Monday, December 23, 2013


     Jackie--Our poodle,
loved baked beans and rice pudding.
Hated snow boots and coats, and liked macho male dogs. Though just six pounds, she managed to push my hubby and I to the far sides of the bed while she stretched out in the middle. Would wake me in the morning with a lick in the ear.

Jean Anne with Lady  Our dance captains
     On tour with a musical comedy, we drove our leading lady to place where toy poodles were bred. You guessed it, five of us became the proud parents of poodles. Another member of the company bought a sheltie, another...well you know what the time Christmas came we looked more like a dog show than show people. It just so happens I have photos of Jackie's first Christmas party and like any proud puppy owner, I'm going to show them to you.

Georgia with Ming Toy
 Mimi with Peter (Her Tenor)

Jen and Missy Our Leading Ladies
 Mr. Kelly with Marilyn.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Bright and Shining New Year,


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Painted by Barbara Kratt 1764-1825

     Many of us know that our mothers went to art museums, listened to classical music and, read books specifically to influence us when we were still in the womb. Most continued during our childhood and we can recall and treasure our bedtime stories. Do you think this influenced you as a writer?
     WQXR, the publicly funded and much loved classical music station in New York, has celebrated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the entire month of November. Last weekend they talked about the Mozart effect.
     The terminology originally came from a study performed in 1991 with 36 young adult students who listened to ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. The students tackled a group of mental tasks before and after listening to Mozart. One was ten minutes of absolute quiet, the second ten minutes of directions on how to relax and the third was the sonata. The students who listen to Mozart did better when they were presented with a sequence of cerebral tests to finish—but the effect lasted approximately fifteen minutes.
     Scientists were intrigued and agreed that listening to music could have a short term effect but listening to Schubert or reading a book by Stephen King would bring about the same result if you took pleasure in the composer or author. In 2006, a study was conducted in England with eight thousand children who listened to either Mozart, a discussion about the experiment or three popular songs. The children who listened to the pop songs did better than the children who listened to Mozart.
     Books have been written, CDs made for children, and Governor Zell Miller requested $105,000 to provide a classical music CD to every child born in the state of Georgia. Music does lift the spirits, lower blood pressure and the playing of instruments—free musical instruments and training are often given to children in school—has promoted their social and cognitive skills.


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013


     We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and a host of other social networking sites. We blog, make videos, have launch parties, attend conferences, offer free gifts and excerpts from our writings. Hope for decent reviews and awards, and speak about our books wherever and whenever we can.
     Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an article about “Masterpiece,” a new reality show in Italy where writers compete. Contestants submit an unpublished novel—approximately 5,000 writers’ entries were received and read. Some writers were then screen tested. Four authors were chosen for each of six shows. Each member in a group of four plays a part in a happening then is given a project with a time limit of a half-hour.
     The judges consider the script and then reject two of the contestants. The two contestants who have survived the first round pitch—have just under a minute to pitch their baby to well known icons who have succeeded as authors and may revise their manuscripts. One will live to tell his or her tale in the finale. After many more trials, the victorious author will see his book debuted by a primary publisher. If the program succeeds, it will soon be seen in other nations around the world.
     According to the article, book promotion goes back many centuries. Herodotus—the Greek historian—paid for his book tour. Maupassant hired a hot air balloon—its mission to float over Paris adorned with the title of one of his short stories. Not a bad idea—perhaps we could drop bookmarks or slips of paper leading to our blogs.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013



While touring Sicily, we went to see a puppet show Palermo’s Opera dei Pupi—actually a marionette show—a traditional form that developed in Sicily at the beginning of the 15th century. I expected to see something similar to Pinocchio; instead I learned that the stories told are primarily about medieval adventures such as Charlemagne and his knights, the Norman knights of King Roger of Sicily and the Saracens. There are about three hundred tales included in this element of Sicilian folk culture.

