Tag Archive for: Silicon Valley

A date with TED

by AB Plum aka Barbara Plum

Between the ages
of 4 and 6, I spent every Saturday night with either my grandmother or my
cousins. I loved stayovers at both places because reading the Sunday newspapers
occupied us from seven to bedtime at nine on Saturday!

First, though, we went “uptown” to the local drugstores and bought 3 different sets of big-city newspapers–depending on whether it was cousins or grandmother.

Times change.

A lifelong newspaper reader, I find
myself turning more and more to other sources for news or ideas to satisfy my “fix”. In addition to news magazines, books, NPR, and PBS, I read select
articles and op-ed pieces online.

Come every Sunday, though, I open my
TED app and
settle back.

The tactile experience of reading a
newspaper and inhaling the smell of ink and paper is offset by the great
graphics nearly every outstanding speaker brings to her seven to twenty-minute
talk. The visuals bring back happy memories of lying on my stomach as a
four-five-six-year-old on Saturday evenings and devouring the comics. There were enough “funnies” to carry over to Sunday after church.

Almost all of those classic strips have
disappeared. Dr. Morgan still runs in
my local paper, but Mary Worth got
axed some years ago.

And what happened to Brenda Starr, model
for millions of young girls on the cusp of grasping the idea women could have
careers? Brenda and Little Orphan Annie ended in 2011—Annie despite the
phenomenal Broadway hit.

My current favorite comic, Red and Rover, may appeal because it feels like the strips I recall from my
childhood. Red runs daily in some
newspapers, but since it appears only on Sundays for me, it is not addictive.
TED, for me, is addictive, but I limit
my dates to 1 hour weekly. Otherwise, I could spend a full day—as I did long ago every Sunday reading my newspaper—listening to TED talks on every topic
imaginable and many subjects beyond my imagination.
Hard science, social science, art,
history, interpersonal relations, math, brain research, business, education,
economics, technology, creativity insights delivered by often humorous but always
informed speakers open up a world rarely explored by newspapers.

The only drawback with TED is I don’t
get the day’s headlines. And probably not yesterday’s current events either.
So, I’m not ready to cancel my newspaper subscription. 

When AB Plum and her alter-ego, Barbara, aren’t writing about murder, mayhem, and romance, they live, work, and read in Silicon Valley–just off the fast lane. AB’s latest mystery novel, Through Rose-Colored Glasses, appears on March 6 but is now available for preorder at a discounted price.

Through Rose-Colored Glasses: A Ryn Davis Mystery (Ryn Davis Mystery Series Book 2)

A Love Letter to Subaru

By AB Plum aka Barbara Plum

Laughter, so
goes the cliché, is the best medicine.

Some days
Colbert is not enough to counteract the news headlines. Some days, despite
their screams, the headlines seem to begin and end with a whimper. Some days
news headlines demand a prescription for twenty-four hours of nonstop laughs.

Enter a
canon of television commercials. (Okay, this statement may reach too far, but
curb your disdain at the apparent oxymoron and read on).

The carmaker
Subaru has been doing its part for a long time to bring a smile to our faces.
They began their dog commercials around 2008. In 2013, they introduced the
“Barkleys” (a canine nuclear family of four—3 Golden Retrievers and 1
yellow Lab Retriever). The dozens of 30-second shots guarantee giggles,
guffaws, and outright belly laughs.

delivered without a spoken word (nearly heresy for a writer of fiction heavy on
dialogue). All with ordinary dogs placed in ordinary human situations. All
presented with tongue-in-cheek humor that makes me think if the world’s going
to the dogs, we should let it go.

I do not now or ever have owned a Subaru. I do not now or ever have owned stock
in Subaru. I grew up with canine companions, but none of them was a Golden
Retriever or Lab.


AB Plum, aka Barbara Plum, isn’t chortling over the “Barkleys,” she
lives, writes and pats all puppies she encounters on her daily walks in
Silicon Valley. Her latest romantic comedy,
Crazy Daze and a Knight is
one of the very few books she’s penned 
without a
four-legged, furry companion. 

