Dear Kids, Readers, and Verbivores,

Every morning, I find a lovely surprise in my email inbox. It’s from Word Genius, a company with a mission to teach people a new word daily.

A recent word was flocculate. I had never heard of it. Do you know it?

My first thought was that it had to do with a flock, such as sheep. Turns out I was somewhat correct if we fast-forward through the centuries.

Flocculate is a transitive verb meaning to form or cause to form into small clumps, masses, or tufts. 

Flocculate’s etymology, aka, backstory: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, scientists in the late sixteenth century noticed that loose masses separated from a solution or suspension through precipitation often resembled tufts of wool. They began referring to those masses as flocks, from the Latin word floccus, meaning “tufts.” This is not to be confused with the term flock that refers to “a group of animals,” which comes not from Latin but from the Old English word flocc, meaning “crowd” or “band” as in a flock of sheep!

But there’s more: About two centuries later, the Late Latin term flocculus entered the English language and was also used to mean “a small loosely aggregated mass.” By the end of the nineteenth century, a whole word family had been born, including the adjective flocculent, the noun floccule, and finally our verb flocculate! 

So, get a clue, Readers. We can describe fur, hair, and wool–and, therefore, certain animals–as flocculated or flocculent since sometimes, that fur, hair, or wool can become woven into a tight mass of corkscrew curls. Which brings me full circle to sheep in a flock with flocculent wool. And pulling a bit more on that woolen thread takes me to my late, great poodle-bichon Jimmy Lambchop with his mass of flocculated curls. Miss you so much, sweet little buddy, and your cute floccules as well. Woof! Baaa!





Dear Readers, Current and Future Architects, and Fans of Ancient Egypt,

Does Egypt call to you? If so, I think you’ll enjoy this . . . 

I have been a proud member of San Diego’s “Save Our Heritage Organisation” (SOHO), for many years. (Yes, that’s spelled with an “S,” not a “Z.”) SOHO does the important work of “preserving the past for the future” here in my city and has saved many fine old buildings and objects from the wrecking ball over the decades.

Loving architecture and ancient Egypt as I do, it’s no surprise that an article in SOHO’s July/August newsletter caught my eye: “Egyptian Revival Architecture in San Diego: An Online Tour.” It features buildings and objects–mostly extant–of the early 20th-century Egyptian Revival influence on San Diego’s building landscape.

You can take this short but fascinating online tour at http://www.sohosandiego.org/tours/egyptian/indexegyptianrevival.htm

Egyptian Revival architecture was inspired by the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 and the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. Dreams of adventure and treasure in Egypt captured people’s imaginations worldwide, and the term “Egyptomania” was coined.

Who created SOHO’s online Egyptomania tour? A San Diego college student named Satchel Fisher. With his interests and studies in world history and cultural heritage, he was drawn to SOHO’s architectural and cultural preservation mission. With SOHO’s guidance, he created the tour for our enjoyment and education.

So, get a clue, Readers. Is there an untapped avenue for your interests and passions that might benefit others? Don’t let the Sphinx keep it a secret! And don’t forget to pick up your copy of my Book 1, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets HERE.


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.