Monday, June 19, 2017

Moving On

If you know me, you know how much I love houses. I've talked and written about my desire to sell the home I shared with my husband for so many years and find a cottage of my own.  A place to  jump start my life once again and get my creative juices flowing.  Part of that journey is captured on another blog The Cottage In My Mind.  When I wrote my widow memoir, I was still so happy in my house. So many good things came in the following years. But I knew if I stayed in my home of thirty years my life would still be good, but it would never be different. I felt change had stopped and I needed to kick start myself again.

This year I moved on. The universe and the man above took me an hour outside of Atlanta to a charming small, slightly rural, town where I now reside with my pack of hounds in a wonderful 1906 Historic cottage.

The biggest adjustment for me? There is no pizza delivery here. No delivery of any kind of food. I am the gal that doesn't cook and ordered dinner through Grub Hub so I could stay in on a rainy night or groceries from Instacart when I was too darn lazy to get in my car and buy dog food.  I am learning to plan ahead. My little town does have a grocery store, but they don't carry my brand of dog food. When you run out of kibble and have five dogs staring you down at dinner time you learn to get organized quickly.

I am fifteen minutes in any direction from lots of shopping, but I see pastures of cows and horses on my drive. I am only an hour away from my friends in Decatur so we still have dinners out. I like to go visit Decatur, but my heart and home are now here in Social Circle. My friends like to come and shop the great antique shops in the surrounding towns.

My farm fantasy is well fed. I landed here in the middle of a chicken war, where folks were campaigning to change the city ordinance to allow backyard chickens. The ordinance changed and, gee, I could have six chickens in my yard if I were a crazy lady who wanted to have five dogs in an uproar. Won't have chickens, or goats, or sheep, or horses on my property, but I see them everywhere I drive.

I think the most amazing thing is at 68 years of age I made a major move to my dream house. I didn't go to a condo. I didn't downsize because I am getting older. For some folks that is what they want. And we all need to do what we want, especially at this age. Smaller was never in my vocabulary. I am an antique furniture freak. I have a passion for old cupboards, farm tables, artwork, and never plan to give up the things I love, the way of life I have made for myself, until they put my ashes in a lovely vintage urn. Then come to the biggest estate sale my friends will conduct.

My one concession, all my rooms had to be on one floor. Gone are the days I want to climb stairs, my hip surgeries brought that message home. In reality, my dogs can't go up stairs either. The short legged hounds couldn't get to a bedroom on another floor, and we all sleep together, all the time.

I look at my cottage in awe. Eleven foot ceilings with amazing deep crown molding. A center hallway that holds more furniture than any room in my old house. The previous owner renovated this cottage so beautifully with an attention to detail that is beyond what I would have done. My hard work was hiring someone to paint all the walls white. The house sparkles in the sunlight.

The dogs love the yard. I did put up a privacy fence to keep them contained and well, private. What they don't see they don't bark at. The yard, as I look out my kitchen window, is beautiful. Flowers keep blooming. Lots of roses by the little white shed and herbs down the driveway. A huge front porch begs for friends to visit and share stories over wine.

The last twelve months were difficult. My hip surgeries, the loss of my mother, selling my house in Florida that she lived in, and finally selling my house that was the home I shared with my husband when he was alive. Letting go of so much to move on. I still have difficulty walking, but I managed to keep moving forward.

My hip surgeries scared me. Living by myself with all my dogs a constant fear nagged at me. What if something else happened? If I stayed in my old house I had the comfort of the closeness of friends and all that was familiar. I lived next door to a hospital. When my husband died, I felt sorrow, but I had my health and could run from my fears. When my health became an issue I was vulnerable. I couldn't run away from myself, I could barely move on a walker at first. In a new town I would be totally on my own.

I had to make this move. Letting fear rule was not my style. If not now, when? After all, I am not getting any younger.

The timing was perfect. My house sold the same day I listed it. I put an offer in on this cottage the next day. Thirty days later we sat at a closing table. I sold my house in the morning and purchased my new home at lunch. I had thirty days to get my act together and move.

The "cottage in my mind" is now my reality. Yes, I am getting older, but I am living on my own terms again. The move proved what I knew in my heart. With faith and courage anything is possible.


