Sunday, May 26, 2019

For Love of the Game

--Susan, every other Sunday

I'm writing this from a hotel in Nikkō, one of Japan's most sacred and historic mountain regions. In fact, the area is so special and so important that Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the samurai general who, as shogun, unified Japan is buried here. (He has other mausolea in other places, but his actual burial site is here, at Toshogu Shrine, where he is also enshrined as a deity and protector of Japan.)

I came to Nikkō for a writing retreat, to finish a manuscript that's currently on a brutally short deadline. However, Nikkō has many beautiful mountains, including sacred Mt. Nantai (2,486m), which has been sacred to the Shintō faith for over 13 centuries.

A trail runs from Futarasan Shrine, on the shore of Lake Chuzenji in upper Nikkō to the summit of Mt. Nantai (which is also home to another, smaller Futarasan shrine).

Futarasan Jinja (Shrine) on the shore of lake Chuzenji


The 9-kilometer round-trip hike has a vertical gain of 1,212 meters--and a matching altitude loss of 1,212 meters on the descent. (For those of you counting along at home, that's a 2,424 meter day.)

Mt. Nantai from Lake Chuzenji

Also known as "Nikkō-Fuji," Mt. Nantai is one of the Nihon Hyakumeizan, or Hundred Famous Mountains of Japan.

My Hundred Summits Project finished in April, but my 100 climbs only included about a third of the hyakumeizan (all the mountains on my list were famous--some far more so than the ones on the hyakumeizan list), so I still have a few mountains to climb if I want to climb the entire set of hyakumeizan too.

I was here. The mountain was here. It only made sense to climb.

The day began at Futarasan Jinja, where I broke my personal 100 Summits rule and bought a summit pin before the climb (because the shrine would likely be closed by the time I finished). I had a moment's misgiving--but did it anyway.

The trailhead at Futarasan Jinja


The temperature was already over 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and climbing, by the time I left the trailhead.


The first portion of the climb followed a deceptively pleasant, gradually sloping trail through a beautiful forest filled with singing birds.

A lovely walk in the woods.


Two hours later--with the temperature sitting at 83 degrees--the forest disappeared and the trail became a series of unrelenting rockfalls that continued for about 500 meters.

Not so lovely anymore.

Several times, I considered calling it quits. Between the lack of shade, the leg-hammering rocks, and the realization that I'd brought my smaller backpack, which holds only two liters of water (Big Blue holds over 3), this no longer seemed like quite as good an idea as it had when I left the trailhead two hours before.
The emergency hut at station 7 - the rocks are the trail.

Unfortunately, I had bought the summit pin. If I quit, I would not earn it.

Also, turning around would mean a 2.5 hour descent--five hours of climbing total--on a mountain I would have to climb again if I wanted to complete the hyakumeizan.

None of that sounded like a good idea.

The views did make it worth it.


So I continued on.

The trail did have another lengthy stretch of forested slope, which helped me cool off after over an hour climbing boulders in the sun.

Still rocky, but now with trees!

When I emerged above the treeline, I could see Lake Chuzenji far below, if slightly fuzzy due to haze. The snow-capped peaks of Chichibu Tama Kai National Park were also visible--and, best of all, I could finally see the summit.

Brutal way to end . . . but at least it was ending.


After another twenty minutes of climbing up deep volcanic scree, I reached the summit--five hours and a 1.5 liters of water after leaving Futarasan Shrine.

On the summit of Mt. Nantai

A sacred sword on the highest point
The deity of Mt. Nantai

The descent took another three hours, though fortunately the haze obscured the sun enough, and the afternoon was far enough advanced, that the temperature had begun to cool. Even so, I was very happy to reach the bottom of the mountain.

Another view from near the summit

As for the climb itself, I have no regrets. It was difficult, and painful, but I had a fantastic day. For the past year, I've been climbing mountains for an important purpose. But now, I climb for an even more important reason: for love of the game.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Special Place in the Sun



Jeff—Saturday

Whoever comes to Mykonos undoubtedly hears of the fabled unspoiled (so far) beach of Agios Sostis. Almost always mentioned in the same breath is its legendary Kiki’s Taverna, where even heads of state must wait in line for a table.  It’s been around since long before I came to Mykonos, founded by Kiki and her husband Vasilis.  Today it’s run by Vasilis—no relation except in his fervent dedication to maintaining the old ways—and the experience under his hand is just as special as it always was.

