Monday, December 27, 2010

Greetings from Snowy England

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! and all those good things ---

At last ... I have Internet access - albeit for just a few moments to catch up on my emails etc.
This is a quick post to wish everyone a wonderful New Year ... just in case I don't get another opportunity as my mother's house is in the wilds of Devon and does not have the Internet. However, it does have running water (just kidding). We also have a tame robin ... my favorite British bird.

We finally arrived in the small hamlet of Harberton on Christmas Eve - six days later than planned. Twice, our Virgin Atlantic flight was cancelled - but we were luckier than many stranded passengers. We only live half an hour from LAX (Los Angeles) airport so no nights spent in airport terminals.

Here in Devon, the snow is still heavy on the ground with more to come. Despite being cold, we ventured into Totnes yesterday to watch the Dartington Morris men trip the light fantastic in freezing conditions. Tonight, we're heading to the local theatre to watch CINDERELLA - my husband's introduction to the classic British pantomime (oh yes it is).

All in all - so far so good! And now ... it's time for a glass of Sloe Gin.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Cat Going About His Business

I am a cat lover.

Anyone who knows me, knows that. I even admit to having a cat psychic so I can communicate with Mr. Tig and understand his grievances. But we have this really annoying problem. Another cat—who's identity remains a mystery—has started doing his business at both our front and our back doors.

We live on the upper level of a Spanish duplex. Apart from being disgusting, can you imagine how traumatized poor Mr. Tig must feel? He's an indoor-outdoor cat and his territory is small, but it's still his. The mystery cat has clearly got bolder. He's moved from using my plant pots (inexcusable as I love to garden) and has stepped up his game. It's quite clear we are living in his old house and he doesn't like it.

Even if I discover the culprit (my husband suggested an all-night stake-out but I think he was joking), what can we do? Cayenne pepper? Anyone got any ideas?

This problem reminds me of one of my favorite children's books. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It was None of His Business. If you're stuck for a gift for a child or an adult who never really grew up (i.e. English men who went to boarding school - no offense, I love you all), then this is the gift for you.

Meanwhile, I'm considering calling in my psychic, Ben Scuglia, for a bit of sleuthing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Old Mercury Retrograde!

I don't usually pay attention to astrology anymore (I used to be obsessed with it in my misspent youth) except for one thing. Mercury Retrograde. 

This morning I set off for the post office to buy stamps for the gazillions of holiday cards I love sending to friends and family scattered around the globe. After standing in line (queueing) for half an hour I arrive at the bullet-proof window only to find that they had run out of 98 cent stamps—in fact, they only had First Class stamps. The next indication I received about good old Mercury turning was a one hour phone conversation to my favorite customer service hub. Yes, you've guessed. Mumbai. The five different customer service agents I spoke to were all very pleasant as I explained that I needed to alert the bank that  my husband and I were traveling internationally and needed to use our cards. After jumping through hoops and reciting the alphabet backwards along with other security questions, I was told the "system was down" and could I call again later? Since then, I've had a slew of dropped phone calls, my computer freezing and just that general feeling of wading through treacle. 

However, just knowing Mercury is up to his tricks gives me patience. 

Here is what had to say about the planet. Mercury retrograde "gives rise to personal misunderstandings; flawed, disrupted or delayed communications, negotiations and trade; glitches and breakdowns with phones, computers, cars, buses and trains. Ho hum! And we're told Mercury doesn't straighten itself out until December 30!! Arrrgh. Not great for traveling. 

But - forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. In fact, having only recently written all about the importance of learning to go with the flow, it looks like I'm about to be tested.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Sudden Attack of Holiday-itis!

This time of year is always frantic—not just at work but at home too. Since my husband and I are leaving for England in just over a week, there is a lot of holiday shopping to finish, cards to write and mail out plus—a ton of book stuff to do in preparation for the launch of Thieves! in early January.

Last night I arrived home far more tired than usual. By nine 'o clock I had developed a cough and a blinding headache. During the night, my throat felt as if it were full of knives and my headache had become unbearable. There was no question of being able to stagger into work. I spent ALL day asleep—a luxury unheard of and true, I do feel much better this evening.

On delving into Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life" I later read with some amusement that headaches and migraines are often caused by "resisting the flow of life" and a "dislike of being driven." Sore throats are all about "swallowed anger" or the "inability to speak up for oneself."

Sometimes I try so hard to keep up with my silly self-imposed schedules that I forget to stop and smell the roses. I don't go with the flow and feel as if I am always swimming against the tide. Today, I stepped off my treadmill that seems to be always going full speed ahead.