     On the day we visited, Charlemagne sent Ruggiero to Rome—as he travels he meets and kills a dragon. Ruggiero then rescues the lovely Aladina, a lady held captive by a giant, who intends to sell her as a slave. The giant is quickly dispatched by Ruggerio and his soul is claimed by the devil. Ruggerio and Aladina make their way to Pinamonte Castle where Pinamonte—a pagan nobleman—poisons our hero and then stabs him to death. God and the angels appear and receive Ruggiero’s soul. Aladina informs Charlemagne who sends Orlando and Rinaldo to avenge Reggiero. A battle is fought with the pagan army—when the bloody conflict ends—Orland and Rinaldo are the victors and Pinamonte meets his well deserved end.

     Made of wood and cloth with metal trappings, they are made by families who specialize in making and presenting marionettes in their theatres and require highly developed skills learned over years of hard and dedicated work. One of Palermo’s best pupi creators are the Cuticchios—the family has been prominent as both puppeteers and      craftsmen generation after generation.  The marionettes are carved, painted and decorated and controlled by strings. They work against a backdrop of canvas painted in long-established Sicilian colors. After the show, the audience is invited to learn about the armored and helmeted marionettes. The show was recognized as a Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO.


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Friday, November 1, 2013


Stepping into History

      Each morning, a rooster issues a raucous wake-up call; an invitation to begin another picture postcard day. I take a deep breath - the air is fresh in Tuscany and in the distance, the Apennine’s snow capped peaks provide an impressive backdrop for northern Italy’s cypress trees and chestnut forests. Sheep rest in the shade of Umbrella pines and nets stretch languorously between gray-green olive trees waiting to catch their fruit. Lemon and orange trees—bittersweet and perfect for marmalade—add golden highlights to the lush greenery. Perfect days to walk the walls of one of Tuscany’s medieval hill towns and step into Etruscan and Roman history. A perfect time to visit small wineries nestled in the Tuscan hills and join in heated discussions over which community produces the finest wine or olive oil.
     I study guidebooks and maps, listen to our local guides and learn something about the region. Its Italian name—Toscana—is as lilting as the countryside and pays homage to an ancient people the Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. Thought to have settled the northwest coast of the Italian peninsula as early as 1000 BC, Etruscans were at their peak of power

