Posted in Travel/Conferences

My Trip to California: Visiting a Kitten Rescue, Library, Bookstore, and More

I traveled with my daughter to three towns in Northern California from February 19 to February 23. The towns we visited were San Jose, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. We stayed at the Homewood Suites, San Jose Airport hotel. The room was clean with comfortable beds, and the staff were professional and friendly. A breakfast buffet featuring a variety of foods both hot and cold was included. My daughter especially enjoyed the smoothies. A free shuttle was also provided to and from the San Jose airport.

On our first full day in San Jose, we took a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. This is one of the best attractions in San Jose and was extremely interesting. We also visited a kitten rescue called Mini Cat Town located in the Eastridge Mall. We both resisted the urge to take home one of the adorable kittens, but I picked up a hoodie with the store’s logo. Also, in San Jose, I came across an Amazon bookstore on Santana Row.

On our second day in California, we visited San Francisco. I donated a copy of my mystery, Sea Scope, to the San Francisco Public Library and then we spent time on Fisherman’s Wharf where we saw Pier 39 and Ghiradelli Square. We also took a sunset boat tour by the Golden Gate Bridge.

On the last full day of our trip, we went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We played a round of mini golf, did some souvenir shopping, ate lunch, and my daughter went on some rides.

We enjoyed our vacation and hope to visit California again. Our flight on Delta Airlines coming and going went smoothly and both trips were faster than expected. The hardest part was leaving our cats. For my cat Hermione’s view of our trip, check out her Kitty Korner post on Sneaky the Library Cat’s blog.


Posted in Travel/Conferences

A “Beautiful” Day in New York City

My friends and I outside the Stephen Sondheim Theater where we saw Beautiful. Right to left: Jenny Pohl, Lauren Artus, me, and Vicki Maxey. (Photo by Dawn De Louise Banks)

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my friends, sister-in-law, and I attended the Broadway musical, Beautiful, featuring the music and story of Carole King. All of us thoroughly enjoyed the show which has been running on Broadway since 2014. I’m glad I finally had a chance to see it for several reasons.

Me “singing” inside the theater’s photo-op of Carole King’s music studio. (photo by Dawn De Louise Banks)

The main reason is that Carole’s music represented to me a time in my life where I was learning about myself and the world around me. It was an era when there were no cell phones or streaming audio and video. Kids played in the street, read comic books, and the only threat of violence was in a faraway place known at Vietnam.  In 1971, I had my first innocent kiss by a boy whom I thought I’d marry when we grew up. Since distance separated us, “So Far Away,” was a song that reminded me of the pain of being apart. I still have the album Tapestry up in my attic with my other treasured LP’s. When I danced to Carole’s music in my family’s basement in the house where I no longer live, I sprained my knee to “I Feel the Earth Move.” That didn’t stop my love of that song. Hearing it again and watching the show brought back memories of the 70’s and my youth. I believe it did that for everyone in the audience.

Me and my sister-in-law Dawn who also attended the show. Dawn is a singer and musician with Breaking Dawn Acoustics. (photo by Vicki Maxey)

Another reason I’m glad I saw Beautiful is because I enjoyed learning about how Carole and other songwriters and musicians of that period got started, their struggles and determination to succeed. The lyrics to Beautiful, the song that inspired the title of the musical, begins with “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better. You’re gonna find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful as you feel.” As an author who is also in a creative field that is very competitive and yet can be so rewarding, those lyrics make a lot of sense to me. I believe they also do to my sister-in-law who has her own band and performs with Breaking Dawn Acoustic all over Long Island.

Besides the song lyrics, there were several lines spoken in the show that also touched me. One in particular was the line that the performer portraying Carole said at the beginning that “Sometimes you don’t always get what you want in  life; but when you don’t, you get something beautiful.” That was my theme in the first book of my Cobble Cove mystery series, “A Stone’s Throw,” that everything happens for a reason, and I’ve seen it over and over again in my own life and have continued to feature that theme in all my books.

