Looking For Love (Inspiration) In All The Wrong Places

In 1980, country singer Johnny Lee recorded Looking For Love. It became a hit. In fact, years later I find myself humming the tune, even though I don’t agree with the lyrics. I offer my apologies to Johnny Lee for borrowing the title for this post. The first line of the song is “Looking for love in all the wrong places…” (I’ve forgotten the rest.)

While writers may or may not be “looking for love,” (I’ve found it – not looking), all writers are always looking for inspiration. I thought I would share three photos of the places I have recently looked for inspiration, sadly not yet finding it.

in the great outdoors

gazing into the fireplace

in the ‘fridge (Although the Hagen Dazs was somewhat inspiring.)


In an effort to de-clutter my house, I’ve taken to reading more on my Kindle and buying fewer actual books. This has been a semi-successful strategy – after all, there are more things that form clutter-clusters than books.  There are some problems with E-readers. When you attempt to find a meaningful quote you read on an earlier page, or track a character’s first appearance in a book series, it is much more difficult on a Kindle than in a physical book.

Recently, I’ve started re-reading some of the books I own. In 2001,  I read Move to Strike, a newly published book by Perri O’Shaughnessy. The main character, Nina Reilly, is an attorney. The attraction, for me, besides being a really good, fast-moving, law-themed mystery, was the setting in nearby Lake Tahoe, with side trips to Monterey County. I lived in Monterey County for twenty years and it was delightful to revisit the area through the eyes of Nina Reilly

Life intervened, and unlike my usual habit of reading everything that particular author has written, I didn’t read any more of that series – until recently. I was delighted to find that the O’Shaughnessy sisters are still writing under their pen-name Perri O’Shaughnessy.  If you are a mystery fan, their books are a must-read. Their website is http://perrio.com.

Have you recently discovered or re-discovered an author you would recommend?




How Do I Write Thee? ( with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How Do I Love Thee, Sonnet 43)

Not too long ago, I saw an interview with a writer who claims to do his best writing in unique, beautiful settings or on a cruise ship. He claimed these venues inspired and informed his writing. They even had pictures of him actually writing while in one of those beautiful places!

I admire that quality. At one time, I found I could easily focus on a specific task (balancing my check-book, listening to my child, correcting student work, writing letters) while sitting on the living room floor with the television blaring. I literally did not hear what the television was broadcasting, so strong was my focus.

I imagine, with my ability to shut out the world and focus on a task, if I tried to actually write while in one of those beautiful settings, the beauty would be lost on me. That’s why we have photos – they allow for delayed inspiration.

I find I no longer can focus on one task in the face of chaos – or maybe it’s just that I’ve redefined “chaos”.  I need a quieter, less demanding environment in order to write. I recently completed a first draft of a picture book. After reading it aloud, I find I really don’t care for the story. I feel obligated to attempt to “fix” the draft, mostly because of time already spent on the task. Perhaps it’s time for a little “delayed inspiration.”


Orchids found in one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens. Now that’s inspiration!






Paradise Lost

I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. They make the small tasks easier and less time consuming. That allows me to focus on more important matters. I get cranky when those routines are disturbed for more than a few days.

when my sister and nephew’s family had to evacuate their homes during the Camp Fire in Butte County, I could not begin to imagine the disturbance and devastation that comes from such a disaster. My sister, her grand-daughter, grand-daughter’s friend and small dog, spent eight hours on a cement parking lot. They were waiting, along with first-res-ponders, for a way to break through the flames that enveloped one of the two main escape routes known as the Skyway. They were fortunate. The escaped without injury. The first-res-ponders were amazing.

If you have seen the videos or photos of the Camp Fire, my sister, and nephew assure me, they are not exaggerations. Flames, whipped by wind, towered over forty-foot tall pine and redwood. The thick black smoke changed the blue sky to black in minutes. The air was toxic. When the flames died down and moved away from Paradise and Magalia, the area looked as if a bomb had dropped. There were some surviving homes, but even those most likely suffered damage from the smoke and soot.

So what is next? No comforting routines or habits will help. Those are gone and will only be re-established in the future. The only thing that can be done is to take one step at a time.  Food, clothing and shelter first, and then consider long-term issues. Do you rebuild, or do you move? If you move, where to? How long will it take to rebuild the infrastructure to support homes and business?

There are groups tackling the long-range issues. Paradise School District had found buildings in nearby Chico to house their students. School will re-open on December 3, 2018. The schools are an important community center, particularly in a small town of 27,000.

Paradise, Magalia and the residents of Butte County will  need all the help they can get, both short-term and long-term. You can contribute to victims of the fire and first-responders  in several ways.  Cash and gift cards are always appreciated and offer the most flexibility. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are collecting donations and can be  found on-line. Firefighter support sites include Members, International Association of Firefighters Charitable Foundation, North Bay Fire Relief through the Redwood Credit Union and NVFC Volunteer Firefighter Support Fund, all found on-line.

