SAY CHEESE!!

Who out there loves going to the dentist?

Me neither. And I never get to go just for a cleaning. Or even a whitening treatment, though goodness knows I could use one. Coffee and wine aren’t kind to teeth that have been exposed to the elements for four decades. If I’m not careful, I might get poached for my ivory.

No, when I do go it is because I’m forced into it. This last time was because a filling came out. It just dropped. It would have rolled away had it been more marble than shard. One minute I had a front tooth, the next a fang. In the words of my friend, Sarah, “That’s pretty.” (Except she was referring to an awkward typo I’d inadvertently created in an email, not my uneven teeth.)

I went to the dentist. He is a great dentist. The best I have ever gone to. And cute. He’s in his seventies, has a full head of white hair, and amazing skills with drills. I still remember with fondness how he dropped one of my crowns before it could be attached, got a coat hanger, and whacked it out from under the sink. It was great comic relief at a time I really needed it. Laughing, though, was hard. I was still full of local anesthetic and couldn’t feel my head. I think I smiled and drooled a bit, but he wiped my face with my bib before it could drip.

My dentist repaired my fang and sent me home. On the way my husband and I stopped by the liquor store (for obvious reasons) and got a bottle of red wine.  As I was browsing the French section I felt my tooth shift. I shrugged it off. Sometimes teeth loosen a bit while they’re being worked on. It would firm up. I was wrong.

The next day filling #2 fell out. I was fanged once again. It was the weekend. I was going to have to wait until Monday to make another appointment. I wasn’t happy. But at least I had a bottle of wine.

Then tragedy struck. Not real tragedy. But one of those minor tooth tragedies. A whole different tooth fell out. Not a filling. Not a cap. But the whole root canal minus the gutta percha. I had roots. I had canals. But I didn’t have a tooth. I had what looked like a corn-nut.

Nothing hurt. No nerves had been exposed. Nothing needed an antibiotic. But in the words of my husband, I was rotting on the hoof.

The dentist got me in the next day. I envisioned several visits. One to assess the damage. Another to prepare the fang for capping. Another to cap the fang. Another to fix the root canal. Maybe even surgery to remove the corn nut. Or my right jaw.

Not so. He did both teeth in one visit.

I told you he was good.

First he numbed my right side from the waist up. I couldn’t even hear with my right ear. I envisioned my earhole puckered shut like a cat’s sphincter, but didn’t ask for a mirror. Or my cell phone to take a picture.

Then he set to work. First the corn-nut.

Did you know that to reattach a crown that had broken off at the gum-line, one used a drill, a spike, and bonding resin that smells like burning tea kettles? I got two spikes drilled in. It felt like a two-seater was taking off in my head. My nose vibrated like a buzz saw. But no pain.

Next was my fang. By then my anesthetic was wearing off. No pain, but if he didn’t work quickly, I knew I was soon going to feel every prod and pick.

He knew that as well. And that’s when he starting slinging drill. He was like the fastest gun in the West. He filled, cured, shaped, and polished in a matter of minutes – the drill, grit, and liquid flying. I kept expecting him to slip and shoot the drill into my eye. But no, he was focused, careful, and very, very good. His assistant was hard pressed to keep up, but she did.

But all that meant that there was no time (nor room) for swallowing. Or for blinking. Or for breathing. Or, for that matter, unclenching my butt. It was going to take the Jaws of Life to get me out of that chair. Either that, or I would have to drag it home behind me until I could get in the Jacuzzi.

It felt like twenty miners on meth were in my mouth looking for ore. At times I could have sworn that there were more than twenty fingers under my tongue. But no pain. He beat the time limit on the Novacain. And fixed my teeth. Perfectly. In ONE VISIT.

That man deserves a medal. Dr. W. D. Harris in Springdale. Or, at the very least, a sheriff’s badge.

Of course, now, I’m scared of food. Nothing crunchy. Nothing hard. Nothing chewy. That leaves me with water and yellow Spam jelly. No problem.  I can do that. Maybe I’ll loose weight.

I would love it if you left a comment or observation in the ‘leave a comment’ section under this.

Have fun!

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BOOK SIGNING – PART 3

Readers of my two previous blogs will know that I have been giving an account of my latest adventure in Wisconsin (I know… The words ‘Wisconsin’ and ‘adventure’ don’t usually go together.) And now, FINALLY, I am to the day of the book signing.

First, let me state that nighttime driving through Milwaukee during rush hour is not for the timid. Or, in fact, for the sane. Especially on a Friday night when EVERYONE on the road is either, a) exhausted, b) hungry, or c) already drunk. But, speaking candidly, it is better than driving in Jacksonville, Florida. You have heard the saying, “Dance like no one is watching.” Well, Floridians drive like no one is watching, least of all themselves. Wisconsin drivers actually obey traffic laws.

I arrived at my motel in the town of Sheboygan (where the signing was to be held the next day) just after 9:00 pm, and checked in. The same young man that had made my reservations over the phone was on duty that night. I recognized the depression. He silently encoded my card key and had me sign in. I had to ask him what my room number was since he didn’t actually speak. I suppose I could have just wandered around the small motel, trying slots, but I didn’t want to get arrested before I’d had my dinner.

The next morning John Campbell (author of WALK TO PARADISE GARDEN, and A LARK ASCENDING) and his sister Ann White (A trial lawyer who jumped the career ship to enjoy life in bohemian fashion – Her mind is too big to be contained in only one career) . . . But to get back to what I was saying, John and Ann picked me up for the signing.

But first, I was taken to breakfast then taken on a tour of Sheboygan.

Sheboygan is charming. I could live there. Except for the winters that rival the Russian tundra’s. Fortunately, the weather was spectacular for my visit, with autumn leaves at their peak. Here is a picture of Lake Michigan:

Beautiful, isn’t it?

