Kathleen Kaska's Blog

August 31, 2014

A hundred years ago tomorrow Martha died alone at the Cincinnati Zoo. She was twenty-nine years old and the last of her species. Her death marked the extinction of the passenger pigeon, once the world's most abundant bird. In the early 19th century, their flocks still numbered in the millions. But by the mid-1890s, they were almost gone. Hunting and habitat destruction led to their diminished numbers.

John James Audubon wrote:
I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time, finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes. I traveled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose... Before sunset I reached Louisville, distance from Hardensburgh fifty-five miles. The Pigeons were still passing in undiminished numbers, and continued to do so for three days in succession.

The last wild passenger pigeon was shot in 1899. A monument to this glorious bird overlooks a valley in Wisconsin where the Wisconsin River spills into the Mississippi.
To read more about Martha and her monument, click onto one of my earlier blogs: http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/2012/04/sundays-for-birds-today-is-for-martha.html

The passenger pigeon is considered the poster child of quick extinction, but recently it has been given a new label. With the founding of the Revive & Restore project, the passenger pigeon has become R & R's flagship species. The project involves changing the genome of the band-tailed pigeon, closest relative to the extinct species, to passenger pigeon's genetic code, or at least as close as the scientists can get in. Question is not "well it work?" but "what if it does?"

For a thorough account of this genetic engineering feat, read Lessons: From Billions to None by Barry Yeoman in the May-June 2014 issue of Audubon Magazine.

I'd love to hear your comments.
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Published on August 31, 2014 18:47 • 1 view

June 30, 2014

On March 31, I blogged on Monday Mania about Mireille Guiliano's bestselling book, French Women Don't Get Fat. Using her simple, practical, and logical suggestions on how to lose a few pounds, I decided to give it a try. I didn't need to lose a lot of weight, but those five to seven pounds I put on when I reached my mid-thirties seem to stick around no matter how much I worked out or starved myself. So, on January 1st, I decided to put a few of Guiliano's suggestions into practice.  

My goal was to lose a pound a month and be six pounds lighter on July 1. I realized right away that my biggest problem in not losing weight was the club I joined to when I was little. Because my parents were excellent cooks, I joined the Clean-Plate Club. Since then, it's been difficult for me to stop eating when I was full. But I gave it a shot and was surprised how easy it was. It only took a few dats to get used to pushing my plate way even though it still contained food. This practice also saved me a few bucks. While dining out, which my husband and I do often, I'd ask for a take-out container and have the leftovers the next day for lunch. Now, the idea of eating an entire plate of nachos is unthinkable! 
I also cut back (not eliminated entirely) my worst offenders: muffins, bagels, and cookies. 
I cut out dark beer, which I no longer have a taste for.
I eat small, healthy snacks and never let myself get too hungry. 
Did I reach my goal? You darn right I did! Actually, I lost seven pounds!
At first, I couldn't SEE the difference in the mirror, but the scale at the gym didn't lie. I also compared the gym's scale to the one in my doctor's office. No difference! And my jeans, shorts, and capri pants are too big now. But when I looked at a photo of myself that was taken about eighteen months ago, I was shocked. Yep, I needed to lose those few pounds. In fact, I'm hopping to drop a few more. 
I'm also happy to report that the effort seemed effortless.

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Published on June 30, 2014 00:00 • 5 views

June 29, 2014

If my father were still alive, I'm sure he would sympathize with the Operation Migration crew that is in charge of caring for, raising, and training this year's flock of whooping crane chicks. There are four girls in our family (plus my mom); no boys. Dad used to always say he lived with five bosses.
This year's class is made up of five feisty girls, the oldest gal, whose nickname is Maxine, and her
Call me Peanut.sister, Aiden, plus two more girls, and one shy, little fellow named Peanut. They are still socializing at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and will soon begin their flight training in White River Marsh in Wisconsin. In the meantime, the chicks are hanging out near a pond, gorging on grubs and challenging one another. The youngest, number 10-14, has decided that her space is very important and any chick who doesn't respect her territory is in big trouble. 
Chick number 3-14 recently put the scare into everyone by disappearing, at least they thought she'd disappeared. After an extensive search of the area, she was discovered lounging in number 2-14's pen, while 2-14 was getting a tan under the heat lamp.
Stay tuned for an update soon. Anything can happen! My prediction: little Peanut will rise to the occasion and rule the roost.

For more information about life with cranes, read Brooke Pennypacker's blog post, "Man's World -- Not!"
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Published on June 29, 2014 09:00 • 10 views

June 22, 2014

Here's a great one for Sherlock Holmes fans.

