My novel is done! + Pod38: Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins

This post's title over artist Ann Newmarch's poster of a woman carrying a man. Under it is written, "Women hold up half the sky."
I can’t believe I never saw this image before, though Australians have known it for decades. It’s by artist artist Ann Newmarch.

Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins Happiness Between Tails

#Beauty #Elves #Flamenco #StoryTelling #Aging #Body How do you define beauty? Birgit, who is from Germany and blogs from Denmark shows us how ugly-cute trolls are! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Royal beauty and about today’s guest 1:05 Birgit’s True Elfins My question for you HBT outro Spanish iconic painter, Goya Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Birgit’s Stella, oh, Stella site Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. About María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba About Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Birgit in one of her gardens. The surprise she found in her garden. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the 18th Duchess of Alba. Later in life. Earlier in life. Francisco de Goya’s “Black Duchess.” An incredible loaf of bead I baked in under two hours, with a link to where I got the recipe. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of “Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

Yay! It’s done! I finally finished (I know, I know it took foooor-ever!) writing my book #1 (Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) of the two novels (#2 is Tango & the Sitting Cat) that are linked, but that can each stand alone.

Ulp! Now what?!

First up is to record the beginning section of it. The book a series of letters (a.k.a. epistolary) grouped in 12 parts (a nod to the 12/12 rhythm of flamenco). There’s producing a teaser, an intro, an outro, and the first set of letters. When it’s publicly aired, there will be a press release to write.

For now, the audio sample will only be to give agents a preliminary listen, in the hopes that the audio sample will create extra sparkle. Acting experience of a prior life demonstrated that there’s a lot more to agents than merely attracting one.

The real ginormous trick is to find a phenomenal one; someone who is fair and communicates well. Most of all, someone with great connections and who’s belief in the potential success of our collaboration can motivate them to work hard. That means I need to cull a list of appropriate agents and write an enticing pitch.

My inclination is to continue listing stuff to do because I’m so excited, but I’d just be repeating the same whirling thoughts over and over. So, moving along…

But wait, I also need artwork that looks equally good as a book cover and a smartphone thumbnail. One that can apply to the podcast too, and be easily customized for each new show segment.

Thanks much, blog friends who pointed out a while ago that my old cover resembled something for kids or teens.

Moving along once more in what’s turning out as hodgepodge as my brain at the moment…

For anyone out there doing the WordPress-blog-to-Anchor-podcast two-step — is it just me or do you also have to wait an entire 8 hours for your newest show episodes to appear on WordPress’ podcast editing block’s drop-down menu? After a chat and emails with WordPress, they said they would look into it, but you know how that’ll probably go.

More on podcasting: editing podcast shows on iMovie is easier than learning GarageBand. Nervous that my shows may technically suffering in ways I can’t hear, I scrounged for official comparisons. Seems iMovie is just as good, given that I’m using only voice, occasional sound FX and music, not mastering elaborate music compositions.

Again on podcasting: in the same way that blog posts can look different, for better or worse, depending on the device, so can audio shows. I asked Anchor if there’s a way to ensure that sound levels don’t vary. Basically they answered “no,” but that they would put it on their list.

More on Anchor: grousing, but also bringing up these complaints so you won’t think it’s just you doing something wrong — why is it too much trouble for Anchor to add page numbers for one’s editing list of show episodes?

More Swiss cheese thoughts…

A couple of days ago, I finished listening to humorist/autobiographer/essayist David Sedaris’ latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky.

Cover of "Happy-Go-Lucky" by David Sedaris.

He admits his dark humor isn’t for everyone. With each book, I’m smitten with how searingly self-searching he is and doesn’t settle for “all-good/all-bad” depictions and outcomes tied with neat bows.

This time he totally blew my mind with his honesty about his dad. Like me, he had one monster of a father who in old age showed flashes of something akin to softness and a smidge of regret. But so, as the “fruit” of such a person, what does one do with that?! Like when my father got nicer yet was still creepy and came onto me a couple of years before he died? In many ways, it was easier when he was just blatantly horrible…

My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads:

One of his best. Happy-Go-Lucky hits the nail on the head when it comes to showing how things aren’t always black or white — that they can lie within the confusing rainbow in between.

