Friday, January 24, 2020

The Forgivenss of Whales by T.K. Thorne

Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

Until recently, scientists thought humans were the only species with the specialty brain neurons responsible for higher cognitive functions like self-awareness, a sense of compassion and language.

They were wrong.

Fifteen million years before humans, whales began evolving these special cells*, and now a strange phenomenon is occurring off the Baja coast of Mexico.

Humans have been slaughtering Pacific whales there for a long time, first with harpoons, now with sonar from Navy ships. Whales live a long time, up to a hundred years. Some whales alive today still bear the scars of harpoons. Many scientists believe that it is implausible to think the whales do not remember this or associate humans with death and anguish.

Yet, in the same area where humans hunted them nearly to extinction, then tortured them with sonar, whales are approaching humans and initiating contact. A  N.Y. Times article detailed the experiences of the reporter and the stories of locals who tell about mother whales approaching their boats, sometimes swimming under it and lifting it, then setting it gently down. Almost all the stories involve the whale surfacing, rolling onto its side to watch the humans–reminiscent of the surreal moment in the movie, Cast Away, when a whale rises from the night sea to regard Tom Hanks with an eye cupped with starlight, an eerie intelligence, and a gentleness that moves us, for we know the massive creature could kill the castaway with a nudge or a flick of a tail fluke.

These real grey whales off Baja swim close enough that people invariably reach out to touch them, and they allow it. One person, reflecting on the experience said, “I have never felt more beheld.” It seems reasonable–given the position the whales place themselves in–that they seek the contact. In many cases, a mother whale will allow her calf to do the same. There is no food involved in these exchanges, only a brief interlude of inter-species contact and rudimentary communication:  I come as friend.


Where will humans be in another hundred years? I suspect we will be technologically advanced, but emotionally pretty much the same, even in a thousand years or ten thousand. But what about a million years? Can we evolve (if we survive) to a more sane, more rational, more loving species with a broader sense of our place in the universe and in life itself? Is it possible that these creatures with 15 million years of intelligent evolution on us, might regard us as a young species, children who don’t really know better,  and grant us leeway for our mistakes? Grant us . . . forgiveness?

If we humans could only do such a thing!  Beat our swords into ploughshares, at least among ourselves. It’s unlikely, but we might yet be targeted by alien invaders, so we shouldn’t throw away all of our weapons. Even whales have enemies, and they do not hesitate to defend themselves when attacked and even take the battle to the enemy! Recently, there are increasing reports of whales, specifically humpbacks, who are defending not only their own against attacks of orcas, but other mammals, such as other whales, sea lions, fur seals or walruses. They only attack mammal-eating killer whales, not orcas that primarily feed on fish. They feed and fight in a coordinated manner, communicating with each other.

There is proof that we humans are capable of realizing the power of peaceful cooperation and partnerships. Not long ago, for example, a team of over 2,000 scientists representing six countries worked to determine the human genome, all 3 billion parts, and then made that data freely available on the Web.

Perhaps one day we will stop slaughtering the fellow creatures on this blue-and-cream jewel that is our world; perhaps we will make friends and share discoveries, meeting whales on the mutual ground (or sea) of respect.

Our survival may depend on it.

*New research is indicating that glial cells may be responsible for imagination, creativity and probably play a role in consciousness. Einstein’s brain had an abundance of these cells, especially in the area responsible for spacial awareness and mathematics. Mice injected with human glial cells became 4x smarter. Glial cells can communicate with each other (via calcium waves) and with neurons, even signalling neurons to fire. Although whales don’t have all the “levels” of a human brain (and so their thought processes are probably distinctly different), whales have a much higher ratio of glial cells to neurons than humans in the neocortex, the area thought to be responsible for intelligence.

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch.

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list.

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with a dog and a cat vying for her lap.

More info at Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”

Thursday, January 23, 2020

I Probably Shouldn't Tell You This by Juliana Aragón Fatula

colorado encyclopedia poet Juliana
check out some of my poetry

January 22, 2020

Dear Reader, 

I’ve been struggling with writing a synopsis for my mystery novel. I’m a novice novelist. I lack the confidence of say a Linda Rodriguez who is a master writer and has successfully written several novels and a book on writing mysteries. And even though I read her book, Stephen King’s book On Writing, and Ernest Hemmingway’s book on writing, I am just learning what they have been doing for decades. 

I have many writer friends and they all write great books, poetry, screenplays, non-fiction, memoirs, even songs. They inspire me. So does Shakespeare. I want to be dead for hundreds of years and still being read and loved.  I named my first character in my first novel, Shakespeare. I adore him. He is the giant, Rock Hudson, character only her has long hair, a beard, tattoo sleeves, and rides a Triumph. He’s sexy. And I named the other male character, Tony, and thought about killing him off, but all my beta readers begged me not to kill him and to write a love story, instead of a homicidal murder who dunnit. I settled for both.

My sisters, L.A. and Eva are not super-heroes but they are sheroes of sorts and I modeled them after compilations of chingonas I’ve known in my lifetime. Some are friends, relatives, strangers, and women like Gloria Anzaldüa. I tried to give them attitude and strength but also human flaws like we all have. One is scarred for life, the other exercises and kick boxes her angst away and hacks computers. The private investigators, L.A. and Eva, are the best Chicana P.I. team in the U.S.A.

I added gay uncles, a transgender woman, an Asian and Jamaican Detective because I love Asian and Jamaican culture, religion, language and the LGBTQ community. I want my characters to represent the world and country I live in and my friends are anything but straight, narrow, or conservative. My friends are the rabble razzers, the misfits, the irrerverent, the mystical, the curious, the bipartisan, liberal, educated, and compassionate humans that inhabit the planet.

