Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Who will remember me?

I went to a shiva call the other night (shiva: In Judaism, the first period of structured mourning. Throughout the shiva period, mourners come together in the mourner’s home to offer their condolences and support.) Although it might sound odd to those who are not familiar with the custom, this shiva was truly what one should hope for.

Yes, everyone offered their condolences and concern for the bereaved, but then the house was filled with smiles, chuckles, and remembered stories to share. The table and counters were laden with trays of cookies, cakes, fruits and hot foods — all brought by visitors or sent by friends to help “take care” of the grieving family.

The house was full, so much so that there was barely a place to sit, with friends who knew the deceased (some from early childhood), knew the mourning family, and distant relatives. The woman had been a teacher and former students and her fellow teachers came, neighbors stopped in, members of her social club. There were a lot of people filled with love.

Seeing how this woman touched so many lives and how many people loved her makes someone wonder at their own mortality and how she will be remembered when her time comes. Of course I know my immediate family will be there and most probably some cousins and even a neighbor or two… but will the funeral chapel be filled and will my loved ones’ home be filled with people who remember me and who will help to ease the grief?

I’ve been haunted by a funeral I once attended. She was, in my heart, a wonderful person, but she had survived all of her blood family and many long-time friends. There was a storm the day of the funeral and while she had been active in her local community, she had pre-made her arrangements in a funeral home that necessitated public transportation for her neighbors to attend. Between those that weren’t left to mourn her passing, the horrible weather, and the distance from her small circle of friends, there were only five of us (plus the officiant) in the chapel. Six people to send her on her way. Six.

When it is my time, will there be a houseful of people to remember me, or only a mere handful to send me off? Which one will I be? I hope that people will laugh and smile, I hope that I will be remembered fondly, and I hope there will be warm hearts to surround my loved ones and help them to move on.

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory is a benediction.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


I came across this little bio I wrote about my writing when I was included in "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" produced by The Authors Show in 2010. This is full of enthusiasm and excitement about writing, and, wonderfully, it is STILL the way I feel. My parents always encouraged me to find a vocation that I LOVED doing and I did.

I began dabbling in writing in High School (maybe earlier if you count my scribbled storylines for my favorite TV shows) and two of my short works were selected for my High School yearbook. The first time I actually wrote for publication was in college – it was a newspaper report and it was printed in a local weekly paper where I lived.
I went back to writing as a pastime but pursued it as a business in the early 80’s. As a child, and even now, I always had a very vivid imagination and loved making up stories and playing “what if?” My imaginary friends were very complex individuals and quite believable when I spoke about them. I often had teachers ask my mom how she managed raising five kids (there was only my sister and me).
I write because “I have to” – it isn’t just a job, it is a drive inside of me, it just has to be. I always say that my writing is synonymous with my breathing. I like knowing that my words are being read, whether it is my fiction or my newspaper journalism. I like reaching people and making them think because of something I’ve said/written. It’s even better when my words create a dialogue between readers. Because I have a strong Internet presence, readers have been able to find and contact me online. It is wonderful to read their comments and to be able to say “Wow. He (she) really gets it!” and to know that my meanings are clear.
It’s not always easy to combine creative writing time with the business end of promotion, marketing and even finances. No matter how well written or interesting your book may be, if no one knows about it, then no one reads it. To be “in the business” means that you have to tackle some of the non-creative stuff as well. Seeing my name on a book or as a byline under an article always thrills me. My greatest victory as an author has been seeing my work published and knowing people are seeking out my words to read.
The day I sent my manuscript query to Kimberlee Williams at Vanilla Heart Publishing was a huge moment in my life. I was thrilled when she asked to see the complete manuscript and literally speechless when she offered me a contract a short while later. Kimberlee is a terrific publisher, she is very accessible and encouraging, and she remains on top of her industry to learn the newest and most innovative ways of doing things. Promotion and marketing of my books is a team effort between author and publisher and what we are doing seems to be working.
I was very fortunate to have poet Daisy Aldan as my creative writing teacher in high school. The late Ms. Aldan was very encouraging and taught us how to tap into our imaginations. I would have loved to have lunch with Daisy Aldan and let her know what a wonderful influence she had on my life. Later I volunteered in the NYC Auxiliary Police in the early 70’s and was mentored by Detective Hank Spallone – Hank was our police department liaison and community affairs officer. He taught me to open the lines of communication with people. I use what I learned from both Aldan and Spallone in my career as a full-time writer; I write both fiction (my favorite) and non-fiction journalism. I enjoy developing a character and a setting, building a background and seeing it all come to life in my fiction. I immensely dislike walking away from my computer keyboard when I have more words in me to type.
I think that we humans like to tell stories and writing books is a way of recording our stories and giving them life. I build my characters with personalities and pasts that affect their thoughts and feelings, then I sort of throw them into a world I’ve created and let them make their own decisions. I always have a story to explore and I am always working on another book.
All of my fiction is based on life. I glean story ideas from the world around me, my own experiences, newspaper reports and even random people-watching. Little snippets of conversation may be the beginnings of an entire novel as I use my imagination to fill in any missing pieces and give names to the otherwise unknown characters. I tend to embellish things that have happened; I say to myself that I can’t be the only person to have experienced such things, but my imagination still runs rampant.
I enjoy helping new writers learn about the field and pursue their dreams. It’s sad to hear that someone gave up on a dream because of lack of confidence or encouragement. I’ve been blessed with the generous support and encouragement of my family, friends, publisher and fellow VHP authors. I’ve facilitated workshops on the writing process, character development and the road to publication. 
I write as a job and sometimes have to juggle the hours to make everything fit. I lead a very busy life with my community and family. Writing of any kind helps to relax me, even under the tightest deadlines. Whether it was seeing my words on the typed page as in my early days of writing or on my computer screen in more modern times, there is a thrill inside from the first opening sentence through to the last line of a book.
I write when I feel the urge and can get to my computer or a pad and pencil. Writing is a way of life, it’s a way of thinking and a way of breathing. Always remember that you are dealing with humans who have thoughts and ideas of their own – some people will like your work, some people won’t, you’re the one who has to believe in your work the most. 

