The Gardening Day That Wasn’t

All the spring pictures on social media had me dying to get into the garden and do something.

Instead, this happened:

(Movie =>) snow day

In case the video isn’t cooperating, this’ll give you a good idea…

I decided curling up by the fireplace and reading was a much better idea.



april 10 crime reads sale


Need something new to read? I scoped out this sale – a selection of mysteries from cozy to cut throat, supernatural to super suspenseful! 

Maybe you’ll find a new mystery to read.


Wherever you are and whatever you’re dealing with, I hope it’s a good weekend.




Sneak Peek!

Sneak peek at spring

Have you seen all the sneak peeks at Spring that are floating around the internet? I may have a bit of spring envy.

Here’s what Spring looks like in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. All three inches of it. 

Yes, that’s deer fencing in the background because…deer. And the bulbs (those are a bunch of daffodils and tulips – can’t you tell?) are in a raised bed with metal grating on the bottom because…voles. There is a downside to all those lovely pictures of deer munching on someone’s trees and bushes.

But that isn’t the sneak peak you opened this to see, is it? Okay, without further delay:

The cover of The Body in the Beaver Pond!

It’s the first book in a new series (the Keri Isles Event Planner Mystery series) that I’m having way too much fun with.
The Body in the Beaver Pond cover

Even an event planner doesn’t plan on murder.

Keri Isles desperately needs to sell the Christmas Tree farm her cheating, rat bastard ex convinced his buddy, the judge, to saddle her with in the divorce settlement. Stuck in the Cascade Mountains, she’s lost her Seattle-based job and local job prospects are as scarce as internet service. When she finds the arrogant professor in charge of the nearby archeology dig floating face down in her beaver pond, however, unloading the property becomes secondary to staying out of prison.

A savvy—and scheming—attorney may be able to keep her head above water, but the personal price of his retainer may be too high. It’s up to Keri to use her mad networking skills and deploy a team of archaeology students, a bad boy photographer, and assorted eccentric neighbors to find the killer and clear her name.

Now available for presale!

iBooks coming soon!

I’m half way through the second book in the series and there’s another Holly book I’m itching to write and …okay, it’ll stop and go work on those books.

While you’re waiting a couple of my author friends have new releases.

Catch Trudell Becket’s adventures in the first Beloved Bookroom Mystery, The Broken Spine!

Trudell Becket, book-loving librarian, finds herself in a bind when the library where she works is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless library. In a rare move of rebellion, Trudell rescues hundreds of her library’s beloved books slated for the recycle center. She sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to anyone who shares her love of the printed book.

When the town councilman, who was the vocal proponent of the library’s transformation into a “futuristic technological center,” is crushed under an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the police’s prime suspect for his murder. She was the only person in the library at the time of his death, or so the police believe. But that’s not true. For the past month, Trudell had been letting a few dozen residents into the building through the basement entrance so they could read and check out the printed books. . . .

But if she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. In order to protect herself from being arrested for a murder she didn’t commit, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly discovers you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound:

Four Cuts Too Many – Book 4 in the Sarah Blair Mystery series – by Debra Goldstein

Coming May 25, 2021

When it comes to murder, there’s no need to mince words . . .

Sarah Blair gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in culinary school serves up a main corpse in Wheaton, Alabama…

Available at Amazon.

Also available from Barnes & Noble and any other indie of your choice.


Book Tour for Calling for the Money

The tour has ended and winners have been notified. 

Book tour meme for Calling for the Money

Follow the book tour for Calling for the Money and enjoy the posts, interviews and reviews! Gather entries for the tour giveaway! 


July 8 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

July 8 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

July 9 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

July 10 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

July 11 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

July 12 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

July 13 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST

July 14 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

July 14 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

July 15 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST


July 17 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

July 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT  

July 19 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW  Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Taxis, Uber and Career Path Choices

I had to go to LA for the day job this week. At LAX, I trotted out to Ground Transportation. I’d heard LA didn’t allow Uber drivers in the ground transportation aisle (where the nine million shuttles and taxis wait), so I grabbed a taxi to head to my meeting. The driver shot away from the curb before even asking my destination. Who knows, maybe he was afraid his fare would escape.