But … All Things Considered features a ferocious feline. If you have time to
laugh, check out the Subaru dog commercials
here. And if the commercials don’t
brighten your day, check out
National Make a Dog’s Day.

Oh, The Places We’ll Go

By AB Plum
When writing
a novel, time and place matter. They anchor, at the simplest level, the story
setting. Characters don’t exist in a vacuum so I like putting them in a
place, at a time, when they have to make choices.

The Early Years, Book 1 in The MisFit Series gives the month, the city, and the specific
location in the city. The narrator makes a choice to commit murder. He pinpoints
at the micro level a horrific train accident and its relationship to him. The
train station, the frigid cold, the crowds—all symbolize the trajectory of the
narrator’s future. 

All this setting gets settled in less than a page.

When I wrote
the Danish descriptions, I did so from memory and with a few details from my
husband, born in Copenhagen. All the while I wrote the MisFit Series, we discussed how much fun we’d have going back and
staying for more than three weeks.

So, this
summer, we’ll leave Silicon Valley and stay in a Copenhagen apartment near
where my husband lived as a little boy. (Go figure that my WIP is the Ryn Davis
Mystery Series set in the shadow of Google. Who knows? Ryn may meet a Dane in
one of the upcoming mysteries).

My plan is to
absorb more than the kringles, polse, plaice, and
rødgrød med fløde (flaky almond-stuffed pastry, hot
dogs, flounder, and raspberry/strawberry porridge with thick cream). I hope to
return to the US speaking en smule dansk (a little Danish). I plan to visit all
the tourist spots and those
out-of-way cultural and historical landmarks known only to Danish citizens.
With lots of family there, I think we’ll experience this setting more deeply
than we now can only imagine.

write my July blog from Denmark. My plan is to write about the main train
station (
Københavns Hovedbanegård). This setting is the scene referenced
above in
The Early Years. This setting lays
the groundwork to delve into a psychopath’s dark mind.

AB Plum lives with her husband and alter ego, Barbara Plum off the beaten path but writes in Silicon Valley—a setting
unto itself. She tries to capture the nuances of the place in her new Ryn Davis
Mystery Series.

Horse and Buggy Redux

By AB Plum

A rep from the National Transportation Safety Board recently exhorted the California legislature to pass a law banning all cellphone use while driving. Yes, this included hands-free usage while behind the wheel.



Such a law will pass when cows give chocolate milk.
Or when we find gold coins in the street.
Or when parents stop giving their kids phones at age 3 (and younger).
Or when couples go to dinner and actually talk to each other without their cells on the table.
Or when non-emergency workers leave their phones in a room other than the bedroom.
Or when pedestrians cross streets looking around them versus texting on their cells.

Do I sound like a Luddite?


But … I realize how unenforceable such a law would be. At the same time, I wonder if stronger restrictions are possible with teenage drivers? All the multi-tasking myths aside, driving requires concentration. Talking on a phone is distracting. Ergo, chances of accidents go up.

Of course teenagers counter with the irrefutable argument, “our reflexes are better than old people’s reflexes, so if they can use a hands-free cell, why can’t we?

The discussion will go on and on. Legislators will avoid taking action because they’re politicians. Twenty years from now, babies will be born clutching cell phones in their hands—an electronic umbilical cord which won’t get cut at delivery.

Did our great-great-great-great grandparents debate the pros and cons of reading the newspaper while driving their horse-drawn buggies?

What about you? Are you a hands-free driver? Do you ride with a teenage driver who chats on her phone while navigating traffic?

AB Plum gives her cellphone number to her husband, children, brother, and best friend. They know better than to call her on it because she rarely carries it—especially in her car. An unrepentant Luddite, she lives and writes in the heart of Silicon Valley. She’s considering writing a Sci-Fi novella about a society without cellphones.

Her latest mystery novel, All Things Considered, releases on April 25. “How does an insomniac sleep through two bullets that killed her rock-star lover?” Preorder here and solve the mystery. 