Each of his books, all his thoughtful self-disclosure, brings to mind the 1970s Women’s Lib phrase, “The personal is political.” Upon googling it, turns out some criticized it for really referencing white woman privilege. I’d like to reclaim it to define how, when we get really day-to-day honest and authentic enough to strive for better, it helps everyone.

Like how blogging makes the world smaller and small voices bigger.

Included in Wiki’s information on the slogan was a reference to bullseye-scoring Ann Newmarch’s artwork at the top of this post.

Here I flit to a happy thing, a quotation I just found that dovetails with a major theme within my novel…

Director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up): I used to think, “Oh, these are coming-of-age movies.” But I think people are still coming of age at 80 and 90.

And now I’ll trip to some thank you’s to Infidel753, who’s guested at Happiness Between Tails here and here. He’s got quite a following and each time he’s kindly featured me among his Sunday round up posts, lots of new people check out my site. His round-ups are a rollercoaster of links: from political horror to outright silliness, and glorious to nails-on-chalkboard ugly. And he keeps visitors updated on safe abortion information to use in these barbaric times. 

Thanks too, Fair and Unbalanced (in addition to blogging, he podcasts), for mentioning me in your thought-provoking roundups.

Before I wear you out with all this jumping around inside my head, here’s my Amazon and Goodreads review of, Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Captivating for any age! Beautiful artwork and lovely writing. A real delight!

Cover of Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Now to end with a sweet pro-old-lady clip from Disney’s Moana…

Have you scored any victories this week?

Scams: 8 Steps to Protect Yourself and Others with Videos

Graphic of flames under "Scam Protection and Videos"

“This is Alex, calling you from the refunds department…”

“This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You must call us back…”

“This is the Internal Revenue Service. You must call us back…”

“Your computer is dead. You must telephone us to fix it and recover your info…”

Ever receive such a message or one pop up on your screen? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?

A computer engineer based out of Ireland who goes by an alias, Jim Browning is a true hero. When he learned someone close to him was swindled out of money, he got curious. The next time scammers called him, warned him that his money and his computer were in danger, he turned the tables on the thugs!

First he got into their computers. Then he took control of their office cameras. He continues to record of their actions, online and physically. When he can, he warns their prey before they lose their life savings.

This post is a departure from my usual bookish, artsy, cooking, travel, pet-loving type. When I read of this information in AARP Bulletin, I wanted you to know about it — and to pass it along to everyone you know who might be vulnerable to scammers or who knows others who could fall victim. Those over 60-years-old are five times more likely to be hit. Here the New York Times also covered these types of crimes in depth.

DIY: Protect Yourself & Others

If anyone calls to say you — or anyone else is — in grave danger unless you mail cash or gift cards (and most likely even instructs you to not discuss it with anyone):

  1. Hang up on them. If they left a message, erase it.
  2. Definitely don’t call them back.
  3. Never, under any circumstance, mail cash or gift cards.
  4. If there’s some remote chance you believe they might be legit, ask them to first mail something to you.
  5. Never deal with people who want your money and prohibit you from telling your bank, your store, or anyone you know.

If your computer flashes alarm lights, locks up, or beeps at you while a message urges you to telephone a number:

  1. Don’t touch your phone!
  2. Instead, turn off your computer, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on.
  3. If it isn’t as good as new, take it to a reputable repair place such as a computer store.

Below, in four video segments, Jim shares what he learned. For more on him and his findings, check out his YouTube channel.

 

 

 

What do you know about scammers? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?

Nina Romano’s Writing Astrology Inspo

In high school, a classmate who was as passionate about reading as I was sat near me. Best friendship was in our stars! Better yet, both of us liked to write!…

The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka (mirror image, to have animals in the correct order). Photo By Jakub Hałun - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64844306 The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka (mirror image, to have animals in the correct order). Photo By Jakub Hałun – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Her preferred reading was historical fiction, the ancient sort with mythology and astrology mixed in. Thanks to her, I read a bunch by Mary Renault, an English author who lived much of her life in South Africa. Those books depicted lots of buff gay guys from olden days. Ironically, a) in South Africa Renault could live more peacefully than in the U.K. with her life partner who was also a woman, b) she often portrayed women harshly, and c) she criticized the gay rights movement.

