Impressions of Shanghai

Did I forget to cover Shanghai? I couldn’t find any posts when I was adding travels to the Travel page, so I decided to do the impressions. Looking through the photos, these were the images that I think about most when I remember Shanghai.

Night lights,

Night lights

high rises against cloudy skies,Tall buildings



a busy river,Panorama

and The Pearl of the Orient.Oriental Pearl and Convention Center

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend.

Runoff water in the Truckee River

Walking in the Truckee River

Okay, it’s sad. The Truckee River is empty. But not entirely! We did get a little rain over the summer, so the river has small pools of water feeding a bit of life. Here are the photos of our stroll along the side of the Truckee River and in the river bed.

I love this one. The flowers look like they’re floating.

Wildflowers by the Truckee River

Wildflowers by the Truckee River

I like the yellow against the grays, greens and black.

Wildflowers, Truckee River, California

Wildflowers, Truckee River, California

A great big plant, not sure what

A great big plant, not sure what

A few years ago, we rafted down this river with our family.

The Truckee River Bed

The Truckee River Bed

This water has collected from runoff from summer rain.

Truckee River bed

Truckee River bed

Runoff water in the Truckee River

Runoff water in the Truckee River

Water is so pretty, even when there’s just a little.

A glimpse of water

A glimpse of water

Sunlight in the forest is so pretty.

The forest next to the Truckee River

The forest next to the Truckee River

Happy Wednesday, or Thursday, as the case may be!

Forests of light, the trials of writing, and an interview of you (and me)

I completed the book that I wanted to submit in time for The Wild Rose Press Lobster Cove series. The ball, as they say, is in the other court.

I’m so glad I finished the book, and that I like it. That’s a good first step. I’m also glad that I made it outside last week to enjoy the Tahoe National Forest. Hopefully you will enjoy this collection of images from our hikes.

Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest

Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest

I would love to know if you had a goal over the summer, or any time, that challenged your ability to balance other things you like to do.

Log in water

Log in water

Did you reach your goal?

Trees with moss

Trees with moss

What did it cost you and was it worth it? Why or why not?

Dry creek

Dry creek

What motivated you to pursue that goal?

To be fair, I will answer for myself:

  • Did I have a goal over the summer that challenged my ability to balance other things I like to do.
    Yes, writing the sequel to Love Caters All in time for it to be included in the Lobster Cove setting, where it takes place.
  • Did I reach my goal?
  • What did it cost me and was it worth it? Why or why not?
    It cost me being able to relax more this summer, and it cost me anxiety, or I should say, it gave me anxiety! Yes, it was worth it because the book pushed me through to a new way of writing, one that I have dreamed of, but that I didn’t think I had in me. I feel that I became a more natural writer. It was also worth it because the book is meaningful to me, and it is amazing to create meaning. In addition to being about a romance, this book is about loving and caring for someone who is disabled. When my characters took up this meaning and told me their story, rather than letting me impose the story upon them, I was amazed and fulfilled. I was also, I think, changed as a writer. I hope it sticks! LOL
  • What motivated me to pursue that goal?
    This changed over time. First it was simply the next thing I planned to do. I set up a series with three sisters, not realizing how difficult series can be! Ah, the blind ambition of the ignorant. Then several readers wanted to know what is going to happen with the other two sisters, so the readers motivated me. I didn’t want to let down the people who took a risk and read my debut novel! Then my critique partners helped me so much that I didn’t want to let them down. I mean, they worked hard to help me pan the bits of gold out of the first draft. Finally what motivated me to push myself very hard, to push through moments of hopelessness when I was throwing out more words than I was writing with the deadline looming nearer and nearer, was my husband. He often is a bit of a writing widower. He also helped me a lot with the book as he always does. I simply couldn’t let him down. After I finished, I confessed this to him, and he said I wouldn’t have. Nice to know! One thing I learned about myself with writing this book is I care the most about my relationships with people. Oddly enough, that’s sort of what the book turned out to be about.

