Reading Addiction Blog Tour – Book Review

Thank you so much BookLoversCircumspect4 for your fantastic 4-diamond Review

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Romantic Suspense
Date Published: 8/14/2015

Twenty-five-year-old Maddie Kerrigan is known at Midwest auto auctions as the tall, hot babe in the tight jumpsuit and red stilettos. To take her car restoration company to the next level, she must sell a prized family heirloom: a one off, 53’ Cadillac Eldorado in mint condition.

Maddie’s senses go into over drive when the gorgeous California investor, Nick Berlin, shows up with a blank check in his hand and an irresistible gleam in his eye. He doesn’t know much about old cars, but when Maddie invites him behind the wheel, he’s ready to push the pedal down.

But when a letter from her estranged father claims ownership of the car, and ties Nick to an old family enemy, Maddie puts the brakes on the sale and launches a road trip across country to confront her past. How far will Nick go to get his…

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The Well Earned Comfort Zone

I hear a lot about getting out of your comfort zone these days, most often that “Nothing exciting happens there.” Maybe. It is true that I would never have completed my first romance novel if I hadn’t pushed out of the comfort zone to write a steamy sex scene or two. Was it comfortable submitting my work time after time, only to get a rejection? Not. But Mint Condition would have languished in my desk drawer if I hadn’t put it out there. I’m mostly an introvert.

Was it comfortable to walk up to strangers at car shows, introduce myself and pitch my book? No. I’d rather have my toenails removed one at a time. But I met some of the most wonderful people by doing just that.

Love chatting with readers in person.

Love chatting with readers in person.

What I learned through this experience is that pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits takes you to a whole new level of comfort.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband decided to take us on a bike tour. Comfort zone. I love to ride bikes in beautiful places. We live near the bike trail along the beautiful Central Coast of California—cool breezes, endless view, great Mai Tai’s at the end.

He chose Death Valley.

Wait a minute…Death…Valley? I didn’t think that was quite in my comfort zone. It’s hot there, isn’t it?

99 degrees and climbing, heading from Hell's Gate to Furnace Creek--out of the frying pan into the fire.

99 degrees and climbing, heading from Hell’s Gate to Furnace Creek–out of the frying pan into the fire.

Hot and…uncomfortable.  And a little bit scary.  Like pitching my book to an agent at a conference?  No.  Way scarier.  Getting out of your comfort zone has a way of putting things into perspective. But more importantly, for me at least, getting out of the CZ raises the bar.

Yes, I rode across that valley to get to this chair.  A well earned, and new level of comfort.

Dante's peak, Death Valley National Park, California.

Dante’s peak, Death Valley National Park. Waiting for sunset…and stars.

Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams

for any of you who’ve been told the odds are against you…

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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I am currently reading Kate White’s I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know. There are bad books, okay books, good books and great books. But there is another kind of book and it’s the rarest.

The game-changer.

White has a witty, sassy style. She is seamlessly intelligent and down-to-earth in her fiction. And guess what? Her nonfiction delivers more of the same.

I’ve never recommended a book I haven’t finished, but this one has me far too excited. Even if Ms. White devolves into dirty limericks for the rest of the book? I still feel I have spent my money well. There are some points she makes which I feel are especially poignant and applicable to writers.

Part of the reason I’m referring to her book in this blog (even though I’m not yet finished) is that I might just chicken out unless I…

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Mint Condition is on the Street!

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A sexy CEO and a spunky grease monkey collide when the sale of a classic Cadillac drives skeletons out of the closet.

So pleased to announce that the first in my Classic Love series, MINT CONDITION, has been released and is now available in all the major outlets, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. A big thanks goes out to Escargot Books and Music for embracing this project. Jump on over to the MINT CONDITION book page for links to the major retailers.

I’d love it if you’d follow my blog for upcoming events and news about MINT CONDITION, and the next book in this series, BLUE FLAME SIX.

Do you have a romantic classic car story?  I’d love to hear it.  Leave a reply here!

Who in the heck is Nick Berlin?

Mint Condition has just been contracted to Escargot Books and Music! Yay! Here’s a post as it appeared when it was first pitched. Enjoy!

Kat Drennan - Author

Long before Nick Berlin became the successful CEO of the Central Coast Real Estate Trust in my contemporary romance, MINT CONDITION, he was a part of my life, streaming through the viaducts of my dreams in silk underwear.

It all started with a phone call. Like in the Whoopee Goldberg film, Jumping Jack Flash, the phone would ring and someone would be looking for Nick Berlin.