After pulling up the street address from my email and sharing the location with the driver, I opened an app to track our path to the destination. The driver was livid and told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want me telling him where or how to drive. Or that I thought I knew better than he did how to get where we were going. There might have been a few other “rules” thrown around, but I’d quit listening by that point.

I’m still not entirely sure what his actual objection was, but I muted the sound and left the app running. Okay, part of the reason I run the route app is security. I’m in a city I don’t know well, with a person I don’t know the first thing about.  And he’s not exactly making me feel safe as he drives like a maniac, squeezing into non-existent gaps in traffic, alternating between sixty and zero in shoulder wrenching seconds. (Yes, I put on my seat belt!) The other reason for running the app is to put names to the streetscape flowing past my window. Oh look. That’s Marina Del Ray with all the fabulous boats. I didn’t know Loyola Marymount University had a campus here. It’s lovely.

Somewhere along the way this driver ranted about Uber. By this point, I’d tuned him out and looked at the window (while keeping a surreptitious eye on the app and the route). When the meeting concluded and I needed a ride back to the airport, who did I call? You got it in one. I tapped the Uber app and a driver appeared within minutes.

The Uber driver’s car was new and spotless. The driver himself was charming. In spite of what you may have read about some disgruntlement among Uber drivers, this guy loved his job. He drove full time, but set his own hours and avoided the late afternoon crush of LA’s notorious traffic. I got the impression he spent most afternoons at the beach before returning to the streets for several more hours of evening driving. (Great way to get home from a club or restaurant if you’ve like to have a glass of wine with dinner.)

The other information he freely shared was his business structure. Because he’s been with Uber for over four years, his percentage of the fare has increased from 80% to 90%. With his portion of the proceeds, he covers all his own expenses, including the decision to upgrade (and afford) the car he was driving. His positive ratings from passengers apparently also move him up in the ranking for notifications in his area when he’s looking for his next fare.

In the waiting area at LAX, I couldn’t help but compare the two transportation modes to the evolving status of publishing. Taxis and traditional publishing seem established and “safe” while Uber and independent publishing seem riskier. That risk level in the newer technologies drops, however, as the concept grows and evolves.

So how does transportation compare with publishing? While a few big names still pull in significant advances from traditional publishers, midlist authors have been cut left and right. Royalty rates are puny and print runs are decreasing. On the plus side, the publisher covers most of the production costs for the book. Likewise for the taxi driver, the rate of pay is reduced, but the cab company pays more of the expense—which sometimes means a sleek towncar and at others, a rust-bucket that you hope makes it to your destination. The author may be assigned a top notch editor, talented cover artist and receive superb marketing support. Or he or she may end up with a new untested editor and little publisher support.

Like the Uber driver, the independent author can potentially earn a much larger royalty but also must cover his or her business expenses. The author has the choice of where to spend and how much capital to allocate. New car/clean up the existing vehicle? Hire a top notch editor/ask a friend to beta read? What can the author competently handle and where is it better to hire experienced assistants? Each step has financial repercussions. And each person must make the career choice they feel is correct for them.

The most important decision the author (and driver) must make? What will give the passenger/reader the best experience?

Because isn’t that what it’s all about?

By the way, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that next time I’m in LA, I take Uber rather than stepping into that taxi.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Demanding Perfection

Our old house was on a dead-end street, a nice long quiet road with trees and kids and people who mostly observed the speed limit. For the longest time, when I drove in and out of our neighborhood, I’d see a teenaged boy practicing skateboard tricks—or rather the same trick—over and over.

He’d do the set-up, launch—and fail miserably.

But he didn’t give up and eventually I saw him nail the move. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process. Instead of succeeding once in a hundred times, it would be one in ten, and then, finally, most of the time, he’d jump and spin and pick up his board. Smile.

And practice it again.

After a while, he’d start on a new skill, a new trick. And fail miserably.

I can’t count the number of times I thought, a girl would never do that.

Not the practicing and the striving, but the public failure. Repeated failure. Where everyone could see them mess up and sprawl all over the pavement or the lawn and look like a dork.

I hadn’t thought about that kid in years, but a recent post brought it crashing back.

A friend posted about this on Facebook:

Basically, Hugo talked about the tragic suicide of a teen, Amanda Todd, following severe harassment after Todd’s decision to ‘sext’ a man who, it turns out, may have been a predator. Allegedly, this man tried to blackmail her and released the pictures to her classmates and life took a horrible turn for Ms. Todd. More horribly, she didn’t see a way out.