So, if my writing offends you, you are not my audience and I did not write this book or poetry or plays or letters or emails, or texts, or tweets fo you. So, don’t buy this book. Don’t buy copies to gift to your friends and colleagues because they won’t read my book either. They don’t want to hear what I have to say. My mom said if you don’t have anything good to say… 

Synopsis for The Colorado Sisters by Juliana Aragón Fatula

The love of money, sex, revenge, jealousy, and a border wall divide our humanity from the most important kind of kindness. This love story reveals secrets, mysteries, crimes, sins, and memories for two Chicana Private Investigators, sisters, L.A. and Eva, who love each other and their uncle, T.O. Eddie and his husband Lawrence who love and supervise the girls’ adolescence when their parents die and leave them orphans in Denver. And the two white boys, Tony and Shakespeare, who love the two Chicana sisters, L.A. and Eva, through grade school, high school, college, grad school and follow each other’s careers into adulthood and life’s adversities and celebrations. And the love story about a transgender woman, Dotie, who saves lives and rescues suicidal teenagers who are discarded and forgotten because they dare to sashay out of the fucking closet and into the daylight. And the love story of two therapy pets, Border Collie puppies, Wesson and Smith, and their undying devotion and loyalty to their pet parents.

Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia are worlds apart and the Chicanas, L.A. and Eva, and the white boys, Tony and Shakespeare, keep their long distance love romances from blossoming until the Atlanta Butcher murders the playboy billionaire and Tony attends the wrong party at the wrong time and is the last person to see his boss alive, but not the only suspect: the escorts, the wife, the ex-wife, the neighbor, and the mystery night-stalker top Detective Chan’s and Jones’ list of possible homicidal maniacs capable of decapitating and mutilating the body of Reggie Hartless. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Release Day for An Unfamiliar Sea!

by Bethany Maines

An Unfamiliar Sea officially launches this week! An Unfamiliar Sea is a classic mystery with two sleuths: 28-year-old Tish Yearly and her 79-year-old grandfather Tobias.  Tish and Tobias navigate the rocky waters of living together in Tobias's house on Orcas Island in the San Juan Island of Washington state, solve murders, and try to keep their dog Coats from getting diabetes.

This series was inspired by the time I spent assisting my grandmother before she moved out of her house, my childhood trips to Orcas Island and by those enduring one hour mystery shows like Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Psych.  For me those shows were always about enjoying the quirks and foibles of the characters as much as the mystery. I enjoyed the puzzle of working out how someone died, but I loved seeing how the strengths and weaknesses of the detective would play out each week and how they would triumph in the end. And if you ever read any of my books, you'll quickly realize that I like books with lots of chuckles and quick banter and these books are no exception. From Tish and Tobias arguing about condolence pie to the neighbors and who all have opinions on Tish's dating life I try to keep readers laughing too hard to figure out the mystery (but good for you if you do!).  So if you want a mystery that makes you smile and feels like an island vacation between two covers, then please take a trip to the San Juan's with Tish and Tobias Yearly.


In a storm, you never know which way is home.
Tish Yearly is about to open a wedding venue on Orcas Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. All she wants is to sail through her first wedding, figure out why her best friend isn’t talking to her, and tell her grandfather she’s dating someone he doesn’t approve of. But before she can get to any of that, Tish’s favorite employee turns up dead—apparently drowned in four inches of water. Now Tish, and her grandfather, former CIA agent and current curmudgeon and licensed P.I. Tobias Yearly, are wading through the suspects including a meth-cooking uncle, a brother with anger-management issues, and the mysterious island drug kingpin, who may or may not be going straight. Tish is attempting to navigate this unfamiliar sea, but she may not be able to weather the storms to find her way home.

Learn more about Tish Yearly: Dru's Book Musings Character Interview
Buy the book: Amazon


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Monday, January 20, 2020


by Paula Gail Benson

For my first Stiletto Gang post of 2019, I wrote about how I wish I had not delayed reading two books, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Quiche of Death. In particular, I found that M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series taught me about writing craft and structure.

Marion Chesney Gibbons (also known as M.C. Beaton and a string of other pseudonyms under which she wrote romance novels) lived a prolific writing life. She began working as a book store clerk. When given an opportunity to write a review for a local paper, in place of a reporter with a relative in the cast, she thought it was a mere substitution, then was handed tickets to another show and became the paper's critic. When she told her husband she could write better romances, she rose to the challenge and produced them. In each instance, from what might have been dismissed as inconsequential, she made careers.

In preparing this message, I looked at her website: It contained notice of her passing, but directly above that was the message her latest book was available for pre-order. In addition, there were announcements about the Agatha Raisin television series being renewed. Along with several mystery series, her biography estimated that she wrote around 100 Regency romances. What an incredible body of work and what a wonderful memorial for a writer, that one's website would be active with word of forthcoming publications at the time of one's passing.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to hear National Sisters in Crime President Lori Rader-Day address our local chapter through Facebook Messenger. She spoke about the inspirations for her most recent work The Lucky One, which came from a conversation with a new neighbor over a fence, and her work in progress, which came from a line in an Agatha Christie biography. Her remarks reminded me that the idea pool is literally all around us. We just have to be open enough to listen to and receive the suggestions.

What are you working on this New Year? How did the idea come to you? Is a new idea swirling nearby, just waiting for you to reach out and grab it?

Best wishes for your happiest reading and writing year ever!