I’ve been a little obsessed this year, the 50th anniversary of the first Godfather film. (Can you be a little obsessed? Or doesn’t obsessed already mean a lot?)

This article appeared in the New York Times during March 2022, 50 years from the month of release.


Which quote is your favorite? One of these 7 or ?

My favorite might be the single word “No” — Michael whispers to Kay in the last scene, when she asks him, “Is it true?”

If you don’t know what she’s asking about, it’s time you watched the movie! Then we can chat!

The Three Marias

Doesn’t the title grab you?

It belongs to a special guest today, writer DONNA DARLING, who has agreed to share with us the first chapter of her book. I’m pleased to give you this preview as Donna makes the final edits to her manuscript.

The Three Marias

By Donna Darling

Chapter One

In the steep hills above the coastal town of Ponce was Adjuntas, a place touched by heaven and cursed by hell. We lived there, where coffee and sugar plantations dotted the lush, green Puerto Rican mountainside populated by many Corsicans, including my father, Guillermo Paoli.

Papa steered off the main road and turned up the narrow, one-lane road toward our hacienda. It was a sprawling, two-story house on our own coffee plantation. I was very proud of our strong, wooden house because Papa built it himself with help from local laborers. Some of the surrounding haciendas were made of brick, but our rustic house sat majestically in the tall trees as if it sprouted from the earth.

Banana and coconut trees grew plentiful where we got much more rain than in the flatlands, and the climate was cooler in the mountains which we thought made it the perfect place to live. The many rivers and streams flowed all the way to the Caribbean Sea. It was a lush, tropical dream life, but the roads were treacherous. There was no way to see a cart coming toward you on the twisting, narrow road. Papa pulled the whistle from around his neck and clenched it between his teeth. He whistled at every turn, so that any rider coming down the hill would be alerted to our wagon coming up. The downhill riders leaned into the grade and rode fast and wild, without fear, taking blind turns and skirting the edge of the road, flirting with danger. If they slipped off the edge, a fall down a steep ravine would mean certain death. Their only weapon was the whistle clenched between their teeth which they blew in an alert while they rode a donkey, pony or horse with frightful intensity. Riding uphill was a much more relaxed experience. My brother, Victor rode beside Papa and leaned with the turns. Victor was a serious man. Not to be crossed, but fiercely loyal to family.

My brother Ursulo, who we called Lolo picked up his four-string guitar and somehow managed to strum along despite the bumpy ride, while we clapped and sang a hollow tune. “That’s a song about heartbreak,” Papa complained. “Play The Blue, Blue Sea.” He always had a cheerful disposition and was the one to lift our spirits. “Fina, sing for us,” he said.

My given name was Maria Josefina, but they called me Fina. Mama had the most beautiful voice in our family. Some of us kids liked to think we got her voice. Since she was at home, I led us in chorus, “Will you meet me at the blue, blue sea?” I sang.

Lolo was my playful brother, always ready with a joke. He took after Papa. I hoped he would meet a girl who would be kind to him. He was sensitive, and a strong woman like Mama might be too hard on him. He was born with a withered leg and Mama said it made him stronger. He was small and crawled on his belly as a baby, using his arms to pull his body. He got so strong, he pulled himself up on everything. When we were younger, he couldn’t run and keep up, but he could climb most any tree like a monkey. We always called for Lolo to get the highest fruit. He built a lookout, high up in a banana tree, where he perched for hours watching over everyone’s comings and goings on the property. He was our little spy.

Lolo made the ride home enjoyable by playing his guitar. We all sang along and my eleven-year-old sister, Maria Celia laughed at the silly lyrics. Even my oldest brother, Victor’s mood was light and he sang along too.

“Where’s Leo?” Celia said.

Our family dog was always at the edge of our property when we arrived home. He sat at the bottom of the road to our house. Papa trained him to never leave the property, and he wouldn’t put one paw over the line.

“Mama’s home. He must be on the porch,” Victor said.

Papa stopped the wagon in front of the house. “I’ll get out here,” he said and hopped out. “You pull around back and unload the supplies. I’ll be out in a minute to help with the horses.”  Papa’s long legs took the porch steps with one stride. Victor brought the wagon around back to the kitchen door where we began to unload supplies.

“Hijo de puta!” Papa’s voice boomed like thunder and echoed in the trees.

            My brothers and I turned to see Papa storm out of the house and sprint to the barn. “I’ve never heard Papa swear in my life,” I said.

            “Mama must’ve been very angry,” Celia said.

            Victor set down the flour sack and ran to the barn. Papa erupted from the barn on horseback and raced down the hill, blasting his whistle.

            “Where’s Papa off to in such a hurry?” Celia asked. My little sister reported everyone’s business in our family. “There goes Victor,” Celia sighed.

            Victor disappeared on horseback down the hill in a cloud of dust.

            “Now we only have Lolo to help us unload the wagon,” Celia complained.

            I gave Lolo a look of concern. Panic grew within me.

~*~*~ *~*~*

Donna Darling writes short stories, and novels for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, an historical fiction titled The Three Marias is inspired by her Puerto Rican roots.
When not writing she enjoys sketching her characters, or drawing a scene from her story.
She is a member of the California Writers Club, and belongs to a writer’s group of published authors who meet weekly.
Donna lives in Northern California with her family. She enjoys traveling and weaving stories with history.

HOLLYWOOD minus one

HOLLYWOOD finished, except there is a missing piece! It may turn up in the vacuum cleaner or in a sock from the dryer.

Can you locate the spot of the missing piece? Whose image?


You might have to twist your neck to see this — the rotating tool is not working.

This is my time-sink this week, a great 2-sided puzzle with actresses on one side and actors on the other.

I promise a straight up photo when I have a few more faces completed. Right now probably Sammy Davis Jr. is the only identifiable one, upper left, to be bottom left when the view is upright.