I was lucky enough to eat lunch there this week—Barbara’s been there three times since we arrived two weeks ago—and I was so busy enjoying the meal and company that I forgot to take any photos, except for the title photo at the top of the post, and this one of our hats enjoying the meal along with us.


And what’s a hat without a cat.


So, these photos of the beach and taverna are courtesy of Barbara’s earlier visits and the efforts of some anonymous others.  Nothing’s changed from what you see. Though there will be a mayoral election on Mykonos tomorrow….

Inside Kiki's Taverna


The small beach below the taverna


Agios Sostis Chapel between the Taverna and main beach
Legendary Agios Sostis Beach

—Jeff

Friday, May 24, 2019

Inside The Mountain

Cruachan Hydro Electric Power Station

Why is there a spike in the demand for electric in the UK when a party political broadcast is on the TV?

Answer, as half the population go to the loo, the other half put the kettle on.

And all those 4kw kettles going on at the same time adds up, so it's very useful when a power station can go from 0 to full power in about two minutes. It takes a coal station days and a nuclear one weeks to get going fully, so with all the politics we have in this country, we have a need for these power generators that are speedy.

Due to deadlines and other such novel things, I didn't go on the visit. Walking around underground while there is an ENTIRE loch of water over my head, is not for me. So he went and reported back.

The instigation for it all was the final report of the Water Resources Committee that was set up to investigate potential sources of hydro power in Britain, contained a scheme for a 400 megawatt development at Cruachan with four 100 megawatt machines.
It's pronounced Crew A Kin!

The construction started in 1959 and took 6 years to complete. The work was dangerous as much of the internal excavations were carried out by using explosions to blow away portions of the rock. In difficult and dangerous conditions the 'Tunnel Tigers' would work 12 hour shifts and get paid almost 10 times the average weekly wage at the time for their efforts. 16 died working in the tunnels and another 15 outside around the site. As a consequence the local amenities were turned into something akin to wild west towns with a huge campsite being constructed to cope with the large number of incoming workers.

My friend tells me that one of those deaths was suspicious, so the rumour goes, and that one day he is going to write THAT novel.

The idea was simple. There would be an upper reservoir from which water would cascade down to drive the mighty turbines which generate the electricity. The upper reservoir was created by building a concrete gravity buttress dam, 316 meters long and 46 metres high, across a wind swept corrie (a basin shaped hollow in the mountainside) high on the flanks of Ben Cruachan. The dam houses two water intakes, feeding water to the power station. Each intake can be closed by means of a 3.7 m x 4.9 m control gate which is backed by a 3.8 m x 5.9 m bulkhead.


Nineteen kilometres of tunnels and piped aqueducts divert water streams from around the mountain into this reservoir increasing the catchment area from 8 sq km to 23 sq km, thus supplementing the water pumped up from Loch Awe.

                                                   
Deep in the heart of the mountain, almost 400 metres below the upper reservoir, a series of chambers were cut out of the solid rock to house the underground power station. In total, the excavations extracted 220, 000 cubic metres of rock and spoil.

A gradually sloping tunnel, 1 kilometre long, was driven into the mountain to provide road access to the power station. This tunnel is about 7 metres wide and 4 metres high. At the lower end of the tunnel is the 'cross-roads' which provides access points to the machine hall, transformer halls and the visitors' gallery.

                                             
The largest chamber, the machine hall, housing the turbine and generator sets is about 90 metres long and 36 metres high, large enough to contain a seven storey building erected on a full size football pitch.

                                                    
Inside the hollow mountain the temperature remains at a comfortable 23 degrees all year round now matter how cold or hot outside. Often described as a temperate forest and indeed there have been experiments in growing plants in this sun light free environment and several  plants do actually grow very well when there is no natural daylight.

Here is a very nice video by the power guys that takes you inside the dam.

Did you spot the dinosaur?




Caro Ramsay ( not inside a mountain)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A lesson in grace



One of the pleasures of my visits to Denmark is spending time with Mette’s aunt Erna. She is 98-years old and an example to all.

Erna at 98
She recently moved from an apartment in which she had lived for 59 years to an old age home, called Solgården in Virum. It is bright and airy and offers a variety of activities and concerts.

A couple of weeks ago, Erna spent the day with Mette and me at Mette’s home. We introduced her to the latest addition to house – Amazon’s wonder woman Alexa! She was fascinated by her and thoroughly enjoyed commanding her to play ‘classical music’ or Mozart, or asking her about the weather. She thought the technology was amazing. 

Naturally we bought one for her.

