Sunday, December 23, 2018


Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus with poinsettias
in front of Honolulu Hale
Each year, I visit the downtown area to check out the Honolulu Christmas decorations. At Honolulu Hale, Santa and Mrs. Claus reign over the festivities: the tall Christmas tree, the Mele Kalikimaka toy display, and the Christmas wreath contest of unique wreaths decorating the walls. Hearing the squeals and chatter of school children as they enjoy the sights always brings a smile to my face.

The days leading up to Christmas Day are a time for just that, squeals and chatter, the joys of childhood, and remembering the pleasures of past holidays. In our family, celebrations were prefaced with attendance at mass, first St. Luke's Church, and later Holy Redeemer Church. Giving thanks reminded us not to take our many blessings for granted.
Today I am focused on simple blessings so often taken for granted throughout the busy year: colorful birds and flowers during my walks; the sweetly-tart juiciness of a chilled tangerine; and an unexpected exchange of friendly greetings. Burdens lessen as I concentrate on a few of my "favorite things."  

May your days be filled with merriment and peace!

*****     *****     *****

The following is an article I first posted in 2009. Much of the information remains relevant, although I haven't seen The Candy Cane Train in years and Santa on the roof of Ala Moana Center doesn't have a lei this year!

MELE KALIKIMAKA is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Remember Bing Crosby's 1950 rendition, accompanied by the Andrew Sisters? "That's the island greeting that we send to you  . . ."

The holiday season on the island of O'ahu opens with the Honolulu City Lights celebration. The Electric Light Parade travels through downtown to Honolulu Hale (City Hall) for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. This year's tree is a striking 55-foot Norfolk pine. Another tradition is "Nutcracker" performed on-stage at Blaisdell Concert Hall. 

At the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, rows of evergreen wreaths on grave sites honor fallen veterans this holiday season. The wreaths adorn 1,288 of the graves, part of the Wreaths Across America campaign.

Aunties like myself, keiki, and tutus all enjoy the entertainment of Hawaii's local groups this time of year - Na Leo Pilimehana, Makaha Sons, Kapena, and the Brothers Cazimero, to name a few; special hula dance groups (halaus) including Hoku Zuttermeister; and celebrities Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, Keali'i Reichel, and Willie K (the title of his Christmas song "Aloha Kalikimaka" reveals what the K stands for.) Music by the late Israel (Iz) Kamakawiwo'ole is always heard around the islands. 

Candy Cane Train
At Ala Moana Center, our open-air shopping mall, children ride the Candy Cane Train and watch musical productions on Center Stage, the illusion of snow delighting the young at heart. Hula performers draped in colorful regalia entertain with beautifully choreographed, swaying movements.

Santa gets lei-d for the holidays
But it isn't officially the "season to be jolly" until the Santa Claus statue is assembled up on the center's rootftop for all to see!

In Honolulu, jolly ol' St. Nicholas arrives in an outrigger canoe, landing on the shores of Waikiki! 
And we do have real snow here. Recently, my cousin reminded me of the snow-covered mountain of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Low temperatures on Maui's Haleakala also attract the white fluffy stuff that folks in the northern states take for granted this time of year.

Hawaiian Menehune

Kalikimaka is Hawaiian for Christmas.
Mele means song or chant; also, merry.
This is truly the locals' traditional way,
Of sending holiday greetings,
To say Merry Christmas. To you.

Aloha Nui Loa,
That's Hawaii's way to say
"a canoe-full of love."

Although some traditions come and go, the spirit of the holidays always remains,
and around the Islands, people of all faiths share the spirit of

*****     *****     *****

Thursday, November 29, 2018

What's Love Got to Do With It? #WATWB

Welcome to We Are the World #WATWB Blogfest 
November 2018. 
Our stellar co-hosts are:
Please do visit them and any others with the #WATWB tag.
Simon Falk:
In Hawaii, the favorite greeting is "Aloha" which has several meanings. The most important is easy to explain. The word means "the presence of breath" or "the breath of life."  "Alo" means presence, front, and face; "ha" means breath. Aloha is not only a way of living, but a way of treating others with respect and love.
Tina Turner's musical query, the title of this blog post, and Yanni's Love Is All look at love from opposite ends of the spectrum. One questions its validity; the other is bolstered by its presence.
When searching for a feel-good article for this month's post, I came across a timely story about a children's pageant. One child accidently misspelled a word, adding a priceless touch to a traditional play. The message gave me a sense of happiness that has stayed with me. Please enjoy the story here:
December is filled with holidays and traditions
around the world.
I hope all are celebrated with love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My 3 Motives for Participating in #NaNoWriMo18

