31 December 2009

20-10, 2K-ten, 2000-ten?

I remember being a little kid and figuring out how old I would be in the year 2000. It was so far away, and at times too surreal, to actually believe that it would one day become reality.

Even though the year 2000 was a rather science-fiction notion to a youngster, throughout my years growing up I often thought about how we would refer to the year once we finally got there. In the English language we all seem to say years as two numbers; nineteen-sixty-eight, for example, while many countries used the long form; one thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight. If nineteen hundred was the accepted form a century before, would twenty hundred be used? It sounded awfully odd.

So I entered the new millennium and listened to the news, friends, store clerks, et al, and heard everyone say “the year two thousand.”

OK, so two thousand it was. But what about the following years? Would we go back to the nineteen-o-one model and say twenty-o-one? Or shorten it to naught-one? Again, it seemed that everyone decided to go the European, long-form route, and say two thousand and one. And it’s been that way for nine years now.

So why, all of a sudden, have we again switched and this New Year is being called twenty ten? And more importantly, why do I seem to be the only one in the whole word who has even given this any thought? It has honestly bothered me since I was that little kid thinking about all of this, that no one else seemed to think it was worthy of contemplation. I kept waiting to see a short essay on the subject, but after ten years of not coming across any mention of the whole situation, I suppose I should give up.

Is there really no one else out there who has thought about this?

May the New Year bring Peace, Health, Happiness, & Love to us all.

22 December 2009

'Twas the Night Before.....

While listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation last year, just happened to catch a story about updated versions of The Night Before Christmas. It reminded me that I had my own version. They had asked for submissions of other versions, but I never sent mine in.

In 1977 I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bahia, Brazil. I wrote this for my father the night before Thanksgiving. My Dad had always been a limerick writer, among other things, so I thought he would enjoy it. He never commented on it. Because of that, I probably threw away my only other copy. My dad passed away last year and as I was going through even more of his papers right before the holidays, I found my little story. It was still carefully folded in the original envelope I sent it in from Brazil. Guess he may have approved after all.

The Night Before Thanksgiving………in Brazil

It’s the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house
The bugs are hiding ’cause they know I’m about.
The pans are waiting in the rack by the sink
In hopes they’d be filled with food and with drink.
And I in my overalls, with no other beast
Have just retired the thought of making a feast.

Then from out on the street a few yells and a shout
So I ran to the window to see what it’s about
I looked in disbelief as I viewed a motorcade
Could it really be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade?
I ran to the television and turned on the sound
In hopes that Anita Bryant would still around.

But the picture was blurred and the volume not load
Though I swore I could hear the sound of a crowd.
I thought to myself, a parade this is not
Then out of nowhere came a shot of a clock.
Ah-ha! I screamed as the reality hit me
It’s not flowered floats but 4th down and 50!

Oh joy! Oh wonder! Can this really be true?
Not only 5th avenue but Shea Stadium too?
My prays have been answered and I don’t know by who
But I am seeing football in Brazil – a miracle come true!

But wait – the TV’s beginning to clear
And it’s not Shea Stadium; that’s Brazilian beer!
And it’s not 4th down with 50 to go
That’s ‘hands ball’ and yellow cards and they’re kicking the ump low.

Back to the window; where’s Micky and Minnie?
The bands? The balloons? There just aren’t any!
The street is now filled with noises and rings
But it’s just the local samba school doing their thing.

Oh well, it was nice, for just a short while
To hear Howard’s voice and see Namath’s smile.
And to think I was there with Lorne Green and friends
Watching the commotion from beginning to end.
But this is Brazil where the pilgrims didn’t land
And the football they play here is without hands.

So I can’t cook my turkey or make pumpkin pie
Or mess up the jello or get gravy on my thigh.
Can’t cheer for my team while drinking a brew
Or bet on the spread with a sibling or two.

Shoot! I forgot! That’s Vitória playing!
And oooh- a penalty kick is now in the staging!
Oh! I can’t believe it! That’s three goals he’s made!
Either pull that damn goalie or give him Gatorade.

Well, it’s the night before thanksgiving but I’m not feeling low
‘Cause O Brasil vai ganhar o Copo do Mundo!

(translation: Brazil is going to win the World Cup)

11 November 2009

Puerto Vallarta on the Horizon

In less than a week I will be out of the cold and into the hot. I'm off to Mexico for a shorter trip than my norm, but longer than a vacation. Maybe a month; maybe longer.

I have way too many clothes ready to pack, as usual. I have never, and will never, get this packing stuff right. Mostly I think that I am so thrilled to be able to wear the clothes I have had packed for a year and a half, that I can't decide which is truly essential.

Now the problem is to find that ratty suitcase that I stored somewhere in the house. There aren't that many places that I could have stowed it, but it seems to be lost. I have a vague memory of giving/lending it to someone but have no idea who. I don't have that many friends so I should just call them all up. Otherwise, it is off to buy something tomorrow. I don't like traveling with new, pristine luggage. It screams 'rip me off'. And any thieves would be sorely disappointed at the choice of thrift store, used clothing that they would encounter.

