National Author’s Day

A day to celebrate our favorite authors

November 1, 2022

For those of us who are compelled to write, it’s nice to know that there is a National Author’s Day. Today, November First, is that day. The event was created by a woman who, as an avid reader, wanted to thank one particular author for writing a book she absolutely loved.

The Infallible Wikipedia, however, snubs this topic so I cite for the following information:

“In 1928, the president of the Illinois Women’s Club, Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, came up with the idea to create a day that recognized American authors. She was an educator and quite an avid reader. The inspiration for the holiday came while she was in the hospital during the First World War. She had just read Irving Bacheller’s ‘Eben Holden’s Last Day A-Fishing’ and sent a letter to him expressing her love for the book.

After receiving the letter, responded by forwarding a signed copy of another one of his stories to her. McPherson, overwhelmed by his generosity, thought of a way to repay the gesture. She concluded that a National day for authors would do the trick and presented the idea to the Generation Federation of Women’s Clubs. The club approved, and in May 1929, issued an endorsement to celebrate American Authors on National Author’s Day.”

It actually took another 20 years before the US Department of Commerce acknowledged the day. After McPherson died in 1968, her granddaughter – Sue Cole – picked up the torch and encourages people to send notes to their favorite authors to thank them for their contributions which help make life a little bit brighter.

I love hearing the stories from people as to ‘when’ they knew they were – at heart – writers. Each of us comes to it in our own time and our own way but there is a universal thread. Writers are compelled to write. For those who are not compelled to write, perhaps that compunction does not seem obvious.

One of my earliest memories is receiving a ‘desk diary’ from my grandfather for a Christmas present. In reality, it was a marketing give away for his insurance company. For me it was an invitation to unlock the thoughts which coursed through my brain. My seven year old self, of course, did not possess the vocabulary or the skill to produce anything of value. Mostly, I was frustrated by my inabilities.

And yet, I was compelled to write, even if the writing was bad.

It was the fall of 2004 when the journey to author a book really took hold. It had been years in the making as the need to write things down was ever present. While I cannot recall the date of when I knew I needed to compose fiction, I do recall this odd thing which had started to occur.

At night I had the habit of reading to bring my brain ‘down’ before going to sleep. Most nights I would fall asleep with the book still in front of me, only waking up a bit later to set it aside.

One night when I reawakened, I clearly recalled that I was dreaming about the book I had been reading. But instead of my brain following the plot which the author had written, I had ‘rewritten’ one of the scenes in my mind!

Author Janet Lee Carey – who so generously shared her knowledge with an untold number of fledgling authors

Soon, instead of being engaged by stories others had written, my own imagination began to craft characters and plots.

I enrolled in a novel writing course at Bellevue Community College. It was being taught by author Janet Lee Carey. On October 5, 2004, I walked into that classroom for the first time and took a seat. The first 45 minutes were used by Janet Lee to share information on ‘how’ to write a novel. Over the next eight weeks, she covered everything from character building, to plot development, to types of sentences, grammar, and punctuation. She emphasized how to use dialogue, action, and narrative to move a story along.

And she said something profound which has stuck with me: “If you can write a paragraph, you can write a novel.” A book is, she explained, just many, many paragraphs strung together.

During the second half of each week’s session, the would-be authors in the class were encouraged to share up to six pages of their work-in-progress for Janet Lee and their classmates to critique.

As I listened to – and followed along on the pages the readers provided – I had an epiphany: I could write just as well as anyone in that class!

I went home that afternoon and started to write a novel. It was a heady moment some six months – and 90,000 words – later when I typed the words “The End.” And then I started to write another one. And then another. Each one was a bit better than the previous one. Each time I embarked on a new novel, I learned more about what to do and what not to do.

A few of the books published by some of our Anonymous Authors both current and past.

And I found camaraderie among my classmates and a few others we collected along the way. We dubbed our group the “Anonymous Authors” and met weekly to share our musings and make suggestions on one another’s work.

I am truly thankful for their input and, especially, their friendship. Even when our in person meetings came to a crashing halt in March 2020, several of us activated or installed cameras on our computers and we learned to Zoom.

I am currently one of two ‘hold outs’ from our current Zoom crew who has not yet published a novel. But that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the idea. Of the seven novels I’ve written, I’m working my way through my editor’s suggestions and corrections on the first one I plan to publish. The particular book is actually the fourth one I’ve written and part of a four book series (Book four in the series is actually a complete rewrite of novel #1)

Editing and rewriting is just another piece of the process essential to the writer’s journey. And, with a bit of luck, on November 1, 2023, I’ll be celebrating National Author’s day having joined the ranks of published authors; who knows, maybe someone will be sending me a note to let me know they loved my book. And maybe I’ll be able to send them an autographed copy back.