Visit my NaNoWriMo page at:
National Novel Writing Month begins each year on the first day of November. Each writer commits to writing fifty thousands words during the thirty days of this month. Whether a person completes 50K, 5K or 50 words in November, that's more words written than by those who set no goals and wrote no words.

Time moves at warp speed during November when you participate in NaNoWriMo (you will see it on Twitter also as: #NaNoWriMo18.) It's hard to believe this is already the last day of the first week of NaNo18. So far, my word count is increasing at a steady pace. I expect it to continue in the same vein. What is my plan? I'm glad you asked.

The obvious answer is to have a plan. Whether you write by the seat of your pants or outline each chapter, a clear pathway from 0 to 50,000 words is your best solution to a surmountable challenge. Each year my plan varies. This year, I made a game of writing my 50 thousand words.

Until the end of October, I hadn't fully committed to doing NaNo this year. I have two manuscripts ready for editing, ones written for NaNo 2013 and 2016. In July, I published the manuscript that I worked on during NaNo 2015 and 2017 which became the novel SHARDS OF MEMORY Oral History in a Heartbeat.

With that much of a backlog, I figured my attention should be directed at editing and marketing. Granted, writing an original draft feels far more creative than revising and checking facts to support a train of thought within the story. But what convinced me to join NaNo this year were three better ideas:

1.) I would write a string of short stories that blended in with the parts of the 2016 manuscript that didn't make it into SHARDS OF MEMORY.

2.) These short stories would then be used for the April 2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge that lures me in year after year, just as NaNo does!

3.) The final product would become a companion piece for SHARDS OF MEMORY.

I'm not one to count my chickens before they're hatched. For now, I am enjoying the pleasure of writing the short stories. Also, a lesson has emerged: I'm learning so much about getting the beginning, middle, and ending of the story set, regardless of the length. (Did you know the only difference between a short story and a novel/novella is all those words in the middle?)

So, how am I doing?
G etting
R eally
E xcited
A bout
T omorrow
How is #NaNoWriMo18 going for you so far this year?
If you are interested in any of my NaNo publications, you can find them here:
available at

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Good News Trifecta #WATWB

Welcome to the 18th installment of the #WATWB (We are the World Blogfest.) We participants in the monthly posting (last Friday of the month) strive to link to an inspiring story that shows love, humanity, hope, and/or brotherhood. Our talented cohosts for this month are: Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese and Roshan Radhakrishnan. Please check out their excellent posts and say hello.


As the expression goes, lots of my friends are cops. While I do not personally know any homeless people, I do share concern for those who make their home on the street. And, of course, everyone loves Krispy Kreme donuts!

Coming across a story with all three of these topics included sounded like a trifecta to me and my #WATWB good news story for today is aptly entitled:

Cops Find
Stolen Krispy Kreme Van And Give Away the Cargo’s Goodies to
Hungry Homeless
Homelessness in Hawaii is an ongoing issue still searching for a satisfactory solution. Well-meaning plans are put into place at regular intervals, but no long term project has fully corralled or alleviated these pressing circumstances. While some people prefer to make their home on the street, others have no choice.
The good news stories of kindness that appear from time to time remind us that the compassion offered to those less fortunate is returned two-fold.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Meet Author Maria Riegger #WriterWednesday

Today's guest, author Maria Riegger is an attorney by day and a fiction writer by night. She makes a perfect friend as she is always eager to laugh at lame jokes. A Gemini, she claims her greatest fear is boredom, which may explain why she speaks so many different languages, including "Catalan and some Portuguese."

Maria's Law School Heretic series begins with Miscalculated Risks, followed by her second thriller, Acceptable Misconduct. The setting for her stories is the Washington DC area. Her protagonist is contrarily described as an antagonist.