My friend also introduced me to “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.” (A rare video interview with Goodman here.) For me, Goodman was worthy of extra esteem as she was Aries, the same as me. When it came to Aries, all compliments were correct and unflattering attributes were incorrect. Until, that is, at some point in my so-called maturity when I tossed astrology into the same bundle as my Catholic upbringing. Both harbored too many confounding and disturbing aspects, so I decided I was wasting my time contemplating either.

Not so much later, though, a new friend entered who was into astrology. Charts, she explained, are how astrology becomes scientific. She introduced me to Angela Louise Gallo, a master at charting the stars. Gallo read and taught from her home in Van Nuys, which is just above Hollywood, hence she garnered a sizable entertainment biz crowd of followers.

Gallo’s monthly talks culminated with “hororary” readings, as in “hour-related” since those forecasts tied her psychic powers to the time of night when she would take questions. From slips of paper handed to her, she’d give quickie predictions. I’d parted ways with my parents as soon as I graduated high school with no plan other than survival. By the time I met Gallo those few years later, I’d collected myself enough to realize that I needed to do better. I asked Gallo whether I should sign up for college. She answered, “Wait a couple of semesters. Soon you’ll be taking a long trip.”

That month my grandmother sent me an airplane ticket to visit her all the way from Los Angeles to her home in Argentina! During childhood, both my grandmothers and I exchanged many letters. They were fantastic in all the ways that mattered to me: they didn’t sugar-coat life, they wanted the best for me, and they helped foster the writer in me who will eventually publish Flamenco & the Sitting Cat and Tango & the Sitting Cat. I loved them dearly, sight unseen. The one in Spain I first met when I was nine. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I got to hug my Abuela in Buenos Aires.

After that trip, I hired Gallo to do a detailed chart, yet I can’t remember anything about it, including what happened to it. These days, I’d rather not presuppose anyone based on their birthday, and I prefer to bumble along as best I can when it comes to my future.

Yet I still adore other people’s stories about astrology!

Today’s poet/novelist guest, Nina Romano, writes from Florida and Utah. Originally a New Yorker, she’s a globe trotter who’s earned degrees and writing awards galore, plus she’s published a slew of books.

Here she generously recounts the way that Chinese astrology figured into her book, The Secret Language of Women, the first of her Wayfarer Trilogy. Read to the end for an excerpt from it in addition to links for Nina and her writings…

Writer Nina Romano. Writer Nina Romano.

How Chinese Horoscopes Helped Me Develop a Realistic Protagonist by Nina Romano

For The Secret Language of Women, the first book of my Wayfarer Trilogy, I decided my main character Lian’s horoscope would be the Year of the Dog. Knowing her horoscope facilitated my understanding of the protagonist’s psyche for this novel. Since the book is set in China, I used Lian’s Chinese Zodiac sign to learn about her qualities and personality traits intimately so that she appeared genuine yet flawed. She is a warm and caring being, a healer, courageous and intelligent. When a person born under this sign falls in love, they do not ever change.

Loyalty and honesty are two of this horoscope sign’s characteristics. Lian falls in love with Giacomo, an Italian sailor, and remains faithful to that love, despite the fact that she is forced into a loveless marriage. Her quest is a difficult one, but she chooses to follow her path despite menaces, oppositions, troubles, risks, and dangers. She is fierce in her love and faithful to everything she believes concerning it.

Having visited China several times afforded me unique experiences that enabled me to see in person Hong Kong, Beijing, and its fabulous Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and Lian’s enchanting city of Guilin. I was able to envision Lian’s travels and travails in war-torn China, an era suffused in superstition, intrigue, culture, and history. I incorporated the themes and things I care about, such as love, family, food and recipes, art, dragons and horses. Why? Simply because it’s straightforward to write what I know and have feelings for, and all of these ideas translated well even to a novel set in China during the Boxer Rebellion. My own horoscope is the Year of the Horse, so I made sure I had an important role for a horse in this novel, and I’m positive that my horoscope had an incredible influence on my stars being aligned because I signed a contract for a three-book deal for my Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner Publishing during the Year of the Horse.

While writing this novel, I pictured what happens during the Chinese New Year: careful cleaning of the house, the distributing of red envelopes, Lian cooking on a wok, and serving rice to her beloved.

Since this story takes place in China where live fish, most especially carp, are good Fengshui, which according to Wikipedia, is a “philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.” For this reason, I describe a pool with carp in the Summer Palace in Chapter 1, where Lian meets the love of her life. Do I believe in the influence of horoscopes and how they can help round out a character? Of that, there is little doubt.

