Author Archives: Coco Ihle

About Coco Ihle

I am the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, a mystery about two long lost sisters who reunite and nearly lose their lives searching for an ancient treasure and a murderer in a castle in Scotland. I am a member of MWA, FWA, SinC, Alma,a family search organization, Clan Buchanan of Scotland, and Linkedin. My website is www.cocoihle.com

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

I normally write something about writing in general or about my life in my blog, but this month I hope my publisher will pardon the account of my adventure of the last several days.

Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, this year began Wednesday, September 5th and ended early Sunday afternoon at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is named for Anthony Boucher (rhymes with voucher), famous writer, reviewer and editor, is held each year in a different city and is organized by a group of volunteers. The authors represented are literally from all over the world.

The people who attend are fans, authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and other people who enjoy reading mystery and crime fiction. This year we numbered almost 2,000. The first Bouchercon was held in Santa Monica, California in 1970 and there have been others in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Madison, WI; Washington, D.C.; Denver, CO; Toronto, Canada; to mention just a few.

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announces the Barry Awards each year at the Bouchercon opening ceremonies. This year those prizes went to:

Best Novel: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Best First Novel: The Dry by Jane Harper

Best Paperback Original: The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens

Best Thriller: Unsub by Meg Gardiner

Attendees of the convention register and receive a book bag filled with books from publishers along with a Bouchercon book which contains ads for books and author’s biographies complete with photos, so we can recognize authors we don’t know by face, a schedule of events, maps of the hotel so we can find our way to various panels, Guests of Honors’ biographies and a listing of candidates and their books for the prestigious Anthony Awards which is announced at an awards ceremony on Saturday night.

Each day we all traipse to different panels that might be of interest covering all sorts of subjects. Some are funny, some are about the craft of writing, some are about helpful thoughts or experiences authors have had and are eager to share. After the panels, we rush to the book signing area to get authors to sign books we have purchased in the on-site book store and often to get a photo taken with said author.

In between all this, there are times when we may see an author we admire sitting in an alcove in the lobby area. They are always so friendly and willing to talk and share their experiences. It’s just amazing how giving mystery authors are.

The Guests of Honor this year were:

American Guests of Honor: Sean Chercover and Karin Slaughter

International Guests of Honor: Mark Billingham and Sara Blaedel

Lifetime Achievement (And Not Done Yet) Honoree: Ian Rankin

Toastmaster: Lisa Unger

Florida Guest of Honor: Tim Dorsey

Fan Guest of Honor: Judy Bobalik and Ayo Onatade

Ghost of Honor: John D. MacDonald

This Years’s Charity: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

 

And the nominees for the Anthony Award were:  (Winners in bold print)

Best Novel: 

  Bluebird Bluebird by  Attica Locke

The Force  by Don Winslow

Glass Houses  by Louise Penny

The late Show  by Michael Connelly

 Magpie Murder  by Anthony Horowitz

 

Best first Novel:

The Dry  by Jane Harper

Hollywood Homicide  by Kellye Garrett

The Last Place You Look  by Kristen Lepionka

Ragged; or, The Lovliest Lies of All  by Christopher Irvin

She Rides Shotgun  by Jordan Harper

 

Best Paperback Original: 

Bad Boy Boogie  by Thomas Pluck

Cast the First Stone  by James W. Ziskin

The Day I Died  by Lori Rader-Day

  Uncorking a Lie  by Nadine Nettman

What We Reckon  by Eryk Pruitt

 

Best Critical or Nonfiction Book:

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson

From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias  Boström

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

  Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jessica Lourey

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

 

Best Short Story

  “God’s Gonna Cut You Down  by Jen Conley

“My Side of the Matter”  by Hilary Davidson

“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor

“The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein

“The Trial of Madame Pelletier”  by Susanna Calkins

“ Whose Wine Is It Anyway” by barb Goffman

 

Best Anthology

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea- Andrew McAleer & Paul D. Marks, Editors

Just to Watch Then Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash-Joe Clifford, Editor

Killing Maimon-Dan & Kate Maimon, editors

 The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir-Gary Phillips, editor

Passport to Murder, Bouchercon Anthology 2017-John McFetridge, editor

 

