Reunions and Other Insults

Aging is top of mind for a huge segment of the population. Did you know there are an estimated 74.1 million Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), or 22.9% of the U.S. population wondering how we got so old so fast?

There are some great things and some not so great things about aging. In this series, several guest bloggers will share their thoughts and stories about getting older. Today, Donald Turner  shares his experience of attending a class Reunion.

Alumni Home Coming

April 20, 2019

 

With heads of white, greyed, dyed, thinned or absent hair topping a body, often more attracted to gravity—we, the PUC alumni of the 60’s, were hoping to recognize youth grown old—youth behind the wrinkles and sags.

Some of us were unrecognized until revealed by our name tags.  Once named, I saw some resemblance to the younger face in the old year book.

I felt a tinge of sadness, realizing the majority of our allotted years were used up.  Hoping for more years to come, I was grateful we alumni had survived years greater than three score and ten.

Goodbye to those who have passed.  Best wishes to us who have yet to pass.

Let us write our memoirs while we can.

 

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalms 90:10 (KJV)

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Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, and Boeing at Huntington Beach.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science in Fletcher, North Carolina from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds an  M.A. degree in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis.

In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting to profit from the stock market, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

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Blogger Recognition Award

I’m grateful and excited to have been nominated by the amazing blogger: Jan M Flynn!

Thank you so much Jan, at JanMFlynnAuthor, for thinking of Building a Better Story and nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. Jan passed on a quote from another blogger  I can’t top so here’s the quote from Reasons2Stay:

“The award is a way that we recognize and support each other as bloggers, and especially to show that we appreciate how much time, work, energy, and effort goes into producing and maintaining a high-quality blog. It is a humbling experience to be recognized from my fellow blogger.”

I agree with Jan when she says, “It’s lovely when those who share your zeal for a particular form of expression — be it writing, visual arts, dance, or whatever medium — take note of your efforts and extend their regard and support. I gotta say, it feels darn good.” Yes it does! I’m luxuriating in the warm fuzzies right now.

And because this nomination and award supports other bloggers and promotes their efforts, it has some rules  to follow if you want to participate:

Thank the blogger that nominated you.

Write a post to show your award.

Give a brief story of how your blog started.

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

Select other bloggers to give this award to.

Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

How My Blog Started:

I teach creative writing at a local community college. My students, retirees, demanded I stop lecturing on craft and deliver the conventions of writing craft (all genre, mind you) in context of the work brought in to class to “workshop.” Yikes! I still had to bone up on craft and decided to write blog posts on craft commonly misused. Nobody read it, and I stopped lecturing anyway. My first post was on September 14, 2011 on tension in your writing. My readership picked up when I branched out and opened Building a Better Story to student work. Later I added reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. It’s a wonderful platform for writings, reviews and yes, craft.

New to the genre?

Do as I say, not as I do. I’m slothful at keeping to a posting schedule. I get a bright idea, run a little series of posts on a topic and run out of steam or get busy with something else (like revising the 3rd JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure about to be late to the editor) and forget the blog for weeks. If you want people to read your blog, you need to give it time to build a following and offer regular posts. You can blog about most anything that interests you, but if you don’t post on a schedule, you won’t keep the people who FOLLOW. An expert in WordPress, Linda Lee, and I sat on a panel together recently and the good news is, really we only need to post once a month—AS LONG AS WE DO IT EVERY MONTH ON TIME!

Invite guest bloggers to participate in your blogosphere. It’s fun to share and it promotes others’ blogs AND your own. Anyway, you won’t have to blog as often if someone else does it for you!

My Nominations:

  1. ELIZABETH STOKKEBYE ART AND STORY TELLING
  2. LAURA MCHALE HOLLAND

Congratulations to tow of my most inspiring bloggers! And a million thanks to Jan M Flynn for nominating me!!

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Are You One in a Million?