Unfortunately, Todd’s story has been hijacked and trotted out as a warning to girls about the danger of stepping ‘out of line’ with anything sexual, another ridiculous blame the victim measure. While the article initially focused on sexuality, what is most concerning to me is the way the ‘messing up your life’ message demands perfection from young—and not so young—women, while at the same time forbidding them to experiment or risk failure. As I told Nicole in our Facebook exchange, this is the broader message for me:

[Resilience and the ability to thrive] means focusing on giving them what we’ve given their brothers for decades: the chance to see failure –- and even humiliation -– as an opportunity rather than as a life-destroying disaster.

I kept thinking about the implications of this message, this demand for instant perfection, on creativity. Whatever the media—visual through paint, photography, glass, fiber; performance in dance or theater; or the written word—taking a chance, risking failure if you will, is inherent in creative works. As much as we try to say, “writing is a business” or “once we finish, it’s a product,” the end result of our creative endeavor is still a piece of our soul.

And we offer it up to the world to critique.

If we aren’t “allowed” to take risks, to risk failure, if we have to be “perfect” before we attempt…anything, what does that say about us as a society? If we all have to fall in line and not push creative boundaries, there won’t be urban fantasies or paranormal entities or mysteries that make us think, not just about who did the crime, but what led those characters to make those decisions or any of the other layers we authors craft into our stories to make us think outside the expected. Outside the safe.

And failure to take the creative risk is a loss for all of us.

I don’t want to live in a white bread world, where everything is the same. Where people are afraid to take risks. Are afraid to challenge their deepest fears and embrace their highest dreams.

Instead I applaud everyone who steps outside their comfort zone and offers a piece of their vision. A piece of their heart.


PS – I have a Book releasing in June, Calling for the Money. The original inspiration for it was a different news article about the suicide of a lonely veteran caught in a sexting scheme. The internet is a useful tool, but the anonymous predators deserve a special place in hell.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Practical Finance

We’re all in this pandemic together. That means we all need to look out for each other and give back where we can. When I looked for ways to help others, the obvious kinda stared me in the face. I work in the financial sector and could talk about financial moves to make right now if you’re out of work and worried.

Hopefully, you received your economic stimulus payment today. If not, you can check the IRS website (go here) to see where you are in the process. There’s also a link for the alternative registration if you didn’t file a tax return last year.

In the meanwhile, there are other steps you can take if you are caught in the shutdown without a paycheck.

Your job and benefits

Check with your employer and get a timeline. If this a furlough? A complete separation from service? Will you be recalled as soon as your company reopens or is this a permanent layoff? 

Are there any employer provided benefits? Ask about the status of your benefits, especially your health insurance.

Employees with most employers can opt to remain in their current health insurance, typically for 18 months but sometimes longer. COBRA ― named after the law that created it, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 ― gives former employees that right. Unfortunately, the coverage is usually expensive. The employee must pay the entire premium (i.e. without the employer contribution) plus an admin charge. There is a “grace” period before the laid off employee has to elect into coverage (and pay the premium), but the coverage itself is retroactive to the date of loss of coverage.

Medicaid or CHIP, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program is known, may be an option, depending upon your income level. Income thresholds vary from state to state. Parents can check their children’s eligibility and apply for coverage by visiting Adults can check their own eligibility via in addition, several states reopened the state-run health insurance exchanges, so private insurance may be possible if it appears the layoff will be longer term.

Being laid off can be an overwhelming and stressful experience of loss and change. Make sure you are focusing on your relationships, getting fresh air and exercise, taking time for yourself and getting up to speed on where to reach out for help if you need it. If your layoff is temporary, check in with friends from work and resist the temptation to lash out at your employer. Empathy is a two-way street.


If you haven’t already filed for unemployment benefits, do this first. Yes, the state websites were overwhelmed and crashing and the lines were long, but go do this. Try to apply online with your state’s labor department rather than over the phone or in person. You’ll be sent important follow-up information. To apply, you can file online (Start here. The link is for all states.)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, CARES, signed into law on March 27, adds $600 in federal benefits to the amount that states provide. The state benefits vary wildly, but every newly unemployed person, including the self-employed (which also includes contract and gig workers), people who work part time, and those whose hours were reduced because of the pandemic will most likely be eligible for the federal benefit.

