Monthly Archives: October 2018

Life in the Margins.

We’re marking Halloween, and things that go bump in the night, in this blog today, albeit Dracula 1in a literary fashion. Whilst the kids are out tricking and treating, grown-ups might prefer to curl up in the warm with a good, scary, book. And none better than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the 1890s, Stoker was the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. He liked writing in his spare time, but most of his writing was un-researched, spur of the moment, stuff that was regarded as unreadable by any who saw his manuscripts.

It was different with Dracula. For this book he regularly popped round to the London Library and ended up reading about forty books before putting pen to paper. We know this because he acknowledged most of his sources, such as The Book of Were Wolves, when Dracula was first published. What we didn’t know until recently though,Dracula 2 was that he did not just read the books, he was the author of numerous notes in the margins. This was discovered by Philip Spedding, the library’s current development director, when he was leafing through one of the twenty-six books the library has kept in the knowledge that they were used by Stoker. No one had attributed the inky scrawling to him before, but their authenticity has now been confirmed by the University of Essex. Based on identical scribbles in the margins, the library has subsequently identified six more books, in addition to those listed in Dracula, that Stoker probably used for inspiration.

Libraries take a dim view of customers who deface books, but it seems Stoker got away with it at the time. Now the books have been removed from the shelves for aresearch student to go through all the annotations and try to link them with events in the story. Other defacers have not been so lucky – Joe Orton served six months in prison for defacing books. Mind – he did fill the margins with obscenities.

Well-known book defacers include Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Pierre de Fermat (him of Fermat’s last theorem fame). In 1637, Fermat wrote a complex theorem, in the margin of a copy of Diophantus’s Arithmetica. Underneath he wrote “Of this thing I have found a truly marvellous proof. The smallness of the margin will not contain it.” Seems he didn’t write it down anywhere else either, and it was nearly 360 years before Andrew Wiles, a British mathematician, came up with a satisfactory proof.


Marmite – Spread the Word!

Everyone has heard of Marmite – everyone in the UK, that is. I’m not sure if it is so popular elsewhere in the world. For those who aren’t in the know, Marmite is a yeastMARMITE-ON-TOAST-602918 and vegetable extract that is used as a spread in sandwiches or on toast. It can also be added to stews etc. for extra flavouring.

What people, including those in the UK, may not realise is that the word comes from marmite – a large cooking pot, or the soup cooked within such a pot. (Marmite is French for casserole, or pot). Presumably – and I’m guessing here – the soup was full of vegetables and very flavoursome. Hence its adoption as the name for the spread.

I quite like the taste of Marmite, but I don’t have very strong feelings about it. It doesn’t spoil my day if I have marmalade on my morning toast instead. But some people love the spread. And some loathe it. Feelings are so polarised that the term Marmite is often used these days about anything people feel strongly about one way or the other. Or anybody; I can think of a few politicians, actors, and comedians who can elicit a ‘marmite response’ whenever they appear on TV.

Links to my books

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Meet author – Debbie De Louise

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public debbielibrary on Long Island. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters-in-Crime, the Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. She has a BA in English and an MLS in Library Science from Long Island University. Her novels include the three books of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series published by Solstice Publishing: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place ***, and Written in Stone. Debbie has also published a romantic comedy novella featuring a jewel heist caper, When Jack Trumps Ace, a paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow, and has written articles and short stories for several anthologies of various genres. She lives on Long Island with her husband Anthony, daughter Holly, and Cat Stripey. (*** scroll to the end of this blog for a chance to download this book for free)

Debbie is proud to announce the release of the 4th book of her Cobble Cove Mystery series, Love on the Rocks. eBook & Kindle Unlimited: Debbie - teaserPaperback:

Here’s what it’s all about …

When Alicia helps plan a Valentine’s Day Party at the Cobble Cove library that also includes a surprise for her newlywed friend, Gilly, things go wrong when a mysterious box of chocolates addressed to the director turns out laced with poison.

