Thursday, January 30, 2020

BOOK: The Captain and the Ambassador by Carol Ann Kauffman

"Ambassador Tull Redmond is looking for a quick ride home back to Earth after ending her twenty-year mission as peace negotiator. All she wants is peace, quiet, and to be left alone. She boards the Earth Starship Giuseppe Verdi with its questionable leader, Captain Ben Jacobs anyway. It's the fastest way home. Her quarters has a full bath, a space view window, and a large, real bed! How bad could this rule-breaking, authority-defying Captain Casanova be? High Council hates him, true, but his crew loves him. Surely, she's too old and tired to be drawn into this bad boy of the quadrant's personal circus. 
Will Ambassador Redmond get the quiet, uneventful ride home she craves?"

Well, we already know the answer to that question is NO!
The trip home to Earth will certainly be anything but quiet and uneventful. 

The Captain and the Ambassador  was a joy to write. I have been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, and a smattering of lesser-known but still wonderful science fiction works. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I did writing it. 

Here is a little except:

Chapter One
A New Passenger

“Captain Jacobs? Sir, big news. Ambassador Tull Redmond is meeting us at Bridgeport Seven tomorrow and will join us as our passenger all the way to Earth,” said second-in-command Commander Zack Mankewitz of the Earth Starship Giuseppe Verdi.
“Ambassador Redmond,” repeated the captain. “Oh, I’ve heard of him, Commander. He’s the peace, love, and hope guy. He’s the most successful intergalactic mediator in this quadrant. Wow, my very first five-star passenger. Yes, that is big news. I’m glad I didn’t miss him. High Council’s never trusted me with a big wig before.”
“Yes, sir. I know.”
“So, the ambassador and I will be going home to Earth at the same time. Well, I’m not sure the Ambassador is Earthite, I just assumed. Is he retiring, too, I wonder?
“Well, sort of. From what I hear the ambassador refused to sign another ten-year contract, so resigning from intergalactic mediation is the only other option. You two are lucky ducks.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it, Commander. It’s plain, old-fashioned endurance. Any special dietary requests? I heard the ambassador was a vegan.”
“No. No special food requests, but a full bathroom in quarters, and the ambassador is a woman. She’s also requested a room with a space view.”
“You’re kidding me? I’ve seen him, eh, her, from a distance. Short, pale, roundish, light-colored hair slicked back or something. Hair was hardly noticeable. Wears a big, long, hooded, monk-like robe. Kind of like a roundish beige ball. A non-sexual being.”
“Does that matter?”
“No, I guess not. The ambassador gets the job done. A full bath AND a view, huh? Well, there is only one accommodation like that aboard this ship, and that’s mine. Damn. My first five-star passenger and she kicks me out of my quarters. Oh, well. Go ahead and assign her to Captain’s Quarters, Commander. She’ll enjoy the view in the sitting area as well as the full bath. I’ll take the quarters next to mine. I don’t mind sonic showers. I’ll move my things over this evening.”
“Do you need help, sir?”
“No, thanks, Zack. I don’t have much to move. But send someone in to give the place a good cleaning and shine it up a bit. Change all the linens. Put a little welcome note or something inside. I want my first and only five-star passenger to be impressed with her deluxe accommodations, if nothing else, on this tugboat for her four-month stay with us on her way back home.”
“Yes, sir,” chuckled Mankewitz.