And here is a picture of John at the lake.

He looks like he’s contemplating the meaning of life, but in reality he was saying, “Yes, there is sand down here.” Also? He is NOT fat. That is his jacket.

Here is a picture of Ann and John at the marina.

They look serious. Also? John’s head is glowing. Either it is from a tiny beam of heavenly light, a halo, or he is silently conversing with aliens. I will have to ask.

I wish I could post more pictures of Sheboygan, but I had better get to the signing.

Here I am (with John, not in silhouette this time, also selling copies of his book, WALK TO PARADISE GARDEN) at the Z-Spot Espresso and Coffee, where I am enjoying an Angry Pumpkin.

And, no, that is not code for my belly. The Angry Pumpkin is the name of my Chai.

It was at this point that I finally got to meet John’s wife Pamla.

Pamla is one of those rare people who enjoy staying active. I used to. When I was nine. Then as soon as puberty hit I went from running, jumping, and climbing to eating, reading, and sleeping.

Pamla prefers walking over driving. She walked from her job at the bank to the book signing.

We arrived by car.

We looked for her on the way, but couldn’t find her. Either because she had long since outstripped us, or had taken several detours, walking around the block many times just for the sheer boost of it.

I wish I could be like that. . .

The book signing was really a book party. The Z-Spot catered it, courtesy of John and Pamla. It was well attended. I met many friends there. I also took several videos. Videos AND pictures. Unfortunately, I forgot to get permission to post the pictures, so you will have to rely on your imagination. Visualize, if you will, a happy mob laughing, reading, eating cheese, crackers, salami, fruit, and drinking coffee, tea, chai. Sorry. That is the best that I can do . . .

Then after the signing, I went back to John and Pamla’s for cocktails and amazingly good finger-food.

I know. The picture is too dark to see what we ate, but I thought at least it would make up for not having pictures of the book party.

To put it simply: I had a great time. The hospitality was unbelievable. It didn’t end with Saturday, but extended through the whole of the weekend, finishing with a truly tasty dinner at the Duke of Devon (an English pub off the marina) and another evening sitting and visiting by John and Pamla’s fireplace.

So now I will leave you with a picture of Nik, my fireside lap companion. . .

And a big thank you to everyone who made my book launch unforgettable!

Stay tuned . . .

I would love it if you left a comment or observation in the ‘leave a comment’ section under this.

Have fun!

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BOOK SIGNING – PART 2

I had promised insanity, blood, and pygmy hippos on this blog. But let me begin with a taxi driver named Fariba.

Since my ultimate destination of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was only 3 hours away, I had the whole day to explore Chicago before setting out for the last leg of my journey. So I got online to look at my tourist options. I could go to Lincoln Park Zoo where there was no parking, leave the car in an alley, and walk while gangs set fire to the Subaru. Or I could visit the historic Lake Forest area. I wanted to do that, but I knew that Google Maps would take me through every toll booth within a 100 mile radius before getting me lost in Ohio. Since I didn’t have $82.oo in spare change for tolls, I kept looking. Then I found the Brookfield Zoo.

I asked Francheska, the helpful young woman at Reception, how to get to the Brookfield. She said, “Take the train.”

That’s the problem with living in a small town of 80,000. All we have is a bus that takes handicapped people to Wal-mart. I wasn’t thinking big enough.

So, needing a ride to the train station, I called a taxi service. Fariba answered. He has an accent. I am deaf on the phone. This was our conversation:

“Taxi.”

“Hello. I’m at the Quality Inn in Aurora, and would like to take a taxi to the train station. Can you give me an idea of how much that could cost?”

“Sixty-seven dollars.”

“Sixty-seven dollars?”

“NO. SIX. TO. SEVEN. DOLLARS. . .  Jckkslzzcypppp!”

“Excuse me?”

“Ppllbbzzourpppt!”

“Please say that again.”

“What is the matter? Can you not hear? Ffszchyckkz! I’m having a coffee first. YOU have a coffee. I’ll see you after 10. . . Gzzrrppblfsttkljzzzzz . . .”

After our coffee break Fariba showed up and drove me to the train station. And after the phone debacle, I had to pretend that I knew what I was doing when he dropped me off. I headed toward the nearest building like I knew what it was. It could have been someone’s house, a public bathroom, or a police station. Thank goodness it was the ticket counter. I bought my round trip tickets, then sat on a bench to wait.

Fun fact for country bumpkins: Chicago passenger trains are two stories high.

Another fun fact: Crazy people ride them.

Here’s one:

At first I thought he was talking into his hand. After 20 minutes I realized that he had a cell phone buried in his hair (You can’t see the three foot braid), and I could only hope that someone was on the other end of the line. Especially after we ended up being the only two people on the train car by the time I got off.

So back to the Brookfield. Here is the Pygmy Hippo I promised:

My first pygmy hippo in real life. I was thrilled even though he spent all of his time eating dirt and pooping it back out.

I also promised blood. That happened when I was walking the several blocks from the zoo back to the train stop.

I take after my mother. We do random pratfalls for no reason. Sometimes even when we’re just standing still. This time, though, I was walking from the zoo to the train stop and stubbed my toe on a crack in the sidewalk. I went down, arched my back so I wouldn’t shove my nose into my brain, and landed heavily on my hands. By the time I’d climbed to my feet, my hands were dripping blood. Not enough to warrant a fire truck. Just enough to make a young man at the train stop hide behind a pillar when I spoke to him.

I didn’t have tissues with me, so I couldn’t clean the blood off. And I didn’t want to touch anything in case there was flesh-eating staph lurking on a nearby brick, so I stood with my hands out at my sides like I was drying nail polish. My posture, the dripping blood, and the fact that I had sweated heartily while walking around the zoo, all made me look as if I had just slaughtered a family of five while they slept. I cleared a path by my mere presence and was the first to board.

