Sunday, October 11, 2015




I love to venture forth, be it climbing rocks in Joshua Tree or backpacking in Iceland where my daughter and I traveled last July. “This will be your next book,” my friends predicted, but writing a book about the Icelandic wilderness was never my intent. If I've learned anything about travel writing it's this: one should refrain from seeking adventure with the intention of writing a book. In other words, the story should present itself to you, you can't go to it. Although my trip turned out to be more challenging than I ever could have imagined, with plenty of personalities and situations to color the pages in every gradient of the rainbow, when all was said and done I summed it up in these few lines:

Although we gave it “the old college try” we didn’t make it to the end due to blisters on our heels. I lamented the blisters and kept repeating that I had hiked 100 miles in the Himalayas in THOSE boots with THOSE (Smart Wool) socks, and 35 miles in the Sierra Nevada the summer before without ever developing a single one. Quite honestly it seemed like such a rookie mistake not to bring a pair of sock liners to cushion our feet against the moisture. While I over-the-top prepped for this trek, what I didn’t account for was endless rain on the first two days and the fact that our feet/boots would become miserably soaked. That, plus we had to negotiate the uneven terrain of Iceland where spongy moss, ash drifts, and lava flows created a unique challenge. And to make matters worse, our 62 year old guide, Bryn, didn’t lead a trek across the wilds of Iceland..... he led a MARCH! I continually struggled to bring up the rear, which caused a wee bit of consternation. Luckily, we were able to leave the group on day five when we descended the “wilds” for a scheduled food drop. Six of us were picked up by an Indiana Jones style 4-wheel monster truck that tore across the landscape and bounced through rivers to deliver us on the main highway where we met our connection to  Reykjavik. We later discovered that we didn’t miss much on those final four days; a scheduled glacier crossing was scrapped due to snow, so I guess the choice was a good one. In five days, we did manage to crisscross a portion of the Sioujokull glacier, forded many rivers, and were delighted to soak in a hot spring in camp on night three making the journey all worthwhile.

I've filed this story in the “Live and Learn” category of my adventure repertoire.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Blog 29

Save my Gypsy! 
At Literary Orange Writer’s conference, I asked a panel speaker what books she used to help her in crafting her stories.  One of the books she recommended is Save the Cat by screen writer Blake Synder.  It is a terrific resource and has truly helped me to discover the pitfalls in my current work (not to mention I need to go back and completely rewrite my first two works).

In any event, my current point of struggle he describes on pg150 & 151 as the “turn turn turn” rule.  “The rule is: The plot doesn’t just move ahead, it spins and intensifies as it goes…it is not enough for the plot to go forward, it must go faster, and with more complexity to the climax.”

As I reflect on stories (movies and books) that have captured me from beginning to end, the ‘turn turn turn’ rule is in full play.   The heat is turned up on the protagonist, thus not only revealing character, but keeping me engaged. 

Watching a movie, A Few Good Men for example, illustrates this effortlessly.  It seems like it should be the natural spine to any good story.  And yet, my poor Gypsy seems to be bumping around her story—facing conflicts, yes—but where something of value is at stake, not so much.  

Trying to add this into my story without it feeling contrived is also a challenge.  Synder 
recommends making the bad guy “badder” and having his grip ever tighten on the protagonist.  Okay, I will try that. 

He also suggested making sure what is at stake taps into a primal need such as: survival, sex, hunger, love, acceptance, etc.  Okay, I will try to add that too. 

Thanks for the never ending love, support and inspiration from my Writing Group Women, I will find a way! 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Was One of the Thousands of Children Adopted from Greece During 1955-1957


There were three thousand children adopted from Greece during 1955-1957 period who are now middle aged or older. Many were sold.  Governments falsified documents so that there was no way to trace their journeys. Those who were babies recall little about the separation from their birth families, but this girl, who entered the United States  at ten years old, recalls every detail. 

After much soul searching, and due to extreme poverty, parents agreed to put their youngest children up for adoption through a special program run  by Queen Frederica of Greece and the government of United States.  Parents wanted to give their children a better life.   After all, going to America was special.  America  was for  the select. America was the land of gold, where people had walking and talking dolls, chocolate, and  lived happily ever after.  There were many difficult farewells and well wishes.

Parents trusted that all children would be looked after well--trust was their driving force. But what parents didn't know is that they would never see their children again. The moment their child left,  the connection with their Greek family and their old  life  was cut.  Some grown children don't remember the separation.  Some don't even know they have Greek biological families.

Now fifty years later, many who  were adopted continue to  look for their biological extended families.   Families on the other side, in Greece, continue  looking for that child that left them so many years ago.  Mine is the  story of one child's journey back to  her Greek family, a story I tell  in  "The Girl from the Tower."

Author: Dancing Skeleton, A Journey Through Stage IV Cancer
The Girl from the Tower, A Journey of Lies

Wellness Coordinator for Juice Plus
Joanna Giangardella 949-291-2290

A variety of 17 fruits and vegetables in a capsule /
the recipe for better health
Backed by medical research;

"A healthy person has one thousand wishes and plans, a sick person has one"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015




Sometimes we hold on too tightly and defeat ourselves before we even start. This is especially true for a creative person and we are all creative in one way or another. In striving to write or paint, decorate or dance, cook or garden, we become perfectionists, editors, and critics of our own work. This can often immobilize us so that we no longer even try to pursue our passions.