“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

“Are you sure?” We’d check the number, which I’d just gotten after moving to a new city in the 805.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Days stretched to months as I systematically informed dozens (maybe hundreds) of people who I imagined were Nick’s friends, family, bill collectors, ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, current wives, employers, ex-employers, old buddies from high school, the FBI, the IRS, the CIA, the Rotary Club, the gun club, his car insurer, his home insurer, and his current…

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Here’s a little teaser from Blue Flame Six, second in my California Classic series.

Luke slipped into his usual booth at Joe’s on downtown State Street, and removed his jacket. It was their booth. His and Gina’s, near the front where she could watch the people coming and going. The server, the regular for Tuesday night, eyed the empty space across from him and pulled a knowing frown.

“I’ll have whatever’s on special, Nadine,” he told her.

He really didn’t care what he ate. In fact, he wasn’t that hungry. Ever since he’d told Gina he didn’t have time for a relationship, he’d found himself alone with absolutely nothing but time. Sure there was the fundraiser for the DA campaign this Saturday night. He knew it was going to be her last term, and he’d promised to support her whenever possible. It wasn’t just for his probable appointment to Assistant DA if she succeeded. He’d served under Lyla King as a public defender. Cut his teeth as a prosecutor on her staff for the past five years.

His cell phone dinged in his pocket. It was the event planner at the Bacarra Resort. “Whatever you think is best, Jen,” he texted for the umtieith time. Once Gina had suggested her favorite place for the dinner venue, he thought including the services of an event planner would relieve him of further responsibility. Wrong. The woman called him ten times a day with questions. Each time a message came in, he felt a little pang of regret. Without Gina to bounce the ideas off of, he had lost interest in the project. Dinner was dinner, right? Gina would laugh and then give him the answer. Gina would…

At a movement near the booth, he looked up expecting his server. Instead, a shapely woman of about thirty cocked her head and posed at the end of his table. With an ivory face, shiny black hair grazing her shoulders and a sharp, sculptured nose, she could be mistaken for Michael Jackson’s ghost.

“Prosecutor Berlin?” she asked. Her lipsticked smile spread over a squarish chin with an unnaturally deep dimple in it. “I’m Fiona Blanchard, with The Bomb.”

Luke had no idea what The Bomb was, but he assumed he was about to find out. He stood and shook her outstretched hand.

“Oh, just a second,” she said, and jitterbugged his arm around her shoulder in a practiced move. She snuggled up under his chin and flashed a selfie before he knew what was happening. “Nothing like having a friend in the DA’s office.” She eyed the empty seat in the booth opposite him. “Mind if we talk a few minutes?”

“If this is about the campaign, you need to make an appointment with Lyla’s campaign assistant.”

“I thought that was you.”

He slipped his wallet out of his coat jacket and handed her a card.

“Cal Worthington?” If her face matched her tone, it should have crinkled her brow, but nothing moved. Luke had to look away. She pushed the card back across to his side of the table.

“No relation to the guy with the tigers on the car lot. But you really have to see him.” He pushed the card back.

Silver glitter-tipped nails on long fingers pushed the card aside. “Lucky for me, this isn’t about the campaign. Well, not specifically that is.”

Luke felt a sickly prickle in his stomach. Suddenly the thought of spaghetti with sausage and clams felt like a bad idea. He caught the eye of his server and gave her the cut throat hand signal. She nodded, and he turned his attention back to the woman sitting across from him. In Gina’s spot.

“So, Ms Blanchard. You have one minute to tell me what this is about because I’ve decided against dinner.”

“Feeling a little edgy tonight? Well, I guess that’s understandable,” she said, motioning to the same server. ”Your chance to be appointed Assistant DA up for grabs and all, and then your girlfriend walking out on you. How long had you two been together? Seven years? High School sweethearts, wasn’t it?”

Nadine arrived at the table, her expression prickling with attitude. ”Can I get you something?”

“I’ll have a Grey Goose martini, straight up, with a twist.”

The server tilted her head to Luke. He shook his head and she turned without another word.

Luke sipped a little too much water, the ice cubes bumped his upper lip, awkwardly drenching his nose. He wiped it with his napkin, and tossed it a little harder than he intended on the table. “You said this wasn’t about the campaign, and my relationships are none of your business. So I’ll just—”

“Oh, but your wrong. See, The Bomb is all about relationships. And you just made the short list in the running for Most Eligible Bachelor of Santa Barbara County.”