“Ambassador Redmond, welcome to the Giuseppe Verdi, a class one intergalactic Earth Starship. It is my pleasure to have you aboard, ma’am.” 
“Thank you, Captain Jacobs.”
“You’re my first five-star passenger in a twenty-year career.”
“Yes, I’ve heard. I’ve been duly warned.”
“You have?” Captain Jacobs laughed.
“Yes. High Council strongly urged me to wait for the next Earthbound starship, which is scheduled for early next year. They say you are the juvenile delinquent of the quadrant. They say you think the rules don’t apply to you and you love to defy authority.”
“And yet, you came aboard my ship anyway. You are a brave soul as well as a successful negotiator, Ambassador.”
“Thank you, Captain. I’m not afraid of bad boys. Your safety record is exemplary. You’ve never lost a passenger or crew member. Upper management may not admire your quirky leadership skills, or your less than organized reports, but your crew holds you in the highest esteem. So, you like to bend the rules a bit, big deal. You like to cut through the nonsense, that’s fine with me. You allow your crew to become far too familiar with you…”
“And my passenger, too,” he winked, “if you’re interested.”
She ignored it. “You hate quarterly reports, so what? All I ask is that you get me to Earth in one piece.”
“Thank you for your confidence in me. I promise I’ll get you there, safe and sound. And I promise to be on my best behavior while you’re aboard my ship. May I escort you to your quarters?”
“Yes, thank you, Captain.”

Cover by Suzi Albracht 
of Wickedly Awesome Designs

Amazon Buy Link:

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

INTERVIEW: Photographer and Author Rebecca S. Nieminen

Rebecca S. Nieminen 
Kinsman, Ohio

Good morning, Rebecca, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us. I know you're always chasing the perfect sunrise or cresting wave with outstanding results. Your work is fabulous. By the way, you are beautiful. What kind of art do you create? 

I am a professional portrait and fine art landscape photographer. You can view my landscape images here: 
I am also a writer of fiction and poetry. I have written a historical novel (still unpublished) and am currently working on a book of photos and poetry (hoping to have it completed in spring 2020). 

What is your favorite art medium?  
Photography. I am best known for my scenes of rural life in Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Favorite food.
Chocolate and seafood of all kinds.

Tea or coffee?
I don’t drink either, actually. I always get weird looks when I tell people that. 

Pizza or ice cream?

Wine or beer?
Wine, definitely—the sweeter the better! I don’t care for dry wine.

Me, either. I like Sweet Baby Red or Sweet Walter. There's a Chocolate Strawberry Wine from Green Eagle Winery in Cortland, Ohio. It is scrumptious! Try it, tell me what you think. Where would you like to visit?
This past summer I visited Finland and met some of my relatives there. It was a bucket list item for sure—a long-time dream turned reality! I would love to visit Prince Edward Island or Maine next.

Favorite musical artist.  
I can’t choose one favorite. I have so many from so many different genres as well as a voracious appetite for discovering new favorites. 

Do you listen to music when you work?
Sometimes, yes, but when I am sitting at my desk editing photos I mostly listen to educational material on Youtube. You can learn a lot from Youtube! I listen to historical documentaries, lectures on self-improvement, Ted Talks, ghost stories, poetry readings – all kinds of stuff. I love to learn new things.

What makes you laugh?
Quirky, awkward, absurd situations. 

Favorite work of art or sculpture.
It is difficult to name one favorite, but “The Angel’s Message” by George Hilliard Swinstead comes to mind.

How old were you when you started creating art?
As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil or paintbrush I was making art. As a child I was considered a gifted visual artist and would spend hours drawing and painting, mostly horses, birds, and nature scenes. After I learned to read and write I fell in love with books, and my artistic focus switched to writing stories and poetry. By the age of 7 I had decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and as an adult I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and later a master’s degree in English. Prior to becoming a professional photographer I worked as a reporter and freelancer. Photography has always been a hobby of mine, but I did not start doing it professionally until 2013. 

Do you plan out your projects? Or just roll up your sleeves and dig in?
A little of both. I have found that some of my best creative work happens spontaneously. However, I also understand and value the importance of making detailed plans in order to achieve goals. 

Describe your perfect evening.
Visiting a beautiful new destination where I can explore and take photos and then enjoy a delicious meal. 