Never give up, never stop writing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy 2020!

So it’s a New Year (in the Gregorian calendar) and aside from all the jokes about having terrific vision this year (2020 eyesight and all that), it is, like all New Year celebrations, another NEW beginning; I wrote about new beginnings this past October.

So what makes THIS new beginning different from all other New Year events? Well for one this New Year is based on the Gregorian calendar and seems to be more universal, most times even people who observe religious and ethnic based festivities also celebrate the coming of January 1. The Gregorian calendar is accepted as the most widely used calendar as it most closely represents the Earth’s spin around the Sun.

Most of us will probably, as in many years past, need a while to get used to writing the “2020” in our checkbooks and other correspondence. Luckily for those of us who make use of EFT (electronic fund transfers) through our online banking apps will send our check payments out with the correct date thanks to the computerized systems. But snail-mailed greeting cards and letters, for those few still doing that, will provide enough challenge, lol.

Here’s some fun facts about the year 2020: It’s a leap year since it is divisible by four (4), which means that there are 366 days instead of the usual 365 — this allows for the approximately one-quarter extra day per year that the Earth moves around the Sun, or exactly 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds. This year February 29 is a thing! By the way did you know that the turn-of-the-century years, even though still divisible by four, are NOT leap years? This is because years that are equally divisible by 100 are excluded… I have no idea why.

October 2020 will make the 438th anniversary of the Gregorian calendar, its predecessor was the Julian calendar (named for Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar was named for its creator, Pope Gregory XIII (with the assistance of undisclosed and uncelebrated astronomers). It seems that the approximately 11 minutes per year that the Julian calendar did not take into account threw the observance dates of certain Christian holidays askew. The new Gregorian calendar specifically allows for 365-days per year with an extra day every year divisible by four (February 29), and centuries divisible by 400 (otherwise years divisible by 100 are excluded).
Whew, I am glad I didn’t have to do the math!

Most people still make resolutions, ideas of things to better themselves, every New Year. And then most people break those well-meaning resolutions after only a few weeks (if they are that lucky to last that long). The new concept recommended by therapists and life-guides is to set goals WITH plans of how to reach those goals so that we each have a “road-map” to guide us. Part of reaching January is to let go of the past year — that doesn’t mean forgetting! Build on what happened last year, it taught you lessons, maybe you met new people, maybe you lost someone dear, but it was a definite part of making YOU. Let go of the disappointments, know that you have a chance to re-do most of what you didn’t manage in the year before.

