I’m officially done with summer! 

Especially since I heard on the radio that for the next four days we’re in for a heat wave, temperatures in the 100s. Okay, Laguna Beach isn’t as hot as inland but my loft bedroom doesn’t have any windows that open. The ex didn’t want to have to screw with the added hassle of installing windows that open when he built the loft.

Upstairs windows 002

As you can see, these windows are made of leaded glass, delicate wisteria blossoms trailing tendrils. Fixed shut. Never to allow a cool evening breeze to wash over me. Instead I have  a giant fan that sounds like a 747 revving up all night long.

Bring on the cool weather of Fall with its magical golden light, its lowering skies, the turning of the leaves (yes, there are trees that “turn” in Southern California–my favorite, the Japanese maple that blazes forth in a magnificent burst of red). And then the cold that will coax the pups back to spooning with me in our queen-sized bed.

And maybe with shorter days I’ll hunker down and get into the follow-up to Loveyoubye, not a whole big book, you understand, perhaps a novella. Not sure yet. That’s what I love about writing. It’s an adventure. But meanwhile I’ve been querying publishers for my African YA novel, Monkey’s Wedding while going through it one last time. I’m very excited about this book. This is where I honed my writing chops. Soon!



BLOG HOP: Write On!

I was chuffed when sister She Writes Press author L G O’Connor asked me to participate in this blog hop, a terrific opportunity to connect with her and the fabulous bloggers you’ll read about below. Meet L G…

L.G. O’Connor is a member of the Romance Writers of America. A corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company, she writes adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Trinity Stones, the first book in her Angelorum Twelve Chronicles urban fantasy/paranormal romance series published by She Writes Press, launches on April 22 and will be available wherever books are sold. She is currently preparing the second book in the Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, The Wanderer’s Children, for publication at the end of 2014. In addition, her adult contemporary romance will launch later this year. A native New Jersey girl, she lives a life of adventure, navigating her way through dog toys and soccer balls and loaning herself out for the occasional decorating project. When she’s feeling particularly brave, she enters the kitchen.

As for me, I’ll be at Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara on May 8th at 7 pm giving a reading, I’d love to see you there if you’re in the area. Okay, so on to the question and answer portion of the hop. Please visit the three writers’ blogs following the Q&A.

1) What am I working on?

I’m completing a final sweep through Monkey’s Wedding, my YA novel set in Zimbabwe. It was almost published back in the late 90s, but my publisher merged with another house and I was dumped. I went on to write the sequel, Mine Dances (set in Zambia), which I’ll spiff up next. Then on to getting them both published.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. I would say that in my memoir, Loveyoubye it’s my “voice” that distinguishes it, because that’s what readers first remark upon when they talk about it. But then a writer’s “voice” is something uniquely their own, no matter what the genre. However, in memoir this seems especially true.

As for the uniqueness of Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, both novels started as a memoir. But then I realized I wanted to make the story “bigger,” so I created two protagonists, a white girl and a black boy and gave the story political and spiritual overtones and lots of action. But essentially it’s a story of family and friendship.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write to discover. The poet William Stafford says it best: “I don’t see writing as communication of something already discovered, as ‘truths’ already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it.”

4) How does your writing process work?

So far I’ve been prompted to write by a need to resolve some issue deep inside me, to scratch an itch I can’t quite locate.  I’ve done this without an outline, without a particular direction. I’ve “pantsed” it (actually the term is “pantser”): this means to “fly by the seat of your pants,” discovering as you go. However I would love to have a go at outlining a story, seems the smart thing to do.

That’s it for me. So, let me introduce my three writer friends who will be the stops on this tour next Monday, April 28th.

Jessica Winters Mireles

Jessica Winters Mireles is a late bloomer who rediscovered her love of writing in her late forties after raising her four children while simultaneously teaching a studio of forty piano students. When her youngest daughter survived a cancer diagnosis, Jessica decided that life was too short not to pursue her own dreams of becoming a writer. She has since been published in Greenprints and Mothering Magazine as well as starting her blog: which is a musical term that means “Fast, but not too fast.” Jessica is currently working on a novel.

Linda Rosen

Linda Rosen lives in New Jersey with her husband.  When she’s not teaching fitness classes or working with private clients, she enjoys creating stories for readers to devour curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea.  Her unpublished novel seeking representation, FLOURISH, was a semi-finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She has been published in 201 Family Magazine and The Dying Goose. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association, NYC chapter, co-coordinator of Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month, and has a website,, which links to her blog, The Literary Leotard.