Granted, I was none too pleased when something must have run over my new suitcase while I was on a trip inside Vietnam. It broke the handle, bent the frame, and left greasy tire marks on the side. I guess maybe I do need a new one.

More from Mexico

05 November 2009

New License

I got my new driver's license in the mail yesterday. Looks just like the one I got five years ago. This bothers me. I mean it's a great picture; I made sure of that last time I was in DMV to renew my license. Now that it is all digitally done, I take a peek before I let the clerk hit the send button that whisks it off to Sacramento. One time I even made them take a second shot. Granted, I usually do end up with decent photos, but it is done with careful planning of clothing and jewelry, a fair amount of make-up, and at least 5 days of practicing in front of the mirror so that I have the perfect smile burned into the neural pathways.

I always get the option of renewing by mail, but usually opt to go in, (and I think pay more), to get a new picture. I sort of like to look like the person that is on the license. I couldn't be bothered with even finding out if that is allowable this time, so just sent in the check and got a duplicate of my last license with new expiration dates. Now I think I may have made an error in judgment.

After a lifetime of blonde, I am now auburn. I have finally owned up to the fact that I am not really 5'5". I used to be 5'4 3/4", or something like that. I am now officially 5'4" but that is not reflected on my license. The weight is within a kilo so that's no big deal. The main thing though, is that I am five years older and in five years, when the current one expires, I will be ten years older than the picture.

The last few years of presenting my good-for-ten-years passport was pretty humiliating. Comments like "what happened to you. You used to be so pretty!" Or, "This must have been taken when you were very young", do not help one's self image. The last time I left an overseas locale to return to the US, the Vietnamese boarder agent kept looking at the blonde in the passport without glasses, back to the bespeckled redhead, and finally just shook his head and waved me through.

I really am happy with the way I look, so it's not like I mind getting older. But I do think identity cards should reflect the person they represent.

08 October 2009

Working Girl

It is not the best paid job, but it is a job. Everyday I go to a different school and a different class, and a whole new group of students, although I have had a few repeats which makes it easier.
Some days I actually enjoy the time spent instructing the kids. Other days I am frustrated with having to police students all day rather than teach them. And then there are the days when I am at a school with pretty decent kids but not-so-lovely teachers.
This usually happens at the elementary schools. There seems to be the School Clique to which outsiders are not welcomed. You can be as jovial and chatty and charming as you can muster, and you still are treated with disdain. I don't get it. I am also a professional teacher so assume there will some amount of camaraderie. Not so. Worst of all is that I finish the day feeling miserable and excluded and questioning what I might have done to warrant the Cold Shoulder attitude of The Teachers.
But I have no real reason to moan. The pay is ok for a days work even though there are no sick days or vacation days or any sort of benefits. But once I leave the work site, my day is done. No papers to mark or meetings to go to. And Sunday at 4pm is still the end of the weekend rather than the beginning of lesson planning.
I took myself off the call list today; yet another advantage. Now I just have to get started on all those tasks I set for myself.

12 September 2009


After all that work on my vid, somehow it never got on to the HP YouTube contest site, (even though when i downloaded it i got a confirmation notice). So i did delete my vid and closed my YouTube account. Sometimes it shows up on this page; sometimes not.

I'm back to work on an hourly, day-to-day basis. Not the ideal job, but it is an income.
My book is still un-noticed and un-sold. My blog posts have slipped away. The non-existent summer is slipping into a hot, late summer and should be pleasant for about another month. Still trying to desperately sort it all out and am not sure if I am any closer to doing so, or am just managing to muddle through each week as it comes.

blah, blah, blah.....................................

23 August 2009

HP You on You

I entered the HP YouTube contest. This is what I came up with:

10 August 2009


I just cut my own hair. After the last two, budget-crap cuts, i figured i could do at least as well and save the aggravation of coming home and ruing the day i walked into that salon. I didn't do anything drastic with the scissors and, so far, (hair is still damp), so good.

Then yesterday i finally found a pair of jeans that actually fit and were spandex free. Added to that, they were Gap super-super-on-sale, so i was able to buy two pair. Now, the insane part is the sizing. I am the same size as I was 20 years ago, then I could cram myself into a size 6 pair of jeans most of the time. Yesterday, i was trying on size '2', which did not even exist 20 years ago. I ended up with the size 4's, which fit a little loosely, which i prefer.

What the heck is happening to the American Butt and the Sizing Commission? I am not all that small and there are plenty of women much smaller than me. What do they have to buy; size -3? Probably go to kids sizes.

My last project for better health and beauty was to get cracked by a Chiro. Since I now have coverage under my ludicrously expensive Kaiser med plan, it seemed wise to take advantage of it. However, no one I knew could give me a recommendation to one of the back crackers that were available through Kaiser. Through an assortment of measures, I finally picked one. And it was rather what i expected; assembly-line adjustments. No deep tissue work of any sort. The doc was gentle enough and I think he did a fair job, but it simply isn't worth going to this type of clinic simply because it is a low co-pay. When I left he suggested i come back in a few days even though there was nothing really wrong with me other than i needed a tune-up and that muscle work on various parts that I wasn't going to get there. Then he said I would defiantly need x-rays. No, I will not go back.

