What I’m Reading Now

We spent this past weekend at the small farm we share with my brother (Peter) and sister-in-law (Sieglinde).  It’s 40 acres of olive orchards, meadows, fruit trees, redwoods, pines, bays, and madrones on a rural subdivision called Gualala Ranch.  The Gualala Ranch is comprised of 3,000 acres that was divided into 40-acre parcels along with swaths of common land back in the early 1970’s.  We lived there full-time from 2005 to 2010 but with Luisa’s increasingly-impaired mobility — thank you, spinal stenosis — we decided to live in Sebastopol and spend weekends and vacations on the farm.  Peter and Sieglinde raise olive trees and make wonderful, extra-virgin organic olive oil under the Olive Branch Farm label. They also sell fresh, free-range, organic eggs.  We’ve shared the farm with them since the four of us bought it in 1992.

On Saturday morning we met up with our twelve-year-old granddaughter, Marley, and then headed to Olive Branch Farm.  It’s a 90-minute drive from Sebastopol.  We like to take Highway 116 from Sebastopol to Guerneville, then along the Russian River and all the way to Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean.  We make these trips in daylight relishing the miles of forest and of gorgeous views of rocky coast before we turn inland and start to climb at Myer’s Grade Road.

How a helping dog helps!

How a helping dog helps!

This was the first time for us to take our new dog, Misha.  Misha is a 10-month-old female, Newfoundland mix.  Our plan is to train her to help Luisa.  “Misha, bring me the phone.  Misha, pull the wheel chair . . . Misha, bring me a beer . . . peel me a grape . . . ”  You get the idea.

At the moment, what Misha does best is redesign the landscaping in my Sebastopol back yard and initiate rough and tumble games with our two, 10-year old Dachshund brothers and our 6-year old Corgi.  The Corgi will, on occasion, reluctantly agree.  The Dachshunds?  Never!  With them it’s curled lips, teeth and snarl.

Frankly, I was worried about the trip.  When our kids were little, fights between siblings could be controlled by, “I’m pulling over at the next turnout.  Then watch out!”  or “if I hear one more person yell about being hit, we’re going home.”  Unfortunately, such threats don’t work with roughhousing dogs.  But, the trip was fine.  All critters were on good behavior.

The weather at the farm was perfect for sitting in the sun and reading, which is what I did most of Saturday and what brings me, finally, to what I’m reading now. (To be continued in my next post.)

Author Reading at the Druids Hall

Redwood Radio Reading at Druid's

Redwood Radio Reading at Druid’s

Saturday afternoon, I read from my new memoir Sometimes I See You at the Druids Hall at the Plantation Farm Camp.  It’s a wonderful setting and thanks to the generosity of the owners of Plantation, David and Suzanne Brown, it occasionally serves as a showcase for local writers.  Built originally as a meeting place for members of the Ancient Order of Druids, it first morphed into a dance hall, then a library and craft center for the Camp, a storage building, and now a wonderfully restored museum of local memorabilia from the 19th and 20th centuries.  When I was thinking about what to read on Saturday, I figured that most of the audience would be local and that many of them had lived in the area since the 1970’s.  With that in mind, I chose to read a section from the book that dealt with that time and this place.  It worked!  There was real enthusiasm for the book and lots of questions.  Amazingly, we sold out all the books I’d brought.  A friend and fine reader, J Anderson, read a story from my first short story book, Gone to Ground.  It required him to take on the persona of a middle aged woman from west Texas who sells paint in a Home Depot near L.A.  He did a great job and the audience appreciated him and the story!

I wanted to find a photo of the interior of Druids since we didn’t have a good one from Saturday’s event.  I checked the web and low-and-behold, came across this photo, posted by Jacob Bayless.  It was taken last year when we performed a readers’ theatre version of my short story, Redwood Radio from my second collection, Fetching Molly.  The cast was great and so was the response.

If the next reading (April 19th at the Occidental Center for the Arts) is even half this much fun, I’ll be a happy camper!


Book Launch Reflections

Friday night I fixed an early dinner for Luisa, Marley and me and then headed to the village of Occidental to attend the launch of Cigar City Stories: Tales of Old Ybor City by Emilio Gonzalez-Llanes at the Occidental Center for the Arts (OCA).

cigar-cover-smallI didn’t have a clue what to expect.  I’d never heard of anything called Cigar City or Ybor City but I do enjoy hearing, and supporting, other local authors.  I’ve attended several book launches at OCA.  Our long-time friend, Gretchen Butler, launched her wonderful book, Wild Plum Cafe  at OCA and, more recently, a terrific book, The Body’s Perfect: A novel in Stories by Christopher Reibli, was released there.  Gretchen had a local folk/roots group play before her reading.  Christopher has his own band and they played before the reading.  Christopher also sings.

When, to a packed audience, the program started on Friday, Cuban music played on a CD and Emilio, a fit guy in his mid 70’s, came dancing out on stage.  He danced on stage for 2 or 3 minutes.  Are you getting the picture here?  I don’t have a band.  I don’t dance solo (at least in public) but I’m scheduled to be the next book launch (April 19th in case you can make it!).  With every shake of his maracas, my heart sank.

I’m reading from my memoir:  Sometimes I See You.  I don’t think it’s depressing, but it is about our family during the 24-years that my daughter, Shoshana, was alive.  Maracas won’t cut it.

Forget that.  I really enjoyed Emilio’s reading.  The stories vibrate with detail and emotion and expose a world I’d never known.  And, when I got home, I realized that I had more in common with Emilio than I’d first thought.  My maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Minsk to New York at the end of the 19th century, made cigars in the Bronx, much as immigrants from Cuba made cigars in Ybor City.

And, even better, Judith Moorman who is organizing my “launch” assured me that I wouldn’t need to dance!

But, if I did . . . ?


What I’m reading

I’m a fan of mystery writer, Elizabeth George and recently finished her 2003 book, A Place of Hiding. I loved it.  George weaves intricate, suspenseful plots that are populated with compelling and complex characters.  She brings the settings of her novels to life with a wealth of detail.  I’m consistently impressed with the diversity of her characters and her ability to give each a voice that is both distinctive and pitch perfect. settings-deliverance-churchinkedaleWith seemingly equal ease, she writes about Jamaican immigrants in London; British nobility down on their luck; police inspectors and California surf bums. When I first started to read her, I assumed that George was British since her novels were largely based there and she was on such intimate terms with its landscape, culture and customs. As it turns out, George was born in Ohio, but for most of her life has lived and worked (as a high school English teacher) in California. england_0685As impressive as her writing so is her productivity.  For the most part, these are substantial volumes and yet she has managed to publish one or two almost every year since the late 80’s. If you haven’t read Elizabeth George, you’re missing out.

If you decide to read one of her books, let me know what you think!

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