14 May 2016

Eurovision 2016

AP photo - BBC
For the first time in history, the Eurovision Song Contest Finals were broadcast in the US….and I nearly missed it. Had I not seen a piece on BBC yesterday, I wouldn’t have known that the competition was even on. (it’s another minor miracle that one can now get BBC World in the USofA.) 
     Most Americans have never heard of Eurovision. Saying it’s a song contest simply does not convey the enormity of an event that keeps half the world glued to their TV sets.There is nothing to compare it to. Sporting events attract a certain type; reality shows – another. But it seems everyone, across all sectors of society watch and, more importantly, vote for the Eurovision contestants.
     At first I didn’t even try to see if I could get it on TV or the internet since past years have proven to be a waste of time. However, I finally did go on the Eurovision site, clicked on Watch the Finals Live, and then was quickly flashed the “You cannot watch from your part of the globe”.
     I thought I might as well see if it was on TV. And low and behold, it was on LOGO TV. The channel description on DirecTV states: MTV Networks’ LOGO is for gay and lesbian viewers. I found this rather funny – Eurovision is watched by everyone on the other side of the planet, and now also Australia, but it appears only LOGO had the sense to get the rights.
     I believe the first time I ever watched the competition live was in Israel. I know for sure that I watched Dana International win for Israel in 1998. Back then, it seemed entrants sang mostly in their native languages. The rules changed back and forth regarding the use of English and I think this year everyone sang in English or in a combination with their country’s language.
     In years past, I well remember the kitschy costumes and staging and bubble-gum-pop-y tunes. But I adored it, as did the millions watching. Although I missed the first two hours of the live broadcast today, I simply went online to watch a few of the entrants. (That, one can do.)  Catchy tunes, beautiful voices, even if the ones I saw were of that bubble-gummy-love genre. And that’s just how I remembered Eurovision. What I hadn’t expected was the winning entry from Ukraine.
     “1994”, sung by the Ukrainian singer Jamala, is beautiful in every way. The lyrics refer to the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin. It is based on her family’s personal history. The words and her performance were both haunting and moving.

     Right now I am going back on the Eurovision site to take a look at the other entrants. It is truly a marvelous spectacle. If I happen to be stuck here next year, rather than in a country that joins in with the Eurovision fever, I will be tuning into LOGO TV once more.

30 March 2016

Books Inc. - Now carrying 'Costa Contente'

Books Inc., "The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller", is now carrying my book,
The Many Wonders of Costa  
    (at their Berkeley store.)
You can't get much better than that, in my opinion!

 A little of their history from   their website:

"Books Inc.’s origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California and set himself up in business selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946."

Although I was born more than 100 years after those Gold Rush Days, I did grow up in Northern California, surrounded by the stories and influence of those heady times. I've often wondered what I would have been doing to strike it rich during those golden years. It would not have been panning for gold, but the possibilities were endless. And now I feel like I actually have a real connection to those 49er's. And I feel honored that an Independent California bookstore now stocks a native daughter's book.

Glancing through their site, I saw that Saturday, April 30th is Independent Bookstore Day.
I think I may have to go in a purchase a book.
(Books Inc., at the top of the page, and Independent Bookstore Day, above, are links. Somehow, they don't look like they are.)

10 February 2016

The Mavericks is On

not Half Moon Bay....but close
The Mavericks surf competition near Half Moon Bay, CA is a go. The call went out a few days ago giving 24 of the best big wave surfers in the world 48 hours to get on over to California.  It only happens one day a year when the conditions are perfect. If those conditions do not appear between November 1, and the end of March, there is no contest.
     Waves get big…really big, during the winter months off of Pillar Point. Owing to its unique position on the Northern California coast and the sea floor below it, when a big winter storm hits, waves off the Mavericks surf break can reach 60 feet. It is not for the feint of surfer; it’s quite the treacherous ride. Not only that, it’s damned cold.

     I didn’t grow up at the ocean’s edge, (otherwise I would have been a real surfer girl), but I did brave the frigid summer waters of Stinson Beach on weekends in my youth. No one had wetsuits back in the day, and I had always believed that gradually numbing first your toes, then your legs, then your waist, and then finally just diving into the ice-water was what all ocean swimming was like. Boy, was I ever in for a shock the first time I waded out into the ocean in Southern California; it was bathtub warm!