The federal supplement, which is scheduled to last four months, extends benefits for eligible workers until Dec. 31. In normal times, state unemployment benefits end after 26 weeks.

Unemployment benefits vary enormously by state. You may get enough to sustain you if you cut unnecessary expenses — or you may not. If you come up short, you have other options.

Small business owners may be able to apply for a Paycheck Protection loan but that will have to be a separate post. Although logjammed, the money from CARES is fully allocated according to a number of sites. Congress is negotiating another recovery program that hopefully will expand this program.

Mortgage payment

If your mortgage is federally backed, the CARES Act gives you a right to forbearance for up to 12 months. Federally backed mortgages include loans owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various federal agencies. Forbearance means you don’t have to make payments, although interest will typically still accrue. There’s also a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions for these mortgages.

If you’re not sure whether your mortgage is federally backed, call the company that takes your mortgage payments, aka your loan servicer, and ask. Even if your loan is not federally backed, you may be eligible for some kind of relief. Explain your circumstances and ask what help is available.

If you don’t ask, the answer if “no.”

For additional information, go here:  

Many other lenders, including credit card issuers, offer forbearance options as well. Some have information and application forms on their websites while others require you to call the customer service number to request help. Again, be prepared for long hold times.

Rent and utilities

A number of states have implemented policies to prevent eviction during the crisis, or at least through May—but understand even if your rent or utilities are suspended, you still have to pay them later. Try to pay at least part if you can, but reach out to your landlord and explain your situation. Odds are, the person who owns your building is in the same bind. He or she owes a lender for the building’s mortgage and common area utilities and insurance and is scrambling to figure out where the money to pay those bills is coming from.


Look at everything. Say the B word (budget) out loud. Can you live without a subscription, be it television or another entertainment charge? Cancel the gym, the monthly basket of whatever. There are a ton of services available for free. Question everything. Use this time to explore some of those options.

Tuition – yours or your children’s

Schools are closed or moved online this spring, but should reopen in the fall—and your financial picture has changed. Contact your school. You can ask for more financial aid from your child’s college based on your changed circumstances. Check first to see if the financial aid office has an online form you can use or has outlined its preferred procedure for appealing a financial aid offer.

Student debt

Federal student loan payments have suspended by the CARES Act until Sept. 30, with interest waived. Certain loans, if made before 2010, are not covered by the relief bill. However, other federal loans, for example Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL) program loans, which don’t qualify for the CARES Act, can be consolidated through the U.S. Department of Education’s direct loan program. The consolidation loan qualifies for relief.

More information is available at

Last resort funding

There’s one final part of the CARES Act that could help you: the “coronavirus hardship withdrawal.” The law allows you to withdraw up to $100,000 from your 401(k) or IRA without penalty.
The withdrawal is taxed, but you can effectively spread the tax bill over three years. If you can repay the money within three years, you can amend your tax returns and get a refund of those taxes.

Taking the money and not repaying it could have a devastating effect on your future retirement, but if you’ve run out of other options, a retirement plan withdrawal could help keep you afloat.

Final Word

If you still have a job, focus on an emergency fund. If you already have 3-6 months expenses in a cash-equivalent fund, good planning! If not, build that fund first and then consider the current stock market swan-dive an opportunity to build a regular investment fund.

If you’ve lost your job, you may be tempted to put off asking for help, hoping that you’ll land another job before your household is on financial fumes. Don’t go there. Assume you could be out of work for many months. Not only is unemployment skyrocketing, but a vaccine could be a year or more away, indicating the economic disruptions likely will continue.

When you’re ready, be open with your friends and family about your job situation. You don’t have to share all the details with everyone, and feel free to set some boundaries if you don’t want them to pester you with questions. The key here is to acknowledge that this is a hard time and that you’ll need encouragement. If you’re married, talk with your spouse. Don’t let shame keep you isolated in the dark. If you have kids, be honest about how this will impact your lifestyle and the time you spend together. Do whatever you’ve got to do to get the support you need.

Don’t worry about the long term. Focus on what can be done in this moment to get through the next few months. Everything will get back on track, but consider planning in 30-to-90-day increments. It’s much less overwhelming and gives you lots of flexibility to embrace opportunities that come your way. 