Yesterday, while she was out at a concert, we installed it in her little flat at Solgården. Then we waited for her return. When she walked in the door, she was naturally surprised that we were there since she wasn’t expecting us. We sat her down at her desk, gave her a cheat sheet Mette had prepared, and began a short training session.

It was such a pleasure to watch her delight when music she had asked for filled the room. She smiled, laughed, and would have jumped up and danced had she asked for Mitch Miller. I am confident that she will remember that Alexa is now part of her life and will become close friends. 

Erna at 87 with Mette's youngest grandson, Gustav
Erna is no stranger to technology. Her only son lives in Brazil, and she speak daily with him via Skype. Mette remembers a few years ago walking into Erna’s flat to see her and two of her ninety-year old friends poring over her computer, trying to resolve some problem. No calling the Geek Squad for them. They wanted to fix the damn computer themselves.

What I love most about her, even more than her comfort with technology, is her grace. She is always impeccably dressed, interested in what others are doing, with a smile on her face. The Danes love to sing at events – Christmas, birthdays, and so on – and she joins in with gusto. 

Erna at 78 
A few years ago, we had Christmas at Mette’s home and, of course, Erna was there. We picked her up early in the day, so we would have time to prepare the feast. Erna thought it was time I learnt to make Danish Christmas marzipan and nougat treats. So we sat down, and she taught me. It was delightful. And the treats were delicious, of course.

Erna at 95, teaching me to make Danish treats
Erna is fortunate still to have her wits about her. She reads the newspaper every day and keeps abreast of Danish (and American and British) politics. I am pleased to report she doesn’t approve of Brexit and just rolls her eyes at the mention of Trump. 

Of course, her short-term memory is not as good as it was, but she is very disciplined at writing everything down and does remember to check her calendar every day to see what she has scheduled. 

She certainly provides a very powerful example of how to age gracefully. 

May we all go down that road.
_______________________
Upcoming events

June 11: release of Shoot the Bastards(Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks)

June 18: 1830 for 1900
Once Upon a Crime bookstore in Minneapolis
Launch of Shoot the Bastards, in conversation with Kent Krueger
Refreshments

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Satapur Moonstone is Out and About

Sujata Massey





I’m thrilled to share the news that The Satapur Moonstone is finally in bookstores. My newest mystery novel was released last week as a hardcover in the US from Soho Press and as a Penguin India paperback for the Indian Subcontinent.






This is the second Perveen Mistry novel in the new series I am writing. In this adventure,   Perveen takes a long, convoluted journey through mountainous jungle  to investigate the living conditions of a young maharaja…and uncover the truth about the suspicious deaths in his family.

I am journeying through the United States to talk about the book, and while the airplane rides and freeway drives seem quite long, when I remind myself of Perveen’s exhaustive travels in 1921 India, my life seems pretty easy.




Perveen, who is a young solicitor working in her father’s law practice in Bombay, starts her journey to the Western Ghats with a train ride to the hill station of Khandala. From there, she is surprised to find herself the lone passenger in the back of a horse-drawn postal cart, tumbled among musty sacks of the Imperial Mail. A few days later she’s gingerly riding on horseback, and after that, she’s forced to recline in a short-roofed palanquin, a wooden box set on wooden poles that is carried by men for more than twenty miles through the hilly terrain to the palace. Believe it or not, when I visited the hill station of Matheran to research The Satapur Moonstone, I saw palanquins lying by the edge of the path, waiting for 21stcentury customers.

Rich foreigners being carried on the shoulders of poor locals is one metaphor for colonial rule. Perveen is against colonial rule, but in this novel, she finds herself taking a job for the government. She is well aware the British who’ve given her this temporary position as a legal investigator want her to make a decision that’s beneficial for them. While almost half of the subcontinent was territory governed by maharajas and nawabs, these rulers were considered princes of the Empire required to be loyal to the ruling British monarch.

Just as Perveen stopped to rest in a dak bungalow, or traveler's rest house, I have recharging points:bookstores. Many of the independent mystery bookstores I've visited have dogs in house, just as the dak bungalows did. While the dogs in colonial India guarded people who felt vulnerable away from the city, book store dogs have a different role: making customers fall in love with them and go crazy buying books.









Back to Perveen's trip! Our intrepid heroine arrives after a day's travel to the palace. She is sore from a palanquin accident and sopping wet from rain only to learn there’s more than just a prince to worry about. She discovers that two maharanis living there are locked in a private war over the with each other, and the maharaja’s smart younger sister is being completely overlooked. What about their lives? Can her legal investigation change things for them and the future of Satapur? 

