Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Wonderful School Visit in Braga, Portugal

Time has been flying, while I've been focused on writing a draft of my next mystery, based in Braga, Portugal. But I finally got time to download pictures and my first Braga post is about a wonderful school visit I had.

The school is Escola básica e secundária vale d'este, Viatodos. The students, ages 13, are learning English. Their English teacher, Alice Faria, is the friend who invited me. (Some of these pictures were taken by her and/or the other teachers who were present.)

 First, a sharp young man introduced me. He had memorized all my bio and author information, and I think he only had consult his notes once. I was really impressed. Then, I had to be wired up with a microphone,  since I have a very soft voice that doesn't carry well in large gatherings. (Each of two classes had about 60 students!)
The young man who introduced me.
Wired for action.
Reading from one of the books

                                            After reading excerpts from Carnival of the Animals and Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, I took questions, circulating among the students. I always like to circulate among students at a reading. It brings you so much closer to them, and in my case, I hear the questions more clearly and can repeat them over the mike for the other students, who often can't hear them, either.

Their teacher, Senhora Alice Faria,
(in the front of the room) was so
helpful at every turn. 
Some of their questions really made
me think: Example: "What is the most
unethical practice in publishing, in your
opinion?" I finally came up with "Piracy."

I must say, would that I were as fluent in either Spanish or Portuguese as they already are in English! They asked some pretty cool questions, too!
This young man wrote a story with
a surprise twist at the end that made
me laugh out loud. (Rajan, too!) 

  The students were wonderful. At the very end, Senhora Faria gave me stories they had written and printed up in the form of scrolls (which you can see below). The stories were really good.

Stories on scrolls. I read every one of them and
have them in a special place in my writing area.

Other teachers came in to listen, one an art teacher, another a French teacher, both warm and welcoming. The school also presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Believe it or not, that bouquet made it all the way back to Monforte, Galicia in our car the next day and has become a beautiful "vase bouquet" in our apartment.

Rajan, me, Alice Faria, art teacher, French teacher.
The bouquet in a vase after a 2&1/2 hour drive
the next day.

To the school, and to  the teachers  especially Alice Faria, many thanks for the wonderful opportunity to visit your school, and read to your students. They were just terrific. I enjoyed the morning so much. 

How about you? For those of you who write, do you make school visits? If so, what do you enjoy most about them? What is your favorite age group to read to? 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Concert by Singer, Armando Prada

Thanks to our friend, Mila Garcia, we heard this remarkable singer in concert last night at the Escalapios (where a lot of concerts take place in Monforte.) He sets to music poetry by Galician poets and then sings and plays the accompaniment.

You can go to YouTube (link here) for a sample of his singing but click to midway, as at first he starts off quoting the poetry and giving some background to it — all in Galegan or Castiliano — so unless you are fluent in either, you won't understand. (Although, his speaking voice is mesmerizing and is a true storyteller's voice. It can pull you in, anyway.) 

But do click to halfway through to hear his singing. 

This particular song — from a poem by Rosalia de Castro, a 19th century Galician poetess — is one he sang last night. 

He also sang two beautiful songs taken from poems by Federico García Lorca. One that especially moved me translates as "Nocturne for a Dead Youth".

We bought a CD for him to autograph, which we did very graciously.

The whole CD is of poems by Rosalia de Castro, and the songs are very haunting. She was born (and died) in Santiago de Compostela, so is definitely the poet for the area, although she is famous in Spain and worldwide.

I would love to post a picture of her, but am nervous about copyright in the US, so I will direct you to two sites that have pictures of her, one of which also has samples of her beautiful poetry.

The poetry site:

Wikipedia (which has a really good picture)

Do you like music from other countries? Do you prefer singing or instrumental? Who is one of your favorite artists?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Springtime in Galicia — Sort of . . ..

We are in Galicia, Spain, now. We arrived two weeks ago today, and for the most part, this is what springtime in Galicia has looked like this year. Still, no matter how cloudy and rainy, it's always beautiful. We've had rain every single day, but also we've had sprinkles of sunshine every single day. It's always that way in Galicia, although this year in April there has been more rain than sunshine. It does give a different aspect to things. I find that stormy days suggests story.

Take this picture of the Parador, which is one of my favorite buildings in Monforte de Lemos,        where we now are renting an apartment while we have put our Trasulfe house up for sale.

Doesn't this suggest a somber novel to you?

Speaking of novels, one reason I haven't been posting is that I am hard at work on a new novel, a mystery novel, that requires a lot of research. I'm enjoying it a lot and feeling pangs of guilt for my lack of sociability on line. Nonetheless, my imaginary friends are calling, and I can't let them down. In a future post I will tell a little more about the Parador.

Meanwhile, spring really is coming to this beautiful area. Here is proof:

How about you? Does your writing interfere with your social life? Or is it vice versa?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Why I Love Spring in Sacramento

I have been too busy to post about the beautiful blooming fruit trees and magnolias that burst into bloom earlier (because, like a good girl, I have been writing, writing, writing). But Midtown Sacramento is gorgeous in spring, even after the flowering trees fade, because so many people garden, including me.

A word about my gardening approach: I am not the world's greatest gardener. My approach when I am not writing is to pull the weeds (which can be very satisfying), and — when I am writing — to decide, "Well, Nature loves weeds . . ." In other words, my gardening style leans toward "benign neglect."

But Sacramento's climate is a forgiving climate, and even under benign neglect, the flowers bloom and spread and celebrate spring in ways that just make the world beautiful.

