Still grieving over the loss of an Oscar.

No, not for me, for any one of my favorites to win on Oscar night, 3/12/23!

I’ve been a judge often enough—for almost every category of Edgar, more than once, e.g.—to know that it’s almost impossible to set down hard and fast criteria for choosing award winners, unless it’s word count or some other quantifiable guideline. Otherwise, it’s rather subjective.

I don’t get to vote on the Academy Awards, but I know what I would vote for and it would not be magical realism, unless that were a category. As a writer I know how easy it is to create fantasy, as opposed to straight drama, especially when the producers have more than 100 years worth of special effects history and development to call on.

What film/actors was I rooting for? Instead of being specific, I’ll just repeat my favorite joke of the evening: “Colin Farrell’s eyebrows should get an Oscar.”

Women Talking

Celebrated International Women’s Day by watching the Oscar nominated film, “Women Talking.”

Recommended. Even if the write-ups don’t appeal–it took several pop up ads for me to try it and I’m glad I did. With Frances McDormand producing, why did I hesitate?


In honor of WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, here’s a bit about my doll collection, reprinted from my March newsletter.
I don’t remember ever having a doll in my childhood. A dollhouse, yes, but lived in that house, not dolls. Now that “dolls” have uses beyond rocking to sleep, I have a small collection, pictured here. They are of disparate quality and design in terms of the images, but I know who they are. Do you?

Since I offered readers of my newsletter a prize if they could name the 5 dolls I own today, it’s only fair that I do the same for readers of The Real Me.

5 dolls on my shelves.
A prize if you can name them!

A Puerto Rico Story

By my guest today, Donna Darling, author of The Three Marias

Grandma was Puerto Rican, but we knew to never say it out loud. When asked, she replied, “We’re Spanish.” If pressed for further information, she said, “Our people were Basque Spanish. They came to Puerto from Spain.”

Over the years I asked, and the answer was always the same. Grandma died weeks before her 107th birthday. As she approached her more senior years, she became curious about her parent’s heritage, and I was ready to help. We worked together to gather what information we could on the family and reached out to cousins far and wide. Many had already done extensive research, which they shared.

I took what information my cousins had on the family and pushed forward, with DNA and more records available online. Several visits to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City proved immensely helpful, and genealogists assisted me further in my research.

One question I wanted answered was, why did my grandmother and great grandmother deny their Puerto Rican ancestry? The answer was more complex than I could have imagined.

My quest took me on a deep dive into Puerto Rico’s history, and thanks to connections with my newfound cousins who I discovered through DNA matches, I got a history lesson of a lifetime.

I’m sure the Spanish American War was mentioned in school, but I don’t remember being taught anything about it. I was hungry to learn and became obsessed. Each layer revealed a piece of the story that explained why my great grandparents left their homeland, a beautiful island life. I came to understand the anguish they felt after losing their coffee plantation in the mountains of Adjuntas. The pain of prejudice they endured after making their way to America for a new life after the massive hurricane of 1899. It all began to make sense to me. The shift in how my great grandparents presented themselves showed in records over time. They went from listing themselves as Puerto Rican to being Spanish then to being White.

I began to ask the question, “What does it mean to be Puerto Rican?” Do you have to be full blooded Puerto Rican to claim heritage? How much ethnicity grants you acceptance into the Puerto Rican community? Grandma married a Norwegian man. Mom married an Irishman. My DNA is an amalgam of ethnicities. I was captivated by the tiny island where my great grandparents were born. Puerto Rico surged in my blood.

With the help of my primos, and two good friends who were genealogists I was able to extend my family tree on multiple lines back to the 1700’s. Many Puerto Ricans find their DNA results show African ethnicity, and they have no oral family history to tell the story. Records are scarce, leaving them with no information.

With many records available today, and the excellent assistance of my primos, I got lucky. My 3rd great grandmother, Juana Evangelista Pacheco y Quinones held the key to an interesting story. Her great grandfather, Antonio Pacheco’s marriage record revealed that he was a slave, and was the son of slave, Juana Pacheco. Juana and her son, Antonio were slaves of Lieutenant Don Fernando Pacheco, the founder of Yauco. Yauco was established in February 1756, and became a hub for Corsican immigration. It was known for growing coffee, tobacco, and sugar cane. One can assume that Juana and Antonio labored in the fields that grew these commodities.

Antonio married Petrona Ortiz, a free woman. All children of this marriage were free.

I descend from Juana, and her son Antonio. I wish everyone had the opportunity to explore their DNA ethnicity and learn their family history.

The story of what happened to the people in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War was so powerful, I wanted to tell everyone. I wrote a book, with fictional characters and told the story with actual history. The Three Marias: A Puerto Rico Story, is available on Amazon. I’m currently working on book two, about Puerto Ricans working on the sugar plantations in Hawaii.

Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

Donna Darling writes historical fiction, short stories, and novels for all ages. She worked in sales and marketing for over twenty years. Her Puerto Rican ancestry intrigued her, and she found many people knew little about the island that captured her heart.
Her debut book, The 3 Marias, tells the story of a fictional family living through actual events that shaped the island. Her next book in the series follows the family to Hawaii.
When not writing, Donna is traveling or sketching characters from her books. She is a member of the California Writers Club, and a writers group with published authors.

Sodium is back

A new blog every Thursday, right? But what if something special happens on a Sunday? Like today February 12, when I saw my story “The Sodium Arrow” get new life in Black Cat Weekly.

Had to share right away.

The Sodium Arrow — a story for Valentine’s Day.

A new element, 1961?

February 14 is a lot of things — St. Valentine’s Day, for one, the day Bell applied for a patent for the telephone (1876) for another — but the important event for a scientist is the discovery of the element LAWRENCIUM, #103, at the University of California, Berkeley.

It’s named after E. O. Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron. Read more about its controversial history (thus the ? in the title of this blog) here.

No wonder the elements are the obvious choice for a mystery series.


Yes Groundhog Day, and I’m late with this blog. It makes sense since Thursdays seem to come around again and again!

Here’s all you wanted to know about groundhog day.

To begin with: the first official Groundhog Day celebration took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The annual ritual has roots in pre-Christian traditions and was brought to the U.S. by German immigrants.

And here‘s probably more than you wanted to know!

I hope any repeats are good ones for you!

The Oscar goes to

We don’t know yet, and I haven’t been asked, but I’m voting for The Banshees of Inisherin.

Set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, the film follows lifelong friends Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson). Of course, something goes wrong.

In fact, they should create a new category: Best Dialogue in a Movie.

One of my favorite pieces:

Padraic’s sister: Maybe he’s just depressed.

Padraic: That’s what I was thinking, that he’s depressed. Well, if he is, he could at least keep it to himself like. You know, push it down, like the rest of us.

I might watch it a third time.

Not a best seller

Forgive me if I reproduce a FB post, but I’m still thinking about the email I got this morning: My past is catching up with me. I got a notice from an academic site that someone read my paper, “Inspection Methods for Safeguards Systems at Nuclear Facilities.” Not a NYT Noteworthy.

Here’s photo documentation of that era.

At work, c. 1980

As I’ve also admitted, a book I co-wrote with my boss at the time, “Nuclear Waste Management Abstracts,” was not a best seller.

What else could I do but turn to fiction where I’ve been a “best seller” at least for a cumulative 15 minutes, counting all 25+ novels plus short stories?

I have a dream

An intersection in NYC
image by nbandr/pixabay

Coming soon: another holiday weekend. This one should give us pause about how that dream is working out. Better not to ask me these days.

(The speech is not in the public domain.)