Jesus. Thank you Miss Gina for leaving me open to this. He grabbed his coat and slipped out of the booth. “Don’t do me any favors.”

She wagged a long finger at him like the red head in the Delta safety video. “You never know. This might just be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

“It’s not going to happen.”

Nadine served the martini with the bill. Luke dropped a twenty on top of it.

Blanchard took a long sip, leaving a red smear on the lip of the glass. “Ooooh,” she said, holding the glass up in a toast. She snapped another picture. “It already has.”

From Newbie to Master—Understanding the Writer’s Journey

Thank you, Kristen Lamb, for helping me put this week’s struggle into perspective. I see that I need to get a hold of my vet for a human-sized cone of shame.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :) Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? 🙂

The mark of a pro is they make whatever we want to do look easy. From running a business to playing guitar to wicked cool Kung Fu moves, masters rarely seem to even break a sweat. Same with authors. With the pros? The story flows, pulls us in, and appears seamless and effortless.

Just check out Ronda Rousey’s 14 second record-breaking WIN from this past weekend for an idea of JUST how EASY pros make things look…

Many of us decided to become writers because we grew up loving books. Because good storytellers are masters of what they do, we can easily fall into a misguided notion that “writing is easy.” Granted there are a rare few exceptions, but most of us will go through three acts (stages) in this career if we stick it through.

Act One—The Neophyte

This is when we are…

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That Rat Bastard, Cupid.

What better day to launch a new romance authors website than Valentine’s day.  But not everyone loves that rat bastard cupid. 

Love.

It’s the last thing I think of when the bright reds and greens of Christmas come down in the stores, and the blush pinks and rose reds of Valentine’s Day come gushing in on flights of fancy paper doilies.

I find myself avoiding the mall.

It’s only January. Must I be bombarded with red foil wrapped heart-shaped boxes on the way to the White Sale at Macy’s?

My husband raises a doubtful eyebrow at navy bean and beef jerky soup. I tell him I am practicing my annual see-how-long-you-can-eat-from-what-you’ve-got-stored-up-in-your-cupboards kitchen clean-out.  What I’m really doing is avoiding the grocery store. How can I be expected to go there when I break into an icy sweat at the checkout counter?

Boxes of Valentines cards are already on clearance and it’s only January 9th. The lady in front of me has lost her debit card in the bottom of her purse and I’m forced to stare at rosy-cheeked cherubs exchanging vows of love and two-for-one sale on boxes of re-written conversation hearts (Tweet-me, Friend-me, Bite-me) until I’m ready to pay for her entire basket of groceries just to get through the line and back to the safety of my car where I can hyperventilate in peace.

I admit it.  I have a problem. Call it Valentine’s anxiety.

For me, love never came wrapped in red cellophane and drenched in chocolate.  Since I was small, it seemed to me that love was a matter over which I had little choice.

Remember this?

You’re six years old and all week long, your teacher has worked you into a frenzy preparing a decorated paper lunch sack with your name on it for the first grade Valentine party.  Now it’s Scotch-taped up to the chalk tray under the blackboard. The kids are filing by and Butchie Zollin is hovering over your bag. You know this kid.  He punched you in the arm every day by the coat rack and then had the nerve to put the one ‘I Love You’ valentine that came in his packet in your bag. He was obviously suffering some kind of Jungian projection mistakenly leading him to believe that I liked my arm punched and wanted more…

In the Middle Ages, we might have called this courtly love. No expectation—or  in Butchie’s case, knowledge—of  sex. The lover (idolater) tries to make himself worthy by performing some kind of heroic act, such as leaving a very beautiful, but dead beetle in your rain boot. Thus he pledges his undying loyalty.  He might go to the ends of the earth–follow you home from school– in the name of the object of his affections in order to perform his acts and never expect anything in return; his satisfaction coming in the knowledge that he accomplished his task.  If that doesn’t work, he promises to pound you on the way out of class.

But that’s not the source of the anxiety.  No.  I’ve come to realize.  The bigger anxiety.  Oh, lets, call it what it is.  Fear.  The bigger fear was, that I would be skipped over all together. That kid after kid would file past my Valentine bag and not choose to leave anything at all. That a Valentine from Butchie Zollin was better than no Valentine at all.

I learned to settle at an early age.

My first encounter with the full force of what nature has in store for lovers happened in my Junior year in high school.  It grabbed me by the throat, knocked me down, took over my mind and had me speaking in tongues.  I could not have a pencil in my hand without writing his name, over and over and over. There was not a moment during the day that I didn’t want him near and my nights were filled with dreams of his hands on me and of the new found joy of physical connection between lovers.  It lasted for a year, ended when he graduated, both of us agreeing that what we had was not a lasting love, but infatuation, and not something to be taken seriously.