Where do you get your inspiration?
Nature is an endless source of inspiration for me. As the seasons and weather change there is always something new and amazing to discover. The boundless beauty of nature awes me and rejuvenates my soul. I actually wrote a blog about how much I love to “create along with creation itself.” You can find it here:

What do you do when you get creative person's block?
My creative energy usually flows rather freely, but if I hit a wall I will take a couple of days away to rest my mind and then I will revisit the project.

Who is your favorite artist?
I have several but Alphonse Mucha is probably my number one. I love the Art Nouveau style. 

Best book you ever read.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It is young adult fiction, but I enjoy reading it even now that I am in my mid-40s. I am also an admirer of a trilogy of novels by Conrad Richter set in 1800s Ohio titled The Trees, The Field and The TownThe Town won the Pulitzer Prize. I am a big history buff.  

Last book you read.
Sadly I don’t read as much as I used to because I have such a busy schedule. The last book I read was Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver, my favorite poet. 

What would you do for a living if you weren’t an artist or an author?
Right now I am a full-time photographer, but my childhood dream of becoming a best-selling author is still very much alive.  
Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
That is a very difficult question. I am not sure I can name just one person because there have been many influences. I have known people who have lifted me up and loved me, but I have also known people who have wounded me deeply and tore me down. However, at the end of the day I can say I have learned a lot from both categories of people. Every person who enters your life arrives to teach you something. You just have to pay attention to what the lesson is. If you can reach a place where you feel grateful for the opportunity for growth that even the painful lessons presented to you then you will discover such freedom and peace. 

If you could have a conversation with anyone, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
I would want talk with my Finnish great-grandfather. He died before I was born, but I feel an unexplained connection to him. If there is such a thing as guardian spirits—and I do believe there is—I believe he is one of the ones who watches over me.

What advice would you give a budding artist?
Be true to your creative vision, work tirelessly to be the best you can be and never think you are above learning something new or improving your craft. Sometimes artistically-minded people struggle when it comes to business savvy. Work at mastering both so you don't have to be a "starving artist."

Do you have some links for us to follow you? 

Thank you for sharing your photos and story with us this morning, Rebecca. We at Vision and Verse wish you success in all your endeavors.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


You may remember this talented actress Anna Torv from Fringe, where she played Olivia Dunham and other recent series.  I loved Fringe, I must say this series is even better. It has you glued to the screen as an Australian journalist Harriet Dunkley ("Harry") attempts to uncover and expose international wrong-doing in this fast-paced, enthralling political thriller.  

Monday, January 27, 2020

ART: Alice Dalton Brown

I love the work of Alice Dalton Brown. Her pieces with tempting window and doors scapes tease and beckon you to come see what’s ahead.
When I heard she had a selection of her pastels on exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art, I jumped at the chance.

I was not disappointed. Though the selection was small, it was representative of her work. 

I love all her work, but the shimmering seascapes are exceptional. 

This was the exhibition room at the Butler.

This is my wonderful and patient husband in the exhibition room.
We had a great day.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

SCHEDULE: Jan. 27 - 31, 2020

Mon., Jan. 27 - ART:
Alice Dalton Brown
Tues., Jan. 28 - ENTERTAINMENT: Secret City,
An Australian Political Thriller
on Netflix
Wed., Jan. 29 -  INTERVIEW: ART
Professional Photographer Rebecca Nieminen
Thurs., Jan. 30 - BOOK:
The Captain and the Ambassador 
by Carol Ann Kauffman
Fri., Jan. 31 - BOOK REVIEW:
The Auctioneer
by J.S. Frankel 

Friday, January 24, 2020


Inspired by a true story, the Aeronauts tells the tale of a weather-forecasting scientist and a daredevil hot-air balloon pilot in their attempt to fly higher than ever before. I really enjoyed it. It's available on Amazon's Prime Video. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

ART: John Michael Carter

John Michael Carter was born in Chicago and showed an interest in art from an early age, which pleased his artistically inclined family. His father, E. L. Carter, was a noted illustrator and well-known graphic designer. John Michael studied with his father in his 
earlier years.