How about you? Do you like to garden? If so, are you an avid gardener? Or, like me, a "sometime" gardener? What is your favorite season?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Book Review: Music Boxes by Tonja Drecker

            For those who like the fine arts mixed with a little spookiness and magic, Tonja Drecker’s new MG fantasy is a page turner. Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay and her younger sister, Bridget, dream of musical futures. Talented Lindsey loves ballet. Bridget is a prodigy with the violin. But Mom and Dad have moved them from Nebraska to New York because Bridget has been accepted into the prestigious Julliard school. They can’t afford Julliard for both girls, so Lindsey has to content herself with ballet lessons at a community center, and she tries hard not to resent this.

            Her life is changed when, on the way to her ballet class, she encounters Madame Destinée, who, after a short conversation, offers to teach Lindsey for free. But the lessons must be in secret. From the very first, Lindsey can appreciate Madame Destinée’s expertise, and she can see her own growth and improvement. But there are strange aspects to this school: Not only must the lessons secret, but they are late at night, so she has to sneak out of the house to attend. Performances are at midnight for a mysterious audience. From fragments of conversation, Lindsey’s new classmates seem to be from other places, even other countries. Yet here they are all at the same school. Madame Destinée also has a collection of music boxes, all of them with charming little figurines of ballet dancers inside. The music boxes are similar to the one Lindsey’s grandmother gave her, which was created by a toymaker with a mysterious legend about his disappearance. 
            And Madame Destinée’s collection is growing.  

            I liked this book for so many reasons. I like anything to do with ballet and the musical world, and this author really knows her ballet. Her descriptions of moves and positions and performance highlights were spot on. Her characters were believable and sympathetic. I found it easy to care about both sisters and some of the other dancers in this mysterious school. Setting details of the theater and school were nicely drawn. And the plot built with just the right amount of intensity to keep me engrossed at each point. No spoilers here, though. 

Here is a trailer to pique your interest:  Go Here    

You can connect with Tonja Drecker at her   blog here:                                                      Find her on Twitter:    and    Facebook:

         Click on these sides to find her book:
          Barnes & Noble: 

How about you? Do you like fiction that involves one or more of the fine arts? Do you like ballet? Do you like music boxes? And . . . do you like spooky magic?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I'm Writing.

I'll be posting again soon. But this week I have to finish a 2 projects. Everyone have a great week and week-end.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Joy of Old Books

This Saturday, Rajan and I decided to visit one of our favorite rainy day spots, an "alley" on 57th Street known by some as "Antique Alley", and by others, "57th Street Antique Row". Two rows of facing shops display a wealth of memory lane wares. Some are true antiques stores, others offer secondhand/nostalgia merchandise, and a fairly modern shop shows nature-inspired crafts, another modern furniture and some contemporary furniture and books. There is also a cafe that offers catering services — Evan's Kitchen, which gets many good reviews. But we go for the shops.

Browsing the shops used to be our favorite rainy day activity before time got away, filled with travel and other activities (photography, book signings, etc.). We realized it had been almost two years — yes, two years! — since our last visit. I am a true "bookaholic" and pictured above are three wonderful finds I came home with. In this photo they are on an old quilt of ours. (See? We love old things.)

We first went to the Picket Fence, where we once found an old painting that hangs in our living room.

You can see more of Picket Fence's wares HERE . 

The painting is so beautifully done, it's clear the artist had real mastery. We couldn't find a name, though. And we've both been afraid to take the frame apart to see if it is hidden out of sight, for fear of damaging it. But looking at it is one of our great pleasures in life.

We didn't find anything at Picket Fence this time, but we had a great browse. Then we browsed shops on the same side of the alley and discovered a shop called Design Alchemy HERE .  

Design Alchemy is where we found the wonderful Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook shown here on the left. Both Rajan and I like to cook, and we especially like our cast iron skillets (we have two in different sizes.) There is just something about food cooked on cast iron that has special flavor. And the recipes in this book are wonderful. I already cooked an oven baked ratatouille Sunday that I want to tweak a little the next time around. But it was delicious. The author, Ellen Brown, provides lovely photos of the dishes, and her step-by-step recipes are easy to follow. I'm eager to try the carrot and zucchini pancakes next. (We are vegetarian).

Next, it was onward across the alley to the main shop we like so much. It's like touring a museum. Dozens of alcoves inside, each a different shop. And if you like anything from vintage clothing, old books, Depression glassware, model cars, lamps, vintage toys, art deco shades, accent furniture pieces, well, 57th Street Mall is for you. It was  HERE — do go have a look — I found two other book treasures shown below:
These are two small books, both purse or pocket size. I showed them above next to the cookbook to give a sense of their size, as shown here they could be any size, you can't really tell.

What's special about these two books is that I can easily take them on the plane when we go to Spain. (We are traveling these days with carry-ons only, no checked baggage.) I've been studying Spanish for what seems like forever. But the little book on the left, Cuentos Faciles, is a jewel.

The lessons are little stories in front, a page or two at most (small pages at that) with exercises in the back and a glossary, so that you can check out new vocabulary. I've done two of them already — there are 30 altogether.

The book on the right, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, feeds my Sherlock addiction. This is the last of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story collections about the great detective, and one I have not yet read. I'm especially interested, because I wrote an MG mystery starting Holmes and have another one on the back burner. I can never get enough of Sherlock Holmes's world.

Both these books are in pristine condition. Not a mark of any kind on either. Our Saturday sojourn into Antique Alley was not expensive at all, but I have to say it was soul-satisfying. I am probably going to wear these books out.

How about you? Do you like cookbooks? Have you tried to learn a second language? Are you a Sherlock fan? Do you like old books? If so, what kind? Do you like to hang around antique stores and secondhand shops? What is one of your most satisfying purchases?