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Do you have a book in you? I bet your, husband, aunt, boss, grandchild, best friend, Prime delivery person or. . . has said your life is so interesting you should write a book. Go on, I double dare you! Studies reveal over 200 million Americans, or more than 80% of us, think we have a book in our future. But how many of us actually write it?

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Penning a book, or even a 500-word article, is hard work. Much harder than those helpful, hopeful friends and relatives could know (unless they’ve taken up writing), and writing a book worth reading is harder yet. I’ve published two novels and am close to finishing a book length memoir. I can attest that the writing at times is more like mental slavery, full of doubt and frustration than the rapturous “writer’s trance” induced during flights of creativity. Most of the job is just plain hard work. Thomas Edison said “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” and this about sums up writing a good book. It’s a flush of creativity and a slog of editing, revision, rewrites, more editing, more revision. (But the good news is, the more you do it, the more fun it gets!)

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I wonder how many “you have a book in you” authors actually give it a go? In America alone, up to a million books are published annually, between traditional publishing and independent publishing. Is yours the one in a million?

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Now that you’ve read the warning label, why exactly would you take the writing plunge?

5 Reasons Why:

  • Maybe because writing is a solitary pursuit, authors love to congregate and share knowledge. We’re a congenial community, with interesting vocabularies and great conversation. Joining with other authors is stimulating and informative, and you can’t beat the heady feeling of being in the limelight, all eyes and ears on you, as the talk turns to your book. But like all “clubs,” you must join to reap the benefits.
  • While few books sell more than 250 copies in a year, not enough to subsidize the time you spend writing, your completed book is a great accomplishment akin to what a college degree used to be before 70% of Americans started attending universities. Think of the expanded knowledge you’ll get from the research you’ll need to do. Think of the boost to your self-esteem!
  • Even if you don’t become famous (80% of famous authors are dead!), your book can help give you a leg-up to other opportunities. Want to give talks on a cruise ship? Want folks to learn about your expertise? Speak at book clubs, become a blogger, create podcasts? Speaking of podcasts, one of my students, an 86-year-young writer, now is the queen of podcasting with her own show: Kosher Style Stories. You might be “discovered” too!
  • It’s been argued that writing helps us thrive into old age. According to cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, “[fiction] can help us prepare for problems we might face and allows us to develop strategies for dealing with those problems, thus giving us survival techniques.” Neuroscience suggests that intellectual activity is important to keeping a healthy brain as we age. We ‘ve all experienced difficulty in retrieving words and names, but time spent writing is all about words and retrieving them, using multiple parts of the brain. There’s an added benefit if you write by hand. The combination of motor-skills, memory, and slower pace that handwriting brings to the experience activates more parts of the brain. It’s just good science: writing keeps your brain in tip-top shape.

Writing is a way to leave a record of your life, a legacy for your family. The greatest gift you can give!

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“Then how should I begin/ To spit out the butt-end of my days and ways?” (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Elliot)

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I have a suggestion, start by joining our writing workshops in Wine Country and see if you’re one in a million. You’ll make new friends, learn new things, broaden your horizons, keep the ole synapses firing and create a unique and enduring legacy—what an accomplishment!

#Wine Country Writing Workshops Fall 2019

New! Mondays in Sonoma
The Creative Writing Workshop
September 9-December 9
2:00-4:00 PM  Fee
Vintage House Senior Center
264 First Street East,  Sonoma 95476

Ongoing! Tuesdays in St. Helena
The Brunch Bunch Creative Writing Workshop
Upper Valley Campus Room 4 10:00-12:30
Fee. Class size limited to 12
Section 1:
September 3-October 15 (no class 9/24)
Section 2:
October 22-December 3 (no class 11/26)
Pre-register here

Free! Autobiographical Writing 
Section 1:
Memoir over Lunch 1:15-3:15 at Rianda House
Section 2:
Happy Hour Autobiographical Writing 4:00-6:00
at Upper Valley Campus Library
Pre-register here

Annual Writers Showcase at Rianda House December 10th 1:00-3:15

Upper Valley Campus 1088 College Ave. St Helena 94574  707-967-2900
Rianda House 1475 Main St. St. Helena 94574    707-963-8555

JOIN  ME IN CLASS

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Thanks People.com


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Dead in the Water

 

 

 

I’ve lived across the Golden Gate from San Francisco for almost seven decades, and I’ve never ceased to be intrigued  by the sight of people swimming in the bay. As a child visiting The City, I always notice the chilly-looking old men in bathing trunks and swim caps headed down the beach toward the water then wriggle around on my seat in the car to watch them smash into the water as my family motored into the Marina or out along Ocean Beach. Even in the winter. Brrrrr!

