guatemala, she is asked to assist in the investigation of the disappearance of four young women in recent months and see if the remains found in a septic tank are related.

I enjoyed Grave Secrets because of its focus on forensic anthropology (I studied cultural and linguistic anthropology), as well as its focus on contemporary Guatemalan culture and the dark period in Guatemalan history when countless Mayans were slaughtered.

"People filled the lobby, wandering, praying, drinking soda, slumping or fidgeting on wooden benches. Some wore housedresses, others suits or jeans. Most were dressed in Solola Mayan. Women swathed in striped red cloth, with burrito-wrapped babies on their bellies or backs. Men in woolen aprons, gaucho hats, and wildly embroidered trousers and shirts. Now and then a hospital worker in crisp white cut through the kaleidoscope assemblage."

You can find out more about Grave Secrets on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon

THE LAST FRIEND by Tahar ben Jelloun | Morocco

As I got down to the final ten books for this challenge, I was struggling to find books to tick off the remaining countries on my list, so I was delighted when I discovered the English translation of The Last Friend. The author is a well-known Moroccan writer who has been short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Last Friend is about the changing nature of friendship between Ali and Mamet over the course of thirty years, which ultimately leads to betrayal. The story is told from the perspective of both Ali and Mamet, as well as from that of one of their friends. The plot twists and turns had me engrossed right to the end. 

"A city of seduction, Tangier lashes you to its eucalyptus trees with the old ropes left by sailors at the port; it pursues you as if to persecute you; it obsesses you like an unrequited love. We talked and talked about Tangier. We knew that without our city, our lives would be meaningless."

You can find out more about The Last Friend on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.

THE WARSAW DOCUMENT by Adam Hall | Poland

The Warsaw Document is a spy thriller set during the Cold War. Quiller, a British Intelligence operative, is sent to Warsaw to "save detente" while anti-Soviet sentiments are smoldering. Although, I'm not a huge fan of this genre, The Warsaw Document was a good read which held my attention. I particularly liked how the author captured what the feel and mood of Warsaw might have been like at the time, and the impact that the Soviet presence had on the Polish people.

"I'd already learned how difficult it was to judge people from their behavior or even their expression: in this city the winter was not only in the streets and they were living on their nerves, the fierce vitality they'd put into their music and their wars now thrust inwards on themselves; and it was worse because the surface of their daily lives seemed still intact: they could sit here and order coffee and complain if it didn't come, and dance at the Cristal-Budapest and walk with their children in the park on Sundays. All they couldn't do was call their country their own and for these people their country was their soul."

You can find out more about The Warsaw Document on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.  


I used to work with a woman who was in Rwanda during the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide when 800,000 people (mostly Tutsi) were killed in the space of 100 days by the Hutus. I had seen the news coverage at the time of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict, but listening to her stories was horrifying and made everything seem so much more real. I hesitated about whether or not I wanted to read more about the atrocities that were committed, but in the end decided to go ahead and read An Ordinary Man as part of this challenge.

This is an autobiographical account by Paul Ruseabagina, the general manager of the Hotel Milles Collines, who sheltered 1,268 people on site. This book was the basis for the film, Hotel Rwanda. Ruseabagina describes how he fostered relationships with Hutu leaders in order to protect the people in his care. It was an eye-opening account and interesting insight into how such a thing could happen in Rwanda. In this passage, he tries to explain how the Tutsi came to be characterized as the enemy over time:

"The other thing you have to understand was that the message crept into our national consciousness very slowly. It did not happen all at once. We did not wake up one morning to hear it pouring out of the radio at full strength. It started with a sneering comment, the casual use of the term 'cockroach,' the almost humorous suggestion that Tutsis should be airmailed back to Ethiopia. Stripping the humanity from an entire group takes time."

You can find out more about An Ordinary Man on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.


Many of you may remember Nujood Ali's role in highlighting the practice of forced marriage of underage girls in Yemen. When she was nine years old, Nujood's parents arranged for her to marry a man in his thirties. She was regularly raped and beaten by her husband, but somehow found the courage to go to the court and ask for a divorce. In this memoir, Nujood shares details of her childhood before she was married off, what she endured while married, and the process of obtaining a divorce at ten years of age.

