San Diego & RWA–what a great combination!

Hi, All,

I’m a bit late posting today because I’m in San Diego for #RWA16, along with a whole bunch of writer friends, business professionals and publishers.

Normally, I’m inside the conference hotel for the entire time–unless we’re in NYC where we splurge on Broadway musicals. ;-) But this is beautiful, amazing, inviting San Diego with its perfect weather, blue skies, bustling harbor and gorgeous skyline. If I’m not attending some interesting workshop or eating–the food!!!–I’m sitting on my 20th floor balcony gazing at the view.


San Diego view from day Deb Salonen


Parked out back you’ll find a few yachts. I’m going to have to sell an awful lot of books to afford one of these.

yachts Deb Salonen

Our hotel is in the background.

Our hotel is in the background.

But the best part of any conference is re-connecting with old friends, like Jeannie Watt and Roz Fox


Roz Fox signing

And yesterday at the luncheon we were treated to an insightful and moving keynote speech from Beverly Jenkins.

Beverly Jenkins RWA

One of my favorite quotes from her speech: “Karma is only a bitch if you are.”

There’s a lot going on at all times, and I’m going to be glad when it’s over so I can slink back to my quiet writer’s cave, but tomorrow I will get to hang out with TTQ and Pat Potter for a bit. And I’m looking forward to the RITAs where my amazing friend C.J. Carmichael is up for an award.

CJ RITA 2016

Signing off from beautiful downtown San Diego,



Children and Pizza (Lynn Kerstan)

Recorders! I haven’t seen or heard them since the ’60s.

The tour company with which I travel (Grand Circle Travel, three trips so far) contributes money to local schools, museums, and other good causes related to the tours they sponsor. On our first full day in Sorrento, we walked a short distance to a school (run by the Catholic Church, I believe), and spent a couple hours with some adorable kids. GCT has been providing them with updated computers, replacing their ancient ones. In return, some of the kidlets had prepared for us a concert. We settled at the classroom desks, and they took their positions at the front of the room.

That’s our tour leader for the whole trip, the one with long hair. She was fabulous. And at this moment, I can’t remember her name. Bad Lynn!

These kids were very confident and at ease. I fell in love with all of them. OTOH, a little recorder music goes a long way. At some point, they put them aside and sang the national anthem of Italy. After which, one bright-eyed little boy asked if we would sing the American national anthem for them. Yikes! I mean, we could all sing it, after a fashion, but the range of the music is so extended that parts of it would have to be squeaked and squawked. I looked around at our group, which appeared to be frozen in place, and suggested America the Beautiful. The whole room practically sighed with relief. And we sounded pretty good, maybe. At the least, we all chimed in.

With the stone oven blazing behind him, the cheese-maker wrings out the milky liquid from the freshest-ever cheese I ever tasted.

Our next Sorrento adventure took us into the hill country–we’re talking steep hills–and to a local farm created by digging out the hill sides and transforming them into terraces. There, they planted lemon trees and olive groves. And raised chickens, made fresh mozzarella cheese, produced olive oil, and brewed Limoncello, a tasty liqueur.

Naturally, it was the guys who shouldered themselves to the front of the line and shoveled onto their own pizzas nearly all the available meats, veggies, and spices.

The plan was for each of us to make our own pizzas, using the chef’s fresh cheese and the dough he made earlier, along with tasty things to be sprinkled on top. We were all given chef’s hats to wear and took our turns at the counter to make our pizzas true works of art. At the least, a truly decent lunch.

Everyone loves pizza. Even leopards.

Happily, Lonzo the Leopard pranced in to guard whatever remained for the use of the women for their own pizzas. That’s the stone oven blazing behind him.

The thing I most love about our tour company is that it doesn’t drag us from one cathedral to the next, to a museum and the next, to all the wondrous sites to be visited, and the next. Yes, we get plenty of those, but we also have opportunities to sit down for a meal with the locals, visit their homes, meet their families, and experience a few hours of how it is to live in Spain or Italy or Croatia.

The terraced farm included dogs and a couple of cats, including this sweet girl basking in the sun. She graciously permitted me to pet her, unlike the black cat on the same terrace wall, facing her.

As you probably know from Pat’s blogs of late, she is recovering well from the knee replacement. I can’t wait to see her. That will happen when I fly to Memphis and drive with her to Myrtle Beach in one of the Carolinas (I dunno which one) for the Novelists Inc. Conference in late October. At that time, if not before, we’ll agree on our next exotic trip, make plans, and start the delicious period of anticipation. I will always wish she had been able to join me on the Italy adventure. But wherever we go, we’ll have a ton of fun!


