Mala Enjoys Koonilingus at Ruby Tuesday

Laura and I and a writer friend, Mary Ann Hillier, discovered that none of us had ever been invited to join a book club, so we decided to start the We Didn’t Want to Join Your Stinky Book Club Anyway book club. We’ll meet every other month and talk about the books we’re reading. We didn’t want the pressure of having to read a particular book. That sounded like too much work. Wine and book talk seemed perfect.

We met at Ruby Tuesday. The last time I had a glass of wine there it was some truly dreadful Zin or Merlot, so I was reluctant to order wine. But last night I noticed that they had Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet on the menu.

Mala and Ruby Menu

I sometimes drink Koonunga Hill at home, but always seemed to have a hard time remembering the name and it quickly evolved into Koonilingus. It was easy to remember and the word just rolls off the tongue. Stop laughing. (Laura snorted her Sam Adams Octoberfest Ale.) My husband knows exactly what to do when I say, “Roger, I’d like some Koonilingus.” He heads for the wine fridge.

I live in a family where things are often named something other than their real names and everybody in the family knows what it means. Maybe this happens in all families. When I was growing up we all knew what Willsy meant. My parents, as young newlyweds, had gone to dinner at the home of another young couple, the Wills. Apparently the wife wasn’t much of a cook and passed the potatoes through the boiling water and they were not completely cooked. Ever after,  anything undercooked at our house was Willsy.

My husband calls the couple who clean for us every two weeks The Wanderers. They sort of wander around the house and clean. I’m okay with it. My husband called the last cleaning person we had The Cleaning Chick. She was a young, well-endowed, energetic gal who cleaned in cut-offs and a tank top, but she went walkabout and we had to change the locks. We’ll keep The Wanderers.

Laura shared that one day, when she was driving home, she saw a rabid racoon. She stopped the car and went to a nearby house where there was a man with a gun. (It’s the Eastern Shore, okay?) He came out and shot the animal. Ever after that she and her husband refer to that part of the road as “dead racoon.”

As in, “Honey, are you on your way home?”

“I’m at dead raccoon. See you in a couple of minutes.”

Laura and Mary Ann dared me to blog about our meeting and enjoying my glass of Koonilingus. The We Didn’t Want to Join Your Stinky Book Club Anyway book club survived its first meeting and so did Ruby’s.

P.S. Here’s what we’ve been reading. We are an eclectic bunch.

Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction Madadam Triology: Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood, Madadam; Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You; Deborah Crombie, To Dwell in Darkness; Jonathan Evison, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving; Donna Leon, Death at La Fenice; Jasper Fforde, The Woman Who Died Alot – A Thursday Next Novel; Peggy Hesketh, Telling the Bees; Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.



Rehearsals Begin in Minnesota

Rehearsals for The Santa Diaries have begun in Faribault, Minnesota. Laura and I will be going to see several of the shows.I hope the photo below is not what we will have in store for us as we will have to drive from Minneapolis to Faribault. When we go someplace Laura is kind enough to let me drive. I’m one of those people who likes to be in control. This works out well because when we go to Baltimore for theater Laura doesn’t like to drive over the Bay Bridge. I don’t have a bridge issue.

snow in MN

One of the cast members, Michael Lambert who is cast as Will Hawes in the play, sent us a newsy email which I posted on The Santa Diaries Project blog. Take a look.

If we were closer we’d attend some rehearsals, but now we have to decide if the opening weekend or the closing weekend would be the best time to see some of the performances. We’re waiting to hear from the play’s director to help us make a decision.

We Talk to a Brown Bag

Last week Laura and I gave a talk at a brown bag lunch at the St. Michaels, Maryland library, a branch of the Talbot County library. We had been asked several months before to speak about how our book, The Santa Diaries: Memories of a Small-town Christmas, had been turned into a play and then a screenplay. Usually these talks seem like a good idea at the time we’re asked, but the week before we always wonder if we were nuts to agree. This talk, however, was different.