From a synopsis of Acceptable Misconduct
(Law School Heretic Series, #2)
by Maria Riegger:

Antagonistic Washington DC law student Isabel must face her unsettled past and navigate the final weeks of the semester while figuring out fellow student Tarek's feelings for her before he slips away. Her rational mind and her emotions are at odds, but will she have the guts to see where this leads in spite of an uncertain future?

Thank you, Maria, for sharing some of your thoughts today about your writing style and information about your published books. The books mentioned above are listed as romance. Does writing in this genre come naturally to you?
Maria Riegger:
Not really, no. I prefer reading other genres, such as crime/procedural fiction and thrillers, over romance, although I do read a fair bit of romance. 

For this series, I had a story arc in mind, and when I was done, it most clearly fit the romance genre. While the romance between the main characters is the main arc of this series, the books touch on other themes such as feeling out of place in society and dealing with past family issues.  
A story’s protagonist often reflects an author’s personality, or displays characteristics the author has chosen to explore. In the case of your antagonist, do bits of your personality shine through in the writing of your Heretic Law School series?

Maria Riegger:
Yes, definitely. Just like Isabel, the main character, I also attended law school in Washington, DC, and some of the scenes in the series are based on real events. I’m definitely an introvert and a loner as well, although Isabel’s personality is more extreme than mine. 

I had to admit, however, that I was intrigued as well as annoyed. Few people had the nerve to come and talk to me like this, with no warning.

I decided not to say anything at first. I just stared and raised my eyebrows.

He waited a good three to four seconds before he spoke. The left corner of my mouth started to go up into a smirk. Invariably, there were only two reasons a guy like this, a semi-stranger no less, would deign to talk to me. If he was going to miss class and wanted to get my notes, he was shit outta luck. And if he wanted a booty call, well, I wasn’t quite sure yet how I would handle that. Little did I know, he wasn’t going to ask me either of those things.
Often people think after writing one novel, subsequent novels flow out fully formed. The author has the basics down: format for the storyline; a feel for the proper number of plot lines and chapters; techniques for creating a charismatic protagonist and supporting characters; secrets to making the antagonist likeable; and guidelines for adding conflict right up to and through the denouement. How has writing become easier for you and what remains as difficult now as when you wrote your first novel? 

Maria Riegger:
Since writing Miscalculated Risks, I’ve read a ton on writing techniques and crafting a story with conflict and resolution, making it interesting and thought-provoking for the reader. I also read a ton of fiction to see how successful authors write. That has helped me focus on the elements that need work. 
I’ve had to abandon the notion that everything will be perfect as soon as the words are written down. I’ve learned from other authors just to write, even if you’re not sure where the story is going yet, and that often inspires ideas. You can always edit later, but if you wait until you’re inspired to write, you will not get as much writing done as you would like.
Writing in any genre requires a certain amount of research. At what point in your writing do you do the most research, and is this more chore or pleasure for you?

Maria Riegger:
I love to research, but I’m also impatient when I have to stop writing to researching something for a book. For example, my upcoming novel is a romance set during a fictionalized political campaign. I wrote the manuscript first and made notes of the things I needed to research, e.g. filing dates for campaigns in Virginia, state delegate salaries. I researched those details last and filled them in where necessary.
You can contact Maria here:
@RieggerM (Twitter account)


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Meet Una Tiers, Author of Judge vs. Nuts

Please welcome my guest Una Tiers, an avid reader, attorney, and independent author in the Chicago area. She is the author of Judge vs. Nuts, a novel she describes as a "Cozy - a mystery without loads of cussing, sex or violence" and "Humorcide - a lighthearted look at murder." Her title and the story's Chicago setting drew my attention to her book.

Reviews of Judge vs. Nuts give some eye-opening insight into the voice and writing style of Una Tiers. One reviewer described the experience of reading Una's story as being "seduced by the lusciousness of her prose and the near flawless timing of her wit."

GAIL: Thank you for taking time to visit, Una.  I worked in the Loop back in the 60's and love reading mysteries set in Chicago. You chose to write a murder mystery with a humorous touch. Can you please share with us more about the novel and your research for Judge vs Nuts?

