I am the Liberty Bell!

I went to a Capitol Crimes (Sisters in Crime, Sacramento Chapter) meeting this Saturday as the guest speaker.  Dave went with me, in a combination of pack horse (he lugged the book boxes), actor and moral support.  My sister Lisa also joined us as she was up from Venice Beach for her birthday.   We drove separate cars from our house to Sacramento as Lisa has a sometimes cranky back and my Saturn, which would have fit all three of us and our gear,  is not necessarily the best car for that.  She has a Mini, a cute little red and white one, and although it’s comfy and adorable, it does not have the trunk space we needed for the trip. 

We rendezvoused at Perko’s Grill and Cafe in Rancho Cordova where the Sacto Sisters have lunch before their meetings.  They were just a delightful group of women, some professional writers themselves, some aspiring authors, all of them voracious readers and so nice!  Dave was an honorary Sister for the day and handled himself well as the only male in a group of around 20 women.  No huge shock, that.  And they didn’t seem to mind the extra shot of testosterone he brought to the mix.  Lisa had just gotten her own literary agent (yay, Lisa!), so she fit right in the conversation and had some good advice to share.  

The meeting itself was at the Rancho Cordova Library.  Now I’d mapped out the journey weeks in advance, using Google Maps.  Oh, foul Google Maps!   Assuring the helpful Sisters I knew how to get to the library, we set off following the directions I’d googled (as did Lisa, who had the same directions as us) and ended up on the correct street, but going in the wrong direction.   We figured this out as the addresses went up in number instead of down to the 9000 block, where the library was.  D’oh!!!  So we flipped a U (and I mentally flipped off Google Maps) and drove as fast as the traffic would allow down Folsom, a busy street with many stoplights and more Sunday drivers than should be legal on a Saturday.  

 I will admit to being a little (a lot!) stressed.  I hate being late and every minute the clocked ticked closer to 1:00, the higher my blood pressure rose and the more vociferous my swearing became.    When poor Dave tried to calm me down, I’d snarl “I. Just. Have. To Get. This OUT OF MY SYSTEM!” 

Now in my defense we’d received some very bad news Friday in the late afternoon and we were already dealing with a huge amount of stress.  I like to think I’d have been a little calmer had things been different, but I’m sure there would have at least been some mild cursing.  As I said, I hate being late.  I knew in the back of my mind the Sisters had business to take care of before my presentation and my being 5-10 minutes late wouldn’t hold up the meeting, but the rational part of my brain was obviously being held at gunpoint by my inner White Rabbit ’cause common sense never made it past the ‘omigod, I’m LATE!!’

We finally made it to the library, which is located about three blocks away from Perko’s.  Sigh.   Got the books, the presentation board with all the old MFH material, the boombox and noir cds, and ourselves inside and all was well.  Two of our Brackmann cousins, Jill and Sammie, were there.  Jill was dolled up for a wedding she was attending right after the presentation and Sammie was noired out to the hilt in green and black satin and velvet, with four inch green satin heels, and a little black torque perched on the back of curly auburn hair.   They both looked quite smashing.  My cousin Lindy also showed up a bit later even though she was not feeling well.  So a special thanks to all three cousins and Lisa for going out of their way to come see me do my schtick. 

Dave started out the presentation with a short monologue (backed by appropriately noirish music) from The Peruvian Pigeon (which, for those of you not familiar with the history of my mystery…heh…that rhymes…was the first script Maureen and I wrote for Murder for Hire many years ago), which was much appreciated by the audience.  I think it was both the effectiveness of his performance and the fact he looks cute in a fedora and trenchcoat).  The monologue ends with “…and SHE walked in.”  A great cue for me to start my presentation if I do say so myself.

