Recently I paid a visit to my local DMV to renew my license. Back in 1986, when we first arrived in California from New York, I took a written test for the privilege of driving a car in the Golden State. Now I had to do it again. I guess every thirty-two years they want me to check in, so back I went. In 1986 when I was a slip of a thing, I didn’t bat an eyelash about taking a written test. The first time I took the test – and it seemed to have dozens of questions then – I passed without studying. This time I was very nervous. Age will do that to you. I actually read the booklet twice. There were only eighteen questions this time and you’re allowed to miss three. I only missed one. More on that later. As a writer, I tend to observe my fellow-man, woman, and wombat. I’m not sure what a wombat is, but if one was hanging around, I would observe it. All fodder for the writing, doncha know. So that morning, as I hustled through the many plateaus of renewing my license, I observed like the dickens. First off, probably over a thousand people pass through those doors daily. It is unbelievably well-ordered, organized chaos. But it works. Most of the people waiting didn’t have an appointment. Make note of that. If you go, have an appointment. Otherwise, you’re doomed to wait in line for hours. As I had an appointment, I can’t say I breezed through but very nearly. But appointment or not, everyone was treated well. The personnel was kind, patient and caring. Every last one of them. And it surprised me because whether you had an appointment or not, something happens to homo sapiens when crossing that threshold. We…
I usually don’t do a hard-sell hawk but this is over a $30 value. This first of a series featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors (including yours truly) is available for only 99¢ until the end of April. Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is retiring at the end of April 2018. If you never picked up your copy, now is the time. You only have until the end of April to sample each writer’s work for only 99¢. Come May those ten titles will cost $30.90 if purchased separately. Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—more than 3,000 pages featuring amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy novels with a combined total of nearly 2,000 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4-stars.
Folk-Lore is a wonderful thing. I always thought I was half Italian, a quarter Irish, and the rest was a mish-mash of good ol’ American. In my mind, being a quarter Irish answered a lot. After all, didn’t I have a grandmother whose maiden name was Margaret MacLaughlin? Didn’t I look good in Emerald green? Didn’t I believe in the wee people? I don’t think we need mention my fiery temper. Underneath this Claroil blond lives the soul of a redhead. But not much of my preconceived notions were true, and there’s the downside of doing your DNA. Yes, I am half Italian and I still look good in Emerald green. And my grandmother’s name is the same. Only the quarter is Scots, not Irish. Hoot man, I can live with that. Pass the haggis and hand me a kilt. But the truth? I so loved being Irish. The culture appeals to my sense of whimsy. Ireland has a charm all its own. I even hoped one day to go back to the ‘old country’ and find distant relatives. But maybe I’ll paddle my canoe from Africa to Tahiti because Ancestry dot com also said I was 1% Polynesian Princess. Alright, I threw in the princess part, because if I can’t be Irish being a princess makes up for it. But only a little.
Some of the books I write are humorous mysteries involving a Mexican/America Family called the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, which I am proud to say have won several awards. Our visits to Mexico in the early nineties, often had us staying with Mexican families during the language immersion courses we were taking. I’m here to tell you, the Mexicans won my heart. These are warm, generous souls, who were grateful if you even tried to learn their language, a language of great beauty, I might add. My husband and I found them to also be a hard-working society, filled with love and humor. How they deal with their own families and the world at large is only a part of what inspired me to write my series in celebration of the Mexican contribution to the good old USA. I am so very proud, in my small way, to have added to what they give us as a culture, and I’m not just talking about their food. So to Guillermo del Toro, born in the historic city of Guadalajara, congratulations on your Oscars. You represent the world of cinema and Mexico in such a classy fashion. And you come across as one nice hombre. To Coco, which won Best Animated film, I don’t usually go to animated films, but can’t wait to see you. And to the Best Song, Remember Me, Kristen and Robert Lopez, Ole! I’m humming it now!
Sonja Henie won more medals Olympic and World titles than any other ladies’ figure skater to date. According to Wikipedia, “Henie is credited with being the first figure skater to adopt the short skirt costume, wear white boots, and make use of dance choreography. Her innovative skating techniques and glamorous demeanor transformed the sport permanently and confirmed its acceptance as a legitimate sport in the Winter Olympics.” Summing it up, she was the first lady to glide around on ice, leap into the air wearing a darling little skirt, do one revolution midair, and land on one foot skating backward in a balletic arabesque. It was the stuff of legends. And if she could have seen Nathan ‘Quad’ Chen skate his freeform recently, she probably wouldn’t have believed her eyes. Six quadruple turns in one program. It was hard for me to believe and I am no Sonja Henie. To spill all, Ms. Henie was born into a wealthy Norwegian family and became famous during Hitler’s rise to power. There has been controversy over her acceptance of him during the war, but she denied most accusations and donated pots of money to the Norwegian Relief Fund once she came to America. There is no doubt she had a checkered political past, but she was and is the mother of figure skating, as we know it today. If you get a chance, see Sun Valley Serenade, a film she made in 1941 with John Payne. Not only do you see her skate, you can watch her ski. And the movie is a hoot!
