do you know when you’re happy



Do you know when you’re happy? Do you recognize when you’re happy? I ask because it occurred to me I don’t know when I’m happy. Isn’t that strange?

Daily life can be overwhelming and stressful. I become buried in mundanities, in keeping up with my responsibilities, social obligations, solving quality of life issues–like dealing with traffic, trying to straighten out a misconstrued bill caught in the Kafka-esque world of administrative bureaucracy, realizing you’ve lost your wallet, your cellphone, finding your car stolen, your home broken into, your identity stolen, oh man, the list goes on, doesn’t it?

So I don’t know when I’m happy. Yet I know when I’m unhappy–that’s never a question of doubt. But when I look back, I see and I say to myself, oh, I was happy then! Why didn’t I see that? Why wasn’t I grateful?

One of the keys to happiness, I believe, is gratitude. Be grateful for your life because life, in all its unpredictability, is opportunity.

By opportunity I mean the chance to forgive yourself, forgive others, keep your promises, mend your trespasses, attain your dreams, love yourself and love others.

Because once the thread of your life has spun and the thread is cut, all your chances are gone. Once the thread of those in your life is cut, all your chances to do what you’d wished you’d done–like forgive, mend, love–are gone.

What it basically comes down to is following the golden rule (Do unto others as you would have done to you.), respecting yourself and the people in your life, recognizing your blessings, letting go of what you cannot change, adapt, be yourself, be grateful. And live one day at a time.

Tomorrow is always the first day of the rest of your life.




coming soon



This is why penpanther has been quiet lately. I had a January 31st deadline to complete the first draft, what I call the down and dirty draft. I started the prep work in December and actual writing began January 4, finished it January 29!

This week I’ll do the read-through, make notes, do additional research, and do this neat new thing I just heard about called a reverse outline:”>Revers.

A nifty revision tool for after your first draft is done. It gives you a panoramic view of the  book’s structure so you can see all of that elephant dominating your vision. Since this is my first time writing a non-fiction book, I want all the help I can find in making it as precise, useful and professional as possible.

I’ll begin rewriting and revising February 15 and hope to complete the first revision by February 29, then send it to my beta reader.

I read a variety of fiction–fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, romances, historicals, and literary novels. Some of them stay with me for years, some of them I’ll read more than once, (More than twice!), some of them disappear from my mind when I close the back cover. I find myself thinking about the good ones, still seeing the settings the writer portrayed, still remembering what the characters looked like, sounded like–why is that? What makes the books we vividly remember so alive in our minds? And what makes us go out and buy more of the same?

Writing Emotion is how I decided to answer that question.

I had a March 31 publication deadline but that won’t work since I’m going to put the book through two rewrites–one to get it into final shape and one to polish–so I’m looking at April or May, depending.

So, coming soon! Relatively!

Oh–the cover was done by Angie at Fiverr.



in the valley of words


Writing-wise 2015 turned out better than I thought. There were plenty of misses where the goal exceeded my reach, but there was strong progress too. So here’s my 2015 Accomplishments and my 2016 Writing Agenda.

2015 Accomplishments

  • Two short stories accepted for publication
  • Completed Dust, short story
  • Completed  Werewolf, Zombies, Sunrise, short story
  • Revised A Useful Blind, mystery short story
  • 10 short fiction submissions (far more than I’ve ever done in a year)
  • Wrote 20,000 words in 1st quarter (50,000 for the year)
  • Revised The Obelisk, short story
  • 52 penpanther posts
  • Began writing The Bone Box

Altogether I wrote more than in previous years and submitted more, and there was less wailing and flailing about–a good year.

