Mahjong Anyone?

On July 4th, friends invited us over to learn how to play Mahjong.


The game my mother and her girlfriends played when I was growing up. I remember those ladies laughing and calling out tiles as I passed through the kitchen on my way to the refrigerator. I’d hear “two crack,” “three bam,” “five dot,” as they rapidly went around the table. They’d smoke cigarettes, sip refreshments and talk endlessly. Often their voices would rise in excitement, rolling into laughter. I never knew what they were talking about—and if I happened to linger too long—I was told to keep moving.

My turn

So, it was with great interest that I accepted the invitation to join a group of friends learning the game. After all, I thought rather arrogantly, how hard can it really be?

It was hard. Very hard.

And as I played, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. How did she ever carry on a conversation and play this game? How many rounds did she endure before she no longer needed to concentrate? And why is this game so much harder than poker? 

American version

It seems that there are two versions of Mahjong. The American—which I was learning—and the Chinese—which was being played by a group of men seated behind me. I’m guessing the American version is easier—but being new to it—it was like learning Hebrew (and that’s hard). The other guys kept saying it’s like playing gin rummy. I know gin rummy. I get the comparison. But this was beyond gin rummy. If you don’t believe me, check out the video explaining the basics. reading . . .    

Who is that Coughing?

I hate getting sick. I guess that’s normal. But I hate it even more when Jeff gets sick. And not because he’s uncomfortable—or I need to take care of him—but because I’m usually the next one up. It seems when you live with someone, it’s impossible not to catch their cooties. Especially if you’re together working out of the same house.

The secret

I’ve been told to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Yeah right. Like I could ever do that for a solid week. And washing your hands obsessively doesn’t really help either. Trust me. I’ve tried that too.

Clorox wipes with bleach are great for killing germs on counter-tops—but probably not a great idea for wiping down the person lying in bed next to you. Besides, whatever nastiness is happening, isn’t on the surface. The gross crud is breeding in the recesses of your beloved’s nasal cavity, throat or chest. And sometimes, God forbid, their tummies.


There is nothing worse than being on a plane and hearing someone sneeze. It’s like vigorously shaking a can of soda and then opening it. You’re trapped in a metal cylinder as germs float throughout the cabin. It’s simply impossible to avoid getting caught up in the wet spray. And if you must use the restroom, I recommend always using a tissue to open the door once you’ve done your business and after you’ve washed your hands. God only knows who was in there before you—though there’s little doubt what they were doing.

I’ve read somewhere that the aisle seat is the worst on a plane. Upon boarding, everyone passes by, breathing down on you. Hmm. And here I thought the extra leg room was the added bonus.


And then there’s always someone coughing during a play. At the symphony, people seem to be constantly clearing their throats. But in a movie theater, the film volume is so loud it drowns out any background noise. It’s impossible to know if anyone nearby is sick. My advice. Slink down into your seat and keep your popcorn close.


And so, I think it’s truly best that when your spouse is ill to move into the guest room. Close enough to check on them, but not so very close as to get infected.  But of course the time you spend away will depend on how attracted you are to someone who is ill. Personally, I’m a sucker for neediness. But that’s a topic for another blog.

The Morning Blend: My First Television Interview

The Morning Blend: My First Television Interview

I did it. Today I appeared on KGUN9’s Morning Blend in Tucson and discussed my novel The Intersect.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep too well the night before – wondering how I’d be able to condense my thoughts into the 5-minute segment allotted for the book. When you write a novel of 460-pages with 8 main characters and lots of twists and turns, it’s a challenge to think about how you’ll be able to communicate anything in under five minutes.

But I was surprisingly prepared. You see, when I did the interview, I had a very special group of people in mind.

For the past 8 months, I’ve been regularly attending the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion Meet-up run by Laura Orsini. Each meeting begins with authors going around the room and quickly providing a snapshot recap of their book. And though I’ve often struggled with that particular moment, I clearly had learned something important from the experience. So when the cameras were rolling, I was able to discuss the novel with clarity. Frankly, it felt like a miracle to be able to speak confidently and enthusiastically.

It’s odd to admit – but when you spend so much time in your head creating plot twists and dialogue – you’re a bit afraid that you’ve lost the gift of gab. Social skills can easily get rusty. And though you might be able to find the right word after a few edits in a draft – we don’t often get a 2nd chance in a conversation.

Today, I’m kind of proud of myself. Not only did I write an engaging novel but I was able to properly articulate its essence.

Things are looking up.



Designing My Book Cover: “Oh Magoo – You’ve Done it Again!”

Ever stumble around in the dark? Hit your big toe? Struggle to find the light – only to trip over the dog?  Well then, you know all about my journey to design a book cover.

And because I had no clue what the heck I was doing, I was just lucky enough to have a friend in the publishing business. His name is Jeff and he works out of San Francisco and is very active with the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.

Now Jeff is one of these unassuming guys. He rarely talks about what he does. But every now and then, he might share a story about a new book he’d recently worked on. He’d discuss the layout, design, and some interesting fact about the author. He might even have a copy of the book to show. And it was all very fast and casual. If you looked down once, it was over, and he was on to another topic.

But that was before I wrote my novel, The Intersect.

Now I’ve discovered my friend Jeff is brilliant. I hang on every word he utters about book publishing and production. In fact, I could listen to Jeff talk all day long.

And so by now, you probably know, Jeff not only designed the cover and lay out for my book, but has practically taught me everything I know about publishing. From website design, to mail chimp, to production on demand, I’ve been blessed to have such smart friend to lead me along the journey.

Mr. Magoo should be so lucky!

Continue reading . . .