I must get back outside - we are having a rare heat wave and I want to drink up every minute.

05 July 2009

Need an Answer

The book reading went well. The audience consisted of all family and friends so it was sort of a dress rehearsal, for which I was very grateful. I was much more stressed about the whole deal than I thought I would be and relieved when it was over. I had thought that it would be the start of my book-reading adventures, but that hasn't panned out. And really, at this point I am feeling very fed up with the whole thing.
Maybe it is because I first wrote Jaz about 10 years ago, and spent many years trying to get it published. And when that didn't come to be, I wrote the sequel. And when that got nowhere, I went on to other writing. In my mind, Jaz was no longer part of my being. But then I figured out that I could finally afford to self-publish and once more got excited with the prospects of finally getting a book in print. I spent hours and hours and months and months getting reacquainted with my characters, and proof reading for typos etc., (of which I am sure I did not get all), and then planning the cover, and finally hitting the send button on the final submission.
I had visualized my book in print for so many years that it seemed completely normal when my proof copy arrived, although I did scream and jump up and down. I wrote up a press release, got postcards printed, and started making the rounds both in cyberspace and in the real world.

I was greeted with such kindness and lots of 'congratulations' at all the bookstores I went to with my little press packets. I was told that my book was a definite seller by the buyer at a Barnes and Noble. (who could not carry it because it was self-published). I got the book trailer out and on several trailer sites. Every hour that I was not at work, (or looking for work, depending on the month), I spent trying to promote my book. And now I just don't see the point any more.

They say that most self-published books sell less than 100 copies and those are all to friends. So far, that is true for me. They say that the majority of self-published books aren't worth the paper they are printed on. (well, maybe what they say isn't quite so nasty, but you get the idea.) I have always believed in my writing and have had enough people-in-the-know tell me that what I put down on the page is great. But right now I am starting to doubt it all.

I can't say that I am giving up on ever getting my book out to the masses, but I am just drained. I seem to have done all that I can do and I need to get back to my other stories which have been put on hold while I try to do the whole marketing thing.
And then there's the damn employment situation. Since returning from Vietnam a little over a year ago, I have had four different, low-paying jobs, with no benefits, and now I have no job with no benefits.
In the Big Picture, I cannot complain. I have a place to live and, for now, am able to buy food, and have a few good friends. But that doesn't make for a very happy life. I want desperately to go back to my overseas life, where ever that may be, but for now, can't. There is a possibility of a really good job in that 4th corner of the world that I have yet to visit, but that would not be until November, and there is no guarantee that I actually have it. I just want a job to pay the bills for awhile, instead of spending 2 to 3 hours a day doing the job-search thing and raising my blood pressure.
I feel like I am at the end of it all and don't know what to do. I have been faced with similar situations at least once every two years for my entire adult life, so one would think that I would be used to it. And actually, I have always said that just when life seems so complex and there are no answers, something comes up out of the blue and all my questions are answered and a new path opens up. And that new road carries me forward for the next few years until that cycle comes to an end and I find myself in a new state-of-lostness. I have learned to trust that it will all work out, because it always has. But this time, for many reasons, it is much more involved and I am having the damnedest time trying to convince myself that the master plan will be revealed to me in its own good time.
I'm writing this to myself and in hopes that the powers that be might read it and send a line.

07 June 2009


Just a reminder to all that I will be giving my first BOOK READING on Sunday, June 14th at 3:00 in the afternoon, at Afikomen, located at 3042 Claremont Ave in Berkeley, CA. (see their link on my sidebar)

My Book Trailer is now posted on The New Covey Awards site. I am not at all sure if anyone actually ever looks at this site other than those of us with trailers who want to get them out there. Site visitors are asked to vote for the best trailer. Again, I have no idea what winning the award for the most voted-on trailer would mean, but it couldn't hurt the publicity angle. Their link is also on my sidebar.

Hope to see you at the reading.

23 May 2009

The Book Zoo

For your shopping convenience, there is now another place to purchase Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv. It's at The Book Zoo, a lovely, funky, mostly-used-book store in Oakland, CA. http://www.bookzoo.net/

Eric kindly took three books in exchange for store credit. I like the idea. Just possibly I may try the barter system at the local supermarket if sales don't take off. Maybe someone will take a book in exchange for a few gallons of gas or a new pair of stilettos. You just never know until you try.
In case anyone is interested in a book exchange or a book reading or just about anything else that will further my struggling author career; I'm up for most anything.

02 May 2009

DIESEL Book Store

As of today, my book is now available at a real-live bookstore, and not just online. Granted, they only have three copies, but it is a start. Diesel Books is worth the trip for more than just my book. It is a way-cool, independent bookstore; the type that used to be easily found in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was so happy to find them even happier that they were willing to give Jaz a chance. I do so much prefer to spend my money at a real book place and not the mega-chain stores.

