Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Real Life Adventure


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Last night the fabulous Joe Finder and I did a conversation for the Salem Literary Festival…and all in all, it was wonderful. Because I really think we forgot there was an audience. Forgot it was being taped. We are both, as it turns out, slogging through the middle of a new book. Lots of talk, as a result, about perseverance, and  “the Muse only appears when you are writing” and self-doubt, and every book is a new challenge, and the glories of editing.

 


And also, as Debra Bokur reveals, there comes a time…when real life becomes as thrilling as a novel. When something shifts, and something changes.  And you are on your way.

 

Take five minutes. Here is a wonderful story.

 

(And, whoo hoo,  a giveaway below.)

 

 


Assignment in Germany

Debra Bokur

 

Plenty of creative people (plenty of people, for that matter) struggle with self-doubt. For a long time, I wasn’t any different. All the salient questions—is my plot clever enough, my characters compelling enough, my villain human enough?—were generally compounded by a recurring crisis of faith that I’d actually write long enough to get to those two magical words: The End.

 

Learning to trust my writing self came unexpectedly during an-almost missed deadline moment about ten years ago, while I was working as the managing editor at a holistic health magazine. At the time, I was deep into a binge of Helen MacInnes spy novels; a reading spree that had resulted in the purchase of a tweed pencil skirt (one that I wore at every possible opportunity, including grocery shopping in June). I had been sent back to Germany to produce a cover story on healing practices rooted in Roman settlements at the sites of natural springs that had eventually grown into small, lovely spa towns. The skirt came with me on my journey, along with a grueling travel itinerary that required substantial travel across the country.


 The ensuing drama that marked the beginning of the trip was unexpected, as such events typically are. I’d been to Germany dozens of times before, and was comfortable with traveling there. The route I’d planned began at an old spa hotel in Bad Reichenhall, where the spa park in the middle of town features an inhalation wall fed by salty water that creates a mist for health pilgrims to breath in while resting on nearby benches.I completed my interviews at the hotel’s medical center, then shook off my arrival day jet lag while finishing my worn paperback copy of MacInnes’ Assignment in Brittany on one of the park benches, then stopped in at a nearby café for a cup of tea and a slice of apple cake.

 



As usual after an international flight, I didn’t sleep well the first night, and woke at three a.m. That was fine, as I needed to leave quite early in order to make a series of train connections that would take over eight hours to reach Badenweiler, where I was scheduled to dine with the medical director at the small wellness hotel where I’d be spending the next night.

 

Fully prepared for the long day of train connections, I made my way to the front desk at 5:30 to check out and was surprised to find that the hotel’s general manager had arranged for breakfast to be served to me, even though it was far too early for the dining room to be open. I wasn’t hungry, and knew that it was essential that I make my first morning train, but the staff had gone out of their way to pamper me, as they were excited at the property’s first appearance in an American magazine.

 

It seemed likely someone had been called in early to provide this little treat, and it felt ungracious to refuse. The desk manager took my travel bag from me and assured me she had a private taxi on standby to whisk me to the station, then escorted me to a table laid out with fresh flowers and gleaming silver.

 

A smiling waiter served me a plate of eggs and fruit, a pot of tea, and a basket of still-warm croissants. Glancing nervously at my watch as I nibbled at the meal, I thanked the waiter and hurried back to the front desk—only to find that my bag, stuffed with my clothing, computer, notebooks, camera and personal items—was gone.

 

Gone. I approached the manager, completely bewildered. She smiled and glanced beside her desk, where she’d placed my bag. 


The realization hit her as my own panic rose to the surface, and she whirled around, sprinting for the lobby doors. I followed her, watching as she dashed to the street, then turned and ran back to me, questioning the doorman as she reentered the hotel. It seems that in the single moment she’d looked away, the coach driver transporting a group of holiday travelers from the hotel to the airport across the border in Salzburg, Austria, had scooped up my bag, thinking it was part of the luggage meant for his group.

 

A call to the coach company only added to my panic. The coach was being driven by a gentleman who was apparently the only driver in all of Europe to not have a cell phone, and was simply unreachable. My heart sank. Not only was I absolutely, without doubt going to miss my train—and, by default, all of the connections—there was no guarantee I’d be able to locate or claim my bag from whatever depository it would have been inwith at the airport.