I often offer bonuses to readers of my newsletter. If you’re interested in these exclusives, sign up here. 

Snow, Rain, Rainbows, and Writing Fiction

By AB Plum

Taxes. Traffic. Too many people. Californians departing the state routinely cite these facts of life as reasons for leaving. Few—in the San Francisco Bay area at least–ever mention the weather. Our sunny days and mild temperatures rival the Mediterranean. In other words, expect the same o’ same o’ temps and sunshine day after day. (OBTW, we do have four seasons in the Bay area).

This year, though, we’ve seen rain every day for the past month. Not the kind of gully washers Florida and other parts of the country experience, but slow, steady downfall that has turned our world vibrant shades of green. And given us some amazing rainbows. Every color is distinct—and dangerous because too many drivers stop and gape.

Mosey up into the foothills a few hundred feet and find enough snow for at least one good snowball or a teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy snowperson—without the sub-zero temps.

What do any of these observations and comments have to do with writing?

They remind me of how often I read novels with little or no mention of the weather (considered borrrring, right?). Personally, I like to use the weather as a metaphor for a relationship or a specific place or a cosmic reminder of how insignificant we humans are. I like trying to capture moments of being wet or sweaty or freezing or burning up while the main character tries to overcome an obstacle unrelated to the weather. 

One of the joys of writing fiction for me lies in amplifying a snowstorm, making it the “storm of the century.” I love writing about rains that have characters checking on how to build an arc—or ready to lose their minds because of the constant hammering on the roof. One of my favorite scenes is a heat wave that drives the overheated couple into her swimming pool. The water fairly sizzles.

More rain predicted here this afternoon, and I plan to go search for a rainbow. I need to write more about rainbows.

What about you? Do you find weather scenes boring? Do you prefer minimal weather descriptions? Do you have a favorite scene featuring the weather?

****AB Plum lives in the Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay—within the shadow of Google, which returned a surprising number of hits for the search “writing weather scenes in fiction.”

Barbara Plum, AB’s alter ego, used the tornado in The Wizard of Oz as inspiration for a “new twist on love and the red slippers” in her Weird Magic Trilogy.


By AB Plum

With the advent of a new year, who better to paraphrase than the Bard himself?

Promoting is much on my mind in these early days of 2018. I haven’t yet finished my 2018 Marketing Plan. Part of me hates, loathes, and cannot stand having to spend writing time on finding reviews, placing ads, and figuring out new ways to get discovered by readers inundated by newsletters for the latest book promotion.

As a matter of full disclosure, I hop on cross-author/genre promotion bandwagons every chance I get. Local newspapers and national magazines have whittled away their book sections so I’m grateful for those authors who manage to host new offerings. Still …

How much of every day did the Bard spend much time “promoting”? How about Charles Dickens—he, who penned (by hand) 5,000 words a day? According to this same source, Barbara Cartland wrote 6,000 words daily. Stephen King’s a slacker with his per diem output of 2,000 words.

How could they possibly have spent any time promoting their books? Did they write in their sleep?

These questions bring up the issue of time management—a subject I find too personal to share publicly. Once, long ago, I was a veritable Little Red Hen. Somewhere, I took a wrong turn and no longer plant, harvest, bake the bread, and read a book a day. 

Before anyone reminds me that promoting goes with the territory of writing, I admit I know this. If I made New Year’s resolutions, I’d resolve to stop whining, adjust my ‘tude and get with the program.

I don’t make resolutions, but I understand I’m wasting my energy, spinning my wheels, ranting over the foregone: YES! To write for an audience carries the need to promote. NO! To write for myself, no need to do anything but write.

’nuf said.

Living off the fast lane in Silicon Valley, AB Plum loves her writing life–even the promo activities which challenge her brain and imagination most days. Check out her latest novel, The Dispensable Wife here. Coming later this month: the box set for The MisFit Series. Notice that not very subtle way she plugged two offerings at once.