Best Online Content

  BOLO Books

Do Some Damage: An Inside Look at Crime Fiction

Dru’s Book Musings

Jungle Red Writers

Writer Types Podcast

 

Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series

Dangerous Ends (Pete Fernandez #3)  by Alex Sequra

Give Up the Dead (Jay Porter #3)  by Joe Clifford

Glass Houses (Armand Gamache #13)  by Louise Penny

Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch#20)  by Michael Connelly

  Y is for Yesterday ( Kinsey Millhone #25)  by Sue Grafton

 

All in all, Bouchercon this year was another exhilarating and exhausting few days of events. It was wonderful seeing old friends and making new ones, finding authors I had not read before and connecting with established ones, seeing some getting their well-earned rewards and being disappointed for others. And for you, dear readers, perhaps I’ve given you some names of authors to try for the first time. Next year Dallas, Texas will be the host city. Until then…

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Great Day Versus…

When I wake up and start my day and everything just follows along in a neutral way and nothing out of the ordinary happens, it just becomes another day, for which I’m grateful. If something doesn’t go well for enough of the day, I might classify it as a bad day. Or, if a lot of things do go well, it’s a good day. Do you judge your days like that? Do you even think about it?

The reason I ask is yesterday was a great day for me, and as I expressed it out loud to some friends, I was surprised, and I wanted to know why. I guess I don’t take time to analyze each day, one way or another, I just live it and go on. Does that make sense?

But for some reason, I felt it was important to tell my friends I was having a great day. I felt that I should let them know that great days happen. Maybe they had only had ordinary days or not so good days lately. Or perhaps they might have had a couple bad days even. They hadn’t said so, but I wanted to plant a “great day seed.” I have the feeling you may be convinced I’m bonkers. So now, I guess I need to explain what makes up a good or great day versus one not so good or bad, at least for me.

As I thought about it, I decided that generally my days are good days, not bad or great. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing projects and setting goals for myself, and I enjoy trying to do something or say something nice or inspiring to/for someone each day. I guess that gives me a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Lately, I’ve been battling with a seller over a merchandise return and refund that started in May. All I wanted to do was return the items and get a refund. Things were complicated by the fact that I was dealing with a foreign company and shipping dealt with customs and taxes. I had paid for the items through a mediator, who was trying to help me, but it was all online and somewhat confusing. I guess that issue weighed me down more than I realized. So when I was dealing with another company with online back orders and discontinued items, I thought more complications and disappointment were on their way.

Yesterday, the day started with an email stating all was settled with the foreign company,  items were returned and I was getting my refund. Another email informed me that the items I thought were back ordered and discontinued might not be and had shipped. I was a bit confused by that email, but the mailman arrived moments later and all items I’d ordered were in the package. I could hardly believe it. Oh, joy!

To top it off, a package arrived from a friend I hadn’t seen or spoken with for some time. He had called two nights ago saying it was on its way, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a porcelain bell with delicate painted flowers and my name on it. He’d seen it and was reminded of me and decided to send it to me. I was so touched when I saw it.

Then to top it off, I was preparing to go to my monthly luncheon with three friends and when I offered to drive, one of the gals said she’d already planned to drive and would pick me up. We all spent a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. What’s not great about that?! So I shared my “great day” news with my friends and decided to share it with you, too, dear readers. A great day doesn’t have to be a spectacular or phenomenal or supernatural occasion, at least not for me. Just a day in which things go right and friends are strong. How’s your day?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Neighbors – These Days

I live in a deed restricted community of about 200 houses about 35 miles north of Tampa, FL, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, built around 1990. The yearly fee we homeowners pay is partly used for a landscaping company’s grooming around several ponds and for maintenance of our two electrical entrance signage areas. Our fees are also supposed to go for any legal action needed to collect any tardy or non-paid yearly dues. A couple years ago our homeowners’ board and members voted to resurface a portion of road that had gotten too badly potholed, added a beautiful fountain in one of the larger ponds, planted crepe myrtle trees in some common areas, etc. We used to receive a newsletter each month letting us all know what the board had been up to since the last one and I always volunteered to deliver that newsletter on my street.