Every day my husband writes a list of five things he's grateful for. I hadn't written one for a very long time but today, thanks to my headache, I did just that.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of gratitude and joy. Does it really matter if I don't finish my filing?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


No ... not the sword of Arthurian legend ... but the Excalibur Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Championship in Culver City last night.
A friend of ours—Troy—competed and we were determined to cheer him on. Troy got into the Finals and frankly, it was a real eye-opener. The one thing that slightly took me off-guard was the obsession with tan spraying. Ninety percent of the contestants sported a vibrant orange tan which was slightly disconcerting.

This championship was geared towards the "Masters" meaning men over 40. About 20 contestants were in their late fifties and flexing muscles I didn't even know existed. Their commitment to their art was jaw-dropping. The female bodybuilders were equally impressive.

Later at home as I tucked into a delicious plate of Trader Joe's Brie sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts and cranberries, I had to accept the truth that competing at Excalibur next year is highly unlikely for yours truly.

Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer "The Governator," I wonder if he'll go back to bodybuilding?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Naked British Farmer for the Holidays? Any takers?

I know I'm not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed at this time of year. I'm also not alone in struggling to think up suitable ideas for gifts to buy family and friends. My own family love exchanging tons of presents. The process of unwrapping lasts about two or three hours as we focus on each lucky recipient one-at-a-time. Our ritual includes watching the Queen's speech at 3.00 p.m, drinking mum's homemade Sloe gin and eating far too many chocolates. 

My husband's family is the exact opposite. With them, we play "Secret Santa. " Names are tossed into a hat and the buyer remains anonymous. We all have the same budget and each person only has to focus on one family member. Honestly, I really like it! Zero stress with the emphasis on quality -  not quantity. But ... rough on kids! I still remember with huge excitement, those giant piles of presents under the tree. Then, it definitely was all about quantity!

Having said all that, I have a few Farming Calendars left for 2011 - both male and female - which will make terrific stocking stuffers. The Farming Calendars feature in the Vicky Hill mysteries and have become extremely popular. What's even more exciting is that the creator, Nicola de Pulford, lives just two miles from my mother's house so I'm fortunate to bump into a farmer (dressed, I may add), now and again.

Take a peek at the website and if you're interested, send me an email at with "Farmers" in the subject line or send me a message via my Facebook page. Cost is $15 including shipping. If you would rather pay with British pounds or buy in the UK, go directly to the Farmer Calendar website - Proceeds for 2011 go to Saint Catherine's School, Ventnor, Isle of Wight.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

My husband and I have always shared a passion for history - particularly both world wars. Last night we watched "All Quiet on the Western Front." I'd read the book years ago and had never seen the movie. Even though it was made in 1930, the brutal images were so distressing that at times I couldn't watch it. Maybe it was because the memory of the First World War was still vivid in the minds of the creators and carried the message of "never again" or perhaps it was seeing the carnage on the fields of northern France, we knew another war would come just nine years later and all those brave souls had died in vain.
All I know is that my grandfather fought on the Western Front in the trenches. He survived physically, but not mentally. He came home deaf and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - in those days, it was called "Shell Shock." I never knew him, since he passed away before I was born but I'll not forget him.
Often, my boss will call in for messages if he's traveling and I usually reply "All quiet on the Western Front." It's said in an absent-minded way yet in that moment, my grandfather's shadow crosses my heart.
Photo from left to right: Dad, Grandma, Mum and Granddad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Royal Wedding

As a true monarchist and lover of all things Royal (yes, I know, some members of the Royal Family leave a lot to be desired) - I was thrilled to hear about the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton today.  Our family are die hard Royals. As a teenager, Dad's favorite program was Til Death Us Do Part so the fact that Kate is a "commoner" is not going down well. It's rather like being a Muggle at Hogwarts.

I also got a bit choked up about Prince William giving his beloved Princess Diana's engagement ring and saying that it was his way of including his mum in their happiness. Then ... someone at the office said that was a bit creepy. 
I don't think so. My own wedding band is vintage - worn by a happy couple who got married in 1929. Hopefully they lived long, joyful lives - it's certainly brought me great happiness. So far. 
Even so, I don't know if the British people will embrace this royal wedding with as much enthusiasm as Princess Diana's and good old Fergie. Those were the days ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

Okay. You'd probably think I was lying but I have not been in the outdoors since August - and that was in England. Up until this morning, the only time I breathe in the fresh air and feel the Californian sun on my face ... is walking to my car. The weather has been so glorious that I was determined to go for a hike in Franklin Canyon TODAY!
Franklin Canyon is my favorite local trail. It's only a ten minute drive from our apartment which is right in the middle of Los Angeles. Not many people realize that there are pockets of mountain trails dotted throughout the City.
I took this photo from my BlackBerry. The weird thing in the middle is a reservoir but I've never seen so much as a puddle in it.