So now I am in waiting mode. This book might be rejected. Or it might not be loved by readers. This is what happens when we undertake to write stories for an audience. But you know what? Those things don’t matter as much as I thought. At least I hope I have the courage to remember this no matter what happens with the book. We have to look inward for our rewards. Yes, we create for others, but if we are satisfied with what we have created, then we must feel fulfilled and whole. And if we are not satisfied, then I think we need to be kind to ourselves, maybe set this aside, and try again. It is very often the case that later in our careers we will know what we need to know to bring that creation into being in a way that fulfills the vision we have, the feeling we have for it.

I’d love to hear from you if you would like to answer any of the questions or just describe a bit about an experience you’ve had of pursuing a goal.


Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought 6

As we weather this drought, and mourn the losses, I am mostly not complaining. We have the hang of water conservation, and I continue to be a happy Californian. I’ve lived here all my life. I am one of those people who is emotionally tied to home. I do have a strong affinity for a few other places on the planet and like to visit them regularly, but my home is California.

The Truckee River is one of the things I really miss. It is, or was a source of beauty, recreation and a living for many people and a source of life for plants and animals. I hope it comes back.


Lake Tahoe has pulled far back from its shores, but is still a beloved national treasure.

Lake-Tahoe-13 Lake-Tahoe-2

I was thinking about our  water conservation efforts and the fact that we managed to meet the new quotas. I feel really good about that, and this article in the New  York Times by Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” further encouraged me. The article is titled How California Is Winning the Drought. One of the author’s points shows that my prediction that population in California might stop growing or shrink to fit the water supply does not seem to be happening:

The drought has inspired no Dust Bowl-style exodus. California’s population has grown faster even as the drought has deepened.

Instead, we are tightening our belts and innovating, and our governor is helping with that. (Remember his comment that Californians have to learn to eat more veggie burgers? I thought that was hilarious.) I think we are eating more veggie burgers (and by implication, less water-intensive beef). I know I am! We found a super yummy one from Don Lee Farms. Super Food Veggie Burger

Governor Brown also said Californians are going to have to get over the idea that they have to have nice lawns. Um… yeah. We did this a couple years ago.

Here’s another encouraging quote from this awesome article.

Last fall, prodded by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, the California Legislature passed a sweeping groundwater law, taking California from having the least regulated groundwater in the country to being a model. The concept is simple: No community will be allowed to pump more water from the underground aquifers than can refill those aquifers — either naturally, or with human help.

The law is so innovative, it will eventually remake water use across the state, and if other states pay attention, across the nation. The law could inspire new techniques for getting rainwater to refill overtaxed aquifers.

We still need rain and snow, though.

California’s resilience is fragile. It won’t last another two years, it might not last another year.

Some towns’ wells have run dry, leaving residents having to get bottled water. Hopefully, El Nino will bring us water this year. We’ve seen a lot of unusual precipitation, storms dragged up here from the tropics, not by El Nino, but other factors. Unfortunately, they come with lightning and trigger wildfires, but there has been some rain.

Fingers are crossed throughout the state that storms will come this year. We and friends of ours are getting roof repairs done in anticipation!

Review of THE SECRET SISTER and author interview with Brenda Novak

Today I’m reviewing THE SECRET SISTER, by Brenda Novak.

This book will have wide appeal. There’s a romantic element in the book, but anyone who wants to be consumed by a great book will love this one.

The Secret Sister Final Front

Click here to go to Brenda’s page with all links and some reviews

Nicci’s Review:

THE SECRET SISTER, by Brenda Novak, is a riveting and realistic tale of Maisie Lazarow, a children’s book author whose life is in ruins. She retreats to her hometown, an island off the coast of North Carolina. Upon her arrival she finds that the bungalows she will one day inherit and where she hopes to stay are hurricane battered. Maisie’s mother is as cruel and her brother as volatile as ever. Maisie’s mother has also sold off part of Maisie’s inheritance, the bungalows, to a construction contractor as payment for rebuilding the units.

Even as she tries to regain her balance the sands shift beneath Maisie’s feet when she discovers a secret that rewrites history and threatens to destroy the fragile remains of the very family she is trying to rebuild.