Of course I learned early on about the San Francisco Dolphin Club founded in 1877 by two German brothers and limited to only a handful of members. Over the years, the club grew and the first Golden Gate open swim was organized in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1960 the first organized Alcatraz swim took place. It was big news for this ten-year-old, swimmer. Everyone remembers how Jack Lalanne towed a rowboat from Alcatraz to S.F., swimming with his hands shackled, in less than ninety minutes. But by 1974, when the club admitted women, I’d confined my swimming to tropical beaches and heated swimming pools.

Although I’d swum and waterskied in The Bay in my teens, five years in the Rockies thinned my skin. I never participated in a Big Swim or an open water competition, something I have in common with Trisha Carson, protagonist of Dead in the Water. Trisha is the sister of thirty eight year old Lena, a successful graphic designer, and an avid open water swimmer. That’s why Trisha is relaxing in the sun on the shore of Lake Joe when she observes a contestant die in the water. It must be an accident—wasn’t it? When another swimmer drives her car off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean after another swim, she starts to think maybe these weren’t so accidental and starts asking questions.

Trisha hasn’t much else to do. She’d been the happily married wife of a software engineer in Colorado until Brad disappeared. He left for work and never came home, a situation too similar to her father’s leaving the family when she was a child. Devastated, Trisha moves back to California and her sister, and soon takes a part-time, temporary job in the offices Nor Cal Swimming Association, which pulls her into the world of open water swimming and gives her access to people and businesses connected to the sport. And Trisha, naive and relentless, asks too many people too many questions. Soon she finds herself over her head.

Although her sister and friends dismiss her  suspicions, her curiosity leads her into grave danger. “I let go of the rail and plummeted toward the black water twenty-five feet below. The gun exploded behind me. . . . I tumbled into the water with a loud splash. Cold, so cold. I felt my lungs collapse. I couldn’t breath. I tried to grab bites of air, but nothing was coming in. No air. I sank below into the darkness. . . “

Even if it weren’t open season on open water swimmers in this fast-paced thriller set mostly in San Francisco, author Glenda  Carroll‘s deep knowledge of the open water swimming community would satisfy. Dead in the Water is reputed to be the first open water detective novel and captures what it’s like to race in open water. Carroll has a background in both sports journalism and Masters swimming. Her detail of the industry is a character in its own right, but the true brilliance of the book is in Carroll’s plotting and pacing. While Trisha’s motivations for pursuing the investigation are alluded to, I wasn’t always clear why she risked so much when everyone tried to stop her, including her boss, who fired her. I’m hoping we learn more about Trisha’s inner workings in future books. Despite not warming up to Trisha right away (and hence, not quite believing she would push herself on folks out of curiosity and suspicion), I could not put this book down and will read and review the next of the series, Drop Dead Red, soon.

These books will make perfect summer reading for any sports enthusiast, swimmer or poolside lounger.

Glenda Carroll

Excerpted from Women’s National Book Association

Written by Catharine Bramkamp 

Glenda Carroll is a writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her favorite pursuit is open water swimming. She talks with us about swimming in deep water and swimming in words.

GC: Open water swimming means coming home. My dad taught me to swim in a lake in Pennsylvania. I loved the water. About twenty-five years ago, I heard of a two mile swim at Lake Berryessa. I decided to train to swim it. When the day of the swim came and I stepped into the water, I knew why I was there. It felt, looked and tasted like the lake I learned to swim in.