Sometimes it's so easy to get insular and not make time for Nature. Sometimes I forget I grew up in the English countryside but today, just for an hour, I remembered how important it is to have those moments away from weekend household errands, my computer and endless deadlines.

What about you? How do you recharge your batteries?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Perfect Saturday Night --

It doesn't happen that often anymore - but a perfect Saturday night for me is having time to cook. The weekdays are so busy that even though my husband and I are sticklers for freshly cooked organic produce, our evening meals are a little dull. We need to be able to whip something up in forty-five minutes or less. But ... at the weekend, I have the luxury of making some yummy things. My favorite chefs these days are Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. I also love the Barefoot Contessa. I'm afraid I'm not an experimental cook. I envy people who can throw in a bit of this and a bit of that without measuring a single thing. I sometimes go wild and add in an extra herb, but on the whole - whatever imagination I have goes into creating puzzles for Vicky Hill to figure out.

What about you? Do you have to follow a recipe or can you be throw caution to the winds?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seriously ... does Mr. Suleman think I was born yesterday?

So ... this was the first email in my in-box this morning ...

Hello Mr. Williams sister,
We received email this morning from Mr John Williams who said that he is your brother,he said we should stop contacting you as you had car accident and on sick bed. And as such your fund should be wired to him via his bank account in New York City. We need to get your approval for the release of the fund to your brother asap.You can reply also via:

Best Regards,

Alhaji Hassan Suleman.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Memories in a Digital Age!

It’s been a strange time. Where did October go and now, November is upon us—and it’s only weeks until the holidays. I’m not ready for the end of the first decade! 

My sister’s big birthday is coming up and my daughter wanted some photographs. I got out my old school trunk of neatly organized photo albums. As I poured through them and was instantly transported back through time. Those memories were tangible. I could feel them. I was back there—as a young girl at the beach with her Cindy doll (I’m British – Barbie was regarded as a bit of a tart), holding my first dog Snuffles at age 8 (who had just thrown up on my coat), a disastrous camping expedition in the Girl Guides where I was told off for sticking a wooden stick in a cowpat, a wild time in Cardiff as a rookie reporter with friends who, now I’ve seen their laughing faces again, I’m determined to track down. My daughter’s first steps 26 years ago, wonderful memories of Africa and endless, endless photos of my first ever trip to Disneyland (what was I thinking?) 

I could go on and on but what struck me most was that these past five years I’ve kept all my memories on iPhoto. If I do look at them, it’s more of a quick skim. I don’t relive the memory at all. It’s not the same as leafing through dusty albums, each page promising a surprise. I’ve also noticed that I take dozens of photos with digital cameras because the bad ones can be erased. Yes, I’m making myself sound old, but there was something magical about getting your photos back from the developer to see how—and in my case, if—they came out. 

What about you? Do you still keep photo albums or are you an iPhoto fan? Do you think a part of our memory is erased too in the Digital Age? 

Photo: Christmas 1977

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Too Busy to Blog

Yes, I'm alive and well but too busy to blog. My day job at Davis Elen Advertising has become insane these past two weeks. I have my typeset pages for THIEVES! to send off tomorrow; I'm finishing up a proposal for a new series --- and there is a sudden deluge of work to be done for Sisters in Crime AND the California Crime Writers Conference 

Any suggestions on how to balance all these things— other than a stiff martini—are gratefully received.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Great Thing About Having a Day Job

With temperatures yesterday soaring to 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles, you would be correct in assuming that working in a high-rise air-conditioned building was just peachy. Even a brief excursion at lunchtime to the bank (not to rob) was a tolerable excursion especially when fellow Angelenos, who normally would never speak to strangers, commiserated on the weather. Since the subject of the weather is an English national pastime, I quite liked that. But it was when I got home to an apartment that registered 92 degrees inside, I realized how fortunate I had been. The temperature only dropped to 84 degrees at night as well. Fans were useless. It was just like standing in front of a hair dryer.

We live in a beautiful Spanish apartment with wooden floors, high ceilings and masses of windows. It was built in the early 1920's and many of these old buildings don't have air conditioning.

Today promises to be another scorcher but for once, I can't wait to get to the office!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Darkest Hour Before Dawn

I get up at 4.20 am when I'm on a drop dead-deadline. When it's just a "normal day" I set my alarm for 5.20 am but there still doesn't seem enough time to really immerse myself in my writing before jumping in the shower.