 

Bad Reichenhall isn’t too awfully far from the Salzburg airport. On a good day with minimal traffic, the trip can be accomplished in about 20 minutes. My taxi driver, who’d come inside to help, stood listening as the hotel manager apologized, then began to cry—no doubt imagining a scathing piece on the hotel’s incompetence (which, for the record, would never have occurred to me to write). The driver spoke to the manager, asking for a description of the coach, then turned toward the door, gesturing that I should hurry. “Es ist gelb,” he told me—the coach was yellow, and should be easy to spot.

 

The driver’s gleaming black Mercedes Benz S-class was parked at the entrance, and I climbed into the back, barely clicking my seatbelt into place as he raced away along the town’s main road to the motorway. 


I remember the sinking feeling I had, kicking myself for not insisting upon taking the bag into the dining room with me; for not politely declining the offer of breakfast. But at almost the same moment, my anxiety vanished. I was participating in a high-speed chase across a European border in a Mercedes. I was wearing my MacInnes-worthy tweed skirt and an actual trench coat (beige, belted, with tortoiseshell buttons). I was pursing a missing bag (not an attaché, but close enough), and I had missed my train, just like all good spies do on occasion.


What did I care if I had to replace my belongings? My computer was backed up, and my credit cards and passport were in my shoulder bag. This wasn’t a nightmare—it was sort of a dream come true. In another dimension, I might have been behind the wheel of Nancy Drew’s powder blue convertible on my way to a haunted mansion, or racing along the autobahn in an Aston Martin like James Bond intercepting an international villain. This was nothing I couldn’t handle.

 

The speedometer climbed past 150 kph and edged toward 160. The traffic was still light at this hour, and we sped along, the driver’s hands gripping the wheel as I watched for the yellow coach. We reached the airport without ever catching sight of it. Once there, both the driver and I went inside to see if a piece of unclaimed luggage had been picked up.

 

None had. As we set off to return to the hotel, my taxi driver’s phone buzzed. After a brief conversation, he laughed, and spoke to me over his shoulder. The driver of the yellow coach had realized his mistake when my bag went unclaimed by his passengers, and had delivered it back to the hotel.

 

After retrieving it and thanking everyone who’d helped me—and reassuring the hotel manager that all was well—my taxi driver took me to the station, refusing the tip I tried to give him. “We made a movie,” he told me, grinning, and I nodded in agreement.

 

I arrived in Badenweiler on the last possible train of the day at the small station in Müllheim, the closest option to my destination. I was the only passenger, and had fallen asleep by the time we pulled in. The station was dark except for a single light over the platform. The conductor roused me, asking if I had transportation, as taxis were unlikely to be circulating at this time of the evening.

 

I didn’t care. I walked along the platform, noting the empty avenue. A single car was approaching—the hotel owner arriving to meet me, having already heard the story of the morning from the hotel manager in Bad Reichenhall, who’d called to explain I’d be late and unable to keep my meeting. “Sounds like you’ve had quite a day,” he said. I smiled in agreement, then headed to my room, where a plate of sandwiches and a bottle of wine had been left waiting for me.

 

I filed my story with days to spare. I kept the tweed skirt for years, even after it had become a bit tatty and a little too tight in the hips. I don’t know where it is anymore, but Assignment in Brittany is on my shelf, right next to my other ManInnes favorite, The Salzburg Connection. I re-read them every now and then, whenever I want to relive those few hours searching the motorway for the coach that disappeared over the border with my bag, when I felt, just for a little while, like I’d stepped out of the pages of a novel.

 

HANK: I am swooning simply reading this. Oh, what a fantastic story. Thank you! And I need a tweed skirt like that. Some articles of clothing just have—magic. I have a jacket like that, but I can’t tell you which one or the magic will vanish.

 

Reds and readers—do you have an article of clothing that makes everything work? (And a copy of THE FIRE THIEF  to one lucky commenter!)

 

 


The Fire Thief

By Debra Bokur

 

Under a promising morning sky, police captain Walter Aakai makes a tragic discovery: the body of a teenage surfer bobbing among the lava rocks of Maui’s southeastern shore. It appears to be an ill-fated accident, but closer inspection reveals something far more sinister than the results of a savage wave gone wrong. Now that Aakai is looking at a homicide, he solicits the help of his niece, Detective Kali Mahoe.