between the 7th and 5th century when they controlled Italy from the Alps to the Tiber River. Even Rome, in its infancy from 616 to 509 BC, was ruled by the Etruscans.  Governed by three leagues of twelve politically independent, quarrelsome city-states bound together by a shared history of religion and language; Etruscans were led by aristocratic, warrior-kings. Their cities were constructed in the shape of a quadrangle and protected by walls enforced by double gates and forbidding towers—a response to alliances formed by Romans, Greeks and Carthaginians. After the 5th century, when the Greeks and Carthaginians defeated Etruria, power began to shift. By the 4th century, the swelling Roman state, ruled by kings inspired by Greek culture, absorbed Etruscan cities and uprisings led to defeat. Defeat made more palatable when the Etruscans accepted Roman citizenship in the 1st century BC.
     Forty-five miles west of Florence and thirteen miles northeast of Pisa is the fine olive-oil producing town of Lucca. It was here in 56 BC that Caesar, Crassus and Pompey met and agreed to rule Rome as a Triumvirate. It is here that I walk on the Passieggieta delle Mura, a walk of about 2 ½ miles that gives an overview of the town. The Passieggieta is one of the three walls built by Flemish engineers between 1500 and 1645. The walls were built to stem flooding by the Serchio River. As I walk, I can see flowering plants growing on top of a tower—an imposing medieval vase.   
     A visit to Lucca’s past includes a look at the Piazza Amfiteatro where the Roman Amphitheater once stood, the Duomo, with its green and white marble façade and San Michele in Foro topped by the statue of the Archangel Michael accompanied by two angels. The Carrera marble that once adorned the Amphitheater now adorns many of Lucca’s churches including the Duomo and San Michele. The unofficial capital of Tuscany during the rule of the Franks and Lombards, Lucca still enjoys an on-going rivalry with Pisa and Florence—Tuscan towns persevere in centuries-old squabbles.  Lucca was a Roman town, then a free commune from the 12th century until 1369 when it became a republic. At the turn of the 19th century, Tuscany became part of the French Empire and Lucca a principality, ruled by Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister. Her villa is now an up-scale hotel—opposite another said to have once been owned by her lover, an army officer. Marie Louise de Bourbon, Napoleon’s widow, succeeded Elisa and Lucca became a duchy. The Lucchesi were so fond of her, they erected as statue which stands in Piazza Napoleone. The town rejoined Tuscany in 1847.
     A gate cut into 13th century walls, via Porta San Giovanni, allows entry into San Gimignano. No cars are permitted inside the walls that protect one of the most charming towns in Tuscany. Because of the town’s 13 preserved towers—originally there were 72—San Gimignano is affectionately known as “Medieval Manhattan.” The towers were erected as symbols of wealth and power by patrician families who controlled this free commune as it reached its zenith during the 12th and 13th centuries. The height and number of towers grew along with the competition between the families.
     Located in the hills of Chianti, 34 miles southwest of Florence, the town bears the name of St. Gimignano, the Bishop of Modena, said to have saved the town from barbarian hordes. Pilgrims resting their weary bodies in San Gimignano as they traveled to and from Rome on the via Francigena, led to the town’s growth in the Middle Ages.  Today, after a walk through San Gimignano’s narrow, cobbled streets I can rest my body at an outdoor café in the Piazza della Cisterna, named for a well constructed in 1273, and sip Vernaccia—a light, white wine famous in the region. A welcome respite after viewing the town’s 14th and 15th century masterpieces in the museums and Duomo and experiencing a few shivers of horror at the Museum of Medieval Criminology housed in the Torre del Diavolo Devil’s Tower.
     San Gimignano was often at war with Volterra, another walled medieval town, and fought against other municipalities. The hostilities plus the mutually destructive clashes between political factions—the Guelphs who supported the papacy and the Ghibellines supporters of the imperial authority—divided the town and led to its decline. Devastated by the black plague of 1348, San Gimignano came under the protection of Florence; now a powerful and influential, medieval republic that dominated Tuscany.
     Called the “Town of Wind and Rock,” by D’Annuzio, and described by D.H. Lawrence as a city “that gets all the wind and sees all the world,” the views from Volterra are impressive. Located in the central part of Tuscany, Volterra, at diverse times in history, was called home by Umbrians, Etruscans and Florentines and, in the 3rd century BC, controlled large expanses of territory. An important Etruscan hub, the Iron Age contributed to its affluence in the 6th century when its merchants traded with Gaul but by the 16th century, devastated by plague and malaria, Volterra’s power waned.
     Volterra is known for its fine Etruscan Museum—Etrusco Guarnacci, medieval squares, Etruscan walls, built of huge rocks, that stand on the edge of a precipice and Roman ruins. Its massive stone walls include the Roman-Etruscan Gate of the Arch where three Etruscan heads, inserted during the Roman era, keep a wary eye on visitors.
     Legend tells us, the medieval city of Siena was founded by Senius—son of Remus of Romulus and Remus—the legendary forefathers of Rome who were suckled by a wolf with extreme maternal instincts. Siena, another walled city, abounds with statues paying tribute to the wolf. Built on three lion-colored hills, Siena suggests a meander through the middle ages with its Gothic Palaces, steep, narrow streets and medieval gates plus its justly famous Chianti wine and delectably sweet, and for me, impossible to resist, panforte. Siena is known throughout the world for the Palio delle Contra held since the 13th century in honor of the Madonna. Every July and August, preceded by a flag throwing ceremony and accompanied by costumes and banners that whisk us back to a 15th century pageant, the Palio draws thousands to a celebration and tournament where jockeys ride bareback on the Piazza del Campo and anything goes—even a horse without a rider can win.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013