Today, we got up at 4 am because my husband is on one of his extreme fitness training routines (he's a Gemini and is either IN something or OUT). True, I could have slept in but since I'm a morning person, once I'm awake, I am wide awake. I've never been one to lay in bed and hit "snooze." For a start, my mind starts churning - worrying about my book, worrying about my cat's eye condition, worrying about my job, worrying about earthquakes and whether the pigeon I found yesterday really did just fly away.
I don't find it hard to get up at all. I just love the quiet of the early morning. I love the smell of the dawn and hearing the birds begin their day.

What about you? Are you Owls or Larks?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pigeon Rescue!

A distressing thing happened to me this morning. As I was dashing out of the house, I couldn't help noticing our resident squirrel in a terrible state. Even though I was late for work (as usual), I couldn't ignore the frantic tone in his voice. 

Hiding behind a small log cowered a pigeon. It seemed to be having a seizure. I hurried over and picked the little guy up. Apart from his rapidly beating heart, he seemed okay but every time I put him down, the squirrel starting going nuts—no pun intended.

I tried taking the pigeon into the house and found a nice cardboard box (one eye on the clock -boss will be there in five minutes) but the pigeon didn't like that and became even more upset. In the end, I gave him some of Mr. Tig's flower essence drops from Green Hope Farm called "Breathe" for respiratory conditions. It seemed to calm the pigeon down a little—at least enough for me to put him back in the garden. Fortunately the squirrel had gone and I was able to find a quiet, shady place  behind a wood pile. 

There are a lot of cats in our neighborhood. Mr. Tig being one of them. I said a prayer and just hope there won't be a pile of feathers or a solitary beak waiting for me when I get home tonight.

I've never had much luck with injured birds but it's so hard to know what to do for the best. 
What would you have done?  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Emailing Really More Efficient?

I am drowning in emails. Not just my own, but I also get my boss's emails for all his different ventures. All these beeping things popping up announcing "You've Got Mail!" in that maddening, cheery bouncy way. Today, has been fairly "light." A mere 103 (not counting the hundreds that go into my junk mail). 

When did life become so frantic? I find that emails are  not remotely efficient. They are far more time consuming - at least for me. As a writer, I'm afraid I agonize even over writing the shortest sentence. Sometimes, I get defiant and pick up the phone. I quite enjoy hearing the surprise on the other end as if I have called in from another planet. The conversation that follows covers all the elements of an email reply - and much more - a few shared jokes, an unexpected anecdote and the sense of warmth on the other end of the phone (unless you are calling Mumbai) plus there is a real human connection. 

I have just bought Julia Morgenstern's book "Never Check Email in the Morning." I'm anxious to learn some tips. Do you have any magic email tips you'd like to share? I'm all ears ... 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Playing Truant From School

It's strange that even though I left school [cough, cough] years ago, I still get that feeling of guilt when I escape the office. This morning, my boss asked me to deliver an important document to his home that couldn't wait for a messenger service. So off I went, happy to escape not just my desk (that has no view or even a window) but the smog of downtown Los Angeles. 

My boss lives in the beautiful foothills of La Canada Flintridge where the mountains are stunning and the air is clear. It reminded me a little of parts of England (except for the mountains). I felt inexplicably free and for all of an hour, had to fight the urge to keep on driving to Santa Barbara. 

I wondered at what point in my life my day job transitioned into feeling like school -- without the long holidays. It's been a pet peeve of mine ever since I moved to the USA that their work ethics are practically feudal. But for now, I'm grateful to have a job (where else would I get ideas for my characters!) plus I have a terrific boss who encourages my writing. 
Okay - must get some work done now ... 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Ongoing Saga of Mr. Tig

There is nothing more startling than being woken up by an earthquake at 5 am. I hate the things and still can't get used to them. Even though it was tiny and somewhere out in the Pacific off San Pedro (I believe) - it sends my heart racing and it's impossible to go back to sleep.

Sunday morning is my one day for sleeping in. That means getting up at 6.30. So I just tossed and turned, worrying about Mr. Tig and his recurring feline herpes problem that has really flared up. Following his miraculous recovery in August from a dicey liver complaint, we returned from our vacation to discover an ulcer on his eyeball. Now there are 3. I tried eye drops and they seem to make it worse. I'm putting off taking him to the opthamologist because years ago, I was warned he might have to have one of his eyes OUT! Mr. Tig is still in good spirits and can see well enough to play with his plastic rubber duck collection.

I'm a great believer in homeopathic remedies and Jennifer from Healing Waters in Los Angeles referred me to Green Hope Farm Animal Wellness Collection. Last night I received two bottles of remedies - "Breathe" and "Outburst" liquid essences that are put in water, on his paw pads or rubbed behind his ears. We'll know in a day or so if it is working. Will keep you posted!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Busy, Busy!