I’ve done this presentation a few times now and get more comfortable with it with each new appearance.  I basically talk about the history of Murder for Hire, both the theatrical troupe and the novel, going off on tangents about chocolate, supermodels, show anecdotes, screenplays, whatever happens to come up during the talk.  I love fielding questions from the audience and this group was the best yet in terms of having plenty of questions to throw at me.  After the presentation, I sold and signed books.  I seem to be incapable of just signing my name; I feel obliged to write a mini-novel for each inscription.  I’ve been told by more seasoned authors I’ll get over that the first time I do a really big signing.  Heh. 

The Capitol Crimes group also sold and signed books; CAPITAL CRIMES, an anthology of short stories written by members of their group.  Dave and I bought one and I’m looking forward to reading it.  Capital Crimes Cover

What, you might ask, does this all have to do with the Liberty Bell?   Well, I’d brought my camera to the event and Dave took pictures of me as I was giving my talk.  I saw the pictures yesterday, showing me in my slinky black top, red flowing skirt made out of Saree fabric, and black boots and for all the world, the shots all made me look bell shaped and much heavier than I’d like to think I appear in real life.  I told Dave I looked like a big fat bell and he said I was cracked.  Hence the Liberty Bell. 

And you didn’t think I’d ever come to the point, did you? 

The pictures had one positive affect (after reducing my slowly building self-esteem to rubble) – my motivation to exercise has revved up to high gear, I’ve started taking calorie counting seriously (did you know if you order a goat cheese, strawberry and spinach salad with candied walnuts and raspberry dressing you can reduce it from 880 calories to 280 by switching the dressing to a vinaigrette and cutting out the walnuts?) and I’m going to remember to stand up straighter when I give my talks!  More yoga! 

Black Success Stories by Zhana

I am very pleased to be hosting Zhana, author of Success Strategies for Black People and her latest book Black Success Stories. In tandem with her writing, Zhana is also a personal growth consultant based in the U.K. and both books are part of her ongoing commitment to global peace and prosperity. Zhana uses Creative Communication (also known as NVC), which, in her own words, “ is the single most effective method I have found for developing self-love, self-worth and a positive self-image.”

The key message I took away after reading the narratives in Black Success Stories is inspiration. Yes, the books are geared towards Black audiences, but anyone will find meaning and inspiration in reading about the human spirit triumphing over adversity. These stories are a celebration and in a world where there is so much depression, war, oppression and negativity, it’s essential to realize you can overcome the odds, no matter your race or gender.

(Note: My second question for Zhana is based on a mix-up on my part – I wrote the questions after reading another interview with her on Black Women of Europe and had it firmly stuck in my head that her books were specifically geared towards Black women. This is not the case, but her answer was so good I decided to leave it as is. )

You can pick up Black Success Stories here. In the meantime, enjoy this mini-interview with Zhana!

Zhana Author Photo
Talk about your writing background – How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

“I’ve been writing since I was nine (i.e., more than 40 years now). I loved to read as a child. Plus, I was very shy. And in my family, people rarely talked or listened to each other. All of these things probably contributed to my becoming a writer.”

In your opinion, are the advice and strategies in your book relevant for women of any race or is it specific to Black women?

“Volume 1 of Black Success Stories focused primarily on men. I think Black children – girls as well as boys – need positive Black male role models. So do people of other races. When Black people are stereotyped, everybody suffers as a consequence. And when Black success is celebrated, everybody benefits. I think everyone benefits from Black History Month. Don’t you?

Len Garrison, the founder of the Black Cultural Archives, talks about how to research your family history. Of course, people in the African Diaspora are likely to be particularly in need of these suggestions, because the legacy of slavery means that our families were often dispersed and records can be hard to track down. But anybody wanting to research their family history can learn something here.

Similarly, René Carayol MBE talks about how to succeed in the corporate world. And Trevor Phillips OBE gives advice on how to have a successful television career. So, although the guidance and suggestions in the book are geared primarily towards Black readers, there is something for everybody.”

Who is your most significant role model/heroine?