2016 Writing Agenda

1st Quarter – January – March

  • Write Discovery Draft of Writing Emotion, creative writing e-book. Deadline: Jan. 31
  • Revise Runaway Heart. Deadline: Jan. 31
  • Finish writing Runaway Heart: Deadline: March 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – write 2000 words a month minimum. (Draft at 9,817 words)

2nd Quarter – April – June

  • Order cover – Runaway Heart
  • Runaway Heart – Publication date: May 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum

3rd Quarter – July – September

  • Finish Discovery Draft of The Bone Box . Deadline: July 31
  • Outline The Serene Widow
  • Writing start date – The Serene Widow: August 1, 2016. Deadline: September 30
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum

4th Quarter – October – December

  • Plan NANO book – October 1 – 31
  • Write Discovery Draft of NANO book – November 1 – 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum to finish December 31


I’ve allowed for thinking, research, shiny objects, and  downtime. I’m going to work hard to hit my quarterly goals.



Musée d’Orsay, Paris


Stepping into the main hall of the Musee d’Orsay, I paused to take in the magnificent ceiling and the great clock. The Musee d’Orsay in its gorgeous Beaux-Arts building, built between 1898 and 1900 on the Left Bank, was once the Gare d’Orsay, a railway station that operated until 1939.

The museum has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art in the world, and you can take photographs. Jean-François_Millet_-_Gleaners_-_Google_Art_Project_2 I’ve always liked Jean-Francois Millet’s The Gleaners; it was a treat to see it up close.

To my delight I discovered Portrait of Emile Zola, 1868, by Eduoard Manet. Zola’s novel of adultery and murder, Therese Raquin, is a favorite. I’ve read it twice (and will probably read it again) and watched two movie adaptations. I prefer the 1980 film with Alan Rickman.IMG_0328









There was an  exhibition of beautiful Art Deco furniture and magnificent sculptures in the main hall.

Along the Rhine and the Main




Tuesday, November 24

Passed the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine at Koblenz. Now on the Rhine, passing through Koblenz.

IMG_0814This afternoon we’re floating through the middle Rhine with its pretty towns, vineyards, forested hills, and castles. We’ll soon be in Weisbaden and then Rudesheim. It’s too cold to stand outside on the veranda suite’s balcony and take photos but I have great photos from the 2012 Rhine Cruise of this region.


November 25, 2:18 pm

IMG_1018We’re on the Main now, sailing from Heidelberg to Miltenberg where the ship will dock and pick up the passengers who went on the Heidelberg excursion. I did that excursion in 2012 on a sunny June day (loved Heidelberg!) But too cold for me this time so decided to stay onboard. We’re floating past serene, rain-wet countryside, past villages and thick hillside forests tipped with gold, the deciduous trees having turned. In the distance picturesque clusters of houses and town buildings cupped by the hills. Mists hang in between the hills. Miltenberg, a lovely provincial city on the river. My companions and I took a walk on our own since the scheduled city walk would be in the evening dark.








We visited stately Johanneskirche, a Roman Catholic church built in 1897,  strolled a cobbled street uphill past an old cemetery, and walked down centuries-old stairs past a garden of winter-bitten vines back to the main street. We viewed another old church with a medieval tower and baroque architecture side by side. We didn’t care to climb the hill to see it properly so stood in the street and looked up beyond a brick wall to where it rose in medieval splendor on its hill.


Bamberg, Bavaria














Bamberg was charming, its midtown clustered with buildings in the medieval and baroque styles. Harassed by a wintry wind, we made our way through narrow cobbled streets, watching out for cars wending along through tourists and residents. Despite the cheek-biting cold, I had to freeze my fingers getting a shot of the gorgeously painted town hall dating from medieval days, built on the river.

You might be wondering why in the world sun bunny me would take a European river cruise in November–it was a very, very good deal! Not only because it was in November. The Cities of Light cruise is a 15-day trip and is expensive even in the winter. Viking offered it this year at a third of the cost with round trip airfare out of LAX for $195 (free if you flew from the east coast) and veranda staterooms, which I could never afford otherwise. (Usually I’m in a cabin at the waterline.) I couldn’t pass it up.

Rainy days

Eiffel Isle de FranceTuesday, November 16 – Paris

Paris lay under gray skies in more ways than the obvious, but I was glad to be there, to finally see Paris as I’ve wanted to for a long time. The cruise wasn’t until Saturday so had five days to explore Paris. After getting settled at The Pullman, right next to the Eiffel Tower, my friends and I took a walk in the not entirely unpleasant evening cold to the Eiffel. I was impressed! The Eiffel Tower is enormous. Photographs do not do it justice. It’s quite a sight. We bought sandwiches and drinks at a boulangerie and strolled back to sit near the tower and have a late meal.