     And even though surfing was never to be a part of my life, I have always loved it. There is nothing more beautiful than the ocean and the sound of its waves hitting the shore. Riding those puppies has to be one spectacular adventure.

     The surfing scene in Half Moon Bay started back in the 60’s when a few guys went out into the waters off Pillar Point. They could see the huge surf break farther out, but stuck to the smaller swells closer to shore. However, they did name the break after one guy’s dog, Maverick, who liked to follow the boys out into the surf. The waves they rode were plenty big enough, but nothing like the ones a half mile out. It took a surf-crazed teenager to paddle all the way out to ride the monster waves.

     Jeff Clark, at 17, was the first to give it a go back in 1975. And it wasn’t until the 90’s that he’d convinced other surfers to join him.  

     I’m not quite sure when I first heard of the Mavericks – I do know that it must have been before it became the huge event it is today. Although the first competition was held in 1999, I’ve never made the hour and a half drive down there. For one thing, many of those years I wasn’t in the area. Maybe more importantly, hanging out on the Northern Californian coast in the winter is not anything I would categorize as entertainment. It’s freezing cold. But being a surfer-gal-in-my-dreams, I had always longed to see the guys ride the big waves.

     And then out of nowhere, this week we got hit with a week of spring/summer weather in the middle of the winter. Next, the Pacific Ocean throws up a mighty storm and the folks out at Mavericks Control put out the call. The game is on.

     That was my signal that it was also a go for me; I'd just grit my teeth and battle the Friday morning traffic down to Half Moon Bay. I quickly went about researching where exactly I needed to go. And just as quickly found out that this year there is nowhere to go. It seems too many people had been doing too much damage to the ecological balance of the Point. Additionally, there were those folks who got too close to the waves and almost died on land a few years ago. (That would be hard to live down.)

     Not ready to give up on my mission, I searched around a bit more. I had to make sure that there was really no viewing point for the completion. How did I find out? Called Jeff Clark’s Surf shop, of course. The nice lady who answered assured me that it would not be worth the drive. There is absolutely no access this year. And there never again will be.

     I have missed my chance. I should have braved the elements a few years back. There’s nothing to do now but go back to dreaming about that surf shack I have always wanted. It would be a small shop on a rustic beach. I would sell surf clothes and jewelry that I design and make. I still have the clothing designs in my head and samples of the necklaces, bracelets and earrings I have made over the years from shells and found objects picked up along the shores of beaches around the world.

                          As Brad said to Pia, “There’s hope for you yet, girl-dude.”

22 December 2015

Winter Solstice 2015

     People who know me might assume that since today is the first day of winter, I might be headed fast for bummer's-ville. Not in the least. The winter solstice is quite a significant day for me. I figure that if I can make it until today - the darkest, gloomiest, day of the year - everything will be uphill from here on in.
     Starting tomorrow, the sun will begin to rise a few minutes earlier with each passing day. In just a few months it will once again be birds chirping and sun rays streaming in at 6am. And that is how the world should be all year round. I am ruled by the sun and like to be up at the crack of dawn. Especially when that's 5:30 in the morning. I would also prefer sunlight late into the night but, if I had to choose, I'd take early sunrise over anything else. 
     So even though it's the first day of my least-liked season, I feel as if the worst is over and hot sunny days are on the horizon. (and I refuse to ponder the reality that in the San Francisco area hot & sunny are not part of the normal weather parlance.) I'll deal with finding that local in a few months.


