Norma Huss's Blog

April 7, 2020

A bit of history — Ration Books

Rationing helped the war effort

In this time of corona virus and a disrupted country, I remember another time of disruption in the United States, and the world. Since I’m old, I remember World War II. I was a child, but I remembertrue ration books. The things rationed were to allow our country to tool up to fight a war. We received the books in the mail, one book for each member of the family. In each book were tiny perforated rectangles in a variety of colors. We had no idea what would be rationed.

The told us by radio on a Sunday morning. (Stores were all closed, as usual.) Starting the next day, we would need a coupon as well as money to purchase certain good. Canned vegetables, meat and butter, shoes, sugar, and gasoline are the ones I remember. The products rationed were to save shipping space (sugar), metal for building ships (canned foods), meat, butter, and shoes to feed and clothe the soldiers and sailors. Or, at least, that’s what we surmised.

Some products were developed to overcome such needs as shoes for a growing child as, I seem to remember the allotment was one pair a year. And, shoes were added to provide a fashion change. They called them play shoes, and there was no leather in them, just plastic and cloth, rather like tennis shoes on steroids. Also, food providers developed cake mixes, and, I tell you, they were a sorry bunch of a waste of sugar. I remember my mother trying one. Yuck. And, although, as a farm family we mostly produced our own food, raising cattle, chickens, and vegetables and saved our meat coupons for butter, the city folks didn’t have that advantage. Someone developed oleo margarine.

The gas for our cars was another thing. The speed limit was changed to 35 miles per hour to save our warn tires — as rubber went to the war effort as well. But farmers not only were generally exempted from the draft as the country needed the food, but they had extra gas to run their tractors. My dad shook his head over the government’s system. They asked each farmer to record how much gas was used during the spring months then multiplied the allotment by four times that. Yep, spring is when the farmer runs his tractor the most, plowing and seeding his crop. He runs it also to harvest according to what he grows. For us it was hay to feed the cows that produced the milk.

I remember one pair of my shoes. I was in the sixth grade and my mother decided I was grown up enough for women’s shoes. (Or, maybe my feet were too big.) Anyway, those shoes were a yellowish color with Cuban heels. Now, picture me playing softball during recess, clunking around in those shoes.

But, of course, I survived. And so did our country.

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Published on April 07, 2020 13:45

March 5, 2020

Pie in the Sky

Recently I saw a cartoon that mentioned “pie in the sky.” I’ve heard the expression before. I decided this would be my first blog entry in something new—a once in a while series of memories connected to history. Um, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll just start with an illustration and continue from there. Okay?


Now for the memory of “pie in the sky.” Actually, it’s my father’s memory, one he shared with me when we were organizing his story of working for college money.

In 1923, when he was nineteen and living in Washington state, my dad got a job in Alaska. They sent him by boat, but not by first class. He and several other men had bunks in the hold, along with five cows. One of the other men they called Baldy since he was partially bald, and the oldest of the group—maybe twenty-nine or thirty. Another one they called Shorty.

Shorty was being sent to Alaska to spread the word about the Industrial Workers of the World. He gave quite a talk on Communism, which was new to my dad.

When Shorty got through, Baldy had his say, which was, “Hooray for free speech. I believe in the IWW, free speech, and overhead sewer systems.”

Shorty’s response was to sing the following song.

A long-haired preacher comes out every night.

And he tells us what is wrong and what is right.

He tells us when we’re flush, give our money to the Lord.

And he tells us when we’re on the bum.

Work and pray, live on hay.

You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

My dad had the impression that was an Industrial Workers of the World song, but Wikipedia has a bit different story. Possibly the IWW appropriated the last two lines of the original song. But “pie in the sky” meant the same thing it does today.

Another thing that spurred this blog is my dad’s book, his memory and my decision to start posting my memories. The book we put together is A Knucklehead in 1920/s Alaska, now available as a paperback and as an e‑book for all e‑book readers here.

Do you have a memory about “pie in the sky” to share?

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Published on March 05, 2020 11:01

October 2, 2019

A BookFunnel Promo

The Ins and Outs of a Promo


I’ve never before joined a BookFunnel Promo, in fact, I think they are rather new. This one runs from October 1 — 7, 2019, and is for cozy paranormal mysteries. Hey, I can do that. I have a couple of books with ghosts and one with an imaginary cat. Unfortunately, there are only eight books signed up, so it probably won’t be a big success. (Just how much can you make off of a 99 cent book? Some are even free.) But it doesn’t cost a cent (other than the annual amount to use BookFunnel). And, I get to play with to make a visual. Which I did, as you see above.