Needless to say, I sported eye-catching scabs at my book signing. Also, needless to say, I bandaged up before handling the books. I knew it wasn’t hygienic to dot my I’s with DNA.

The next blog – BOOK SIGNING – PART 3 – will be about friends, Sheboygan, and the actual book signing.

Stay tuned . . .

I would love it if you left a comment or observation in the ‘leave a comment’ section under this.

Have fun!

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BOOK SIGNING – PART 1

FIRST, AN ANNOUNCEMENT – THE EBOOK IS HERE!

THE EBOOK ‘STRANGE CAPER’ HAS BEEN RELEASED AND CAN BE FOUND AT THESE ONLINE STORES:

AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE,  BOOKLOCKER, ITUNES, and KOBO

AND, NOW, ON TO THE BOOK LAUNCH . . .

I had neglected to put out a blog last week. Why? Because I have been in Wisconsin having an adventure. Adventure in Wisconsin, you say? Wisconsin, the land of cheese?

Well, it started in the miniature township of Towanda, Illinois, when Officer Albee pulled me over on Interstate 55. I was on my way to Chicago. It seems I had neglected to obey the ‘3-second rule’ . . . a rule I had never heard of before. Officer Albee was certain that I had known about it from Drivers’ Ed. Unfortunately, I had gotten my driver’s license since before Officer Albee was born. He was not aware of the fact that in the old days, only rich kids took Driver’s Ed. Poor kids (such as myself) learned how to drive when their dad took them to an empty parking lot and taught them how to stop, start, and turn the wheel. Then took them for a spin around the block with a policeman in the car.

The 3-second rule is a simple way to double-check that you are driving at a safe following distance.  Choose a fixed point that is even with the car in front of you.  For example, a road sign or a building.  If you reach that same fixed point before you can count to three, then you are driving too close to the car in front of you and you need to fall back a bit.

No, I wasn’t following the ‘3- second rule’, but seemed to be following a ‘one and a half second’ rule of my own.

So I was pulled over. Officer Albee approached my car slowly, noting the mounds of travel paraphernalia I was taking with me – Two suitcases, two book-packed boxes, three enormous cooler bags full of food, a book signing poster, an easel, and two bulging knapsacks. His hand went to his gun.

At this point, I still did not know why I had been pulled over.

I rolled down my window – the window on the passenger side where he was standing – and waited for him to speak. That was when he told me of my violation. I pretended lucidity and comprehension when he mentioned the ‘three second rule’, but quickly lost my façade of intelligence when I couldn’t remember where my proof of insurance was. After some dithering I finally located it in the glove compartment where it has ALWAYS been kept. He took that and my license and retreated to his car to write up my warning.

Yes, that is all I got – a warning. Because Officer Albee is nice. If they had Pageants for policemen, he would be Officer Congeniality. It went well with his blond buzz-cut, even white teeth, and dimples.

He issued a warning, but he still had to go through the spiel. The questions were straightforward enough, but there was plenty of subtext:

“Are you carrying a concealed weapon in the car?” (I don’t see how you’d have room with all this unnecessary crap packed to the ceiling.)

“No.” (Should I tell him about the paring knife I packed to slice the cheese?)

“Have you ever been arrested on a drug charge? Though, looking at you, I would be surprised if you said yes. [Yes, that part he said out loud.]

“No.” (I’m too tired to submit to a body cavity search. Wait until after I get some pizza.)

We laughed.

Then I was sent on my way.

I arrived in Aurora, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, well after the sun had gone down. This was when I discovered the true merits of using Google Maps.

Firstly, Google Maps directs drivers much the same way pilots use the plane’s instruments to fly through storms. You don’t have to see well enough in the darkness to read the road signs, you just have to follow verbalized directions. After taking me through some intricate turns and U-turns along Aurora’s suburban roads (Traffic in one of Chicago’s suburbs is as frenetic as the traffic in any mid-sized city when panicked  residents are being evacuated), I came to my hotel.

The second thing about Google Maps? They lie. Either that, or they think we go by dog years. What takes only one hour in the Google universe takes one and a half in ours. They are like the soothing parents who keep saying, ‘Hold your pee. We’re almost there,’ when they have another half-day of traveling to go.

I checked in, taking the luggage trolley with me. It took two loaded trips to take everything out of the car and into the room. Finally, dinner, a shower, and bed. I had sightseeing plans the next day, and after that, another three and a half hours of driving to reach my destination. Or, according to the liars at Google, two.

The next blog – BOOK SIGNING – PART 2 – will be about insanity, dripping blood, and pygmy hippos.

Stay tuned . . .

I would love it if you left a comment or observation in the ‘leave a comment’ section under this.

Have fun!

Oh, and here is a picture of the sunset that day . . .

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DO YOU TAKE THIS MAN, LIZA WEEBS?

MY  BOOK  HAS  BEEN  RELEASED  AND  IS  NOW  FOR  SALE.  EBOOK COMING SOON!  I will announce its release on this website. 

INTRODUCING THE MAIN CHARACTER IN MY LATEST BOOK, ‘STRANGE CAPER’  – BELLA WILDEVE from Halfmoon, Cornwall

Bella asks hundred-year-old Liza Weebs a question posed by a reader -

Yes, it’s me again. Bella Wildeve from Cornwall. I’m the one who went to Greece this summer. I’m also the one who told you about hundred-year-old Liza Weebs. Liza  who goes barefoot everywhere. She reminds me of those organic Indians living deep in the Amazonian rainforest. Only instead of being surrounded by banana leaves and naked babies, she comes with alcohol and dirty aprons. Unfortunately, there is no genteel way to introduce Liza. Fair warning . . .