Nothing startling to report here apart from the fact that I have zero time to write my blog. I had SO many good intentions after returning from my vacation but frankly, getting up at 4.30 am to work on my new series (still top secret) sort of zaps my creative energy. A full day at the advertising agency leaves me feeling a little peaky and of course, if I end the day with a very intense spinning session at YAS downtown ... I'm seriously pooped.
Our holiday in the English countryside seems so far away—especially when I look out of my office window at the high-rise buildings peeping through the September smog. But my sorrow turns to joy when I look at my desktop screen saver. 

Meet Bam-Bam. He lives at our friend's farm in Thorneymire, North Yorkshire and is such an adorable little chap. Red squirrels are an endangered species in Great Britain and rarely seen in the south. I hadn't seen one myself since my childhood when I was a loyal member of The Tufty Club. 
Bam-Bam earned his name thanks to the noise he makes every morning as he reaches for his breakfast. He's very busy sorting out his nuts and seeds but dashes off if anyone tries to get close. Speaking of nuts and seeds, it's my co-worker's 24th birthday today (Happy Birthday Laura) and nearly time for chocolate cake.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Post-Vacation Blues

As always, I return from my vacation filled with resolutions. I'm determined to be the perfect employee; to arise at 5 am to write my books; to zip off a daily blog filled with wit and flair but most of all to maintain a zen-like aura of efficiency, grace and good humor. As always, these resolutions don't last. In fact, my boss gave me until noon of my first day back—but I managed to make it to mid-week with a smile. This time, the chaos that greeted me at my day job has left me reeling. It's a far cry from the tranquility of Devon. 

Heard about the latest Toyota recall (that's our account) or perhaps the City of San Francisco and East Village, NY, not being happy with a certain guerilla marketing campaign for Zynga (that's our account)? I've had no time to blog until now (I'm multi-tasking and on hold to customer service via my favorite Third World country) but I have managed to keep my promise of getting up at 5 am.  It's important to look on the bright side. I'm gainfully employed. I like 99% of my work colleagues and the 1% I don't provide me with the raison d'etre to plot a murder or two.  Seriously. I can't complain. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vacation Adventures: Lost Luggage and Mumbai

I've finally come up for air after returning from two and a half weeks in lovely, wet England. It was a wonderful trip even if it did start off somewhat vexing. The purpose was foremost to attend a family wedding in Devon. My nephew James was tying the knot with his childhood sweetheart Sarah Florence—not to be confused with my Sarah. And confused, people were. 
I have flown Virgin Atlantic from Los Angeles to Heathrow for nearly twenty years now and never have I lost a bag. Sigh. Needless to say the bag contained the wedding "paraphernalia." We arrived on the Thursday (wedding on the Saturday). We were assured by a very polite gentleman in Mumbai that the bag was on the next plane. It wasn't. Nor was it on the Friday plane despite a plethora of polite reassurances to "Mrs. Hannah" that it was only minutes away from arriving on our doorstep. At 9 a.m. on the big day, I called again for the umpteenth time. and got another very polite young woman who practically promised the soul of her first born and guaranteed the bag was in London and would arrive at our house by eleven. When I pointed out that we were three hundred miles away from London and that only a magic carpet would deliver it on time, she confessed that she had no idea that England was "so large." 
To cut a long story short, the bag arrived at 10.30 p.m that night and my husband spent most of the day holding his trousers up with string.  
Virgin Atlantic are always very good about addressing complaints made by their customers. I am eagerly hoping for a pair of complimentary First Class tickets even if we have to fly via Mumbai. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Packing for my vacation! Hurrah!

You'd think I'd know how to pack by now. In my misspent youth, I was a flight attendant for years. At one point, I worked on private jets and was on call twenty-four hours a day with a pager (no cell phones at that time). I'd often get paged in a supermarket and told to get to Heathrow Airport in 2 hours for a one-week trip to an unknown destination. I had packing down to a fine art then—or perhaps it was because I never really unpacked. On this trip my husband and I are having a competition. Who can pack the lightest. We're both planning on taking just one carry-on bag! My daughter Sarah says it's impossible. What I haven't told either of them is that I've already shipped a box of shoes to my mum's house in Devon. Is that cheating?
Just checked the weather forecast and yep -- looks like it's going to be raining. It always does when I go home in the summer. Let's pray for a magical sunny day on Saturday August 7 - just for my gorgeous nephew and beautiful bride-to-be ...
Back to packing ... and then off to work downtown for what promises to be an insane pre-vacation crazy morning. 
I'll be back in 2 weeks!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warts and All!