Perhaps that fact that this year is 2020 and allows for all the jokes about vision is a sign… It’s a new year, and a new time to evaluate ourselves and work towards doing better. It’s a time for us to treasure our friendships especially those that have traveled the many years with us. Be sure to celebrate the person you’ve become, you reached this day, this year and this new opportunity.


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Holiday Festivities

I was extremely fortunate to grow up with extended inter-faith family. While we celebrated the Jewish holidays in our home, we often had the chance to enjoy helping relatives and friends decorate their Christmas trees, hunt for Easter eggs and sometimes, yes, attend Christmas Eve mass. Our family and friends joined us for latkes and playing dreidels, matzah brei and long Seders, walking to shul and standing in the back with me for High Holy Day services. And the wonderful thing was, everything involved family, love, and the history of our ancestors.

Again, I live in a Jewish home and the inter-faith family connections have continued to multiply. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to celebrate your own identity and share in the joys of others as well. A lot of it has to do with mutual respect, love of a Divine presence, and sharing our cultural traditions. We had family and friends of various faiths attend our children’s Bris, naming, and B’nai Mitzvahs just as we’ve attended Christenings, Communions and Hindu Namakaran ceremonies. It just seems as if the love is multiplied in so many different ways and sometimes also languages. There are so many similarities — for instance the winter season has celebrations such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa, each one is a “Festival of Lights” in its own unique way.

Growing up I did know a few people who frowned upon the inter-faith exposure, but it never hurt me. I never strayed from the religious beliefs my parents raised me with, but I did grow to respect, accept, and enjoy all my loved ones’ customs. And despite the fear some folks may have about losing their young to other cultures, it actually became a stronger tie to my own beginnings. I love who I am and I identify with my roots and I encourage others to hold on to their beliefs as well. There are those, in today’s world, who feel that religion causes wars and hate, but it shouldn’t. Parents should raise their children to recognize that every HUMAN BEING has a right to their own way of worship and to enjoy their religious festivities.  

During Hanukkah we celebrate the story of the Maccabees and how they led the fight for religious freedoms. We should all feel free to observe and celebrate our faith, to worship (or not) the way we want to. Every person has the right to find comfort and peace in their beliefs. I am aware there are fanatics in every faith but too many of them are using and perverting the concepts of their religions for their own gains, and that is not love of their fellow human beings. We have to learn tolerance and acceptance and reject the tirades of the prejudiced and close-minded. We have to teach our children that every human being deserves acceptance and deserves to be loved.

I wish you all the joys of the season. 
May you all know happiness, peace and family love.

Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Joyous Kwanzaa

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Help me write an HEA

As a romance author I am used to writing Happily Ever After (HEA) endings — I’m hoping that someone will help us to “write” an HEA for my family. My brother, Del (legally my brother-in-law) desperately needs a kidney. Del has Polycystic Kidney Disease and is now in End Stage Kidney Disease. He is registered with RJWBarnabas Health (NJ)  and a few other hospitals as well as with Renewal
Everywhere I look lately it seems that there are many people needing new kidneys, I’m not a doctor or scientist, but it seems so prevalent. The number of people requiring a kidney transplant has been increasing each year, the number of transplants received has remained at a stable and alarmingly low level over the years.
I read stories about folks searching for matches (living donors provide the best chances AND most of us have two working kidneys so can afford to donate one). It is so heartbreaking though to read how loving relatives and friends have tried to donate a kidney only to find that they are not compatible matches. I have a suggestion for you…
If you are not a compatible match, see if you are a match for another person in need, like Del, and begin a donation chain in your friend’s name. You will save multiple lives and move your friend’s name closer to the top so that the chances of finding a compatible donation are much greater. Likewise, you can get tested for Del Du-Bois (he needs a type O kidney) and if you are not compatible you can start a donation chain in Del’s name; this goes for any blood type.
Del is a husband, dad, grandfather, brother and a wonderful friend. He has been active in his community and his house of worship, and also with a local observatory where he has helped educate young minds in the study of astronomy. He is very loved by his family and friends alike.
Would you please help give my family, and so many others who need a kidney, a chance for a Happily Ever After? Thank you.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season and New Year.
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my husband & me, and my sister & Del

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Don’t Believe Everything You Read On The Internet!

The internet is filled with rumors and little twists to the truth… BUT the internet also allows very easy access to loads of research which just might be a bit more revealing and truthful.