      Happy Solstice, (be it winter or summer)
Peace on Earth, God Will Towards Men


13 October 2015

Waiting for a Bestseller Listing

The books are all in print and now it's just a matter of selling a few. My attempts at marketing are in full swing, and time will tell how successful I have been at it this time around.
     I now have another reason to hope for best-in-book sales other than just paying the bills and buying a bit of food. I need a comfortable place to sit and read and watch TV.
     As the years go by, I find that I can no longer sit on the floor with a pillow and be content. All those younger years of having no furniture and making do with a beach chair in the living room and a blanket on the floor, just don't do it anymore. Presently, I do have furniture but it's quite ancient. I had thought that my constant discomfort and fidgeting to try and get into a halfway decent position, was a matter of age. It wasn't. Or at least not 100% of the problem.
     Driving by a La-Z-Boy store last week, I thought I'd drop in to try out some recliner chairs. All they seemed to have on the floor were rocking-recliners which I don't care for. Then I asked about sofas with recliners and was led over to another section of the massive store. The sales manager left me to look over the extensive selection.
     The first one I saw was dead ugly, but I took a seat. I raised the foot rest. I leaned back. And that's when I realized that it actually was possible to sit comfortably. My neck didn't hurt, my knees felt great, and I felt like I was in the arms of a giant teddy bear. I swear I could have closed my eyes and gone to sleep in three seconds flat. I would never have thought all the discomfort I associated with sitting in a chair or on a sofa was just because I wasn't in the proper piece of furniture.  
     I am so tempted to drop by again to make sure the comfort I felt was real. But I know I can't do that again until I can afford to buy one. Ever since my outing, I have realized just how uncomfortable I am when trying to sit and relax. I hope, as the days go by, that I return to the thought process of it's just an older body....deal with it.     
     Some people dream of buying Ferraris or yachts or a house in Beverly Hills. I dream of a La-Z-Boy Lancer sofa.

10 September 2015

Paperback Editions Coming Soon

     Back in 2009, after searching around quite a bit, I found that I could publish  Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, for a reasonable price using BookSurge, which would later become Create Space. In 2011, I used them again for The Curse Breaker of Cairo.
     I had another book or two ready for press, but simply could not afford the price to publish in paperback. And then Amazon KDP came along and I was saved. At least my books would be available in ebook form.
     I have received monthly newsletters from Create Space for years. Often, they carried useful articles about self publishing and stories about other independent authors. So how is that until less than a week ago, I had not realized that one could now publish a paperback edition for free?
     Soon - within hours of finding this out -  I got to work converting my word doc for Costa Contente into a submissible format. Between the information available on Create Space, their Community help, and good old fashioned trial and error, I did it.
     It took me around thirty hours to get it totally sorted out, but I do like figuring out things by myself. More than a few times I questioned if I could do it. And although the cost of having Create Space format a book is less than half of what it was in 2009, it was still more than I could afford.
    Then, having the skills fresh in my mind, I quickly formatted Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem, and Bad Accounts.

I am now awaiting proofs of the three books to see if I actually did do it right.
Providing I did so, the books should be available in a week or two.

I'm still sort of kicking myself for now knowing about the free-paperback-publishing thing, but "publishing" three books in one week sounds mighty impressive.

And, as always, I highly recommend Create Space. They have some of the best customer service reps you could ever hope to talk to; they reply immediately to emails, and answer all the stupid questions you might have without making you feel like a complete idiot.

18 August 2015

The Berkeley Barb, People's Park, & Four Teenagers

This week the long-gone Berkeley Barb commemorated 50 years since its first publication. For those who have never heard of the newspaper:

“The Berkeley Barb was launched by Max Scherr on August 13, 1965, and was one of the earliest underground newspapers to serve the civil rights, anti-war, and countercultural movements in the Sixties. For 15 years, from 1965 to 1980, the Barb was a voice for a generation looking to change the world.

The Barb mixed radical politics with psychedelic art, guerrilla comics, local happenings, opinions, reviews, advice, personal ads, and frequent calls to protest. It offered its readers an unabashed alternative to the conformist mainstream press. At a nexus between Free Speech and the Sexual Revolution, the Barb trumpeted the irrepressible passions of the American counterculture.” Berkeley Barb
A request was sent out for reminiscences. The following is a bit of back story to the article, V-Sign Downs Rifles, in the May 28-29, 1969 issue.