After high school, John Michael continued his studies in Chicago and Los Angeles, where he obtained his degree.

He is best known for his figurative paintings, but I this his landscapes are equally stunning. These's a depth of quality in Italian Village and Shenandoah Valley that teases the best in yet to come, just down the road or around the corner.

This photo cracks me up! Oil painting in the living room. 

I wonder whether there's a Mrs. John Michael Carter and what she thinks about this activity. 

I get all cranky over coffee stains on the carpet. 

Can you imagine oil paint and the solutions used in the oil painting process.

But here is the final product.
And she is gorgeous.

I claim nothing here. Nothing is my own. All information was found online at his website and other art sites.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

BOOK SERIES: The Cat Collier Mystery Short Story Series

The Cat Collier Mystery Series

Mary Catherine Collier, better known as Cat, wrote obituaries for the small-town local newspaper, the Heaton Valley Herald. She interviewed the senior citizens as to their accomplishments, likes, and hobbies. She kept these on file in case they won the lottery or the Nobel Peace Prize or something, or more likely, got involved in a scandal. She was also the sole member of the research department. She liked the quiet solitude of research work and was extremely tech savvy.

While she was in college, she dreamed of teaching in the local school system. Heaton Valley residents were wholesome, dedicated parents who valued a good education and the local schools were held in high esteem. The teachers were happy to go to work every day. The children were happy and safe in their school setting. And the community as a whole took pride in all the many varied accomplishments of the students.

Then something happened. Schools lost their place of honor as bastions of education and safety. They became gripped with fear. Test-taking and building security measures replaced the absolute joys of learning and discover.

It was then Cat began to rethink her career decision. She decided that, if the Heaton Valley Herald ever went belly-up, she’d open her own investigation business. With her laptop, an internet connection, and a big cup of coffee, she could find out almost anything online. There was no longer the need for any actual physical investigation, no high speed chases, no tailing or stalking, nothing dangerous. Just quiet, simple clicks.

Then one day Cat was called to the penthouse apartment of the city’s very rich, most influential lawyer, Detrick Bittmor. He had a very personal assignment for her. It involved a mysterious young man who sat on a park bench every day at noon and stared up at Bittmor’s top floor apartment

Cat had a soft spot for this lawyer with a nasty reputation. There was something about this old man she liked, and even        found charming.

Detrick Bittmor thought the young man on the park bench resembled a younger version of himself. He thought this young man could possibly be his son from an affair he had many years ago with a beautiful New Year lawyer. This man could be his only heir.

And old man Bittmor wasn’t getting any younger.

And so began… the Cat Collier Mystery series. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Dear Gentle Readers, 
Sadly, my favorite author, M.C. Beaton, has passed away after a short illness. The internationally acclaimed author Beaton penned the Hamish MacBeth series, set in a small Scottish hamlet where the tall red-headed police chief solves crimes while keeping under the radar of the high-ups so he doesn’t get promoted to the big city.

My first M. C. Beaton book was Death of a Dustman. It was a library book. I was so taken with it, I went out and bought the hardback. I still have it. Dustman is the British term for garbage collector. Sounds so much better. Don’t you agree?

M. C. Beaton also wrote historical fiction under her maiden name, Marion Chesney.

Perhaps she is best known for her Agatha Raisin series that is now a BBC series. Agatha Raisin was a high-powered advertising agent in London. Upon retirement, she decided to move to a small but beautiful cottage in a small but beautiful village in the Cotswolds. She wanted to fix in, so she entered the village annual cooking auction. Agatha doesn't cook or bake, so she bought a quiche in London. The person who bought the quiche died of poisoning. And that's the beginning of Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.

Marion was a fun-loving little Scottish dynamo, who was always straight forward and truthful. She will be sadly missed.

I'll look for you in the rainbows, Marion. I'll see you in the movement of the butterflies. I'll hear your words of honest wisdom in the rustle of the wind.