Dead in the Water was inspired by an organized open water swim in Whiskeytown Lake in Redding. There were two swims that day: a one mile and a two mile. I had finished the one mile swim, was sitting on the beach, waiting for the start of the next swim when people ran by me to a swimmer who was being pulled out of the water at the side of the course. Watching the EMTs try and resuscitate him and seeing his wife helpless beside him never left me. I went over to the finish line and watched swimmers as they finished. One man came through the finish chute, bent over and said ‘I think I’m having a heart attack.’ He was. Both men died. They were the first deaths in the thirty years that Pacific Masters had been sponsoring open water swims. I turned the trauma of that day into my inspiration for Dead in the Water.

I have been a writer of one kind or another my whole life, beginning with writing a gossip column in my middle school newspaper. I learned to sail in my 30s, sailed to Hawaii from San Francisco and raced sailboats for about ten years on the SF Bay. I also headed up an organization called Yacht Racing Association of SF Bay for seven years. I didn’t join a masters swim team until I was in my 40s. I was in my 50s when I learned to surf. So I am a late blooming water woman, but the underpinnings were always there. And luckily, I am blessed with a certain amount of athletic ability (well, maybe more determination than ability). I never wrote about swimming. I didn’t want to. And I didn’t know I was going to write a mystery until one day I sat down and started. Dead in the Water was as big a surprise to me as it was to everyone else.

Writing the novel was not easy. Often I found myself wondering what the next sentence, paragraph, chapter, should be. I would get up from the computer go outside and cut the grass. I had, at that time, an old push lawnmower; I cut the grass a lot. In fact, I must have had the shortest grass in my neighborhood.

I attended the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference a few years back when I started Dead in the Water. It was extremely helpful. I met with an agent who took a look at the first twenty pages of my manuscript. I wondered if she would say, ‘don’t give up your day job.’ She didn’t. She was encouraging and I kept going.

CB: And speaking of outdoor sports – Glenda also works in Guest Services for the Giants.

GC: I do everything from scan tickets, to take care of a section of the ballpark, answer questions or run an elevator.  . . .during that first season, the team won the World Series and I got to be in the World Series parade. What a way to start a job!

CB: Her website is http://www.glendacarroll.com

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New Class Starting!

VINTAGE HOUSE PRESENTS:

The Creative Writing Workshop

Mondays, June 10 through July 29  

from 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Register:

Vintage House 264 1st Street East Sonoma CA 95476 707-996-0311

$80.00 Members / $100.00 Non-member

Ana Manwaring’s creative writing classes through Napa Valley College have served writers since 2006. For a decade, her editing business, JAM Manuscript Consulting, has helped many local writers realize publishing dreams. Her short stories, memoir, essays, and poetry have appeared in The Petaluma Post, The Press Democrat, the HLG Valentine, Women’s Voices, KRCB Morning Haiku, Ravenspatch and many anthologies.

Now in digital and paperback

Now in digital and paper formats at Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jane Cleland is Coming to Town!

Sisters in Crime Northern California presents:

 

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Jane Cleland Workshop:

Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot

By integrating Jane’s 13 thinking, writing, and revising tips into your writing processes, you will write tighter, more polished first drafts.  Improve your story’s pace, while ratcheting up suspense. Use Jane’s tips as a checklist and a mandate toward your best writing ever.

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When:            June 1, 2019 from 1-4 PM 

Where:           Unity SF 

Address:         2222 Bush St. at Fillmore, San Francisco, CA 94115

Sign up to reserve your seat:         Eventbrite or Meetup

Jane-at-FL-Academy-Institute

Jane K. Cleland writes the multiple award-winning and bestselling Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries [St. Martin’s Minotaur]. The 13th in the series, Hidden Treasure, will be published in spring 2020. Jane also writes about the craft of writing, including Mastering Plot Twists and the Agatha Award-winning and bestselling Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot, both from Writer’s Digest Books.

SinC-NorCal and Capitol Crime members free. Non-members: $40.

