Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping in Lucca

Lucca, the walled city, is 31 miles west of the of Florence, Italy’s magnificent and historic city. We joined Lucca’s citizens and walked on the wall—in fact Lucca once had three walls. If you live there you can ride the wall on a bike, enjoy a picnic or just stroll along the ramparts. My hubby and I strolled ignoring the rain that fell and the edge of the ramparts—a drop of approximately 40 feet.
The town is blessed with old world charm—fruit and vegetable stands have taken the place of an ancient nunnery, the pungent aromas wafting out of cheese stores made out mouths water and there are expensive boutiques where a tourist on a budget can window shop. A statue of Puccini graces the town square and each year Lucca hosts a festival in his honor. Carrara marble from the old Roman Amphitheatre fronts one of its many churches. A medieval palace—Torre Guinigi—has six ilex trees that have made a home for themselves on its top, the tree’s roots have grown into the room below. Villa Reale—once the home of Napoleon’s sister, Princess Elisa, is famous for its gardens—begun in the 16th century and recreated halfway through the 17th. Concerts are sometimes held in the Teatro di Vendura, a theatre sculpted out of hedges.
As we walk through the streets we remember we have a few more Christmas presents to purchase and on a side street, we find a small, boutique with prices we can afford. The proprietor doesn’t speak English and I fumble with my cassette learned 50-words of Italian before remembering the pocket dictionary I bought for the trip. Every one in the shop takes turns with the dictionary and with laughter and pantomime I describe the friends we need gifts for the 105-year old mother of our best friend, the neighbor who gathers our mail, the friend who over-waters out plants and mementos for ourselves. We buy enough gifts to fill every loved one’s stocking before we manage to board the wrong train as we head back to Florence—a part of our adventure in a city we’ll never forget.



My cozy eBook mystery titled Scene Stealer is available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Carina Press and wherever eBooks are sold. An audio version has been produced by

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Fierce and ugly, with forty-two needle-sharp teeth by the age of two, the terrier-sized Tasmanian Devil is not the most loved of Australia’s marsupials. But on a visit to the Tasmanian Devil Park and Wildlife Rescue Center in the Port Arthur region of Tasmania, Australia, my husband and I met a little Devil that the unwary might find as cuddly as a plush toy.
The jet-black, course-furred, eight-month old was an orphan being raised in the park’s nursery; this carnivore’s sleepy appearance gives him a look of complete innocence. A triangle of white accents his hindquarters and matches a strip across his chest; dark eyes and pink ears complete the picture. Born blind and deaf, young Devils called “Joeys,” have bad eyesight and flash photos are forbidden. Lactose intolerant, infants are fed special formulas to keep them healthy. It takes about forty weeks to wean a baby and Joeys are encouraged to drink from bowls as soon as possible. At about five and one-half months they begin to teeth and chew on bony shin bits.
A loner, the Devil begins to breed by the age of two; the female visits the male den for a interlude of about two weeks in March and the blessed event takes place about three weeks later. At birth, the Devil has been described as being the size of a jellybean. Up to thirty “Jelly beans” try to make their way to their mother’s backward-styled pouch; nature’s way of ensuring that dirt doesn’t enter when mom is tearing into carrion. Since there are just four teats in the pouch only three or four survive. The Joeys latch onto mother’s milk teats for about three months then they’re left in their grass and leaf lined den – a cave, a hollow log or an old wombat burrow – while mom forages for food. Later, they may hitch a ride on her back or follow along behind. Though they achieve independence by twenty-eight weeks and are agile enough to climb a tree, many never reach maturity as predators often attack them. At night, these nocturnal creatures usually meander along secondary roads looking for road-kill; unfortunately automobiles often hit them as they feast on a diet of wallaby, rodents or lizards. A Devil, fortunate enough to survive the hazards Devils face, may reach the age of six to eight years.
Grown Devils feed at 11:00 am; the former jelly bean now has a broad head, reminiscent of a bear, a muzzle with long whiskers and a squat body with a short, thick tail and back paws with four toes. Devils enjoy nothing so much as a good fight or chase around the enclosure; when angry their pink ears turn red with increased blood flow. Weighing anywhere from nine to twenty-six pounds, they’re particularly aggressive when it comes to food. Snorts, whistles, growls, screeches and demonic screams, worthy of a Stephen King horror movie, rend the air when a Devil protects its find or a competitor ignores the challenge of a sharp sneeze. An overwrought Devil emits a pungent odor only a deodorant manufacturer would enjoy. Often a Devil will sport scars or missing patches of fur earned in combat. Endowed with the strongest jaws and teeth of any animal, nothing edible goes to waste when this marsupial devours carrion or prey. The Tasmanian Devils at the Park are either orphans or have been bred here. Females and their young are kept separate from the males who exhibit no paternal pride in their offspring and would make a happy meal of them.
Fossils have been found all over Australia, but living Devils are found only in Tasmania, having lost a battle over the same food supply favored by the Dingo, a wild dog brought to the mainland by the Indigenous People over 600-years ago. The Dingo never crossed the 150-mile Bass Strait that separates the Island of Tasmania from the southeastern mainland and here, the Devil survives.
A rough period for Devils began in 1830—farmers considered them a nuisance as they ate livestock and poultry. Van Dieman’s Land Company paid a bounty of twenty-five cents for males and thirty-five cents for females and many a Devil was poisoned or caught in a trap. It wasn’t until June 1941, that Devils came under the protection of the law. Today they are a symbol of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service and farmers realize they have a place in the food chain; they clean up the carrion that would pollute the land and prey on mice and other pests that consume agricultural produce. NOTE: Since our visit, the Tasmanian population has been devastated by a facial tumor disease sweeping through the population. The disease kills more than 90% of young adults in high density areas and is spread through biting. Australian scientists and medical personnel are doing their best to find a cure and keep the Devil from extinction.

My eBook mystery titled Scene Stealer is available through Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Carina Press and wherever eBooks are sold. An audio version has been produced by

Download hot ebooks from Carina PressAudiobooks at!

Monday, December 12, 2011


A bit of light verse:

My sheets are damp, in disarray

A devil incarnate joined the fray

Should he poison, slash or shoot?

That single print must match his boot

The P.I. who will solve this case

How many puzzles does the lady face?

Has she a partner? A dog? A cat?

Is the cat the one to smell a rat?

The cop is loaded with testosterone

Of course that accounts for his deep baritone

Will their dialogue move the plot?

Does Chapter two stall? Or not?

Need a couple of clues for readers to glean

Perhaps a red herring in-between?

I've wrestled my pillow to the floor

While adding a touch of blood and gore

At last! It's here! the morning light

it's time to rise, time to write.



Scene Stealer, my eBook cozy mystery is available through Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Carina Press and wherever eBooks are sold. An audio version is available though

Download hot ebooks from Carina PressAudiobooks at!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Before I begin to make the coffee in the morning, I turn on WQXR, the public radio station in New York--the only one that plays classical music. I continue listening as I fix breakfast, clear the dishes, and make the bed. When I sit down at the computer to begin writing, the music plays in the background--the radio stays in the kitchen and the music is muted allowing me to concentrate on the characters that will become the most important part of a story or novel. While I love jazz and show tunes--once upon a time singing in shows and small clubs--I would now find lyrics intrusive. A distraction from my work.

Would love to know if other writers call on music as they begin their work?

My cozy mystery eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Carina Press and wherever eBooks are sold. An audio book has been produced by