     Gretna Green welcomed couples planning to wed. Lydia Bennet, in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, writes of going to Gretna Green with Wickham, the man she loves.
Almost 250-years have passed since lovers—denied permission to wed—eloped to Gretna Green a village flanking England in the south of Scotland. An aura of romance and adventure still attracts couples—the village hosts over 4,000 weddings a year.
     Marriage, until the middle of the 16th century, involved little ceremony. A man went to a woman’s house, took her home and they were wed. The church believed marriage to be a personal agreement; no formalities, no clergy, prior notice or witnesses needed. Unconventional, yes, but recognized under common law.
     Runaway marriages began in 1753 when an act of Parliament passed in England stated both parties to a marriage must be at least 21 years of age or receive parental consent. The act did not apply to Scotland’s lenient marriage laws where couples as young as sixteen could wed without permission.
     Hotly pursued by family members or a protector, the couple’s vows were hastily taken in a short ceremony often presided over by the village blacksmith; a most important man. who made horseshoes, fixed carriages and farm equipment and forged hot metal over his anvil. Becoming an anvil priest he forged lovers together. Two neighbors witnessed, the priest whacked the anvil and the pair was wed. If the couple received word that an angry father approached and might disrupt the ceremony; the couple quickly slipped into bed. Father would find his beloved daughter under the covers with her mate.
     Many runaways faced danger on their way to Gretna Green; in 1771, John Edgar and Jean Scott fearing her father would waylay them by the crossroads, headed for the coast and Burgh-by-Sands in England. Despite a windstorm the couple persuaded a group of bold seamen to help them reach Scotland—they were tracked and followed by Jean’s father and his crew. His boat overturned with a life lost and the hunt was abandoned. Reaching shore safely, the lovers were married by the infamous Joseph Paisley, a former smuggler.
     The Earl of Westmoreland knew Robert Child, director of Child’s Bank, would never consent to the marriage of his daughter, Sarah Anne, with a penniless aristocrat. They eloped to Gretna Green in May of 1782. Child caught up with the couple between Carlisle and Penrith where he shot Westmoreland’s lead carriage horse. While Westmorland’s men sabotaged Child’s carriage forcing him to call off the chase, the couple proceeded with three horses. Child purged the couple from his will—the  inheritance passed to their eldest daughter. The couple prospered but history repeated itself; sixty-years later, Sarah Anne’s granddaughter, Adele, unable to handle her mother’s meddling in her romantic affairs eloped to Gretna Green with a young officer.
     Gretna Green scandalized the nation in 1826 when Ellen Turner, a lovely, romantic, teen-ager, the daughter of a prosperous mill-owner, was abducted by a scoundrel named Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Wakefield forged a letter stating Ellen must return home from Misses Daulby’s Seminary for the Daughters of Gentlefolk as her mother was ill. Her carriage stopped at a Manchester Inn to change horses where Wakefield, a fine-looking, older man introduced himself as her father’s friend and instructed her to travel to Kendal to meet him. On arrival, Wakefield told Ellen a fictitious tale about her father’s insolvent bank causing his mill to fail. Ellen would be given half the business but, as she was underage, must marry and give the mill to her husband in order to return it to her father. He then offered his hand, Ellen accepted and they continued to Gretna Green. After the ceremony they left for France where Ellen’s uncles found the pair and informed Ellen of Wakefield’s falsehoods. On the 23 of March 1827, the rogue stood trial; found guilty of abduction and unlawful marriage, he received a sentence of three years imprisonment at Newgate. A special act of Parliament annulled the marriage.
     Today, couples need to give 14 days written notice of their weddings and Clergymen now conduct the anvil weddings. Since 1902, registrars have performed civil weddings in approved venues outside the registration offices.