By AB Plum

Still waiting for the winner of my November giveaway to contact me with names for two characters in my next novel, Broken-Hearted Many.

In case I don’t hear before blog deadline, I’ll ponder a bit on one of my favorite topics: Naming characters.

Feller Gowdy is a name I hope to use someday. Feller will have to be an unusual guy to carry around such a handle. Hero or villain? Seems likely he’d have endured teasing his entire life. What were his parents thinking? Of course, with a surname like Gowdy, what first name actually fits? Big Feller? Little Feller? Funny Feller?

For years I’ve kept a file of unusual names. Still, I’ve used very few of them. I can’t quite figure out the profile for a woman named Apple. Is she a Pippin? Or a Granny Smith?

Names from the Bible jump out at me most frequently. So many of them come with meanings that can serve to give life to a character. Or not.

Consider Methusalah. Abendego. Job.  

Names most of us recognize. But did you know that Gad is a real Biblical moniker? Probably highly respected in the day—just as Basemath was for girls. Admittedly, I shy away from many names found in the Old Testament.

But I like Michaelmeaning “gift from God.” In my dark, psychological thriller, The Dispensable Wife, I kept my tongue in cheek each time I wrote Michael Romanov’s name.

Anna and Sophia, both derived from Greek names, sound soft and pleasing together. They mean “grace” and “wisdom.” AnnaSophia Romanov is married to Michael. Again, I chose the name for its irony relative to both characters.

Choosing a name for main characters always presents me with a challenge. The process reminds me of choosing baby names. In a few instances—not with my bio kids—I’ve changed a character’s name. Why?

Maybe because unlike roses, a name is not a name by any other name.

Go on, figure that out. I dare you!

As 2017 closes, I hope you have more good memories than bad. May you find time in 2018 to read and read and read—no matter the characters’ names.
AB Plum composes lists of names off the fast ramp in Silicon Valley while she walks and dances and reads Peanuts and For Better or Worse most days in her daily newspaper. Her latest novel, The Dispensable Wife is available on Amazon.


By AB Plum

Laughter, they say, is good for the soul. In The MisFits, my dark psychological thriller series, few characters laugh. The question remains open, does Michael Romanov, the main character, have a soul?

This deep philosophical question leads my writer’s mind to ask: Do politicians have souls?

Too many of them, like Michael, are self-serving. Easily corrupted. Filled with hubris. Convinced they know more than the rest of us. Lacking in empathy—though they can fake compassion if it serves them. The list could go on, but this is a blog—not a book series.

If the above description sounds cynical, maybe I’ve been at my keyboard writing about the dark side of human nature too long. But I think Michael Romanov could run for president—and maybe win because he’s charismatic, straight-talking, ignorant about his ignorance, and a master manipulator. Oh, and did I mention proud?

Woe unto anyone who dares laugh at Michael. In his view, jail time for such an offense would carry mandatory hard labor as part of the sentence. (Or since he’s a full-blown psychopath, he might choose murder to save face).

If I sound as if I’ve slipped off the cusp of reality, have you read about the woman arrested for laughing at a comment about AG Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing? 

Yes, the arrest happened. The judge threw out the jury’s guilty verdict but allowed a new date for another trial. So, what should we believe now?
  • ·        Laughter is the best medicine?
  • ·        Laughter is against the law?
  • ·        Laughter is good for the soul?
  • ·        Laughter can put you in jail?

Once we answer these questions, others pop up:
  • ·        Does a snicker carry the same possible penalty as a laugh?
  • ·        Where does a laugh end and a guffaw begin?
  • ·        Can we still use LOL in emails without fear?
  • ·        Should we ban giggles, chortles, chuckles, titters, and sniggers?
  • ·        Are cackles okay in the privacy of our own homes?
  • ·        Are babies exempt from arrest or must we teach them to stop smiling and laughing?

Perhaps to play it safe, we need to ignore Abraham Lincoln:  “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh, I should die.”