But to get to the point, a blog reader called Snuffygump has a question for her:

So glad to hear from Bella. This will be a wonderful and much looked forward to addition to the blog. I do have questions that I want to ask various residents of Halfmoon. Liza Weebs in particular. Say, I think I found a perfect match for her a few weeks back while I was visiting the optician. This man stood out because it had snowed the previous day, yet he entered into the waiting room wearing flip flops. Flip flops on a 90 year old man….yep, he is younger than Liza which I know she will approve. Anyway, I couldn’t help but check out this oldtimers tootsies. I kid you not, he was a candidate for the Guiness Book of World Records. The toenails extended a good 3/4 inch past and over the end of the flip flop. They were ridged and had a dull tobacco stain golden brown color. Now, I don’t know how I would ever find this gentleman again, but, my question for Liza is: would she be interested and, if so, would she be up to running a personal ad in the Montana Standard in order to locate this guy? I can assure her that the guy no doubt is a surviving miner from the glory days of the Berkley Pit Copper Mine and already possesses a taste for Pasties.

After I read the comment to Liza, she started fingering her warty earlobe, a sure sign she is thinking. She twiddles it like it’s a tuning knob to her brain.

Liza: What’s a flip flop?

Me: That’s not the point.

Liza: It is if I’m going to marry this man. Is a flip flop worth a lot of money?

Me: No.

Liza: Well then, girlie, this is a hard one. He’s ninety. A bit too old for me, but not bad. If he doesn’t have a lot of money then he has to be fit. I won’t take on a man who’s about to snuff it . . .  Wait a tic. What was the name of this person who found this man?

Me: Snuffygump

Liza: I had a bite of snuffygump once on a water biscuit. It were good, but it gave me bum sauce so bad, me husband thought it were the last trumpet when he heard me in the loo. He were on his knees praying when I came in to ask if he wanted bangers with his tea.

Me (scarred for life): Liza, what on earth are you talking about?

Liza: Snuffygump. Isn’t it that smeary cheese covered in nuts?

Me: Apparently.

Liza: Girlie, speak up!

Me: Snuffygump said that the name is a mix of a characters from the southern part of the United States. It’s also the name she gave to her last cat. I think it’s rather fun.

Liza: Why are we wasting our time speaking about cats? Let’s get back to my mystery nob.

(At this point, let me confess that I was afraid she was going to start talking about cheese again, but I was wrong.)

Liza: Let me think . . . (She twiddled her earlobe so fiercely I thought her warts were going to detach and roll) . . . It sounds like this man is fit. A miner, you say? He’s hardy, girlie. Good, thick, strong nails. But what about his teeth?

Me: I don’t know, do I?

Liza: This Snuffygump says I can run a personal ad in the Montana Standard. What’s that?

Me: I think she means that you can take out a personal advertisement in their local rag.

Liza: Maybe I should send a picture. I look a right treat in me red bathing costume. Sets off me moles. Did I tell you if you connect them up with a marker they make  a hexagon? Wait a tic . . . perhaps I’d better send a picture of my sister instead. She were always the looker in our family. I had the personality, but she had the red hair.

Me: (Trying unsuccessfully to repress . . . everything) You have a sister?

Liza: Hazel. She be the youngest. Only 89 last month. Will a picture cost extra?

Me: I don’t know.

Liza: You don’t know much, do you. You can leave now. Wait, I’ll wrap up a scone for Jude.

I had to wait for the scone. I took it even though it was charred. Which explained the smell of flaming tires. I had at first thought my computer was starting to crash. Then I thought the Moonstone pub was burning its trash on the seawall again. . . Burnt scones. Brilliant! Now I’m going to have to go home and wash the smell out of my hair.

(Snuffygump, if you’re reading this, I told my nine-year-old brother Gabriel about your name, and he’s been calling the Pengarths’ cat Snuffygump. She responds to it quite well now.)

Talk to you later.

If you would like, leave a comment or observation in the comments section under this.

Have fun!

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ABOUT OUR STRANGE CAPER …

MY  BOOK  HAS  BEEN  RELEASED  AND  IS  NOW  FOR  SALE! The links below will take you to my pages:

BookLocker – http://booklocker.com/books/7665.html

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=thea+phipps+strange+caper&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Athea+phipps+strange+caper   (The book is new so the image has not been posted yet.)

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/strange-caper-thea-phipps?keyword=strange+caper+thea+phipps&store=book

EBOOK COMING SOON!  I will announce its release on this website. 

NOW. . . ON TO THE BLOG! . . .  

INTRODUCING THE MAIN CHARACTER IN MY LATEST BOOK, ‘STRANGE CAPER’  –

BELLA WILDEVE from Halfmoon, Cornwall

Hello, this is Bella again. On the last blog I had promised a preview, or introduction to our adventure in Greece, the one I’m calling STRANGE CAPER. Well, it’s not too terribly lengthy, but I had better begin.

But before I do, Thea told me that I had better give you an idea of what it was all about. The whole fiasco began with Liza Weebs’ evil scone of death.

Perhaps ‘caper’ is the appropriate word since what began as a simple holiday and a tainted scone ended with a clot of angry priests, more than one mysterious disappearance, and a couple of inept smugglers running for their lives on a crowded Greek beach.  I am one of those inept smugglers.  My friend Tamsin is the other.

It was supposed to be a holiday.  Two idyllic weeks in the Greek sun, courtesy of Albert and Violet, retired field agents for MI6. But when the enigmatic Frenchman entered the picture, not to mention the Serbian acrobats, everything changed.

I was forced to flee for my life. But instead of finding safety, I found myself on the naturist’s paradise of Gavdos. I quickly became ensnared in kidnapping, smuggling, and in understanding the puzzling brass key that would save us all.

 This is the beginning of my story . . .