 

The granddaughter of one of Hawaii’s most respected spiritual leaders, and on the transcendent path to becoming a Kahu herself, Kali sees evidence of a strange ritual murder. The suspicion is reinforced by a rash of sightings of a noppera-bō—a faceless and malicious spirit many believe to be more than superstition. When a grisly sacrifice is left on the doorstep of a local, and another body washes ashore, Kali fears that the deadly secret ceremonies on Maui are just beginning.

 

To find the killer, and ferret out a motive, Kali leans on her skills at logic and detection. But she must also draw on her own personal history with the uncanny legends of the islands. Now, as the skies above Maui grow darker, and as she balances reason and superstition, Kali can only wonder: who’ll be the next to die? And who—or what—is she even on the trail of?

 

 

 

 


Debra Bokur is the author of THE FIRE THIEF (Dark Paradise Mysteries, Kensington), and has traveled the world as a writer, filmmaker and journalist for various national media outlets. She’s won multiple awards, including a 2015 Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism. For more than a decade, she served as the poetry editor at a national literary journal, and her poetry and short fiction have been widely published. She continues to travel in her capacity as the Global Researcher and Writer for the Association for Safe International Road Travel, and as a monthly columnist and feature writer for Global Traveler Magazine.

134 comments:

  1. I love your story, Debra . . . what a fantastic adventure. And now I’m looking forward to reading “The Fire Thief” . . . .

    I agree, Hank . . . some clothes just have special magic . . . I have a much-treasured sweater like that . . . .

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    1. So funny how we know that —very mysterious. Xx

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    3. Thanks so much, Joan! Don't you just love how an item of clothing can act as a portal?

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  2. What an exciting story, Debra! I love how the hotels took such good care of you, and I can imagine just how devastated the hotel manager was when he realized your bag was gone.

    Your tweed skirt sounds like a real stunner. I can remember having a leather skirt and vest when I was a teenager that made me feel so cool.

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    1. Oh yes! Just the right outfit at just the right time...

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    2. I don't think I ever felt cool in high school, no matter what I was wearing. But I love the image of that leather skirt and vest. Cool and maybe just a little ferocious.

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  3. And, Debra, I meant to add that I love finding your series set in Hawaii. I’ll be checking it out for sure.

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    1. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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  4. Amazing story! I still have several articles of clothing that bring back memories and I will NOT part with them. I also recall a couple of outfits I now regret having given away.

    That poor hotel manager. I doubt she looks back on your tale with the same sense of adventure as you do!

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    1. They are working their magic somewhere else—your time with them was meant to be over, right? Xxx

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    2. Oh, she's fine! We had several friendly back-and-forths to fact-check points in the story once I was home in the States, and though I'm sure she's moved on to another property by now. My son works in hotel management and they move him to a new property every few years. And clothes - some things are just meant to be yours, even after the hems fray and the collars go limp. My closet has plenty of old loves in the corners.

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  5. That's an amazing story, Debra. I've traveled a lot, but never with such excitement. (Also, waving hi to a fellow Kensington author!)

    I used to have a jeans jacket that I wore for years, a talisman of sorts, but it had to go. For writing, my cool-weather talisman is a red Indiana University hooded sweatshirt I wear every morning. It came out this week and won't go away until May!

    Question for you with your Hawaiian protagonist - if I may say so, you don't look a bit Hawaiian. Do you get pushback about appropriate for writing in the culture? How do you deal with that? As an author, I'm curious. Thanks!

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    1. Talismans! LOVE that. One of mine is a narrow, felted scarf I bought at an airport in Iceland years ago and will never, ever part with. About the Hawaiian-ness. No, there's not an ounce of tropical blood in my veins, though there's a pretty entertaining list of other things. So far there hasn't been a huge outcry, possibly because I did live there for a while and have, over the years, established strong and respectful relationships with a number of Hawaiian spiritual leaders and wisdom keepers who have been enormously generous in sharing their knowledge with me. I worry a bit about the cultural discussion and where it may eventually lead... for authors of fiction, if we can't allow our imaginations to explore the world, our writing will become pretty limited. Respect, however, is key.

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  6. Amazing story - and how you let your cool through it all is the most amazing part! Your book sounds fascinating, and I look forward to checking it out.