Part of the history of Paradise. My BFWW won the prize for the Best Reconditioned Production Car – a 1922 Willys. The event, sponsored by the Horseless Carriage Association of America, took place in  the town of Paradise in the 1960’s.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – You Want a What?


I like my local tech store, really, I do. But I only visit the store about every six months and in that time, things change. Like most stores, they occasionally move inventory from one place to another. So, each time I visit, I have to ask the clerk, (AKA * sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) where I can find a specific item.

Since my tech vocabulary isn’t up to date, the conversation usually goes something like this:   “Hi. Can you tell me where to find the memory sticks or the thumb drive thingies?”

There is a blank stare from the clerk (sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) and then they reply, “Your looking for a what?”

I respond in my pre-tech language,  “You know, that little thing you plug into the side of the computer so you can copy something from the computer.”

“Oh! You mean the flash drives. Right over here. I’ll show you.”

The language of tech changes very rapidly, probably more rapidly than any language in human history. But all language changes, even if it is at snail-mail speed.

For example, here are some phrases and terms from a  novel set in San Francisco in the 1880’s.


Mare’s Shank

Lucifer (not a biblical reference)

carbon copy



(Just kidding. The last three are from the 1960’s)

Some fun books to read about San Francisco in the 1880’s (pre-earthquake) are Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini’s Carpenter and Quincannon mystery series featuring a male and female detectives and M. Louise Locke’s mystery series featuring a female business woman and a male attorney.  Both series are very well researched. If you have ever visited or lived in San Francisco, or even read about it, these books help you realize how far San Francisco has come and how much our language has changed.

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Confessions of a Cat Mom


I have two resident cats, plus one that drops by for breakfast and dinner on the front porch most weekdays. I live in suburbia near a wooded area and a creek, a perfect place  for a burgeoning feral cat population.

In spite of county animal control and a very dedicated cat rescue group, we are flooded with cute kitties every May. My two cats were rescued as kittens as was their mother. All were taken to a vet, spayed, given initial vaccinations, taken in to recuperate by the local rescue group and then returned to my backyard. I have no regrets. They have proven to be delightful companions for the past five years;  but I fear I am in danger of becoming a full-fledged Cat Mom.

It’s not just that I talk to my cats, I do (but at least so far they have not talked back) -it’s the paraphernalia that accompanies cat “ownership.” The bags of kitty food, the kitty toys and the bedding can be overwhelming.

And then, there’s this.  A few days ago, Mom cat showed up for her evening meal. She will only eat on the front porch and does not stay around to socialize afterwards. It was a cool evening, so I left the front door open, but closed the screen door. When I checked on her later, she was curled up on the front door mat where she could see into the living room, purring loudly. A pretty nice thank you from a very skittish cat.


Just a nice picture to contemplate.

Sunset over the Great Lakes



Word Play – Beware of Context -a tongue in cheek commentary

Teachers know that reading is a complex skill. It requires everything from knowing letters and sounds, having a well-developed sight word vocabulary and being able to use the other words in a sentence (context) to determine the meaning of a new word. Reading comprehension also depends on what knowledge and experiences the reader already has.

For example, a person with a lot (maybe too much) experience with all things nautical might use the following nautical term in a way that the  average land-lubber might not understand.

“Your other port! Your other port!” yelled the coach.


“Tie a bow on the present.”

The next example shows the influence of experience in the jewelry business on the author:

“The video will loupe from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. on channel 23.”

In American English, loupe is the eyepiece used by a jeweler to inspect a gem.  (These directions actually appeared on a ship-board video system.)

Sometimes local dialect and vocabulary can cause confusion to outsiders as in this example:

The upper (OOper) rubbed his hands together in glee as another fudgie entered the shop.

Translation: an upper (OOper) is an inhabitant of the upper peninsula of Michigan. (I have no idea what they call those who live on the lower peninsula of Michigan.)

A fudgie refers to a tourist on Mackinac Island, MI. Since there are seventeen fudge shops on Mackinac, many tourists purchase fudge.

Often a picture provides context, such as the one  below showing a fudgie leaving one of the seventeen fudge shops with five pounds of fudge in a bag.



A Reading List for Our Time (Warning – Politics Ahead)

We live in puzzling times, particularly in the U.S.  It is difficult to determine what is the result of a disinformation campaign and what is real. We suffer from verbal whiplash in trying to follow the reasoning behind public statements of our officials. We live in Topsy-Turveyville (yes, I know not a real word). In order to help deal with this confusion, I have developed a suggested reading list built around the classics.

1) Hugh Lofting  Dr. Doolittle – while the title is apt, focusing on one of Dr. Doolittle’s animals, the pushmi-pullyu can be  particularly helpful in understanding how the legislative process works. (We have many of them in congress.)

2) Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While most of the characters are amusing and confusing, I find the Mad Hatter particularly interesting. (I think he has a political future!)

3) George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. (Cautionary  tales- ’nuff said)

4) Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels – This seems to be the current basis for U.S. foreign policy.