We were wrong.

1965 was tough year for young men.  A year of classification, draft, and death.  Unless he was a student, a farmer, a last surviving son, or just plain useless, a young man of 18 either joined up or was drafted into the service, most likely in Vietnam.  By the end of the war, nearly 60,000 young American men would give up their girlfriends, their education, their parents, their dreams and their lives.

Twenty years later, preparing to attend our high school class reunion with my husband, I would find my old sweetheart’s name written in my school annual.  I felt a tug of longing as I ran my fingers over his name.  What had happened to him?  Did he go to Vietnam? Did he marry that girl I’d heard he’d knocked up? Was he alive?

Did he remember me?

For twenty years I’d tucked the memory of our year together deep down, a tattoo in my heart, unvarnished by reality, safe from the wear and tear of everyday life.  Yet with one brush of my fingers across his picture in the pages of the annual, the remembered force of our passion shook me to the core. My husband and I had two great kids, a nice home, had made a decent life for ourselves.  Sure, we’d hit rocks along the way.  Who didn’t?  How can one, after all, compare the euphoria of first love to the long lasting kind that develops in marriage and raising a family?

I closed my eyes, piling up all the good I could find in my marriage against the images: his skin sparkling with sunlit droplets of ocean water; his eyes, staring into mine, the warm summer sand on our near bare bodies. Just a dream, I told myself, remembering stories of love affairs born in class reunion, ending in disaster.  My marriage was not what I’d dreamt it would be. We ‘d hit all  the rocks modern society could offer. But it was solid, wasn’t it?  And with two children to get through school, it was much better than none at all.  My husband had his weaknesses, but it could be worse.  So, I settled.  I had beautiful children to show for it and that was good enough.

I smiled to myself, closed the book.  My first love probably wouldn’t be at the reunion anyway.

But he was.

We had exchanged polite conversation with he and his wife.  “A nice couple,” my husband  commented back at our hotel room, clearly unimpressed with the encounter.  “Yes,” was all I could say.

I proceeded to drink too much wine, remembering how his eyes had locked onto mine when we’d approached their table. A flash of recognition leapt across the space between us and electrified my soul.  Yes, he was alive.  He’d been saved from Vietnam by a shot-gun wedding and the birth of a daughter. He’d graduated college, divorced, moved north, remarried.  And yes, by the look in his eyes, he remembered. Everything.

The letter came in the mail a month after the reunion.

Friendly.  Innocent.  What a clean, simple time those days before Vietnam had been.  Seeing me had reminded him of all that was free and simple and light in the years before 1969 when everything would change. Seeing him reminded me of the high-spirited young man I believed would one day make his mark on the world. We were lucky, all of us, to have made it through tough times. It was a thoughtful commentary, a reconnection crafted for family ears.  The return address was to his work.

The next two letters, for our ears only, revealed the man I had glimpsed in the  boy;  strong, competent, sure in his belief that he could help humanity.  He had never forgotten the feeling of discovery and joy we found together, had never loved so deeply or had it returned in the same way.  Our correspondence on and off over the years maintained a tone of fun and hinted sex, but always preserved the reality that we had obligations to good people who could not be damaged or broken.  After all, responsible people don’t just run into old lovers at class reunions, leave their prospective spouses, run off together and live ecstatically ever after. Do they?

Time passes, things change.  As my youngest neared her eighteenth birthday I was caught up in the drama of teenage angst which seemed to spread to every corner of my life. One day my husband tried to reassure me: “Don’t worry, she’ll soon be gone and it will be only us.”

Only us?

The thought hit me like a dead weight falling through a gallows. It felt like a sentence.  One that I had been serving far too long. On the advice of a friend, I looked at my dilemma from a new perspective:  What if I had only six months to live?  Would I want to spend it in my present circumstance or would I want to change something? And if I chose change, what would that be?

The moment I put the wheels in motion, I felt a burden lift from my shoulders.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick.  And yes, he came into the picture.  To borrow a line from The Titanic:  “He saved me in every way that a person can be saved.”

Eventually the barriers to our own special reunion were removed. We were free to get to know one another again as though no time had passed.  Our respective exes–who we both know would never have taken the first step away from us–are both in new, loving relationships, as healed and whole as we are.

