You may have seen this on FB — wanted to give full credit here also to photojournalist B. A. Van Sise, who also wrote the article. I think the photos are nicely WEIRD!

This appeared in the Fordham News Magazine, Spring/Summer 2020.

Camille Minichino has, in the course of her more than eight decades, been a nun, a physicist, and a mystery novelist, with more than two dozen titles to her credit, including one published this spring.

Her California home is filled with what she calls her miniatures—expansive, intricate dollhouses depicting Lilliputian versions of scenes from her mystery novels. The miniatures, like their creator and her murderers, are careful, meticulous—every bit in its proper place, no table turned over but for plot.
“In the end, it’s all the same thing,” Minichino says. “Physics, mystery, even the houses. It’s about taking the unknown and working, step by step, to know it, to make it real.”
She is effortlessly eloquent discussing physics—in which she earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the 1965 and 1968 before embarking on a long career studying and teaching high-temperature, high-pressure physics—and points out warmly that all physics is commanded by different flavors of quarks, including up, down, strange, and charm. “Come to think of it,” she says with a chuckle, “mystery stories are built on those same elements, too.”
She’s been to college three times. Now, at 82, she’s enrolled in school again, getting a second master’s degree in creative writing—a certification whose lack has always troubled her, regardless of the 27 novels to her name. She has no trouble explaining why, in spite of all her achievements, she’s back taking classes. “There’s so many days, still,” Minichino says, “and every day you’re not learning is a waste of a day.”

Minichino’s latest novel is Mousse and Murder (Berkley, 2020), the first book in the Alaskan Diner Mystery series she’s writing under the pen name Elizabeth Logan.

Camille Minichino holds a tiny vintage icebox from one of her mystery novel miniatures.

The Whites of Their Eyes

The Bunker Hill Monument

June 17 is Bunker Hill Day — one of many holidays in Boston and vicinity that commemorate the Revolutionary War. And one of many, like Patriot’s Day (April 19), that I had to give up when I left Massachusetts. (I take the days off anyway.)

This event is famous for the expression: Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes! allegedly necessary because the troops were low on ammunition.

An embarrassing admission: As a grade school student, on a field trip to the monument, I couldn’t make the climb! Thanks to Joey who gave me a helping hand, c. 1947.


Thursday crept up on me this week, thanks to a birthday. Okay, it was mine, which meant a lot of nice surprises but they messed with my calendar.

So I’m offering an extra cryptoquote this week, one the Cable Guy likes, from an unlikely source:


                                    – EPFDA FUHTDMDI

And for a smile, a classic from an earlier age:

One time a guy handed me a picture and said ‘Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.’ Every picture is of you when you were younger, I said.

Expert Puzzler

Besides penning her excellent Samuel Craddock mysteries, TERRY SHAMES is an Expert Puzzler.

When my Cable Guy and I got a 3000-piece puzzle as a gift some time ago, we said, “No way,” and put it on the giveaway table. Terry Shames took up the challenge, and here’s the result.

The puzzle on March 18, 2020

She shares her story here!

First, you do understand that 15 pieces are missing, right? My dog (or dogs) (Editor’s note, “Sparky”) snacked on them. Because it’s so big, it hardly matters.

I started it March 18, which is when my husband and I went into serious lockdown. It turned out that the only surface big enough for it was our large dining room table. Which was fine. I figured we wouldn’t be having people over anyway. 

Here’s the fun thing: I don’t look at the picture when I do a puzzle. I challenge myself that way. Turned out to be a huge challenge. And also turned out to be a huge mistake (see below) 
I usually try to organize pieces one way or another—by color and texture. There were simply too many pieces to do this. I had to slog ahead.

The puzzle on March 30, 2020

About a week ago, I got sick of it and decided I had to really make a push to finish or throw it away. Of course I’m too stubborn to quit, which meant if I was going to get it done, I had to spend hours every day for a week. But by then I knew that every piece I found a home for meant fewer pieces to have to look at.

The puzzle on May 6, 2020

As for the big mistake. Here it is: I had a big chunk that I had put together separately and as I neared the end, I realized it didn’t go anywhere. So I had to peek at the cover. And found that I had put two sections together wrong. The lower left-hand corner and the upper right-hand corner were switched—I mean really switched, like around 100 pieces in each section. The odd thing was that pieces fit together nicely—wrong.
So two mornings ago I got up and said, “Go for it!” I loosened each offending section and then slid them around to slot in where they were supposed to go. Needless to say, it answered some puzzling (pun intended) questions about what the thing was supposed to look like. An hour later, I was done!
Here is a better photo of the finished product. I had to stand on a stool and try about 10 photos to make it work: 




Sometimes I’m late learning a very useful word. This time the word is


— a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising, frequently humorous. It’s said that Sir Winston Churchill was a big fan.

Here’s one I like especially, since it describes me pretty well.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

More often than not, this is my decision making process. No planning, just responses to what comes my way.

In the writing/publishing life, this is called being a pantser (writing by the seat of one’s pants), not a plotter (outlining the story).