The Poisoned Penman By Dan Andriacco & Kieran McMullen: Review/Guest Post/Giveaway

#sherlockholmes, holmes, mysteries, ArthurConanDoyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, sherlockians
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Published on June 22, 2014 11:22 • 4 views

June 19, 2014

My Story, My Way ~ An Indie Adventure: Five Secrets from Kathleen Kaska and Her Novel ~ M...: First we get to meet Kathleen, and then read her secrets. They're very interesting :) Bio:   Kathleen Kaska writes the award-...
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Published on June 19, 2014 13:14 • 4 views

May 30, 2014

          A long time ago when I lived in Manhattan, I used to look out my apartment window and wonder about that place across the Hudson River. I knew very little about New Jersey and didn't have the time to venture over and check it out. After all, I lived in Manhattan; why should I go any place else? We had parks, museums, art galleries, restaurants, nightclubs, Ray's Pizza, and a great one-of-a-kind bookstore called Barnes and Noble. Like I said, it was a long time ago.
          In October of my second year in the Big Apple, I finally had the opportunity to travel to New Jersey. I was on my way home back to Texas. What I remember about that drive-through of the Garden State was getting lost and going around in circles for two hours.
          Fortunately, my husband and I recently explored the entire New Jersey coastline on our way from Key West, Florida to Eastport, Maine. We discovered Cape May with its cute cottages; Asbury Park where Madam Marie still told fortunes; Atlantic City with it delicious smells of hot dogs and fried clams; Atlantic Heights with the nicest boutique hotel and best corn muffins in the world.
          Even more recently, I discovered another New Jersey treasure, Anastasia Pollack, the protagonist in Lois Winston's Crafting Mystery Series. Anastasia is the crafts editor for American Woman, a New Jersey magazine. On the surface, she sounds like an average American career woman with an average American family, living the average American life. That image is quickly shattered on chapter one when I, and Anastasia, discover her husband has just dropped dead in the casino at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. What makes this a real shocker is that husband Karl was supposed to be at a business meeting in Pennsylvania instead of gambling away the family's last dollar.
          Anastasia is not only penniless; she is left with two teenage sons who now have little chance to go to college; a Communist live-in mother-in-law who despises her; and a loan shark who is threatening to kill her and her family if she doesn't fork over the cash owed to him by Karl, the dead husband. Just when you think her life can't get worse, she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a fellow colleague who was killed in Anastasia's office at the magazine.
          Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, is the first book in Winston's series. The story is lighthearted, fast-paced, and despite the maddeningly frightful circumstances, which surround Anastasia, humorous.
          I've been on a quest this year to find new mystery writers I can add to my must-read list. The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series is right there at the top of my list. Check out Lois Winston's website for more information on her crafting mysteries.

          I had the opportunity to have Lois as my guest on Birds and Books on Tuesday, May 27. Check out  Jersey Strong. Lois shared her thoughts on growing up in New Jersey. The topic sparked some entertaining conversation in the comment section. Lois also offered a peek at her recently released Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery, Patchwork Peril.

Buy Links:

Patchwork Peril
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JVPZKGE/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00JVPZKGE&linkCode=as2&tag=loiswins-20
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/patchwork-peril-lois-winston/1119313149?ean=2940149202829

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/patchwork-peril

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/patchwork-peril/id868104007?mt=11

Crafty Crimes, a Trio of Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1940795079/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1940795079&linkCode=as2&tag=loiswins-20&linkId=5F4XXSL3XQ2FIHRO

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Published on May 30, 2014 06:15 • 5 views

May 27, 2014

Lois WinstonLois is talking New Jersey; good stuff, and I couldn't agree more. On a trip a few years ago, my husband and I stayed in several "beach towns" along the Jersey Coast from Cape May to Ship Bottom to Asbury Park to Atlantic Heights. In fact, if I wasn't so happy about being from Texas, I'd want to be from New Jersey. After all "The Boss" (Springsteen) is from New Jersey, and so is Anastasia Pollack. I'm sure you know Springsteen, but read on to learn more about Anastasia. She's not a rocker, but she's just as entertaining. Stop by and tell us why you love New Jersey. 