Luncheon in Tangier (Lynn Kerstan)

Lonzo plays captain as the hydrofoil speeds away from the dock.

No way I'm getting aboard this mildewed camel. I think it's playing dead to avoid having to lumber upright.

Mostly pictures today, with a glimpse of a most unusual city in North Africa. To get there required several hours on a bus and an hour-long ride on the hydrofoil ferry. It was Sunday. We first went to the usual tourist destination, where a couple of bored,  moth-eaten camels and several gewgaw salesmen waited to rid us of out money. If you remember Pat’s blog about “riding” the camel, you know they found at least one sucker.

The colors are so vibrant there. Nearly all the women wore hats.

On Sundays, farmers from nearby villages come to the city to sell their wares. We were told not to look closely at the women’s faces or take pictures without permission. The villagers, unlike the city residents, are very traditional. In Morocco, women have the vote and can run for office, where some have achieved important positions.



If it can be eaten, it can be found in the market. The merchants take great pride in their displays.

What it looks like to be strung up like a chicken. All the meat-market booths were fascinating. No styrofoam packaging, no artificial coloring. Just fresh meat.

After a bus tour of this remarkably beautiful city, we were taken to an indoor city market. There were many flower booths with beautiful displays, and our local guide told us flowers were never provided for funerals or deeply sad events. They were for celebration and love. Consolation was delivered in person, not by a florist or delivery service. It was being there that mattered to sufferers and mourners.

The table was set like one in the finest Parisian restaurants. We had the room to ourselves, along with a musician playing Moroccan melodies on a stringed instrument. The wine flowed freely.

The next pictures take us to lunch, which was held in a lovely old building right in the heart of the old city with its narrow cobbled, winding, hilly streets, many of them lined with tourist shops. Street sellers glommed onto us straightaway, some of them young boys, trying to sell us tacky souvenirs. Pat, of course, bought a small metal camel of some sort because a young boy was desperately trying to sell it to her.


A few of the appetizers. At least fifteen of them, and I never knew what any of them were. Something scrumptious in every case, and I'm a burger/onion rings kinda gal.

Here are images of a portion of our meal, which lasted for nearly two hours. Did I mention that the wine flowed freely? It’s a wonder any of us made it back to the bus and the ferry. The poor musician played the entire time, without wine, so I made sure to drop by with a good-sized tip as we staggered to the stairs.

The natural, inevitable main dish for a celebr atory meal in Morocco: Couscous. I don't know what all was in there, but it was really good. Maybe because more wine showed up on the table.


I will bypass the tour and sales pitch at a Moroccan carpet store. It did offer comfortable seats and lovely mint tea, but after travels in China, India, and Turkey, I’ve been a captive at waaayyy too many carpet stores. The guide had assured us that wouldn’t happen on this trip, but he was over-ruled by management.

The local guide, wearing the traditional hooded djellaba of Moroccan men, bids farewell to Lonzo the Leopard. The guide said he only wore the djellaba when conducting tours.

I doubt they sold many, if any carpets, but Pat was having trouble resisting because they were truly beautiful. She finally remembered that every square foot of her house is covered by carpets and rugs, and often, rugs on top of the carpets. Somewhere along the way she did buy a lovely little silver teapot for her niece, but lacking room in her LARGE suitcases, she persuaded me to stash it in my luggage. If she hadn’t given me the carry-on I was using, she might never have seen that silver teapot again. She is such a soft touch and so goodhearted and so easily exploited. You cannot help loving Pat Potter.

The Arabic name for this contested bit of land is Jabal Tariq. Spain wants it back.

On the bus trip back to our beachfront hotel in Torremolinos, our tour leader took us to a spot where we got a good, if not close-up, view of the Rock of Gibraltar. It’s Crown property of the UK, transferred over in the early 18th Century for reasons I cannot recall.





In the Throes (Lynn Kerstan)

Chaos Central.

This is not my workplace. My own workplace is pathetically cluttered, and I am indeed surrounded by piles of papers and books. Chances of finding anything I’m looking for are not good. But somehow I must wrestle order into all the partially done projects and chaotic clusters scattered around in my apartment . . . by next Friday.

I must also wrangle order into my brain, which makes the clutter in the picture look like an amateur. So much to do, so little time, and I’m too excited to focus on any one task. Today I spent an hour looking for my thermal underwear (not needed here in temperate Coronado CA) because Pat (probably in the same crazed prep phase as I am) told me Spain was cold.