Tracey Baptiste

Tracey Baptiste is an author and editor of children’s books. Born on the island of Trinidad, Tracey became interested in fairy tales and told her mother at the age of 3 that she would grow up to be a writer someday. She wrote her first novel at the age of 13, a twelve-chapter future fantasy that she only shared with her best friend. At 15, Tracey and her family moved to New York where she discovered Rosa Guy’s novel The Friends, which set her on the path to writing books for teens and younger children. She Attended New York University for a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature and then again for a M.A. in Elementary Education.

After teaching 2nd grade for several years, Tracey left to work for McGraw-Hill, developing Reading and Language Arts programs. Teaching (shockingly) did not allow her lots of time to write. Tracey wrote her first novel on the commute to work–a YA that follows 13 year old Grace as she visits Trinidad and searches for a mysterious man in a photograph who she believes is her real father. Her debut was published by Simon & Schuster and was well received, earning her a place on the 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing in 2005. She left McGraw-Hill to freelance so that she could stay home with her two young children, and worked for several publishers including her favorite assignment, working on Scholastic classroom magazines. During that time, she also wrote 7 middle grade non-fiction books including a biography of her fantasy hero, Madeleine L’Engle.

Tracey has recently returned to full-time work (though she happily works from home) as an editor for Rosen Publishing, where she edits non-fiction books for kids. Her second novel, a creepy middle grade called The Jumbies will be out from Algonquin in 2015.

Tracey is represented by Marie Lamba of Jennifer De Chiara Literary and is currently at work on a chapter book for younger kids, and a middle grade novel. She can be found at where she blogs a weekly-ish roundup of publishing news. She also helps other writers with their fiction and non-fiction manuscripts via Fairy Godauthor ( You can find Tracey in person at the NJSCBWI conference in June. She will be giving two presentations: non-fiction writing, and the author/agent relationship. She will also be critiquing non-fiction proposals.


Old Post Resurrection Hop: Over the Hill and Faraway

As part of Old Post Resurrection Hop, I’m re-posting this blog I wrote in November, 2011.

Yesterday afternoon, instead of taking Fergie and Jake on our usual three-mile hike up the dirt road that winds up to the Top of The World (yup, it’s called that), I decided on the “other” hill, the one paralleling Laguna Canyon Road.  Haven’t been there in a while.  With all the rain we’ve had this fall, the meadow on the left of the steep tarred road glows with a spring-like green.  Opposite, a single house halfway up the hill, perches above the canyon.

The end of the road flattens to the left into a spot that looks like a helicopter landing pad, but it’s actually the remains of a foundation of a house that burned down at least twenty years earlier. A white slat-backed bench and two Adirondack chairs arranged just so sit under a tree complete with rope swing.  There’s history here, evidenced by the date “1947″ followed by the name “Don” carved into a low cement wall. The property is owned by someone who, unable to  build on it because of access problems, gave it to his dad who maintains it as a kind of park for those who discover it, or so I hear.  I’m grateful for this generosity of spirit.

I usually let the dogs charge around while I admire the view, one of Catalina Island (on a clear day), along with a view of Laguna’s main beach. From this angle and elevation, the breaking waves look like white brushstrokes. The sunsets are magnificent. A short distance behind the property the path leading up to Bermuda Hills Drive on the right is visible, free of its thick summer growth (and lurking snakes), revealing a discarded bucket, a couple of beer bottles and part of a large ceramic pot, no doubt tossed from the decks of the million dollar homes above. The goats have been hard at work.

I’ve taken this path a  number of times before. Today, I’m going left. There is no path, save for a faint indentation in the scrub. Sure, there’s a length of PVC pipe and a dead houseplant ahead, it’s not like it hasn’t been traversed before. But for me it’s a different path. And today, what I’m after is that feeling I used to get as a kid in Africa, be it in the Zambian bush, the flatlands of Zimbabwe, or in the hills of Barberton, South Africa, that feeling of charting new territory, of discovery. Fergie and Jake trot ahead, stopping only to sniff delicately at coyote droppings, dessicated and bleached white by the sun.

We head up the side of the hill steep enough to threaten a tumble down to the bench and Adirondack chairs. I pass what looks like a mini acacia, Africa’s umbrella thorn tree. Trying not to slip as I angle across the incline, I find myself thinking about the time I was nine, when me and my dad used to go looking for gold in the hills around Barberton those two years he worked in the mines and made bricks part-time. The Barberton area contains some of the oldest sedimentary rock formations in the world, site of a gold rush in the 1880s. We never did find find any gold on our forays into the rolling hills. Instead, on my own, I discovered an abandoned mine shaft filled with vines and a couple of parrots swooping in and out. I wrote a story about the experience when I first came to America as a twenty-three-year old at a local junior College and was rewarded with a C+ for archaic language, too many flashbacks, and a lack of focus.