A bunch of links:

Novels published by several of the Anonymous Authors who are or, have been, a part of our group:

Layover – RA Schwarz

Long Time Passing – Jessie Irene Fernandes (Irene has published several other novels also)

God’s Army – Ward Harris (Ward has published a number of historial fiction novels)

The Girl with the Cinnamon Twist – Steve Dennis

Kandu – Joseph Julian

If you love puns and word play, then you might enjoy these books from my high school friend, Ben Mayo. If you’d like to get his books email him at:

And a link to Janet Lee Carey’s website:

Oxford English Dictionary

The Most Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language

February 1, 2022

Lord of the Rings. Les Miserables. Gone With The Wind. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each of these books took six or more years to be written with the Lord of the Rings trilogy taking JRR Tolkien 16 years.

But in the world of publishing, there was one project which was conceived 23 years before the first pages were published: The Oxford English Dictionary. Also known as OED.

Historical copies of a few of the Oxford English Dictionary

The OED is THE definitive authority on the English language, providing an etymology on the origins of every English word. The idea was conceived in 1857 but the first ‘fascicle’* was not published until February 1, 1884.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“The dictionary began as a Philological Society project of a small group of intellectuals in London (and unconnected to Oxford University): Richard Chenevix Trench, Herbert Coleridge, and Frederick Furnivall, who were dissatisfied with the existing English dictionaries. The society expressed interest in compiling a new dictionary as early as 1844, but it was not until June 1857 that they began by forming an “Unregistered Words Committee” to search for words that were unlisted or poorly defined in current dictionaries. In November, Trench’s report was not a list of unregistered words; instead, it was the study On Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries, which identified seven distinct shortcomings in contemporary dictionaries:

·         Incomplete coverage of obsolete words

·         Inconsistent coverage of families of related words

·         Incorrect dates for earliest use of words

·         History of obsolete senses of words often omitted

·         Inadequate distinction among synonyms

·         Insufficient use of good illustrative quotations

·         Space wasted on inappropriate or redundant content.

The final fascicle 1928

The society ultimately realized that the number of unlisted words would be far more than the number of words in the English dictionaries of the 19th century, and shifted their idea from covering only words that were not already in English dictionaries to a larger project. Trench suggested that a new, truly comprehensive dictionary was needed. On 7 January 1858, the society formally adopted the idea of a comprehensive new dictionary.”

There is much more to the story and it took another 44 years for the work to be completed. The last fascicle, which ranged from the words Wand to Wise, was the 125th installment. The complete dictionary – in bound volumes – soon followed.

Interestingly, Tolkien worked on the OED  and even wrote a parody based on some of the editors who he called ‘The Four Wise Clerks of Oxenford’ in the story Farmer Giles of Ham.

The OED is not, of course, the only dictionary in the world. But even today it is considered the gold standard.

From the time I could read, I have been fascinated with dictionaries. Currently I have 11 books on my shelves with the word ‘dictionary’ in their titles. These include not only standard dictionaries, but also The Boston DictionaryBryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and The Dictionary of Clichés.

My most prized dictionary, however, is a Funk & Wagnalls College Standard Dictionary. From 1925.

It is still in amazingly good shape, its edges now bound with 1960’s era brown electrical tape. This particular dictionary was a part of my childhood as it belonged to my maternal grandmother and was kept in the family cabin at Rimrock Lake. I suspect it was an early addition to my grandparent’s summer escape place and arrived about the same time as the Scrabble game.

The authors collection. The oldest – from 1925 – is at the front. Also included is my mother’s college dictionary from 1944 (the blue one) and others from the late 1950’s forward.

My grandmother and mother loved to play Scrabble together. I can see them, in my mind’s eye, puzzling over their letters to arrive at the word with the most points. But if one or the other challenged the other’s word, the 1925 dictionary would come off the shelf. It was the final authority.

When the cabin was sold two years ago, I was the lucky one who was privileged to add this family heirloom to my collection.

With my mother, sister, and grandmother at the cabin in 1971. You can see the Scrabble board holder behind them.

Every once in a while I will randomly read a page of a dictionary, looking for new and unfamiliar words. But, perhaps the most entertaining thing about perusing an old dictionary is to find words which existed then but have come to mean something different today.

I give you, as an example, the word ‘Computer’. provides this as the first definition: a programmable electronic device designed to accept data, perform prescribed mathematical and logical operations at high speed, and display the results of these operations.  Mainframes, desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones are some of the different types of computers.

But the 1925 F&W dictionary definition is ‘One who computes; particularly one who makes astronomical or other special calculations.’ There was no computer machine to be found in 1925!

I postulate that there is never a reason to be bored. In fact, just now my attention drifted a bit from the task at hand and I found myself reading words from the aforementioned 1925 dictionary. Have you ever heard of a Hackmatack? It sounds like something which would happen to your email if the wrong person found your password.

Hackmatack trees…

But, no, it is an actual word, a noun, of native American origins which means ‘The American larch; Tamarack.’ From now on I’m calling the Tamarack the Hackmatack. Or perhaps I will incorporate it into my world and use it randomly when the mood strikes. I wonder what other awesome and amazing words I can learn today? 

A couple of links:

*Fascicle: a section of a book or set of books being published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes.

Five Years of Tuesday Newsday

A Bloggers Life

January 11, 2022

When, on January 10, 2017, I posted my first Tuesday Newsday, I had no idea that five years later, I could say I’ve written 248 weekly articles which average about 1,000 words each. For those keeping score at home that is a quarter of a million words. Guess I’ve had something to say.

