Missing Daddy

Dear Readers,

Today, June 23, 2022, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my father’s passing. I am especially missing him today.

My dad, Donald Johns, was born and raised in North Dakota in a little farming town called Wing, near Bismarck. The northern winters aggravated his asthma so badly, he missed much school. So, in 1930, he, his three siblings, and parents moved to sunny San Diego, California, where he finally finished high school a few years later at the age of twenty-one. An interesting aside: my dad and actor Gregory Peck were in the same graduating class at San Diego High School!

My dad and my mom, Margaret, met during World War II when they both worked at an aircraft factory here in San Diego. My mom was a “Rosie the Riveter,” and my dad was her boss. Stolen looks soon turned to love, and they were married a few years later on May 30, 1947, in their home’s living room. (See photo below.)

Together, they raised three daughters: my oldest sister, my twin sister, and me. My dad’s parents–my grandparents–also lived with us in the same house purchased by them and my dad in 1945. We were cozy in our three bedroom, one bathroom home, but we all made it work, even boarding as well as entertaining countless visiting relatives around the dining room table over the years. That house remained in the family until 2016 when it broke my heart to have to sell it after my mom passed that year.

My dad was very ill the last four years of his life, but he held on so that he and my mom could celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1997. He died three weeks later. Their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary was last month.

I miss you, Daddy, especially today. I miss you, too, Mom. Daddy, I will always remember your soft-spoken, shy nature, beautiful classical piano playing wafting from the living room, love for our pet cat despite claiming to be allergic to her, our Sunday afternoon drives, your hard work (along with Mom’s) that kept us fed and clothed, your examples of kindness and understated humor, and the importance of socking away part of each paycheck for vacations and retirement.

So, get a clue, Readers. Love those close to you every day. Life’s too short to do otherwise.

Donald Johns — August 15, 1911 to June 23, 1997 — R.I.P.




Shake It Up!

Dear KIds, Authors, and All Readers,
Today, I’d like to share a tidbit from my upcoming Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger. It releases this fall.
We authors often borrow from our own real-life experiences to bolster our storytelling. I am no exception. Here is the backstory behind the story:
First, the story: In Book 4, Botanic Hill detective Moki Kalani returns to Hawai’i for the first time in five years since his mother’s death there. After all, the squad has a mystery to solve on O’ahu. Moki’s aunt Luana literally hands him a memory in the form of a pair of hula girl salt and pepper shakers. He recounts how he and his aunt almost burned the family’s house down one day! They had accidentally left some soup cooking on the stove when they went to the store to buy the shakers for Moki’s mom’s birthday gift.
Now, the backstory: My grandmother took my twin sister and me to a local gift shop one December to buy a birthday gift for Mom. But Grandma forgot the leg of lamb she was cooking on the stove! We returned with the cute little Friar Tuck salt and pepper shakers, pictured below, to a kitchen about to go up in flames. Not my mom’s best birthday. But I inherited the shakers and the memory!
So, get a clue, all Readers. Who knew these two adorables would someday shake a mini plot point out of me? And authors of all ages, what real experiences have you sprinkled throughout your writing? (Puns intended.) 

Up Your Tea Total!

Dear Readers and Tea Drinkers,

If you’re like me, you probably enjoy settling down with a good book and a hot cup of tea.

So, when I ran across this eye-opening article yesterday entitled “Nine Reasons Why You Should Stop Throwing Away Used Tea Bags,” I just had to share it. (By Mary Tomlinson, June 6, 2022, at myrecipes.com)

There are some amazing uses for those soggy bags many of us just throw into the garbage can.

You can check out the nine ideas in this helpful article by clicking HERE.

So, get a clue, tea-drinking readers! Enjoy the tea-bag housekeeping, cooking, and beauty hacks and help the environment at the same time after you’ve read that book!





Good Becomes Greater

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Are you altruistic?