At a hundred years of age, Liza Weebs is the oldest woman in Halfmoon, Cornwall. Her unclipped toenails resemble shards of rigatoni. They tap-tap-tap the cobblestones like a crocodile’s when she toddles to the pub barefoot, which is nearly all the time.

She has a passion for only three things – gin, baking football-sized scones, and my older brother Jude. Jude is only twenty-seven. The term ‘cougar’ just isn’t enough when you do the math. Even though her silhouette looks like a can of lager propped on two twigs, even though she is so short I can crown her head with my armpit, I am utterly intimidated by her, which was why Tamsin and I stupidly ate her scone.

She had given me the scone to give to Jude. He, in turn, gave it back to me in lieu of lunch. Tamsin and I were running last minute errands in preparation for our holiday with the Pengarths and didn’t have time to stop. We should have suspected something was amiss with the quick bread. Big enough to double as a wheel chock, it was studded with chewy pellets that looked like currants, but tasted like bacon. There was no rational explanation for that, yet we kept eating. And there is no rational explanation for that, either.

We’d actually finished half of the dense wedge before tossing the rest to the seagulls. And as easily as that, we’d poisoned ourselves, inadvertently changing the course of our lives in the process. No telling what we had done to the birds.

I was ill the morning of our departure from London to Athens, Greece. My pre-flight queasiness was worse than usual. I dislike flying, so at first I’d thought I was suffering from an exceptionally bad case of nerves. Especially when I’d rid myself of my breakfast while I was saying goodbye to my parents, five brothers, uncle, grandmother, and two great-aunts at the airport. But when Tamsin lost her food right before we’d boarded, we’d put it down to lack of sleep and too much excitement. It was my first holiday without family or relatives save my grandfather, Finghin Quinn, who was traveling partway with us.

Unfortunately, Tamsin and I didn’t realize what was actually happening to us until we were already strapped in and soaring over the Champagne region of France. We were finally forced to acknowledge our predicament when Tamsin had to summon a flight attendant for a second loo roll.

“Liza’s vile scone.” Tamsin crawled over my knees and collapsed in her seat. “It’s the only thing we both ate. Bella, we have food poisoning. I won’t swear to it, but I think I finally passed the pawn I’d swallowed when I was six.”

I touched my abdomen where trolls were trying to burrow their way out with pickaxes. At least it kept my mind off the fact that we were hurtling through oxygen-deprived air hundreds of meters above earth.

I glanced at our traveling companions, Albert and Violet Pengarth, and at my grandfather, Finghin. My Irish father’s Irish father. Grandfather was going to Antalya, Turkey, to see a man about a horse.

Throughout history, the phrase “to see a man about a horse” has meant three different things – visiting a woman, urinating, or going out to the pub for a drink. All three are basically related activities as far as I was concerned, with one leading to the other. But when it came to my grandfather, the phrase was meant literally.

Grandfather owned a stable in Halfmoon, Cornwall, just minutes from my parents’ inn, the Iron Rose. The stable was small and select, offering training, boarding, and stud services.

While Tamsin, the Pengarths, and I planned on taking a flight from London to Athens, and from there a shuttle flight to the water-bound Prefecture of Achaea to begin our tour, Grandfather planned to go only as far as Athens with us. Once there we would part ways, and he would continue his journey to Turkey where he was going to arrange for a vial of champion-grade horse seed to be transported back home. I wasn’t sure what that entailed except an obstacle course of paperwork and an uncomfortable amount of money.

Grandfather caught my glance. “How’s the form, lass? Still plankin’ it?”

“I’m fine.” I didn’t want to go into details lest he felt obliged to snatch me from my Grecian idyll before it even began. “I think I’m getting better.”

Even though I am no longer a child, I am absurdly uncomfortable around him. Uncomfortable with an inconvenient smidgen of terrified thrown in. It wasn’t that we didn’t have some kind of relationship as grandfather and granddaughter; it was just that we synchronized as well as a mastiff and a pink poodle on the same leash.

Grandfather is a tall, solid, seventy-one-year-old ex-lothario horse whisperer. He is intimidating and impatient, with long silver hair that he keeps in a ponytail, fierce black eyes, and a lean face that’s a cross between a hero’s and a Parisian gargoyle’s.

I am usually irreverent, laughter being my first reaction to most things, and because of that I am usually underestimated. And adding insult to injury in my grandfather’s eyes, as far as I was concerned, horses were far more interesting with cowboys on their backs.

My grandmother claimed that my grandfather was hiding his true personality. According to her, under all that smoldering brusqueness he is amusing and charming in that way only the Irish have. However, if he’s hiding his charm, he’s hiding it well and he’s been hiding it all of my life. But then again, it explained my father who shares his genes as my grandfather’s oldest son. My mother said that my father can charm statues off their pedestals. Perhaps when my eighteen-year-old grandfather sired my father he had inadvertently passed his charm on like a relay runner passing a baton.

Our plane suddenly dipped, hitting a pocket of turbulence. Dribbles of sweat rolled down my forehead, contradicting my claim to be fine. Hurriedly shifting my gaze before Grandfather could comment with another crude Gaelic idiom, I studied Albert Pengarth with pretended interest.

Albert is tall, wiry, and as handsome as a seventy-something man can be. His snowy hair is still plentiful, and his blue eyes have a wise squint that makes him look as if he’s about to utter something witty or urbane. To be candid, his dry squint makes him look like a superannuated James Bond.

Oddly enough, that’s exactly what he used to be.

In their younger years, he and his wife Violet worked for the British government as field agents for MI6. They had met while on assignment in Afghanistan doing I don’t know what. Possibly blowing up Goldfinger. I had never asked even though I’d wanted to.

Violet is small, unflaggingly energetic, consistently cheerful, and shrewdly practical. She dresses in plain, simple clothes, but wears unusual hats. She wore her favorite, a red fez with a black tassel. The fringe was pinned to the side with a brooch so it wouldn’t flop into her eye.