 The little house in my back yard. Plan A is to make it a studio.
Plan B is to keep it for storage of all the furniture I am still buying.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ready, Set, Go

Yes, please. I'm ready.
    My mantra for the coming year is Ready, Set, Go. It took an Oracle Card reading to prove to me good things are on the way, especially if I work hard. This year has been a difficult one, and frankly, I have dwelled and talked about it too much. I am lucky to have such wonderful friends that listen and don't remind me how much I repeat myself.
     In a nutshell, which does not in any way minimalize the emotional aspect of everything, this is what happened. I went in for hip replacement surgery in April. The surgery went badly. Somehow, my femur fractured after I was back in my room. Two days later, and many pain meds to help pass the time, the hip replacement surgery was done again and the femur stabilized. I now have a cadaver bone bracing the femur and three pints of blood from goodness knows who. Just as I was beginning to relax, an infection set in and I had to have a third surgery to clean the wound. (Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?) Three surgeries in thirty days, an infectious disease doctor, twenty plus days at a terrible nursing home rehab, and seven weeks away from my home. While it seemed never ending, I am wrapping up outpatient physical therapy now and feeling pretty good. Not 100 percent, but darn close.

    During this same creepy year, my mother had horrible health issues, and thanks to my horrible hip issues, I could not be with her. We talked daily. She went into the hospital about the same time I did and had the same amount of time away from home with her physical therapy. Sadly, things did not go as well for her. My sister moved mother closer to her , into a lovely assisted living home. But mother’s health plummeted and she went into hospice mid-August. We lost her two days later.

     Mother was my champion. She taught me you could be whatever you want at any age. She was a shining example having redefined herself several times after my Dad died and encouraged all my craziness to find myself when I became a widow at sixty. My six dogs never worried her, while many of my friends questioned my sanity on those numbers. At eighty-four, Mother got back to her writing roots and published many romantic novellas. We could talk ‘shop’ at night on our calls. We had a mutual admiration society. While she is gone, she lives on every time I sit down to write.

     And that brings me to my goals and my Oracle Card reading. My friend whipped out her cards and ordered I needed a reading. She prefers Oracle Cards because they are more uplifting than Tarot Cards.

    “The Magical Mermaids and Dolphins Oracle Cards are specifically designed to help you manifest your goals, life purpose, and divinely inspired dreams,” she told me as she opened the box and handed a beautiful deck of cards to me. I shuffled the cards, placed the deck in my left hand, put my right hand on top, and picked a card. I picked three cards and the meaning of each showed me I was ready to do something grand.

     I’ll buy that. It’s time for me to find my place again. Ready, set, go. I can’t think of a better mantra to move ahead. To be honest, I had figured that out before the reading, but a tad of mystical power is always a lovely ingredient.

    My head is spinning with new things to write. I’ve started my dog memoir and a fictional book about a widow who has to restart her life at sixty-five. My platform is always so obvious, widows, dogs, and old houses. Things I understand. Throw in the occasional chapter on antiquing, and you have the story of my life, in memoir, in fiction, and perhaps, in poetry soon. A few years ago, I published a Kindle Christmas anthology with thirty other authors. In the works is a book on writers and their dogs. Appropriate for the gal who named herself “Writer With Dogs” after adopting my bunch of rescue hounds.

     Whatever I write this year, I will honor my mother with my words. She will be by my side encouraging me as I remember all the late night conversations we had about life and the stories we hoped to put on paper. The gift of writing is one that pulled me through when I lost my husband eight years ago and will keep my mother close as I pursue my upcoming goals. You can be anything at any age . . .   her words fill my heart with hope.
It has been my pleasure to be part of Julie Valerie's Fiction Writer's Blog Hop this year. So many great writers sharing their thoughts. You rock, Julie.
And thanks to all who have read this post. You can return to the hop by clicking below.
Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Little Gardening Library


I love this quote, but if you know me there is one more important ingredient to give me everything I need. . . my dogs!
Years ago when I was more an antique dealer than I writer, I collected vintage gardening books and made a special place for them in my house. Tucked away in the back corner of my sitting room were built-in shelves I hated. Hated because I wanted an old cupboard where the shelves took up so much space. It didn't take me long to figure out the shelves were perfect to start a little library. I filled them with old gardening books, small treasures, and a few tiny oil paintings. It is a peaceful spot where I can hide out and dream about the past and future while surrounded by beauty. The books there range from late 1800's to mid century. While it is organized and I can label it 'my library', all the other books I collect and read are stacked all over the house. I haven't figured out what to call them yet.
The hated built-in book shelves now house my garden library.
A favorite Rose book
My collection of vintage and antique gardening books make a sweet library in my sitting room.
The antique dealer in me surfaces with small items added to the library shelves.
Some houses have formal libraries, some with books on shelves or piled high on tables, by the sofa, or bedside.  I can't imagine a house without books. It would not seem like a home to me. My guess is we all agree on that!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Jane Austen Book Club

