What Is Greatness?

I’m not always sure what makes a work of art great, whether it be a painting, music, dance, poetry, a play, sculpture, novel, or whatever. I do know great is a far cry from poor, mediocre, fair and even good. Great is like, you know, GREAT! When it is already great and the world acknowledges it, I glom on to it like a shot, just like everybody else. Greatness is very identifiable. I’ve never discovered anything or anyone great, myself, but I am very good at going along with the crowd. I’m in total agreement, you might say. Michelangelo, hip, hip hurrah. Kim Kardashian, I’m not so sure.Just so you don’t think I’m an ignorant baboon (pass the banana) here’s what I do know. Art falls into two basic categories, creative and interpretative. Mozart created music. Pavarotti sang it. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, and many well-known actors did the role. Once, Sarah Bernhardt played the part. I don’t know how great she was, but you get the picture. One is the creator and the other the interpreter. You can be one or the other in the Greatness Hall of Fame or maybe, in some rare cases, you can be both. I can’t think of anybody who has worn both hats, but maybe you can. It sounds like a lot of work to me. It’s all I can do to remember where my glasses are.But let me get back to the meaning of GREATNESS. Maybe if I knew what made something GREAT beforehand, I could sit down and write it. For the record, I’m thinking no. Trying to be GOOD is mind-boggling enough. I’ve been writing for years, if not decades, striving for merely that. I am devoted to the craft of writing. I study hard, practice hard, write and rewrite, send…

Read more

Cats (and dogs) of the Big Easy

Just returned from doing research for the 4th book in the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, which takes place in New Orleans. What a fabulous city! So colorful, so historic, so very special. To think, we might have lost this city forever thanks to Katrina and bad government decisions. Aside from the French Quarter and the Garden District, it will never be quite the same, though. It will be BETTER. What little I’ve learned about the people of New Orleans during my scant visit, they have a way of making their mystical spot on earth, jazzy, unique, and sparkling. I simply had to take a lot of pictures of this treasured place and kept running into cats wherever I went, mainly lounging around in shop window! Here are some of the four-footed felines, who look like living in this amazing piece of the planet is only their due. What I like about New Orleanians best is their sense of whimsy. They will have a two-hundred year old historic building, beautifully preserved and loving cared for, with plastic, multi-colored mardi gras beads draped along the length of balcony railing of the second floor. It is just too fun. Saw a three legged dog, too. A large, white mix. He only had one back leg but managed to get along on the cobbled streets of this terrific city. A lady stopped the man and asked him how fast he (the dog) could walk. The man replied, “As fast as he wants to.” You could tell the man loved this animal and it warmed my heart. I love it when people treat animals right, no matter where they are. Great cities are like that; it’s in the air. Hurrah for the Big Easy!I didn’t get a picture, but it is in my heart,…

Read more

The Third Annual Palo Alto American Association of University Women Authors’ Luncheon, What is it about Paris?

Forgive the delay in posting this blog, but directly after the AAUW Luncheon on Saturday, April 7th, I flew to New Orleans for a little research for the fourth book of my humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, working title, DEAD, if only. That doesn’t diminish in any way the memories of the exciting afternoon I had moderating What is it about Paris? for the American Association of University Women.Who and what is AAUW? Check out their website and learn more about this worthy organization. This intelligent group of women do many good deeds throughout the year for their communities, wherever they may be. Saturday, April seventh, this band of women, four illustrious writers, and an independent bookstore, Books Inc. Palo Alto, combined in a benefit to send deserving seventh grade girls to a week-long math/science camp at Stanford University this July.Lucky me, I got to moderate this event, asking questions about the latest books of these talented authors: Donia Bijan, Jacqueline E. Luckett, Ellen Sussman,and Cara Black. These four fabulous femmes have written four terrific books and I should know. I’ve read each book, three novels and one memoir. Deciding to do that before I queried them at the luncheon was one of the best presents I could ever have given myself. The books were wonderful! I laughed, I cried, I felt, I thought, I imagined, and I learned. Books don’t get much better than that.While the main theme of the luncheon was why did the authors choose Paris, it segued into many other subjects. Besides, if you’ve been to Paris, you know why Paris. I mean, come on. As a writer of a humorous mystery series, and never having it touch Paris, I am rethinking that decision. Yowser! Traveling to Paris to research and write about it… and get…

Read more

Kudos to Co-chairs Robin Burcell and Cindy Sample for the LCC Conference

The Sacramento 2012 Left Coast Crime Conference went as smooth as butter, and I know something about churning. Before I took an early retirement from Stanford U. to write – and every year it gets earlier; I now claim to have been fifteen years old – I managed the Office of Faculty Recruiting for the Graduate School of Business. I may not have pushed six-hundred people in and out of events at the same time the way Cindy and Robin did, but I’ve shoved enough VIPs around to know it ain’t easy. These ladies excelled at what they did. Even with all the help from willing volunteers, it was a remarkable job.I have to say, though, authors and fans alike wanted to have a good time. And we did. We schmoozed, we learned, we laughed, we ate, and we drank. We shared experiences, created new memories, made new friends, and we ate and we drank. Oh, wait a minute. I said that last part. I think the thing which impressed me the most was the camaraderie. Authors big and small, well-known or just beginning, were equals there. Fans and writers shared ideas and had many a one-on-one. It was unique. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting.This exhaustion never seemed to hit Cindy and Robin, though. And I wondered how they did it. I mean, just how caffeined up were they? At the end of each conference day, not only were they still standing, but every hair was in place and they looked terrific. I would have needed a medic, a gurney, and Valium fed to me intravenously.But not much phased these two fine, fine writers. However, I’m thinking they were so busy keeping LCC’s Mining for Murder going, they didn’t have the opportunity to think about their own work. So…

Read more