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  7. Hi Debra; welcome to JRW's. I just ordered your book. Hawaii, a police procedural and cultural depth. Who could ask for anything more? So good to meet another Helen MacInnis fan. I have never been to Europe, but I felt like I had when I read her novels.
    As far as clothing, after moving to Florida, I resigned myself to accepting casual wear would merge into my professional wardrobe. Tropical shirts were fun to wear. I am furious that some pointy heads have appropriated my go to dress up clothing (see boogaloo boys). Sorry did't mean to wander into politics.. but here we are.

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    1. Oh so frustrating—and difficult to wear a sign on your shirt saying: this is just a shirt. :-)

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    2. My hubby likes tropical shirts in the summer-I hadn't even considered the current implications. Ugh.

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    3. Thank you, Coralee! I hope you enjoy it. Virtual travel is all the rage, right? I suggest putting on your favorite Florida outfit and settling down somewhere comfy with the book and something tropical to sip on. I'm about to add some recipes to my website, and Mango Iced Tea is one of them.

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  8. What a fabulous story. Had me at the edge of my chair.

    I had a pair of jeans like that. Wore them to tatters and turned them into dust clothes after. Currently seeking a new article of lucky wear!

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    1. Ahhh... now that you've put that in writing so the universe has access to your quest, I'll bet something amazing falls right into your path!

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  9. Welcome to JRW Debra! I enjoyed reading about your real life adventure, how an act of kindness and consideration turned into a crisis in moments. Your mental attitude adjustment was sublime, crisis turns into adventure. Don't you love it?

    O-o-o-o Maui. O-o-o. I have to get your first book and meet your characters. I am so excited to begin a series set in that amazing place. Best vacation ever! Whales everywhere!

    I have had many adventures, I think. Some were terrifying, some hilarious. Some were because I took chances. Some were because I felt desperate. Some were because I didn't think it all though before I put my foot into it. I think it has to do with how you look back on them over the years. Now I am thinking of some of them and marveling that I actually had the chance to grow old in spite of it all.

    Yes, there have been articles of clothing that I kept and kept because they defined a time and a feeling about myself. Some are really hard to part with even after many years. Going straight to Amazon now.

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    1. Oh agree! That is what youth is for...

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    2. Some of the best adventures spring from those terrifying moments, don't you think? They have for me. The moments when you're most vulnerable--like when you suddenly have no choice but to trust a stranger somewhere far from home, can turn into truly enriching life experiences. That's not to say you should ever take candy from a shifty-eyed guy driving a beat-up van, of course!

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  10. Wow! What a fantastic story! And what makes it even better is that it actually happened. I've had a couple of unexpected adventures but nothing that would compare to that. Woohoo!

    As for a special article of clothing I think I have had a few but for whatever reason I don't any more. There are a few things I gave away, probably because they no longer fit, and I sorta wish I still had them but I don't so what would be the point. However, i truly do understand the magic of certain garments.

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    1. SO many things I parted with that I thought would never fit again or be in style. Not that I'm ever really in style... but still, there was a long wool coat I gave away in my 30s that I wish so much I still had. I hope it was loved!

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    2. I had a purple Mary Quant panstuit. Ah. I fell down in the Hamburg U-bahn and tore the knee. SUCH Debra story!

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  11. A Helen MacInnes fan! I dug out Decision at Delphi, the Venetian Affair, and the Salzburg Connection earlier in the summer.

    I have the perfect pair of jeans-style-with-spandex faux suede skinny pants which I wear on airplanes and to writer's conferences. With a long sweater, I feel tall, skinny, and poised.

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    1. That sounds comfy AND chic! I adore MacInnes. She always created characters that I love to pretend to be--especially when they're behind the wheel of a car climbing through the Alps, or dashing across an ancient ruin to follow up on a clue.

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  12. an amazing story! I used to love Helen MacInnes and now am desperate to reread assignment in Brittany. And your books!

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    1. You know—I’m not sure I have ever read those books. Is it too late?

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    2. Lucy - happy reading! Hank - It's never too late to fall in love with a series! I know The Venetian Affair was also made into a film, but I suggest reading the book before seeing it. Maybe a few of the others as well.

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  13. Your story made me smile, what a fabulous adventure. Having traveled a bit, I could feel your anxiety to catch your train and all the emotions ensuing and the turning point of real life high speed chase.
    You caught me at the first sentence and brought me all the way. This tells me that I'll certainly much enjoy your book .
    Thank you Hank for introducing us to Debra.
    I still have a dark-blue hoodie that I always brought for travelling. It is too old now but there isn't much travelling either.