Ok. I admit I am smitten with this movie. It is on my all time list of favorites. Watching this movie is like visiting with old friends. Based on the novel with the same title, written by Karen Joy Fowler in 2005, the movie came out in 2007.
This is my book club fantasy come to life. Six Californians read the works of Austen, six books over six months, with each member leading the discussion of one of the books. They find the novels have plenty of insights that can be applied to contemporary friendships, marriages, sexual politics, money and class issues, social manners, self-control, second chances, and finding one's own place in the world. Their discussions are what you would imagine a book club discussion should be; intense, exciting, passionate. The characters are people you'd like to spend time with.

Jocelyn (Emma): a breeder of Rhodesian Ridgebacks lives outside of town and her dogs are her family.  Jocelyn has been best friends with Sylvia since  childhood and introduced her to her husband, Daniel, when they were in high school. Now in her fifties, she has never married and has no children. She originally invites Grigg to the book club for Sylvia's sake, but ends up attracted to him herself.

Allegra (Sense and Sensibility): the young and impetuous 30-year-old daughter of Sylvia and her husband Daniel. Allegra is an artist and a thrill seeker who enjoys activities such as rock climbing and skydiving. Allegra is separated from her partner, Corinne, and lives with Sylvia.

Prudie (Mansfield Park) : a 28-year-old French teacher at a local high school. She is married to Dean, whom she loves, but feels distanced from, especially when one student in particular flirts with her.

Grigg (Northanger Abbey): an offbeat 40-something, and the only male member of the book club. Grigg grew up the only boy among his three older sisters. He met Jocelyn outside a science fiction convention as she came to attend a nearby dog breeding convention.

Bernadette (Pride and Prejudice): a talkative, 67-year-old yoga enthusiast. She has been married multiple times and is the most satisfied with her lifestyle.

Sylvia (Persuasion): Jocelyn's best friend, Sylvia is also in her fifties and is separating from her husband.

I love the idea of a small community of friends supporting each other through life's changes in the framework of a book club. The fact they are reading Austen to me is minor compared to the relationships that strengthen between the characters. A bit of romance also adds a nice touch. Each month they meet in a different place (a coffee shop, a member's home, at the beach) to discuss the month's selection. I've been in a few book clubs, and started one myself that is successfully moving forward, although I have put someone else in charge for the last few months, but have yet to find the perfect fit for me.

Has anyone else seen this movie or read the book? I'd love to know if you have the same infatuation with it as I do.

Thanks for reading. To return to the Fiction Writers Blog Hop on Julie Valerie's website click here:


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover . . .

What makes you buy a book?

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover. But the cover can certainly make you buy the book. At least for me, the cover is what draws me to a book in the first place. I am a visual person, my senses enhanced by what I see. My urge to spend money also ignited by something that is colorful, pretty, whimsical. I have bought books because of the cover, books I never planned to read, but loved the artwork.

     Perhaps it goes back to my career with the federal government. A great job, but for one that wanted to be surrounded by beauty, a government office is a dreary setting. I used to joke, “If only I could have a wicker chair and a hooked rug in my little nook.” I could keep books tucked around my desk, tiny pieces of art that made me smile as I went about my work.

     The words on the back cover play a huge role, too, on my purchasing the book. If the cover has pulled me in, made me hold the book in my hands, or enlarge the photo on my computer, I want to read what it is about. That small space where the author leaves a blurb is as important to me as an elevator pitch to an agent. Make me want to read you.  My attention span is short and you need to grab me.

      Recommendations by other authors? I don’t pay attention to them. It’s nice if you have a novel and a NY Times Best Seller Author has left a kind line on your jacket. It just tells me that person loved the book. But will I? An award-winning book? Perhaps that will get more attention from me.