She was fortunate to have come to the attention of judges who advocated for her, and in being represented by Shada Nasser, a female lawyer. Nujood describes meeting the judges in this passage and how extraordinary her actions were:

"They both explain to me that in Yemen girls are frequently married off quite young, before the legal age of fifteen. An ancient tradition, adds Judge Abdo. But to his knowledge, none of these precocious marriages has ever ended in divorce - because no little girl has, until now, showed up at a courthouse. A question of family honor, it seems. My situation is most exceptional, and complicated."

You can find out more about I am Nujood on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.


If you're participating in the challenge too (or any other reading challenge), I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.

COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Kiribati, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Wales, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

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16 February 2018

Spamageddon | Canned Meat Cook-Off At Indiantown Marina

Canned meat is a staple for cruisers, at least for those of us who are carnivores. So, when one of my marina friends suggested that we have a canned meat cook-off, I was excited. A risk-free way to sample canned meats that, frankly, I'm a little scared of buying (like Spam), and get recipe ideas? Yes, please, count me in!

We only had one rule - you had to make a dish with a canned meat. Fresh ingredients, other canned ingredients were allowed. Easy-peasy.

The event quickly became known as >>Spamageddon<< and the gauntlet was thrown down. Would anyone dare to make a recipe with Spam? Would any of us dare to eat it?

The event was a huge success - so much fun and such interesting and delectable dishes. I only wish I had pictures of all of the entries. But, here are a few to whet your appetite. Who knows maybe Spam is what's for dinner tonight in your house.

Spam - the meat you don't want to ask too many questions about

Who knew Spam could actually taste good?  There were three Spam entries - Spam Rice & Beans, Spam Cupcakes, and Candied Spam with Brie.

Two of these dishes even won prizes! Yes, there were prizes - more about that in a minute. But first, let's talk a bit more about these creative concoctions.

Everyone loves rice and beans, don't they? And beans and rice are staples aboard any cruising boat. Just whack in a can of Spam and you've got a meal that will keep the crew happy and well fed.

Doesn't the baked brie look gorgeous? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't realize that there was Spam in there. And not just any old Spam, but Spam candied with red pepper jelly. Add some brie, more red pepper jelly, wrap the whole thing with phyllo dough, bake, and you've got the most elegant looking Spam dish I've ever seen.

Spam cupcakes, anyone? This is such a creative dish. Make meatloaf out of Spam. Put in miniature muffin tins, top with mashed potato 'icing,' and voila you have savory cupcakes.

Chicken - tried and true, a staple on many cruising boats

Personally, I've never cooked with Spam. I rely more on canned chicken, so I was glad to see several tasty chicken entries. There was a very delicious Enchilada Soup and some moreish Chicken Salads and Spreads.

Fish - kind of disgusting

There were two fish entries - a to-die-for crab and bacon mac n'cheese, along with salmon patties served with dill sauce.

Let's talk for a minute about how disgusting salmon is when it comes out of the can. I have personal experience with this as I made the salmon patties. When I dumped it into a bowl, I was confronted with a horrible stench, skin, and bones. {Yuck, big time.} I almost decided to abandon my plans to cook with salmon, but I persevered. Once I mixed it with bread crumbs, eggs, Old Bay spice, onion, and a little bit of mayo, things looked a little bit better. And, of course, frying anything in oil helps immensely.

The Winners

We roped in a very nice (and brave) gentleman from Tattoo II to be our judge. He tasted all of the dishes, didn't discretely spit anything out into a napkin, and named winners in two categories - tastiest dish and most original dish.


1st - Salmon Patties (Tickety Boo) - that's me!
2nd - Chicken Dip (My Dream)
3rd - Baked Brie with Candied Spam (Amazed)

*Most Original*

1st - Spam Cupcakes aka Spoalf (Amazed)
2nd - Corned Beef Quesadillas (No Snow)
3rd - Enchilada Soup (Faith)

Have you ever cooked with canned meat? Any good recipes to share? Would you eat Spam?

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14 February 2018

Wordless Wednesday | Valentine's Day

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - If you like free vintage, royalty-free images, look no further than The Graphics Fairy. That's where I got these cute valentines.

2 - Scott and I don't do the whole Valentine's Day thing. It's way too much pressure. 

3 - Exchanging Valentine's Day cards in elementary school was such a big thing. I remember decorating a shoe box with construction paper and lace doilies to turn it into a "mailbox" for my classmates to put their cards into.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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11 February 2018

You Know It's Going To Be A Great Day When...