Every so often I get into a discussion with someone about my blog and why I started writing it.

Back in the fall of 2016, I was actively looking for a publisher for my novels. Friends of mine, Jim and Sandy, suggested that I go with them to Portland and meet their friend, Judith Glad, who had published several novels of her own AND also published novels for a handful of other authors.

So off we went. We had lunch with Judith (or ‘Jude’ as they affectionately call her) and she and I sat down that day and discussed writing and publishing and what our particular journey’s looked like. It was a delightful adventure.

Author Judith Glad

One of the topics which came up was whether or not I had a webpage.

“No!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t published any of my novels. What would be the purpose?”

Jude gently explained that, as a writer, you still create the webpage and then it is ‘ready’ when you do get to the point of publishing your books.

This made total sense to me: do those things you will want to have in place for when you do publish.

Even though my books were not quite in line with the type of books she and her daughter’s publishing company takes on, I left that day feeling buoyed and determined to launch my own webpage and blog.

In early January I created an account on WordPress and started the painstakingly slow task of building my own webpage.

The first article was all about Jim Croce, whose birthday was January 10. It was a grand total of 348 words long.

The subject of my first post, Jim Croce

Since that first, rather short, article, I’ve developed a template of sorts as to how I approach most weeks. I search the web for things which occurred on the particular date. Last week, for example, I learned the patent for the roller skate was granted on January 4th and it piqued my interest enough that I decided to write about it. I try to look for topics which I can relate to my own experiences since a huge part of each week’s article is making the connection to something personal for me or others.

And I always mention the Infallible Wikipedia. One of my favorite weeks was a year ago on January 15 when I wrote all about… the Infallible Wikipedia! For those that do not know WHY I refer to it as the Infallible Wikipedia, be sure to visit my post which explains it:

The Infallible Wikipedia logo

Now, for those keeping score, those 248 posts represent about 68 percent of the number of days in a year. By my calculations I will have a post for every day of the year in a little over two years from now… or will I? That’s where this has gotten tricky. Thanks to Leap Years, there are some dates which simply do not fall on a Tuesday within my time frame and, of course, others which already have articles for that date but will soon have a second Tuesday.

In 2023, the Tuesdays start to repeat themselves. I was kind of hit or miss for the first two months of 2017 but starting mid-March that year the dates begin to repeat. Since those dates once again fall on Tuesdays and I can’t usurp the old articles for new ones. And what about those other dates which will be skipped over? Surely they deserve their moment of glory?

What to do, what to do? I’m actually still debating that question.

This was something I did not consider when I started writing Tuesday Newsday. Of course the reason for doing the webpage, originally, was to create a place where I could share when and where people could get my books. Obviously I have to make sure to have the first book – at least – published by then!

Creating my author’s webpage has truly brought me joy. It’s become, in many ways, a vehicle by which to pluck snippets of memories; captured in words for my children and others who might have a glimpse of what the world looked like five, ten, twenty, or more years ago.

That, more than anything, appeals to this historian’s heart. As one ages you realize that the world is NOT the same as it was when you were a child or even a young adult.

Perhaps my favorite author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, captured that sentiment in the last section of her first book Little House In the Big Woods:

“When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, ‘What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?’

One of the wonderful Garth William’s illustrations from Little House In the Big Woods

‘They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,’ Pa said. ‘Go to sleep, now.’

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, ‘This is now.’

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

But, alas, the days of our childhood disappear into the mists of time, and one day you wake up and you’re 25 or 45 or 65 and your head is filled with bits and pieces of memories and of people and times gone by.

Thank you to my many readers for indulging me these past five years. None of us know what next year or the year after that, or even the next week might bring. So do that thing which brings you joy and fulfillment!

My little corner of the world where imagination takes flight.

As always a link or two:

Although I didn’t get into the weeds on blogging and how many blogs there are, the Infallible Wikipedia does, in fact, have a page about it for those who wish to learn more:

The author who encouraged me to start my own webpage/blog:

There appear to be a few ‘big boys’ who host web pages, including the one I chose, WordPress:

Update January 11, 2023 – I inch ever closer to getting that first book published. I’m now racing my self imposed deadline. More on The Darling of Delta Rho Chi coming soon!

Jane Eyre

Groundbreaking book by Charlotte Bronte

August 24, 2021

It was on August 24, 1847, when Charlotte Brontë finished her manuscript Jane Eyre. Less than two months later, the novel was published.

My 1920’s era copy of Jane Eyre which I purchased in a British bookshop the summer of 1980.

For those writers, like myself, who aspire to having our works in print, the pace with which she saw success and the subsequent praise for her novel, inspires.

Victorian England serves as the backdrop for Jane Eyre. From page one the reader sees a harsh world where one’s circumstances dictate where life will take them. The first person protagonist, orphan Jane, learns these lessons early due to poor treatment at the hands of her cousins and aunt. She is sent off to a boarding school where additional cruel handling awaits her; it’s a central tenet of the novel.