     My own reading habits and book purchases are questionable at best. Loving  the art on the cover, instead of reading reviews, and buying the book versus  reading a great review and putting the book back on the shelf because I don't like the cover. I always go for the look I love best.
     Certain images that pull me in, make me want to see what the book has to offer, go along with my passions in life. As a gardener, antique dealer, dog hoarder, it should come as no surprise I can’t pass up a book with any related image to the above. If there are people on the cover, please don’t show me their faces, or much of their body parts. I like to form my own opinion of what the characters look like. If I don’t like the people pictured on the jacket, well, I won’t like the book. Just telling it as it is for me.
     The exception to my rule, memoirs. There, a photo is a must. My stalker self comes out. I want to see who I am reading about. An example below, A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas.  The cover hits many of my must-haves. A photo of the author and her dogs. And to contradict my earlier comment about blurbs by other authors, Stephen King says it is the best memoir he's ever read. Okay, I am inconsistent. But that cover, oh my.
I love the cover on The Language of Flowers. Bought the book in 2012,  and haven't read it yet. The image makes me smile and the book is placed where I can see it on my dresser.
Of course, I am crazy about all of Jackie Bouchard's book covers. What dog lover could pass by this cover without taking a peek at the book? And the back blurb, well, guess what the dog ate . . .

Then there is whimsy? Below are two covers that made me stop and look on Amazon.
Garden illustrations . . . A Sweet Cover
Not only does this cover make me smile, it makes me hungry. So I might buy the book and a cupcake.
So I read and loved Abigail Thomas' memoir, I own the Language of Flowers, and yes, I might buy the other two books based on the cover art.
My memoir cover in 2010 drew some comments on The Book Designer site (link to site but not comments on my cover. That was some time ago.) No one liked that I had so much white in the cover (it did fade as a thumbnail and I had to frame it in black) and men did not understand the image of sunglasses being tossed, thinking I was getting rid of my husband's glasses. A friend, a professional designer, came up with the cover.  Since the essays are of hope, and the memoir a bit quirky, the pink and white seemed to convey more of the nature of my story. Does it draw a buyer in? I haven't a clue. But I hope it lets the reader know the book is more lighthearted in its approach.


I wish I had a more intellectual way of choosing books. For me, my method works. How do you choose what you will read next? And what do you like on a book jacket?

 Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Old New York Bookshop: Treasured Memories

Early photo of Cliff Graubart at The Old New York Bookshop.
(Photo from The Old New York Bookshop Press)

This post is part of Julie Valerie's Fiction Writers Monthly Blog Hop. You can find the link to continue to other sites below.
     Quirky, independent bookshops are my favorite. Granted, I fall prey to Barnes & Noble as a great place to hang out on a dateless Saturday night. I can grab a quick snack, read my favorite magazines, and see what is trending on the bestseller list. However, my heart belongs to those small shops where the personality of the owner shines through. EagleEye in Decatur, a few miles from my house, is top on my current list. Tucked in a small strip mall, it is a splendid combination of used and new books, author signings, and other literary events. I met a date (one of those bad dates you meet online) there in 2009 to attend a screen writing class that was taking place. While the writers were mostly zombie fans, and I was in the middle of writing my widow memoir, it was a great fit, although I like to kid my story was the least gory of all.
     The best of the best, however, was The Old New York Bookshop, a haven to up and coming writers (who became famous Southern authors) in the 1970’s when I first moved to Atlanta. Close to where I worked, in the Midtown section of Atlanta, I stumbled upon it by a fortunate accident. Someone had lifted the wheels off my VW bug and I wandered around looking for a phone. I met the owner Cliff and fell in love with the shop, an old Victorian cottage, with lopsided corners and sagging floors. The many rooms, filled with floor to ceiling bookcases of used, vintage, and antiquarian books, rambled on like a maze.
     Cliff, a small, funny, Jewish fellow from New York, was (and is) as sarcastic as they come, but knew how to make you feel at home. Once I found the shop, I stopped by many times a month to visit on my way home from work. There was a rack of mugs for the regulars (yes, I had my own mug with my name on it) and a constant pot of dark black coffee brewing. I’d fill my cup, plop down on one of the comfy, broken-in sofas, and chat about my day. You never knew who would stop by and join in the conversation, but Cliff was entertainment on his own. (If you read this, Cliff, you know you were the funniest guy around and loved by all your friends.)
     The most memorable moments at the shop were the lavish book-signing parties Cliff gave for local authors who were just beginning their careers. Champagne flowed freely and laughter echoed late into the night. If the rooms became too crowded, there was always the front porch to sit and grab a breath of air and another glass of bubbly. To name drop, but I have to so you can see how fabulous these events were, I met the beloved Pat Conroy there along Terry Kay, Anne Rivers Siddons, Stuart Woods, and so many more of the local authors who became Southern legends over the years. The Old New York Bookshop was part of the literary history of Atlanta.
    Cliff still sells books, but mostly at shows and online. The renovated cottage now houses a trendy, upscale restaurant that fits the gentrified neighborhood. Read about the history of the shop in Cliff's own words on the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association website.  Looking for books?  Check in with Cliff by clicking Contact info. 
     From bookshop owner, book seller, to author, in 2012 Mercer University published Cliff’s novel The Curious Vision Of Sammy Levitt And Other Stories. a humorous and touching tale of 1950s Washington Heights Jewish life.
    Visits to The Old New York Bookshop highlight some of my best memories from those early years in Atlanta. When I had a shop of my own in Old Town, Lilburn, Georgia, in 2011 (The Little Shop Of Arts and Antiques) I remembered those book signings of years ago and decided my antique shop should be a place for writers to hang out, mostly new authors that were self-published. For nine-months, we had a grand time with author events most every weekend. Then I moved the shop to the square in Lawrenceville, where we had more book signings and writing classes for another five months. Not a business person I ran out of money and closed the shop. Some day I hope to put those crazy times in a memoir, certainly not a how to book! 
     I pray there will always be book lovers who keep their shops open. Big name book stores  can produce the goods, but only small owner owned independent shops carry the heart and soul of readers.  


