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

Rock of Stages

After moving into my house here in Florida I set about trying to decorate it to suit the eclectic diversity of my possessions. I’d traveled extensively for years and many of my memories were tied to those travels in the form of furniture, statuary, paintings, masks, tapestries, etc. The trick was to try to keep my home from looking like the hodgepodge it actually was, and not, too terribly tacky. I am generally pleased with the way it all turned out, but I have to say, one room in particular presented a huge challenge. My 14’ x 9 ½’ one-step-down sunken sunroom.

I have an open floorplan with cathedral ceilings so my main living area has a living room with an island bar separating it from my kitchen and breakfast area and the sun room is located at one end of my living room with the step down and triple sliding glass doors separating the two rooms.

Each sun room side wall consists of patio type sliding glass doors. One side leads to the breakfast room and the opposite one leads to my office. The fourth wall is the back of the house outside wall which has two, 4 foot-wide jalousie windows starting two feet above the floor and going up to the ceiling, a glass single door/screen combo and one more small window, also starting at two feet above the floor and going up to the ceiling. I explained all this so that you could realize that at least 90% of the sunroom “walls” are clear glass doors and I had no idea how I was going to place any useful furniture in it.

My dilemma was I needed more walls, but I also needed the light the sunroom provided to brighten up the surrounding living room, office and breakfast room. Part of the solution came when a friend gave me her no-longer-needed room divider made of knotted jute cord. And that idea started me looking for other room dividers that were see-through. I found two “curtains” made of 2” coconut shell discs strung with black cord. The two curtains together were the width of two of the sliding glass panels leading to the living room. If all the sliding panels were drawn back or open, the three panels stacked into a recessed area at the end of the wall. If closed or partially closed, the recessed area was a blank single-door-size wall.

I decided to close the panels of the living room glass doors and leave one width doubled and open to walk through and then faux paint the blank recess area to look like a rock wall. Having never attempted painting rocks before, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but I wanted to give it a try. I wanted the rocks to look stacked up and maybe cemented in place, but I was having trouble visualizing different rocks. My yard doesn’t have any rocks in it, so I roamed around the house searching for something that looked like a rock. I found what I needed in the kitchen. An Idaho potato! Don’t laugh; it really looked like a rock. Ha! So I got my paints out and started painting with one hand and holding and turning the potato with the other.

After my painting project was done about a week later, I placed my reading chair and a small table against the coconut shell curtain and sliding glass panels between the sunroom and living room. A fountain was placed in front of the “rock wall”, and a knurly tree that I made out of a fallen limb from an outside tree went in the corner at the entrance to my office. The rest of the decorating project fell into place after that. I placed a rustic-painted ice cream table against the glass doors going into my office. My friend’s knotted curtain acts as a backdrop, and I put a wicker storage bench below the jalousie windows and a wicker tower cabinet in the corner near the entrance to the breakfast room.

Rock Wall

Beginning Rocks

Rock Wall

Coming Along

Rock wall-whole - Copy

Recess #1 Finished, Coconut shells – left

After walking past that rock wall for years now, I’ve decided I’d like to try to make the rocks look a little more three dimensional by adding shadows in and under some of them and by darkening grout. I still don’t know how to do it, but I’d like to give it a go.  Anyone have any suggestions? I’ll follow up with more pictures later when I finish. Please cross your fingers for me. FYI, I have noticed that the grout and some shadows look darker in my photos than in real life. Hopefully, I can make them more real looking.

Sunroom

Sunroom Complete

 

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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Read or Not Read

Did my title confuse you, dear reader? Don’t worry, I’ll explain. After my publisher launched my debut book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, in 2011, I gave a number of talks and signings for various organizations to familiarize people with me and my work. In addition, I was on several panels at writers’ conventions in which the subject of the panel had something to do with the panelists’ books, and a signing followed so attendees could purchase said books. For me, there were talks with signings at libraries, art galleries, and civic groups, but there was one thing in common with all these talks. No one had read my book yet. Of course, I’m referring to the public, not people who were associated with the publication of the book itself.

I had been attending writers’ conventions and conferences for a number of years before my first publication, so there were lots of writers whom I had met and also lots of aspiring authors like me with whom to share experiences. In fact, an author friend introduced me to her agent. Although my author friend’s agent wasn’t looking for my particular book, it was a good experience for me to have contact with her. I also did several pitches to agents and editors at these conventions and finally I acquired my agent at a convention. It was all so frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, deterring and inspiring, and produced both insecurity and later a bit of confidence and I loved most every moment!