UNA TIERS: Judge vs Nuts is a story about judicial corruption in Chicago and about a young attorney trying to make a living as a solo practitioner.  While a lifelong resident of the city, I did more research on Navy Pier than anything else.

GAIL: You refer to Navy Pier several times in the novel with interesting descriptions and details that include: ". . . it has a view of the city skyline and can't be beat for a place to daydream or be romantic." You also include some of its fascinating history, from war time up to the installation of the pier's famous ferriswheel. Research is one of the entertaining aspects of every writer's job. Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?
UNA TIERS: Fiona Gavelle has little else in her life but work.  She gets divorced early in the book and dating isn’t going too well for her. The detective investigating the murder intrigues her although he isn’t exactly her type.
You can check out all of Una's books and more at

My review of Una's book Lettuce Read Wills:

This is a short book, but it is packed with fun and interesting information about famous people and the contents of their wills. Attorney Una Tiers also gives sound advice to us lesser, or at least less wealthy, mortals about having a will and updating it in a timely fashion.

I was quite surprised to learn of certain wealthy people who died without a will.

The author also includes excerpts from her mystery novels. 
Original article posted July 9, 2012


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Switching Genres: An Interview with Author Laurie Hanan #WriterWednesday

Author Laurie Hanan joins us today to discuss her most recent novel, The Rainbow Connection, a YA novel set in Hawai‘i. Laurie has a successful mystery series, also set in Hawai‘i, featuring mail carrier Louise Golden who gets tangled in mysterious situations she uncovers on her mail route. With four Louise Golden novels published, Laurie took a break to write a young adult novel. 

From a synopsis of The Rainbow Connection
by Laurie Hanan:

With graduation looming, Emmy’s only friend in her new school goes missing. Brett’s run off before. Her mother and even the cops figure she’s done it again. But Emmy is convinced Brett can’t wait to begin college in the fall, and she would never ditch her super-hot boyfriend. Something bad must have happened to her. Emmy is determined to find out what.


Gail: Thank you, Laurie, for sharing some of your thoughts today on your latest book, The Rainbow Connection. After writing mysteries for so many years, did that discipline allow for an easy transition into writing a young adult story?
Laurie Hanan: Mahalo, Gail, for inviting me to your blog!

     I don’t know if  “easy” is a word I’d use for transitioning to the Young Adult genre. It’s been a long time since I was seventeen, and of course teens today live in a totally different world from the one I grew up in. Developing an authentic voice for Emmy’s character took trial and a lot of error before I felt I was even close. My teen years were painful. Imagining my own seventeen-year-old self in the same tough situations Emmy faces, re-experiencing the raw emotions, and sorting through what my thought processes might have been at that age, gave me more than a few sleepless nights. I also paid close attention to my teenage daughter and her friends, taking notes on their mannerisms and quickly jotting down samples of their lingo. 

     But it was a natural and enjoyable transition to take a peripheral character who I love in my Louise Golden series, develop her personality even more, and give her a mystery of her own to solve.
Her search leads to a secretive religious group. Emmy suspects there is more to the group’s simple lifestyle and ecstatic dance rituals than the peace and harmony they preach.
 Gail: Your comments about re-experiencing raw emotions of teen years and sleepless nights reminded me of the Ernest Hemingway quote — 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.'

     In The Rainbow Connection, protagonist Emmy’s maturity has developed through an array of responsibilities within the family, at school, and on the job. Can some of her more questionable decisions that draw her into precarious situations, such as the isolated meeting with Byron at a retreat for a secretive religious group, be attributed to the still-developing reasoning of a teenager?

Laurie Hanan: Absolutely. Science shows us that a teen’s brain is not fully developed. They tend to act on impulse, misjudge precarious situations, and misread social cues and the emotions of others.

     Emmy is impulsive, prone to exaggeration, at times irrational, and makes choices that are downright dangerous. Being a teen necessarily makes her an unreliable narrator. The reader is given insights into the missing girl only through Emmy’s skewed remembrances of her, adding another layer of questions about her disappearance.