When I write books like this, I strongly desire to write socially-just endings—yet I am mindful that my solution must be a realistic outcome for conventions of the time. A solicitor bound by rules of British common law, Parsi law, and other religious codes, knows this well. Perveen also isn't the type to shove her decision on any client.  

Perveen soon understands why the royals are stressed (a word I can’t use in the book, because it wasn’t invented yet). In the British Empire, Indian royalty were rarely allowed to choose where their sons were educated and what jobs they took after their studies; the British liked to handle that, in order to make sure the royals didn’t become too smart or independent. The British resident attached to a princely state also helped select brides for the princes, and they held the power to grant or deny a prince the freedom to leave India. 

I spent about a year-and-a-half writing this book, so it cracks me up to learn some people have already read the whole book in less than a day. I am always curious to hear what readers liked and didn’t like about this book, and where they would like to see Perveen go next. When I spotted some women going into a bar in Houston carrying my book, I descended on them to find out.




Shared journeys are the best. And although my book tour of the US is undertaken alone, any feelings of loneliness disappear when I enter a different bookstore every evening, readying myself for unexpected questions and conversation. 

The Satapur Moonstone’s2 019 book tour continues with these dates below. Please come and meet me! You can also contact any of my already-toured stores (including Murder by the Book in TX, The Ivy in MD, Boswells in WI, Mysterious Bookshop and Astoria Bookshop in NY) to obtain a signed first edition mailed to your home. 

May 22, Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis, MN
May 23, Mystery to Me, Madison, WI
May 24, The Raven, Lawrence, KS
May 25, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ
June 5, The University Bookstore, Mill Creek, WA
June 6, Chevalier, Los Angeles, CA
June 12, Lewes Public Library, Lewes, DE
June 13 Oxford Community Center, MD Eastern Shore
July 12, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC (double-header with Cara Black!!)

Monday, May 20, 2019

How the ASPCA Saved a Little Girl

Annamaria on Monday



Yes.  We are talking here about The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The little girl above is the child in question.  Because all but two of the female players in this drama are named Mary, I am going to list the cast of Mary characters here:


  • Mary Ellen Wilson, the little girl whose fate changed the treatment of children in New York
  • Mary Score, Mary Ellen's first foster mother
  • Mary McCormack, later Mary Connolly, second foster mother - the villain of the piece.

Mary Ellen was born to Frances and Thomas Wilson in New York in March of 1864, a period of great suffering for many children.  Think of all the worst pains inflicted on children in the novels of Charles Dickens.  Now multiply that by half a million.

Shortly after Mary Ellen came into that world, her father was killed in the Civil War.  Consequently, her mother had to go to work.  To do so, she boarded her baby with one Mary Score.  Not an uncommon thing for a single mother to do in those days.  Still, bad times continued to haunt Frances, and when she could not longer pay for little Mary Ellen's upkeep, Mary Score turned the not-quite-two-year-old over to the New York City Department of Charities.   This is where the plot thickens.

The Department put the baby in foster care with Mary McCormack and her husband--Francis (with an I), who claimed to be the little one's biological father.  Based on his claim, without proper proof and without proper paperwork, the city officials turned child over.  At which point Francis promptly died, and Mary McCormack promptly remarried--this time to Thomas Connolly.

Ridding itself of responsibility, the Department allowed the Connollys to make their custody of the child permanent.


They lived in a section of New York called Hell's Kitchen.  For little Mary Ellen, it was Hell, plain and simple.  Things became so bad that--even in that era of child labor--the neighbors began to notice how Mary Connolly abused the little one, forcing her to do heavy chores, beating, burning, and cutting her.  Even locking her in the closet so she could go out without the child.

The Connollys moved away.  But in their new neighborhood, folks living nearby became so distressed for little Mary Ellen that they asked a local Methodist missionary--Etta Angell Wheeler to look into the situation.   Etta became Mary Ellen's angel.  Using the ruse of a neighbor needing help, Etta got Mary Connolly out of the house and went to see what was going on.  She found the severely physically abused child barefoot, without proper winter clothing, and undernourished. She slept on the floor.  She went out only at night and only into the yard of the apartment where she lived.

  

Etta was determined to help Mary Ellen.   But she had a huge problem: Though there were child abuse laws on the books, the New York authorities were not willing to enforce them.