In all of these instances people had not yet read my book, so in delivering my talk, I was always aware not to give away any important clue, or say too much about any character. My subject matter covered my motives for writing this particular book and what went into doing so. I talked about how I accomplished the research needed. Everything was general and somewhat vague, so as to not spoil the book for a new reader. I only realized this recently when I was scheduled to give a talk for a book club in which everyone had read my book.

The first part of my talk with this group was like previous ones since most of my audience didn’t know me, but I started seeing smiles of recognition as I went on. I was able to talk more freely, specifically about placement of red herrings, or why a certain character acted a certain way. During my question and answer period, I received some interesting questions that I was able to answer fully without having to be concerned that someone’s reading experience would be ruined by a spoiler. This was the first time since my book came out that I had specific feedback on it.

As an author, this experience was more helpful to me from a writer’s perspective. I guess one could call it a critique session from readers. I really enjoyed this. In this case, my audience was too kind to give me any negative feedback, but I would have welcomed that as well, because one learns from all criticism.

Reviews and comments on Amazon and Goodreads are good too, but in the case of the book club, I was able to interact with my questioners. That isn’t possible, of course, in a review.

The only drawback to doing a talk for a book club is that the author probably won’t sell many books, if any, because book clubs usually read lots of books over time and book stores and libraries usually don’t have enough copies for all the members to share. Since costs of books would get prohibitive, often the prospective readers will buy used books or ones from another vender than one that would provide a royalty to the author. I certainly understand that, but I have to say that’s not a reason for an author to not do book club talks, because I certainly learned a great deal from my experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, we do want to get paid for our work, but sometimes the lessons we learn along the way can be much more valuable than the cost of a few books.

I’d love to hear what you writers feel about this subject.

 

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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Dancing With Willard

I was sitting in my office looking around trying to decide what I’d talk about in my blog this month when my eyes rested on a letter on the wall from Mr. Charles A. Whitehurst, Vice President and General Manager of WSFA, a local TV station in Montgomery, AL. It was dated September 21, 1983 and it made me smile.

At that time, I owned my own G-rated “bellygram” service in which I visited businesses, hospitals, restaurants, etc. to help people celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, get-wells, etc. Instead of people sending flowers to someone they admired, they sent me. During my lively ten minute dance routine I presented the guest of honor with a personalized banner announcing the special occasion and I crowned them with my veil and tambourine. My job was really fun and I enjoyed it immensely.

When Channel Twelve called me they said they realized I was a belly dancer, but did I think I could do a Carmen Miranda routine instead of a belly dance? They explained that Willard Scott was coming to Montgomery for a charity event and there would be a huge welcoming for him at the airport when he arrived. High school bands would play, Mayor Folmar would present the Keys to the City, that sort of thing. Just days before, Willard had accepted a challenge to dress up as Carmen Miranda on his weather spot on NBC’s The Today Show to raise money for charity.  His appearance caused a huge sensation all over the U.S. In fact, Al Roker later said, “If the Internet had existed the day Willard Scott dressed up as Carmen Miranda, he would have broken the Internet.”

Channel Twelve’s proposal sounded so intriguing, I accepted right away. The problem was, I needed a costume and music and I had a day and a half to pull that all together. Yikes! Furthermore, I didn’t have time to go to the library for research. I had to rely on my memory of Carmen Miranda, the famous Portuguese-Brazilian singer, dancer, actress and film star who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. I scrambled together some bright, colorful fabric from my costume supply and started making ruffles like crazy. Papier-mâché fruit I had crafted years before became incorporated into a headdress to top off the costume. Then I rummaged through my varied music selection, and stayed up all night getting it all ready for Willard.

I called my next door neighbor, Chi, who heartily agreed to come with me to the airport. I was supposed to be hidden until Mr. Scott arrived and when he made his appearance in the terminal where everyone was congregated, I needed her to punch the play button on my boombox to start my Carmen Miranda music.  I’d take it from there.

Little did I know how cooperative Willard would be! When the Latin music began and I made my surprise appearance, he came right over and started dancing with me alternating hand to elbow, hand to elbow with the beat, and he even bumped my hip so hard, I thought I was going to sail into the crowd! My nervousness disappeared when I saw him having so much fun. His joy was infectious and the crowd went wild. When the news came on TV that night, Chi and I watched it and relived the whole experience, all over again.