We have been together for seventeen years. Each of us has grown in our love and respect for one another, and the spark has never dimmed. That boyish look that captivated me years ago still reminds me of warm sun and sparkling water and the promise of love.

We’ve hit some bumps and we scaled some heights, always tightly linked. Now we face our sixties with young hearts, free spirits, and enduring light.

At last the lady in front of me swipes her debit card and moves through the line.  I grab two chocolate covered marshmallow hearts on my way through the candy gauntlet and throw them in my cart.  What I have learned in my lifetime is the best way to beat Valentine’s Day anxiety is to choose your own Valentine.

This essay originally appeared in The Whole Person Calendar, Santa Barbara, California, February, 2011

My latest romance novel, Borrego Moon: Love on the Fault Line, answers the “what if” inspired by my love story: What if the girl is pregnant herself when she learns her first love is headed for a shotgun wedding?

Gringa Mex

I had the fortune to befriend a lovely Latina nurse early in December while Freddie was in the hospital for neck surgery.  (He’s doing great, thank you and fast on the mend.) One of the things I and the nurse had in common, other than familiarity with my husbands privates (poor baby had to have a catheter) was our love of Christmas Tamales.

I admitted to totally trashing my kitchen the last time I attempted these. I don’t admit to a lot of things, but one of them is I’m a blond-haired, blue eyed, Native Californian Gringa Mex devotee. I never miss the chance to learn from a master when it comes to Mexican cooking.  Few visitors to my Ojai kitchen dispute the fact that my Gringa Mex fish tacos the best anywhere. If you know me then you know my philosophy of cooking is that there is no food on earth that can’t be improved by the addition of a little heat (of the chili variety).  Puts endorphins in your brain and a smile on your face. I’m definitely going to add these tamale birds to Pilar’s catering menu in Borrego Moon. (Yes, still working on it.)

But home made tamales–the masa, the lard, the corn husks, the pasting, the filling the folding, the steaming…the pure hands-on time consuming task of making tamales and the fact that my family and all their little helping hands live far, far away, making tamales is more of a fantasy dream of mine than the reality.  Even my part Latina sister-in-law gets her Christmas tamales from someone else’s kitchen.

So while waiting for my husband to make a last valiant effort to go on his own before the insertion of the dreaded pee pee tube, Nurse Catheter shared with me her Christmas Tamale secret:  Forget the lard, the corn husks and the steaming and just bake the darn things in muffin cups.

Hello?  Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.   Fresh, delicious, plentiful, hot, mouthwatering Christmas Tamales without the huge, time-gobbling mess?  I’m so there.  I’m  Livin’ La Vida Loca.  Did I make them?  Damn skippin’ I did, and here’s the result:

 

Okay, yes.  I added the corn husk back in (along with a bit more hands on), but hey, that’s me, and it made it easy to lift the golden treasures out of the muffin cups intact.  Add a dollop of Martha Stewart’s fresh tomatillo salsa (you can’t get any more Gringa than that) and you’ve got a plate full of what I call “Vanishing Christmas Tamale Birds.”

You can use any masa and filling you love.  Mine were made with Fresh and Dried Corn Tamale* masa dough and carnitas filling (I used a slow cooker to prepare the meat the day before assembly).
These take about ten minutes to assemble each muffin tray of 18 and 20 minutes in the oven.

WARNING: It is a good idea to double the recipe!  I took two dozen of these to a party and when they disappeared almost instantly, the mob came after me.

The method and recipes follow.  Enjoy and Feliz Navidad!

Ingredients:
1 package dried corn husks, soaked in water for about a hour
3 lbs pork tri tip or other fatty cut
1 7-oz. can of Herdez (or other brand) salsa verde.
1 small white onion, chopped.
1-1/2 cups masa harina (you can get Masa Seca at most grocery stores)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
Cooking spray
1/8 cup vegetable or olive oil (for pressure cooker method only)
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup water (for pressure cooker method only)
1 cup fresh corn kernels, including corn germ and milk (You can substitute canned corn and a bit of the juice)
Fresh Tomatillo Salsa**

Carnitas Meat Filling:
Make it up the day before in a slow cooker, or use a pressure cooker for same day assembly. There is no need to add water as the juices and fat in the meat are all you need.
    Slow Cooker
Place the meat in the slow cooker, add the can of Salsa Verde and onions, heat on High for the first couple of hours, then turn to low for the remainder.  Cook until tender and easily shredded (about 6 hours).
    Pressure Cooker
Heat cooker, add a tbs oil. Brown meat on all sides, mix salsa verde and 1/8 cup water and pour over meat. Sprinkle onions on top.  Seal on lid. Heat until steam escapes lid, then place the rocker on the vent pipe and cook at a gentle rock for 45 minutes. Turn of heat and let steamer indicator return to down position before opening.