Bests and congratulations to all newlyweds,

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013


     Had a dream last night about a trip we took to Amalfi and the tales we were told. Once upon a time Hercules, the celebrated son of Zeus fell in love—or was it lust—with a captivating sprite named Amalfi. When she died, the despairing Hercules buried her on one of the most pleasing coasts on earth and named it after his dearest love. The Amalfi Coast has and does enthrall artists, writers, composers, crowned heads, buccaneers, mercenaries, farmers, movie stars, and travelers who drive along the Strada Statale 163.
     The Strada Statale known as the Nastro Azzurro—Blue Ribbon—road, is named for the milky color of its limestone and built with reverence for the natural turns of the Latteri Mountains. Built, between the 1840s and 1850s, it is a 41-mile awe-inspiring, spine-tingling adventure along Amalfi’s sensuous coastline between Sorrento and Salerno, Italy.
     Our bus winds and spirals along the narrow road—presenting imposing vistas on all sides. Far above, chestnut, pine and walnut forests use the mountains as a setting for their verdant foliage. Accessible by steep ladder like steps, houses outfitted in the colors of sherbet—strawberry, vanilla, and lemon—hug the craggy rock formations that plunge to the Bays of Naples and Sorrento
     Imagination roams free on Amalfi—we hear about Grecian Sirens—bird women who lived on the islets of Sirenuse and beguiled sailors with their sweet song. The sailors wrecked their ships on rocks as they sought to reach the sirens. Ulysses had himself tied to the ship’s mast while his crew placed beeswax in their ears to avoid the temptations that would smash their vessel and take their lives. Thwarted, the sirens tried to leap on board the ship, plummeted into the sea and drowned. History converted the Greek myth to Italian, the sirens became mermaids then changed into three rocks but their promise of pleasure continues—the islets were bought first by the Russian dancer Leonide Massine and then by his balletic heir, Rudolph Nureyev.
     Wherever there is a tight space between the Moorish style houses that clasp the face of the rock, steps climb to another level in Positano—founded by Poseidon, the God of the Sea. A retreat for writers and artists—John Steinbeck lived here in 1953. The foundation of the town’s affluence have fish from the sea and water for making bread and—before  the industrial revolution—water for wool, iron and pasta mills.
     Part of Amalfi’s Maritime Republic in the 10th century, Positano’s ships carried spices, silks and wood to the east by the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, Positano, the first town to import bikinis is known for its fashion, Moda Positano. A dance festival, dedicated to Leonide Massine, is presented in summer and, in winter; the town’s traditional Prespio—a creche with a nativity scene—is much admired. The Prespio with stable, houses, shops and worshippers are all modeled on the town. The pebbled beach, Spaggia Grande, close to many fine restaurants, may be reached by a walkway from Piazza Flavio Gioia.  
     We stop at a roadside stand near Praiano, a fishing village that offers lemons, hot peppers, walnuts and figs reputed to be the finest on the coast. The town, colonized in the 6th century A.D., became a refuge for people seeking protection against the barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire. From the town, cameras try to photograph the breathtaking seascape of blues and greens that change color in harmony with the water’s mood. Praiano is 2,000 steps above a small marina and steps are everywhere leading to bathing platforms by the sea. 
     Towers built from the 13th to 15th century and used for defense against the enemy fleets of Il Saracen—Muslim pirates—and Turkish invaders rise everywhere along the coast. One tower built at the beginning of the 19th century— was built in fear of the English. Sophia Loren’s villa is pointed out, off-white in color with terraces and a 500-year old tower.  Perhaps Sophia’s tower protects against the paparazzi.
     Of major importance is the Port of Amalfi, during the middle ages the principal town of the Ancient Maritime Republic—the other three towns were Pisa, Genoa and Venice. A commercial town, overlooking the Bay of Salerno, Amalfi, known for its shipbuilding, bustled with activity—spices, perfumes, silks and carpets. Amalfi ‘s Tabula Amalphitana—Maritime Laws—was believed to be the most accredited code of all maritime nations and may be viewed in the Civic Museum.
     Around the square are old dockyards, while overhead are winding alleys that lead to the main square, dominated by the Duomo, the Cattedrale di Sant’ Andrea. The height and sweep of the Cathedral’s magnificent stairs, its Moorish features, black and white facade and Byzantine mosaic work, bronze doors made in Constantinople in the 10th century and its representations of the 12 apostles are both magnificent and imposing. The church is said to have the bones of St. Andrea—Amalfi’s protector of seamen—and the Saint is honored with a feast on June 27 celebrating the defeat of Barbarossa, known as Redbeard, the Admiral of the Turkish fleet, in 1544. Men clothed in white carry a silver-gilt statue of the Saint to the water and fishermen convey the statue back up the 62 steps to the cathedral. The Saint is thanked by the fishermen who decorate the statue’s left wrist with wooden and gilt amulets. Amalfi also has welcomed composers and authors; the Luna Hotel, in the past a convent, welcomed both Wagner and Ibsen who, in the 18th century, wrote “A Doll’s House,” during his stay.
     Scala is a town said to have been founded by survivors of a shipwreck. As we drive, chestnut trees impress with a rich display of black nuts—Scala holds a Festival of the Chestnuts every year and is known as the Town of the Churches, with one hundred serving the devout. 
     From Scala, we look across a deep, narrow valley called the Valley of the Dragon, and see our next stop—the town of Ravello. Known for its textile industry in the 13th century, Ravello is recognized as both The City of Musicmusic is heard in Ravello throughout the year—and The Town of the Villas –one belonged to Gore Vidal.  Two of the villas are world famous, the Villa Cimbrone, a Gothic castle where Greta Garbo once tarried and the Villa Rufalo which hosted D.H. Lawrence, Wagner, Grieg and Adrian IV, the first English Pope. The Villa Rufalo is mentioned in Giovanni  Boccaccio’s Decameron.  The Cimbrone is surrounded by rose gardens that lead to a stone parapet known as The Terrace of Infinity that overlooks the Bay of Salerno where the sapphire sky often melts into the ultramarine of the sea. The Villa Rufalo is a combination of Moorish and Mediterranean architecture with two towers, a Gothic arch that dates back to the 12th century, a cloister within and a garden where lavender grows and chamber music is played. The gardens inspired the magic garden in Wagner’s Parsifal.  Below Rufalo is the village of Minora where a Roman Villa was built one century before Christ’s birth.
     The Amalfi Coast with its legends, history, and promise of pleasure is as enchanting to mortals as the nymph Hercules loved and the tantalizing sirens sailors died for. A place where romantics, teller of tales and those dreaming of adventure continue a love affair with one of Italy’s most romantic treasures.