When AB’s not writing about murder and families, she laughs a lot on daily hikes, aerobic dancing, and watching old Nick and Nora movies in Silicon Valley, just off the fast lane. She’s allowing herself a big smile every day through Friday, September 15. That’s the date when The In-Between Years, Book 3 in the MisFit Series will go live on Amazon.

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and All Things Social Media

By AB Plum

Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can write this blog a week ahead of its due date, schedule it, and take off tomorrow for a fun-and-frolic vacation in San Francisco. 

I’m writing the day before the Comey Testimony. (I capitalize testimony b/c it’s almost as if Mr. Comey’s appearance is a TV program or movie or book title).

I am also writing before President Trump tweets about the upcoming testimony or during the testimony itself.

Either the testimony or tweet content could provide enough commentary for dozens of riveting blogs. But. I’m going to take advantage of the scheduling feature on this blog and leave posting the excitement/amazement/disgust/disbelief/etc. following the event to others to wax on about.

I am going to SF without my laptop or any other handheld devices. Except for one. Because I have kids (adults, true) in other cities and a friend watching over the home front, the need to take my cell phone will win out. But … no calling or tweeting or texting except in an emergency.

Admittedly, sending a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge will be tempting, but I hope to resist. My grown kids have walked across the span many times. Some of my relatives, like my house sitter, have never taken a single step on this engineering marvel. 

Here’s my rationale: Even if I send my relatives or the house sitter a picture, they’ll probably all be too busy watching The Testimony. Or the analyses of The Testimony. Or the late-night panning of The Testimony. 

Whatever …. I’ll catch up when I return home. Until then, I’m about to retreat to Luddite Land.

How about you? When was the last time you “unhooked” from your electronic wonders? Do you remember a time when we didn’t text? Didn’t tweet? Didn’t share pictures of our vacations via Facebook?

AB Plum lives off the fast lane in Silicon Valley, where she writes about mayhem and murder in her psychological suspense series, The MisFit. If she doesn’t overstay her vacation, she plans a late summer release of The Lost Days and The In-Between Years, Books 2 and 3 in the series.

Delusional Logic Behind New Psychological Thriller

Remember when you were little and had your first tough argument with your BFF?

No matter what insults or barbs you hurled at each other, none hurt like being told she no longer liked you. One of you undoubtedly twisted the knife deeper by adding, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I don’t like you.”

Ouch! As children, we lived to be liked. Being liked—by teachers, adults, acquaintances, other kids, and even strangers mattered. If we were lucky, we could take parental and family love for granted. Being liked—not at all.

Recently, during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, I heard the political pundits throw around the concept of the candidates’ likability quotient. From time to time, I heard both 2016 presidential candidates were the ‘least-likeable . . .  ever.’

Is there a road back from the label unlikeable?

Writing my psychological suspense series, The MisFit, I extended the above question: Can stories entertain and grab readers’ attention with a major unlikeable character?

I certainly hope the answer is yes. Because I’ve invested two years and more than a thousand words developing such a character. Michael Romanov is Einstein-smart, Olympic-star confident, fearless, driven, and a psychopath from birth if he listens to his mother. Conflicts with his parents and older brother convince him, by the time he’s eleven, that he’s unlovable. Unlikeable, too, since he has no school friends among the students and faculty. He finds a way to claim justice . . . which is where the story begins.

Arguments hurt our feelings. Leave us feeling vulnerable. Often goad us to over-react. This is certainly the case with Michael. As I wrote his opening scene, flashes of that quarrel with my BFF flickered at the edge of my mind. 

Wow! Writing opened a door to reframing that long-ago memory into a novel of psychological suspense.

What about you? How’d you deal with the hurt from that first BFF-argument? Shoot me a note:  ab@abplum.com. I’ll respond. Who knows, maybe there’s another story lurking in your reply. 

AB Plum writes dark, chilling psychological suspense just off the fast lane in Silicon Valley–where the sun shines nearly every day. Coming soon, The Early Years, the first MisFit Series installment.