The book was considered groundbreaking as to its style and themes. Unlike most literature of the day, Jane Eyre delves into the deeper thoughts of the heroine. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“The novel revolutionised prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist’s moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity. Charlotte Brontë has been called the ‘first historian of the private consciousness,’ and the literary ancestor of writers like Proust and Joyce.

The book contains elements of social criticism with a strong sense of Christian morality at its core, and it is considered by many to be ahead of its time because of Jane’s individualistic character and how the novel approaches the topics of class, sexuality, religion, and feminism. It, along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is one of the most famous romance novels of all time.”

Haworth, Yorkshire Postcard circa 1980

Jane Eyre – along with Wuthering Heights by Charlotte’s sister Emily Brontë, – was among a handful of novels which inspired my interest in the romance genre. At the time I first read the books, I did not truly understand how these two sisters had to overcome societal gender prejudices to live a very non-traditional life. Jane Eyre was initially published under the pen name of Currer Bell to provide legitimacy to the novel since female writers were unheard of at that time.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Brontë’s first manuscript, ‘The Professor’, did not secure a publisher, although she was heartened by an encouraging response from Smith, Elder & Co. of Cornhill, who expressed an interest in any longer works Currer Bell might wish to send. Brontë responded by finishing and sending a second manuscript in August 1847. Six weeks later, Jane Eyre was published. It tells the story of a plain governess, Jane, who, after difficulties in her early life, falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. They marry, but only after Rochester’s insane first wife, of whom Jane initially has no knowledge, dies in a dramatic house fire. The book’s style was innovative, combining Romanticism, naturalism with gothic melodrama, and broke new ground in being written from an intensely evoked first-person female perspective. Brontë believed art was most convincing when based on personal experience; in Jane Eyre she transformed the experience into a novel with universal appeal.

Jane Eyre had immediate commercial success and initially received favourable reviews. G. H. Lewes wrote that it was ‘an utterance from the depths of a struggling, suffering, much-enduring spirit’, and declared that it consisted of ‘suspiria de profundis! (sighs from the depths). Speculation about the identity and gender of the mysterious Currer Bell heightened with the publication of Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell (Emily) and Agnes Grey by Acton Bell (Anne). Accompanying the speculation was a change in the critical reaction to Brontë’s work, as accusations were made that the writing was ‘coarse’, a judgement more readily made once it was suspected that Currer Bell was a woman. However, sales of Jane Eyre continued to be strong and may even have increased as a result of the novel developing a reputation as an ‘improper’ book.

Charlotte Bronte was only 38 when she died.

In the summer of 1980, while on a trip to Europe with my parents and sisters, we stopped into a bookstore in a town a bit south of London. My mother, particularly, was a huge fan of Victorian and Edwardian novels and loved nothing better than time spent perusing the stacks in a library or bookstore.

It was there, this particular July day, where I found a used copy of Jane Eyre. What a great choice of a book to read while touring the English countryside.

Soon I was lost in its pages, absorbed by Jane’s story. And soon my father – behind the wheel of the car we had rented – began chastising me for having my nose in a book rather than looking out the window.

For me, reading the book while traveling in Bronte’s homeland was the ultimate experience. One can only imagine what a place might look like unless they have been in that location. By the time we visited Haworth, Yorkshire, I knew what a moor looked and smelled like. I could see Jane struggling across them, sleeping among the crags, enduring the rain. I could envision the town, the church, and the geography.

To glance up from the pages and then out the window of the car stimulated my imagination in ways which induced the images to remain long after my return home.

I often see the book on the shelf in my office, a reminder of that trip so many years prior. Bound in a mottled brown and black leather, the volume at the time seemed contemporary to Bronte’s own life.

When I showed the book to my son our curiosity emerged as to the date of the printing. The only hint was ‘Printed and Bound in Great Britain by Greycaine Limited, Watford, Herts.’ A Google search revealed that the book was likely produced sometime between 1927 and 1936.  Even so, its cover, pages, and typestyle bespeaks of a different era.

I’m certain for Charlotte Bronte her fiction was borne of personal experience as to how the world was in her time. As a contemporary fiction writer, my own prose is reflective of my own time. Perhaps some future reader will be able to glimpse, if only for a short time, what the world of today looked like.

The links:

From the Facebook post: Emily – Wuthering Heights; Charlotte – Jane Eyre; Anne – Agnes Grey.

Agatha Christie

It’s a Mystery

September 15, 2020

Any list of the greatest novelists of the last one hundred years would be incomplete without this person on it. She wrote 66 novels and 14 collections of short stories and also the world’s longest running play, Mousetrap.

Agatha Christie amid a stack of the
many books she has written

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15, 1890. We know her as Agatha Christie. The Guinness World Records names her as the fiction author whose books have sold more than any other in history at over 2 billion copies. It’s the sort of success that aspiring novelists can only dream of.