This riveting tale has pure Brenda Novak emotional immediacy, that feeling that the story is happening to you. THE SECRET SISTER will draw you in and not let go until the fully satisfying ending.

What always amazes me about Brenda Novak is the subtlety of the wrongdoers. This family story explores the complex feelings of adult children who are products of very difficult, even abusive, parents. Of particular interest to me was how Maisey’s feelings about her late father slid across the spectrum from love and grief to fear that she would lose even her belief in his kindness, which has served as the one stick she could cling to in the rough seas of her life.

I like how the book hinges on simple clues, secret pictures and letters. I like the suspense which is gripping without being a thriller. This book reminds me a little bit of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter but with the reliable story magic of Brenda Novak.

New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak was kind enough to answer these interview questions for my blog. Enjoy, and read the book! You won’t be disappointed. You can get all the buy links here:

Now for the interview! Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.

Welcome, Brenda!


Brenda: Thank you for the lovely review. I’m so glad you liked the story—and it was such a pleasure to have you come to the launch party for this book.

Nicci: You’re welcome! And thank you—your launch party for THE SECRET SISTER was awesome. We had fun and love our signed books. Getting to THE SECRET SISTER, you mentioned enjoying writing a Gothic style with this book. Can you say a word or two about what you mean by a Gothic-style story, and also any tips as to creating that atmosphere? For example, I love the name, Coldiron House. You must have had fun naming the house. Is a cold and forbidding mansion an important part of a Gothic type book?

Brenda: Yes, I think a cold and forbidding mansion plays a role in most Gothic novels, and I wanted a little bit of that feeling here, so the ancestral home served nicely for those purposes. Gothic novels are a bit dark and foreboding and mysterious—all things I love as long as the story is also good, which is where the challenge came in, of course. JANE EYRE is a classic Gothic story, and it’s one of my favorites.

A Gothic designation probably has more to do with tone than anything else, so anything that adds a certain dark or mysterious feeling to a novel would help to carry it in that direction.

Nicci: I love the scene where Laney keeps wringing her dress. What amazed me about that was how you built in conflict even into that scene with this character action. Can you share a little of your experience crafting that scene (without giving anything away)?

Brenda: So much of what I do is instinctual that I’m afraid it’s difficult for me to break down my process enough to describe why I did certain things in this novel. I didn’t really intend to create conflict here (not consciously) so much as I knew a scene without some kind of tension is flat and boring. I always try to have something at stake—in every scene—which is where most tension comes from. I also had some characters who bring their own kind of tension, just because one is so difficult.

Nicci: I enjoyed the text message interactions between the characters very much, particularly the tension as the characters are surprised by them or waiting for responses. At one point you had two scenes happening around text messages, on the heroine’s side interacting with her family and on the hero’s side with him and his daughter. You use this new technology naturally and well. Can you share your experience of working with texting in your novel?

Brenda: Thank you. Texting was actually kind of difficult for me to add into my work, at first. I guess that’s because I started writing before I started texting. LOL Now I text so often with my children, husband and friends, that it’s natural for me to have my characters interact the same way.

Nicci: Your bio at the end says you have raised $2.4 million for diabetes research, but in your Author’s note, that figure increased to $2.7 million. This is an incredible achievement. So many people are affected by diabetes, so I would like to provide a link to another book of yours from which all proceeds go to this cause. My blog followers know how much I love food, and I was first in line to get this wonderful cookbook. LOVE THAT! Brenda Novak’s Every Occasion Cookbook.


Click here to help find a cure for Diabetes

Brenda: Yes, there’s a discrepancy because I turned in the manuscript for THE SECRET SISTER before I did my fundraiser for this year. I added in the amount I was hoping to raise, thinking we would get there (like we had every other year). Alas, we didn’t raise quite that much this time. We are only at $2.5 million as a cumulative total, but maybe we can push that up with sales of the cookbook, which is something I continue to push. So thank you for your efforts to help me with that.