Anastasia is Jersey Strong

When you grow up in New Jersey, you learn to put up with a lot of caca from the rest of the country. We’re the butt of many a late-night comedian’s joke—even those who happen to live here. I have no idea why. I’ve been to most of the other forty-nine states in the U.S., and in my opinon, many of them fall far short of New Jersey.
Out-of-staters think we’re nothing but strip malls. To them I say, come visit Westfield or Haddonfield or Princeton or Summit or Chatham…I could go on and on. We have dozens and dozens of quaint towns, many of which have been used as settings in movies and TV shows. And no matter where you live in New Jersey, within a relatively short period of time you can be in the mountains or down the shore. (Yes, we call it down the shore. Other people go to the beach or the seaside but not those of us from the Garden State.)
We have culture, sports, and cow pastures. Horse farms and high-rises. We’re home to the famous and the infamous. We probably have more authors per capita living in New Jersey than any other state.
We even legally own the Statue of Liberty, but try telling that to New York. However, since they usurped our national landmark, we took their beloved football teams. That’s right, folks, for those of you who live in other parts of the country, both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in New Jersey.
However, because we’ve had to put up with so much negative press and razzing for so long, those of us from New Jersey have had to develop a tough hide. We’re also known for our sense of humor, which runs more toward snark than Minnesota Nice. That’s why I set my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series in New Jersey. Anastasia has had to channel her inner Jersey Strong to cope with what I’ve dumped on her—murder, kidnapping, Mafia loan sharks, a communist mother-in-law—and she does it all with Jersey fortitude and a biting sense of humor.
There are now four full-length Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries in the series and three Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries. Patchwork Peril, the third mini-mystery, is the latest release.

After rescuing her elderly neighbor Rosalie’s quilts from a rainstorm, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack discovers Rosalie unconscious at the bottom of her basement stairs. Rosalie’s estranged niece Jane flies east to care for her during her recovery, but Rosalie suspects Jane’s motives are less than altruistic, going so far as to accuse Jane of trying to kill her. Is Rosalie’s paranoia a result of her head injury, or is there something more to her accusations? And can Anastasia uncover the truth before it’s too late?
All of the full-length novels are available in both print and ebook formats. The mini-mysteries were previously only available as ebooks, but after countless people asked when they’d be available in print, I recently bundled them together into Crafty Crimes, a Trio of Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries.

If you’d like to learn more about the real New Jersey and read about an amateur sleuth with Jersey ‘tude, I hope you’ll get to know Anastasia.
Buy Links:
Patchwork PerilAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JVPZKGE/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00JVPZKGE&linkCode=as2&tag=loiswins-20Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/patchwork-peril-lois-winston/1119313149?ean=2940149202829
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/patchwork-peril
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/patchwork-peril/id868104007?mt=11
Crafty Crimes, a Trio of Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysterieshttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1940795079/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1940795079&linkCode=as2&tag=loiswins-20&linkId=5F4XXSL3XQ2FIHRO
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth.

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Published on May 27, 2014 00:00 • 4 views

May 16, 2014

          Today is national Endangered Species Day. I'm not sure if we should celebrate on not. It's a
whooping cranegood thing we adopted the Endangered Species Act in 1973. It's not a good thing that we had to do so. But bringing about awareness of those animals and plants whose numbers are dwindling is necessary.
          When I began teaching seventh-grade science in 1986, several students baulked over a situation that had been occurring in our community in the Hill Country west of Austin. A huge development had been approved in an environmentally sensitive area. Two endangered bird species, the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler, nested in and near the habitat where the development was going in. Many of my students couldn't understand the concern of folks who started a campaign to protect the birds. I heard comments such as, "What's the big deal over saving two stupid little birds?" or "The birds can just nest someplace else."       
          This topic was discussed during my environment and ecosystem unit. Sometimes I felt like I was pulling teeth to get them to understand that all forms of life are linked together like one giant web. I showed them nature videos, assigned them food webs to design, and I told them about plants such as the rosy periwinkle that helped cure cancer-causing diseases. Those first few years in the classroom, I often went home frustrated at the student's lack of understanding and empathy.
          I'm happy to say that over the years, their attitudes changed. I no longer had to convince students the importance of conservation. They understood the worldwide connection of all living things and my environment and ecosystem unit became one of their favorites. I'm convinced their change in attitude came from educators and conservationists who strove to bring about environmental awareness and understanding. 
          What's your favorite endangered species and what is being done to to save it?
          For endangered species festivals and events around the country, click on to the following link.

