Music Makes Life Better

My Mexican band is not dressed in traditional mariachi style but they would do a fine job of singing for their supper on the beaches in that sunny land. With guitar, cymbals, maracas, and their beautiful voices, they can liven up everyone’s spirits.

They came to live with me when they heard that I had given a home to their friends, Annie and Mandilon, whom you may remember from my other post (The Mascot). Now Annie tells them which songs to play and Mandilon sweeps the house in time to their music.

Doesn’t he look like he’s hopping to the music? Housework is so much more fun when there’s good music to listen to.

And where is Annie? She’s busy at the moment  being Sylvia’s mascot in my novel “Orion’s Gift,” where she helps Sylvia find strength in facing some of the many scrapes she gets herself into. It’s good to have a friend, and until Sylvia finds the handsome Kevin, Annie is there for her to talk to.

For an exciting romantic suspense story with drama in Baja, why not have a look at Orion’s Gift. Click here: amazon.com

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The Mascot

When the Captain and I were on one of our trips to Baja California, we stopped to do some shopping in Ensenada. I found a puppet-style doll that I couldn’t live without. She was the Mexican version of Annie Oakley. What made me even happier, was buying the doll that had to be her partner.  He is pictured in the photo below Annie.

The store proprietor told me that this doll represents the hen-pecked husband, the Honeydew man (Honey, do this and Honey, do that), but in Spanish they called this fellow a “mandelon,”  because he is ordered about. What woman would not want a mandelon to do things for her? I had to have this doll!

In my novel Orion’s Gift,  Sylvia is all alone in the world and has more than her share of problems. She really needs someone, so I gave her a mascot to lend her strength. Below is a short excerpt from Orion’s Gift, telling about how Sylvia came to adopt Annie.

Excerpt:

In one shop, handmade puppets on strings hung from the ceiling. Each doll had a unique character and, like orphans hoping to be adopted, seemed to call, “Take me with you.” I fell in love with a Mexican Annie Oakley. She held a mini six-gun in each hand and radiated confidence and self-reliance. I paid for her and happily carried her home to my van. I rigged up a spot on the curtain rod behind the seat for Annie to watch over me at night. She’d be my mascot, a reminder that I was strong and could take care of myself.

If you would like to read about Sylvia, you can purchase the e-book for less than the price of a hamburger. Just click on the link to amazon.com.

Click here:  amazon.com

Please help spread the word about Annie the mascot and the book she lives in by re-tweeting this post.

Desert Camping, Hot Love

I’ve copied this post from my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/ in the hopes that I could interest my wordsfromanneli followers to check out my second blog. That blog is dedicated mainly to authors, writing, and books, but it need not be of interest only to writers. Without readers, we writers are like rudderless ships.

Please indulge me the copied post this time, and please do go visit my other blog if you feel the slightest interest in writing-related topics. Check out the archives in https://annelisplace.wordpress.com

I wanted to tell you how it came about that I wrote the book Orion’s Gift, so if you’re still with me, here it is:

While camping in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, I noticed a woman sitting alone in a van parked near the beach. I never saw her get out of her vehicle. She sat in the driver’s seat most of the time, listening to audio tapes and chain smoking cigarettes.

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The beach was beautiful, the sun shone every day, the water was clear and inviting, the place was a paradise. Why would she not get out and inhale that fresh air, go for a walk or a swim, or enjoy this little bit of heaven? I certainly did.

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It puzzled me and I wondered what her story was. Her plates said San Diego. I mulled over many scenarios. Why was she alone? Why did she never get out of her van? Was she trying to kill herself with the first and secondhand smoke in the enclosed vehicle?

The seeds  of a novel were germinating in my head. A California girl comes to Baja alone. But why? I would make her health-minded, young, and beautiful. Yes, the character was taking shape in my head.

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She would need to find a love interest, but who would be down here on his own and why? Men come to Baja alone, looking for … something ….

Each of the characters had good reasons for being on the run, but would that interfere with them starting a new relationship? What if the attraction was so strong, they couldn’t resist?

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But what if their past troubles are coming after them? Will the new lovers stick together? Will they panic, split, and run to escape their pursuers? And what about that drug runner who is out for revenge for a slight on the road?

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Life could be so perfect, if only those nasty people from their past weren’t coming after them.

For a gripping story of love and suspense wrapped up in a Baja adventure, why not spend a big $2.99 and download Orion’s Gift from amazon.com or smashwords.com today?

