Tag Archive for: Mark Twain

Travel: A Path to World Peace

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

“Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness …”  (Innocents Abroad)

On the other hand, there’s no
place like home.

After a summer of living in
Denmark, with side trips to Iceland, Scotland, Finland, and Estonia, I boarded
what I hoped was my last airplane for a while on August 31. We stood in line to
clear security at Kastrup, and I wondered if any other country besides our
Scandinavian haven had withstood such an onslaught of tourists.

Despite the hordes—and my
being patted down at the airport—the multitudes and I proceeded to our flights
without incident. Standing in front of Customs, I felt a frisson of tension.
(We learned before departing the US that Iceland is part of the Schengen Area).

So? You might ask.

Schengen Agreement … 

This Agreement allows people
and goods to cross 26 EU borders without visas or other kinds of border controls.
US citizens can remain in the entire area
a total of 90 days within a 180-day period. Pretty straight forward. (My husband traveled on his Danish passport and so avoided the “rules).

Yes, but …

I knew about the restrictions
before leaving the US on May 27 for Iceland. Iceland is part of the Schengen
Agreement. Six days there before going to Denmark meant I would exceed the 90-day allotment. I called
the Danish Consulate near my home in late April and got the reassurance that I could go to
any police station in Denmark and receive an extension of my 90 days.

Once upon a time, yes. In June 2019 …
I had to go to Danish Immigration with a long form filled out by my husband’s
lawyer-cousin. The clerks who handled my request warned us I would very likely have
my request rejected. (About a hundred people—Mid-Eastern women, mostly, with
small kids and babies—queued up to other lines to submit their papers). I never
learned the outcome of their petitions, but I realized my extension mattered
nothing compared to immigrants seeking asylum.

Ever optimistic about my own
case, I thought playing the “family” card would over-ride
bureaucracy. Family is a very big deal in Denmark. My husband’s family had
planned a major reunion for us and dozens of cousins on August 25. Our adult kids
were coming from the US to take part in the festivities. Et cetera. Et cetera. Etc.

Nothing personal … and no narrow-mindedness …
just the rules …

In less than a week, we received
the official word, delivered by Priority Mail. I had to leave on the 24th
or risk a hefty fine and exclusion from the EU for an unspecified time if I
violated the rules.
A trip to the American
Embassy resulted in no hope. Naively, I assumed someone in the US Embassy would
take up my case. Denmark, I learned, now has some of the strictest immigration
policies in Europe. And no, I could expect no help from US personnel.

A loophole …

A light shone at the end of
the tunnel though. One loophole existed. I could leave Denmark for 6 days (the
number by which I would exceed my stay) and then return to Denmark, giving me a
total of 90 days in the country.

But … but … where could I go?

The UK or Croatia. Or, of
course, back to the States. Choices, choices.
Brexit mania was all over the
European news in mid-July. Did I really want to go to London under those

After five minutes of
discussion about cheaper airfares, shorter flights, and another visit to
Croatia, my husband and I chose Scotland for our sojourn. I’d always wanted to
tip-toe through the heather—if I could visit during a rain-free period.


Raindrops keep dancin’ on my head …

Sunshine shone on us every
day except for our bus trip to Stirling to visit the castle. Since we’d enjoyed
perfect weather at Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t complain. Dozens of Scotsmen
told us how lucky we were not to have to resort to rain-gear, and we agreed.

Our six days in Edinburg flew
by. We missed the heatwave that hit the week after we left, and we returned to
Copenhagen almost glad for the need to make the side trip.

And yes, we tried haggis—almost
edible with a couple of cold local beers.

Our trips to Finland and
Estonia, planned before our imposed trip to Scotland, proved uneventful. Great
weather. Manageable crowds. Quiet and relaxing.

Heading home …

By the last week of August, despite
an amazing summer, we were ready to go home on the 31st.  An eleven-hour flight lay ahead of us so we
decided to check for lounge availability and pay for a more quiet place to
relax before takeoff. Pay, because Norwegian Air no longer provided free lounge
entrance for Premium passengers. If we upgraded to Premium-Plus status, then we
could stay for the 2-hour wait time for free. Another thousand dollars seemed
excessive …

As we checked with the desk
attendant regarding available space, she told us the charge would be $40
each.  We hesitated. Then, a young woman
behind us, offered to make us her guests. Surprised, but quite happy, we
accepted. We thanked her and discovered she’d grown up in Silicon Valley. She
now lives in Boston, but the world is a small place.

We settled in with coffee and
comfy chairs and marveled at our good luck. “Travel [really] is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

How about you. Do your travel
experiences support Twain’s statement?
When not traveling the world,
Barbara Plum and her alter ego, AB Plum, live in Silicon Valley. Her latest
romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight
is available FREE through Thursday. 