Another wave of scone-induced nausea assaulted me.

Albert leaned past my grandfather and grinned at me from across the aisle. “You girls doing fine? Still looking forward to all those Greek men?”

I smiled in spite of my discomfort. It was a standing joke between us. Even though I am 21, six months younger than Tamsin, we are both unattached.

There were two reasons for my lack of sophistication. The first is that I had yet to go on a proper date. Wooing hearts isn’t a recreational sport to me, like arm wrestling or canal jumping. If someone won my heart, I wanted them to keep it. The second reason is that I am the only girl in a herd of five overly protective brothers, four of them older. I had yet to meet the man courageous enough to forge past them and past my father to get to me.

Tamsin, however, had a different tale to tell. At eighteen, she had lost her heart to a young man she had grown up with in Wales. He didn’t return her affections, so in an effort to refocus her life, she moved to Halfmoon in her nineteenth year.

She rented an attic flat in a boardinghouse. I still lived at home with my family. But in spite of the differences in our lifestyle, we became fast friends, both doing the same volunteer work in the village, often accompanying each other on our various missions and assignments. Not only did we share in disaster relief work, traveling to other parts of England with my brothers, but we also shared in projects closer to home. One of the things we did in the village was to engage in a free educational program. Tamsin, the Pengarths, and I taught people who had never had formal schooling how to read. We also taught the interested or curious anything they wanted to know about the Bible. About the Bible, but not about religion. Religion was something utterly different.

“Pooh, Albert. Leave her be.” Violet, sitting on the other side of Tamsin, leaned over my friend’s lap to prod my arm. “You take your time. There are plenty of lovely young men out there.”

“I don’t mind,” I said truthfully, swiping the sweat from my forehead.

Violet gave me a look of concern. “Oh, dear, you really are ill. Maybe you both should lean your seats back a little. Should I summon an attendant? She might have something that will take the edge off.”

I had my doubts that anything short of euthanasia would take the edge off, so I shook my head. “I’ll be fine. It should pass.”

Tamsin snorted at my unfortunate choice of words.

“If you’re certain,” Violet said uneasily. “You girls will tell me if you feel worse?”

“Don’t worry about us. Really,” Tamsin assured her. “I’m going to try to sleep.” She closed her eyes. “Maybe if I ignore it, the pain will stop.”

Too miserable to rest, I gave her a dubious look then turned to my own random thoughts. Trying to distract my attention from my stomach, I studied my fellow passengers. The plane had its usual cross section of humanity, from working businessmen, to vacationing families, to us, but there was one person my gaze kept returning to like iron filings to a magnet. I couldn’t figure out why since I could see only the back of his head.

He sat five rows ahead of me, just across the aisle. Even when I leaned out to stare, all I could see were a set of broad shoulders and a solid looking knee clad in a dark suit. I stood up, pretending to stretch, and stepped closer, trying to see more before going back to my seat. I wasn’t able to glimpse his face from my brief vantage point, but I could make out the chiseled angle of his jaw and cheekbone. From what I could tell, he looked youngish, absurdly well built, and prosperous if the Italian silk was anything to go by.

As soon as I reclaimed my seat I leaned into the aisle again, studying his ebony hair. He could have been Greek, though he seemed too tall for a Greek. He could have been Spanish. He could have even been Portuguese or American. Middle Eastern? Italian? I caught a glimpse of a silver watch and restless fingers beating a tattoo on his knee. He was definitely dark skinned, but I couldn’t tell whether he was naturally dark, or it was merely a suntan.

I couldn’t think of an excuse to make my way up front to get a better look, trying and rejecting several scenarios, each one more ridiculous than the last. So I sat, staring, watching the back of his head, my discomfort nearly forgotten in my speculations.

Then, while we were somewhere over Greece, he turned suddenly and smoothly as if I had summoned him, and looked right at me. My heart jumped at being caught out, and I felt myself gawking.

Well, that’s as far as I’m going to go. Tamsin tells me that it’s more than enough.

A reader in Montana – that’s in America, isn’t it? – A reader in Montana has asked a question of Liza Weebs – she of the bare feet and gin. I had already spoken to Liza, asking her the question, and I have dictated our brief conversation which I will post on the next blog. 

Until then . . .

Have fun!

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THIS IS A BELLA HIJACK

I should probably phrase that differently. It sounds like I have been stolen by terrorists and rerouted to South America. Perhaps I should state that I am the one doing the hijacking, and that I’m taking over this blog. With Thea’s permission, of course.

Hi. I’m Bella Wildeve from Halfmoon, Cornwall. You won’t find it on any maps. It’s a small fishing village with too many pubs.

Halfmoon also has Liza Weebs, a tiny, barrel-shaped centenarian that prowls the village barefoot. I make her sound homeless, but she’s not. She lives in a cottage right next to the Moonstone, one of those aforementioned pubs. She’s there all the time making sure she gets some gin in her bloodstream. How she makes it home afterward is beyond me. Perhaps that is why she travels barefoot. Her toenails haven’t been clipped since rubber was invented. Those things are virtual talons. And perhaps that is a good thing. They would certainly keep her upright on all those slick cobblestones. Come to think of it, she could probably run up a tree if someone was chasing her.

But enough about Liza. She merely serves as an introduction to my latest adventure. Or should I say ‘my latest mystery.’ It was supposed to be a holiday in Greece, but for the first few days, we weren’t so sure we would make it out of the country. Or even stay alive. Not Liza, though. Even though she indirectly started the whole mess, she never left Halfmoon.

And here is a word of advice to all of you who travel: Keep your passport in your pants and your hands in your pockets.

I know. That sentence didn’t sound quite the way I’d intended it to. So let me just say this – if you read my account of what happened, you will soon learn what I’m talking about.