Cover of

Excerpt from The Secret Language of Women by Nina Romano

The things that test you and are vanquished bring everlasting joy. The differences between traditional written Chinese and Nüshu, the secret language of women, made it difficult for me to learn it. My mother and grandmother could not write Chinese and learned Nüshu when they were young and wanted me to grasp it too. I cannot say they harped on me or were tyrannical, but I will say they were insistent, and for this I am eternally indebted.

My mother said it challenged me because I wrote like a man and didn’t have to rely solely on Nüshu, the way they did to communicate with other women. The ideograms of Chinese correspond to a word or part of one, whereas each of the seven hundred characters of Nüshu represent a syllable— women’s language is phonetic, in Chéngguān dialect 城关土话, adaptable and pliant for singing, poetry and writing with such delicate strokes they appear as lines of feathers.

Though learning was problematical, I mastered it, like I do all things I set my mind to conquer. At the time, I resented the study of it, yet I knew innately one day I would be grateful to possess the knowledge and skill of this secret language, which would offer me strength and solace for a lifetime. And although I was writing in Nüshu, for some reason, I signed with flourish in Chinese: Wǒ Lián. I am Lian. 

Amazon Author — hardcover, softcover print, and Kindle: The Secret Language of Women & Lemon Blossoms & In America — softcover print and Kindle: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley.

Goodreads & Twitter & @ninsthewriter & Facebook & BookBub

Has astrology helped you with storytelling and anything else?

 

Rita Rigby’s art by Mark Rigby

Rita Rigby

Of all the abundant beauty and wonder I experienced on our visit to New Zealand and Australia — from New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens — to Australia’s these exciting birds and these / stunning views / delicious eats / this and this wildlife at Currumbin / some beasts and beauty in Brisbane / and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there — my very favorite part of the trip was meeting terrific family in Gold Coast!

An inspiration at any age, cousin Rita Rigby is lovely and vigorous of mind and body. She’s both fun — and a talented artist! After dinner, on the final night of our visit, she (and her granddaughter, Roshan, too!) played the piano for us! In this photo (from left to right: Mark, me, Khashayar, and Roshan), we’re treated to an impromptu performance by Rita! Read on for a little about Rita and her artwork contributed by her son, Mark Rigby…

Rita Rigby Playing Piano

* * Rita Rigby’s art by Mark Rigby * *

Rita was born in 1927 and grew up in a small Queensland country town called Kilkivan. She loved the country life, which is reflected in her paintings. During her school years art was her favourite subject which has remained to this day.

art by Rita Rigby

Two men (drovers) on horseback are herding sheep in the country where I grew up.

art by Rita Rigby

This is an old Eucalypt tree that is synonymous with the countryside that Rita grew up with. It was struck by lightning with regrowth branching out from the main truck.

art by Rita Rigby

The background to this painting is Mount Warning, a significant landmark on the border between Queensland and New South Wales. It was named by Captain Cook, an English explorer who discovered Australia in 1770, to warn of the dangerous river bar near this location. The man is cutting sleepers to construct a railway in the early settlement times.

Do you like to paint?

Happy 2019 New Year from 1919 by da-AL

vintage photo from Argentina of a New Year's celebration
1919 New Year’s, my grandmother celebrating with friends and family. Abuela sits in the middle with flowers in her hair.

A lovely cousin recently gave me a copy of this photo of my grandmother, Julia Vaccaro who was an Italian-Argentine of Buenos Aires — ringing in 1919 with family and friends! Like the United States and so many other places, Argentina is a country of immigrants.

My grandmother's mother, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.
My grandmother’s mother, Rosa, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.

It fascinates me to see such an old photo where everyone appears relaxed and candid. The man who’s wearing pajamas in the tree — did he just wake from a nap in what could be a hammock to his left? Is the woman below worried he’ll fall or does she think he’s crazy? At the bottom, the man toasting looks comfy in his socks. That young boy who seems to have skinned his face is my cousin’s dad. The large woman in the dark dress is my great grandmother. Whatever the woman told the flapper in the middle, it’s given her pause for thought…

Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year's celebration.
Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year’s celebration.

Wishing each of you, dear readers, a New Year filled with joy, vibrancy, love, and good fortune!

With optimism and love,

da-Al