What I’ve Been Up To

June 1st, 2015

Anybody out there wondering what I do with my time these days?  If you are reading this, maybe there is!

I retired permanently (sort of)  a year ago from my job as a professor at San Diego City College, and retired in a maybe /maybe not way from writing historical fiction, at least for a while.  I loved both my professions so much that I always thought of myself as “getting” to do them, rather than “having” to, but enough is enough.   I looked at both and decided I couldn’t see how either was leading me on a path that was invigorating and exciting.  I wasn’t seeing how I could continue to grow, so I decided to stop.

I say “sort of retired” from teaching, for I can come back and teach a couple of classes a year if I want, and I do.  I loved teaching, but chronic problems with my voice make speaking for a long time difficult.  One class good, five classes impossible even with a mike in a small room.

As for the writing, I will always love to write, but it has been wonderful to tell myself I don’t have to.  I have written four published novels and a fifth in draft, plus one non-fiction book.  I have made my contribution, and though I might have more in me, this will be enough if it turns out I don’t want to “go there” again.  You never know, though.  I get a dozen ideas a week, and there are many other genres to try.

What I am doing now that IS fun and invigorating is lecturing on cruises.  I have been crazy busy with this, cruising mostly with Silversea, but with some upcoming work for Oceania and Regent.  I love speaking in a beautiful, state of the art auditorium, with an audience of people happy to hear what I have to say that will enrich their visits to the ports.  I’ve been in South America, Asia, the Baltic, Transatlantic, Canada, and the Mediterranean, with lots more ahead if the fates allow.

Here I am, lecturing on  a Baltic Cruise.  Whatever your plans for the summer are, I wish you Bon Voyage!



March 4th, 2015

Beach salon


The first Beach House Writing Salon that my friend and fellow author Caitlin Rother organized last fall was such a success–including one writer who got a publishing deal with one of the author faculty, who is an indie publisher–that she is offering another, with four much published writers as speakers and consultants to the participants, including me!  It is an all-day affair at a beachfront house on Crown Point, and the number of attendees is limited to allow time for all sorts of casual conversation with the speakers and fellow writers.

In addition to writing workshops and a panel discussion, you will have opportunities for one-on-one critiques, and of course free time to wiggle your toes in the sand. It all ends with a cocktail party, live music and book signing, and, we hope, great invigoration to start or continue that book you’ve got in YOU!

If you sign up by March 15, you can still qualify for the early bird price of $165, and if you also sign up for a one-on-one critique, you can also get a free book. Please contact Caitlin Rother directly at crother@flash.net if you have any questions or want to reserve a seat. The Beach House Writing Salon website can be found at http://beachhousewritingsalon.blogspot.com, but here are the key details:

Date:  Saturday, April 18, 2015

Location:  3712 Riviera, San Diego (Crown Point)

Time: : 9am-5pm, cocktail party until 7pm (Attendees will  have an hour for lunch on their own, on the beach if they choose)

Happy Holidays!

December 9th, 2014

Today marks a transition for me.  It is my what I have been calling my Medicare birthday (65), which means I am eligible under any definition of “senior” for discounts!  Having been in college at the time the expression “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” was coined, it is amazing to have reached more than twice that age and believe myself still to be, among other things, quite trustworthy.  I retired last May and my reinvention of myself is going well.  I am happy and healthy, although I have lived longer than either of my parents did, and it is sobering to realize how much life they too must have felt still lay in front of them.  I take nothing for granted and am grateful every day.  Though I can’t ask for more from life, I will happy to take as many more experiences and as much more time as it has to offer.

A lot of my reinvention these days is tied up with my role as an Enrichment Lecturer on Silversea Cruises, which I am able to do a lot more of now that I am not constrained by the school year.   Here I am celebrating New Year’s Eve last year, in Acapulco Bay, to the most extravagant fireworks I have ever seen.  This year Dan and I will be in Phuket, Thailand on Christmas Day and at sea celebrating the birth of 2015, following two days in Yangon, Myanmar (the former Rangoon, Burma)

I wish you all copious blessings, the courage to face whatever won’t go so well in 2015, and the gratitude to make the most of everything this year offers.