The title of the promo is Witches and Wolves, but there are no books included with wolves. There’s a haunted ship, a dog that sees ghosts, a psychic cat, and a collection of both witches and wolves. Oh, yes, if you want to take a look, here’s the link to these cozy mysteries.

I like to write my blogs for readers, but sometimes I include something for writers. Okay, this could be considered for both audiences, right? Tomorrow is my day to promote this to my newsletter. (That’s for readers.) I’ll do the wrap-up after this is over. (That’s for the writers.)

I’d love to hear any comment about my blog, or my stupendous, wonderful, took me all of 15 minutes to make visual. Okay, it was fun, anyway!

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Published on October 02, 2019 12:38

September 14, 2019

Cozy Mystery Day

It’s Agatha Christie’s Birthday — Let’s Celebrate International Cozy Mystery Daytrue

Did you know September 15 is Agatha Christie’s birthday? Since Dame Christie’s mysteries started the mystery genre now known as cozies, both England and the United States celebrate today as International Cozy Mystery Day. Officially, cozies are all about murder in a small community that is solved by someone other than the police. (Amateur detective, please step forward!)

English cozies can be quite mannerly, with Lords and Ladies. American cozies often involved dogs or cats, and especially food, or a small shop that sells a variety of things.

Cozy communities come in all varieties: small towns, fishing villages, farm communities, the sea shore, and even aboard ship. The time zone may certainly be current, but many cozies are set in the past. Some are even set in the future. There might be ghosts involved, artificial intelligence, or aliens, and even romance. Holidays bring out a new batch of titles. (Nothing quite like a little murder for Halloween, right?) In fact, anything or anyone can be included in a cozy — except a truly gruesome killing, a world-wide threat, or a professional crime solver!

I’ve illustrated a bit of variety with twelve covers. A couple of authors answered when I asked for volunteers. Some, I selected from a Guppy post. (Guppies are Sisters in Crime members.) I’ve read some of the books myself. And, others I just happened to have the cover copied to my canva dot come file. (Made it easy.) Some of the titles are quite old, some brand new. (I’m enclosing the Kindle links I find at Amazon — one is only available in print.)

What cozy do you love the most? Do you have a cozy series you can’t get enough of? One of my favorites is the series that includes Click Here For Murder by Donna Andrews. Unfortunately, I must be in the minority, as her publisher only wanted four of them. There definitely was an overall ongoing plot that never happened. (Oh, and the fact that the alphabet now ends at Y. But that one is understandable.)

Death By DissertationChristmas Cocoa MurderDown in FlamesPortrait of a Dead GuyClick Here for MurderCliff HangerA Souffle of SuspicionJudge Thee NotThe Family WayStrangled Eggs and HamPlay It Again, SpamFat Cat at Large

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Published on September 14, 2019 16:32

August 14, 2019

New Bonus Book

A New Bonus Book — for Norma’s Chat Members

I love my newsletter members. We have some lovely chats. Recently, they helped me design the truecover for my latest book, a free-be for them and anyone who wants to join my chat group.

You can see from the cover what is included. But I’ll give you a hint about what is inside.

The two new short stories are represented by the stone and the donuts. The amazing history (the War of 1812 on Chesapeake Bay) is hinted at by the sailing ship. The gold nugget and the black cat? Oh, they are important in a couple of my published books. I’ve included a brief mention of each book. (Trying to lure you into buying one, of course.) A taste of each, you might say.

Speaking of taste, that’s for the kitchen hacks. Not recipes, but tasty ideas for strawberries, sloppy Joe sandwiches, and a super sauce. Yum.

The complete book is available in three different forms through this Book Funnel link. You will be asked for your e‑mail address to be signed up for my usually monthly newsletter. I always include other author’s books (and sometimes one of mine) on sale or free (usually cozy mysteries). I include any writing news, and try to entertain. (Well, try, anyway.) No spam, and no e‑mail addresses shared. If you are already a member, use the same email address so you won’t get duplicate newsletters. Enjoy!