We need to let go of the unnecessary parts of life so that we can get to the valuable important things that give our lives purpose.

I love the following poem and have shared it often:

SHE LET GO . . . without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the “right” reasons.  Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask for advice.  She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She just let go.

She let go of all the memories that held her back.

She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of all the planning and all the calculation, about how to do it just right.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.  A smile came over her face.  A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and moon shone forever more.

Written by Ernest Holmes (1887 – 1960)

Sunday, May 31, 2015



On a sun-scattered Monday morning I face the blank page, first in a string of Mondays since last settling at my computer poised with the intention to write. Like a concert pianist I stretch my fingers and place them upon the keys; then I conjure the mantra I love the process! all the while reminding myself that a non-outcome for my effort is better than no effort at all.

Being in the midst of a dry spell is no picnic for an author. It's the last place I expect to find myself, dragging my heels through the parched, white metaphoric desert sand. While I experience this slump (aka period of rejuvenation) here are a few activities I purposely engage in to keep my writing fresh. I've discovered that writing isn't always about filling the blank page; the blessing is to find joy in the little things.

1) Never underestimate the power of an email! It's an opportunity to express yourself with an economy of words. Consider emails to be an exercise in effective communication. To compose a clear and concise email is good practice, while proofreading and editing will hone your writing skills.

2) Posting to social media is not considered writing (or is it?) If you are an author and have a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or blog, your posts are a potential reader's first exposure to your style. So take pride in what you post. Consider it an opportunity to make a difference, provoke a thought, or gain a new admirer.

3) If you're able to express yourself creatively, chances are you're able to express yourself through other channels, too. Photography is one of my favorite means of expression. Lately, I've also delved into the abundantly rich world of anything-goes mixed-media collage where the possibilities are endless and no rules apply. The rebel in me loves it. The author in me rejoices in its tactile simplicity. To wile away the hours cutting, pasting, and arranging rather than tapping away at a keyboard is a breath of fresh air.

So if you find your words have become a tremendous jumble (think: twisted ball of twine), do not despair! Every day I tug at the knots, and little by little I've begun to unravel the mess. When the time is right, there will be one continuous thread. And that thread will have amazing stories to tell.

Friday, May 1, 2015



I remember catching the spark from Madeleine L'Engle.  Madeleine L'ENGLE had just published  A Wrinkle  in Time in 1962.  I read it in 1966.  I related to the adventurous girl in the story. I was an adventurous  12 year  old.  I explored the land around my house and  imagined monsters in creeks, mysterious  strangers in abandoned cabins, and hideouts in trees.

But it was more than an adventure story.  A Wrinkle In Time,  gave 12 year old me permission to experience the deeply profound issues that swirled around me as I entered the bigger world.    I still remembers her chilling portayal of conformity:

"As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Her  advice on writing resonates with me today: "You are given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."  

Thank you Madeleine L'Engle for sharing your imagination and insights with an adventurous twelve year old girl. I will always be grateful.

Sunday, April 12, 2015



Without structure you have no story. Structure in story must include a character in a situation with a problem who tries over and over again to solve that problem but fails again and again and then, at the climax of the story, makes a final last-ditch-effort attempt and proves himself or herself. Within this framework, you have plot or story arc and character arc.

Joseph Campbell's HERO'S JOURNEY contains the best story structure formula and is used by novelists and screenwriters.

1. The hero is confronted with a challenge,
2. rejects it,
3. but then is forced (or allowed) to accept it.
4. He travels on the road of trials,
5. gathering powers and allies, and
6. confronts evil—only to be defeated.
7. This leads to a dark night of the soul, after which
8. the hero makes a leap of faith that allows him to
9. confront evil again and be victorious.
10. Finally, the student becomes the teacher.

Every book or film can be analyzed according to the Hero’s Journey.

Once you learn to plan a story this way, it becomes much easier to plot stories and to critique your own work as well as the work of others.

Basically what's happening in story is a character must make a CHOICE and this choice is shown by ACTIONS and all those actions must have CONSEQUENCES.

The character must make a choice required by the story and there must be action because of this choice. Think CAUSE and EFFECT. Something happens, the character reacts based on who he or she is and that causes reaction and so on. There's a SET-UP, aRESPONSE, an ATTACK, and a RESOLUTION. This paradigm will make it easier to structure your story.

The MAIN CHARACTER or PROTAGONIST or POV NARRATOR has a history (the character sketch and backstory you've created) and something changes that creates the story: a bomb drops, a best friend betrays, an opportunity arises, etc. The hero attacks the problem or goes after the goal and something else changes and then, finally, things resolve: the mountain is climbed, the treasure is found, therace is won.

Story is like life. As heroes of our own stories, we are constantly responding, reacting, changing, adapting, shifting and, because of our actions, something changes.

That brings about conflict and that is story.