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    1. Yes sigh —I have a perfect navy blue traveling dress. It is just hanging in the closet now.

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    2. Don't part with your hoodie! You'll need it for cool nights in the Greek Isles or a chilly morning coffee run in Copenhagen (one of those days).

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  14. Debra, your wild ride sounds like an episode of a much more sophisticated Traveling Pants tale. The Skirt That Took You Everywhere.

    I was having a hard time coming up with an article of clothing until I read Edith's comment about her jeans jacket. My jacket, a jeans lookalike, but of lighter, easy-care rayon, has two snap pockets, and sleeves that can be worn up or down. It has taken me all over the world: England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, Tanzania, Peru and Ecuador. It doesn't wrinkle, and goes with everything. I suspect almost all the Reds have seen me wearing it.

    I'll enjoy The Fire Thief!

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    1. Do you like to sew? When that amazing jacket wears out, you could cut a section of the fabric in the shape of one of those countries and frame it.

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  15. Oh, I love stories like this--that mix ancient beliefs with modern mysteries! Off to explore the Amazon as soon as I'm done here. I was more Mary Stewart than Helen MacInnes back in the day, but I think maybe I'll have to fix that giant hole in my reading history, while I'm there.

    I have long defined "adventure" as "adversity survived," because I think it's only an exciting and amusing story if you live to tell about it. But knowing that you can keep your head and do what needs to be done when your carefully laid plans take a major plot twist? That's a golden moment because, for the rest of your life, you'll be able to look upon chaos and say, "Yep. I can handle this."

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    1. That is, indeed, wise. I like that old John Wayne quote: "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."

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  16. Debra, the mix of elements in The Fire Thief is my kind of book--definitely will be searching out a copy. And especially happy to meet another Helen MacInnes fan. I've read everything she ever wrote--Neither Five Nor Three is one of my favorites. And her subject matter and themes are still relevant in our world today--poisonings of political figures, government-backed hackers trying to influence foreign elections and policy--bat-sh** craziness that never seems to end. But, like Edith's comments above, I'm curious whether you've received any pushback on your book?

    As for clothing--I have a top that I purchased years ago for some marketing jaunts (I am so not a salesperson) that I still love to wear. My nephews--then 6 & 7--helped me find it--after they'd suggested a selection of evening dresses :-)

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    1. Evening dresses! Another whole blog. That must have been an interesting shopping trip! Xxx

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    2. Okay, I just fell in love with your nephews. And I agree with you, MacInnes is entirely relevant - maybe we should start a fan club, or at least design a tee-shirt. About Hawai'i and pushback, nothing notable to date. I believe fiction authors need to resist the voices that tell them they can only write about their own experiences. That's not really fiction anymore, is it?

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  17. Oh I just remembered—! I had a pink acid washed Jean jacket with MATCHING pink acid washed jeans. I thought I was so cool . Hey it was 1971. And I was interviewing Warren Beatty. :/)

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    1. If you were interviewing Warren Beatty, anything you were wearing was the coolest thing in the world!

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    2. I'll tell you the whole story someday..xxoo IN PERSON,

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  18. Being that I'm not the least bit interested in being fashionable or whatever when it comes to clothing, I don't have an article of clothing that makes everything work. I'm a pants/shorts and T-shirt dresser so give me a T-shirt that promotes a sports team or music artist I like and I'm usually pretty much done.

    That is quite the adventure you had. I have no adventures like that in my past as I don't travel all that much. At least nothing that would be described as "exciting".

    As for your book The Fire Thief, reading the synopsis was a great experience because it made me want to buy the book which I plan to do at the next possible chance I get. It sounds like an amazing read!

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    1. Would you wear shirts of your favorite books? ;^)

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    2. I have an Agatha Christie t-shirt that I wear all the time! Paula Munier gave it to me.

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    3. I have a Where the Wild Things Are tee-shirt from 30 years ago when my son was little and wanted to hear the book at least three times a day. It's coming apart at the seams, but I dare someone to try to take it from me. Jay, I hope you enjoy The Fire Thief!

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  19. Welcome Debra and kudos on the new book. What a great story about your adventures with the lost luggage too.