Even this post is disorganized, and it’s the last one from me until I return from my trip. Happily, you will be blessed by excellent blogs by excellent writers while I’m gone. The wondrous Kathleen Eagle will be here next week, and my frequent partner in crime, writing, and traveling–Alicia Rasley–will follow with her own version of how we got together and continue to occasionally work together as collaborators. If she wasn’t so funny and wasn’t telling it like it was and is, I might be miffed. Instead, I laughed my head off (Ha! So that’s where my brain went!) reading her account.

Really, one Can-Opener is as good as another. But I'll make a fuss when Lynn comes back, just to remind her who really matters in the place. Namely me.

Meantime, Thea the Wondrous will tend to Monsieur le Comte, who will doubtless miss me for a nanosecond.

While I’m gone, I’ll be taking a lot of pictures and researching my next novella in the Drewe Sisters series. There was one sister, Yvette, who didn’t get her love story told in our first round. What to do? Alicia and I collaborating on one novella? Or draw straws to determine which of us would write it?

And then, miraculously, I discovered an all-new sister that none of the other sisters knew about. And lo, she happens to be living in Spain. What a coincidence! Her name is Lucinda, and presently, she’s a flamenco dancer. The man who wins her heart is a career soldier who made a brief appearance in Alicia’s novella, “Allegra’s Song.” We often wind up writing about characters from each other’s stories. They all lived about the same time, after all, and the military men usually happened to join the 52nd Regiment. It’s our own little world within the larger world of Regency England, where many of our characters wind up interacting with one another in our books. Fact is, they are so real to us that we cannot bear to let them go.

Sorry. Mindless rambling here. Mostly I wanted to say that I’m really excited about my trip with Pat Potter, seeing two countries I’ve never visited, and having the opportunity to combine my three favorite things in the world (not counting  my good friends and my cat): travel, inventing interesting people, and making up stories about them.

See you all in late March, with pictures and travel tales galore. If you’re on twitter, follow us at #RegencyTwisters (me and Alicia). If I can learn how to use my new Ipod Touch, I’ll be tweeting from Spain and Portugal. But don’t hold your breath!

Adios, Amigos.







Fly-By Blog (Lynn Kerstan)

Pat's Cats. I'm thinking that left to right, it's Mama, Kitten, and Papa.

As many of you know, from meeting her or reading her wonderful books and/or her blog, Pat Potter is is a remarkable woman. Also thoughtful and remarkably generous, as I know from experience. She’s just returned from a Christmas Markets river cruise on the Rhine, where she saw these three adorable cat figurines and decided I would like them. She was wrong.

I love them. They’re graceful and colorful and very individual (as are all cats), perky and sweet and clearly intelligent. Like Pat. How did she turn out to be a “dog person”? Then again, her open heart welcomes every creature of good will. The ceramic cat she gave to me in Dubrovnik when we took our Dalmatian Coast cruise is pleased to welcome the new Pat’s Cats. Now I have to find the perfect place to put them in this small apartment. Lymond let me photograph the newcomers perched on his cat tree, but I’m sure he didn’t intend them to take up permanent residence there.

Now I need names for them. All authors love naming their characters, and those names resonate in their imaginations as they write the characters’ stories. In the same way, I love naming my pets. Mind you, Lymond de Sevigny got his name long before I found him, meaning I required a male cat. Usually, though, I try to find names that suit a cat’s personality. Turns out that Lymond proved to be the ideal Comte de Sevigny, proving he was meant to be my cat.

Moving on, I want to invite you all to enter a contest. This one is sponsored by a group of authors who have joined together to create opportunities for authors and readers to carry on conversations about books and reading and writing. Our “name” is Story Garden, and we’re in the early stages of creating a Facebook site to welcome readers. To launch the site, members of Story Garden are sponsoring a contest at Fresh Fiction, and the winner (random draw from those who enter) will receive a Kindle and a dozen or so books from the authors. There will be another contest around Valentine’s Day. So drop by, provide contact information, and maybe win a bountiful prize.

I have a rush editing job to do, which will keep me busy for the rest of 2011. That means I’ll stay out of trouble for a while, unless Pat and I start planning a trip together. But when it comes to travel, I’m always ready for trouble. And Pat called right when I was writing this blog, so you may be sure that the both of us are on our way somewhere, sometime, soon as we get our acts together.