Drop by for a browse. (see their link in the right column)
(the picture is from an independent bookseller in Vietnam.)

25 April 2009

A Rose & a new job

After being laid off and out of work for about five weeks, I secured yet another teaching job at a private institution. Before applying I had to really consider whether or not I could endure the hour and a half commute each way on public transportation. But when no other job was available at a closer location, I really had no choice.

The first few trips into San Francisco where sort of an adventure; Big City Living seemed rather exciting. I was concerned about all the noise and lights of riding underground to get there, but I soon came up with a travel plan. I travel with ear plugs, dark glasses, and ball cap, then close my eyes and get as Zen as possible. So far it has worked like a charm. I have been able to get from point A to point B with no headaches and without falling asleep past my stop. Unfortunately, my “part-time” job has turned into a full time job and with a nasty commute to boot.

It is the same old story. I am paid for teaching four hours a day; period. The 30 minutes before

class needed for photo-copying and setting up my lesson, and the 30 minutes/1 hour after needed for students, paperwork, clean up, are not on the clock. The 7 or so hours of class preparation time I did to design the course and get lessons ready were also off the clock. The extra one, two or three hours a day needed for further fine tuning to a course which I had never taught and to which there was no curriculum, were worked free of charge. What is up with this teaching crapola? Or more importantly, why am I putting up with this?

Anyone who as ever taught knows that it is a teacher thing to feel that you are never doing enough. The educational system, be it public or private makes sure you know that no matter your qualifications and/or experience, you will never be good enough and you can always “do more”. With every new job you are handed a thick packet of what is expected of you which includes proper lesson preparation, zillions of forms to fill out for each student and each class and each breath you take. It then must all be documented and filed in the proper box at the proper time on a specific day. And I do all of this. And I do it damn well. But, if I add up all the hours I work divided by the pay I receive, I am doing it all for minimum wage, with no medical insurance, no sick leave, no vacation days, and no assurance that I will have a job come next Monday.

But it is illegal to not get paid for hours worked, you say. Apparently not. According to the Labor Commissioner's office, professions like teaching are “exempt” from all the rest of the workers. I am still not clear on how this works and am trying to decipher the applicable labor code. And even if it were illegal, what can I do? Even questioning an employer about such things will guarantee a lay-off notice on Friday, telling you not to come in on Monday. And there would be no reason in the world I would bother filing a claim against a minimum wage job.

So why do all these teachers in all these private institutions put up with it? I haven’t a clue. Maybe it is because most have only their one-month teaching certificate plus a bit of experience and think it is a well paid gig. Why do I put up with it? I tell myself that I don’t really have any other options, but possibly I haven’t meditated on it long enough to come up with a viable alternative. It is all rather depressing realizing that what I do best is apparently not good enough.

But at least I have my first rose! It is ever so exciting! There are buds about to bloom on all the bushes. Going out in the garden to see how happy all the plants are is my own little daily miracle. I like feeling that I am appreciated by Mother Earth.


08 April 2009

Home Hair Salon

I never really worried about the cost of adding color to my hair. For years, my light mousey color would get naturally streaked blond by the sun. And when that wasn’t enough, I had it highlighted, maybe once every 3 or 4 months. But then a couple of years ago it became evident that there was just a touch too much grey to go with only highlights which meant full-head color. I was actually thrilled, because that meant I had a valid reason to go red. So I went to my guy in Vietnam, (where I was living at the time), and got awesome red with funky blond chunks.
The cost was expensive by Vietnam standards, and not what I would call cheap in relation to my salary, but it was affordable. I went through the problems of the red fading day by day, even though my hair was never directly in contact with the sun. And every 6 weeks or so, I would go back and try out different highlights or slightly change the red to see if we could get a tone that would last longer. There was that unfortunate hair-coloring experience, where I ended up with bright pink streaks right before I left the country a year ago, but other than that, it was fine.
Back in the US, I started to get my hair done every 6-8 weeks. The color still faded, although maybe not as quickly as in hot and humid Vietnam, but I was happy enough until I had to write out the check at the end. In the beginning, I still had savings and figured it was a luxury I had to afford. A few times I thought of putting off the coloring, as I did in the days when I couldn’t afford highlights, but it just doesn’t work with unsightly roots, (the main reason I never did full color before), and certainly not with grey roots.
Then I got laid off from my less-than-full-time job, which paid less than it should have. There was simply no way I was going to go into debt to color my hair, so I started thinking about dying it myself.
Self-coloring? How could I even contemplate it? Hadn’t I spent years thinking that a person was a fool to go the do-it-yourself route? Of course I had seen the aisles in the drugs stores with thousands of choices of products and colors, but I had never even stopped to take a look. Every time a hair color ad came on the TV, I completely blocked it out. But that changed. I started to listen to every ad; I went on-line to see what was available; I checked with friends who had done it themselves. And finally, I was ready to invest the $10 and give it a go.