Good luck, and don’t lose hope.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

New Way of Thinking

New Year, New Way of Thinking

I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions this week. Making them is ingrained in us, isn’t it? New year, new leaf, fresh start and all that. This year will be different! Everything is new and shiny!

Okay, confession: I only made a couple of vague resolutions. You know, “I’ll finish that online course I started, cough, cough, last year” ones.

So many people swear they’re going to change, to start doing the good for you stuff. Go to the gym. Eat healthier. And writers? This is the year you’re finally going to finish that, fill in the blank. Novel screenplay, memoir. You hear echoes of “work hard” and “sacrifice” and, if you really want it…

Why do our expressions for going after what we want to pursue—our goals, for heaven’s sake—come across as something negative? Why do we make them about things we clearly don’t want to do?

And what happens? Here we are, barely three weeks into January and mine are already headed for that big dump station in the sky.  

Then I stumbled across a post by Jennifer Crusie.

Jenny is a fantastic teacher. I met her several years ago when she taught a masterclass at the beach. I think my head exploded, I learned so much that week. So, when she says something, I tend to listen and think about it.

Her proposal is instead of choosing tasks that you know you aren’t going to carry through, focus on what makes you happy. Won’t that be a better way to appreciate the good things in life? 

I’ve been thinking about happiness this week (instead of that class I’m not listening to). What makes me happy?

I love to travel, so I took advantage of Alaska Air’s sale and booked a few flights. And art. I’ve been playing with my kiln and fused glass for a while, but those pencils and watercolors are calling. There’s a shiny new book I want to write and this may be the year to screw up my courage and tackle the book that nearly made me quit writing.

So, what about you? How are your resolutions going? Did you make any?

Or would you rather jump on board my Happiness Train?

Happiness Train

Image courtesy of Gross National Happiness USA organization. Find them here.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Follow Your Bliss

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you
where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell

I’ve been trying to finish an amateur sleuth mystery (the next Holly Price story) but another story keeps nagging at me. It’s one I’ve picked up and put down about a dozen times; changed the focus; the motivation; everything except the central characters and the theme.

I’m not sure why that book keeps pulling me back. Maybe it comes from the idea that each one of us has something special to contribute—maybe work we feel compelled to do. By doing it, we feel fulfilled and enrich the world. Joseph Campbell talks about finding your own path (“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”).

Woman finding bliss at the oceanHow do you find that path? Some refer to it as following your bliss. Others say, find your heart’s passion.

But is that passion the broader goal or a kernel that embodies it?

For many of us on this blog, our passion is writing. Taking intuitions, snippets, dreams and moments of pure fantasy imagination. Adding overheard conversations, glimpses of a vignette as we pass by. Grabbing that nebulous possibility, and shaping and turning into a polished story. Is writing the passion we want to share with the world? Or is it a particular theme or story that we feel we have to tell to reach that bliss?

I really have no idea, so I keep putting one foot in front of the other and step-by-step find my path.

Right now, that path is strolling along with a forensic accountant who’s trying to find her own path through life… You might hear a bit more about her later. But as much fun as the amateur sleuth story is to write, that other story is still there, a siren song.

Even if we take the steps to become an author, maybe we chose a certain path because we fear the stories we want to write won’t sell. We love chic lit or romantic mysteries or literary stories where the characters rule and the words flow to a different rhythm, but we read online, hear from editors, agents, creative writing texts that D, all the above are passé. We’re tempted to follow trends rather than listen to the story inside us. I think most of us have cleared that hurdle, but the doubt is always there–should I have chosen a different path?

Overall, I’m happy with my path to “here.” Sure, there have been highs and lows, joys and regrets. I’m happy our paths crossed, here on the blog, at various publishers, conferences, or any of the other places we’ve connected. I hope my passion for writing lives on and that I can share my joy and make a small corner of the worlds a better place.

And in the meanwhile, I think my other story is still growing—or growing up—quietly evolving in my subconscious. I have many books still to write.

But I suspect “that story” will one day be the one I have to tell.

What about you?

 “As you go the way of life,

You will see a great chasm. Jump.

It is not as wide as you think.” 