How many ways can you avoid working on a WW2 novel? This is one of them.

Help! Someone give me a deadline!

Low Down Dirty Vote

As promised, LDDV 3 was released on May 15 and a flurry of posts followed.

LDDV 3, edited by Mysti Berry, has 22 stories, covering a wide range of subgenres. Here’s a rundown that appeared on Raven-winner Dru Ann Love‘s blog last week.

Other pertinent links:

• BookLife review: https://booklife.com/project/low-down-dirty-vote-volume-3-76867

• David Corbett’s post – “Writing Wrongs: The Color of My Low-Down Dirty Vote” 

• Mysti Berry’s post on “Editing for Voice” https://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2022/05/editing-for-voice.html

For my entry, “Vote Early,” I decided to try something different. Unlike 80,000-word novels, short stories allow for experimentation, and this time I experimented with (sort of?) sci fi.

Emma, a two-month-old baby is frustrated — she has the intelligence and skills of an adult but can’t reveal her situation to her parents. She’s passionate about voting, and when her apathetic parents toss their ballots in the trash, Emma decides to take action.

See what you think!

First Lady of Physics

Look who I missed in my May newsletter! Chien-Shiung Wu, born May 31, 1912.

I remember first hearing about her when I was researching the overthrow of parity* for an undergraduate term paper. Wu did the experiments; her co-workers Lee and Yang (male) received the Nobel Prize for the work.

Enough about that.

At first, it was hard for me to accept the “First Lady of Physics” title for Wu, when I might have given it to Marie Curie. But, I admit, Curie was more of a chemist, and after all, did win two Nobels, the first person to do so, and in two different fields.

For all its faults, the USPS came through for Wu and issued a Forever stamp with her image.

(There’s no stamp for Lee or Yang that I’m aware of.)

In the interests of spreading science literacy and the importance of STEM, I’ll be glad to send you a strip of Wu stamps upon request. Send your address (even if I’ve mailed you before — I don’t keep addresses lest I be hacked and your privacy destroyed!).

*demonstrating that nature is not symmetric at the atomic level.

The Other Gloria

My dear cousin Gloria (1925-2022)

As you might know if you follow my Facebook posts, Gloria died last week, a few days after her 97th birthday. She was a model for me all her life. She was a college graduate (Simmons College, Boston, 1946), probably the first I’d met outside of my teachers, and a became a lab assistant to polio researchers in the 1940s and ’50, attached to the well-known, Nobel-winning Enders laboratories. Amazing!

Gloria at work, c. 1947

In the ‘90s, I named my first protagonist after her and I loved that she would then call herself “The Other Gloria,” signing cards and notes that way.

In her honor, I’d love to send an e-copy of “The Hydrogen Murder,” the first in that series, to anyone who’d like one. Send your email address to me camille@minichino.com.

Mexican what?

It was the late 70’s and I hadn’t been in California that long. I was hardly used to a culture so different from places I’d lived the rest of my life —all east of the Hudson. I had no idea where things were. In fact, I thought Hawaii was right off the coast of LA, since that’s where it was pictured on a map.

I also had no idea what grew where. Walnuts on a tree? Even heavy oranges? Where I grew up there were no seasons for fruits and vegetables—they came to us from *somewhere or other* all year, many in their own little molded foam containers.

Another difference was the celebration of holidays. As a kid, I knew all about Patriot’s Day

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

and so on.

In fact we had the day off from school!

And, of course, July 4, INDEPENDENCE DAY, was celebrated with great aplomb, all through New England, New York, DC, all the places I’d lived—with concerts, fireworks, BBQs, flags everywhere.

Cheers for the red, white, and blue.

In California, however, a bigger fuss seemed to be made on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. I tried to get in the spirit of that day, and even included a mention of it in an early book in the Periodic Table mysteries—Mexican Independence Day, I proclaimed!


It turns out, Mexican Independence Day is September 16, commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain. May 5, on the other hand, is the anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire. What?

I learned this the hard way—in an email from a professor at a college in Mexico City, excoriating me and my error. Such a gringo, she said.

I apologized, of course, and I repeat it here. Hopefully, you’ll never make that mistake.

A Remote Blog

I’d hoped to attend the Edgars banquet at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square this year, but—maybe next year!

It may not be quite as busy this year, but it will still be Times Square. (pixabay photo)

In case you missed the January announcement of the nominees, here they are.

I’ll be reporting on the winners next week!

And here I am finally with the winners: https://edgarawards.com/all-winners/

2 years and counting

About two years ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Covid-19 entered the rolls of “where were you then?” along with 9/11 and a list of assassinations.

I know where I wasn’t—at a conference in San Diego. I’d cancelled the trip 3 days earlier, thus beating the WHO to the punch.

At the time, we (I) thought it might be a couple of weeks, then a couple of months, and now a couple of years, two shots and two boosters later, and we’re still not to the next stage.

In April of that year, 2020, I wrote this blog. Something silly. It’s still necessary.

Are you ready for something silly?

These days I’m finding it hard to be cheerful, to see the humor in life. I wake up in a land I’d thought of only in fictional terms. A flare-up. An outbreak. An epidemic. A pandemic? When someone cracks a joke (rarely), my smile or laugh seem foreign to me, as if my lips and mouth are not used to the configuration.

So for this week, I thought I’d look for Quotes that make me laugh, or, at least not depressed.

from Steven Wright: I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.

from George Carlin: May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

from Woody Allen: My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.

from Steven Wright: A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

• and this one is an original from my colleagues in our physics lab at Fordham U., c. 1965.

Me: the spectrograph is off kilter again. It’s going to take hours to adjust it.
Ron, a classmate: Let’s just rotate the Bronx.

Keep safe, everyone.