After careful research, I decided on L’Oreal Feria R68 Power Red. I came to this decision after first narrowing it down to a L’Oreal product. Then I went to their website and looked at each and every product and color. And then I used their interactive, “Highly personal and intuitive, ‘Can I Help You?’”, where “L’Oreal Expert Colorist, Christophe Robin”, talks you through your hair type, desired results, and then chooses what is best for you. It was both helpful and hilarious. Christophe’s accent is so French, that they had to sub-title his commentary. But when Christophe’s recommendation was exactly the color I had picked, I was reassured that I could do this.

On the directions, and on every site dedicated to coloring you hair, they suggest that you do a ‘skin allergy test’ 48 hours before applying it to your hair. It sounded somewhat reasonable, but since no hair stylist I have ever gone to has ever pre-tested for allergies, I figured it was just a law-suit precautionary warning and bypassed the test.

The whole process, for someone who has never even watched a friend color their hair, was both slightly terrifying and hugely messy, especially with “Power Red” ending up in all corners of the bathroom. What is this with about 5 separate bottles in the box? I had to mix three things in one container, and then there was the shampoo and then the conditioner. I carefully lined up bottles and triple checked the order of what goes where and when.

I had purchased salon hair clips so that I could do what they do in the salon. I carefully parted and clipped hair in place and I was off. That lasted until I tried to do the next section and the damn clips were of no use. (I have thin, fly-away hair). I tried to apply the color the same way I had observed in the past, but it proved much harder than it had looked. All the while I was thinking, this was a giant mistake and maybe I should stop. I ended up squeezing the color down strips of roots as best I could. I knew I had to let it sit for 15 minutes before doing the rest of my hair, or I would end up with skunk strips of different colors. Even after applying the color to the rest of my hair, I had half a bottle of dye left and it seemed that maybe I should dump the rest on even though my hair was covered. But then I thought that the product was designed to use for people with double the amount of hair, so maybe it was ok.

The most frightening part was getting in the shower to shampoo it out. I just knew I was going to get dye in my eyes and go blind. Damn, why hadn’t I hung a towel where I could reach it? I asked myself as I leaned out of the shower and blindly groped for a towel, while water shot out all over the floor and red dye splattered the walls.

After shampooing twice, and conditioning once, (with enough shampoo and conditioner left over to do another head or two), I emerged into the combat zone of my bathroom, hair wrapped in a towel. Assured that my vision had not been compromised by carcinogenic chemicals, I went about cleaning up.

I still had half a bottle of color left but knew that it would become inert in 30 minutes, and there were all those instruction warnings that you could not keep any leftover materials because they could explode. What the hell I just put onto my body? I really didn’t think the remaining conditioner would implode, but dumped it nonetheless.

I kept looking at my hair as it dried; my biggest fear was that I would have a stripe of different color on the roots. It soon became apparent that I had managed to avoid that, and that my hair was fairly awesome. Because I had had some highlights prior to home coloring, and also because my base color was never one solid tone, I ended up with very cool highlights. And the best was that it didn’t stink like it does for days after a professional job.

It has now been two days and I just washed my hair. No color ran onto the shower floor or onto my towel, which it has always done in the past. It feels healthy and only looks a bit garish in the bright sunlight. But since it is overcast and foggy and will be for several days, it is not a problem. By next week I am assured my hair will have toned down and look good even in bright sunlight.

This has been a major awakening and life altering experience. Never in a million years would I have thought that I could do this. But for $10, and no tip, I certainly should have considered this some time ago.
I haven’t done the full check of what others think of my experiment, but if anyone looks at me strangely, I will say that I paid serious money to get this hair.

15 March 2009


If there is such a thing as photo-heat-bipolarism; I have it. When the sun is out and it is warm, (preferably hot), I can Conquer the World, if not the known universe. When it is grey and dreary, I want to crawl in a cave and hibernate until it is over. Unfortunately, living in the San Francisco Bay Area means that I am in cave-mode a good part of the time. People tell me to try those sun lamps, or full spectrum lights, but they wouldn’t do any good. All I have to do is look out the window and it feels like the world is crashing in on me.

Having said that, last week was oh so spectacular! I was on a roll with the book stuff, popping in and out of stores and getting the tires aligned, smiling the entire time and stopping strangers on the street to say, Isn’t is a beautiful day! And then the weather turned and the good mood left.

I tell myself it is all in my head and that fog simply can’t make one blue, but it does no good. I have just figured out that even though it is even colder at night, life is a little more bearable because it is night and not supposed to be sunny. Hey, don’t ask me – it’s my whacko biology.

There are those who contend that I must have been born in the summer and in the tropics. Wrong on both counts. I’m a Thanksgiving baby hatched in the fog. Possibly in all my other lives I was an equatorial inhabitant. I stay alive by fantasizing about where I will go as soon as I have a few bucks saved up. I had been planning on Mexico or there about this summer. But that idea has probably just been shot to hell.