Kids, in case that’s a new word for you, please allow me to become Lanny the Lexicon for a moment and define it for you: Altruism (noun) means being generous; volunteering; helping others–one or more people, animals, or organizations–without expecting anything in return. Altruism is a good deed you can do. But did you know that, sometimes, being altruistic could put you at risk or become very costly. This is called “heroic altruism.” Still, some decide to help others out of concern, not expecting any reward for themselves. MANY forms of altruism are safe and can make a big difference for others.

According to greatergood.berkeley.edu, studies show that people’s first impulse is to help. Evolutionary scientists speculate that altruism is deeply rooted in human nature because cooperation promotes survival. Charles Darwin called altruism “sympathy” and “benevolence” and “an essential part of the social instincts.” His claim is supported by current neurological studies that show when people are altruistic, “their brains activate in regions that signal pleasure and reward, similar to when they eat chocolate.”

So, get a clue, Kids and Readers. Even if you aren’t seeking a reward when acting altruistically, your brain responds as if you did! I hope you will find safe ways to be altruistic. That’s how to make the good you do become even greater and satisfying.

And if you’d like to read more about why some people risk their lives to help others, please click HERE.

For an in-depth overview of where generosity comes from, what its benefits are, and how to cultivate it, please click HERE.






What are Your Summer Aspirations?

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

Here comes Memorial Day, the official kickoff for summer!

Like me, you’re probably already thinking about some fun summer plans. I hope you have vacation or down time coming to realize your dreams.


Teachers and students, of course, look forward to their wonderful summer breaks to rest, recharge, and recreate. Summer is different now that I’m retired from teaching. Since I write, that doesn’t stop just because it’s summer, which is all right with me: creativity knows no clock or calendar! Despite that, I still retain the right to make summer plans!


This summer, I plan to continue bringing my Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger, to you, my readers for a timely release in October. And yes, I have some non-writing-related aspirations, too. I hope to travel to the East Coast to visit my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren, whom I haven’t seen since last August. (We are anxiously awaiting my baby grandson’s COVID vaccinations prior to my visit!).

I also want to take advantage of the warmer weather and get outdoors for more walks in the park and at the beach, get to some fun barbecues, and sightsee in my own city. Sorting through decades of recipes and photos to make books, and whittling away at my TBR stack are always on my list, regardless of the season.

So, get a clue, Kids and Readers. What do you aspire to do this summer? Drop me a line and let me know HERE. I hope whatever you do, you have lots of fun!


Friday the 13th!

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Did you know that Friday, May 13, 2022, was the only Friday the 13th this year?

Years that have 365 days and begin on a Saturday will have only one Friday the 13th. 2022 meets those criteria. Our next Friday the 13th won’t happen until January 2023.

What’s the big deal about Friday the 13th for some people and cultures, anyway?

According to history.com, “Friday the 13th has long been a harbinger of bad luck.” The psychological names that describe fear of this unlucky day are “triskaidekaphobia” and “friggatriskaidekaphobia”!

Such fear is one of many superstitions. In some Western cultures, the number 12 has historically been associated with completeness (like twelve months in the year; the twelve labors of Hercules; the twelve tribes of Israel; etc.), so number 13 is odd and, therefore, imbued with negative associations.

And why Friday? According to Biblical tradition, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion was on a Friday. The Last Supper was held the day before. There were thirteen people (Jesus plus the twelve apostles) around the table. (Since then, thirteen people around a table has been considered bad luck.) Also, Friday was said to be the day when Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit.

In the late nineteenth century, a New Yorker named Captain William Fowler, trying to erase the stigma of Friday the 13th, founded The Thirteen Club. Its members dined on a thirteen-course dinner on the thirteenth day of each month in Room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage. U.S. presidents Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, and Teddy Roosevelt joined the club at one time or another.

Friday the 13th appears in pop culture: The novel Friday the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson was published in 1907. The horror movie Friday the 13th was released in 1980.

History.com reports some traumatic events that occurred on Friday the 13th: The German bombing of Buckingham Palace (September 1940); a cyclone that killed over 300,000 people in Bangladesh (November 1970); the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (October 1972); the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996); and, the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed thirty people (January 2012).

So, get a clue, Readers. Are you superstitious? Do you fear Friday the 13th? Watch out when walking under ladders, and don’t let a black cat cross your path!