    I've been retired for 15 years now, and my wardrobe has decreased exponentially. Is that possible? Anyway, I've got rid of stuff. Still, up in the attic, in a cedar wardrobe, hang half a dozen cream silk blouses. And one royal blue one. And one mocha one. Those got me thru years of meetings, cocktail hours, dinners, and more meetings. There is nothing so versatile as a silk blouse. It wasn't about luck. It was all about the feel of silk on my skin that made me know I looked as good as I was going to look! I also had a navy silk dress and a gray one. They went out of style decades ago, and I have no idea where they are. They'd be vintage by now. But they had the same effect on my ego. You can't feel tacky or underdressed or frumpy when you're wearing silk. It's a rule.

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    1. Ann, swirling through my head right now: the lyrics to Al Stewart's The Year of The Cat... "She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running/ Like a watercolor in the rain" One of my all-time favorite songs. Thanks for making me think of it!

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  20. Excellent story, Debra, and well told!

    Currently I have not an article of clothing, but a pair of earrings that just seem to make everything work. They're small loops with three rivets threaded on each. Though they are actually handmade by a friend of my sister, they have just enough resemblance to Pandora jewelry to make them look mainstream. If I put them on with a very casual outfit, they immediately dress it up. If I have an outfit that's possibly too dressy for the occasion, they tone it down. They just always look "right."

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    1. I have lots of beloved earrings... well, one of each pair, at least. I keep promising myself that one of these gray winter days I'm going to gather all those single baubles together and make a charm bracelet or a pendant. Oh, and learn to make a puffy cheese souffle...

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  21. What an adventure! You certainly were able to handle this well. It would have been so upsetting and especially when in a new place. Clothing was worn for work and I did have a few favorite items. I rarely shopped since I saved what I earned and indulged only when necessary. I have one pair of jeans which were so comfortable and soft. Never found another pair like those.

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    1. Yup, when you fine the ones, they are the ones!

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    2. Oh, so true. I always wonder why I didn't go back and buy a half dozen more when I finally find a comfortable, flattering, great-fitting pair. By the time I get around to it, there's never any left.

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  22. Welcome to Jungle Reds! What an adventure you had in Germany/Austria! Your adventure sounds like a story straight out of James Bond or an Agatha Christie story. I agree with what your taxi driver said about being in a movie. It was funny to discover that the Fire Thief was not set in Europe after all. LOL. I have several mysteries by Helen MacInnes, whom I had not heard of until a few years ago. My Mom remembered that she loved the mysteries and ordered them from a local bookstore. I still have not read these mysteries yet. I love mysteries in European settings. When I saw that the Fire Thief was set in Hawaii, for some reason I thought of the George Clooney film The Descendants about a family living in Hawaii.

    Speaking of clothes, when I lived in England for two months, people thought I was British because I wore British clothes. I deliberately did Not wear American fashion. I remember wearing sailor dresses, jumper with a skirt, etc.

    Before pandemic times, I had this excellent half zip sweater that was good in all weather. I always brought it with me on my travels, especially overseas.

    Diana

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    1. Half-zips are great. And the pandemic has taught me about cardigans.

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    2. Cardigans over pajama bottoms.

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  23. This story is the ultimate and unforgettable travel adventure with a good ending. I would have been a total wreck. You kept your cool for sure. I dress according to my own taste, not what is trendy nor fashionable. My most important ingredient is comfort. Perhaps others view my choices as odd or eccentric.

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    1. I would have been a wreck, too! Teaches us to focus on the GOOD, right?

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    2. I see so many people in "trendy" clothes that look uncomfortable or simply don't suit them. Cropped pants are my Waterloo. Can't wear them. Don't like them. I'm 5'1' on a good day after doing lots of yoga, and crops make me look like I'm wearing hand-me-downs from the neighbor's teenage girls.

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    3. Oh, we need to talk. I do NOT understand those.

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  24. Debra, what a great story! And I loved Helen MacInnes. Now I have to go search my bookshelves. As others have commented, I'm curious to see how the stories hold up to modern day craziness. And now you've made me want to read about Hawaii, too!

    I have a black sweater that is my travel staple. It goes with everything from jeans to dress slacks. Alas, it has been languishing in my closet since last January... I also have a denim jacket that I've worn for years and it indispensable.

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    1. Yup. Those poor neglected travel clothes. And I have leather jackets that I adore--but hmm. Not to appropriate for Zoom. Sigh.