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Published on May 16, 2014 00:00 • 6 views

May 2, 2014

          In February 2010, my husband and I donned wet suits and snorkeling gear and jumped into the cold waters of Florida’s Crystal River. Our guide told us to swim to the port side of the boat, go around the bend for about a hundred yards, and turn left into a small lagoon called Three Sisters Springs.
            My husband had snorkeled with the manatees a few years earlier and urged me to experience what to him, was a spiritual moment. I’d seen the wildlife in Africa, boobies and giant tortoises in the Galapagos, elephants and rhinos in India, and every tropical fish imaginable while diving in Mexico; and, of course, the whooping cranes in Texas. These were all enchanting moments for me. How could one marine mammal species top them?
            As we swam closer to our destination, the water warmed and the river’s lagoon opened into a quiet manatee haven. Below the surface were at least two-dozen dozing gray blimps. After a few moments, several began to rise for a breath of air. A particular one grabbed a gulp of oxygen and on his way back down, stopped and stared me in the eye. Notwithstanding my other memorable wildlife encounters, this one left a lump in my throat. Beholding this sad, gentle visage was unlike any wildlife encounter I’d ever had before.

            Not until a few weeks ago, when I picked up Craig Pittman’s book, Manatee Insanity: Inside the War over Florida’s Most Famous Endangered Species, did I fully appreciate the good fortune to have experienced a manatee moment. Pittman tells the story of the species’ struggle to survive in a rapidly changing environment. He leaves no stone unturned in his comprehensive research of the manatee’s story. More than five thousand manatees have been killed by speeding powerboats during the past four decades. The protection awarded them by the Endangered Species Act did little to keep these animals safe from boat collisions and propeller blades. Grassroots organizations, wildlife biologists, and concerned citizens who attempted to designate manatee sanctuaries and lower its speed limits for boaters, were vigorously opposed by politicians, and lobbyists for developers and construction companies. What ensued was the “Manatee War,” which pitted the rights of an endangered animal against the rights of citizens who wanted to enjoy Florida’s waterways without restriction.      
            Pittman is a journalist whose research skills are unsurpassed. He tells an honest, accurate story; and one full of passion, frustration, failure, and success. His book reads like a true-life thriller. Just when you think the tables will turn in favor of the manatee, a major setback occurs making the species’ survival seem impossible. I highly recommend Manatee Insanity to anyone passionate about environmental issues and endangered species and those who dedicate their lives to making a positive difference in our world.
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Published on May 02, 2014 07:20 • 13 views

April 29, 2014

Ever wonder how writers choose the names of their characters? I asked mystery writer Marilyn Meredith that question and she graciously shared how she does it. Read her blog post and find out how your name can be immortalized in one of mysteries. author Marilyn Meredith
How I Choose Names for My CharactersActually, I have many ways to do this—and they have evolved over the years, but because I’m writing series, there are some character names I’m stuck with and might have chosen differently if I were just starting today.I keep a collection of names. Whenever I go to a graduation I keep the program, or see a list of names in the newspaper, I save them in a special folder. When I’m searching for a name for a character, I often pick a first name from one list and the last from another. Of course the names have to fit the image of the person I see in my mind.When it comes to someone with a certain ethnic background, I’ll go online and find baby names from that country and often the meaning of the names is there, and that helps me make a decision. Once in a while I’ve seen an unusual first name on a checker or bag person’s name tag and written in down to use someday. I also use names that belong to people I know.In the beginning, when I was writing the first book in the Rocky Bluff series, I named my main character, a police officer, Doug Milligan. Doug because that’s always been a favorite name of mine and Milligan just seemed to fit the image I had of this character. He’s been in every book since.Ryan Strickland is also an on-going character, another police officer, and one who has really changed from what he was like in the beginning—a self-centered, publicity hound with low morals. Ryan seemed to fit his persona. I’m not sure where Strickland came from—maybe one of those lists I mentioned.Barbara Bertalone is a main character in that first book and she appears in nearly all of the later ones too. Because she is a good wife and mother, a down-to-earth woman, Barbara seemed to be the perfect, uncomplicated name for her. Bertalone is her first husband’s name and I borrowed it from a friend.Stacey Wilbur made her debut as a minor character—but she became more and more important in each subsequent book. Stacey was a popular name when I first conceived her and Wilbur was the last name of someone I knew long ago.Felix Zachary was
In my latest book, Murder in the Worst Degree , one of the pivotal characters is named after the person who won my last contest. You can see the details for the contest at the end of this post. When doing that, sometimes I’ve already written the book and merely find a character who would fit the winner’s name—and also has to be someone who won’t appear in another book. With Murder in the Worst Degree , I had no idea what character I would give the name of the contest winner until she appeared on the page.What about you who are writers, how do you come up with your character’s names? Murder in the Worst Degree : The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand. Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/Blog: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith/Contest:Once again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used for a character in a book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree .

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Published on April 29, 2014 00:00 • 12 views