Santa Diaries Cover JPEG

Preparing our notes helped us remember the writing path we’ve been on for the last couple of years. All things Christmas. And we loved sharing the story of this writing journey which has been full of creativity, occasional angst, and a lot of joy.

We put together photos and slides of the journey and Shauna Beulah, the librarian, managed the computer for us, making sure the right ones got on the screen at the right time. We even were able to play The Santa Diaries trailer that Laura made on Animoto. It always makes me tear up.

The brown bags are held once a month and usually feature a local topic. It might be local history, an environmental issue, blue crab recipes, and the occasional author. This is Laura, me, and Shauna.

Laura, Mal, Shauna

The library takes good care of the people who show up. I didn’t see anybody with a brown bag lunch, but there was coffee, tea and somebody had baked goodies. The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Library system is my local library. They take good care of us.


There were thirty copies left of The Santa Diaries book that we did for Christmas in St. Michaels. Once they are gone, there will be no more. I sold 13 of those 30 copies at this talk. All the monies go to the charities supported by Christmas in St. Michaels. Now I am shamelessly carrying the last few with me everywhere I go.

We had a great time remembering the writing work we’ve done the last few years and sharing the journey. No angst. Just joy!




Verizon DSL vs Atlantic BB

Verizon DSL, Atlantic BB and HVAC

Friday, October 3, 2015: Two guys from Atlantic Broadband showed up to bury a cable from the pole in the back to the house. That was what the guy who came a month ago said needed to be done. The Friday crew showed up with a tractor trailer and a trencher. When they looked at the site they decided they didn’t need to bury the cable, they could run a wire next to our overhead phone wire.

The next day the guy showed up to install the internet service. He discovered that there was already an Atlantic BB cable to the house. It is buried, but there was a bright orange cable and box by the house. With all the digging I do in my garden beds, it’s amazing I hadn’t found that cable. And even more amazing that Friday’s crew of two didn’t see it. It’s located next to where the Direct TV cable comes into the house and they looked at that area. Maybe they were both color blind.

The Saturday guy knew what he was doing. The cable, which must have been installed before we moved into this house 9 years ago, was still live. I had bought the needed DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, which Atlantic BB wanted to rent to me for $8 a month + $10 a month for an “n” router. I said NO!  Since I had all the equipment, we were up and running in an hour. I can’t wait for faster internet.

The installer had to go under the house into the crawl space. Crawl space is no exaggeration. Most Eastern Shore houses of a certain age (the 60’s) were built on foundations two cinder blocks high – about 20 inches. Both my husband and I are very hands-on home owners but neither of us have been under this house. Nobody wants to go under the house. When the installer came out from running the cable to the router in my husband’s office, he told me there were three of the HVAC tubes that were not attached to the heating and AC. Just laying on the ground. I don’t want to think about how long that has been going on. Did we heat the crawl space during last winter’s cold weather? Cool the crawl space all summer? I gave him a nice tip.

Sunday, October 5: We had somebody from Service Today, who installed the HVAC system six years ago, come out to hook the HVAC tubes back up. It was 68 in the house that morning. Nothing a sweater couldn’t fix, but colder weather will be here soon. We want to be able to turn on the furnace. When I saw the older gentleman who came get out of his truck, I knew there was going to be a problem. He got in the first part of the crawl space, but couldn’t get through the smaller opening to where the problem was. He was too fat. Someone thinner is supposed to come on Tuesday.

And the Atlantic BB vs DSL issue? I don’t think my internet access is any faster. It might even be slower. Sunday morning it was just as pokey as before. Our IT guy is coming out on Tuesday to fix a printer issue for my husband’s MAC. He’ll check the speed and see where we are. My husband says his internet is faster, but the router is on his desk. I’m ten feet away in another room. Even if my internet isn’t faster after all this, we found a problem in the crawl space that we wouldn’t have otherwise known about, so that was a very good thing.