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

That Ah Hah Moment

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

     You’ve finished several drafts, gone back to the beginning, determined whether the plot makes sense, learned about your characters backgrounds and kept them near you throughout the day, checked the time line, sentence structure and spelling, and yes—it all makes sense. But...something is off, you know you’ve missed a vital element somewhere in your story—what do you do now?
     Think about the new narrative before you go to sleep? I’ve woken up and there it is—everything falls into place. Decide to cook something you’ve never cooked before? Sure. Why not? It can take your mind off your trouble for awhile and then you can begin again. If the answer comes when you’re cooking and you forget to put in several ingredients, you can always call for a pizza. Exercise? Ride a bike, touch your toes, take a hike, or run around the block? You trip on an uneven bit of pavement and the answer to the problem with your story pops into your mind as you lay sprawled on the sidewalk—who cares about the few scrapes and bruises? Band-Aids and antiseptic and you’re back to the computer. The dog wants to walk—a perfect time to think. While he takes the time to “smell the roses,” you realize the answer is obvious. “Sorry, pup, we’re going home, I’ll make it up to you later.”
     Have you found solutions to a writing dilemma in an unlikely setting?
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013


     Cartoon courtesy of Kenneth Austin Kowi

     On Saturdays, if I'm awake by 8:00 AM, I listen to Naomi Lewin's Classics for Kids. I began enjoying classics rather late in life and being just a kid at heart, I find the program an absolute delight. For example, I learned that the Beef Council uses Aaron Copland's Hoedown from the ballet Rodeo as its theme song. Many other favorite classical pieces have been used in commercials. From Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries--cereal, soup, cheese and flying have employed the classics to encourage us to enjoy and buy their products.

     Classics for Kids helps me begin the day with a smile.