Clues Lead to A Dead Suspect

Although Alicia promised John she’ll no longer meddle in crime investigations, she and Gilly set out to find the person threatening Sheila who murdered the courier of the Debbie Love on the rocks-001 (1) (2)deadly candy. The three people they suspect include the professor from California who’s been romancing Sheila while she assists him with research for his book; the obnoxious patron Rhonda Kleisman who threw coffee at the director after refusing to pay for a damaged book; and a visiting widow staying at Gilly’s inn who’s unnaturally curious about Sheila and earns the nickname of Madame DeFarge for her interest in knitting.

 While Alicia and Gilly are trying to solve this new Cobble Cove mystery, Sneaky is introduced to Gilly’s new kitten, Kittykai, a calico she brought home from her honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s not like at first sight, but the two cats eventually become friends. They also both play a part in foiling the killer’s murder attempts, but will Alicia and Sheila survive unscathed?

Excerpt: “Alicia, come with me to the Reference Desk. I left a few more decorations there and can use a hand putting them up.”

Alicia followed Sheila back to the desk admiring the paper hearts and flowers hanging from the library’s ceilings and the red streamers that lay across the stacks. Two huge red hearts graced a banner strung across the entranceway over the turnstiles. In the center of each, handwritten in glittery purple script were the names of her best friend and new husband – Gilly and Ron. She knew Gilly would be glad they used her nickname but wasn’t sure the sheriff would approve of the use of his first name. Most of the town resident’s knew him as Ramsay.

Sheila ran around the desk pulling out drawers. She reminded Alicia of a hen tending her chickens. “Gilly and Ramsay are going to be so surprised.”

Alicia agreed. The idea for a combination wedding and Valentine’s Day party was hatched up by Sheila, and it was a great thought. The rest of the staff was busy upstairs where the party would be held arranging more decorations there and putting out all the home-cooked dishes they’d prepared along with the red, pink, and white sheet cake that would be served for dessert.

“What’s this?” Sheila paused in her tossing of decorations atop the desk.

Alicia came over to see what had grabbed the director’s attention. A velvet shaped heart box sat by one of the computer stations. As Alicia came closer, she could see a post-it attached to it with the words, “To Sheila from your secret admirer.”

Sheila smiled. “That Ryan. He knows I have a sweet tooth and am particularly fond of chocolates.” She opened the lid. “My favorites. I know I should wait for the party, but these are just too appealing.”

Alicia watched as Sheila took a few pieces and bit into them. Only a few seconds after she swallowed, her smile faded. She began to choke and clutched her throat.

“Sheila, are you okay?” Alicia rushed over afraid she wouldn’t recall how to do the Heimlich maneuver, but Sheila had already passed out on the floor. “Help!” Alicia called racing to the stairs. The romantic music playing above her drowned out her voice. Just as she grabbed her cell phone to dial 911, Ryan Anderson walked through the door, a huge bouquet of roses in his arms. He stopped short seeing Sheila on the ground. “What happened. Oh, My God!”

“I’m dialing 911 right now,” Alicia said. “She ate some of your chocolates and then passed out. I’m not sure if she choked on a piece.”

“My chocolates? I didn’t get her any chocolates. I was bringing her these flowers.” He dropped them on the desk and then knelt down and started administering CPR to Sheila’s unmoving body.



The second book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series is free on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26. You can get it here on those Debbie - betweenarockandahardplacefreeteaserdays:

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all my eBooks are free. Check them out on my author page:

Synopsis: Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…

Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.

Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…

Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burgled, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.

John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…

When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.

Alicia faces her worst nightmare…

The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?

Download for free to find out!!

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One up for the apostrophe!

We have discussed the use and misuse of the apostrophe before on this blog. In brief, is should generally be used to show possession or a missing letter, and it should not be used to show that a word is plural or between a date and an ‘s’ – as (not) in ‘during the 1980’s, mobile phone’s were almost unheard of.’)

The use and misuse of apostrophes keeps grammarians in a constant state of alert, if not agitation – see Simon Griffin’s book F***ing Apostrophes. But they don’t usually attract Cornwallthe attention of local politicians, going about their official business. Unless that is, they are hoping to represent one of the newly formed districts in Cornwall UK. Ninety minutes were put aside for councillors to debate the names proposed for all the new districts, with the one likely to cause the most problems being Lands End. Or should that be Land’s End? One of the Liberal party councillors tentatively put forward the opinion of Craig Weatherhill, a local historian who has published books on West Cornwall and who said the name should include an apostrophe.