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    2. I picked up a gray velvet topper by Poetry in a London thrift shop two years ago for pennies (oops, shillings) that I've yet to wear. It was going to be my fun fall travel coat, but now I wonder if it will still fit by the time travel is a real thing again.

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  25. Thank you for the fabulous Sunday morning mini-adventure. My morning coffee has been turned into something quite international. Looking forward to reading The Fire Thief.

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  26. I loved reading Helen MacInnes way back when! Your luggage situation would have had me cowering in a corner. If I had any magic clothes in the past they're gone now. I'm thinking office wardrobe. However I have things I wear now that remind me of wonderful trips. Sweaters from Ireland and Scotland I can't wear here because it is too warm. The Paddy whiskey sweatshirt we got in Ireland gets hauled out and worn though. As does the waxed cotton jacket Dad bought in Ireland on our joint trip. He got it at an end of tourist season sale in Wexford because he said he was freezing. After we got back, my parents to Plano, us to Ohio, he mailed it to me to wear since I was in a colder climate. So I still wear that jacket from 1996 and it has good memories!

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    1. The fact that your ∂ad wore it and then gifted it to you is powerful magic. Hang on to it!

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  27. Great story. Way to make an adventure out of what started as a catastrophe. You're right, it must have been the skirt! Years ago I had the red and white dotted Swiss interview dress with matching spectator pumps. Interviews went so well when I was wearing that dress, and then it became my important meeting dress. Good things just happened in that outfit.

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    1. I kind of think it's true that everything, even objects, carry their own energy. Maybe somehow the things we love recognize that we love them, and respond in their own way - certainly when I'm feeling melancholy and rummage through my drawers for the beige sweater with the big white fox on it, I feel better as soon as I pull it over my head.

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  28. I am so excited to read The Fire Thief, Debra. I love Maui as a setting and this sounds like a perfect way to revisit it. I love how you turn a nightmare scenario into an adventure. As for a magical article of clothing? It used to be my black leather jacket but it finally wore out (sob).

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    1. Yeah, sigh. But it meant you got to use all the magic. SO--perfect.

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    2. Hank, you nailed it. Jenn, you've been infused with the jacket's magic.

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  29. Wow, what a story. I’m always amazed at how kind and friendly strangers are to my husband and me when we travel. My magical piece of clothing is a flat cap that I wear when I travel. It keeps my face protected from sunburn and my head protected from cold.

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    1. I love a good travel hat. Don't you just instantly feel a little mysterious peering out from beneath the brim?

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  30. Debra, I can tell you're a fabulous travel writer, because your story sucked me in and kept me in suspense - and also captured the feeling of that Bavarian spa town and hotel.

    I also have a magical wool pencil skirt, this one in camel and black houndstooth check. Sadly, it's also gotten a bit too snug in the hips, and since I let my hair go natural, I just don't look good in the fall colors I used to favor. I still haven't gotten rid of it, though - it brings me joy!

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    1. SO agree--Debra's writing skill really comes through!

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    2. Awww, shucks, ladies. Thank you. And Julia - I bet you can still wear those colors. My gray is mostly concentrated around my temples and forehead, but I have big plans for when it's all gray. Depending on my mood, I may dress head-to-toe in silver.

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  31. Oh yes, the disaster becomes adventure and a story, perfect mind set! Marsh Passmore who organized the travel portion of our ETSU storytelling cruises, warned that if we couldn't handle unexpected changes, we might better just stay home and sort socks. My misadventures were a bit too frequent, so that she'd greet me, "Please tell me you had a smooth trip this time." Nope, but I did meet the nicest people. I have a comfortable cotton dress, with Kliban cats embroidery and spacious pockets, which is my favorite for travel. At one storytelling conference, it was splashed with a brown sauce, but a friend told me about Zout! and it worked! Good as new.

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    2. That about read Zout is a stain remover.....auto correct strikes again.

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    3. Pockets are a must! According to family legends, I went through a period when I was around eight years old when I refused to wear clothing with pockets. Some say tantrums ensued when confronted with what my mother called "dungarees," though I don't recall ever engaging in such unladylike behavior :) And I definitely got over the aversion to pockets in a big way. Now they're essential!

