Possums, books, and Sisi: 1 May 2024

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In this issue: Freebies, li’l possums, Bummer release news, Sisi, a big change book cover, and a cozy anthology contest.

First, welcome to all new subscribers to the newsletter! It’s a little different from other author newsletters, so I hope you enjoy it. 


Head on over to this Fun in the Sun BookFunnel promo page to find free book downloads (and be sure to get yourself The Dancing Colonel for free if you haven’t already). Genres include mystery, fantasy, short stories, and more!

Li’l possums

Yes, this little guy (and I think he’s a guy because his face is wider than the females) is fresh off the hillside and ready for some apple pieces.

little possum

For those keeping track of our possum geneaology, he is one of three so far, son of Bold Petunia, who is daughter of Cassie, who is daughter of Nobbie and (possibly) Panda2. Yes, it’s the Possum Begats.

How do I know who’s who? I take photos, and watch for them almost every night, and try to tell them apart using facial markings and body shapes. I can tell who’s living in the garden by how fast they arrive for food. Plus I’m a trained historian (which doesn’t help in the slightest).

Bummer release news

For my newly released book Bummer at Luna Beach, I tried to get some publicity out more widely. Early reviews are coming in at Amazon and elsewhere, and all outlets should now have the book. My huge thanks to those readers who are posting reviews!

Bummer at Luna Beach colorful ad

It’s now available in paperback, hardback, or ebook. I’m still working on the audiobook!

If you’re not in the know, Bummer at Luna Beach is what I’m calling an “eco-cozy” mystery with a beachy location. Since it’s a cozy, there’s no gore or horror, just a busybody Miss Marple-ish sleuth, a newbie police detective, a teenage environmentalist, and a grumpy newspaperman. It’s light and fun, but with recognizable underlying themes about keeping beach towns funky.


Some day I hope to visit Vienna, so I like to watch movies and TV shows that are set there. And because I’m a historian, I like historical stories. 

Exactly one year ago (!) I reported to you on Vienna Blood, the TV show. Now I’ve just finished watching the first and second seasons of Sisi, on PBS.

Photo of actors playing Sisi and Franz Joseph

I know a little bit about the rein of Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary in the 19th century (I vaguely recall writing a chapter on 19th century European politics for a textbook a couple of decades ago). Franz Joseph’s wife Elisabeth (Sisi) was a popular but tragic monarch who may have suffered from depression. That’s not an issue in the first two seasons, where she captures Franz Joseph’s heart with a free personality much at odds with the norms of the time, and becomes a political asset. 

The costumes, though! We are at the height of the crinoline era, where skirts were held out in a huge bell shape by hoops. These were, in fact, a revelation and a relief for upper-class women, since the previous era had featured heavy petticoats. With a crinoline, you could do amazing things (like pee, and sit down) much more comfortably. The only possible historical inaccuracy I’ve caught so far is that Sisi’s maids wear them. Indeed, the costumed maids seem to be there primarily for comic effect.

It’s violent in the war scenes (lots of war in the 19th century, especially if you’re Austrian – those nasty Lombards and Hungarians are everywhere) but they saved money using slo-mo camerawork. Otherwise it’s a delight. Yes, it’s in German (and even a little bit of Hungarian), but with expert and evocative subtitles.

Big change book cover

My literary novel, Before the Time Machine, has had a generic book cover since it was published. Although literary fiction readers like the cover (they enjoy discovering what’s inside), general fiction readers can’t tell whether they want to read it. 

Before the Time Machine old cover

So I’ve worked on a new cover. Unfortunately, I lost access to the Adobe suite when I retired from the college, so I’ve created it with a combination of Canva and GIMP (the open source graphics program). The new one looks like this:

Before the Time Machine new cover

At a glance we can see that it’s about a historian and H.G. Wells, and time. We’ll see how it goes!

Cozy anthology contest

Writing contests make me crazy (not that I have far to go!). Some of them are just money makers, frankly. Folks set up a contest, charge everyone $100 to enter, give some of the entry fees as prize money, and keep the rest. Really, anyone can do this. 

But far better than an ordinary contest is an anthology entry contest. Anthologies are published as books, and are a good way to read several stories of the same genre together. Last year, A Warm Mug of Cozy was published as a collection of stories by wonderful cozy mystery authors.

A Warm Mug of Cozy Anthology cover

So this year for Volume 2, I’m entering a story. It features Rosie McMahon and Lou the newspaperman from Bummer at Luna Beach. They find a body while snooping where they shouldn’t be. The clues lead them to Koko Island to find the killer, along with police detective Rory Gallardo, a forensic technician, and a few members of the Koko Island Club. 

As you can imagine if you’re an Agatha Christie fan, Koko Island is isolated and the cast of characters very limited. I hope the tale gets accepted!

And more!

  • Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.
  • Want to read blog posts on history and writing, or even teaching online? See my Lisahistory blog.

Until next time, keep grousing!

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