Which brings me to the first thing I wanted to announce. I wrote about the whole fiasco. I’m calling it STRANGE CAPER. Which it was, believe me. I can laugh about it now. Well, truth be told, I laughed while it was happening. Through all of it. Except, perhaps, when I was literally running. I am so out of shape, it isn’t funny.

The second thing I wanted to say? Is that this website will change soon. We are changing the tabs and most of the content so I can co-write blogs with Thea. It will even have a place where you can ask me questions about things. Or ask questions of anyone in my family. Maybe even my village. It all depends on who will agree to talk. And who I will let use my laptop. (There are still villagers who refuse to upgrade to flushing toilets.)

So stay tuned to this site. Thea has already asked me to write the next blog. So next I will give you a preview . . . an introduction to our adventure. Until then . . .

Talk to you later.

If you would like, leave a comment or observation in the comments section under this.

Have fun!

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FINALLY, FINALLY COMING SOON!

TA – DA !

STRANGE CAPER – The third book in the Bella Wildeve comedic mystery series is nearly ready for release! Only one more step . . . I will get a printed copy to look over. Once I email my approval, it goes online. It will take anywhere from a few days to two weeks (at the most). I will post a blog to alert everyone when it has crossed the finish line. So stay tuned.

——————–

Here is the blurb that Amazon will post:

It was to be an idyllic Greek holiday, courtesy of Albert and Violet, retired field agents for MI6. But when the Frenchman entered the picture, not to mention the bipolar policeman and Serbian acrobats, everything changed . . .

Instead of fleeing to safety, Bella ends up trapped on the naturists’ island of Gavdos. She becomes ensnared in kidnapping, smuggling, and in trying to understand the puzzling brass key that will save them all.

——————–

There is a bit more on the back of the book. Something in Bella’s own words. And an author picture. Which is a whole other story . . .

It goes like this:

I have turned down three offers from traditional publishing companies. I have even turned down an agent’s offer to represent me. I was looking for . . . I don’t know what I was looking for. I just knew these companies didn’t have it, neither did going with an agent. So, for my first two, CHARADES WITH A LUNATIC and THE DOLL IN THE WALL, I decided to go with Xlibris. I wanted to learn more about the publishing process and about marketing before I made a final decision about which direction to take.

Well, it worked. I learned something very important. Namely, I will never go with Xlibris again. They messed up my ebooks.

So I kept looking.

Then I found BookLocker. I could not be any happier with a publishing company. Angela and Richard Hoy, owners of Booklocker, also own WritersWeekly, the largest freelance writing ezine in the world. Angela also screens the manuscripts sent to BookLocker and rejects, at one estimate, 90% of them as not being up to their standard.

Woo – hoo! They accepted the manuscript to STRANGE CAPER, and on September 4th, just before midnight, I signed the contract. I was immediately assigned a graphic designer to work with, Todd Engel, who is in Nashville.  Todd is an award winning graphic designer. Award winning . . . All this meant one thing for me:

I needed to suck it up and focus. No more drifting with the creative process. This meant a weekly blog and newsletter (or ezine of my own), promotions, an updated Facebook fan page . . . You get the idea. All this is coming. Soon. But on September 5th, it started with one thing: the photo that goes with my bio on the back of the book.

A photo of me.

Angela Hoy said, ‘Make it look professional.’ She related horror stories of author photos on publishing sites. One writer was in shorts standing beside a garbage can. Another woman was in her nightgown. I have seen these photos myself. She was not exaggerating the nasty factor.

Unfortunately, cameras hate me. So my husband had a practical suggestion. September 5th was our 32nd wedding anniversary. How about I take a picture of you while you are dressed up? he asked. Before we go out to dinner?

I agreed. And for the next 45 minutes we took shot after shot, each worse than the last. I was about to give in and suggest submitting the one where it looks like a third breast is growing out of my neck (it wasn’t pointed enough to look like a goiter) when he snapped the winning shot. I wasn’t posing at that moment. I wasn’t smiling. I was watching in disbelief as he climbed on a piece of furniture for a better angle.

Perfect! he’d said, and handed me the camera.

You will just have to wait for the book to come out to see it.

Which brings me to our second difficulty. I needed to replenish my cards. So we went to a nearby store that sells office supplies and ordered a thousand. They came back like this:

photo (41)

Unfortunately, my husband had handed out a goodly sized batch before we saw the mistake. I hadn’t even seen the cards until then. But I certainly took a look when the manager of Pier One pointed it out.

So to all of you who have received one of these: WE ARE SORRY.

And a big thank you to the lady at Pier One for helping me dodge that particular bullet. I was about to take the batch to Wisconsin to a book signing. “Hey everybody! Look! I are a book writer!”

We ordered another batch.

Next? Revamped website. Not just a new look, but new . . . tabs? Writers? You will have to wait and see. But not for long. Coming soon!

Keep an eye on this space!

Have fun!

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AND NOW, A MASSAGE FROM THE SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER

Pardon the title. It’s an old Monty Python one-liner.

I used to be a massage therapist. Not because it fascinated me, but because, 1) We needed the money, and 2) an acquaintance offered to teach me. So, why not?

If I knew then what I know now, namely, how physically demanding it is, I would have stolen a spork from KFC and removed my own kidney to sell on the black market.

When I first became a massage therapist, I worked for the Radisson Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Georgia does not require that massage therapists be licensed, so I went into the massage arena a bit green. I knew what to do, I had just never taken the test where you have to write down all the Latin names for the millions of bones, muscles, protrusions, dips, notches, and joints that make up the human body. I could draw the human body in detail, I just couldn’t tell you in Latin what part I was sketching. At least not then. I learned later. Then promptly forgot because it is totally useless knowledge.