     May 1969 – People’s Park protests are in full swing. Tanks roll up University Avenue and Berkeley is occupied by the National Guard.  Guardsmen line the streets of downtown and the UC campus. Berkeley High School students walk by the jeeps and tanks and troops to get to classes. After school, many walk the few blocks up to Cal to participate in the protests. 
rt-lft: singing-Danza, (Marcus' hand on shoulder),kat,?
Danza, Marcus, Kat, and Candy, 15 and 16-year-olds from BHS, head up to the chancellor’s house to join in a peaceful protest against the occupation of Berkeley and the People’s Park situation. They are some of the first to arrive.
     The National Guard are already staged in front of the chancellor’s residence, equipped in full riot gear: bayonets, gas masks, and helmets. There are a lot of them.   
     Soon many more Cal students and others begin to gather on the lawn in front of the house. Many hold signs and chant. As the crowd grows, the four BHS students at the front began to feel the bumps and jostling, and the tension increases.  The National Guardsmen are given orders to form a solid line, don their gas masks, hold their bayonets at the ready.
      The Berkeley High kids are well-versed in protests. They have participated in them since 7th grade. They know the risk of being on the front line. There is always someone in the very back who decides to throw a brick, or a bottle or a rock. And then the folks in the front get clobbered, and tear gas is thrown, and mayhem takes over. And there goes the peaceful protest.

      One of the BHS kids looks around at the growing tension and has an idea. Let’s start singing patriotic songs. The friends agree. The choice for the first is The Star Spangled Banner, Followed by My Country ’Tis of Thee, America, This Land is Your Land, and others.

     Soon, the entire group of protesters are singing along. The BHS students have another idea: Let’s sit down. And then the whole crowd sits down. 
     The National Guard guys start to relax. First one takes off his gasmask and helmet and backs away. Then another, and another. Their lines loosen up. A mellow mood envelops the crowd. After a few more songs, the protest crowd begins to dissipate, everyone in a good mood.

Candy,Kat,Danza,(Daily Cal photo)
    The BHS students are elated. They actually prevented heads from being cracked, tear gas from being thrown, and arrests from being made. Only those four knew that they were the ones who had done it; and that was enough. That’s just what teenagers did in Berkeley in the 60’s.

The Berkeley Barb reporter who wrote about the incident didn’t know about the high school students part in preventing another bloody incident. But the photographer, Alan Copeland, managed to get their picture. Should anyone know if Mr. Copeland is still around, please drop me a line.




18 June 2015

David Blatt Might Like "Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem"

The NBA Finals are over, the local guys won, so I'm quite pleased. I do love sports, but never have watched a lot of professional basketball. Golden State being so hot this year, I became a rabid fan during the playoffs.

But it wasn't until the finals came on that I heard about Coach David Blatt. Heck, he was in Israel when I was living there and I'm sure he knew my basketball player friends.  And it wasn't until just a few days ago that I thought, now here's someone who might like my book.

Let me be clear, Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem is fiction. But it does take place in Tel Aviv and it does involve fictional Israeli basketball players. I think it's quite funny - which is not to say that Mr. Blatt will find the escapades of an American trying to find her way in Israel to be quite so hilarious. But he just might.

So if any of you out there know Mr. Blatt, would you please let him know about my book?

09 June 2015

Bay Area Book Festival

Berkeley, CA June 6 & 7

Eco Alley
How could it be that I hadn’t even heard of the Bay Area Book Festival until two weeks before it happened? After all, I live quite close by and yet the first time I read about it was in a pop-up ad on Goodreads. Apparently, it had been well publicized in the SF Chronicle, but who even reads that paper anymore? And even they only started carrying information about it less than a month ago. I must not be hanging out with the right crowd….the festival was quite well attended.
The book festival website boasted hundreds of authors and a ton of free talks about everything you could imagine: current affairs, culture, entertainment, memoirs, tech, spirituality, writing, publishing, and more. There were areas for children’s books, teen books, radical writers, and environmental warriors. Even after carefully going through the website program, and noting the talks I wanted to attend, I had no idea just how large and comprehensive it was to be.

Downtown Berkeley is relatively small but always crowded and a general mess to get around. And it isn’t what I would call a pleasant place to take a stroll – too grungy for my taste, especially when I recall years gone by when it was rather lovely. Having said that, with several blocks cordoned off for pedestrian traffic, thereby not having to dodge all the hazards that are generally present, it was quite enjoyable.