Today, I’m focused on thinking about the past and those days I find myself visiting more and more, wishing my parents were still around to fill in those blanks I never realized were missing. ‘t often visit in my mind. It’s just too hard. My parents are no longer around to fill in those blanks about ask those questions I never bothered to ask before, the family history barely noted by my mom, but fervently pursued by my dad. I didn’t find anything like that today, not even close, unless you count the acacia look-alike.  Still, I enjoyed an invigorating hike until I came to a gully, newly formed by the looks of it with Jake and Fergie perched on the edge looking back at me. There’s a way around but it’s getting dark. Another time. I turn back, satisfied.

This is a Blog Hop!

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Where The Hell is The Car?

At the beginning of our weekend getaway, I wrote that we were “open to serendipity.” Well, that happened on Sunday morning on our way to the Annenberg and Hammer Museums. Deciding to take a detour down Main Street, we stumbled across a Farmer’s Market, which couldn’t have worked out any better as we’d missed the big one the previous day. This one was small, but friendly and cozy with a selection of fresh vegetables and food vendors unlike I’d ever seen at any other Farmer’s Market, notably the Laguna Beach one. There was music; there were dogs, people stretched out on a strip of lawn in front and a wonderful Victorian house, which was available for civic events with restrooms for market goers. It was in front of this house at one of the tables that we read the newspaper, shared a mushroom, onion, spinach, and cheese scrambled omelet along with a fresh mango drink and coconut juice, right from the coconut before heading for the Annenberg.

Finding the place wasn’t a problem—as Laural told me when I asked if she needed my GPS for the trip, “I am a GPS”—except there was a bit of a mix-up getting into the right parking garage due to the filming of a commercial. We parked somewhere in the bowels of a structure behind the Annenberg. Instead of taking the stairs or elevator, we walked up the down. That screwed us up when we returned. Couldn’t find Laural’s bright blue Honda Element. She’d parked it right there by the staircase, hadn’t she? Space 182. Thirty minutes later, after charging up and down aisles that must’ve been numbered by some sadistic bastard, all the while becoming more and more sweaty and a tad panicky—we could be tomorrow’s headlines—we finally found the little blue gem parked in a whole other area of the parking structure that hadn’t existed before. In spot #182. During the search neither of us lost our cool; it was all part of our weekend adventure. We mused that if this had happened to either one of us with our husbands—my ex, her current—it probably wouldn’t have been termed an “adventure”.

That evening we took our limo, Santa Monica’s dollar-a-ride Blue Bus back down to the beachfront and had a glass of wine at the historic Georgian Hotel. Couldn’t resist the art deco pizzazz of the place. A celebrity hideaway during the early days of Hollywood, the Georgian used to house a popular speakeasy and is now rumored to be haunted by certain unearthly guests. So there we sat on the verandah, sipping our Syrah’s and gazing up at the half moon above the palm trees, communing with the spirits.

After our less than thrilling dining experience at Border Grill, I was a little anxious about Tar & Roses. I mean I’m the one who made all the arrangements. Would it live up to the hype? Okay, so the place rocked. Well, almost. The wood roasted asparagus with pancetta, frisee and coddled duck egg—listed as a “small” plate”—was one of those dishes where you stop midway through the first bite and explore the food with your tongue trying to decide what made your taste buds do the Blues Brothers tap dance. The duck breast with bloomsdale spinach, bing cherry chutney and hazelnuts—a “large” plate—hit all the right notes, but at the twice the price and as someone who loves little itty bitty sized meals, I can tell you this was stingy. Yes, I’m taking points away for size. Ah, but then came the dessert that we shared: Strawberry Ricotta Crostada. Holy shit! A mix of strawberry and blood orange sprinkled with thyme served on a buttery sugar dusted pastry, along with honeycomb ice cream, almost had me in a fork fight with Laural for a bigger share. I’ve got to tell you, this kind of dessert is usually not my thing, but I absolutely swooned over this one.

We ended the evening in our motel’s telephone booth-sized dry sauna—obligingly opened by the desk clerk after the 10 pm deadline—then headed for the rooftop terrace with its astro turf, bogus ferns and Greek statues where we hoped to lie on the chaise longues and gaze up the moon. It was closed for the night. We trudged back down to our room. Our adventure was over.