Fresh Corn and Dried Corn Masa Dough*:
Place the masa harina, salt, sugar and baking power in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the melted butter and shortening and beat for about 3 minutes until the batter breaks up into fine pieces. Add the water and beat for about 2 more minutes.  Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure it’s all mixed in. Add the corn and beat another minute until the masa sticks to the paddle more than to the sides. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and wrap.  Let it stand about 30 minutes or longer to fully absorb the wet ingredients.

Assembly:
This is the fun part. Pre heat oven to 400 deg. Tear corn husks into thin strips and tear the wide ends into strips.  Make enough for the size batch you need.  They should still be a little wet prior to baking to keep them from burning.

Spray muffin pans with cooking spray. Place one corn husk strip into a cup, leaving about an inch of the husk sticking out on one side and the rest on the other.  Pat about 2 tbs of dough into cup, spreading up sides.

Once all cups are filled, squeeze out excess juice from a dollop of carnitas (about a tbs), and place in each cup.

Top each cup with a layer of dough, making sure to seal with the dough already in the cup.

Bake at 400 deg for 20 minutes.  Lift out using the “head and tail” of the birds and place on cooling rack.  You can make these ahead and reheat before serving.

Fresh tomatillo salsa is a wonderful counterpoint to these tamales, adding sweet crunch and heat, but you can use any you love.  I used **Martha Stewart’s Fresh Tomatillo Salsa which can be found on her website at www.marthastewart.com/316989/freshtomatillosalsa.

*This masa recipe is a variation of Mark Miller’s Fresh and Dried Corn Tamale Masa Dough recipe, from Tamales, (c) 1997, Macmillan, New York, NY, p. 3

Pareidolia?

Before today, I thought I was just crazy. I see out-of-context things in ordinary patterns. 

Here’s how it works. I see a contraption on the beach. I can’t see the base of it because it’s behind the dunes. It’s at least a half mile away, and for a moment, I think–no, I’m positive–there’s a huge crane sticking its erector-set neck up out of the middle of what I know is a lagoon where no crane that big would ever go. There is a cameraman perched on the top of it wearing an Indiana Jones hat, hiding in a makeshift blind, waiting for just the right moment to catch that line of pelican’s swooping across the waves on the other side of the dunes. I walk at little further and the object morphs like a Salvador Dali painting into a crooked driftwood tree trunk someone has hung their hat on, not more than twenty yards away.

Really?

Last year they put up a new billboard along the highway on my way home from my local beach. It’s a dog face, with floppy, dachshund-like ears, a cute black nose, and his pink tongue peeking out.  He’s sporting a sad smile, his eyes half-mast. When I get closer, I see that it’s an advertisement for bank loans with two people shaking hands. 

Huh? 

Every time I drive by, it’s the same: first the dog, then the people.  It freaks the heck out of me because this isn’t an uncommon experience.  It happens to me all the time. I was at my daughter’s last month, and magnetized to her refrigerator door is a picture of a horse with a Mona Lisa smile.  He’s looking right at me, and reminds me that I could be…what? A little off? Delusional? It’s so disconcerting that I confess:

“Now, I don’t want you to worry, but…I see freaky stuff that turns out to be ordinary.  I see ordinary stuff that turns out to be freaky.”

I tell her about the horse.  Trooper that she is, and a mother now herself, she humors me. (Come to think of it, we used to see things together in the random patterns of our shower tile–lions, tigers, and bears.) “Oh, yeah…I see it,” she says.  With an arm around my shoulder, she walks me up to the fridge to show me the portrait. A family portrait of some friends.  No horse, no smile. Just ordinary people. 

But today, I’m vindicated.  And relieved.   And I can thank a random post on my social media page for my relief. There’s a name for this–I’ll call it a gift. It’s called pareidolia.  No, it’s not a matching set of those lacy crocheted things your great grandmother pin all over the furniture. 

Pareidolia is, according to Wikepedia, a “vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Like the man in the moon and those little lion faces on the shower tile? Yep.  Pareidolia. Honest to Pete, I didn’t make this up.  You can read and see some wonderful examples here: Pareidolia

I, my darlings, will stick this away in my writer’s toolbox and return to my WIP: A novel based on a woman who sees freaky things in the wallpaper. And keeps it to herself.