It's Wednesday! It's Barbara's postbag!

Dear Barbara,
I've just met this really nice man. We've been on three dates and I want him to meet my family. This weekend is my parent's wedding anniversary and my sister is having a party. The problem is that my parents argue a lot and mom has a terrible temper. Last time the buffet ended up in the pool. Should I invite him?
Worried, Glendale

Barbara says: You are quite right to be cautious, Patsy dear. In the early stages of a relationship, exposing your man to marital struggles is a recipe for disaster. Lets not forget that many men believe their women turn into their mothers! Wait until you've had twelve dates and then, invite your mother over alone for tea—a nice Victoria Sponge is always perfect for such an occasion. By that time he will be suitably enamored and will love you, warts and all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Ironman Champ!

Finding time to exercise when working an intense day job and writing books is always a challenge. Yet, next to the shower and ironing, my best ideas come when I am not deliberately thinking about writing—when I'm spinning for example. I was so excited to find that YAS (yoga and spinning for athletes) finally opened downtown. True, I come back from lunch with a face as red as a beetroot but also with some unexpected plot revelations. It also means that I can eat whatever I want for the rest of the day since spinning burns off between 600 and 900 calories per hour! Of course, I'm a tad tired but nothing compared to how our dear friend Colin Walker must be feeling today.  He just returned from competing in the grueling Ironman Lake Placid—a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride ... followed by a 26 mile marathon. ALL WITHOUT STOPPING. Colin—you are our hero!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where there's love, there's hope!

It's Wednesday and that means it's Barbara's postbag ...

Dear Barbara: Your inaugural newsletter features a beautiful photograph of a remarkable, champion snail named Seabiscuit. In a platonic sense, I find myself oddly attracted to Seabiscuit. Am I hopeless?
Snail Male

Barbara says: "Love—even between hemaphrodites—may well be challenging but never hopeless, dear. Courting snails fire love darts which add quite a thrill in the vegetable garden—though I'm told that being hit by one of those is the equivalent of being stabbed with a hypodermic needle! I believe snail hanky-panky can take as long as six hours so I do hope you have plenty of stamina. And of course, if a romantic dinner of shared lettuce leaf is planned, avoid the salt! Good luck!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Snore Mute Jaw Muzzle?

Yes. Apparently there are ways to stop your husband from snoring—although try as I might, I was unable to locate this vintage product advertised at the monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena.
Not for my husband of course (he's perfect)—but for the man who sleeps in the upstairs apartment building across the driveway from ours! At first, I thought it was an old air conditioning unit but a loud, sputtering snort followed by an anguished squeak, confirmed my suspicions. If anyone can suggest a snoring solution, I'd love to pass it along to our neighbor. Anonymously, of course.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Today, I'm excited to introduce Barbara Meadows—the Gipping Gazette receptionist and agony aunt (see above), eager to answer your questions in the love department. Barbara will feature every Wednesday. Email with DEAR BARBARA in the subject line.

Dear Barbara:Every time my boyfriend comes to my apartment, he goes straight to the fridge and looks inside. It’s annoying because he knows I don’t cook and we always get take-out or eat somewhere cheap. When I ask him why he does this, he just shrugs and says he doesn’t know. Can you help?

Alice, San Diego

Barbara says: “A way to a man’s heart is through is stomach, dear. As a boy, I’m sure he’d come home from school ravenous and head straight for the fridge. It’s a habit few men break out of. Fill up that fridge and your kitchen cupboard with goodies. Learn to cook. There are lots of easy recipe books available if you can’t afford to take a class. My Chocolate Fridge Cake is always a favorite and remember, when you are cooking, add warm, saucy feelings. If you’d like a copy of my own recipe, just drop me a line. Good luck!"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mr. Tig and Dr. Fox

Like many writers, I have a cat. Not just any old cat, but a very special cat called Mr. Tig. And like all cats, Mr. Tig has a terror of visiting the vet. I'm sure other cat lovers know how wretched I feel thrusting my kitty into a cat basket and bearing him off for hours of tortuous and humiliating examinations. Mr. Tig (nicknamed Mr. Pig because of his obsession for food) recently started losing weight. Not a good sign for a cat of 14. 
To my joy, my husband recently found a mobile vet service. This morning, Dr. Fox visited us at our home and brought with him, gentleness, kindness and a genuine love of animals. Mr. Tig adored him! Of course, it might have had something to do with the high-grade cat-nip Dr. Fox gave him which made him instantly popular. It was such a relief to hear Mr. Tig purr instead of lash out. Yes, he still had blood drawn, shots given but in his normal environment, lying on the rug in front of an open window basking in the morning sun. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Love Libraries!

