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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Handbag and Book guest author Penny Pence Smith - The Mighty Orange Purse


Friends call it “Penny’s mighty orange handbag”
because it’s big, bright, elegant and noticed by everyone. And it was a breakthrough in bags for me—for decades a traveling road warrior journalist then communication/ marketing consultant then university professor…now mystery novelist. I always carried light weight soft-sided bags for convenience. Until the laptop a became mandatory travel companion. I live in Hawaii and every trip is a journey, not a quick jaunt. So, I searched for a sturdy bag that could hold a lot including my laptop, fit comfortably over my shoulder and “said” organization and elegance. Tory Burch offered just what I needed. The orange hue spoke to me—well, yelled at me.

It was also perfect when we brought our cat, Blue, from California to our then part-time home in Hawaii. The 20-pound silver-grey feline in a carrier over one shoulder and the orange bag over the other – filled with student papers, Blue’s travel documents and food cans, laptop, spare underwear and other vitals— we set out across the Pacific. At Los Angeles International Airport, as the TSA agent directed me to lift Blue from the carrier for scanning, she surprisingly commented, “I LOVE your orange handbag!” Her words attracted the attention of several passengers in line who also commented. And they attracted the attention of a small boy who ran over, looked at the purse, the cat, and then yelled, “Can I pet your jaguar?”

Four years later, the “mighty orange” Tory Burch purse still rocks—and travels. The cat, not so much.

Meredith Ogden is at the top of her game in Hollywood as Legwoman (assistant in modern terms) to Bettina Grant, the country’s most widely read celebrity gossip columnist. But life changes for the 36-year-old journalist when she arrives for work at Grant’s Bel Air home-office on a December morning in 1983 to find her famous boss dead, murdered. A book manuscript lies on the floor next to the death bed. Partnering with High-Profile crimes detective T.K. Raymond to find out who killed Grant and why, Meredith faces more than questions or answers. A volatile TV night-show host lobs threats because of a damaging news investigation about his background and Grant’s children have demands on the office and valuable celebrity files. Meredith’s home is broken into and searched, and she is assaulted. With T.K. Raymond’s help, and that of an unlikely team of colleagues, Meredith deals with the threats to herself, her future and even ghosts from her own past.

More about Penny Pence Smith: 

As a teenager, Penny Pence Smith wrote for the Indio Daily News, subsequently received a


University of Washington B.A. and UNC-Chapel Hill Ph.D. She was “legwoman” for an internally renowned Hollywood columnist, then a New York Times Special Features correspondent/LA Bureau Manager, Warner Communication editor, Hollywood Reporter Correspondent, marketing strategist/consultant and university professor. She lives mostly in Honolulu, HI, with her husband of nearly 40 years, and their cat, Bob. Penny writes magazine articles, mystery novels, paints, sculpts, dances and sings. “When I retired from academia,” she says, “I stepped from left brain into right brain—and never looked back.”

Answer these questions:

Red, White or Blue? All color is vital in my world. It's why I paint as a hobby. But I seek blue for my personal, contemplative surroundings, red for standing out on screen. White has been the color of my hair for nearly 40 years, thanks originally to a highly creative stylist and recently to Mother Nature.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? Hawaii, the land of perpetual summer, is home, by choice, but Utah childhood memories still savor winter’s icy sparkle. My favorite season, however, is North Carolina’s early springtime when the red bud trees and the blooming dogwoods fill the woods and air.

Cake or Pie? Southern Chess Pie and macadamia nut cream pie seduce me every time. But my favorite desert is a giant dark chocolate-covered pretzel from Whole Foods.

Coffee, Tea, or Champagne? I love the joyful celebration of a tall flute of sparkling champagne, but there’s nothing like a rich iced decaf Americano on a busy, hot day.

Country music or Michael Buble? Buble’s crooning vocals are always a pleasure and some Country Western selections are toe-tappers. As a life-long dancer, all music resonates. I’ve danced — and taught —everything from tap and ballet to Zumba to hip hop. Hawaiian music and hula have a special place in my heart and toes.

Pencil or Pen? Yes—and crayons, charcoal, paint and…

Find The Last Legwoman: A Novel of Hollywood, Murder and Gossip! at: Amazon

Find Penny Pence Smith at: Amazon

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Handbag and Book with author J. Arlene Culiner: The Back Streets of Paris and a Beautifully Awful Handbag

It was one of those dreary cold daysyou know the sort I mean. The sky is so grey it’s about to open up and weep. The frozen air manages to feel damp, and the icy wind’s tentacles sneak past your coat collar and slide into your boots.

I was living in Paris, and walking through a rather unsavory part of the city where people try to sell you knockoffs, smuggled cigarettes, or specialize in picking your pocket. Desperate for a respite from the chill, I slipped into one of those crowded, cheap boutiques—the sort that sells dreadful glowing twinkling things created in the world’s forgotten nooks and crannies. 

And that’s when I saw it: The Handbag. And I knew I had to have it in my life.

Yes, it’s kitsch (although that word doesn’t go far enough); no, it’s too narrow to hold anything bigger than a bus ticket and a change purse; yes, it catches on everything; no, it doesn’t go with any respectable outfit. But, believe me, when I wear my sparkly black and silver skirt, or my vulgar gold heels, or one of my shiny tops and my dangling flashy earrings; when I want to stand out and make people take notice, this beautifully awful handbag never lets me down. 

The air sizzles when a country music star and renowned playwright meet, but can opposites fall in love?

Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Surrounded by clamoring fans and paparazzi, her spangled cowboy boots carry her from one brightly lit stage to the next. But Sherry's been on the star circuit for far too long and she wants out: is it too late to begin an acting career? 

Renowned but reclusive playwright Carston Hewlett cherishes his freedom, the silence of the deep woods surrounding his home, and his solitary country walks. So why is he so fascinated by a flashy country music singer? Perhaps a short passionate fling will resolve the problem.

When their names are linked in the scandal press and Sherry's plans to become an actress are revealed, Carston feels betrayed. Is their budding relationship doomed?

More About J. Arlene Culiner: Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.

Red, White or Blue? Always red, of course. 

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? They all work for me. I love the change in seasons. 

Cake or Pie? Neither one. I have absolutely no sweet tooth. But give me a good dill pickle, or some roasted sunflower seeds, or a few slices of hot buttered toast, and I’m yours.

Coffee, Tea, or Champagne? Is this a serious question? Champagne, please. Then more champagne.

Country music or Michael Buble? Good old-fashioned authentic country, the sort you hear here: YouTube

 Pencil or Pen? Both. It all depends on what I’m doing. Drawing? Writing? Signing?

Find a Swan's Sweet Song at: Amazon

Find J. Arlene Culiner at: Website      or at: Storytelling Podcast: Storytelling Podcast

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Handbag and Book welcomes author Patricia Kiyono: Who's Organized? and a new book


 I’m not the most organized person around, and sometimes - more often than I’d like to admit - I spend time looking for things when I go somewhere. One strategy that usually works for me is to designate a specific tote bag for each place that I go - one for each of the music groups I play in, one for my quilting group, one for my scrapbooking nights, and yet another for my card-making nights. I have a special cubby shelf unit for each of those bags, and each night I make sure the right items are in the correct bags for the