Unfortunately, our most active board member moved away and for some reason the board lost its oomph and kind of fell apart. Now we get a newsletter once a year along with a yearly member’s meeting. Enforcement of the bylaws that kept our neighborhood looking nice, like lawns mowed and edged, trees and bushes trimmed, houses painted and roofs cleaned of algae, etc., have gotten lax and rentals have been allowed.

What’s happened is big companies or small groups of people like the “flippers” you see on TV are buying up houses and renting them to people who have no direct interest in this community. There is a county law that disallows cars to park on the street or on the lawns, for instance. The renters don’t care, so they do it anyway. And many renters are not taking care of the properties they live in. Those of us who have purchased homes here risk becoming “bad” neighbors if we say something. Many of us old timers are concerned about lower property values. Our homes are already almost thirty years old and many of us have remodeled insides and re-sodded outsides in order to maintain healthy values.

Directly next door to me is a group of unrelated people living in a single family dwelling in what they term a “blended family.” The problem is, I don’t see the same people all the time coming or going and there are multiple cars parked in the street at night, which is not allowed. When these people first arrived, I went over and introduced myself and I got first names of some of them, but no full names. They were very vague. I told them if they needed anything or needed help in any way, I’d be glad to do what I could. Most neighbors on my street know one-another, so this secretive behavior from them confused me.

This “family’s” house is on a corner, so the front and one side are very visible. The property was immaculate when they moved in and since then it has gone very quickly downhill. They don’t mow the lawn, edge it, take any care of the lawn, trees, bushes, and have left bright white sandbags left over from hurricane Irma outside along my side of their house along with a kayak (strictly a no-no according to our by-laws). I tried to tell them nicely, but they don’t care and they ignore all the rules.

Finally at the request of some of my other neighbors, I resorted to reporting them to the homeowners’ association board so a letter of encouragement could be sent to them. I had given them a copy of the by-laws when they moved in since they told me they had not seen them. The president of the board told me to just call our county code enforcement office. What used to be handled by the board is now expected to be handled by the citizenry of the neighborhood. I was concerned about retribution problems, but I waited until I saw mold appearing on the outside of their sunroom and the grass was two feet high and I saw a rat. It was time I did something.

Luckily the county was swift in acting and the people mowed today and a truck came and cut up all the dead tree branches and cleaned up the flower beds these neighbors let die from lack of water and care. So it took almost a year for these people to realize that they had some rules they had to follow or else fines would have to be paid. I’m just praying it doesn’t take that long for them to mow and clean up again.

I spent $3,000 on new sod just two years ago and I have a monthly service that keeps it healthy. I also have a regular man who mows my lawn, and edges and blows the grass off the street. I really don’t want these neighbor’s weeds to spread into my yard. Other homeowners feel the same way. I can’t understand why people don’t want to live in a neighborhood that looks nice. The whole neighborhood used to be really friendly, too. Now many of the long time neighbors are not happy with the renters and that causes tensions.

Anyone have a suggestion or solution? I’d really like to hear!!! The most logical is to forbid rentals, but I don’t think that’s possible.

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Understanding My Epiphany

I was reading a book a couple of days ago when suddenly, in a clear flash of understanding; I became aware of what propels me most in making choices and decisions. I found that especially shocking since I’m seventy-five years old. One would imagine, by that age, one wouldn’t be surprised at all by anything they might choose or decide. Yet, I was blown away.

The book’s passage had to do with how different people relate to life. Some people are practical and stoic and are led by natural laws following virtue alone, or through reason, fear, boredom, led or indifferent to other’s opinions, passions or emotions. I’ve always considered myself a rather practical person, most of the time, weighing pros and cons to make good logical choices. So I thought.

Instead of reading on in this book, I found myself dwelling on the dialog of one character to the other when he said to her that she was the kind of person who had to have passion when she picked her friends, selected favorite music, decided what to eat, even when decorating her abode. Those choices were what made her, her. But, she thought, if she believed hard enough, could she choose to follow convention or settle for security and not incorporate her passion?

