Coffee, A Mind-Altering​ Drink


To say that coffee is mind-altering would not surprise any devoted coffee drinker, and certainly not me, as I consume a fair amount.

But the following passage in Uncommon Grounds, The History of Coffee and How it Transformed our World,* might.

coffee-beans-1650788_1280“Plants containing mind-altering alkaloids such as caffeine and cocaine almost all grow in the tropics. Indeed, one of the reasons the tropical rain forest provides so many unique drugs is that the competition for existence is so fierce, there being no winter to provide a respite from the battle for survival. The plants developed the drugs as protective mechanisms. The caffeine content of coffee probably evolved as a natural pesticide to discourage predators.” (p.41)


I had no idea. Isn’t nature grand. To think that the jolt I enjoy every morning is a result of the evolution of an alkaloid to protect a plant.

  • Mark Prendergast, Uncommon Grounds, The History of Coffee and How it Transformed our World, Perseus Books, New York, 2010.

Graphics free from Pixabay

Coffee, The Devil’s Drink

coffee-1576537_1920Coffee has a storied past filled with interesting characters, drama, and intrigue. Once considered the drink of the devil, its use spread like hellfire around the world.

“One of the most interesting facts in the history of the coffee drink is that wherever it has been introduced, it has spelled revolution. It has been the world’s most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think. And when the people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants and the foes of liberty of thought and action. Sometimes the people became intoxicated with their newfound ideas ….” *

When coffee reached the streets of Venice and Rome many greeted it with suspicion. It was, after all, a favored drink of their enemies, the Muslims, who they had been fighting with for centuries. Some called the exotic beverage the devil’s drink. According to legend, a group of priests asked Pope Clement VIII (1535-1605) to excommunicate the “bitter drink of Satan.” The pope decided to taste it instead, and said, “This drink of Satan’s is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”**  

The Pope baptized the drink and coffee houses sprang up all over Christendom. … or so the legend goes.

Something to think about, the next time you drink coffee.


*William H. Ukers, All About Coffee: A History of Coffee From the Classic Tribute to the World’s Most Beloved Beverage by William H. Ukers, 1922, p. 13

**Stephanie Weber, Coffee was the “Devil’s Drink” Until One Pope Tried it and Changed History, History Hustle, (

Picture courtesy of

Why am I writing about coffee?

I’m working on a paranormal mystery trilogy called, The Perfect Brew. I figure that gives me the perfect excuse to research coffee. Two things I love most in this world is doing research and drinking coffee.

How do you like your coffee?



Left Coast Crime in Vancouver


The Left Coast Crime Conference is a mystery reader and writer conference held annually somewhere along the west coast. This year it was held at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, B.C., Canada (March 28-31, 2019). They called it the Whale of a Crime. The featured speakers were Maureen Jennings (famous for her Murdoch Murder series) and C.J. Box ( famous for his Joe Pickett series).

I couldn’t resist, so I hopped on a float plane at dawn and traveled to the big city.













There are many activities at LCC conferences, but I focused on a few panel discussions in the time frame I had available over two days.

Here are my takeaways:

Vancouver Noir Panel

(with Sam Wiebe, R.M. Greenaway, Dietrich Kalteis, Linda L. Richards, Robin Spano, Timothy Taylor, S.G. Wong)

This panel represents a number of the authors in the anthology, Vancouver Noir.

  • the setting has a powerful effect on a story, and every neighborhood has a noir edge to it
  • there is darkness everywhere – you don’t have to look far
  • lines I loved, “on the wrong side of the Sky Train tracks in  Burnaby,” and a place where “the sidewalks were never clean.”
  • And my most favorite line was, “It’s just a bus ride away.”
  • btw all my favorite lines came from S. G. Wong

Social Issues in Crime Panel

(with Mia P. Manansala, Susanna Calkins, Libby Klein, Kathy Krevat, Kathy Aarons, and Travis Richardson)

  • readers want to see justice done
  • almost every story has an Archie Bunker character
  • I found it interesting that 2 of the 4 authors wrote light, cozy mysteries – social justice issues don’t have to be marked in dark stories