Like most writers, it was a number of years after she began penning her stories before she was published. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At eighteen, Christie wrote her first short story, ‘The House of Beauty’, while recovering in bed from an illness. It consisted of about 6,000 words on ‘madness and dreams’, a subject of fascination for her. Her biographer, Janet Morgan, has commented that, despite ‘infelicities of style’, the story was ‘compelling’. (The story became an early version of her story ‘The House of Dreams’.) Other stories followed, most of them illustrating her interest in spiritualism and the paranormal. These included ‘The Call of Wings’ and ‘The Little Lonely God’. Magazines rejected all her early submissions, made under pseudonyms (including Mac Miller, Nathaniel Miller, and Sydney West); some submissions were later revised and published under her real name, often with new titles.

Every aspiring author needs a creepy doll… or two!

Around the same time, Christie began work on her first novel, Snow Upon the Desert. Writing under the pseudonym Monosyllaba, she set the book in Cairo and drew upon her recent experiences there. She was disappointed when the six publishers she contacted declined the work. Clara suggested that her daughter ask for advice from the successful novelist Eden Phillpotts, a family friend and neighbour, who responded to her enquiry, encouraged her writing, and sent her an introduction to his own literary agent, Hughes Massie, who also rejected Snow Upon the Desert but suggested a second novel.


Christie had long been a fan of detective novels, having enjoyed Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and The Moonstone, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s early Sherlock Holmes stories. She wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1916. It featured Hercue Poirot a former Belgian police officer with ‘magnificent moustaches’ and a head ‘exactly the shape of an egg’, who had taken refuge in Britain after Germany invaded Belgium. Christie’s inspiration for the character came from Belgian refugees living in Torquay, and the Belgian soldiers she helped to treat as a volunteer nurse during the First World War. Her original manuscript was rejected by Hodder & Stoughton and Methuen. After keeping the submission for several months, John Lane at The Bodley Head offered to accept it, provided that Christie change how the solution was revealed. She did so, and signed a contract committing her next five books to The Bodley Head, which she later felt was exploitative.It was published in 1920.”

Until I found this in my image search today,
I did not realize that I wasn’t the only one who adhere’s to this philosophy!

Her personal life was not without strife. When her father died in 1902 – Christie was 11 years old – the family’s financial situation changed. As Christie later said that it marked the end of her childhood.

Despite this, she did manage to participate in British social life and had a number of short lived relationships prior to meeting Archie Christie when she was 22 years old. The two were married on Christmas Eve 1914.

The birth of her only child, a daughter, occurred in 1919. With the death of her mother in 1926 she fell into a deep depression. Two years later she and Archie divorced when he admitted to an extramarital affair.

She did eventually remarry in 1930 to archaeologist Max Mallowan – a marriage which lasted until her death in 1976.

The backdrop to her personal life, however, was always writing. She often incorporated her own experiences and places she’d visited into her novels.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this was her work in hospital dispensaries during both World Wars. While there she became familiar with a variety of poisons which found their way into her works. Christie had a real gift in finding creative ways to kill off her characters.

While I cannot recall exactly when I became aware of Christie’s books, I imagine it was probably as a young teenager. Undoubtedly I read a number of her novels but it was the 1974 movie Murder On the Orient Express which truly brought her works to the attention of countless Americans. I have enjoyed all the movies based on her books.

I also believe I saw Mousetrap in London in 1980. Unfortunately, my memory is fuzzy and I’m not sure if I imagined the whole thing. But it does seem as if I did attend the play. It was in mid-July and early August of 1980 when my parents had taken my sister and me on a three week trip to Norway, England, and Scotland.

Although we spent the first day in London, the next morning we flew to Bergen, Norway, and began a multi-day bus tour of that country, ending up in Olso. From there, it was fly back to England for car touring as my dad rented a vehicle and we drove up through the countryside to Scotland. After Edinburgh, we returned to London. It was there, on August 2nd, that I write a postcard to my fiancé as follows:

The book I purchased in a London bookshop and read while on the trip; the postcard is the front of the one I sent on my last day in England.

True to what I wrote, it was the final missive I sent. Did I or did I not attend Mousetrap? What was the cause of my malady? Was it truly food poisoning as I believed or had someone doctored my food? Was the ‘poison’ the source of my fuzzy memory? Agatha Christie would, no doubt, approve of such a storyline.

Alas, dear reader, forty years after the fact, it is a mystery which might never be solved. Sounds like the makings of a novel.

The link:

September 12, 2022 – Update: The mystery has been solved! Buried in a previously undiscovered box, I found the program from when we attended in 1980. Although it was the 25th year plus three, I still purchased it… for one pound!

The back cover of the program showing St. Martin’s theatre where we saw the Mousetrap in late July 1980
A list of the cast from the evening we were there. I set the paper over the inside facing page for reference

Bob Dylan

Blowin’ In The Wind

December 10, 2019

Every year on December 10th, the Nobel Prize winners are announced. This particular winner from 2016 came as quite the surprise. When one thinks of American authors who have been recognized names such as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Pearl S. Buck come to mind.

Bob Dylan, however, was awarded the prize for his “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan then and now

As a songwriter, many of his early songs defined a mood and a generation. Blowin’ In The Wind became an anthem for the 1960’s war protest movement. The Times They Are a Changin’ is perhaps his best known song from this volatile era.