Gail: You have taken the characters Emmy and her brother from your mystery series and created a new storyline for them in the YA genre. What, if any, details from their backstories play a role in or contribute to the plotline of The Rainbow Connection? How important is it for a writer to develop a character’s backstory, in a series or a stand-alone novel?
Laurie Hanan: I will answer your questions out of order. When writing a series of stand-alone novels, there can be a fine line between including enough backstory to help readers understand the character, and throwing in so much backstory it confuses the reader and bogs down the flow of events in the new mystery. While each of my novels stands alone, reading the series in order does offer a broader view of the characters’ development over the years.

     In my fourth Louise Golden mystery, Stairway to Heaven, seventeen-year-old   Emmy makes some misguided decisions, resulting in her being kidnapped and held for ransom on a small sailboat during a hurricane. Twelve-year-old Jackie is pulled into the rescue efforts and ends up killing a man to save his sister. While these events play no role in the plotline of  The Rainbow Connection, the experiences do bring about dramatic changes in both Emmy and Jackie, and permanently alter the dynamics between brother and sister.  I originally included some of this backstory in The Rainbow Connection, but my editor felt it “belonged in a different book.” I reluctantly agreed. So, I am currently working on a novella-length recreation of the kidnapping and rescue from the perspectives of Emmy and Jackie. I hope this will shed more light on how the traumatic events affected the two kids.

Gail: This coming of age story has a missing person at its center, supporting the idea that stories in all genres involve a mystery. Having written mysteries, and now YA, did you develop a specific preference in genre for future works, or will you continue with the YA series while adding to your Louise Golden series?
Laurie Hanan: A big part of why I write is to make my readers happy. Louise fans are clamoring for more time with Louise, while Emmy’s new fans are pleading for the next Emmy Hanlin YA novel. My hope is to continue writing more in both series. 

     I’m currently working on another spinoff from the Louise Golden series, a humorous, classic whodunit starring Louise’s eighty-something-year-old stepmother and her geriatric neighborhood watch group.
Gail: Mahalo for sharing so much personal insight into your writing style and  character development, Laurie. The information about backstory is especially educational. I look forward to reading your YA novella and the humorous geriatric mystery. 
Laurie Hanan's Facebook page:

Laurie's books are available at in trade and e-book formats: 


Monday, October 1, 2018


Taking a break every so often from any project or situation, to clear your head and make room for fresh ideas, should be beneficial, even rejuvenating. Remember the FRIENDS episode when Ross thought he and Rachel were on a break from their relationship and nothing that happened (with another woman) during the break counted? You know how that worked out, not a good example of a beneficial break.

Taking a break from writing doesn’t mean your activities during the break won’t benefit your writing. To a writer, every experience is beneficial, everything counts.
A break becomes especially important after writing or editing over a long period of time. Focusing on other projects or activities gives the subconscious time to relax, and allows new creative concepts to surface.
With that in mind, I looked forward to spending time with family who were scheduled to visit the islands and to get in some "locals" sightseeing, something that often falls by the wayside. Plans were set for such diverse activities as whale watching, Island sightseeing, climbing to the top of Diamond Head, touring Pearl Harbor to experience the Arizona Memorial and the “Mighty Mo” (the battleship Missouri where the World War II peace treaty was signed,) and a wedding at Sacred Heart Church in Honolulu with a reception at Turtle Bay on the North Shore.
It is no mystery that the possibilities for future story settings that arose over the break were endless. Every conversation suggested a way to breathe new life into a unique character, each sunset offered a brilliant new mix of colors to improve a scene. Now I look forward to rereading those fifty thousand words I wrote in November, and am eagerly anticipating the research that will flesh out the story.


Some projects take longer than others. The above-mentioned written in November received thorough and painstaking edits over a period of several years. Additional research buoyed several scenes and chapters. As the time came closer to publication (planned for July 23) a problem with the book's cover almost sunk my plans. But I kept moving toward my goal. Even the announcement by CreateSpace and Amazon to jumble my schedule caused only minor anguish (okay, a lot, but in a good way.) Even a break (pun not so funny!) for a total hip replacement didn't entirely halt my march forward, only slow it to baby steps for a spell.

To meet my goal, I "pseudo-published" my latest novel on July 23. This allowed an opportunity for select family members to read and approve its contents. Soon I will make the permanent move from CreateSpace to Kindle Direct Publishing. I've enjoyed the latest break from blogging but look forward to an active future.