― Joseph Campbell


Cross posted to my group blog – The Stiletto GangFacebooktwitterpinterestmail

When Writers Travel

Who else loves to travel?

We just returned from Southeast Asia. I’m not sure if this was a bucket list trip or simply an area of the world we were curious about. Both my husband and I were too young for what we call the Vietnam War, but I remember the protests and the horrors of the war shown on the nightly news. Soldiers being spit on and called “Baby Killers.” The MIA bracelets. Four Dead in Ohio. (My blogmate’s books are set in the era, by the way.) The guys in the deli where I worked during college with their bravissimo: “I was stoned the whole time,” and our church youth advisor, a then, newly-minted lieutenant, who would not talk about his time in Vietnam. My brother-in-law, a medic during the war, who also does not discuss his experiences there.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Or maybe you remember.

Then there’s Cambodia. A close friend’s daughter served there with the Peace Corp and kept me intrigued with a running series of Facebook posts. And who isn’t moved by the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge?

So we went.

And we loved Saigon.

The locals call District 1, which is the old town, “Saigon” while the sprawling city is referred to as Ho Chi Min City. There’s energy and optimism, friendly people, and 6 million scooters (mostly being driven by young, texting locals).

One of the things we did was a street food tour – vendors set up, legally or not so much, wherever there’s an open spot of pavement. Hygiene may be optional for some of those vendors. 😉

Our guide for the tour said Saigon is in to “Capitalistic Communism.” They relate to Cuba, consider Russia a socialist country, and think North Korea is a disgrace. By the way, they still don’t like the Chinese, even as China pours investment money into the country, and the French… well…the south doesn’t hate them as much as the north. But you know, we never ran into anyone who openly disliked Americans. Instead they all wanted to practice their English on us.

Go figure.

Although the War Remnants Museum, chronicling the “American War,” was a sobering reminder of what a horrible war this was for both sides.

North to Hanoi

We worked our way north with stops in Hanoi where we checked out the Hanoi Hilton and learned it was a massive torture prison built by the French (see “they hate the French” above, along with the 95 years of French oppression).

Ironically enough, the Vietnamese have huge respect for John McCain and his decision to stay with his men rather than using name and position to bail himself out. (cough, cough, bone spurs.)

But damn, the coffee and cheese were French and amazing.

We found the north more political and less entrepreneurial than the south. Interesting differences in culture.

Then it was on to Halong Bay, which was awe inspiring. Seriously. I thought it would be water, a small bay, with a few of those rock monoliths. A picture may be worth a few words here.


We traveled on, through Cambodia and down the Mekong, back to Vietnam.

So many glimpses of a different lifestyle. A third world country struggling to move ahead. Pride in the remnants of a kingdom in the past. Something beyond tolerance for the religious practices embodied by hundreds of temples. The quiet serenity of sunrise at Angkor Watt.



Terrifying safety issues in manufacturing. Yes, she’s hand feeding reeds into that machine, which snatches them from her fingers and zips the shuttle back across the machine.

Health and hygiene issues that made us cringe and wonder why we obsess over plastic straws.







The sadness of the long-term impact of the Khmer wiping out every person in the country who could read and write and the current struggle of the Cambodians to find their footing.

The search for foreign investment in the face of those struggles. Quiet disdain for the puppet government put in place by the Vietnamese, who also installed 8 million landmines to keep the Khmer out of Vietnam. (There are roughly 4 million mines still hidden in the ground. They pay children $1 for each turned in mine – people also use the explosives to blast fish in ponds, but that’s a separate story – and many bear the missing feet and hands as a sickening reminder of how dangerous those devices are.)

What can a writer learn?

A sensory overload? That iced Vietnamese coffee is wonderful? An appreciation for friends and a zest for life? A sobering realization three generations of Vietnamese live in an area roughly the size of my living room. An appreciation for air conditioning. (I grew up in the South and yeah, Robin Williams had it right. Vietnamese weather? Hot and damn hot.)

Maybe it’s getting outside our own heads for a while. Trying new things. New experiences. Learning about a new-to-me ancient culture. Meeting new friends and recapturing a curiosity about the rest of the world.

Whatever you want to call it, I’m glad I went. And I’m already eyeing another area of the globe…

What the most interesting place you’ve visited lately?Facebooktwitterpinterestmail