Time Flies When You’re Having fun

By Evelyn David

I love Mark Twain. I was thinking of writing a blog on
procrastination and found his thoughts on the matter: Never put off until
tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Of course, finding clever quotations is one of my favorite
forms of procrastination, so there you have it.

When we first began The Stiletto Gang (five years next
January!), I wrote a blog about playing Free Cell, http://tinyurl.com/freecellblog. It
was all about procrastination, guilt, and the writer’s spirit.

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t played Free Cell in at
least three years.

But have you ever played Lexulous? It’s a Scrabble-type game
and I justify playing it by saying it improves my vocabulary. The problem is I
now know a plethora of new words (and by the way I knew the word plethora
before playing Lexulous) – but I have no idea what they mean. Za? Wo? Xi?

Anyway, I was feeling guilty again (and we all, by all I mean family,
friends, and even complete strangers, agree that Guilt is Marian’s middle name).
Tempus Fugit, etc.

But then I had this conversation with a friend which
suddenly made my playing Lexulous not only perfectly acceptable, but in fact,
part of the creative process. She explained that when she confronted her husband about his playing Backgammon online (and I do think that is a classier game than Lexulous), he said that while he plays, it may look like he’s wasting time, but actually it frees his mind to wander and see things in new, creative ways. She assured me that since I was a “creator,” I too had permission to play Lexulous for hours at a time.
Okay, she didn’t actually suggest that I could play for hours at a time — but it did give me the permission I needed to indulge in a little wordplay. It’s probably how War and Peace got written.
I then got to thinking about the larger issue. Why did I need permission in order to procrastinate? Was I worried that people would think I was a goof off? (And the answer is yes, I was worried about that). But generally speaking I’m not frustrated by the pace of my life. I get the important things done. Sure I’d like to write a new mystery in four weeks, but to a certain extent, I can’t push my whodunnit muse until she’s ready to move. Yes, sometimes it helps to put something down on paper, anything, and then revise. Sometimes it’s just the spark you need to get things underway. But often, you need time, uninterrupted time, to let your mind explore new, exciting ways to create devilish murder and mayhem.
So if you see me tapping away at my computer, it may indeed be the next Brianna or Maggie or Mac mystery — or it could be me letting my mind wander.
What’s your favorite form of procrastination?
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David 

Zoned for Murder – Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Trade Paperback

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- KindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah – trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 – I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 – A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords

Now that I Know, What Should I Do?

My mother used to say, “just because everyone is jumping off the bridge, you don’t have to.” Actually, my mom, the original Evelyn, never said that. She would just give me her patented stare, which was far more effective and conveyed the same sentiment. I always got the message loud and clear, or to put it another way, “my momma didn’t raise no fool.”

My point?

I plunged into despair when I read the Sisters in Crime report of the Publishers’ Summit (and btw, everyone, and I mean everyone, should join Sisters in Crime, whether you’re a writer or a female). Yes, I can be a drama queen, but I confess to a bit of a moment when I read that one publisher had firmly pronounced that the cozy mystery was dead (pun intended).

This same publisher also opined that thrillers and paranormal books were flying off the shelves.

So after I finished weeping and wailing, gnashing my teeth, and checking the wants ads to see if there were any jobs for cozy mystery writers, I took a deep breath and tried to figure out what to do next. And then I recalled a second adage. My mom didn’t say this one either, but I’m pretty sure she would have given me another of her Evelyn looks which translated to mean, “duh, of course that’s right.” (Needless to say, at no time in my mother’s life did she ever say, duh.). In any case this pithy bit of truth is from Christopher Columbus Kraft, NASA’s first flight director. He said, “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.”

How does this apply to the current authors of Murder Off the Books, and the forthcoming Murder Takes the Cake (and hopefully even more in the Sullivan Investigation Series)? It means that just because someone believes that the cozy mystery has passed its expiration date doesn’t mean that I have to change what I write. Look, as I said, my momma didn’t raise no fools. So of course I think it’s important to understand the current marketing trends. But if I start writing to the fad, rather than writing what I do best, then it will please no one.

As it happens, the Southern half of Evelyn David and I have been kicking around a story for more than two years that features a sleuth who talks to ghosts. But, and here’s the kernel of truth that I’ve learned, it’s all about the characters. If they’re believable, you can capture an audience. If they’re not, then it doesn’t matter if they talk to your mother, you won’t buy the concept.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “reports of the cozy mystery death have been greatly exaggerated.” I’m not ready to don any sackcloth and ashes just yet.

Evelyn David