There are many definitions of beautiful. It doesn’t only apply to looks. Everyone has their own opinion of what constitutes beauty. To me, the show Beautiful was beautiful and so was Carole King and her music. Have you seen the show? Why did you go? What memories does Carole King’s music bring to your mind? I’d love to read your comments.

Posted in Travel/Conferences

The Cat Writers’ Association 25th Anniversary: Something to Meow About

This week, I’ll be flying to St. Louis to join fellow members of the Cat Writers’ Association for their annual conference. This year, CWA will be celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. I’ve been a member for twenty of those years.

Back when I decided to join, I was an unpublished author. I’d been writing for many years but; besides the articles I’d written for my college newspaper and the stories and books I’d composed in dozens of notebooks, I hadn’t submitted anything to be published professionally. Learning of this group that represented authors of all types who wrote about cats, I felt it would be suitable for me since I’d always been a cat lover and enjoyed reading cat mysteries by such authors as Carole Nelson Douglas famous for her feline sleuth Midnight Louie and Shirley Rousseau Murphy, who writes about Joe Grey, both of whom were members.

The only thing that stood in the way of my becoming a professional member of CWA was that I needed to have two published pieces. To fulfill this requirement, I began sending articles about my cats, Floppy and Holly, to pet magazines and newsletters. I wrote one about how I introduced Holly to Floppy that was published in the 1998 issue of Cat Fancy Magazine. I published another article on how to care for a cat with diabetes when Floppy became diabetic.

My cat Floppy who was the inspiration for my article on feline diabetes that was published in Cat Fancy Magazine and who was featured in my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow after he passed away.

When my membership was accepted, I attended the 1999 conference in Kansas City and met Shirley Rousseau Murphy in person. I also met Amy Shojai, the then CWA president and founder. I felt right at home with these cat-loving authors and enjoyed the conference sessions, awards banquet, and meeting  people with whom I had so much in common.

Me and Shirley Rousseau Murphy at the Cat Writers’ conference in Kansas City in 1999

I regret that I wasn’t able to attend any conferences after that first one that was so enjoyable. Although I continued to write and kept up my membership, I didn’t have much time or opportunity to travel. I was working full-time as a librarian and had a young daughter. I continued, however, to write cat-related articles in pet magazines and, in 2001, published my first cat mystery, “Stitches in Time,” a short story that appeared in the anthology, Cat Crimes Through Time.

In 2008, I published my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow, that featured Floppy, who passed away the year before. I self-published the book and didn’t sell many copies, so I stopped writing for a time until a patron at my library encouraged me to write another book. Me and Shirley Murphy at the Cat Writers' conference in Kansas City in 1989In 2015, I published A Stone’s Throw, that became the first of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series featuring Sneaky the Library Cat. The series now consists of four books. This first edition was published by Limitless Publishing and was later reprinted by Solstice Publishing with whom I now have six books including the reprint of Cloudy Rainbow, as well as several short stories and a novella. I also recently published a standalone mystery, Sea Scope, with Creativia.

My 7 published novels including the 4 books of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series.

All my books feature cats who don’t play major roles or talk but usually help uncover clues to the mysteries. The 4th book of my Cobble Cove series, Love on the Rocks, recently won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association and is one of several up for consideration for the coveted Muse Medallion that will be awarded in St. Louis this Saturday night.

The Muse Medallion, the highest honor awarded at the Cat Writers’ Banquet during their annual conference.
My latest Cobble Cove mystery that won a Certificate of Excellence and is up for a muse medallion.









I’m looking forward to attending another CWA conference and appearing on a panel of cat fiction authors. I’ll also be signing books at the Missouri Humane Society’s fundraiser with other CWA authors.

I’ll be on a panel with cat fiction authors top left to right: Mollie Hunt, Patricia Fry. Bottom left to right: Sandra Murphy, Me

My bags are almost packed, and I’ve managed to gather all my cat tops, cat ears, and other cat items to bring to the event in, what else, a cat suitcase. It should be fun as well as educational with speakers, editors, sessions on a variety of topics, and networking opportunities. My only regret is having to leave my three cats at home, but I know they’ll be happy when I return with my swag bag of feline goodies from all the wonderful pet company sponsors. The 25th anniversary will definitely be something to meow about!