In nearly six decades, he’s created an amazing amount of work, not just in music but in other art forms as well. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Since 1994, Dylan has published eight books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries. He has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has also received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize Board in 2008 awarded him a special citation for ‘his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.’ In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature…”

Perhaps no other activity best defines his career as that of what has been dubbed ‘The Never Ending Tour.’ Dylan has performed over 3,000 concerts, often more than 100 a year, since June 1988, Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 2019, Dylan undertook two tours in Europe. The first commenced in Düsseldorf, Germany, on March 31, and ended in Valencia, Spain, on May 7. He played his 3000th show of the Never Ending Tour on April 19, 2019, in Innsbruck, Austria. Dylan’s second tour began in Bergen, Norway, on June 21, and ended in Kilkenny, Ireland, on July 14. Dylan’s touring company has announced his tour of the USA in the fall of 2019, commencing in Irvine, California on October 11 and ending in Washington D.C. on December 8.

In October 2019, Dylan’s touring company that he would play 14 concerts in Japan in April 2020.

Love him or not, Dylan is most certainly an original, following his own path and vision, always eschewing convention. Despite turning 78 on May 24th, he continues to keep a schedule which most people of a similar age would find impossible.

I must admit, I do not own a single Bob Dylan record/CD. It may have something to do with his distinctive voice.

When my daughter was a young teen she heard Bob Dylan for the first time. Her always expressive face registered surprise at the gravelly nature of it… and not in a positive way.

Of course the Hubby – ever one to capitalize on things which bugged her – did his best Bob Dylan impression, singing “The answer… my friend… is blowin’… in … the  wind.” Be sure to use your best raspy Dylan voice and insert pauses where the ellipses are for best results.

It has since become a running family joke. Mention Bob Dylan and someone is certain to try their hardest to imitate the man.

Here are a couple of links including three of Dylan singing the aforementioned Blowin’ In the Wind at various times in his career. I can only imagine that Dylan who, after all this time, must be sick of performing the song.

Here are a couple more ‘versions’ of Dylan singing Blowin’ In The Wind:

Nobel prize information dylan.jpg

Not So Anonymous Authors

April 23, 2019

Near and dear to this author’s heart is World Book and Copyright Day – celebrated annually on April 23. Created in 1995 the purpose of the day is to “recognize the scope of books – a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures.”

book wall.jpg

One of the more interesting aspects of World Book day, however, is how the date was chosen and why. The infallible Wikipedia, as it so often does, offers some insight:

“The original idea was of the Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes, first on 7 October, his birth date, then on 23 April, his death date. In 1995 UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on 23 April, as the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. (In a historical coincidence, Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date — 23 April 1616 — but not on the same day, as at the time, Spain used the Gregorian calendar and England used the Julian calendar; Shakespeare actually died 10 days after Cervantes died, on 3 May of the Gregorian calendar.)”

shakespeare.jpg            Shakespeare, perhaps more than any person who has ever lived, was the most prolific of authors. He published 37 plays and 154 sonnets and today, 503 years after his death, his plays are still being performed and his written works analyzed and contemplated. Talk about staying power!

Several years ago I read a book which made the claim that every plot line ever imagined was written by Shakespeare. Modern writers, it stated, might as well give it up and quit writing stories since they cannot match Shakespeare.

To me, this was a very sad and cynical thought. Plus it misses the point about the human mind and heart and the individual’s desire – I would argue need – to pursue one’s passions in life.

When I reflect back on my earliest interests, one stands out: the desire to write. What better way to capture thoughts and the emotions of a time and place? I dabbled in fiction writing while in high school and penned a thinly cloaked autobiographical story titled “Another Lunch.” It told the story of Bernice, Deborah, and Cynthia, three friends whose singular focus seemed to be the pursuit of boys.

journal.jpg            I would add to the ‘book’ as new adventures occurred, writing them down over the weekend, then bringing the updated story to school for the ‘real’ Deborah and Cynthia to read. In time some of the ‘boys’ and other peripheral characters – perhaps recognizing themselves in the story – also started to read the book. It was passed around like an annual at graduation for everyone to peruse.

Sadly, “Another Lunch” disappeared in the spring of my Senior year, no doubt lost in the hovel of some student’s bedroom destined to be discarded by an irritated mother who saw it as worthless.

My ‘fiction’ writing lay dormant for years until the day I walked into a novel writing class at Bellevue Community College. Taught by published author Janet Lee Carey, it was structured into two parts. The first was a 45 minute lecture on the elements of writing fiction. The second half was an opportunity for all of us aspiring authors to read a scene or two from our current work in progress.


That very first class I devoured everything which Janet shared as if I was encountering a feast after a years’ long fast. It was what happened in the second part of the class that day which confirmed for me that I was a reluctant writer who had finally found her home.

I listened to the stories which my classmates shared for critique and a voice inside my own head whispered to me, “You can write just as well as them.”