That was where Etta Wheeler got creative.  You see in 1870, there was in New York the headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Animals.  Wheeler appealed to Henry Bergh, its founder.  Bergh took up little Mary Ellen's cause.   Mary Connolly was arrested and tried.  Here is a transcript from Wikipedia of the ten-year-old Mary Ellen's testimony at the trial:

My father and mother are both dead. I don’t know how old I am. I have no recollection of a time when I did not live with the Connollys. Mamma has been in the habit of whipping and beating me almost every day. She used to whip me with a twisted whip - a rawhide. The whip always left a black and blue mark on my body. I have now the black and blue marks on my head which were made by mamma, and also a cut on the left side of my forehead which was made by a pair of scissors. She struck me with the scissors and cut me; I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by any one—have never been kissed by mamma. I have never been taken on my mamma's lap and caressed or petted. I never dared to speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped. I do not know for what I was whipped—mamma never said anything to me when she whipped me. I do not want to go back to live with mamma, because she beats me so. I have no recollection ever being on the street in my life.  

Mary Connolly went to jail, but only for one year.

However, the scandal of her behavior brought about--that same year--the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  It thrives, protecting children to this day.

Mary Ellen thrived too.  Eventually Etta Wheeler and her family took custody of Mary Ellen, who married at age twenty-four.  She and her husband had two children.  He had had three by a previous marriage.  And together they adopted an orphan.  Mary Ellen named her daughter Etta.

If your heart can stand this subject just a little longer, listen to this:


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Death By Panellist

Zoë Sharp

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be taking part in the eleventh annual CrimeFest convention in Bristol, UK, along with my fellow MurderIsEverywhere blogmates, Cara BlackCaro RamsayJeffrey Siger, and Stan Trollip (Michael Stanley).

Much enjoyment was had by all.


The reason for the title of my blog is partly as a response to the (very funny and sadly accurate) blog posted by Caro Ramsay on May 3, entitled Death By Panel. In it, Caro detailed some of the less enjoyable experiences she’s had on panels at crime writing festivals and conferences, mainly due to poor performance on the part of the moderator.

And yes, as wonderful as most moderators are, I’ve been there and experienced some of that myself. I recall one who demonstrated that they’d never done more than briefly skim my bio by announcing that I wrote a series about a bodyguard called Charles Fox…

More recently, a futuristic short story I’d intended to be about the nature of constant surveillance and how easily what you see—or think you see—can be manipulated or misinterpreted, was summed up by my moderator as being “set in a traffic jam”. Ah well.

(Not quite up to par with Caro’s report of “This is Caro Ramsay. I read her book but it was not to my taste,” but still somewhat disheartening.)

Most conventions—and CrimeFest is no exception—provide a Moderator’s Manifesto for the enlightenment of those undertaking the task for the first time. Advice therein includes:

‘Do your homework. Even if you haven’t read their books, you will need to spend some time on their websites, reading reviews, reading sample chapters and otherwise getting to know their work so you can ask intelligent questions.’

‘Prepare a list of scintillating questions (hint: “Where do you get your ideas?” without more is not scintillating. Nor is asking the same questions of each panellist four times in a row.)’

‘Contact your panellists beforehand and let them know what to expect from you, and what you expect from them (but it’s usually best not to tell them what your specific questions will be beforehand because too much panellist preparation spoils spontaneity.)’


It suggests that moderators discourage panellists from standing their books up on the table in front of them, as this hides the author’s face from the crowd, and often the covers are too small to be seen clearly by those at the back of the room anyway. And I would certainly try to dissuade panellists from holding the book up next to their face in a cheesy way while speaking or being introduced. (Yes, I’ve had that happen numerous times.)

On the subject of introductions, the Manifesto suggests the moderator does not do them, but when a panel length is 50 minutes rather than an hour, I’m afraid I do tend to. That way, I know I can control the time it will take.

Beforehand, I always contact my panellists and ask them for BRIEF bios—preferably the one they were asked to send to the event organiser for the programme book. I also ask for what they consider their best review quote, as I think it always looks much better if they don’t have to quote this themselves. And I ask for an ebook version of the title they wish to promote as well as an author pic so I can make up a social media poster.

Depending on the topic, I invite suggestions for things we can discuss, and usually if there’s anything they would rather I didn’t bring up. Creating an interesting discussion is the aim, not handcuffing them to a chair and shining bright lights in their eyes.

When we meet in the Green Room beforehand, I check pronunciation of difficult names, and ask if anyone objects to being asked the first question. Some authors get very nervous on panels and need longer to settle than others.