Grateful to Be Home!

November 21st, 2014

Back from my last out-of-town speaking gig, at least for a while. Last week I had a great time in Cleveland at the Mandel Jewish Community Center. It snowed, which was a treat for this Southern California native! I was in Miami Beach the following Wednesday at a wonderful luncheon at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center. Eighty attendees, great audience, wonderful Spanish-themed meal–plus a great tour of Miami Beach afterwards with friends. I just got back this Wednesday, and on Thursday I lectured for two hours at UCSD Extension’s Osher Institute on The Convivencia and Ferdinand and Isabella, then spoke in the evening to a great book discussion group at Congregation Beth Israel. Came home hoarse and exhausted, and very glad I “retired” because my voice can’t handle this much strain on a weekly basis. I had to add the quotation marks because retirement has recently been as much work as working ever was. I am off lecturing in Southeast Asia for Silversea Cruises over the holidays, then in late January, I am headed for a cruise gig in South America and the Amazon. But now a lull, and a chance to appreciate all these wonderful opportunities. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Fallow Fields

August 27th, 2014




Sometimes you just need to rest.  In 2004, I started writing UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH, and almost without taking my fingers from the keys began my first novel, THE FOUR SEASONS.  On the heels of that I wrote PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER, followed by THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER, and a novel in draft, THE INTUITIVE.  My most recent publication, THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER, came out in early 2014, ten years after I first decided to give this writing for adult audiences a try.  Publishing five book in ten years is a pretty rapid pace, but actually, since I finished THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER almost three years ago, my pace was five books in seven years, with all five appearing in print between May 2008 and April 2014, a six-year period.

I guess you could say I was on a roll.  Life intervened when my beloved partner Jim died in April 2012,  only a few months after a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  I stopped writing altogether because i didn’t want to be living with my made-up characters when I had the last few months with the central character in my real life. And he was indeed, quite a character!  Then, after Jim died, I decided to just let my life float, not trying to focus on anything or accomplish anything in particular.  I had another important job to do–reinventing myself and making a new life.  I couldn’t do that buried in another world.  (I posted a lot about this period, so if you missed that you can scroll back in this diary to read about my world during his final illness and after his death). Then, once I was feeling  restored to life, I discovered I just didn’t want to go to that difficult place where novelists live when at work.  Reinvention just hadn’t pointed in that direction.

It’s funny how when I say I am not writing now, people generally respond with something resembling the hope, or assumption, that it is temporary.  I’ll get it back, they seem to be saying, as if that’s the correct trajectory for my life.  I don’t ever recall anyone saying the opposite when I was writing, patting me on the arm and telling me that I’ll get my non-writing life back on track eventually.  I guess we are so oriented toward concrete outcomes that we can’t find much to praise in anything else.  Even a fallow field implies that its real purpose is yet to come.

One of the key concepts in Daoism is wu wei, often translated as “effortlessness.”  This is not to be confused with the couch potato approach to life, but going with what doesn’t have to be forced.  The field with the weeds and butterflies is closer to wu wei, although any analogy to human life falls a little short.  When the time is right to work on a novel, that feels like wu wei too. But it’s not feeling like that time now.

Sometimes I am on author panels where people say they just don’t know what they would do if they couldn’t write, and I feel like looking down the table and saying, “Really?”  My life is very full without a work in progress.  In some ways it is fuller. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing a book come to life, but there’s also nothing like the best drive you’ve ever made down a fairway, or an awesome put away shot in tennis, or a glorious morning walking in the park, or time to read or visit with friends.  Sometimes the effortless path, the truly sustainable one, has no end product. Sometimes it does.  Like writing a novel, you just have to keep going and see what happens next.