Friday I got a call from the head teacher who told me I was laid off, yet again, owing to a drop in student enrolment. This happened for three weeks in December, when I was also given one days notice. Ok, so the people I work for are incredibly unprofessional and under- qualified, but I do love the students and hell, I really do need the job, even if it is part time with no benefits. Well maybe now I will write to the BIG east-coast newspaper who owns the school and mention the irregularities at their plant. Like all the copyright infringement, and the lack of implementation of course curriculum. Then again, I plan to become a well-known author, so who gives a rats booty?

But even in the darkest hour a bit of brightness can light up my day. Someone, (and I have no idea who that someone is), left a comment on this blog saying they “loved” it. Now, if I had ever received a comment like that on my Vietnam blog, I would also have been thrilled, but I would have understood, ‘cause I do think I had some good tales about my times there. However, I still think this particular one is rather sucky and only started it because I was told I needed an Author’s Blog. Maybe I am getting the hang of it. Or maybe people will stop reading all together after this posting.

So, to whoever/whomever left me that lovely comment – THANKS!
And maybe, just maybe, the sun will come out tomorrow!

11 March 2009

First Book Reading Booked

Save this date: 14 June, 2009, 3pm. I have just been booked to do a reading at Afikomen, a Jewish book and gift store in Berkeley, CA. (see link in sidebar.)
This is so very exciting! Now all I have to do is to figure out what one is expected to do at a reading. I assume read. But what should I read? Anyone who has read the book and has a favorite section, please let me know.
The planets are definitely in alignment!

08 March 2009

Publicity Tour #1

Friday was my first day hitting the venues that I hope will lead to massive book sales.

Considering that my book takes place in Tel Aviv, I decided that the local temple, JCC, and Judaica shop would be first on my list of places to visit.

Armed with my press packs; book, press release, postcard adverts, all arranged neatly in a zip-lock bag; I drove to each of my stops. In every place I was greeted with congratulatory handshakes and questioned with great interest about my book and about my time in Israel. I was also given a quite a few new ideas on where to send and who to contact. I was buzzing off the walls with excitement for the rest of the day!

I will continue the press blitz next week and see how other, more mainstream, booksellers react. I kinda figure there has to be at least one person in every store that will be happy to get a free book, no matter what else. And if just one person reads it, and then passes it along to someone else, and then to yet another person...well, that just has to be good for getting the word out.

Barnes & Noble - you will soon be hearing from me.


19 February 2009

This Whole Marketing Thing

It’s been about two weeks since the Launch of my book, Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, and its awesome book trailer. Since the time that I sent out the initial email to anyone and everyone I could think of, I have been on a quest to let the rest of the world know that my book is out there and available for the ordering. I have sent press releases to publishers, book clubs, newspapers and, of course, the heads of the Hollywood studios.

The word on the street is that my book reads like a movie and that it would make a great screenplay. I thought that the best way to get noticed would be to go to the top and send out the trailer and a brief note. So last week I set about finding the names and emails of all those important folks. The names were the easy part; the emails another story. I thought I was being really slick as I went about gathering email address. Probably spent 2 or 3 hours doing all this and gave a great sigh of relief when I hit the send button. The ‘blocked email’ notices started coming back immediately, although it was a whole 7 days before all the ‘permanent failure’ notices arrived. Oh well, it was a thought.

However, the good news is that the book trailer is turning up on all sorts of places that I didn’t even send it to, as well as some I did. My biggest thrill is when I happened to check back on Book Screening.
My little book appears RIGHT NEXT TO JOHN GRISHOM’S latest!
I figure this just has to be a sign of good things to come. I am hoping that Mr. Grisham’s good book karma will rub off on mine.

And then there is the whole Google thing; just a few weeks ago you could have goggled Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, and come up with a blank. Now when you do it, you come up with a whole page! It is truly an amazing age when you realize that with just a few taps on the keyboard, anyone, anywhere in the world, can find out about your book. Now I am just hoping that they do that.

I must get back to tracking down those Hollywood types that are brainstorming new film ideas. I know they’d love Jaz.


15 February 2009

TV Addiction

TV has become really good. When did that happen? As a kid, we didn’t have a TV for a lot of my early years. When we did get one for a few years, Saturday morning programming was Captain Kangaroo and Brother Buzz. Not much point in even watching.

For a good part of my adult life, I also never had a TV. At the time it was a matter of money and, besides, there wasn’t a whole lot that I wanted to watch. (this was all pre-cable networks). If I were in the US, I would watch only when visiting friends or staying with family. I never felt that I was missing out.

It was in Israel that I got a TV; a tiny little 10 inch thing that I bought at duty-free on the way out of the country, then picked it up when I returned 3 weeks later. (how one avoided import tax at the time.) I remember jumping up and down when I finally got the cable hooked up; my little TV sitting on the floor since I had no furniture, not even a bed. A friend came by later that day and I turned it on exclaiming, Look, a TV! He turned to me and said in a serious tone, ‘You know, I have seen TV in Israel before.’…Oh.