“My most significant role model and shero is Harriet Tubman. My mother told me about her when I was a young child, and used to give me Harriet Tubman comic books (it was the Sixties). So Tubman has always been a major influence for me. I think it’s the fact that she was so uncompromising. Plus she risked her life over and over again for the sake of others. As a Buddhist, I continue to be very inspired by her because she was totally committed to freedom and liberation. Of course, she was often dealing with people who were more afraid of freedom than of slavery.

I am writing a choreopoem, “Harriet”, about Harriet Tubman and Harriet Jacobs, the author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. You can read about it here.  

Black Success Stories


I’ve spent a large portion of my life collecting items and ideas with the goal of realizing their potential. This is why I’ve spent my adult life carting around and storing boxes, bins and tins of fabric, shells, beach glass, pieces of driftwood, battered picture frames, old jewelry bits, beads, pieces of furniture on the very shabby side of chic, news articles, pictures torn out of magazines, scraps of paper with one line notes scribbled down on them, stories with one paragraph written… the list goes on. When I actually buckle down and spend time on one of these projects, be it craft oriented or writing, I’m usually pleased with the results; I think I have a knack for visualizing the finished product. It’s the buckling down part that gets in the way.

There’s a quote about genius being 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration (I may have the percentages wrong, but you get my drift) and it’s very true. I get inspired a lot, but getting off my butt to act upon that inspiration…well, let’s just say I do most of my perspiring in yoga class. And yes, I know this is figurative perspiration. Or would it be more apt to say metaphorical sweat? Either way, I’m trying to get myself on a schedule of sorts to allow for the time and energy to achieve potential instead of just dreaming about it. To clear out some of those boxes of bits and turn them into something else. And most importantly, to stop talking about my ‘next writing project’ and just write the damn thing.

I’ve got to get through that door…

I don’t know about you, but when I get home from work, I can’t relax until all the chores that need to be done are completed.  I’m like a shark – if I don’t keep moving, I’ll sink into a sea of apathy and exhaustion.  Nothing will get done.  It doesn’t matter how late I work, how exhausted I am.  10 cats and one dog need feeding, floors need sweeping (10 cats generate a lot of pine litter dust), litter boxes need cleaning…there are usually dishes to be washed, laundry to be folded.  And if I’m REALLY lucky, one of the kids will have upchucked his/her breakfast and there will be cat vomit to be cleaned up.


I’m tired all over again.  Tonight included all of the above, btw.  And let’s not forget the recycle and garbage.

By the time I’m finished with all of these things, I’m wiped.  My brain is mush, my body exhausted and conjuring up creative energy is a challenge.  But part of being a writer is…well…actually WRITING.  Working on something.  Not just resting on my laurels (and my butt) and thinking about writing.   But dang, there are days when I wish I could put corks in my little darlings.   I won’t say which end.  I’m sure you get the idea.

Sunday Post Birthday Post

I ate too much cake.  It was a triple chocolate mousse cake with a small layer of actual cake at the bottom (the part with the forbidden wheat in it) and I had a HUGE slab of it with coffee after a bountiful lamb dinner (cooked by Rick – thank you, Rick!) and much tasty wine.  Jen had pina coladas (gack!) instead of wine.  Did I mention we were celebrating her birthday and mine (with pina coladas and tasty wine)?   Channeling Dr. Seuss here…  Anyway, too much cake on top of the wine led to an eruption of Vesuvian proportions.  Watching SKYSCRAPER back to back with MANOS, HANDS OF FATE may have also contributed to the resulting nausea.

Oh well.  I still had fun.  It was just a very Roman way of indulging.  But I think next time I’ll back off the cake and avoid the vomitorium.