Posted in Travel/Conferences

Revisiting Chicago after Twenty-Six Years!

The first trip my husband and I took together was to Chicago, Illinois in March 1992 for my Public Library Association Conference. We stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, an historic downtown hotel. When I found out that my husband was going to attend a conference for his employer in Chicago this July, I asked to go along with him. I thought it would be fun to see the city after twenty-six years. I dug out our old photo album and some of the scanned photos I’d kept and planned to try to locate some of the sights and exhibits he and I had posed by on our first trip. I knew that some of them would be gone and replaced by new attractions and places, and I hoped to include some of those, too, for making our new memories.

It was nice that I was able to book the same hotel, the Palmer House, that we’d stayed in on our first visit. While the rooms were different, the main lobby and the gold elevator doors were the same.

When we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, most of the exhibits had changed. However, the Main Street area featured two spots I’d posed by in the past.  Although we couldn’t reach the top of the museum’s entrance, Anthony posed in front of the stairs where he’d stood twenty-six years ago.




A mystery site that I identified by accident was a golden peacock door. When I posed by it in ’92, it was inside the Palmer House. When we found it in 2018, it was outside a few buildings before the hotel.

While on our trip, we also visited the Willis Tower that was called the Sears Tower in ’92. We were told that residents still refer to it by its original name. The tower has added some new attractions to the 103rd-floor skydeck. In addition to an incredible view of several states, there is now an opportunity to stand on a glass-enclosed ledge if you dare. We did and got some great photos.

Something new (but not not new in Chicago) that we tried was a dinner theater called Tommy Gun’s Garage where we had a great meal and were treated to an entertaining musical show with flappers and gangsters. We also had the chance to pose with a gangster.

While Anthony was in his conference, I took a mini bus tour led by See It All Tours that was a great introduction to the various parts of the city. The tour made stops at the Rookery Building, The Chicago Cultural Center that was once the main public library, and a perfect spot for a photo op of the skyline on Lakewood Drive. As part of an add-on to this tour, I was able to take an architectural cruise led by Shoreline Sightseeing that was a great way to view Chicago’s buildings.

After the cruise, I took a convenient water taxi to Navy Pier where I had a pleasant lunch outdoors at Harry Caray’s Tavern and then shopped until my packages were too heavy to hold.

Of course, a trip to Chicago, isn’t complete without seeing Millennium Park. It wasn’t there in ’92, and my husband both enjoyed strolling through it after dinner one night. Someone offered to take our photo near the famous Cloud Gate or “Bean,” and it was delightful walking through the flowered paths and seeing the kids playing in the water near Crown Fountain. I even took a photo of the lips opening to spray water.

Another attraction that wasn’t around when we visited twenty-six years ago was the American Writers Museum. As a librarian and author, I knew I had to check it out and wasn’t disappointed. The exhibits were wonderful and very interactive. I even had a chance to type on an “antique” typewriter.

Our last evening was magical as we spent it at the Magic Parlour, entertained by magician Dennis Watkins.

Last but not least on our city agenda was dining. Chicago is famous for its great food, and I had to forget about my diet while I indulged in some special meals and desserts.

At The Berghoff, a popular and historic German restaurant, I was able to have my favorite cake — Black Forest. At the Palmer House Lockwood Restaurant, I sampled Bertha’s Brownies (the Brownie was created in the Palmer House kitchen at the direction of Bertha Palmer to be served at the Columbian Exposition World Fair in 1893). After visiting the Art Institute, I also had a nice lunch at the Russian Tea Room across from the museum. And, because you can’t leave Chicago without deep dish pizza, I picked up one at O’Hare’s Pizzeria Uno counter along with a Chicago-style hot dog for my husband before we boarded our flight home.