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  32. I loved Helen MacInnes, still have some of her books. I think the first one I read was The Saltzburg Connection. Really liked the Robert Renwick series too. Lucky clothing, nope, my body fluctuates too much. I do have a small, silver teddy bear on a long chain that I wore on the first day of my last two jobs. The first ended after 7+ years because the company closed. The current job has lasted about 18 years so maybe it's the bear.

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  33. Loved your story and Helen MacInnes! One of my mom's favorites, I spent years haunting used bookstores until I was able to read them all! I wish I had so something like a coolr pencil skirt, habe to settle for my cozy cardigans now that it is fall!

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    1. Full confession: I'm a sweater hoarder. When people comment on my overflowing closet shelves, I explain that I'm simply making an effort to develop a handful of charming eccentricities.

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  34. I have a perfect mock turtleneck: dark gray, silk, just perfect. My younger brother gave it to me, a sweater more expensive than anything I would ever have purchased for myself. When I put it on I feel strong and loved at the same time, which is exquisite.

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    1. Oh, that is so sweet..I can truly picture it! And it is full of love.

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    2. I love that image of the sweater wrapped around you, filled with your brother's love.

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  35. I don’t have s piece of clothing like that

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  36. I adored your story and as a writer of fashion mysteries, I loved the story of your skirt. Clothing can act as armor, it can give us courage as well as camouflage. It can signal who we are and what aspirations we hold. As a reporter, I always liked to look crisp an professional and loved wearing my vintage suits on Capitol Hill. When I am a playwright, black is my color, which emphasizes power and an empty theatre before the lights rise. So it goes. But I don't have a tweed skirt at the moment. Cheers, all.

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    1. Oh, Ellen, what a perfect post for you! Your clothing is always brilliant.

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    2. Fashion mysteries??? Yum! Ordering now. And vintage suits... I lived commuted back and forth between Silver Spring and DC for a couple of years. My main concern when dressing was wearing something that fitted into the category of Metro-proof.

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  37. What a great story! The German hotel sounds lovely. I have a favorite, magical skirt. Dark bluish-gray, made of flax. It is actually magic skirt 2.0, since I had an almost identical earlier version of it that I wore on a really special trip to Italy. I mean, I could hike in this thing, wade in the water, go out to dinner, it went everywhere. Finally had to be replaced when it was not much more than, say, a waistband with a pocket hanging off it. But, 2.0 has the same magic.
    --Melanie

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    1. Oh, I am smiling so much. LOVE this. We all need a magic skirt. xxx SO great.

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  38. I'm intrigued by the flax skirt... is it similar in weight/softness to hemp?

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    1. I know, I want one. xooxo Thank you SO much for being here today! So eager to read your book!

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    2. A bit late here--flax is like linen, only the wrinkles just FALL out of it. Also, it has a sort of swish when walking in it--a klutz like me can feel graceful! Perfect for travel.
      -Melanie

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  39. I have very sensitive skill and wear mostly cotton clothes. I have one shirt that is blue and so comfortable and makes me feel good! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. That's exactly what an item of clothing should do, at least in my opinion - make you feel good, or comfortable, powerful, unstoppable or fearless - or all of these things!

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  40. What a heartstopping adventure! I enjoyed reading over my morning coffee. Unfortunately, I can't rock a tweed (or any material) pencil skirt, but I do have a sky blue trench coat...

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    1. Trench coat: essential for all mystery lovers. Blue sounds heavenly...

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  41. That trip is straight out of spy novel. Sounds so exciting! And to be properly attired for a spy, too - what luck! I can't say I have an item of clothing that makes things go right, I wish I did though. In the past, I did have a few tweed skirts, back when women always had to get dressed up for work and you had to wear a suit if you wanted to be taken seriously. I much prefer my current work attire - yoga pants and a long shirt or sweater, way more comfortable than tweed!

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    1. When I moved from the East Coast to Boulder, Colorado, I assumed that appropriate attire for a magazine publishing office was the same regardless of zip code. I was wrong. I was the managing editor, and showed up every day in my standard skirt, blouse, stockings and heels (remember stockings???) After about two weeks, the editor-in-chief took me out for coffee and gently explained that I was making the other editorial team members feel uncomfortable with what she described as my "formal outfits," as the work wardrobe in Boulder, even in publishing, was generally yoga tights, jeans, loose tops and trainers. It's a very active, athletic, outdoorsy city, and I was definitely the one out of place. I adjusted accordingly, but I swear it was years before I really felt comfortable.

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