I slept in this morning, happily headache and nausea free thanks to Zomig, decongestants and Dramamine, plus lots and lots of water.  The cats were thrilled and took advantage of the situation by piling on top of me.  Great way to stay warm, that.  It was storming when I woke up too, wind, rain and even some hail.  Something so lovely and cozy about a storm outside when I’m snuggled in bed under warm covers and felines.  The storm blew through around 10:00, so Boska got her walk on the beach.  Now it’s writing time, so I’m researching the flora around Lake Merced for the first scene in LILITH, my supernatural urban fantasy/thriller/mystery/romance/horror novel (how many genres can I cover in one book?) in hopes it will help my descriptive powers, which are a bit atrophied these days. go beyond ‘See Spot Run!’

Grumpy Post

How, you might ask, is it possible for a person to be grumpy when surrounded by purring felines, sipping a glass of good Cabernet Franc, and watching ONCE MORE WITH FEELING?  I mean…the Buffy musical generally cures all ills.  Cats are like Tribbles – holding one is an automatic stress reducer.   But when three cats are vying for lap space with my MacBook, it makes writing very difficult.   “Put ’em down!” you say.

Right.  YOU try it.  I put one down, another takes its place, like army ants.  I am Leningan and the cats are my army ants.  Except they don’t strip my flesh from my bones if they catch me sleeping.  And if you’ve never read the story Leningan and the Ants or seen THE NAKED JUNGLE (with a VERY young Chuck Heston as the lead and Eleanor Parker as his mail order bride wearing a truly amazing brassiere throughout the film), you will be wondering what the hell I’m talking about.   Get thee to Netflix, says I!

But I digress.

I am specifically grumpy because, after a wonderful yoga class tailored to help boost my immune system (people at work have been dropping like flies with influenza), I pinched a nerve my neck and shoulder while shredding some confidential documents at work.   As office manager (or Senior Adminstrative Coordinator, depending on which business card I hand you) I’m in charge of purchasing office supplies.  So when our old wimpy shredder jammed and no amount of coaxing, cleaning or kicking could make it work again, I bought a new one.    I wanted a macho shredder this time around, one that could take at least 15 pages without pause.   I found one in the Quill catalogue advertised to shred multiple layers, CDS…it was even supposed to eat staples!


My macho shredder is a big wimp.

But Spike’s cheekbones…okay, feeling better now… Sing, Spike, sing!   Let me rest in peace indeed…

Sorry.  I do love me my Buffy musical…especially Spike.  Grrrrrrrowwwwwllllffffff!

Back to the shredder.  This supposed Superman of shredders is a total wuss.  Yes, it does eat staples.  But ask it to eat more than 5 pieces of paper at a time and it’s all *cough* *cough*…’it’s too much!  I feel faint!  Give me mah smellin’ salts!’   There’s a huge bag to collect the shredded paper, but the bag only fills a quarter of the way before the machine decides it’s full and stops running.  You can’t hang the bag out of the front in order to make more room because if the door’s open, it won’t run.   Stupid, temperamental piece o’ crap.   And insult to injury, I pinched the nerve while stuffing the shred down into the bag.

I mean, what a dippy way to injure myself.  It’s almost worse than throwing out one’s back while sneezing.  “I hurt myself shredding!”

Although I could let people think I was talking about shredding waves.   Anyone who’s seen me surf would know better.

It’s hard to fight the good fight against flu bugs when you can’t turn your head without pain.  My birthday is Saturday and I don’t want to be sick or in pain.  I’ve got plans, dagnabbit!  I’m going to a Sisters in Crime meeting with Dave ad then we’re going to Rick and Jen’s for a duo birthday celebration (me and Jen, whose birthday was yesterday) involving a lamb dinner cooked by Rick, excellent wine and movies.  We are bringing SKYSCRAPER, a truly craptacular DIEHARD ripoff with Anna Nicole Smith in the Bruce Willis role.   I mean, you don’t get much worse than that.   In my world, that much bad is really really good.

So no flu!  No neck pain!  And no more stupid wimpy shredder!

Ah well.  If I still feel crabby tomorrow night, I’ll put on the ‘Buffy and Spike bring down the house’ episode and play the last 10 minutes over and over again.  I’ll take my cheap thrills where I can get ’em, thank you!