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


     We've all heard about the curious cat and noticed one of our own investigating something only she can see--all she needs is a deerstalker cap perched on her head to be a feline version of Sherlock Holmes. And what about our loyal companion--the dog? His nose examines every scent--no clue or tasty morsel escapes him. When on a tour of Kangaroo Island in Australia, a charming resident let me pat his sandy head while he checked my pockets for an interesting bit of chocolate. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a visit to the zoo, I engaged in a conversation--pantomime, of course, with an ape. A docent told me the ape loved to see the contents of a purse. I held up my cosmetics, a notepad, a pen--all the things that multiply in our bags and we both became thoroughly absorbed until we finally noticed a crowd had gathered and were observing the two of us.
        We begin in childhood when everything we see, hear, touch. smell and taste is an endless source of fascination. As we age, most people lose a good portion of their curiosity. I believe that writers keep their ability to relate to the world--the who, what, where, when and why of life and bring that to the page.


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Friday, August 23, 2013


     Why do some professions lend themselves to fictional heroes?
Others are thought to harbor villains. Several give us an easy or sympathetic victim. Royalty is chock full of victims and villains--Shakespeare's live on. Politicians? Many more villains than heroes. Perhaps we'd better stay away from politicians unless we intend writing a detective novel that features the Father of our Country.
     Most of John Gresham's lawyers are role models and professors can be exciting and even sexy--think of Harrison Ford chasing after the Holy Grail. But stay away from Colin Dexter's Oxford and a few of the professors who teach there. Those intellectuals keep Inspectors Morse and Lewis busy solving their crimes.
     There is the crusading newspaper reporter--our hero and his opposite--the gossip columnist who wrecks havoc with lives and careers. And what about doctors? In real life and most television shows we are filled with admiration and usually follow everything prescribed but in fiction? A doctor often falls off the pedestal he or she is placed on. And victims--Susan Isaacs in Compromising Positions used Dr. Fleckstine, a dentist, as a victim. Lawence Olivier as Dr. Christain Szell--a dentist, Nazi and former SS Officer made a splendid villain. I'm sure many movie patrons lived with hours of pain before keeping their dental appointments. I've never read about a fictional dentist as hero--fellow writers the character is all yours.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013


     Grew up in Inwood in NYC where Manhattan was bought from the Indians who thought they were just sharing. The neighborhood was mixed--descendants of immigrants from Russia, Germany, Greece and Ireland and I decided that someday I would visit the places where my friends grandparents had once lived. In 2005, my husband and I took a trip to Ireland.
     The town of Ennis--the home base for the tour,  grew around the friary in the heart of County Claire. The 13th century friary has many sculptures and there's a walk along a sculpture trail. From Ennis we went west to the lofty, 650-foot-high Cliffs of Moher--the highest in Europe and a nesting site for thousands of seabirds. Below  the billowing ocean presents a spectacular picture. A walk along the coast introduces us to a limestone landscape called the Burren with white, deeply crevassed limestone that's hospitable to semi-tropical and arctic vegetation growing in close proximity .
     No visit to Ireland is complete without a stop at Blarney with its famous castle. One hundred and twenty seven steps up a tower is the Blarney Stone. Legend tells us that anyone who manages to lean backward and kiss the stone will receive the gift of Blarney--a smooth, endearing way with words. Almost impossible to resist is a shopping trip to the Blarney Woolen Mills--I've used my sweater whenever the cold hits our city.
     Cobb is on our agenda--the port where many an Irish immigrant looking to make a new home in the new world embarked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also the last port of call for the Titanic and the Lusitania.
     Travel along the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula is a visual adventure combining oceans, coasts, mountains and the ever changing weather and light with a long pause in Kells to see Ireland's Border Collies working at a sheep farm.

                                                SHEEP TO THE LEFT
                                                SHEEP TO THE RIGHT
                                                WHEREVER WE LOOK
                                                 THERE'S A SHEEP IN SIGHT
       One of our last stops is Tralee and the Kerry County Museum--a living history museum that explores life from 7,000-years ago, the Mesolithic hunters and fishermen, and later settler including Celts and early Christians. We end our journey in Dublin. We walk along the same streets as Joyce and Yeats, see the Book of Kells and take in a show at the Abbey Theatre. Of course, no trip is complete without a walk along the River Liffey.

Do you enjoy travel?


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