Maureen Jennings Interview

  • Maureen Jennings has always loved reading crime fiction
  • fell into writing stories when someone asked her to write a screenplay
  • right from the start, she chose to write historical mysteries as she wanted to avoid modern forensics and loves research
  • likes to put social issues into her stories e.g., making Murdoch Catholic in a particularly WASPy time period
  • the effects of war on people and society, ripples in her books
  • refers to the “boing-boing” thing – the thing which excites you and you hope will excite others.  For example, in her research, she discovered that starving WW1 POWs would sit around and describe in detail their favorite meal – so she had them in one of her stories return home and open Paradise Cafe, a place with their favorite meals

Lefty Humorous Award Nominees Panel

(with Janet Rudolph, Ellen Byron, Kellye Garrett, Timothy Hallinan, Leslie Karst, Cynthia Kuhn)

Omigosh, this panel cracked me up. I laughed for 45 minutes straight.

  • said in a thick Scottish accent: “I think everyone in Scotland is funny. I just decided to move to California and make money at it.”
  • many said they layer the humor as they go through the story after the first draft
  • “funny” often come from incongruity and situational humor – e.g., a man standing behind you with a gun is not funny, but give him hiccups …
  • snarky tones add humor
  • generally, they weren’t concerned about their humor offending anyone.  “People don’t write letters about jokes, but they will write about details to do with guns.”
  • write to the “real of the moment”
  • humor is in our lives – show it
  • there is nothing we can’t laugh at
  • dream to make people laugh and cry

Breakfast with the Guppy Ladies from Sisters in Crime

It was wonderful meeting up with people I had only connected with online. The talent and passion for all things mystery in this group are outstanding.

ps: notice the fish on the table:)


Crafting Twists and Reveals Panel

(with Rob Hart, Ashley Dyer, Harry Hunsicker, A.J. McCarthy, and Thomas Perry)

  • cliff-hanger chapter endings
  • get in late, get out early
  • learn to know when the scene is over
  • what kills authors is ego
  • your twists and surprises need to conform with real life or you’ll lose readers


Personal Comments

Would I do it again? Yes. Absolutely.

What was the crowd like? Comfortable. More laid back than the Thrillerfest crowd and less overwhelming than the RWA conference crowd. I found I could just relax and take it all in. The audience was a mixture of readers and writers. Most were middle-aged to seniors. There were more women than men and few visible minorities, which I thought was odd. Dressed in comfortable clothing with slight bed-head we all looked like we stayed up late the night before reading.

What about the venue? The Hyatt Regency was a great choice. The rooms were spacious and clean. I didn’t feel too cold or too hot. In a few sessions there weren’t enough chairs, but that’s hard to calculate.

And Vancouver shone. Even the mountains came out. (that only happens when we’re not clouded over)

What would you do differently the next time you go to a Lefty? Make more time for the event so I can listen to more panels and take part in other aspects of the conference.

Favorite moment? Meeting the Guppies.






The Night House – Thursday Review

the night house

A mysterious blue wave of magic rolls across the earth killing almost everyone. With well-honed fighting skills and survival instincts, Taya stays alive. She learns that warriors have come from another dimension to reap the world of its resources. They are called Arkavians. She calls them,  “ … a civilization of good-looking locusts.”

Thane, a member of the royalty in Arkavia, is attracted to Taya’s Arkavian-like features, integrity, and personal power.  Using a non-permanent, magical bond he ensures her service for a year as his bodyguard

On the first day of the invasion she promised herself that she would avenge the death of her friends, but as she spends time with Thane her feelings become complicated. “Guilt stabbed at her chest. Guilt for surviving. Guilt for living among the enemy and not trying to slit their necks at every opportunity. Guilt for actually liking the men on Thane’s team and guilt for … guilt for Thane.”

Taya struggles with her feelings as she helps Thane uncover layers of betrayal in his elite society and the true history of the portal connecting their realms.