The most important thing at the time was that I could watch CNN and BBC, 24 hours a day. If something blew up in Israel, it was on CNN before the local news and had the great advantage of being in English. The choice of non-news television was a bit limited. I remember watching lots of re-runs of 10 year old American sit-coms. I didn’t watch them with a passion; more as a brain-numbing escape from daily life. And I do remember watching the Russian variety shows which I loved because of the fashion aspect. Russian women, and men, have the most incredibly distinctive, flashy couture. http://katerambles.blogspot.com/search?q=russian+olympics

The next few places I lived I either didn’t have a TV, or it was limited to local programming. I recall nights in the tiny town of Hurghada, Egypt, watching ‘So You Want to Be a Millionaire’ in Arabic only because I had run out of books to read. I would try to pick out a few words that had a Latin base, or historical significance, and then try to guess which of the 4 answers was correct. I actually got a few. And as for books, I was an insatiable reader which was no easy task in a country with limited access to fiction in English.

By the time I arrived in Vietnam, the world had changed. Apartments rented to foreigners came furnished with a TV and cable programming. Not only could I watch CNN and BBC, but Australian networks and American series that were no more than one year out-of-date. If I didn’t want to wait for a series to be aired, I could buy a pirate copy of the entire season for a few bucks. And of course there was American Idol, which was broadcast on a one-day delay basis only because of the time difference between the US and Vietnam.

I started to notice that there was at least one show a night that I just had to see because I found them so fascinating. It was in Vietnam that I got hooked on Lost, Prison Break, Damages, Heroes, Doc Martin, Outrageous Fortune, and Stingers, to name a few. (the last three are British, New Zealander (is that right?), and Australian.) So when I arrived back in the US, I immediately started to look into when all these shows would be broadcast, and when the new seasons would begin. The only regret is that the superior BBC series are rarely available here and you can forget about TV shows from down under. Oh, and the other disappointment is the cable news American style, which sucks. http://katerambles.blogspot.com/2005/10/cnn-asia.html

But it got even better. Now, if I can’t see a program the night it is broadcast, I can watch it the next day on the internet! This is life changing! No waiting for summer re-runs to watch the episode you missed. And the fact that I am going on about TV shows is, if not worrisome, very strange to me. When did I become such an addict?

All I can think is that the American series that I presently watch have a bit of a twist to them; a taste of paranormal, or a bit of fifth dimension. They all contain action but are not police dramas or hospital traumas, genres I abhor. And new ones keep coming onboard. I could wish for another really good Sci Fi series, since I feel that is lacking in my viewing pleasure, but then again I am close to overload on television input.

Maybe this is a phase; maybe not. Maybe I will get bored with the shows or maybe they will get old, as they usually do. I used to be an American Idol fan, but that is waning. Perhaps I will once again become an avid reader. None of this really matters at all. What is important to me is that I have a choice of wonderful, one-hour escapes that take me to into fascinating worlds, all at the click of a button.

Now, if I could just get to see all those shows from other countries!

08 February 2009

Hot Book Trailer

I spent yesterday making my book trailer with my cousin Michael. http://colemanfilm.com/
Rather, Michael did all the hard stuff and I piped in with opinions. It was an absolutely, fantastically, wonderful experience! If I were 20, I think I would go into the profession. We started by recording the script, then went about adding layers. Michael went from word to word, finding images that fit. We had been working for an hour or so and I figured we must be at least half the way through, then realized we were still on the first sentence.
After we had a bunch of pics, we started on the music. And then he started piecing it together. It looked like a musical score on the computer screen, with lines for voice, pics, music, and then sound effects, all stacked up. He did his magic making sure that everything meshed, faded in or out, and flowed seamlessly. I am so ready to make another! Actually, I want to try making my own, but I know that would not be possible. I may understand some of the concepts, but being able to really do it would take more than a bit of training. And then there is the element of feel for the right thing to add at the correct section that cannot be learned; it is part of a person's DNA. And my cousin has that in great abundance.
With my hot trailer in the can, I then set out to work on the mass marketing of Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv. I am hoping that a book trailer to editors of newspapers and other publications is more appealing than a boring press release, although I also have one of those. I am a little stuck on how this whole press release thing works. Apparently, I can pay several hundred dollars for someone else to send out a mass email. Even if I could afford it, I just can't see how it is worth it. As I understand, it is a list of email addresses of people who might delete me without reading the press release whether I send it or I hire someone to send it.

I must let everyone know that if you want to self-publish, http://www.booksurge.com/ is the way to go. It was back in October and I was once again thinking about doing this and somehow ran into their site. I liked that they were affiliated with Amazon, so popped off an email. Less than 24 hours later, Shauna called me in response. I was stunned. I may even have stuttered. I eventually did get back to them and Shauna become the one who guided me through the whole process. I emailed and called and asked lots of questions and kept checking on this and that. And I always received a reply by the next day. I could even call if I wanted. They offer lots of services for people wanting to publish; some for an extra charge, but many for free. They are definitely the best deal in town.