What suddenly hit me was, the choices and decisions that have made me the happiest and most satisfied in my life have been the ones made with passion first, and not necessarily with thoughts of security or convention or so-called common sense. And I’d never really thoroughly thought this out before.

Not long ago, I attended my 55th high school reunion and our former class president asked several of us to each tell the group what we were passionate about now. One classmate said he wasn’t passionate about anything in particular. He was the only one of us who had not retired and when asked about that, he wasn’t sure what he would do when he did retire.

I remember feeling immensely sad for him when he said that. Here was a well-educated man, nice looking, healthy, very comfortable financially, with potentially lots of years left to him. The former class president asked him what he liked to do and the answer was, sail. Later I found out he’d bought a sailboat and I was so happy for him until I learned he was in the process of selling it. Too much trouble keeping it up was his reason why. He was divorced and didn’t have anyone to care about except two grown children. I kept in touch for a while, but the last time I spoke with him on the phone, he told me he wouldn’t want to live if something ever happened to his kids. Gosh!

I have a son, daughter-in-law, grandson and a sister and her family and I look forward to talking on the phone with them and visiting whenever possible. I don’t think about negative things that might happen to them or me. I just enjoy them and look forward to sharing my life with them and vice versa, now and in the future. There still are so many things I want to do, experience and share.

Although I’ve tried to be sensible, passion has made my life more rewarding and fulfilling. My mother taught me to be a “Save for a rainy day, but also enjoy each and every day to the fullest” kind of gal. But, for me, the special ingredient of passion has made “fullest even fuller.”

How about you, have you ever analyzed what drives you in life? I’d love to hear.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Words & Coco-Words

For some reason or other, many times I’ve failed to find a dictionary word that would work for me, so I guess I’ve always made up words to better explain what I‘ve wanted to say or do, and I figure, at my age, why change. So, I’m still doing it.

My son, Rob, and his wife, Florence, recently married and shortly after the return from their Hawaiian honeymoon, their employer moved them to a new location two and a half hours south of me. They had been only forty minutes away. I was sad to see them go, but I was also happy for them, because the opportunities in the new location are better. I also knew that it would take a while to unpack and get settled in their new home, all the while working full time and learning the ropes of the new job and location.

The three of us are close, but I figured there would be less phone calls and visits at least for a while, so I’ve busied myself with all sorts of projects to keep my mind occupied. But to be honest, I’ve really been missing them! I called them a couple of times, but I didn’t want to bug them. Nothing worse than a “Needy” mama.

So, a couple of nights ago, I was in my kitchen whipping up my evening meal and the phone rang. My caller ID said it was my son. Yeaaaaaay! So I danced on over to the phone and answered with my most cheerful, “Hi!”

Rob said, “Hi, Mom, how are you doing? What have you been up to?” After we caught up a bit, I told him in great detail all about the projects that had been occupying my time; the cleaned gutters, new backyard privacy fence, the Solar skylights I had put in my living room, and said I’d even had my regular check-up with my doctor and all was fine, except I had been suffering from symptoms of Flob withdrawal. At this point I stopped talking and there was dead “pin-drop” silence on the other end of the phone. Finally about four seconds later, Rob burst into laughter which went on and on. Well, you know how contagious laughter is. I started laughing, too. Pretty soon all three of were laughing.

Rob told me that when I said “Flob” withdrawal, he was frantically trying to figure out what the heck I was talking about. During his thought process he turned and looked at Florence and she had this subtle, deadpan smile on her face. He suddenly realized what I meant. FLOB was a combination of her name and his. I’m usually better as an audience participant, but every now and then, I come up with a perfect zinger. The three of us enjoyed another few seconds of laughter and when we eventually hung up, my heart was cured. At least until next time.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Spring Has Sprung

Spring is definitely here in my area of Florida and the scents of blooming trees and flowers abound.  Orange blossoms compete with ligustrum tree blooms and the delicate jacaranda and my favorite flowers, daffodils and hyacinths. It’s such a happy time of year; one with fresh renewal in the air.

I always thought, mother’s younger brother, my Uncle Rembert, was a bit on the quirky side and I liked him very much. He was a poet of sorts whose words, in style, reminded me of Ogden Nash or Willard R. Espy or Dr. Seuss. He was one of those people who always seemed happy. There was even a bounce in his step. He loved words, especially funny ones, and he loved playing with them.