The next day after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, a delicious spread of eggs, a variety of sausages, ham, bacon, cheeses, fresh juices, fruits fresh and dried, nuts, breads and muffins, omelettes made to order, waffles, hot and cold cereals–you could eat yourself into a coma at breakfast–we took a taxi to Gobelins Manufactory, established in the fifteenth century by the Gobelins family who made dyes at first and later tapestries, which became their hallmark and brought them great wealth, prestige, and status. We toured the museum, viewing furnishings and military objects from Napoleon’s campaigns in addition to the Gobelins tapestries.

Notre Dame

Thursday, November 19 – Paris


Strolling about Montmartre, discovered the Musee de Montmartre and its exhibition dedicated to the painter Suzanne Valadon in honor of her 150th birthday. She lived and painted in Montmartre when the windmills were still there and Sacre Couer was under construction. She’d been an artist’s model and was the first woman admitted to the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Suzanne Valadon’s atelier

Saturday, November 21

Coming out of Paris, the highway travels through woodland and sparse suburban areas, large corporate buildings spread here and there–Toyota, SMC, gas stations, small villages and long stretches of pastoral woodland. Today, Saturday, November 21, 2015, the weather is cold and rainy. Typical November. Gray skies, thick gray clouds on the horizon, patched by sunlight.Autoroute East Champvoisy






On the eastbound highway through Champvoisy, traveling toward Rheims in Champagne province. Rheims was where the kings of France were crowned (in the town’s own Notre Dame Cathedral), except Napoleon, who crowned himself emperor in Paris. Pastoral countryside, sparsely wooded hills and dales bleached yellow by winter.

At 10:25 a.m., stopped at a highway rest stop. The wind is bitterly cold and dipped with rain. Got an espresso–it came with Rocher chocolates, figuring out the machine was a comedy of errors. The espresso maker wouldn’t accept the coin. The cashier helped. She  forcefully tossed the coin into the slot and that did it. On the way to Luxembourg now.

Crossed into Luxembourg about 1:25 p.m. Evening is falling now, but during the afternoon we stopped in Luxembourg city. It was cold, so cold, and I was without my mittens, but I had my shawl and of course my coat. The bus dropped us off at the Christmas Market where we grabbed lunch at a busy cafe. I enjoyed a warming soup of rice-shaped pasta, the savory broth dappled with zucchini and carrots. After lunch, back out into the cold afternoon to do a brisk city walk.IMG_0921

Luxembourg City set my imagination to spinning–its steepled nineteenth century buildings, the winter-bare trees, the lower town clustered against ancient fortress walls–the place has a fairytale quality.

After the city walk we took the bus to the American Cemetery. The day was bitterly cold and the rain turned to snow while we were there.


I was deeply touched by the spreading rows of white crosses and Morgen Davids. I’ve never visited a military cemetery like the American Cemetery honoring soldiers of WW2. All those crosses, all those young men who gave their lives. I took a photo of the Dedication Monument but not the graves.


Old city wall, Luxembourg, separating the upper town from the lower

Now it’s 5:05 pm, 3 degrees C and we’re a couple minutes away from Trier and the Viking Idun. IMG_1142














The Ponte Nigra (Black Gate), Trier, Germany. This was the northern gate to enter the city of Trier in Roman times.

I’m not the best photographer, but here’s a few visuals of my Cities of Light, Paris to Prague cruise with Viking. We traveled three rivers, the Moselle, the Rhine, and the Main.IMG_0996 Shown are the old bridge house of the city of Miltenberg on the Main in Germany, floating down the Main on a rainy day, the ancient city wall of Luxembourg with the upper and lower town, and the Eiffel Tower. I spent 5 days in Paris before the start of the cruise and it’s true what they say. Paris is lovely in the rain. IMG_0414IMG_0924