But no matter. Georgia did not require me to know. I was allowed to squeeze strangers without being arrested for assault. Not that I wanted to, but the money was good.

My first client? A doctor.

A doctor that had had too much to drink the night before and was suffering from a hangover. He laid face down on the table and told me that his Terpis Humongous muscle ached. There is no such muscle. Either I had heard wrongly, or it was another muscle my tutor hadn’t told me about yet. (I found out later I had misheard.) So I gave the doctor a deep massage, starting with his back, and put him out like a light. Then, once I heard snoring, I massaged the stuffing out of every bit of him I was allowed to touch by law.

I must have gotten to his Terpis Humongous at some point because he gave me a $2o tip. (Which almost paid for my lunch at the Radisson.)

My next client was a woman recovering from back surgery. The doctors had replaced part of her spine with two of her ribs, and it was up to me to make her feel better without paralyzing her. I must have pulled it off, because, 1) she wouldn’t accept another masseuse, not even my tutor, and, 2) she was still walking the last time I saw her.

After that, all the clients are pretty much a blur. The only thing I DO remember with any clarity was how hot it was. You know that old song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”? Well, I know what he was doing there. Breaking wind. Jekyll Island is as hot as fire and smells revolting. Think of burning chemicals that no one can extinguish. And it was way too hot to do strenuous work in an airless room. I’m not sure, but I think I dripped a steady stream of sweat on the British tennis player. I can’t be certain because I blinded myself with my own perspiration.

Since I have moved to Arkansas, I have only done a few massages on friends. Free stuff since Arkansas requires a person to be licensed. I thought about getting a license to do massage in Arkansas, then found out what it was going to cost me. It wasn’t worth it. Besides, my wrists were beginning to give me trouble.  They were either stress injuries from massaging weight lifters, or old injuries coming back to haunt me. Old injuries from the time my husband and I were wrestling and he flipped me. We were 22 at the time, so it’s not as stupid as it sounds. It was great fun, then.  If he flipped me now, we would both herniate and die.

Do you have any of your own massage-wrestling nightmares?  You could even tell us about the time you went to Georgia and smelled a paper mill.

Remember – to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog and type away in the correct slot.

And don’t forget to check out the latest Photo-blog on the right. Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

 

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WHEREFORE ART THOU, BOOK #3 ?

I have been hard at work.

Define hard . . .

Well, I’ve been writing Book #5 while sitting in a comfy chair, drinking coffee, and eating carbs. Every once in a while I come back into my body, realize that I’ve had to pee for the last two hours, and get up to go to the bathroom. After which I pour a fresh cup of coffee.

I am nothing if not a funnel.

For those who have been asking me, “When is your third book going to be out?”, my answer is, “I don’t know.” I had submitted it to a Publishing House (should that be capitalized? Probably not . . . I’m confusing them with Publishers Clearinghouse, NOT the same people. One promises money, the other actually brings it.) I had submitted my manuscript to a publisher whose home offices are located in the extremely glamorous state of Ohio. I was aiming for New York just so I could visit my brother and eat macarons as a tax deduction, but, oh, well . . . I got sidetracked.

I had submitted my manuscript in the middle of November of last year. Their average rejection/acceptance time is 90 – 120 days . . . three to four months. BUT IT HAS BEEN OVER 8 MONTHS. That is roughly 240 days. But I am not complaining. Unless they have lost my manuscript. Or had rejected it ages ago and their ‘leave us alone’ email is wandering in cyberspace.

So I wrote and asked. Three times. The only answer I have received from the submissions team so far is, “We will notify you once a final decision is reached.”

Hmmmm . . . That is a good sign. Also? A bad one. I know what the problem is. I exceeded their preferred word limit by over 17,000. They must want it . . . But how badly? That is the question they are pondering. I feel like I should throw in a free paring knife should they accept me.

Recently a friend of mine asked what I’m made of . . . Titanium? He is a writer as well and prefers to avoid rejections. Which is why he has gone a different route than I have. He pitches his manuscript on a website sponsored by Harper Collins UK. Twice he has been voted the readers’ favorite and has made it up the ladder to the editor’s desk.

Truth is, rejection can depress and discourage a writer if they aren’t careful. Me? After a rejection I usually eat like a lumberjack for a day or two then get back up and look for another editor to terrorize. No, I am not made out of titanium, but if the adage, ‘You are what you eat’ is true, I am a hotdog-pizza-French fry. Or used to be. Now that I’m on a diet, I am a giant grain-free muffin wedged in a chunk of grass fed, grass finished beef topped by a xanthan gum-free olive.

Another truth? I don’t plan to pitch my manuscript to other publishers while I’m waiting on the final decision from this one. Because I really, really, really do not want to format my manuscript again. Formatting is what authors do to please editors. They do not want your manuscript a typed mess, making it difficult to read.

One submission team says, “One inch margins all around, with page numbers and title on top left corner, along with a pint of blood and your firstborn.” Another says, “One and a half margins all around, hard copy with return envelope and postage, along with your bank account password.”

I can barely work the indent on my computer. I know the day is rapidly nearing when I will format one too many times and accidentally erase the whole book. Besides, I seem to have contaminated my own word program. It now spell-checks in French and does the Thesaurus in Italian. I have to go in and manually change it every time I need to use either tool.

No, I’m not going to fiddle with my present format. Or submit book #3 to another publishing company until I hear back from the first one . . . Even though the chances are excellent that one of us will die first.

Besides, I’m too busy writing the sequels. So when someone wants my work, I can dump the whole series on them. And then run. Also? I would have to be dead to miss deadlines with that much of a head start.

Do you have any of your own waiting-forever nightmares?  You could even tell us about the woman in Wal-Mart’s express line with 21 items.

Remember – to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog and type away in the correct slot.

And don’t forget to check out the latest Photo-blog on the right. Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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