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Published on August 14, 2019 08:09

May 23, 2019

Jo Durbin Mystery Series

The Jo Durbin Mysteries


Links to all sites:
Hidden Body — Paperback and e-book  (All e-books free)

Paperback   Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iTunes     Universal Link

Yesterday’s Body — Paperback and e-book

Paperback    Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iTunes    Universal Link    Walmart

Forgotten Body — Paperback and e-book

Paperback    Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iTunes    Universal Link    Walmart

A Jo Durbin Mystery Series — e-book only

Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iTunes    Universal Link    Walmart

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Published on May 23, 2019 08:12

April 3, 2019

Dog Lover Mysteries

Mystery — Gone to the Dogs


What a lovely group of book covers! It is truly amazing what variety authors come up with, all to entertain their readers. Not only did these books satisfy my desire to follow a mystery to a satisfying conclusion, they each had an unusual attraction, AND taught me something I didn’t know. Now, that’s quite an accomplishment when you think about it.

So, what did I particularly like about To Kill A Labrador?  I loved the voice, which means, I loved the way the author put the words together. Her style made me turn the first page. (Okay, I read it on my Kindle, so I didn’t actually turn a page.) It kept me so involved in reading that I finished it it two evenings. What did I learn? Answer — a whole lot about service dogs for veterans. And how did all that happen? The main character (and amateur sleuth) trains service dogs. When she is called in to take care of Buddy (the dog), she discovers his veteran owner is assumed guilty of murder until proven innocent — and she does something about it.

Oh Bits, Grumbles From The Grave was quite unusual. It is historical fiction—heavy on the fiction, I’d say. Somehow, the story galloped along with sudden additions of other elements. The reader doesn’t know what the title refers to until at least half way through. But I do like books that surprise me. Let’s see, there were viewpoints from the heroine who was a recent college graduate hired on a newspaper, a German spy, a gravedigger, a woman, before and after she became a ghost, a couple more as well, I believe. And, how about a haunted mirror? Readability and the unexpected lured me into this book and kept me reading to the end. What did I learn? Fantasy, history, and mystery can co-exist.

Girl in the Shadows was a fun, quick read. I especially liked the main character, Abby, a girl with a super memory who takes a temp secretary job. I liked her actions and reactions, and her take-hold attitude, as she quickly discovered she liked her new job—no, she loved investigative work. She also took  over her boss’s trusty beagle Chewie. Hi-jinx ensue! This book was short and funny. Can’t beat that combination. Guess I didn’t really learn anything new, except, perhaps, that short books are selling and getting nice reviews. (Okay, as an author, that’s something to consider when I’m struggling to complete 70,000 or more words.)

This Dog for Hire was an excellent intro to behind-the-scenes shenanigans at a dog show. Rachael is the investigator, checking out those shenanigans with her pit bull Dash. They’re a team, and one can always agree that if you want a dog to protect you, a pit bull can’t be beat.  At times I was a bit confused, which is usually good for a mystery. This book kept me engrossed, with a mystery to solve and a main character who was (at least in this story) a bit too suspicious for her own good.

These are all mysteries I’ve read and enjoyed. I didn’t give any of them five stars, but they came close. The unique take-away for different ones? One was the voice, one was surprise elements, one was the main character, and the last took suspicion to a new level. I learned something different from each one as well: the very different “occupations” for dogs, and four different approaches to the doggie mystery.

Now I have a question or two: If mysteries are your thing, do you enjoy a variety which might include animals as main characters? Do you have a favorite mystery that includes dogs? Okay, last one: Tell me, quick! What book is it? (I love a good mystery, and a personal recommendation is super.)

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Published on April 03, 2019 13:18

February 23, 2019

History — Four Views

History — as viewed by four authors


History is boring, dull, ho-hum. No, no, history is exciting, new and fresh! Which is it? Is it thick books filled with facts, dates, wars, inventions, and famine? Or is it a lively narrative, full of mystery and intrigue?

Answer—it can be either! Amazingly, the subject you may have hated in school, just might be retold in another way, a way that keeps you glued to the pages, thinking not of sleep or a TV drama but of what comes next with the turn of a page. And, the same historic facts may form the basis for multiple books, each completely different. History may even be fictionalized. (That is, turned into a story possibly even more alluring than the facts. But you knew that, right?)

The four books illustrated here approach history in four different ways. How is that?

On the left, Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair (the first of several books) tells the story of a woman during the run-up to the American revolution when British soldiers and colonial rebels were very much in the picture. Suzanne bases her mysteries on little-known facts of the southern states during the revolution. She augments those facts by taking part in reenactments. She knows what it is to dress as they did then, to prepare food, in fact, so many details of every-day life. A list of inventions, dates, and lineage? No—this approach to history is the next best thing to being there—without the danger!