This book is truly a flashlight-worthy read. J.C. McKenzie pulled me into the story on the first page and never let me go. There’s lots of plot, lots of action and hot romance coiled with emotion. Taya is easy to relate to and Thane is a memorable hero with a heart of gold and a body of steel. While the fight scenes are detailed and emotion-driven, McKenzie’s trademark humor lightens the darkness to create a well-balanced tone of adventure, love, and fantasy.

I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, or paranormal romance.

I gave this book 5 stars on Amazon. link




A Feel Great Book

Silver Bells

by Ev Bishop

51Qv0dY84TLSilver Bells is a delightful story filled with love, laughter, and light that left me feeling as if everything in the world is all right.
Bishop pulled me into a cold, winter’s night a few days before Christmas, and started her story. The heroine Bryn is traveling to be with her family for the holidays but her mind is filled with memories of her last boyfriend who had left her feeling inadequate. As the storm worsens Bryn pulls to the side of the road and witnesses a truck spinning out of control. Despite the blizzard conditions, despite being a woman alone, despite it being dark outside … well, despite everything she gets out of her car to check on the driver of the other vehicle which had run off the road.
Bryn meets Sean, a diamond in the snow, you might say, and they fall in love. Their love story isn’t easy and there’s a heart-wrenching twist that I won’t give away. I warn you, it’s a real page-turner.
Ev Bishop writes memorable romance, with very real characters and lots of love.

Amazon Link


Thursday Review: Killing it on Kobo

51buyukczulMy Review


Over six years, the author, Mark Leslie Levebvre built Kobo Writing Life from the ground up. Killing it on Kobo is a must-read for any independent publisher. Mark Leslie Levebvre details the ins-and-outs of the Rakuten Kobo business, it’s culture and its reach into the world of books. It’s written in a clear conversational tone that makes it fascinating and easy to read.

I highly recommend it, and gave it a 5-star rating on, Bookbub and Goodreads.

My Interview with Christine Munroe at Kobo

put in video clip

Christine Munroe, the director of Kobo Writing Life at Rakuten Kobo chatted with me on my podcast Blood, Sweat, and Words. You can hear her full interview here.

My Notes

I took eight pages of notes, but here are the highlights I think might interest you.

  • Over six years, the author, Mark Leslie Levebvre built Kobo Writing Life from the ground up and recently moved on to work at Draft 2 Digital
  • the name Kobo is an anagram for the word book.
  • Kobo was born in Canada out of the country’s largest book retailer, Indigo Books and Music, which is similar to Barnes and Noble in the U.S.
  • in 2012 the Japanese company Rakuten took over, changing it from a start-up to a major company in its own right with a vastly larger reach
  • Kobo is the number one digital bookseller in France, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It has a strong foothold in Canada
  • differs from Amazon in two important ways: 1. It sells only books. 2. It works on a collaborative business model. Rather than trying to dominate the book market in countries it seeks to work with the brick and mortar stores
  • “…if you are looking to expand your swales to other countries and to gain a readership in other global territories, and, perhaps most importantly, not be dependent upon a single retailer for the majority of your writing income (also known as ‘publishing wide’) leveraging Kobo should be among the strategies you employ.”
  • three huge advantages: Kobo Plus (a reader subscription service), Overdrive (a library connection) and their Promotion Tab
  • on Kobo every pre-order sale has twice the effect on ranking as a regular sale. There are ways to optimize your pre-orders
  • the Kobo team prides itself in its culture of collaboration. They go out of their way to help authors get their books to readers. They respond to all help inquiries quickly and thoroughly.
  • They link to Findaway Voices for audio
  • They have their own weekly podcast called Kobo Life.

Book Review for Stitches and Witches

Stitches and Witches, A Paranormal Cozy Mystery

by Nancy Warren

51iTVx3+ssL-2In Stitches and Witches, Warren crafts a tightly knitted cozy mystery within a fantastical world of vampires, witches, and wool. Her finely defined characters are so unique and likable they drew me into their world.
The murder, set in a tea room, was so brilliantly written I didn’t see it coming. Intrigued by all the subplot action in the room, the murder came as a complete surprise. Loved it!
As Lucy unravels the whodunit, the mystery deepens in delicious detail. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy light fantasy, witch cozies, or just a good yarn (pun intended).

Amazon buy link