The Junk Mail of Death (Lynn Kerstan)

Letters. I get letters. From the weirdest sources. All the people I like use email, so most of the odd snail-mail gets tossed without me looking at it. But now and again, something draws my attention. In the first case, it’s an envelope I’ve seen several times before without ever looking closely. This time, I saw what I’ve been missing.
It’s addressed to Lynn Kerston , a clear indication of junk mail. The only other thing on the front of the envelope is this:
Free Pre-Paid Cremation! DETAILS INSIDE
How can it be Free and yet Pre-Paid? I asked friends to explain this mystery, and here are some of my favorite responses.
Krissie: You know when they offered you a prepaid cremation?
What would they do if the client stiffed them?
Pat said I should send the envelope to Jay Leno. She doesn’t know about the stack of truly wonderful stuff I’ve accumulated with the intention of sending them to Jay Leno. Like the newspaper ad by a Tennessee politician (nicknamed “Lightning”) running for some legal-system office whose campaign promise was to keep the courthouse bathrooms open at night. Dunno if that resulted in a landslide. And the photo of a Tennessee woman who caught and slayed a landmark-sized snake, largest on record in the county. It shows her standing with one arm outstretched, probably with said dead serpent dangling from her hand. But they cropped the picture above her wrist, so we see only a woman with her arm stuck out. Anyway, I have a lot of good submissions for Jay stashed somewhere in a drawer, many of them older than dirt. Maybe I’ll send them to Pat.
Maggie: I’d write back. “I’ll take the free cremation. My payment is enclosed. Please wait until I’m dead.”
Well, you can’t beat that one. Unless you open the envelope and see that if you send a prepaid postcard, providing your phone number and checking the box that reads, “YES! I want to know more about (company name) pre-need creation plans,” you’ll be entered in a contest to win a Pre-Paid Cremation. Apparently last month’s winner was Fred Hildreth. I hope he hasn’t yet needed to use his prize.
I’m not entering. For one thing, I never win anything. And should I win something at last, damned if I want my first big prize to be a pre-paid cremation.
And for another, I’m not ready to look into the great abyss. Or “lock in today’s price.” Get this, Tacky Advertising Ghouls: The Lady’s Not for Burning. Not yet, and not by the likes of you.
P.S. I still can’t post pictures on the blog. Dunno why. I really wanted to show you the woman without the snake, and if Word Press ever lets me upload pictures, I’ll post some of my other unsent fun stuff from the “For Jay Leno” file.

The Play’s the Thing (Lynn Kerstan)

Getting into character (Window) before the playWith all the to-do about creating a costume, I didn't have time to change out of my denim hiking togs before curtain (heh) time. Yes, it's the night of Low Drama on the High Seas, my own title because if the play had a title, I never knew what it was. Same goes for the plot. But none of that mattered, because everyone was there to have a good time. Fifteen or twenty of us played parts, and all the rest laughed themselves silly. For that matter, so did the cast. Petra and Darko (our tour leaders) narrated the tale, which had something to do with the abduction of a princess and her rescue by a prince. But nobody cared. Generally speaking, nobody had a clue what was going on. Window bravely tries to prevent Bad Guys from Entering.


Nasty Robbers penetrate my defenses in search of booty. To be specific, the booty of the Luscious Princess. Note that Queen Pat, armed with a stick of some sort, is too busy laughing to fight them off.

The Nasty Robbers abscond with the Princess


As you see, the king and Queen Pat stand by while the Princess is carried off. I smell a Conspiracy!

I console the bereft king. Behind him, the Prince waits to enter.


Pat, as you see, has missed her cue (not that she got one) and is wondering where she’s supposed to be and what she’s supposed to do.

Pat loses it.


The good thing about being a window is that I was always in the same place and had nothing whatever to do.

Curtain Call, with me trying to upstage the King and Queen



Fact is, the entire cast spent most of the play laughing our arses off.  As did the audience. In character, we were utterly shameless and inventive. A powerful attorney (playing a Flower) played receptacle to a writer’s aggressive Butterfly. The unfortunate guy cast as Horse let the Prince, twice his size, mount and ride him (for about four seconds, but he tried).

Lynn and tour leader Darko did more laughing than dancing.

After the theatrics came the dancing. Only a few stayed around for that, alas. How could anything beat what they had just seen? But we  party animals stayed on and danced hard, from the Electric Slide and the Hustle to just plain gettin’ down.




After my award-worthy portrayal of Window, it’s only fitting that I closed out the evening dancing with the Athena’s charming and cosmopolitan Captain.

So . . . that’s the end of my Dalmatian Coast Trip Report. Not sure where I’ll go next. Turkey in September 2012, I expect, for a Gathering of Dorothy Dunnett fans in Istanbul, followed by an OAT tour of Turkey. I’ve been there, but once is not enough. Meatime, I’m thinking about Peru (Machu Picchu!), Costa Rica, and a European river tour like the one Pat just took. If you could choose, where in the world