The cover of The Blue may remind you of a colorist gone wild, and that may be the intent, for it is, indeed about blue. Not blue as in sad, or even blue as in the sky, but blue as in inventing a dye that caused international upheaval in the world of porcelain. Author Nancy Bilyeau combines her own heritage as a Huguenot with fictional characters to tell the story that spreads from 18th century London to France. Inventions? Working on that, for sure. But did any school book dwell on the king of France and obsession about porcelain? This one qualifies as a thriller.

The last two are not fiction. A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska is the retailing of several trips to work in Alaska for college money. This is the story my father told me in six audio tapes. He made the tapes when he was 88, gave them to me (as the writer in the family) and asked that I write them for family and friends. It took a year and a half to organize (and agree) on the content, but we did it. Some years later, one of my daughters designed the cover and I published it for all. It’s an account, as he remembered (and named) it of  a hot-headed kid who needed to finish growing up. He told me he’d made another trip to Alaska, taking his brother, but he hadn’t included those stories. He said, “I wasn’t the knucklehead any more. Fred was.”

Spies In The Family, by Eva Dillon, is just that. After her parents had both died, Eva and her siblings found a wealth of papers in the attic. I’m still reading this one, but it has amazing history. At the height of the Cold War, her father was a U. S. government agent handling the CIA’s highest ranking double agent, a Soviet general. Besides a lot of weird CIA action, the book includes information gathered from the Soviet general’s son, now living in the United States. To me, this is truly a gripping story that I can’t wait to complete. (No memorizing dates here!)

Each of the book titles are linked to their Amazon page. Tell me, how did you view history when you were in school? Did you find it interesting or boring? Or, perhaps, since I’m waaaay out of school, the history as taught now is more interesting. Or, perhaps, it is non-existent, which is a shame. Like someone once said (and I really should look it up, but I won’t) those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. (Or words to that effect.) There are a multitude of ways to present history. What are your favorites?

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Published on February 23, 2019 14:53

December 11, 2018

New Book Count-down

New e-book - A Jo Durbin Mystery Series


What does an author do when she decides to change covers on the way to publication? If she’s me, she just does it! Wiser heads may not agree, but, there… you have it. Did, and done. But it occurs to me that those who ordered it with one cover may be confused when they get a book with another cover. So, I’ll spread this graphic around the internet, starting with my blog.

So, let’s go with the incidentals. Publication date: December 14, 2018. Available as e-book only, but for very e-book reader I know about. Amazon/Kindle link here. Universal Link here that includes Nook, Apple/itunes, Kobo, and a few others.

How about the blurb for this 3-book mystery volume?

Jo Durbin, frustrated business writer, cat believer, and accidental amateur sleuth wants to up her game—parlaying temporary lifestyle into a bestseller. She tries real estate promotion, the bag lady life, and reenacting an 1813 woman at war. But the byline she scores, instead of “a killer caught,” might be “DOA.”

This collection includes the complete series: Hidden Body, a prequel novelette, Yesterday’s Body, Book 1, and Forgotten Body, Book 2. Jo is helped, or hindered, by her sister Kaye, by Mel, the man who wants to be more than a friend, and other characters, not the least of which are the police who seem to always be on her case.

The pre-order and introductory price of 99 cents will last through New Year’s Day. (Incidently, which cover do you like the best? Not that I’ll change it back again — just curious. Did I make the right decision or am I all wet?)

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Published on December 11, 2018 12:22

November 28, 2018

A pre-order

A Jo Durbin Mystery Series — Pre-order

When is a new book not a new book? When it’s a new way to get the entire Jo Durbin Mystery trueseries all in one e-book, that’s when!

And what’s a pre-order? Okay, that’s something I just learned how to do. This new book comes out on December 16, but it can be ordered now at a low price. For a short time, it costs only 99 cents.

What’s in the book? The prequel novelette, Book 1, and Book 2. That’s a nice long read. Here’s the blurb.

Jo Durbin, frustrated business writer, cat believer, and accidental amateur sleuth wants to up her game—parlaying temporary lifestyle into a bestseller. She tries real estate promotion, the baglady life, and reenacting an 1813 woman at war. But the byline she scores, instead of “a killer caught,” might be “DOA.”

This collection includes the complete series: Hidden Body, a prequel novelette, Yesterday’s Body, Book 1, and Forgotten Body, Book 2. Jo is helped, or hindered, by her sister Kaye, by Mel, the man who wants to be more than a friend, and other characters, not the least of which are the police who seem to always be on her case.

Available for pre-order at the following e-stores: Kindle:  Nook, Apple, Kobo, and others at the Universal Link.


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Published on November 28, 2018 12:07

Norma Huss's Blog

Norma Huss
The Grandma Moses of Mystery
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