The letter I received from Mr. Charles Whitehurst, which hangs on my office wall, was one of thanks for my participation in making what Willard declared, “a most warm and wild greeting,” with a request he be invited again. Every time I look at that letter I smile as I remember a gracious and fun-filled man.

After note: In December 2015, Willard Scott officially ended his 65 year career at NBC; 35 of those years were with The Today Show. I hope he is enjoying his retirement. He certainly deserves it.

 

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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Witty Writer Book Buttons

I discovered early on that a really good way to learn about becoming a mystery writer was to attend writers’ conferences and conventions. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made lots of friends and had the opportunity to meet my favorite authors as I scampered between classes and also sessions where authors talked about their careers and experiences, and I saw awards being presented and interviews and speeches being made and then there was—shopping! Shopping? What’s shopping got to do with anything? Well, let me tell you.

Conventions always have a book store so fans can purchase the books authors talk about during the event and I did plenty of that. But not all book stores only sell books. One of my favorites sells puzzles, jewelry, clothing (including T-shirts), even tea pots and book buttons!

I have a small collection of clever book buttons mounted on ribbons that hang from a shelf in my office, just to the right of my work space. Whenever I pause to think or rest, I can’t help seeing those buttons. They make me smile, bring me back to where they were purchased, remind me of those writers who have fulfilled my life with their stories and friendships. But I digress.

Topics of book buttons are as varied as the authors who create them. Some are about writing itself, while others have to do with a furry pet assistant, or perhaps the problem of owning too many books, or they may be quotes by famous people.

The following fit that category:

“But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” —Jane Austen

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” —C.S. Lewis

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”   —Jorge Luis Borges

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  — W. Somerset Maugham

Since I write in the mystery field, cats are common in that genre.

To a cat, “No!” means “not while I’m looking.”

Cat hair is the new black.

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Or catchy phrases:

Books: the original search engine.

Lit Happens!

Grammar Police: To correct and serve

Grammar Ninja

Warning! Anything you say can and may be used as dialogue in my next book.

The book was better.

Don’t judge a book by its movie.

First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.

Writer’s block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.

Some of my best friends are fictional.

My weekend is all booked.

If you walk a mile in my shoes you’ll end up at a bookstore.

Some more of my favorite book buttons below. Do you have favorites, too?

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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 Local Evening in Germany

A few days ago, my son came to help me put up Christmas decorations and, wanting to reward him, I offered to take him and his girlfriend to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose a local family-owned German restaurant here in coastal, west-central Florida. We go there often and are friends with the owner and his lovely wife who immigrated here a number of years ago. Just stepping inside their restaurant always makes us feel as though we have traveled back in time and are journeying down memory lane, once more.

We were a military family and we lived in Germany for three years. Our home was in Morbach snuggled in the Hunsrück Mountains near the Mosel River and not far from Luxembourg. At the time, it was a rather small village with delightfully helpful people and was not an area known much to tourists. So, most of our friends were either fellow Americans or German neighbors or people we met while we were there.

Every chance we got, we traveled around the country, trying to cram in as much history, art and culture as possible and as I looked around the restaurant at all the beautiful objet d’art that decorated the rooms, I was reminded of some of those experiences. Folklore fascinated me and how it was manifested in artwork and in particular, woodcarving. In the Black Forest, I met an artist who sold me three of his works that he had hand carved. He explained that the styles might be different in each, but they were based on German fairy tales, folklore and history.

The first object was a witch with a cat sitting on her shoulder. It was 8 ½” tall and carved with large strokes of the cutting blade which, amazingly didn’t hamper the detail of her figure or face or of the little animal. This technique actually created shadows and wrinkles and character.

Witch with cat

Witch with cat

The next object was a mask about 11 ½” tall.  I was captivated by the fact that the carving totally followed the grain of the wood; the center was the tip of the nose. It had to take real planning to imagine ahead of time how to accomplish the carving. The kind of thinking-ahead required of a chess player, I thought. Amazing!

 Carved Mask

Carved Mask

And the last object was a mountain climber which measured 22” from the top of his upper hand to the bottom of his lantern.  The carving technique on this work was similar to the witch with the wider carving strokes and was also rendered from a single chunk of wood, except for the feather in the climber’s cap, and of course, the metal lantern. I found it enchanting that the lantern actually lights up and hangs from the ceiling by the climber’s rope. Since then, I’ve seen this piece often copied because of its uniqueness and popularity.

Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Germany will always be a special place to me. I have wonderful memories of good times, good people, and good experiences that I shall cherish always. Opportunities to spark those memories again and again abide in my local German friends. Thank you, Dagmar and Uwe.

Do you have a place or people that remind you of a cherished previous time in your life, just by going there and seeing it or them? 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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IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

Today, I had an “IT’S All About Me” day with my hairdresser/nail tech/friend, Ashley. She’s actually younger than my son, but wiser than the Dalai-Whoever. When asked what was bothering me, I blurted, “I feel abandoned.” Ashley was juggling me and another lady who was getting hair color and needed time for her color to “cook.” I had come in for a hair trim and color and nail refill, so while the lady’s hair was baking, and my color was setting, Ashley was working on my nails. She looked me directly in the eyes and with her most tender attention asked me why I felt abandoned.

A tear leaked out of my right eye before I could stop it, but I bravely explained that only last month I had lost my next door neighbor, Nellie, and last week my very good friend, Natasha passed away. Before that, it was Bruce, my girlfriend’s husband; Marianne, my best friend and neighbor; Nate, my financial advisor/quasi brother; Michael, my ex-husband and good friend; Barry, my pal from Atlanta; Dawn, my artist friend. I took a deep breath to start on some more names when Ashley said, “You’ve had more than your share of troubles lately.”

The leaky right eye turned into floodwaters, as Ashley handed me a tissue, and my voice turned squeaky as I tried to tell her that I knew as I aged, I would expect that friends and family would die, after all I am a senior citizen, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

I told her about endless years I’d nurtured others, all the while wondering if there would ever be someone there for me when the time came.

About that time, Ashley said she needed to check the other lady’s color and she would be right back and everything would resume being “All About Me.” That turned out to be good because it gave me a moment to recover. I’m not used to wallowing in self-pity. I’m usually the stiff-upper lip kind of gal.

When she returned I was already feeling better. She sat and said, “Okay, I’m back. Go on.” I said I was really feeling alone; I have a son, but he has his own problems. I don’t want to add to his burden, but I wish he’d share more of his life with me. I feel left out of it, which makes me feel alone. She told me I have her. That’s true, I agreed. We share each other’s problems. Is it because we’re female and gals do that? She even told me I could come to her house for Thanksgiving if I’m going to be alone this year, and we could be thankful together. How sweet.

Gee, I’m already thankful and I feel better. I have wise Dalai-Ashley. And I’ve decided, sometimes it’s okay to feel just a little sorry for ourselves, for our losses. Thank you, Ashley.

 

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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Unique Grammar Lessons

I seem to have unusual ways of doing things or unusual things happen to me. You, dear reader, can decide if this is an example.

Years ago, when I was preparing to move into my college dorm, my mother helped me pack clothes and the two of us tried to imagine all the other things I’d need to start my very first semester.

Mom was used to having me close where she would be available to help with homework or guidance for different circumstances, and I’m sure, since I was an only child, she was prematurely suffering from “Empty Nest” syndrome. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to making new friends and having a bit more freedom than I’d previously had.

Once there, the transition went smoothly and I got settled in nicely. Everyone with whom I came in contact was friendly and helpful. My roommate and I hit it off right away. It was a whole new world and I couldn’t wait to experience it.

I got the feeling as I finished unpacking that my mother was worried I’d forget about her, because I soon discovered she’d packed a tablet of stationary along with an equal amount of stamped envelopes addressed to her, so it wouldn’t be inconvenient for me to write letters home. She even wrote the salutation, “Dear Mom” at the top of each sheet of stationery and valediction and my name at the bottom. FYI that was before cell phones and e-mail, i.e. people used to write letters back then.

Anyway, I tried to be a good dutiful daughter and wrote every week telling my mom about all my classes and activities, the people I’d met and how lovely the campus was. I even justified why I needed money occasionally. Sound familiar?

The surprise came when my mom wrote back to me. I guess I need to explain that my mother was a former college professor and very picky about grammar, so when I opened her very thick letters, I realized my previous letter was enclosed. I couldn’t imagine why she had returned my letter until I unfolded the paper and looked at it. She had gone over it and corrected all my grammar and spelling errors and marked them in red pencil!

Some college kids might have been aggravated by that. Not me. Once I realized what she did, I thought it was so funny it made me laugh out loud. That was my mom, all right. Bless her heart; she was a teacher through and through. Even from a thousand miles away, she was trying to help me.