When I was in school, I learned a little about figures of speech in English class. Words like alliteration, anaphora, euphemism, oxymoron, pun, tongue-twister, palindrome, malapropism, litotes, metaphor, onomatopoeia, simile, understatement, hyperbole, etc. That’s all that come to my mind right now, but I could probable look up a few more. Some of these are more familiar than others, probably because they are used more often, but these terms explain what the author is doing with our language.

I’m not sure my Uncle Rembert knew the terms for his poetry that he called jingles, but he certainly knew how to make them entertaining and unforgettable. I wish I’d had the opportunity to visit with my uncle more during my youth, partly because I might had heard more jingles to tickle my funny bone. Here are two of his jingles; one for spring and one for winter.

Spring has sprung

And the grass is rizz

And I wonder where

The birdies izz.

 

It blew

It snew

And then by jing

It frizz.

 

Dear readers, do any of you have a “tickle the funny bone” poem or jingle too?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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So Many Men…

I have a good friend visiting, 61 years old, who was widowed a couple of years ago after twenty-four years of marriage. We’ll call her Victoria, since it means victory. No relationship is perfect, but hers was what I’d call a solid, loving one, and once she and God dealt with her initial grief, she decided that with His guidance, she was still young enough to try finding another gentleman with which to spend her future years.

She is attractive with stylishly short, blond, highlighted hair and was a former model, which makes her height about six feet or so in heels. She’s fun to be around with a great sense of humor. She’s never had children and her parents are deceased, so there’s nothing that might present a problem in a relationship. Her only difficulty is she is hearing impaired. Two discreet hearing aids help her most of the time, but sometimes lower sounds are difficult to discern, so talking on the phone is not a good option for her. She has mastered the art of texting and has managed pretty well. Most of the time “in person” meetings with gentlemen are no problem; only occasionally does she have trouble understanding them.

After joining three different dating websites, she is on her 108th date as I write this. Wow! Can you imagine? Meeting one hundred and eight men? I asked her what her general consensus was about meeting so many men; did she notice anything in particular about them. I found her answer very interesting.

She said that widowers seemed to be more positive about meeting someone new than divorcees. Many divorcees had “bitter baggage.” She is looking for someone who has a positive outlook on women in general and for someone who is ready to commit to a relationship that could lead to marriage, and being a Christian is very important to her.

She also said that many men she has met complain about women submitting outdated photos of themselves in their profiles, but she’s found the same problem with many of the men. As a matter of fact, a majority wear sunglasses in their profiles, which make it impossible to see their eyes and they often wear a baseball cap, which often hides their faces and sometimes also hides a lack of hair. Men also complain that they think women just want a man to spend money on them. She has told several gentlemen that she’s sure some men’s complaints are truly justified, but not all women are the same. An open mind and persistence is her way of going through this process. Perhaps that philosophy would help them too.

What really puzzles Victoria are the men who seem absolutely captivated by her and can’t say enough about how eager they are to see her again.  Then she never hears from them again. How confusing!

Well, she just walked in the door and when I asked her how this meeting went, she said, “I’m really not sure. I usually have a more definite idea after meeting them. He seems nice. And if he decides he’s not interested, at least I’ve made another friend. Meanwhile, on to man #109.

Dear reader, if any of you know of any single, tall, Christian men around 60, let me know and I’ll let Victoria know. Send photos, with eyes and bare head showing. 🙂

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW. An atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Musings of Hawaii

Rob and Florence, my son and daughter-in-law just returned from their honeymoon in Oahu, Hawaii. I dropped them off at the airport in Orlando and my grandson, Colby, met them at the airport in Honolulu and showed them around, since he lives there. While they were gone, Hawaii was on my mind.

I had visited three of the islands in February, 1989, with my friend, Joe. On Maui, we had arranged to go scuba diving one day. The prelude to this activity was to have a short lesson in the hotel pool to make sure everyone was familiar with the equipment. I was about to find out that Hawaii actually does have winter so, while the air temp may not be cold, the ocean water is.