Cue, normally, a debate divided by party political differences as well as some legitimate or far-fetched alternative suggestions. After all, the humble apostrophe would not be compatible with any web address chosen for the district, and you might have expected there to be advocates for simplifying the grammar for all the new signposts, headed notepaper etc, that would soon be needed. apostrophe

Not so. A councillor for the national party stood up and said if the apostrophe was good enough for Mr Weatherhill, it was good enough for him. This seemed to stifle all further debate and the amendment was carried unanimously. Land’s End will be the name of the new district.

Links to my books – where you will find each apostrophe perfectly placed.

Meet Author – Donna Alice Patton

 Donna Alice Patton is a gardening enthusiast from the Midwest who has won numerous donna-alice-patton-1trophies and ribbons for her flowers and vegetables. In the winter, when she can’t play in the dirt, she soothes her creativity by writing instead. She’s the author of five books for children including: Saddle Up!  – based on a real-life California horse camp, and a finalist in the 2017 Silver Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, as well as Snipped in the Bud: A Tale from the Garden of Mysteries.

 What is the title of your latest book? The Mystery in the Maze – Book Two in the Maggie and Em series. When a friend tells them about an overgrown maze and a Donna 1missing treasure in gold coins, the twins are off on another adventure!

Blurb: What do ten silver dollars, an invasion of annoying relatives and a cackling voice in a mysterious, overgrown maze have in common? Eleven-year-old Maggie Brandenburg! While most of the US suffers through the Great Depression of the 1930s, all Maggie’s first-wish-on-a-star dreams have come true. Her family has a new home. Maggie and her twin sister, Em, are enjoying school and their first ever new bicycles. Best of all, her parents aren’t struggling to make a living. Life would be a bowl of cherries – except for those pesky, lip-biting worries.  If those vanished silver dollars aren’t found. . . if the relatives can’t be helped . . . and if that maze didn’t hold so many mysteries! Mysteries that are squeezing all the happiness out of Maggie’s dreams.  Can Maggie find her way through the tangled maze before time runs out?

 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The most challenging aspects are the social media and non-writing related activities.  Self-promotion does not come easily to me! The most rewarding aspect is just writing and finishing a story – having it feel ‘done.’

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Keep writing! Don’t stop or be discouraged because publication doesn’t happen right away. Try new things like entering contests or writing something different. 

What are you working on at the moment? At the moment, I’m doing the final editing of a western for children. It’s part of a series – wish I could think of a clever name – but right now I call them the Jenny books. This one is The Cattle Rustling Catastrophe. It’s almost ready to send to the publisher. 

What do you like to read? My reading habits are hard to pin down!  I’m interested in just about everything. Currently I’m on an armchair travel kick – reading Heidi’s Alps, A Walk in the Woods, The Hitchhiker’s Diary, etc. Mysteries, westerns and historical fiction never let me down! 

Where can readers find you?

Donna 2Facebook: 1111365852244019/







Meet Author – Nancy Wood

Nancy grew up in various locations on the east coast of America, and now calls central California nancy_wood_author_photohome. She retired recently, having spent 35 years as a technical writer – translating engineer-speak into words and sentences, which she describes as like translating ancient Greek, where you’re not too familiar with the Greek part!

From September, 2016 to August, 2017, she and her husband wandered across the planet, visiting France, Spain, England, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand, ending up in the delightful city of Ghent, Belgium for three months. They’re still on the move, having just returned from Amsterdam, where they participated in a home exchange. They’ll be travelling in India in December and January. You can check out their travel blog at: In addition to travelling and writing, Nancy is a keen photographer, especially macro photography. She keeps a photography blog at:

What is the title of your latest book? My latest book is called The Stork. It was released by Solstice Publishing in February 2018. It’s the second book in the Shelby McDougall series. This book picks up Shelby’s life five and one-half years after the events in Book 1, Due Date. The Stork can be read after Due Date or as a standalone. I included plenty of backstory for a couple of reasons: I didn’t want to require that readers read Due Date before reading The Stork. And, because of the gap between the two books (six years), I knew that no one would remember any of the characters or the story line!