When I am on a social media network and see a meme about critical thought, outrageous tales, or financial advice I do NOT ignore it; I also don’t re-post it without doing my research first. I make it a habit to find multiple sources about the alleged quote or incident, and I often find several conflicting views. I want to be informed so I do read or listen to several views, EVEN THE ONES I MIGHT OPPOSE. Prepared with information, various viewpoints and multiple sources (yes, sometimes foreign newspapers can give a reader a different perspective) I then MAKE UP MY OWN MIND before passing along the meme or refuting it.

It is actually liberating to be informed and THINK FOR YOURSELF!

BTW, a very important part of my research is to learn WHO is saying what. Very often honest sites will tell you a little about their political leanings or if they are producing known satire or humor; obviously a “right-wing viewpoint” would be in opposition to “left wing” EVEN IF THEY ARE EACH ATTEMPTING TO TELL THE TRUTH. Remember that reporters are HUMAN and it is natural for biased leanings, sometimes it’s just the tone of voice or the way something is worded that can alter the impression.

Some sites are not so forthright as to their leanings, search the company name or managing editor — one self-professed source of truth and honesty is actually being run by an individual who has had Dept. of Labor investigations into his firing employees who have reported on views and topics he vehemently opposes. Result, just a “bit” on one-sided reporting.

Don’t be afraid to read and learn about opposing viewpoints, it’s not going to contaminate you to listen to what someone else has to say, not if you are sure of your own viewpoint. When I was in grade-school, long loooonnng ago, I had a few fantastic and open minded teachers. One teacher, Mr. Newman, taught us how to debate but before assigning topics he had us each fill out a poll about semi-controversial topics. When he handed out assignments he ALWAYS had us arguing the opposite side of what we personally believed in. Frustrated I asked him why he did that and he told me “unless you understand other viewpoints you can never be sure that what you believe in is really right for you.”

So use the internet, local libraries, different news channels and listening to to others, REALLY LISTENING. Gather as many facts as presented by multiple sources as you can and THINK FOR YOURSELF, don’t follow the crowd just because it looks like the popular thing to do.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Who Am I?

I was so excited to find that my “report” was available today, it was more than a week before I expected it. I sent in my “sample” to one of the more popular DNA companies and while I already know SOME of my ancestry (a few cousins and I did lots of research), I want to know more.

Unfortunately my parents died when I was just a young adult and I never had the opportunity to ask questions that I didn’t even think of until I was raising a family. Now grandparents, aunts and uncles are also gone. It is startling to realize that I am now among the elders of my family (I really don’t feel that old!) I have an amazing thirst for my past, where I came from and stories that might also be a bit embarrassing. In many ways my ancestry is what made me who I am today.

My maternal grandparents immigrated to this country as youngsters or teens, I’m really not sure. My paternal grandfather was born in Puerto Rico but that was before PR was a United States territory. I’ve heard romantic stories about my paternal grandmother being conceived (and maybe born?) on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. What made each of them come HERE, to the mainland where I was born and raised? Without their decisions I would not be here. Heck, without my grandparents’ journey to the United States mainland, my parents might not have even met.

I’ve heard rumors of notable ancestors but without substantial proof. I cling to the tales my folks told me as a child about how they met and bits and pieces about their courtship. And even those stories leave questions as my sister remembers some slightly different tales than I do. So I want to know more. I want to leave a WRITTEN history of my family for my offspring and the generations to come. 

A few years ago a distant cousin began a search into our shared lineage (my maternal grandfather’s line) and it was fascinating, it went back eight generations to eight sons, but even that was incomplete as none of the possible daughters were recorded in the many sources. But it was still fascinating to learn some of the details. And imagine my surprise when I talked about some info I learned and an acquaintance that I had known for a little more than a year actually asked me why I was talking about HIS family! I had no idea that I was (even distantly) related to him.

There are those who don’t share my thirst for knowledge of ancestors. Some of these people don’t believe in genetic memories… or maybe are even wary about what they might find out. I respect their sense of “privacy” and not wanting to delve into yesterday — but that is NOT me. I say bring it on, bring on my ancestors and the stories of their lives, bring on my relatives both close and distant. Several of us in my maternal grandfather’s family tree don’t bother with the numerical designations, we are just all cousins.

And yes, if you ever do an Ancestry kit and find my name in your list of DNA matches please reach out, I will always welcome another Cousin!