I remind the authors to speak into the microphone and to keep looking at the audience as they do so, as otherwise they will swing away from the mic and the people at the back of the room will get fed up with not being able to hear more than disconnected snatches of conversation.

I also remind them that we have just 50 minutes for our panel. By the time I have introduced them, which for four authors will probably take about 6 mins, and then opened up to audience questions for the last 10-12 mins, this leaves a little over half an hour. During this time, I have one book-specific question for each author, plus a number of more general questions linked to the topic. Each author will have around 8 mins talking time in total. Although usually down as a Participating Moderator, I try not to participate too much apart from light comic relief.

So, I always plead with them to KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET.

Sometimes this works more effectively than others.


I have had panellists who decide to immediately start a discussion with the audience rather than waiting for the Q&A at the end. This can often lead to an audience member who wants to show their superior command of the subject by making a long and involved statement, turned into a question only by tacking the words, “don’t you agree?” onto the end of it.

I have had panellists who insist on knowing in advance what questions I’ll be asking, then rush through answering all of them at the first opportunity they get, thus forcing me to improvise for the remainder of the panel.

I’ve seen panellists who stare out of the window looking thoroughly bored all the time anyone else is speaking.

I’ve had authors who name and shame other authors for the accuracy of their work. This never ends well. By all means say, “I read one thriller where x, y, and z happened,” but for Pete’s sake don’t name the writer and/or the book. We all make the occasional blooper and getting personal is just likely to end up with that author’s fans digging for your mistakes.

I usually get an inkling on the run-up to the event who is going to be difficult. Although I ask for a brief author bio, in the past I’ve been sent pages and pages of info with the airy instruction to just ‘use whatever you like’. Or, better yet, being told ‘oh, it’s all on my website’ and expecting you to hunt for it. Bios sent written in first person have to be fiddled with before they can be used.


It really helps if attached documents have the author’s name and the book title or subject as the file name. Same with jpeg images. Huge hi-res images (ie, more than 72dpi) are not much good for online use and just take up memory space.

OK, I think I’m going to stop there, before I get myself into any more trouble. And I don’t mean to whinge. Being invited to moderate a panel is an honour and a privilege, and the majority of panellists are a delight to deal with and chat to. Which makes the ones who aren’t, really stick in the memory…

This week’s Word of the Week is lexiphanicism meaning to use pretentious words or language, named after a character in the works of Lucian of Samosata, who wrote in Ancient Greek.

June 7
Meet the Author—Thornton Library, Victoria Road East, Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire FY5 3SZ
Friday, June 07, 10:30-11:30





Saturday, May 18, 2019

Home At Last



Jeff—Saturday

After seven weeks on the road for book conferences and events, we’re back on Mykonos.  The first few days were overcast and chilly, but by the end of the week it was blue skies and warming weather. All is returning to normal. Except for my car, which died suddenly as it struggled up a hill.  But even that will be better soon. Or so the mechanic says…assuming the part gets here from Athens on a “timely” basis.


Barbara has a friend visiting for a few days and her reaction to the island reminds me of why I never talk about how things “used to be” to a newbie visitor. She loves it.  Fascinated and enchanted.  Yep, that succinctly sums it up.


I’m fascinated and enchanted too, but at something different. What has my attention these days are Mykonos local elections, pitting the current mayor against a former mayor who unexpectedly resigned in the middle of his fifth term three mayors ago. But now he’s back, having assembled much of his old team for a run at it again.  The current mayor is holding his ground and barbs are flying.


The good news is that the end is in sight because elections are on Sunday, May 26th, the same day as European Parliament Elections. The smart money is on a runoff mayoral election the following Sunday, June 2—which just happens to be the anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah, a fact I’m certain is almost as interesting to the world at large as a faraway island’s local elections.

There are claims by all parties running a candidate—a third party is in the mix—that this election holds the ultimate fate of the island in the balance. Truth is, that balance tipped some time ago.  What is really at stake is who does the electorate trust to handle the new order?  In that debate lie the barbs.  And they are sharp.


I shall not go into them here, because I wish to remain welcome on the island, but they’re in keeping with what the USA is poised to experience in its 2020 elections.

Thankfully, in a week—or two at most—life will be back to normal here on Mykonos, which in most civilized parts of the planet would clearly qualify as paranormal.



I can’t wait. I love it when things go off the rails ballistic. It inspires me to do what I do…write fiction on the edge of societal change.  Make that the sharp edge.

—Jeff

PS.  All images are from the Municipality of Mykonos website.