As I look back on that time in my life, I am so grateful she took the time and effort to go that extra step, odd and insignificant as it seemed at the time. It really made me conscious of grammar and spelling and has made me aware to this day, many, many years hence. In fact, I think I have “become my mother” in that regard. I’m a real stickler, but that trait has helped me since I decided I wanted to be a writer. I still make mistakes, but I try to look things up if I’m not sure about them.

What influenced you to learn correct grammar? Was it memorable? Lasting, like mine?

 

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

 

 

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Wyatt Earp, Gone Again

Did you know the real-life Sheriff Wyatt Earp lived from 1848 to 1929 and was most famous for the legendary “Shootout at the O.K. Corral” in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881? And that some of his authentic escapades were used later in the TV show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which ran from 1955 to 1961? This blog post is about and dedicated to actor Hugh O’Brian who starred in the TV episodes. I was saddened to learn Mr. O’Brian passed away on Monday, September fifth at the age of ninety-one. He was in TV, movies and theater, but was also a dedicated and important philanthropist.

Many of you might not know that westerns were huge on TV in the late 1950s and 60s. I was a teenager and my parents and I would watch Wyatt Earp together as a family; something that has been almost lost over the ensuing years. My father was a big fan of westerns and we watched most of those shows and I still remember the theme songs from many of them.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s. I was in a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama with friends and on my way back from the ladies’ room; I spotted a man I was sure I recognized. I returned to my table and asked my friends if they recognized him as well, but no one did. I couldn’t let it go. I had to find out, so I gathered up my courage and approached the gentleman’s table. Apologizing profusely for disturbing him and his friends, I asked, “Are you Hugh O’Brian?”

He smiled at me and said he was. I remember being very nervous, but I told him what a fan I was, and that my parents and I watched his show faithfully every week until the end. I even told him I remembered the theme song of Wyatt Earp. I could tell, he didn’t believe me, but was hesitant to embarrass me, so I offered to sing it to him, if he would forgive my singing. He, clearly, was enjoying my interruption and said he’d love to hear it.

I summoned up the last of my courage and began:

          “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,

          Brave courageous and bold.

          Long live your fame and long live your glory,

          And long may your story be told.”

Much to my surprise and shock, there was not only applause from Mr. O’Brian, but also from his friends, and from several tables of people nearby. I’m glad the restaurant wasn’t well lit at that hour (they dimmed the lights for dinnertime), because I imagine my face was appropriately scarlet.

With a somewhat shaky voice, I humbly thanked Mr. O’Brian for allowing me to interrupt him and his friends and went back to my seat. He was so gracious and I think he was pleased to still have fans after all those years. He was a gentleman both on and off the screen. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I don’t have a picture of Hugh O’Brian, but if you’d like to see what he looked like, click: his website is:

 

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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My Salesman Dilemma

At each entrance to my neighborhood there are signs posted declaring, “No Soliciting Allowed!”

Of course, we all know those signs become invisible to salespeople. Maybe they don’t know what the word soliciting means, or maybe they think their product isn’t considered a soliciting product. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the signs haven’t been effective at all.

So when I answered my doorbell and saw a chipper young man I’d never seen before standing in my vestibule, I’m sure my face expressed the questions that were on my mind. Who are you? What are you selling? But before I could say anything, he started talking and went on, I believe, without breathing for several minutes. I was more fascinated that he wasn’t breathing than by what he was saying. He apparently believed in his product so much, he wasn’t even going to think about giving up telling me about it until he’d actually shown me how great it really was.

When I finally realized he was, Skip, a salesman selling XYZ vacuum cleaners and shampooers, I very kindly, but firmly, told him I wasn’t interested. I had a perfectly wonderful vacuum cleaner and a shampooer that went with it and I was very happy with them both. That didn’t work. He started his “non-breathing” thing again. I tried telling him, nicely, that our neighborhood didn’t allow solicitors and he might get in trouble, but that didn’t work either. He kept talking. I hate to be mean to people, but this guy wasn’t getting my message, so I backed up a bit so I could gently shut the door in his face.

The door wouldn’t shut. I looked down. I couldn’t believe he’d actually used the old foot in the door trick! I had to admire his tenacity. I told Skip I was not in the market for a vacuum cleaner or shampooer and nothing he said or did would change my mind. He said that was okay, he just wanted to show me. He said there was nooo obligation and he’d vacuum and shampoo an entire room for me at no charge just to show me how wonderful his product was.