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On when and how to make promises and reveal information, read Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot.

—Dan Brown, New York Times #1 Bestselling Author, in his Masterclass on writing

P.S. I’m not missing this event! Do join me in San Francisco on June 1st! ~Ana

 

 

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To Blog or Not

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I’ve been asking myself this question for some time now. There are some great reasons to blog, and sometimes I think there are greater reasons not to blog. Really, is anyone listening? If you’re interested in a rousing discussion on the topic, drop by tomorrow. And bring questions.

 

Writers Lunch
To Blog or Not

Friday, May 17, 2019 – 12:00pm

Join the MI writing community for a stimulating panel with three authors who will share the pros and cons of blogging. Please welcome novelist Ana Manwaring, WordPress expert Linda Lee, and non-fiction writer John Lumea of The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign.

Author of thrillers, Set Up and The Hydra Effect, Ana Manwaring founded JAM Manuscript Consulting and teaches creative writing. She blogs at anamanwaring.com.

Linda Lee is a writer, speaker, educator, and website designer who demystifies the online experience. She specializes in WordPress design, WordPress Websites, instruction, and problem shooting. Linda is the founder of WordPress Bootcamp, Smart Women Stupid Computers and Askmepc-Webdesign. She offers remote training domestically and internationally. Linda has been the Volunteer Director for the San Francisco Writers conference since 2007.

John Lumea is founder of The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign. His work in San Francisco history has appeared in the SF Chronicle, KQED, Mother Jones, WSJ, LA Times and more.

Mechanics’ Institute
57 Post Street
San Francisco, CA  94104

[parking map]

 

Check it out! JadeAnne’s Mexico adventures continue. . .

190303 Hydra Effect Cover Candidate 1

Now available in paperback and on Kindle

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Bye Bye National Poetry Month—For Now

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month 2019. I’ve enjoyed reading a poem (or two) sent to my inbox daily from POEM A DAY, Poets.org and KNOPF POETRY Poem-A-Day April 2019 (you’ll need to search for Poem a Day to find this and sign up—next year.) I’d feel sad, but there are may places on the internet to find poems. Here’s a couple more addresses:

 

The Poetry Foundation           Loads of resources

American Verse Project          A collection of American poetry pre-1920

Contemporary American Poetry Archive   Full collections of selected poets

Poetry Society of America      Full of great info, readings and a blog

Most of the sites include audio podcasts and blogs. Every day can be national poetry day!  And if you’re reading this blog post, you probably write poetry as well. Have you searched lately for places to publish? There are many. First go to Poets and Writers for extensive listings for chapbooks, calls for manuscripts, contests and conferences. The organization will send you a weekly prompt for poetry, memoir and fiction. And they’ve got great articles, too.

Here are some other places:

Pallette Poetry

Poetry Foundation

Frontier Poetry

The Sun Magazine

Rattle

It’s not over! Read and write poetry all year.

Join a group.         Take a class.       Celebrate a poet!

I’m celebrating the poet and book that set me on poetic fire as a teen:

And Let Our Two Selves Speak

For Lawrence Ferlinghetti at 100 years old

 And I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder

A Coney Island of the Mind in one hand

a cone of sugared churros in the other.

Come lie with me and be my love,

clink our glasses, a bubbling prosecco

at the top of this life

while the dog trots freely in the street

And let our two selves speak

where

a ring dove cooed in a cove

we kiss and take in

all the world offers:

raindrops and firestorms, madmen and kindness,

still deep lakes, and murder, weddings,

hive collapse and high rises, fake news

and novels; farmers and famine; poets

and pundits  and

have you ever stopped to consider

to wonder

the long street

filled with all the people of the world

and all the possibilities of the world

And have enough of kissing me

And have enough of waiting

perpetually and forever

a renaissance of wonder.

We carry it in our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you thought college was killer, well—it just might be!