Tuesday, October 7: I was gone all day on a bus trip to Winterthur to see the incredible Downton Abby costume exhibit. My husband, Roger, was at home to handle people showing up to fix things.

Travis, our IT guy from Staples, came out. It wasn’t my imagination. My internet is no faster. He ordered a Universal Dual Band Wireless Internet Adapter for me and is supposed to come on Thursday to install it.

Another guy from Service Today came out. Much younger and thinner. He hooked up the tubes and, when he emerged, told Roger there was a cat skeleton in that section of the crawl space. I didn’t really want to know that. He thought maybe it had crawled in there to keep warm. The fact that it was a skeleton makes me think those HVAC tubes have been hanging a long time. Money down the drain. Oh, and he didn’t bring out the remains. Now I know I’m not going down in that crawl space. I wonder which neighbor has been missing a cat.

Thursday, October 9: Travis didn’t show up. He must have gotten tied up on another appointment since he stays until the issue is resolved. I’ll call to schedule another appointment.The internet speed issue is annoying, but not crucial at this point. The Bay to Ocean website that I take care of is completed for the time being.

And life goes on, despite pokey internet access and HVAC issues. Cold and rainy again today. I’m not complaining. We need the rain, but we might have our first fire of the season tonight to take the chill off the house.



Designated Driver

This was a post that I started on September 14th. Now that we have a new thing to celebrate – being quarter finalists in the Final Draft Big Break Contest – we’ll have to do it again. Hopefully Laura’s husband can join us.

9/14/14: Laura, my husband and I had dinner last night at Scossa’s in Easton. Her husband was on a flight. We offered to pick Laura up so she could have that last glass of after-dinner grappa. Two glasses of wine is my limit, so I was the designated driver.


It was a celebration dinner. We had just heard that one of our scripts, Loverly, is being considered by Richard Saperstein. Loverly is about how My Fair Lady made it to Broadway – a story so bizarre we couldn’t have made it up.

We finished the #Santa script, and – most importantly – Laura’s company, East Coast Flight got  a contract award for Domestic Charter Airlift Services which allows them to bid on lots of projects. She’s been working on this for several years, so it was a HUGE accomplishment!

We weren’t always so good about celebrating, but are doing better. We’ve realized that even if we don’t always get to the goal, we need to celebrate the milestones along the way.




Final Draft Big Break Contest

Laura got an email yesterday that we are among the quarter-finalists for the 2014 Final Draft, Inc. Big Break Contest. We are among the top 10% of almost 7,000 entries. Final Draft said, “There were many excellent scripts entered this year but these scripts rose to the top. We congratulate these writers on their accomplishment.”


Our entry, Proto, is a high concept, one hour procedural drama, which centers on an ensemble team of engineers who create nature inspired robotic prototypes and provide outside forensics for public and private bots gone wrong.

We were inspired to write the script after reading about the exploding world of biomimetic robots – hummingbird surveillance bots, eco fish-bots that analyze water, snake-bots that locate earthquake victims and a large dog-like robot that can be used in combat to carry heavy loads.

You can watch Big Dog in action on YouTube. It’s terrifying. While I was watching that video again, another creation by Boston Dynamics showed up and I had to watch it too. Check out this creature galloping at high speed. Now they just need to figure out how to make it quiet. Can you imagine an army of these coming at you on a battlefield?

The semifinalists of Final Draft’s Big Break Contest will be announced in late October, the top 10 finalists in features and television in early November, the top 5 in mid-November, and the winners in both feature and TV in December. The Grand Prize winners in features and TV will be revealed at the 10th Annual Final Draft Awards in February.

Eleven winners will share cash, prizes, and the New York Film Academy Writing Fellowship with a total value over $80,000. Past winners who scored representation with A-list executives have seen their scripts optioned, sold, and produced.

We’ve been quarter-finalists in contests before so we aren’t breaking out the champagne yet, but to get this far, in the Final Draft contest, is amazing.