At this point I realized he was wearing me down and the only way I was going to get rid of him was by letting him demonstrate his product. So I finally said okay he could demonstrate his product in my living room. He looked beyond me eying my fairly cluttered room with furniture everywhere and probably thought he’d do a small area and then, through his eloquence, sell me his cleaner and shampooer.

I, on the other hand, thought, I might as well get my whole living room vacuumed and shampooed while I had the chance to get it done. Effortlessly and free. So I told him okay. He said it would be a few minutes for him to get all his equipment together and he’d be right with me.

While he was outside, I dashed around and stacked my 5 piece sectional sofa in the adjoining music room along with the coffee table, area rug, two torchier lamps, a folding room screen, an antique chair, two side tables, and an antique brass temple brazier, and two floor cushions.

When he came in the front door with all his equipment, his eyes popped at the sight of the empty carpeted room. Well, he’d said a whole room. So he started vacuuming, telling me and gesturing all the time how well it was cleaning. I was reminded of when my son was small and he would call for me to watch him. “Look mommy, look!” And of course, I’d replied, “Yes, that’s really wonderful.”

When the room was all done, it really did look wonderful and I was happy I wasn’t the one who’d had to do all that work, for a change. I did feel a little guilty that I didn’t buy the vacuum cleaner or the shampooer, but after all, I had told Skip that all along. I wished him much success and told him he was very persuasive and a good salesman, but that I was just not in the market for his product. I think we both felt good when he left.

I’d love to hear about your salesperson experiences.

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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From Timid to Confident

For some time now, I’ve wanted to share with you readers just how much of an impact belly dancing has had on my life. As I look back over the more than twenty years of my professional dance career and time spent teaching my students, I can’t help but smile while thinking how changed I am from the timid, insecure person I was in the very beginning. Not just in dance, but in every aspect of my life, and I’d like you to imagine my words as an analogy for most any career.

Those who knew me as a beginning dancer probably wouldn’t say I was timid and insecure from their observations, because I was also enthusiastic and very much taken with the mystique of the dance. I, like most of us, suffered silently. I didn’t know many dance steps or how to transition from one to another. I felt my figure wasn’t ideal. I had no idea how to put a costume together or where to find the resources for costumes.  What about hair and makeup? There were so many things I didn’t know, and I couldn’t help feeling intimidated by all those dancers who were so good at their craft. Does this sound familiar?

Take heart. Perhaps if I tell you what I did, you may have similar results.

First of all, you must learn that it is all right to be timid in the beginning. In fact, that trait is helpful. It makes you try harder, want to learn more. If you live in an area where lessons are taught, take as many lessons as you can. Subscribe to publications, read articles and order catalogs that offer supplies. Attend seminars and conventions that give you the whole picture of what you have learned in the classes, and more.

As in any endeavor, networking helps. When I first started going to seminars, I took the time to write to the teacher or guest of honor, ahead of time, letting her/ him know how excited I was that they were going to be teaching and/or performing. That way, when I got to the seminar, there would be at least one person whom I knew, and it’s so easy these days with e-mail. I was always surprised when they remembered that I had written them, but you see, people love to be appreciated. Many famous dancers, I believe, are friends now, because I took the time to make their acquaintance. And the wonderful thing is that belly dancers are really great people. They are eager to teach you the things they have learned and to share their experiences and ideas. So there is really no reason to feel intimidated. Make friends with other students and with vendors, too. After all, your interests are the same.

The more you learn the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the more relaxed you are and the more you can enjoy this beautiful art form. I’ll always remember taking a seminar with the famous performer and teacher, Bert Balladine when he held his head high and told us that each one of us was a gift of God’s and we needed to dance as though we believed it. In the beginning, you may need to pretend you feel that way, (I certainly did), but as you master each challenge, it becomes easier to feel the beauty of the dance and feel beautiful performing it.

When you feel confident and beautiful in one area of your life, it’s amazing how that bleeds into other aspects of it. Because of my experiences in the world of dance and the wonderful people I have met through the years, I feel I have become more interesting, confident, sharing, and even disciplined than I would have been had I not had the courage to enter in with love, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try. So put on that smile, lift yourself up and start on your journey. You, too, can go from timid to confident.

With that said, see how you can take this “dance lesson” and translate it into advice for writing, or for artwork, or for music or science, or whatever your interests are. And have fun!

 

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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