As an author of recent debut novel, I’m always interested to read others’ debut novels.  I met author Kelly Brakenhoff through my Sisters in Crime, Guppies listserv and after a  couple of emails, I was thrilled to be invited to read and review her first mystery. I’ve been enjoying meeting debut authors on the page and sometimes in person, I’ve decided to make reviewing debut novels a regular feature of Building a Better Story. Blame it all on Kelly Brakenhoff!

Kelly Brakenhoff author of the new Cassandra Sato series. Just released: Death by Dissertation.

The ink is barely dry on Death by Dissertation, released on Earth Day.

Two months into her dream job as Student Affairs Administrator at prestigious Morton College located in Nebraska’s farming country, intrepid Dr. Cassandra Sato wonders if she’s walked into a nightmare instead. She knew before leaving her Honolulu home, she’d have to contend with the cold, but she hadn’t realized how stifled living landlocked could be. And now a deaf student has died suspiciously right before Homecoming and her boss, Dr. Nielson, not only has left her in charge, but wants the investigation to be quick and quiet. The research lab where the deceased worked is coming up for funding and Dr. Nielson doesn’t want to jeopardize it. But as Cassandra, Meg, Cassandra’s friend and the campus ASL interpreter, and campus security, Andy Summers, work with local authorities, the mystery deepens. Cassandra feels responsible for protecting the students caught in the tangled web surrounding the death. She’s still on probation and must prove  she’s worthy of her “dream” job, even as she’s the victim of racial slurs and vandalism.  As the details of the investigation leak into the media and the school is thrown into a public relations disaster, it’s her job on the line.

 

I’m a lover of campus mysteries. As a college instructor, I feel right at home with the endless committee meetings, the rules and traditions, and the expectation that I have nothing else to do but be at the call of the Dean. Cassandra knew this part before signing on. She’s spent most of her 28 years in school and is the youngest PhD ever to graduate from the University of Hawaii.

Brakenhoff gives readers a detailed look at the culture on a campus of higher education as she richly develops the characters. Cassandra Sato is sharp, thoughtful, witty and persistent. She’s also compassionate, forgiving and imperfect. She’s a good friend to Meg and a woman anyone would want on their side.

Brakenhoff knows how to craft a clear, meaning packed sentence. She doesn’t waste words or rely on frivolous detail. Her prose is serious, succinct and packed with exactly what we need when we need it. I’ve really enjoyed working out the clues with Cassandra and colleagues as their investigation progressed through the surprises and revelations. And more, I’ve come to like Cassandra and her allies deeply.

Brakenhoff doesn’t rush. Cassandra has the full scope of student life on campus to contend with and the extra burden of Homecoming planning and minding, as well as a death to solve. If you’re looking for fast-paced action, this book isn’t going to appeal. But if you are looking to get to know a place and the people who inhabit that place with a good dose of murder mystery investigation thrown in, you can’t go wrong with Death by Dissertation.

And if you thought college was killer, well, it just might be.

 

Chin chin!

My hearty congratulations to Kelly Brakenhoff on her debut. I’m tipping my wine glass to a successful series.

Enter to win Kelly’s giveaway!

AM: How did you come to write this book?

KB: As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, I’ve worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. My job has also involved traipsing across muddy farm fields, stomach churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures. I love the academic world, but strange things happen there that even a fiction writer could not make up. It seemed like the perfect setting for a mystery series.

AM: Is it going to be a series?

 

KB: Yes, I have at least four books planned for the series. Readers will get to know Cassandra’s co-workers and hilarious friends better in each story.

 

AM: Will Cassandra live through the freezing winter?

 

KB: Let’s hope that Cassandra’s winter is better than the six-month long slog we had this winter in Nebraska. As if snowstorms in October weren’t bad enough, we ended with a Biblical flood in March that completely altered the terrain and wrecked small towns and family farms. Cassandra would surely have packed her bags and moved back to Paradise if she’d seen dead cattle floating down the Main Street of her rural Nebraska town.

 

AM: What is your background that allows you to write about both Hawaii and Nebraska?