One of the things I have rediscovered since becoming a published author, is a real passion for libraries. Despite the Internet, e-books, Amazon—you name it—libraries are still very much going strong. Some of my most memorable and fun book events have been in libraries. Only last night I joined the wonderful Harley Jane Kozak and Ashley Ream  at the beautiful Redondo Beach Library- the topic - Comedy That Kills! 
Even though most authors hold down day jobs, writing is a lonely labor of love. When readers make an effort to spend an evening with us, you have no idea how happy we are! 
Support your local libraries, folks! You'd be amazed at what other delights are in store that have nothing to do with books. My local library—the Los Angeles Library Memorial Branch has free Yoga open to all every Saturday, a knitting circle and a film club. To find YOUR local library check out the American Library Association or better still, become A Friend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Happy Discovery - Chocolove!

I don't deny it. I'm a choco-holic. Always have been, always will. I used to love Cadbury (still stunned at Cadbury's selling out to Kraft - life will never be the same) - in fact, the very first writing competition I entered was for Bournville. I was about eight years old and won a beautifully painted tin filled with delicious dark chocolate biscuits. Now, as I'm older, I've become a complete chocolate snob. I prefer dark chocolate and have a stash in a drawer that I keep topped up. It's a comforting sight to peer in there and see chocolate bars stacked according to their cocoa content. And so I made a happy discovery this morning as I was portioning out my daily allowance (yes, I really am this pathetic). Inside the wrapper of my new favorite - the Belgian "Chocolove" Raspberries 55% is a love poem. Hence - the name of the brand. Sigh. Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. Today's poem called, "I love thee," was written by Eliza Acton (born 1799-1859 and who also wrote one of the first cookbooks aimed at the domestic reader. "I love thee, as I love the calm Of sweet, star-lighted hours." What a lovely way to start my day—though I am quite positive she was not talking about her passion for chocolate ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Go Lakers!

Tonight the Lakers meet the Celtics in the finals of the NBA.
There are certain perks to working for an advertising agency in Los Angeles that I often forget about ... until the play-offs come around. Our company has a suite at the Staples Center and it's not unusual for me to suddenly become more popular than the Queen of England at this time of year. I had never watched a basketball game until I moved here. It was the first year the Lakers won the NBA and our high-rise office over-looked the victory parade making it the perfect location for Fox News to lurk with their cameras. To my acute embarrassment, I was interviewed "live" - not knowing a) any of the players or b) anything about the game. I managed to bluff my way through using grand words like "jubilation" and "frightfully exciting" (my British accent seemed to revert to Colonial English). They ran the interview too - which just goes to prove that you shouldn't believe anything you hear on television.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

God for Harry, England and St. George!

I've only just recovered from yesterday's World Cup football match. My ears are still ringing with the sound of trumpets and foghorns having joined 400 people on the roof of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to cheer on England against the USA. It was a disappointing draw with an excruciatingly embarrassing fumble by our goalie giving the USA the one goal they needed. I'm not a great follower of football; I don't understand our national game of cricket and much prefer the rough and tumble of rugby. Still, it was great to hang out with Ex-Pats with Brits in LA and wave the English flag. Not many people know that the true flag of England (not Great Britain) is the cross of St. George which is gradually regaining in popularity. The increasing cry is "The flag is for life! Not just for football." As the patron saint of England, St. George's Day is celebrated on April 23. His emblem was adopted by Richard the Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.

Having living in California now for over 17 years, I still get the chills when I see that flag and sing our National Anthem.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back from Space

Courtesy of the IMAX 3D theater at the Los Angeles Science Museum, my daughter Sarah and I spent yesterday afternoon with a few astronauts repairing the Hubble Telescope in Outer Space. It was an astonishing experience, revealing not just the wonders of other galaxies beyond our own but spectacular "star nurseries." The Hubble telescope is able to go beyond the known universe and frankly, it freaked me out a little. At school I failed miserably at science (garnering an "Ungraded" - not even a "Fail") and didn't really know what "stars were for." If only we'd had access to such awe-inspiring technology back in the dark ages. Virgin Galactic will soon be offering flights into space for a mere $200,000 a ticket. I'm going to start saving in my piggy bank.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sex and The City 2