Later that day I started on my first novel, determined to find a way to complete a 90,000 word book – standard length. There was no better feeling than when, months later, I wrote the words “The End.” I had done it! But it was more than that. Writing provided an outlet for the jumble of thoughts which crowd my brain, a virtual sieve to separate the chaff from the grain.

Today I am still compelled to write. In addition to fiction, my Tuesday Newsday blog has taken on a life of its own. Now in the third year, this post is the 106th that I’ve published. For me it doesn’t matter if its novels or short personal essays (such as this one) it’s the writing that matters.

Finally, a nod to my fellow Anonymous Authors, who brighten my Tuesday mornings with their stories, critiques, and friendship: Roger, Jette, Ward, Daphne, Irene, Steve, and May.

A bit of information about World Book and Copyright day:

JK Rowling

Happy Birthday, Harry!

July 31, 2018

Since he emerged into the culture in 1997, this fictional character has taken the world by storm. I would argue that it would be difficult to find anyone in the US who has not at least heard his name: Harry Potter.happy birthdae harry

People obsessed with everything Harry Potter have even discerned – through clues from the seven book series – that July 31, 1980 is his birthday. He shares his day with none other than the woman who created him: Joanne Rowling, aka JK Rowling, who was born in 1965.

Rowling is the first author to become a billionaire through her writing. And all because of a book concept which came to her on train ride in 1990.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

47bd6cf4a24661517543e9ff1a3dd607--harry-potter-facts-harry-potter-books“Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.  (snip)

When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately. In December, Rowling’s mother, Anne, died after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis. Rowling was writing Harry Potter at the time and had never told her mother about it. Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing, and she channelled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.

No doubt the first twelve publishers who turned the book down are still kicking themselves. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on an old manual typewriter. Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1,500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London. The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next. Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.

Harry Potter stars with JK RowlingIn June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 ($21,000 US) and £25,000 ($32,000 US). Five months later, the book won its first award, a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year, and later, the Children’s Book Award. In early 1998, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for US $105,000. Rowling said that she ‘nearly died’ when she heard the news. In October 1998, Scholastic published Philosopher’s Stone in the US under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a change Rowling says she now regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time.”

It was in 1998 when Harry Potter arrived in my household, his wizardry abilities on full display, as he took over first one child and then the next.

My first memory associated with the books is of my 8 year old, third grade son sitting/laying on the staircase of our house reading the book. He finished it in less than 24 hours. As soon as the second and third books were available in the summer and fall of 1999, they were devoured in a similar manner.

I cannot say for sure what age my daughter was when she picked up our copy of the Sorcerer’s Stone, but I do believe she was seven and in second grade in the year 2000 when her wizarding adventure began. Four of the seven books had been released and her reading them can best be described as a marathon.

And so it continued the next several years culminating in the release of book seven in 2007. By then my children – like the protagonists in Harry Potter – had grown up. My son was 17 and entering his senior year of high school and my daughter was 14.

Professor McMonagall 20101Of course adding movies to the mix only served to enhance the experience. I think the high water mark for me was when, in 2009, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came to the IMAX. I was working with the Rainbow Girls then and we took a group to see the movie. Imagine the girls’ surprise when I arrive for the event dressed up… just like the character Professor McGonagall. I made quite the stir when I walked into the theatre and one patron yelled at me from up above “Good to see you McGonagall!” Guess my costume worked.

I was able to reprise the role at a Harry Potter themed dance the next summer, using my ‘wand’ as I chaperoned the event to pry apart couples who, perhaps, were becoming a bit too amorous. I, along with another chaperone who sported his own Albus Dumbledore attire, shared the first place prize for best costume.

You might think that, as adults, my children’s love of Harry Potter has waned. But it has not. JK Rowling wannabes continue to write in the genre known as ‘fan fiction.’ And my son has read  over 28 MILLION words… the equivalent of 351 novels… in just 3 years time. These stories are all related to Harry Potter’s wizarding world.

And my daughter? Well, here are a couple texts I got from her this morning as I was putting this article together:

Me: How many times have you read the series do you think?

Daughter: I’ve lost count… Just finished the whole thing again last week.

Me: That’s funny and it ties in perfectly.

Daughter: It’s more or less been a continuous cycle since 2000.

I think her response sums up the appeal of Harry Potter. A whole generation grew up reading the books and their love of the characters and the story transcends childhood. And that, ultimately, is a testament to the storytelling power of Rowling. What a gift she has given to millions and millions of people.

As always, a link to the Wikipedia about JK Rowling:

And even Harry Potter has a Wikipedia article:

Dave Barry

I swear I am not making this up…

July 3, 2018


The ability to write humor is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. Too often the humor is lost on the reader and they are left thinking “umm?”

For years I’ve read and enjoyed the humor of Dave Barry who turns 70 on Jdave-barry-facebook-chat-ftr.jpguly 3. His nationally syndicated column ran from 1983 to 2005. Additionally, he’s written numerous books which highlight some of the more ridiculous aspects of modern American life.