Cover design for Orion’s Gift is by Anita B. Carroll. Thank you, Anita for a great cover image. You can contact Anita at anita@race-point.com

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Paris

The camping phase of our tour of Europe was drawing to a close. We decided that a good place to sell the van would be near the Canadian military base in Lahr, Germany. We parked in front of the Canex Store for three days and at last sold the van. While we waited for the right person to come along, we read a lot, slept a lot, and went out to a delicious dinner at the Hotel Schultz; veal prime rib, homemade noodles, salad, wine, and Gran Marnier soufflé. At night we parked near a vineyard and listened to what sounded like shots all night (timed pops meant to scare away birds that would otherwise eat the grapes).

The van actually looked better than this, but I’ve tried to paint out the person sitting at the back of the van.

img296aWithout the van, we had to travel by train or bus the rest of the way back to London, but before leaving Europe, we still had to see a bit of France. It was off to Paris by train.

We learned about taking the metro in Paris. In the St. Germain de Prés area, we chose the Crystal Hotel, which is still in business today. After a bath and a snooze we had a wonderful dinner at the Phoenix Restaurant.

The next day we played tourist. We checked our bags at the main train station from which we would leave later in the day, then took the metro again to bring us to the places we wanted to see the most: the Louvre, the Tuileries, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, and many other sites.

I was amazed to see so many plants and bulbs for sale right there on the street. We sat in a little coffee shop and had a cider. From our table we looked out the window and I exclaimed, “There’s the Eiffel Tower!”

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The Louvre was not far away, so we took some time to explore it. What an amazing place it is. Of course we had to see the Mona Lisa. I was surprised that it was such a small painting. It was cordoned off so no one could get close enough to do any damage to it. The room was very large so I tried an experiment. I had always heard that her smile follows you wherever you are, so I looked at the painting from the far left side of the room. Yes, Mona Lisa was looking at me and smiling at me. I watched her as I walked to the far right side of the room. Her eyes and her smile followed me all the way across the room. It was as if she knew I had come a long way to see her and she wasn’t letting me out of her sight during our short visit.

There were many other fabulous paintings, most of them huge, and I could have spent days in this museum, but we had to move on. Paris was too expensive for two campers to linger too long and there were more things to see before we left.

We walked through the Tuileries (the purple spot is where I was standing),

img159athrough the Arc de Triomphe,

img306a past one of many ponds and fountains (here you can see the Arc de Triomphe and behind it the Louvre),

img305and one of my favourite spots, the Place de la Concorde, a square that has had many names since the days of the French Revolution. In the center of the square (which happens to be round), is a gift from Egypt, an obelisk which once guarded the entrance to the Luxor Temple. Before the obelisk was placed in the Place de la Concorde, this very spot held a guillotine. It is the place where Louis XVI lost his head. As many as 1300 others met the same fate. These included Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry, and Maximilien Robespierre.

One tricky thing about the Place de la Concorde is that if you want to go from the obelisk back to the sidewalk on any side of it, you have to risk your life by crossing a traffic circle of eight lanes. No crosswalk or pedestrian-friendly lights. The cars careen around the traffic circle at high speed with little regard for pedestrians. An old person would have difficulty getting back alive.

img304aI stood on the street across from the Notre Dame Cathedral and tried to photograph this amazing building, but I was too close. I’d have had to jump into the Seine to get far enough away to snap a photo, so I had to be satisfied with a photo of the river and the shore on the other side, facing in the opposite direction from Notre Dame.

In the misty distance you can see a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

img300img297aParis was fantastic, but too much to see in a day. We spent more money in 24 hours in Paris than we had spent in several weeks of camping, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Germany – The 1977 Road Trip Continues

Germany near the end of September, was chilly, so rather than shiver in our van we sought out warm buildings to spend time in. One night we went to a movie and another day we visited a museum especially about hunting.

We had our little souvenirs from Austria to pin on the German hunting hat, so we were ready for more hunting info from the museum.

DSCN0304img287One of the things that I found interesting was the collection of collars for hunting dogs. This was new to me and I thought at first that it was cruel to have all those spikes in the collars, until someone pointed out that these spikes were on the outside of the collar and designed to protect the dog’s neck from being bitten or gored by some wild animal. The photo doesn’t show the spiked collars (they were in another showcase) but it does show that they were wide and made of metal for the dog’s protection.

img286As we drove on the freeway through Germany we were surprised to see forested areas that weren’t necessarily parks. Europe is so built up that it was hard to believe there was actually a bit of nature left. At one point, I called out excitedly, “An elk! I saw an elk!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure…. Well, if it wasn’t an elk, it was a really big deer. Pull over here. There’s enough room to park and we can run back to look.”

We pulled off the freeway in a widening of the road under an overpass, locked the van and sneaked back along the side of the road until we got to the spot where I saw the “elk.”

img295Then we saw the fence around them and groaned. “It’s a game farm.”