It’s my theory, that in the general population, people fall into one category or the other. For example, how do you approach a dinner party at your home:

            a) write out a menu, check off what you have in stock vs what you need to buy, assemble menus, and so on.

            b) check out your freezer and fridge an hour or so before, and work with it.

How do you approach a project/hobby? (see above choices)

And so on.

Here’s what a pantser’s desk might look like. There’s a rare opening for writing out a postcard. A last minute thought: make a list of items you see here. A prize for the longest list in the comments.

Does your process work for you – whether you’re writing a book or learning a new skill?

That’s all that matters. The target will take care of itself.

A Spam Test

Last week’s post, a quote from Carl Sagan, earned me nearly 100 SPAM comments over the course of a couple of days. Was it Sagan who drew them? The quote itself? I have no idea.

I eventually deleted the post and all the spam, but what a nuisance.

This is a test—a simple photo a friend of mine took of the NYPL from her hotel room across the street, to see if the spammers will follow me here.

Yours, Camille/Margaret/Ada/Jean, and now Elizabeth!

House Decluttering Time

A guest blog today from my Shelter-in-Place partner, taking us down a bit of music history through technology.

Had enough time within your house to notice what’s in the nooks and crannies behind your everyday life? My last 30 years of music listening has produced hundreds of recorded media devices; LP records, “45” records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, and CD’s. They took and take up a large volume of space. Recently, I converted all of the music on these devices to digital files using computers. I made many discs with these files and stored the files on them, in addition to having them stored on my computer. These discs needed 4 computer paper boxes to contain them.

Scale: 4 life-size computer paper boxes

Most, but not all, of this music was performed by various artists. Some of the music was from special concerts that were broadcast and others came from satellite transmissions. A typical special was the Farm Aid concert. A typical partial content of one of these boxes is shown below.

The entire digital contents of this 30 years of musical content is about 136 Gigabytes. It can be stored on this 256 GB Flash Drive, with another 120 GB worth of other digital content, like 10’s of thousands of digital photos from a Smart phone.

The disc in this package is about an inch long, much of the length needed to plug it into the computer that will play its music.

Do you wonder what’s next?


Today we have a guest author, JOSEPHINE MELE, sharing her thoughts on our lives with Covid-19.

Times Square, 2018

Full Stop by Jo Mele

The city that never sleeps is taking a nap.

Streets are empty.

Restaurants are for take-out only.

Bars are closed.

Theaters are dark every day.

Streets have no traffic jams.

Times Square is quiet.

Shops are closed.

Churches are empty.

A New York minute now takes a full 60 seconds.

Josephine (Jo) Mele is a world traveler, tour guide, magazine editor, and life-long mystery reader. Her first book The Odd Grandmothers, is a memoir of three generations of her immigrant family. Her second is Two Travel Mysteries: Bullets in Bolivia and Homicide in Havana. She wrote “ABC’s of Asperger’s Syndrome,” an article for Parents Magazine that was co-authored with her grandson Nick Mack; “Ellis Island Story,” New York Times; and is a regular contributor to Reminisce Magazine, The Lamorinda Press, and Cine Cuvee Magazine.

Jo and Patience

Check out Jo’s books: The Odd Grandmothers and Two Travel Mysteries.

Grand Slam

Pittsburgh Pirates Park

You may remember my husband as “the cable guy,” but we have hardly any physical cables anymore so I might have to refer to him as “flash-drive guy” or “Bluetooth guy.”

He used to watch sports. All sports. While he did jigsaw puzzles, while he read his newspapers, while he listened to music. In his younger days, he played a few sports; now he mostly watches. I’ve walked by his screen and observed scenes of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, volley ball, golf, racing, and of course Olympic sports, all in no particular order. He wasn’t a huge fan in the sense of cheering for one team. In general, he simply liked to watch.

What if we no longer have sports as we knew them — with stadiums full of people and athletes as pop heroes all over tv? What sports fans will do with their time is one thing. But What happens to our language, that is so dependent on sports terminology? Will anyone remember what the terms mean?

• step up to the plate

• go to the mat

• out of the gate

• down to the wire

• drop the ball

• hit it out of the park

• par for the course

• get the ball rolling

• take off the gloves

• eye on the ball

• below the belt

• low blow

• on the ropes

That’s a baker’s dozen (I hope we’ll get our bakeries back!)

What are your favorites?


Are you ready for something silly?

These days I’m finding it hard to be cheerful, to see the humor in life. I wake up in a land I’d thought of only in sci-fi terms. A flare-up. An outbreak. An epidemic. A pandemic? When someone cracks a joke (rarely), my smile or laugh seem foreign to me, as if my lips and mouth are not used to the configuration.

So for this week, I thought I’d look for Quotes that make me laugh, or, at least not depressed.

• from George Carlin: May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

• from Woody Allen: My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.

• from Steven Wright: A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

Fordham, c. 2020

• and this one is an original from my colleagues in our physics lab at Fordham U., c. 1965.

Me: The spectrograph is off kilter again. It’s going to take hours to fix it.
Ron, a classmate: Let’s just rotate the Bronx.

Keep safe, everyone!