 

KB: Six weeks after my husband and I got married we moved to Hawai’i for five years where he started his first job out of college building a golf course. We both fell in love with the culture and special people we met there, but eventually we moved back to Nebraska. Between those experiences and my interpreting career, I’ve seen first-hand many of the things I write about in my books.

 

AM: What do you think of families buying their kids into top schools?

 

KB: This is a great question for someone who works part-time at the state university where I graduated from and where my own children attended. Deep down I think many of us know that very wealthy people have privileges and access to opportunities that most of us don’t have. The recent indictments give us proof, but students I’ve heard talking about it were not surprised at all and neither am I. I’d argue that one doesn’t have to attend an Ivy League school to get a good education, but that shows my bias for state school systems.

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. Death by Dissertation (April, 2019) is her first novel.

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My First Trip to Mexico

In 1973, I hauled my duffel bag  stuffed with bikinis (yes, itsy bitsy bikinis), towels, sleeping bag, mess kit, and summer reading on a greyhound from San Rafael to meet my then boyfriend Kirby in Elko, Nevada. Kirby came from Ketchum, Idaho in his beater VW bug—the Spud Mobile. We were headed south to Old Mexico, but first we had to stop at Kirby’s grandmother’s winter home—she was a snowbird—in Sun City, Arizona “to check on things.” Actually to borrow her pickup with a camper shell on the back.

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We were vampires, sleeping in the air-conditioning all day, only appearing outside after dark when the temperature cooled off to 95. We saw a lot of the late night golf course, a popular hang-out for the over sixty and after ten o’clock set. I didn’t see much more of Sun City other than the grocery store and gas station, but we managed to outfit our expedition and get underway in about five days. Seriously under-capitalized and under-prepared.

 

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We crossed the Nogales border at dawn on August 8, and made Kino Bay by the full heat of the day. We pitched camp perched on an empty bluff over a beach where gulls circled and called and took inventory of our equipment and supplies. Folding chairs. Check. Camp stove and fuel. Check. Tarps and nylon rope. Check. Flipflops. Check. Pancack mix, eggs, beer, watermelon. Check. Reading material: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth, The Abortion: An Historical Romance by Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins’s Another Roadside Attracton. Check.  I sat down in one of the folding chairs and got to work on Jonathan Livinston Seagull. Kirby popped a cold one.

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The next time I looked up (the book engaged me) we’d made Mazatlán. We found a palm shaded trailer park outside of town right on the beach and sank roots. The place was half filled with characters from The States. One hippie woman, living in her school bus with her small, naked children, kept a pet coatimundi, a south American cousin to the raccoon, that thrived on rum and coke and liked to sleep in a hammock with me. Old Tom told us stories about anything and everything, mostly his exploits in the war. We bought fresh fruits, vegetables and marijuana from Raul who drove his horse drawn cart to the trailer park every other day. We paid him $20 for a medio kilo.  I cut out a lid of the best buds then sold the rest to the surfer dudes who arrived a few days later for $20 and a bottle of rum. Everyone was happy, especially Kirby and the coatimundi, who did not smoke pot.

Raul

Raul and son. “Hey amigos, wanna little smoke?”

For a month we swam, snorkled, ate fresh fish, saw the sights and finished our summer reading in the hammock. We went to the disco, took a boat ride to the island, and ate at the Shrimp Bucket. Until we ran low on money.

Time to head home.

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Kirby drove straight up to the border, and I dumped the baggie of pot out the window before we crossed. We spent all but a few dollars on gas in Nogales, AZ to get us to Sun City. The desert, so fragrant and wide open with limitless possibility on the way down had turned inhospitable—an endless dun-colored landscape, dangerous and foreboding. images-1But we were kids, and when we’d spent all but our last dollar at the breakfast counter in The Silver Dollar Casino in who-knows-where Nevada, I invested it in the giant dollar slot machine and won fifty silver dollars.

In 1973 it was enough to get home.

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Kirby

 

 

Meet me in Mexico!

 

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