I didn’t think that would be a problem, though, because in my formative diving days, my diving buddy and I used to break through the ice in northern New Jersey quarries before diving in winter. Hawaiian water wouldn’t be that cold, so… What I hadn’t taken in to account was the fact that I was renting my equipment during this trip. I had always had my own before. That fit me.

The “wetsuit” I was given was not a long-sleeved neoprene affair that covered all but my face like I expected, but a puffy vest that looked like it would fit an extra-large Sumo wrestler. My whole bony little 103 lb. body could fit in the arm holes and as for my legs, they were on their own. No other size was available and there was no way that vest would provide me with any warmth. My instructor ignored my pleas and told everyone to get in the pool. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Not wanting to seem a sissy, I decided to “man-up” and shut-up. After all, Joe and I were experienced divers. Surely the two other couples, whom we knew had never been diving before, would say something when we all hit the frigid pool water. Wrong! Between them they had several hundred pounds on me.  Joe, being a guy, had more meat on him, too, so I knew I was facing a dilemma.

We all jumped into the pool and learned the vest held the weights needed to help us sink and it was also inflatable to help us rise in the water. Okay. The trick was to balance those two things so a person would be essentially weightless. I was used to a separate weight belt to weigh me down and the air tanks to provide buoyancy, but this set-up seemed easy enough. Next was the face mask. Can you believe my mask was apparently also made for a large Sumo wrestler? It didn’t come anywhere near fitting my tiny face. In the last fifteen minutes, had I suddenly morphed into a munchkin? Uh, oh, things were not boding well for me, but I didn’t want to ruin the dive trip for Joe, so I kept quiet.

To make a long story short, I spent all of my dive time trying to regulate my weight/buoyancy, clear my face mask of water and equalize pressure in my ears. So, my view of the ocean near Maui consisted of multi-sized bubbles obstructing my vision of some fish and coral, while I rose up and down like I was on a seesaw. Joe realized I was suffering from hypothermia when we departed the dive boat and the air hit me. He rushed me to our rooms and I spent a while in a cold shower to warm up, and gradually changed the temp to lukewarm. I was so exhausted; I slept the rest of the afternoon. So much for scuba diving!

The next day we went whale watching and every time I saw a whale surface, before I got the chance to snap the photo, it had disappeared, so I have wonderful photos of water and more water, port side and starboard. So much for whale watching!

The next day we flew to Kauai where it rained the whole time and our helicopter trips were canceled. So we decided to go shopping. I was lucky to find some colorful, thin wooden ornaments of Hawaiian fish that are perfect for my Christmas tree and remind me of Hawaii. Joe and I both bought exotic shells and had them drilled so when we blew them we could call the Hawaiian sprits to our homes on the mainland. And since I had had such a difficult time during our dive, he bought me a pretty dress to wear to one of the fabulous shows at our hotel in Oahu, the Royal Hawaiian.

Some things didn’t work out on this trip, but it didn’t matter to me. The Hawaiian people were so happy and friendly and had a certain spirit about them that I can’t explain. The scenery was spectacular and the food was delicious. I hope I get another chance to go. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hear all about Rob and Florence’s trip!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Belly Dancer to Writer