And I’m here to tell you it’s a little like a ride at Disneyland, a 45-minute wait, five-minute ride, but not nearly as much fun. At this point, it takes two people to drive a self-driven car, one to sit behind the wheel and the other in the passenger seat, staring at a monitor to key in the route on a keyboard. Driver two has to pay attention to any variable that might get thrown at the little darling. Like a pedestrian or stray dog wandering nearby. As a ‘level-three’ car, it doesn’t do u-turns yet. The person behind the wheel has to do that. However, it does go forward, albeit at 19-miles an hour. I’m not sure if it backs up. We never saw that. But it will stop at stop signs. Where we live there aren’t any stoplights, which is a good thing, because it doesn’t do stop lights, either. But it is very cute, and if you need to feel smug about your own driving ability, this is the car for you to investigate. It seems like all the things a driver automatically does has to be keyed into the computer. Apparently, we are able to do a gazillion things at one time, even the worst driver among us, but it’s all in the future for these little self-driven love bugs. Altho, despair not. If you are under 40, the reliable self-driven car, which is ‘level-four’ and capable of city driving, might just be in your future. As I am somewhat older, it probably isn’t in mine. And it’s just as well. I prefer Disneyland.
And I know it will be a big hit because it uses the word ‘girl‘ three times. Actually, it might be three times a hit. According to various articles and studies, any title that has the word girl in it speaks to female readers. It also seems to mean that the protagonist (the girl) is probably going to make it to the end of the book alive if the writer is a woman. If the writer is a man, all bets are off. Here are just a few successful books with the word ‘girl’ in the title – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella; The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson; The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. And there are many more. Just ask the Great God Google about it. I’m not sure what started this phenomenon, maybe Hans Christian Anderson with The Little Match Girl. But it doesn’t make any difference, I’m on to it now. I’m going to have a best seller! But maybe I need to have an adverb or adjective in the title, as well. What do you think of these? Garbage Girl, A Sanitation Worker Reveals All; Gobbledygook Girl, Social Media Made Easy; The Girl in the Gazebo. The last one’s actually not too bad. Hmmmm.
There is a method to my madness. My two cats get three types of treats. Yes, they are spoiled, but let’s move beyond that. Yulie has learned through the years to jump up on their counter, and point to the treat he wants with his nose. Problem solved. But it is Ellie that concerns me. When I put treats down on the floor for her (she can’t jump up onto the counter; too tubby), Ellie turns her back on me and just sits, waiting. I have to put all three treats down before she turns around and chooses one. Sure, she does eat the other selections, but maybe it’s more of an afterthought? Anyway, it occurred to me that if I teach her to call out the treats by name, it could save me a lot of trouble. I started with the brand, Greenies. My reasoning was ‘Temptations’ is a hard a word to say right off the bat. And the word ‘Party Mix’? Forget it. And after all, she is a cat. She needs time to work into this. Every day for about three months, I shook the bags with the treats in them and she came running. Then I repeated the word “Greenies’ again and again. So far, nothing. So I STILL have to put all three down for her to select the one she wants. And then she eats the rest! I mean, really? How dumb can she be?
Tuesday night I had the delight, honor, and good sense to go to Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park for the debut of a new book, The Amorous Heart. There, author Marilyn Yalom, scholar, writer, feminist and all-around-good-gal, was being interviewed by Theresa Donovan Brown, an award winning author of fiction and non-fiction. And another all-around-good-gal. It was a bright evening of entertainment, and the sharing of knowledge, history, comradery, laughs and spirit. Ms. Yalom is my kinda feminist, a woman who studies, observes, reports, enlightens, and enthusiastically supports women without beating up or denigrating men. It can be done. After all, a lot of men are all-around-good-guys. On another note, Ms. Yalom is a mighty fine writer. She imparts her point of view with the assuredness of a writer who not only knows her stuff, but how to put it down on paper with wit, style, clarity, and – dare I say it? – HEART.
Over fifteen years ago during the Christmas season, I was visiting a dear friend and noticed a small, jewel-like tree glittering on her hallway table. When I asked her where she got it, she told me she had made it for her mother using ornaments, broken jewelry, and so forth from her family’s life. Now that her mother passed, she had the tree and would someday leave it to her own daughter. When I examined it more closely, I saw some of the ornaments were older, some cracked or faded, and sparkling earrings or bracelets were wedged in here and there among the firmly packed decorations. My friend pointed out several ornaments saying things like, “This is the first Christmas ornament my parents got me when I was born,” or “I made this for Mom in the 3rd grade.” When asked how she could make such a tree, she told me it was simple. All you need is a small fake tree, a container to hold it, plaster of Paris, lights, ornaments, costume jewelry, and a glue gun. I ran, not walked, to my local craft store containing the ubiquitous little green, plastic trees and bought a small one-and-a-half foot tall tree, a bag of plaster of Paris, and an attractive round plant holder. The plan is simple. Day One: fill that charming little container about ¾ of the way up with plaster of Paris (follow the directions on the box). Pull the little tree out of the base it came on, stick the tree into the wet plaster of Paris, hold the tree straight for a minute or two until the plaster begins to set, then go about your business for the rest of the day so it can dry thoroughly. Day Two: Starting at the top, take…