I need to get back to all this self-promo stuff.

05 February 2009

Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv

My new book, Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, has just been published and is now available online at http://www.amazon.com/.

The Book Trailer is on this page and on:

I published through http://www.booksurge.com/ , who are THE BEST!!! (again, more info on the process and how good they are in a future blog.)

This is sooooooooo exciting!

Thanks to everyone who has heard about this project and given me advise and support.

30 January 2009


I moved back from Vietnam last May. Even though I had started to apply for jobs here the previous February, nothing seemed to be available. And then family stuff kept me occupied until July, when I finally gave up on the Adult School, well-paid jobs, and took a one-month gig at a private English Language school. Pay was less than what I had received in Vietnam, but it was a job. When that ended, I again went to all the private institutions in the area and finally was hired.

At the time, I asked about the hourly pay and was not given a firm answer, but was assured that since I was so well qualified, I would get a higher rate than the teachers with a one month training course. My first paycheck arrived and I saw that I was at the starting rate. I let it go for a while. What can you do? It was an income. When I finally did ask my supervisor I was told that my pay grade could be reviewed in three months.

Last week I approached the head of the head of the institution. (There seem to be at least 7 admin types in this organization and I have yet to figure out what they all do.) I asked about their pay scale. Most educational establishments, be they public or private, base pay on qualifications and experience. I was told that “we have no pay scale”; “qualifications and experience mean nothing”; and that even letters of recommendations were of no value. As to my pay rate, it would be reviewed in a year.

Ok, so that means my numerous degrees and teaching certifications are of no value; my 20 or thirty years as an educator are useless. And I had to wonder what the department head at the Australian university, where I taught in Vietnam, would think to know that her recommendation was of no value. Or what about the USAID program director who I worked under in Egypt? Or the three directors who ran the British Council English Language Programs in various parts of the world – all their recommendations were meaningless?

Unfortunately, teaching the English Language has become a profession that anyone can embark upon provided they complete a one month course. I know of no other career where this has happened. Having said that, I also am aware that there is nothing I can do about it and am usually content with the salary offered, the option being going to work at Starbucks. But I am not content with being paid less than the above mentioned quick-certificate employees, nor being made to feel that if I even enquire about my salary, I will be terminated.

The worst is that all the rhetoric about “having to prove you are a qualified instructor”, coming from administrators who do not have a background in education and whose only priority is the bottom-line, not the quality of their programs.

I could rant about this for pages but the bottom-line for me is that I need a job. I do love teaching, and the students are wonderful. I feel a strong sense of commitment to their educational needs and put in all the extra hours developing the lessons and marking their papers, and all the additional little things one does as a professional teacher. I have found that it is simply better to not spend more than the necessary few minutes talking to all those directors in the downstairs office. I no longer even try to communicate with other teachers who gloat about the fact that they never prepare lessons and never assign any writing assignments or other homework that would require correcting.

One of my students returned to Korea last week. She gave me a card in which she talked about how much she had enjoyed my class, all the things she had learned, and that she will always remember me as the best English teacher she has ever had. This is more gratifying than any supervisor’s words. I know that I have made a positive contribution to at least one person in the world, and probably a whole lot more.

Don’t let the admins get you down! (my mantra for today and tomorrow and tomorrow…)

27 January 2009

Best Day!

It was the best day ever! It started out at the speech pathologist's office where she gave me my first lessons in how to properly use my voice after all these years of screwing it up. I am already on the road to recovery and being able to, once again, sing. (one of the most majorly important parts of my life.) I then went on to buy some bare root roses for my new found endeavor of rose gardener. And then I came home to find the first copy of my new book, soon to be available online. And surrounding all this was brilliant sunshine and crystal clear skies!

Yes, it was a day for the record books.

This has to mean more are to come!


26 January 2009

Year Of The Ox

Happy Lunar New Year!
I only wish I could be back in Vietnam or Malaysia to really experience all the excitement and colour and Lion Dancers and Red Lanterns and Tet cakes and the joy on the faces of the people everwhere you go. Maybe next year......

Meanwhile, I will post some pics that my friend sent me from Ho Chi Minh City. They close off blocks of Nguyen Hue St., right in the middle of town, and turn it into a garden of plants and sculptures. It is truely a sight to see.

May all your dreams come true in the New Year!


17 January 2009

Summer In January

It has been the most fantastic week in January that I have ever spent in the San Francisco Bay area. Hot, sunny days, with temps around 70F/21C. I won’t even complain that it could even be hotter. If the earth would allow me a few days like this every month, I might not even mind living here.

Some people are complaining that we are in a drought and that this whole bizarre weather thing makes them feel very uncomfortable. Huh? I don’t get it. There is absolutely nothing one can do about it so why not revel in the oddity? That’s what I will continue to do. This is the one aspect of Global Warming that brings me great joy.


16 January 2009

TESTING 1,2,3.....

just testing to see if this damned blog is coming out the way i hope it will.
Thrilling news to follow!