You know it's going to be a great day when...

...you have just enough milk left for your morning coffee.

...all the news headlines are about adorable kittens and puppies, instead of politics.

...dolphins frolic around your boat.

...nothing new hurts when you stretch in the morning.

...you've magically lost five pounds overnight and can button your jeans with ease.

...you find $40 in the pocket of your jeans.

...you do your taxes and realize you're going to get a refund.

...you finally submit your first novel to your editor.

...you forget to put sugar in your morning oatmeal and it still tastes great.

How do you know when it's going to be a great day?

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10 February 2018

Saturday Spotlight | 10 Minute Novelists Conference

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about our travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.

Today, we have a guest post by Pam Humphrey about the 10 Minute Novelists conference in August. It sounds like a great opportunity to connect with fellow writers and hear from some amazing speakers. Take it away, Pam.

By Pam Humphrey

As writers, some days we struggle to find ten minutes in a day to dedicate to our writing. We scrape together small snippets of time each day, adding words to our work-in-progress. Those words add up. Our small things, brought together, can make something great. 

The writers of the Facebook group 10 Minute Novelists believe that this is true. Started by Katharine Grubb, who wrote the book, Write A Novel in Ten Minutes A Day, the Facebook group offers tips, encouragement, and community for time-crunched writers worldwide.

August 9-11, 10 Minute Novelists will be hosting their first ever conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The theme is fitting: Small Things Brought Together. The conference hopes to bring this online community of hard-working writers together for learning, support, and fun. Through the speakers and learning opportunities, they hope writers can make connections, amplify writing energy, and add tools to their writing toolbelt.

Their speakers include:

James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Plot & Structure, and award-winning thrillers like Final Witness, Romeo’s Rules, Don’t Leave Me, Blind Justice, Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, and One More Lie, will give the keynote.

Donald Maass, founder of the Donald Maass Literary Agency and author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009), The Breakout Novelist (2011) and Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012), will speak on The Fire In Fiction. This hands-on presentation will reveal how master contemporary novelists make every book great—and how participants can use the techniques of greatness in their current manuscripts.

Janice Hardy, founder and owner of FICTION UNIVERSITY, is the award-winning author of The Healing Wars trilogy, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins, and of multiple books on writing, including the bestselling, Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It). She’ll be speaking twice on Saturday: Planning Your Novel in Ten Easy Steps: 10 Surefire Steps to Planning a Bestseller! and (later that day) on Revision Readiness: How to Revise.
For more information go to http://www.10MinCon.com. The conference price is $329, but will go up to $379 after March 1, 2018. Price does not include travel, airfare, or hotel accommodation. Price does include lunch for Friday, August 10 and Saturday, August 11. Hotel accommodation information is also available at www.10MinCon.com.

Make time for your writing this summer. Join us at 10MinCon!


Pamela Humphrey, author of Finding Claire and Finding Kate, has been a member of 10 Minute Novelists since March 2016. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, sons, black cats, and a leopard gecko. 

Have you ever been to a writing conference? Are you planning on attending 10MinCon?
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09 February 2018

Life Lately At Indiantown Marina

This is what life looks like lately at Indiantown Marina for me.

I'm knee deep in wading through beta reader feedback and making the final revisions to >>Murder at the Marina<< before I send it to the editor on Monday. This round of editing is taking way longer than I thought it would, but I've learned heaps in the process.

When I need a bit of a break from editing, I've been looking through my Boat Galley cookbook for recipe ideas.

No, I'm not looking for bread recipes. I'm on the hunt for a fabulous canned meat recipe. Yes, you read that right - canned meat. One of the essential provisions to have on board your boat if you're a non-vegetarian cruiser. We're having a canned meat cook-off this weekend and I want to experiment with a new recipe. Who knows, maybe I'll be just crazy enough to try something with Spam.

And in other news, winter appears to be over in southern Florida (at least for now).

When the real feel temperature hit 89 yesterday, I broke down and plugged in our air conditioning unit. I do feel a little guilty basking in air conditioning, while much of the rest of the northern hemisphere is still battling snow, but I have to say, it beats wearing three pairs of socks.

What's life been lately where you are? Any good canned meat recipes to share?

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