Thanks for reading. To return to the Fiction Writers Blog Hop on Julie Valerie's website click below.   

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fantasy to Fiction

I have a house fantasy. I call it The Cottage In My Mind. I even started a blog to write about my dream house and other houses that fascinated me. The blog was not so much to be entertaining, with its lovely photos and work in progress on my own house, a late 1040's rambling ranch, that is a great house, but no matter what I do, it is a ranch, but a way for me to exorcize the demon that entered my brain some years ago, whispering . . . move. . .

The cottage in my mind is a lovely Victorian beach house close to the water, or just a sweet Victorian cottage in a small town an hour or two from Atlanta, and these days, it is a farmhouse on several acres. I can't decide where I want to live and how I want to live. Do I want to be in the middle of all the activities in Decatur (my little town minutes from Atlanta) where development is booming, a Starbucks, Home Goods, and two small shop areas are being built as I type, or a small community where everyone knows your name (the town my version of the bar in Cheers).  Then there is the farm, a small farm with several acres, lots of out buildings, and a few hens and goats. Picture my six dogs in that scenario - not so much a good thing. They love chicken.

In the last two years I've had my house up for sale for thirty days each time. I had developers interested and a few offers that were hard to refuse, but my ongoing hip issues made it impossible for me to get my act together and move a house load of antiques, art, and dogs. So I took the house off the market before I said yes to someone.

I thought common sense prevailed, as I am having my second hip replacement on April 24th, but no, I went to a small town about two hours away and discovered a house I love. All the things I dream about and on one level and several acres of property. The house is dropped in the middle of the charming town on several acres, but not isolated from civilization. Should I? Could I? Would I? Maybe, after my surgery and rehab. I've talked to the realtor. But I am months away from doing anything. And when my hip is fully functioning,  maybe my brain will be, too, and the cottage in my mind will be just a lovely dream. Time will tell.

In the meantime, while I can't move, I can write. This past week I started writing a cozy mystery. Guess where it takes place? A fake town name and location, but the latest fantasy house is the setting for my new book. I am having the time of my life dreaming big of how I would live in such a town and solve a murder! Yes, I am the character in the book, disguised as a thin agile woman, but the six dogs may be a giveaway!

The last time I fell in love with a house that I could not buy, back in 2011, I penned my little sexy thriller, Danger In Her Words. The setting was the house close to Athens, Georgia I loved so dearly. Making it the scene of my book helped heal the wound I could not buy it. I fall in love deeply with houses but once I've had my way with them in my writing, well, I am on to the next one.

Luckily for my husband when he was alive I was not so fickle with our true love!  This latest house is my dream. No telling where that dream will take me. If I get a fun cozy mystery out of my latest passion I can't ask for anything more.

Unless, this is the one. Then it will be a different story.

Which makes me wonder, what fuels your passion for your stories' settings?

Note: Thanks for reading. This post is part of Julie Valerie's FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP. To return to the blog hop and find some great posts just  go to