Book blurb for The Stork: It’s been five and a half years, and Shelby McDougall is finally on track. Back in Santa Cruz, California, she’s sharing an apartment with her nancy the stork-001brother, and is in her second year of criminal justice studies. She’s landed her dream job as intern to local PI Kathleen Bennett. And her stone-cold love life is heating up. Her past is behind her. Almost.

A late-night phone call puts Shelby’s perfectly ordered life into a tailspin. One of the twins she put up for adoption has been kidnapped, snatched from his home in the middle of the night. There are no witnesses. After meeting the family, Shelby knows something is off. The adoptive parents tell her the children don’t sleep. They eat constantly, and their IQs are off the charts, qualifying them for either Ripley’s Believe It or Not or a sideshow act in the circus.

Against her better judgment, knowing that every cop in the state of California is doing their best to find this boy, Shelby agrees to help. By the time she realizes she’s up against something powerful, something evil, it’s almost too late. As Shelby fights for her life and that of the kidnapped boy, she learns the shocking truth about her babies. And she also discovers her own truth, a lesson she has to learn over and over: her best instincts might have unexpected, damaging, consequences.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? Most challenging: Making the time to write. For me, it’s something I have to do every day; it’s truly a practice. Most rewarding: Holding the actual book with an actual cover in my hands!

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Don’t let your inner critic wear you down. It’s there, it’s persistent, and it’s deadly. Best ignored!

What are you working on at the moment? I’m working on the third, and final book, in the Shelby McDougall series. I have the plot figured out, and am currently working on outlining each chapter. Once that’s done, I’ll start to write.

What do you like to read? Before I decided to write a mystery, I never read crime fiction. Now, it’s all I read! When I was growing up, there was Agatha Christie and that was about it. Now, crime fiction includes any subgenre of literature you can think of. Literary, social, cultural, historical, romantic, horror: it all can be incorporated in a mystery. There’s something very compelling about a one-size-includes-all genre! I also love a series; getting to know a character over time and in multiple settings.

Where can readers find you?

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Buy links: 
  • The Stork:
  • Due Date: – About Due Date (Book 1 in the Shelby McDougall series): Surrogate mother, Shelby Nancy - due date-001McDougall, just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins. Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory she’d just as soon forget. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she’s signed a contract, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments. But intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle have their own agendaone that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming, and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

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The origin of your computer bug.

Not many people know about Grace Hopper who died in 1992. She completed her Ph.D. Grace_Hopperin mathematics at Yale in 1934 and taught mathematics at Vassar for the next ten years. During the Second World War she joined the naval reserve and retired in 1986 as a Rear Admiral.

She was also a renowned computer programming pioneer. Among her achievements are her involvement in designing the common business orientated language (COBOL) for the first commercial computer, and her role in standardising the computer languages used by the navy.

She was a clever and remarkable woman, but what merits her inclusion of a blog about writers, writing and language, is her coining of a new meaning for the word bug. The average author may not know much about computer languages and programming but, unless they are sticking firmly to pen and paper, few will have completed a manuscript without the occasional bug freezing their computer. Although the first computer bug was, in fact, a moth.

Here is how Grace Hopper tells the story: Moth dead from natural causes isolated on white.

Things were going badly. There was something wrong in one of the circuits. Finally someone located the trouble spot and, using ordinary tweezers, removed the problem, a two-inch moth. From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”

Whilst we are talking about female mathematicians, another little known fact is that a magazine for ladies know initially as the Ladies’ Diary and then the Woman’s Almanac was a mathematical publication. It started out, as you might expect with titles like that, with recipes and articles on health and beauty. Within a few years however these had been supplemented by mathematical puzzles and questions about arithmetic, geometry, algebra and astronomy that would be answered by the readership. Increasingly, this readership included well known (male) mathematicians. But mostly it was the women readers who supplied solutions, often under pseudonyms.

The magazine flourished – it was published for nearly one hundred and fifty years (1704 – 1841) and suggests that the stereotype of women who can’t do maths, was less dominant in the eighteenth century, than in our own time. The original editor believed in cultivating the female mind as well as offering tips for improving her attractiveness to potential husbands. “Wit join’d to Beauty … leads more Captive than the Conqu’ring Sword.

Links to my books