I'm looking forward to seeing this today with my daughter despite the poor reviews. SATC is one of my all-time favorite TV shows and no matter how many reruns I have watched, those four women always leave me feeling empowered and uplifted. Of course I love to drool over clothes I could never afford, shoes I couldn't wear (bunions anyone?) and a body I might have had in my early teens. Mind you, since popcorn and M & M's are necessary to complete "the movie going experience" it's not surprising that a two-piece swimsuit is a distant (last century) memory.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Up Before the Larks

My husband got up at 4 am today to catch a flight—half an hour earlier than my usual "get-up-to-write time." Since I'm inbetween books and have been languishing in bed until 6 am for the past three weeks, this early wake-up call was—to say the least—annoying. I always tiptoe around in socks, talk to Mr. Tig our cat in a whisper and wrap the coffee grinder in a towel, even standing in a cupboard to grind the beans for that first cup. Nope. My husband crashed about like an elephant, rustling a plastic grocery bag (I still don't know why) and having a LOUD conversation with Mr. Tig. The coffee grinder sounded like a pneumatic drill. But how can I possibly complain? For the past four years my husband has been the one who gets me out of bed when that alarm goes off even if he doesn't get up himself. I guess that's what marriage is about - give and take - and that's why I waved him off at the door with a sleepy smile and a big hug. I know when I'm lucky.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Toe

I know this sounds pathetic, but I stubbed my toe yesterday and it really hurts. It's all black too which has somewhat ruined my attempt to get up earlier than usual (that means really early) to go for a morning walk in preparation for my nephew's wedding. I don't need much discouragement and I only started my new exercise plan -- cough, cough -- the day before. The really sad thing is that my friend at work - Laura - broke her arm last week falling from her horse Arnie (who is full of mischief) - but does Laura complain? Okay - she may be 25 years younger than me, but she came straight back to work on Monday with her arm in a cast and it was business as usual. A few months ago another employee at work took a whole week off with a "strained finger" and I admit I was scathing. Maybe this bad toe is karma?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Of course, it's not Mother's Day in England. The British celebration falls in March which is always a tad tricky for me to send a card from here in Los Angeles since Mother's Day cards aren't on the shelves (note to self: buy card for next year). As a child, my sister and I would make breakfast for our mum - it was always tea and toast and was heavily supervised by Dad. We would carry it upstairs on a tray with a daffodil in a vase and a handmade card. Mum would sit up in bed and pretend to be surprised. She also didn't drink tea but we would watch her sip it (suppressing a grimace) saying, "delicious, darlings." The whole day we would wait on her hand and foot. They were special times.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A blissful Saturday

Today, is the first free Saturday I have had in ... years probably. Having finished my fourth book and with none of my own book promotional efforts needed until next week, I feel strangely lost. Lawrence Kasdan said that "being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life," well - today it feels like the beginning of the school holidays.
I am going out to play.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jet Lag

After years of being a flight attendant (in another century - literally) and years of crossing the Atlantic with an 8 hour time difference to fly home to family, I never suffered from jet-lag. In fact, I am known to be scathing of others who toss and turn all night long. So why is it that just a mere trip to the east coast has given me the worst jet lag ever? Any suggestions folks? 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Back to the Day Job

Returning to work after a week off to attend the mystery convention Malice Domestic in Arlington, VA, and the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA, was more worrying than usual. Turning in my fourth book-Thieves!- had been a real struggle due to the Toyota recall (one of our main clients) with longer hours and a lot of stress all round. So much so that my boss - after eleven years of service - had suggested in a gentle-but-firm way that I needed to re-examine my "priorities." Or else.
 I needed a plan.
"Good morning, sir," I said brightly when he called in from his car. "I am your new executive assistant." 
"Excuse me?" He sounded confused. "Hannah? Is that you?" 
"I believe you fired your old assistant?" I said. "I heard she was useless and spent most of her time either day dreaming or having so many anxiety attacks that you no longer felt special." 
A pause then, "Yes."
"The employment agency sent me along. I assure you I will always put you first. Your life, is my life. You will have no reason to ever complain again."
When he arrived his coffee was hot. His fridge filled with fruit and snacks. His phone messages written down in perfectly legible handwriting (with the numbers correct). I kept my opinions about everyone to myself nor did I pepper our conversation with jokes and stories. By lunchtime, he asked for his old assistant back ... but I'm still on probation. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

At last I am blogging

Morning all - I am not particularly techno-savvy so it has taken me two hours trying to figure out how to do this and now I am looking at the clock and realizing that in just a few moments, I will have to get ready for work. I have still not unpacked from my great trip to Malice Domestic and hilariously memorable road trip with Kate Carlisle and Diane Orgain from Arlington, VA to Oakmont, PA to attend the Festival of Mystery. But hey-ho. Such is the life of an author with a manic day job. A busy day awaits!