And here is where I found out just how cool the whole deal was. I turned the corner at Shattuck, onto Addison, (renamed Literary Lane for the weekend), surprised to see the street lined with booths of booksellers and authors. The first few booths held places like The University of California Press, and other small publishing houses. But just a few steps further along and I ran smack dab into a couple of ladies that sure looked like fellow independent authors.

sidewalk poetry downtown Berkeley
Lori Hart Beninger and SabrinaRawson stood side by side, books on the table, business cards out front. I quickly ascertained that they were in fact fellow members of the Tribe of Struggling Authors.

Huh? I could have had a booth at the Fair? I had thought it was just for the Big Guys and not folks like me. Suddenly, I no longer felt the pangs of intimidation I had experienced while reading about all the known authors and deep thinkers who were to be featured at the festival. All those self-doubts that had surfaced telling me things like who do you think you’re kidding….real authors actually get invited to give talks, quickly vanished. These women were definitely real authors and they were part of the Book Festival! It was absolutely wonderful to exchange thoughts, ideas, marketing tips, and experience with others like myself.
Maybe it was better that I hadn’t known of the possibility of having a stand at the fair because I now had the leisure to cruise around and talk to lots of other indie authors. I met Kristin Fulton, Barbara Hawkins, James Robinson, Alina Sayre, and Mandy Rowe, all of whom had wonderful books just waiting to be discovered by the world at large.

The plan had been to attend a bunch of the talks, but I soon realized it would be more of a hassle than I was willing to put up with. First, one had to stand in a block-long line to pick up the free tickets to a lecture. Then one would have to stand in a long line outside of a venue. Crowds, and the subsequent florescent lighting, sealed the deal; I stowed my list of events and simply continued to walk the circuit. 
Literary Lane
While walking down Literary Lane, I noticed a man with an official author’s badge around his neck, seated in front of a booth, holding a book. I glanced more closely and saw that it was John Scalzi, the science fiction author whose lecture I had wanted to attend.

In my younger years, sci fi was my preferred genre. I dreamed of being a spacer although, realistically, I knew that that could only really take place a few centuries after my expiration date. The next best thing was reading it, and I had big dreams of writing it. Somewhere along the way, reading sci fi got lost. Maybe it was because the books I picked up didn’t appeal to me, or maybe it was because no one I knew read it so recommendations were scarce. Whatever the reason, my sci fi fix turned to tv and movies.
I approached Mr. Scalzi and mentioned how I had hoped to attend his talk but would probably pass on it due to the long lines. He wasn’t bothered in the least. I told him of my love for sci fi books, but that I just hadn’t read anything in quite a while, and asked about his latest book, Lock In. As he began to tell me about it, I remembered why I love science fiction. I will be reading his work very soon. Someone that pleasant, who takes the time to talk to an unknown like me, (the lady who couldn't be bothered with waiting for his talk), has to be a good author. He also told me a little about his life as a writer which gave me hope for my own career.  What a very pleasant man! Heck, he was even kind enough to take my card.

Maybe next year, if I am still in the area, I’ll be on a panel….though I can’t imagine what panel….local girl makes good? I actually think I’d prefer to do what I did this weekend, just walk around and talk to authors and enjoy being surrounded by books, thoughts, and happy people.

26 May 2015

The Joy of Reading Indie Authors

  Now that I have a kindle, I'm having the best time finding and reading other independent authors.
     Once or twice a week I peruse the kindle lists of top 100 free books. I search through mystery, thriller, sci fi, literature, and anything else that might catch my fancy that day. I've found one amazing book and several very good books. I've also downloaded several that weren't so wonderful, but still gave them a try.
     If I like the book, I rate/review it on Goodreads and, if I remember, on Amazon. If I don't like it, I don't do anything. (I'll leave that to others.)
     I will be sure to at least start every free book I download and finish it if it appeals to me. And I will promise to rate it and at least write a few words about any book I finish.
     I'm sure there are books out there by known authors, published by someone other than themselves, that I would really enjoy. But for now, I'm doing my part to support my fellow independent writers who need readers and reviews to get their writing careers off to a blazing start. After all, if I'm expecting people to take a chance with my writing, I should at least return the favor.
     Any independent author's who may be running some promo days and want me to read your book, let me know. I can assure you I'll look at it.