More Vienna

We would like to have spent more than two days in Vienna, but camping in the big city isn’t so easy and most things we wanted to do cost money. We had to curb our appetite for culture and try to get our fill of it in a short time. Wandering around the shopping district in downtown Vienna was fascinating.

So many good quality items cried out to me, “Buy me! Take me home with you!” but I restrained myself and allowed myself only one major indulgence – a bottle of Diorissimo Eau de Cologne.

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Looks like I’ve used exactly half of it in 36 years so at that rate, I should be able to make it last for the rest of my life.

We found a wonderful place to have supper that evening. Beer and wine are a big thing in Austria so it was no wonder the huge sign in the shape of an oak cask outside this restaurant caught our eye. The name of the place roughly translated to The Barrel Inn.

Imagine a huge version of this oak barrel lying on its side.

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Now picture it with a bench on either side of a table built inside it, and a window on the outside wall. That was our “booth” – very private and cozy. Several barrel booths lay side by side on either side of an aisle, each accommodating dinner guests.

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We ordered a standard Viennese meal of roast pork, bread dumpling, red cabbage, and other vegetables, salad, and wine, followed by Slivovitz (a fiery liqueur of fermented and distilled plums) and a Natasha Cocktail (apricot brandy, vodka and vermouth with a bit of ginger ale), coffees and Apfelstrudel. All of this cost us the equivalent of $20 total.

That night we parked the van in a street of apartment parking since all the RV camping places were closed. It was a terrible night. I awoke every two minutes to check out noises and shivered with cold all night.

The next day we felt quite depressed. Nothing cheers us up like food, so  we thought we should stop thinking and talking about that heavenly meal we had the night before and do something about it. We could go to another restaurant, but we thought, “Why mess with perfection?” We returned to the keg restaurant. We sat in the same barrel, in the same spot as the night before and – yes, you guessed it – we ordered exactly the same meal again with one small difference.

We decided to experiment with the choice of wines. I tried out my very rusty German and asked what kind of wines they had. The waiter rattled off a list of fancy wines and their year and ended with one called Heuriger (pronounced “hoy-rigger”).  I asked what year the Heuriger was and the waiter looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“What do you mean, ma’am?”

“Well, the wines all have a year, and I wondered what year the Heuriger was.”

He looked as if the cat had got his tongue, and he stammered, “Nah … nah … heuer, natuerlich.”

“OHhhhhhh!” I exclaimed, and then I turned beet red as I remembered that “heuer” means “this year.” It was this year’s wine, just the way soup du jour is not a flavour of soup but rather the soup of the day.

I’m sure I was the talk of the restaurant kitchen that night.

Vienna

Our drive through Austria was scenic.  For the most part we were happy campers. I’ve removed the person  who was sitting on the grass in this photo.

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Only once when we took the “extra scenic route” did we get stressed. What could be wrong with this picture?

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Notice the road? How narrow it is? How unpaved it is? We were supposed to be on the way to Vienna. The gas gauge was flickering near “E” for Empty and my fingernails had never been so short. Even with the houses here and there, we knew it would be a long shot trying to try to get help so many miles from the nearest gas station.

But we were not in Canada where the wilderness can stretch for hundreds and hundreds of miles. This was the tiny country of Austria and we soon came upon the main road and coasted into the next gas station running on the fumes left in the gas tank.

The suburbs of Vienna were unimpressive, but nearer to the center, it was beautiful.

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Here is the huge statue of Maria-Theresa, at Maria-Theresien-Platz in Vienna. In the background is the Museum of Natural History which we wandered through for hours and still didn’t see it all.

From 1740 to 1780 Maria Theresa was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma. Did you know that Maria Theresa’s youngest daughter was Maria Antonia, who later became known as Marie Antoinette? Yes, the same poor woman who lost her head after the French Revolution.

The road around the museum and the statue is beautifully lined with trees. On this “ring” road, tour guides hope for customers who would go for a horse and buggy ride to see the sights. For a half hour trip you would have to pay about $20. That was a lot of money at the time but horses have to eat, too. Still, it was too much for our budget. We had a long way to go yet and had to make the money last.

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We waved at other tourists and instead, headed for downtown to spend our money on other things.

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***For a love triangle, set in war-torn Europe, please see my other blog, http://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/writing-styles-part-6/ where you can see samples of my writing in Writing Styles – Part 6, taken from my novel Julia’s Violinist. In this novel you’ll be entertained by a down-to-earth love story that men can enjoy as well as women, while learning about how it was in those dark war years in Europe. I don’t like war stories so this is not written to be a portrayal of war. It is a story of ordinary people whose lives are affected by politics they have no control over.