People have asked me how I transitioned from having a twenty-plus-year career as a belly dancer to my present career as a writer. The two seemed so unrelated. I have to admit I had a head start because I spent over fifty years searching for my family after being orphaned as a small child and when I finally found a family member, I wanted to write about it. But in further pondering the transition question, I surprisingly found similarities between the two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main hat I wore during my dancing years was as a Belly Grammer. I was hired to surprise someone for their birthday, anniversary, farewell, get well, reunion or event, with a ten minute dance routine consisting of three parts. The first part was lively Arabic music, accompanied by the rhythm of my brass finger cymbals. Then it slowed down for some pretty, mesmerizing veil work and the last part or finale was lively again, punctuated by the clinking sound of my tambourine. My guest of honor was seated in a chair by himself with people in a circle around him with room for me to dance in the middle. During the routine I presented him with a red banner with a gold glitter message of the occasion and included his name and a red rose. I also crowned him with my veil and tambourine during the number. It was good clean fun and became a very popular way for people to honor coworkers, bosses, family members and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I attended seminars all over the U.S. and became a professional performer in shows that concluded those lessons. I met other dancers who became friends and I traveled out of the country as well. This opened up trade show jobs and Greek Night events, wedding receptions, gigs in New York and New Jersey in night clubs, fundraising for the Leukemia Society, and as a staff writer for an international dance magazine. I danced for actor Cliff Robertson at a Scottish Céilidh and for Whoopi Goldberg on a movie set and Mr. Winton Blunt, former U.S. Postmaster General asked me to dance in his home for Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Bin Nassar. Two military bases in Montgomery, AL, near my home, had numerous events for which I was asked to help them celebrate. I started taking students in my home studio and was asked to teach at Auburn University and later to choreograph a production number for the theatre at Auburn U. I even did a tailgate party in the parking lot at Auburn University before a championship football game. I remember being absolutely amazed I was actually able to find my tailgate hosts without any trouble at the super crowded stadium that day!

Medieval Fantasy Dance

 

 

 

You’re probably getting the idea by now, dear reader, that one thing led to another in my dance career, and you’d be absolutely right. The scope for providing opportunities for dance was constantly changing and growing. In developing a routine for my belly grams I was telling a story through my movements and in some of the other shows, I was following a theme and creating a narrative through the dance itself. The magazine staff writer job and having to come up with written lesson plans for my college teaching stints were most helpful in my development with writing, but finding my sister was the clincher and I started writing a mystery novel involving my search for her. Years later, when my agent found my publisher and my book came out; it was time I retired from dance and start my new career. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have been blessed with two careers I loved so much! What about you? Have you had more than one career that you’ve loved?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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A Christmas So Special

Yesterday, with carols blaring on my stereo, I finished decorating my house for Christmas. Since I started the day after Thanksgiving, and this is the ninth of December, I either have a big house, or lots and lots of decorations. Actually the latter is the true answer. And I’m a whole-house decorator, really into handmade gifts, flower arrangements, garlands and lights galore. I want my home to feel like It’s having a Hallmark moment.

Dining Room

Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have stockings and ornaments that I made the first year I was married back in 1962. The jester stocking is my son’s. The medieval hunting boot was my history loving husband’s, and mine is a plush velvet French style shoe, and after my mother passed away, I made a cowboy boot for my dad. We had little money in those days as my husband started out in the USAF, but all our friends were in the same boat, so we never knew the difference.

Stockings and Old Garland

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1965, Vietnam interrupted a year of our lives and while my husband was gone, our son and I managed as best we could. We lived temporarily in St. Louis, MO, and Famous Barr Department Store had a wonderful Christmas area with specialty items not found in other stores. I remember walking around totally transfixed. I decided to splurge $6.95 on a nine-foot garland that had old fashioned lanterns on it. In those days and with my budget, that was a lot of money, but I knew it would look so nice above the stockings I had made years before. Can you believe I have used that garland every year since without replacing even a single bulb? That’s fifty-two years! Fifty-two years of frequent moves to cold and hot, wet and dry climates with the decorations often exposed to those weather conditions. When I put that garland up this year, one bulb didn’t light, but it didn’t matter, it has definitely earned its place in my home forever!

Flower Arrangement

Livingroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas tree is adorned with reminders of places we’ve lived or to which we’ve traveled: Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Poland, Russia, and England, to name a few. There’s also a family area with ornaments with the names of my son, his soon-to-be wife, my grandson, me, my sister, niece, and even for my late kitties, Annie and Pippi. Not to be forgotten are two best-friend ornaments, and some shiny plain ones to add filler, color and brilliance. Most importantly, there’s the Nativity ornament and the tree topping angel to represent the meaning of this blessed holiday.

Angel

P1010900

 

 

 

Christmas, 2017 is one of those extra special Christmases, because in eight days my son, Rob, will marry, Florence, the woman of his dreams and my grandson, Colby, will be his best man. Then we all will celebrate Christmas together, eating and singing carols in front of the fire. Doesn’t that sound to you like A Christmas So Special?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

 

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Filed under musings