OI! Brazil and CIAO! Italy!

I am quite overcome by a report from WordPress that most of my followers are in Brazil. Are you members of the American/British overseas community? But of course you are, now using the Internet, as I did not back then, to increase your range. This fills me with saudade. I too was busy as one of you, deep into the American The Little Theater and hobnobbing with the British Players in Rio de Janeiro. I sang in recitals, sold Italian jewelry at home, ate marvelous meals at our favorite churrascaria at Posto 6. The only activity lacking was research resources for writing. There was only the IBEU — Istituto Brasil Estado Unidos — which offered a mixed bag of reading material that tried its best to entertain hopeful readers but was too erratic to be much help to my writing ambitions.

I found a private library, however, owned by a British lady named Faith Motley, who became my friend. Through her I more or less kept up with what was being published in the world. But still nothing in the way of research.

How is our old street, Epitacio Pessoa in Ipanema? I even miss the annual fish die-off in the Lagoa Rodrigo Freitas in front of our home. And the neighborhood of Leblon? Next best known to me was Curitiba in Paranå, a town where the winters in September froze my nose off. Renato and I had Toto there, a mutt that came with our rented house. I wrote stories about him afterward. What a boulevardier he was! A one-eyed gentleman who belonged to everyone in the neighborhood.

And now, Italy. I departed in 1956 and returned twice, 1989 and 2001, feeling more and more strange each time. I wasn’t poor anymore, and the men didn’t accost me in the streets murmuring words purporting to do something to me. Being old sometimes has its benefits, although I did miss the complimentary comments. I was with Renato the second time in 1989, and with friends the last time. But I told Renato everything about the trip when I came home to California. He is here, his spirit contacting me every day and every night. He flashes the light dimmer, sends my adult pussycat Loaner to cuddle me in the middle of the night, shifts the lights over the dining table (see “The Promise” at my website http://www.authorsden.com/lucillebellucci), plays with the garage door when I am attempting to close it. On Christmas day he kept stopping and returning it upward five or six times. I know what he was saying: Drive carefully, I love you, give everyone my love. I did relay his message to my nephew and family and they were pleased. They would have thought of me as their nutty Aunt Lucy had they not seen Renato in a restaurant near their table. The whole family remarked on it, and then he was gone from sight.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Mojo, first baseman

The little guy has taken to bringing me his purple fluff ball for us to play with. He arrives purring like crazy around the fluff in his mouth, puts it down in front of me and looks at me expectantly. Of course I deliver, toss it somewhere and he is gone after it. Back again to me, he waits again. I try a fly ball this time and by gosh he snatches it out of the air.

We go on like this for a while, often around my abandoned breakfast, and of course the ball lands in my tea. No doubt this improves the flavor of the tea and I drink it without qualm. Think of it as a hundred different kinds of immunization shots from wherever the fluff ball has been. All the germs will be fighting each other to bring me down but they will succeed only in killing each other. If Mojo isn’t fazed by them, neither will I be.

And so, Loaner, Mojo, and Renato and I celebrate this day and wish everyone in the whole wide world a similar warm happy one. I know this is disingenuous given the fractured lives of millions of unfortunates, but one keeps wishing them well nevertheless.

Bringing up Mojo

Or something…. His biting is letting up, I think. That is, a whole day has gone by when he hasn’t tried to burrow under the covers to reach my fugitive hands. By some miracle he has stopped attacking my ankles. But then he has transferred his attention to the blinds’ pull cords. My friend and colleague at the California Writers Club was telling me of a cat she adopted. Trouble was, she has bead curtains, or perhaps I should put that this way: She had bead curtains.

But when he is being good, there is no angel who can compare. We have a favorite cuddle position; the curve of my arm does very nicely to hold him while his eyes squinch shut in bliss, purrs fill my ears, all four legs straight up in the air and snowy belly exposed in trust. Of course, he now weighs as much as Pinky did and I must rest my elbow on the table to support his weight. And often, as with Pinky, I must sweep under the furniture to retrieve his toys. Favorites are George the turtle and a purple puff ball, which he carries in his mouth around the house. I have had my cell camera at the ready to catch this epic shot, but whenever I point it at him he drops the puff ball and looks inquiringly at me.

Sadly, all this business with Mojo is affecting Loaner’s interactions with me. She is not jealous as far as I can see, but we both seem to be distracted by the little one’s gallops up and around the place, his swipes at blinds, slippers, the catch pan under the fridge, his zips out and back through the cat door, the lampshade by my bed, the odd piece of paper taken from my desk. When Loaner has had enough, she shuts her eyes tight and tries to nap, leaving me to grapple with the newspaper I am trying to read before Mojo has shredded all of it.

(A word here about Pinky, a tortoiseshell cat who charmed my life for five years before she left me. “Meow’s Way” is mostly about her and how she pursued me until she moved into my home)

I have appealed to Renato about the biting and I believe he has issued a restraining order to the kitten. One whole day without the biting….

Potential marketing venue for books

On the advice of a fellow California Writers Club member who has had experience promoting and selling his books on the site, I went to EreaderNewsToday and applied to promote The Year of the Rat there.
ENT exhibits a sliding scale, that I found affordable, of their fees for each genre; my fellow member did very well selling his books at the fees he paid.

This is more or less how it works: You apply using their form, enter all the information about your book, and ask for a date to start the promotion, which usually runs 30 days. Pricing is very low — I set 99 cents for Rat — and one day before the promotion at ENT starts you lower the price at all the online retailers where that book is posted, and keep it there for three or more days.

I asked to start on January 15. They haven’t replied yet, but I look forward to it. There are so many other promotional marketing sites, one very expensive but effective, I am told.

An accolade for a lady

I know a Chinese woman who grew up in the back country in China, working hard in the fields, deprived of all the accoutrements of a normal life while growing up. Yet she shook off the communist suppressions of thought and self-determination and managed to get herself to the United States.

She learned English and speaks it fluently with no accent. Even more astonishing, she is a teacher using that language. There is a toughness to her, a strength that lies hidden behind her amiable manner, and one can only imagine what it took for her to escape on her own from her native land.

We had lunch together yesterday, and she laughed at my feeble jokes as hostess of the California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch, annual holiday luncheon. She was curious of my own origins as well, and wanted to know more about Eurasians in China. Well, that is a pretty wide and deep subject and I could give her only a sketch of Shanghai’s golden days as the Pearl of the Orient, how Europeans — businessmen, adventurers, refugees from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and from Hitler — flocked there. Foreign corporations were entrenched in Shanghai. My sister Maria worked for Caltex.

Much like India, I told my friend, except that India’s foreign culture (mainly British — and oh! the florid novels written on that era!) became stultified with their independence in 1949. What a long, long, history everywhere in the Far East. I suggested she read my novels, beginning with The Year of the Rat, if she wanted to learn more about how it was to grow up Eurasian in China.