His 27 published books have ranged from observations on parenthood,  to musings on growing older, as well as Dave’s own unique take on history.  Even the titles of his books are humorous. Here are a few of my favorite titles:

  • The Taming of the Screw (1983)
  • Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week (1986)
  • Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989)
  • Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides (1994)
  • “My Teenage Son’s Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old” and Other Thoughts On Parenting From Dave Barry (2001)
  • “The Greatest Invention in the History Of Mankind Is Beer” And Other Manly Insights From Dave Barry (2001)
  • Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry (2015)

Here’s what the Infallible Wikipedia has to say about Barry’s career:

“Barry began his journalism career in 1971, working as a general-assignment reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near his alma mater, Haverford College. He covered local government and civic events and was promoted to City Editor after about two years. He also started writing a weekly humor column for the paper and began to develop his unique style. He remained at the newspaper through 1974. He then worked briefly as a copy editor at the Associated Press‘s Philadelphia bureau before joining Burger Associates, a consulting firm.

At Burger, he taught effective writing to business people. In his own words, he ‘spent nearly eight years trying to get various businesspersons to…stop writing things like ‘Enclosed please find the enclosed enclosures,’ but…eventually realized that it was hopeless.’

In 1981 he wrote a humorous guest column, about watching the birth of his son, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which attracted the attention of Gene Weingarten, then an editor of the Miami Herald‘s Sunday magazine Tropic. Weingarten hired Barry as a humor columnist in 1983. Barry’s column was syndicated nationally. Barry won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988 for ‘his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.’

(snip) In response to a column in which Barry mocked the cities of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, for calling themselves the ‘Grand Cities’, Grand Forks named a sewage pumping station after Barry in January 2002. Barry traveled to Grand Forks for the dedication ceremony.”

Barry is perhaps best known for the following sentence which often precedes some outrageous and humorous ‘fact’ – “I swear I am not making this up.”

Although I read Barry’s columns for several years, it was a book given to me by a young Mom, Vicki, which really made me a fan.

The year was 1989 and I was pregnant with my son. As her two boys were now beyond the stage of needing cribs and car seats, Vicki, gave me piles of gear. The real gem among the stuff was Dave’s book Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months With Tools You Probably Have Around the Home (1984)

In the course of incubating my own small human I had time to read the book. There was lots of humorous stuff between the pages and I laughed at much of it. At the time I thought he was exaggerating. It wasn’t until AFTER my son was born that I came to appreciate the truth in his whimsical look at parenthood and maybe, just maybe, he WASN’T making it up.

Of all the lines in the book (I’m paraphrasing) it was this one which I did not understand until sometime in 1990:

“The best time to feed your baby is just before the phone rings and right after you’ve gone to sleep.”

For anyone who’s been a parent you know exactly what that means… for the rest of you? Well, check out any one of his other books to brighten your day.

Two links for you:

Sue Grafton

 Z Is For Zero

April 24, 2018

This title was to be the final alphabet mystery series novel by Sue Grafton.

A is for AlphabetSadly, she died December 282017 and, according to her daughter, the final book will never be completed and the series ends with Y is for Yesterday.

April 24, 1940, however, should be B is for Birthday, the day Grafton was born in Louisville, Kentucky.

Although I’m not a big mystery reader, I do admire writer’s who display the tenacity it takes to achieve success. Grafton was such a writer.

Her early life was marred by a difficult home life as both her parents’ were alcoholics and, according to Grafton, “From the age of five onward, I was left to raise myself.”

It was her father’s influence which sparked an interest in writing. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Grafton’s father was enamored of detective fiction and wrote at night. He taught Grafton lessons on the writing and editing process and groomed her to be a writer. Inspired by her father, Grafton began writing when she was 18 and finished her first novel four years later. She continued writing and completed six more novels. Only two of these seven novels (Keziah Dane and The Lolly-Madonna War) were published. Grafton would later destroy the manuscripts for her five early, unpublished novels.”

Success eluded her so she began writing screenplays and worked steadily for 15 years as such. The skills she acquired in this occupation were essential as she learned about story structure, realistic dialogue and how to create effective action sequences.

The Alphabet Mystery series begins in 1982 with A is for Alibi. Also from Wikipedia:

“Grafton had been fascinated by mysteries series whose titles were related, such as John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, each of which included a color in the title, and Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small series, each of which included a day of the week in the title. While reading Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies, a picture book with an alphabetized list of ways for children to die, Grafton decided to write a series of novels whose title would follow the alphabet. She immediately sat down and made a list of all of the crime-related word that she knew.”

It was after the publication of G is for Gumshoe that Grafton was able to quit writing screenplays and focus on her novels.  There is one book in the series which does not comply with the naming conventions and that’s the letter ‘X’ – which is the complete title of the 24th book.

It was at a writer’s conference a few years back that I was told by an agent that having a series is the way to go. Of course, series or not, one must still obtain a publisher, have a marketing plan and do all the leg work to promote one’s books. For most writers, in my opinion, that’s the harder task than penning the book.

Writer’s write and, despite the lack of a publisher, it’s what we are compelled to do. Sue Grafton was also compelled to write so a toast to her memory on her birthday and the gift Dishe left behind with those 25 alphabet books.

To read more about Sue Grafton, here’s a link: