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  http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-mar-2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Multiples Syndrome


     How much is too much, and how little is too little? I am still getting my head around this question to put my love of things under control. I didn’t think about this so much until I started writing. I wanted a web page and a blog. One was not enough. Today I have six blogs that are public and several that are private. The same with web pages. Finally, I have consolidated to one website, but the others still wink at me on Google searches.
 
    My brain is always in hyper mode of things to do and I like to create something new for every idea. When I look back on my life, it seems to be a pattern. Six storage units full of antiques turned me into an antique dealer.
 
 
"Buy what you love you'll always find space in your home." I became an antique dealer when six storage units proved that quote wrong.
 
 
     The year after my husband died, I opened my own little shop, and in four months, I rented not one, but three buildings in a tiny hub that had no business traffic. I was ecstatic, however, that I had so many buildings so I could have writing classes, book signings for local authors, and still try to sell antiques. It didn’t take me long to learn the one thing I didn’t have too much of was money! My shop closed in nine months, although I hauled my treasures to a small town forty minutes away and rented space in three different antique malls.
 
     One dog led to six. To cover that insanity I named myself Writer With Dogs. Now no one calls me a crazy dog lady.
 
 
 
Said "Writer With Dogs" Never
 

 

     Was it time to get professional help, I wondered. My new doctor answered that one for me.


    “Here, take this card and go talk to him.” Her voice had a thick accent as she shoved a plain business card at me. “Your blood pressure is so high because you have too many dogs, too many shops, and heaven knows what else!”

 

     My blood pressure was high because I came to her right after I had been rear-ended in a car mishap (gently, and no one was hurt). I took the card and made the appointment. A few days later, I showed up at a tiny building with one window facing the parking lot. The forms I filled out asked about my drug use, prison time, and other personal issues I might want to discuss. What I wanted to discuss was how much I disliked my new doctor who thought I was crazy and sent me to him. I knew this visit would be limited to only one.
 
     An older looking man with a grey beard invited me into his office. He looked at the forms and then at me. "What is the problem?"

    I decided to cut to the chase. “You might say I have a multiple disorder. I am never satisfied with one.” I then went on to talk about my dogs, my shops, my antiques, my blogs . . . I did mention my husband who had died several years earlier. "He was six foot seven inches tall." I chuckled thinking of the man who made me want to settle down. “Thank goodness I only needed one husband.”

    “Perhaps because he was so tall, it seemed like more.” The shrink smiled back at me.

    I came away feeling exactly as I did before I walked through his office door. For me, creativity can't be contained. I see beauty in everything. I can't eat just one potato chip.
 
    I am kinder to myself now, realizing I will over do most everything when I am excited. I have learned that less is sometimes more, especially when it comes to writing. A tighter story is better than one that rambles aimlessly. One website is less confusing to your audience. Ah, but blogs, I am still blog crazy.
 
    For me there will never be too many dogs,  too many friends, too many books to read, or too many ideas that I want to write about.
 
 
To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: 
 
 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NOT The NY Times Best Seller Book Club

 
Death memoirs, farm memoirs, aging gracefully guides, and books with dogs on the covers. And I thought I could start a book club. It is beginning to come together!
 
As much as I love books, buy books, hoard books, I rarely finish reading one. My nightstand is full of books I plan to read . . . maybe, sooner or later. Maybe part of that problem is the fact I am not a big fiction reader. I like essays and stories about people who find their path after a sad event. How pleasant is that? One of my favorite books was A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas, her memoir on her husband's brain injury. Stephen King said it was his favorite memoir, according to the blurb on the book. Of course, the fact she had a three dog life and I had my six dog life, was a big draw, too. I read that book in the early days of loosing my husband. It made me read her earlier books and now her latest book What Comes Next and How To Like It. That lead me to reading books on having a wonderful life as I age.  I am excited to attend a class on Saturday by Claire Cook (author Must Love Dogs, etc) on reinventing yourself. Her book Never Too Late: Your Roadmap To Reinvention is on my Kindle.

What brought me to the books above is the dog connection. Would I have read these books if a dog had not drawn me in? None of my friends are reading books on how to be fun and older. Nor my weird memoirs. Maybe a cat on the cover would have worked for them. Me, always a sucker for dogs and always drawn into animals on the cover. (This might be a good time to make note of that for your next book cover to my author friends.)

To give you a handle on my quirky reading, I am also reading a memoir on a pig and on owning chickens. My farm fantasy is alive and well as my reading habits keep changing.

I started a book club last year with visions of finding books less known and publicized. My goal was to read local authors, self-published authors, and have authors visit our book club meetings. I called the group The NOT The New York Times Book Club. Perhaps I am not the best one to start a book club, but I like to try new things as I age! (my books on aging tell me this is a positive!)

Our first three selections were NY Times Best Seller Books. I drank wine at our meetings and stuffed my face with food, these were not the books I wanted to share. But I am not an ogre, so I let the members pick what they wanted to read. To set an example for all members, I didn't read the books they picked, noting that you could come to the meeting and feel comfortable even if you had not finished the month's selection. I like to be a positive role model.

In the midst of my looking for 'memoir' style books to enjoy, a friend bought me A Moveable Feast as a gift. All the research I did for my little picture book for my dog Miss April in Paris (A Dog Dreams of Paris) gave me the French connection. He thought I'd love the book. He was spot on.  So, at the last book club meeting, another NY Times best seller I had not read, everyone looked at me and asked, "So just what are you reading?" I had to hold back my giggle (I am not mature for my age) and smiled sweetly at them. "Hemingway." They looked at me strangely. "A Moveable Feast".  I went from dolt to intellectual with those few words. Loved it! Then we went back to discussing the book everyone had read and I had not.

Sometimes you need those moments. Enjoy them. They can make a good story, too.

I am happy to report the group is seeing things more my way! Next Sunday we have local authors sharing their books with our members. Four women, who write amazing books you might not find without knowing they are there, will talk with us and share their writing experiences. They call themselves The Book Widows (I swear I did not choose them for their name because I am a widow and so easily influenced by things I am familiar with). They refer to themselves as Book Widows, like golf widows. The men in their lives do not go to book clubs. I am friends with one of the authors and this is going to be fun.

Finally. I Will Have My Way!

There are so many awesome books that never get the recognition they deserve. Fiction, non-fiction, any genre is included in this statement.  The Book Widows have got me looking at fiction, too.  Especially if there is a dog on the cover!

Would love some suggestions on books you have found that may be hard to find if not on the NY Times Best Seller list.

Links to The Book Widows:  Please do not tell them I have not read their books!
But I have copies on my nightstand!

Valerie Joan Connors

Susan Clotfelter Jimison

Rona Simmons

Constance McKee


Susan, Constance, Rona, Valerie

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: 
http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-jan-2016/

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blog Tour Book Review "The Romance Diet" by Destiny Allison

 
 
 Available on Amazon and Kindle

Note: This review is part of the Women On Writing blog tour for Destiny Allison. Link here for more information on her tour!
 
 
I met Destiny Allison online once before, during an earlier blog tour with Women On Writing when I reviewed her book Shaping Destiny on my Book Talk blog in 2012. Needless to say, I was thrilled to review her latest memoir The Romance Diet.  I was not disappointed. I love memoirs and Destiny draws you in with her writing, honesty, insight, and details of her life . Her fears resonate with all of us. Her courage is amazing.
 
The Romance Diet is intimate, grueling, heartbreaking, and finally, exhilarating.  Destiny's honesty is raw as she takes us on her personal journey (along with her husband) on reshaping her life.  It is not just about weight loss. It is a story on coming to terms with personal demons and finding the strength to move forward.
 
As a well-known sculptor, Destiny's identity was solidly in place, especially in her mind. Which is where I live – don’t you? How we perceive ourselves makes us function at our best or worst. A back injury changed all that. She gained weight. Worried about health. Worried about not being sexy enough. She could not do what she loved best, create those extraordinary huge metal sculptures. She needed to find her new passion to feel complete. A new business venture was the answer but brought on other issues to deal with. It is not easy looking deep into your soul for answers. Could questioning too much ruin her marriage? What roles are women expected to play in relationships and society.

Destiny came through a winner. Which my guess is one of her strong traits. As far as beauty, if I look at photos of Destiny from a few years back and compare them to today, she has an inner beauty that makes her softer and more beautiful than ever.

The memoir is short and I read it in one night. I couldn't put it down once I started.  Her issues may be different than yours, but her tenacity and strength is something everyone can draw from and apply to their own life. 


About the Author:



Destiny Allison
 
 
Destiny Allison was a professional and award-winning sculptor. Her work is collected by individuals, civic entities, and corporations worldwide. When an injury required her to re-envision her life, Allison did what she always does. She applied her explosive creativity and dog-with-a-bone tenacity to new endeavors.

In 2011 she was named Santa Fe Business Woman of the Year. Her community building efforts and innovative business model transformed a bankrupt shopping center into a thriving community and commercial center.

In 2012 she published her first book, Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life. The book won best independent non-fiction/memoir in the 2013 Global Book Awards.
 
Since then, she has published two novels and opened a general store. 
 
Allison believes that one’s life is one’s greatest work of art. Hence, she flows freely between mediums. Unafraid to make mistakes and always passionate, she lives in Santa Fe, NM.
 
Links:

 

Twitter @sfsculptor
 
 

 
 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Breakfast of Champions Not


Looking at this picture makes me giggle and makes me hungry. It also reminds me that I am not only failing my character Mallory (last seen at the Waffle House - if curious check earlier posts) my very own breakfast of champions is  . . . well, pathetic.

I don't cook. I used to bring in things to zap in the microwave. And, at one time I purchased frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls that gave the illusion I was eating a real breakfast. Now, I pop some pills, drink my coffee, and start the day checking on Facebook posts and Pinterest. Those two sites are my morning companions. My virtual friends. I leave comments and it seems like a conversation to me.

Of course, there are the dogs. I talk to them every morning as I teeter about, trying to get my balance, that hip that still needs surgery keeping me from my normal activities. Although, I have to ask myself these days, What is normal for me? I've been dealing with hip issues for over a year.

The six-pack of hounds are my constant companions. I talk to them, they wag their tails, then they stare, wanting to be fed. I actually get more of a response on Facebook, folks liking my pithy comments, than I get from hungry dogs who are just thinking about themselves.

The dogs have learned the meaning of brunch. BS (before surgery) I got up at seven am and all the dogs ran down the hall, anxious for breakfast. I couldn't feed them fast enough. Now AS (after surgery and another big BS, as I have to have the other hip done sometime after the first of the year) I barely teeter down the hallway. The dogs run out. I refresh their water bowl. They run back in expecting food. They are greeted with a handful of biscuits. You have to wait, I tell them. I can't move. I pop a pain pill, grab my coffee and head to the computer. I have to get myself together before I can start serving their breakfast. Six bowls in six different locations. Each has to be lowered with a grip as I can't bend to reach the floor.

I read somewhere in a dog manual that the one who controls the food controls the pack. And the alpha eats first. That be me. Even if only coffee, pills, and maybe something to nibble on, they see I am getting something, they are not. The hounds are very very respectful of me these days. They do get treats before meals and they have learned to like that. Even my old sick gal, Annabelle, perks up, waiting to see what treats come her way. She is hanging with me a little longer to see how much rotisserie chicken she can gulp down in her remaining days. The dogs love to eat. It is the biggest part of their day.

Let's face it, I love to eat, too. As much as the dogs do. And I don't have to wait for someone to feed me. But, I don't like to prepare food. When my husband was alive, I did cook breakfast. Every. Single. Morning.  We had a trade off. He cooked dinner. Every. Single. Night.

On my own I have reverted back to my old ways. How I was before we met. So many years ago. I life-time ago. Never cooking, eating out, or bringing in take out. My idea of breakfast was a left-over cold pizza slice. Yum. (I do have a small pizza in the freezer. Perhaps I will upgrade today. After all, it's not delivery. It's DiGiorno! That almost seems home cooked.)

I rallied for a bit after my hip surgery in May.  I learned to love cereal and milk again. In the hospital.  I carried that breakfast theme over to my return home and the next two months. Little single bowls of cereal that I could add my milk and plastic spoon and make it to the computer to have a healthier, simple breakfast with my friends on Facebook and Pinterest. A few bones tossed at the hounds and we were all good for thirty minutes or more.

I am addicted to certain rituals for short periods of time.  It depends how much I was influenced by them at first meeting. Hospital food was . . . well, you know, hospital food. Cereal, milk, and fruit was refreshing in comparison to an unknown egg mixture with strange potatoes that were fried, I think, but could not be certain.  Coming home I continued the cereal tradition.

This was not my first addiction to breakfast with cereal. In 1988 (some of you may not have been born then. Argh to you.) my mother and I went to England. She was a recent widow and wanted to travel. We stayed at a very small hotel off Trafalgar Square in London. Their breakfast included milk (in a silver pitcher), small boxes of cereal so we could choose our favorites, fresh apricots, and toast with tiny packets of lovely jams. The table cloth was a thick white cotton, the utensils were real silver, cloth napkins, and a bud vase with a rose. Upon returning home, I had that breakfast for months. There was no table, no cloth, no silver, but there were real apricots. OMG. I lived for breakfast. The memories were happy and strong. So much so, that my little fictional novel, Danger In Her Words, included the same description for a breakfast as one of the characters loved her English breakfast and kept the tradition going upon return to her home. (Write what you know. I know cereal, milk, and apricots!)

My recent cereal experience fell short of exciting within a few months after my surgery. Nothing tasted good to me. Perhaps it was the pain meds. (Cliff hanger! More on that in another post.) I no longer eat cereal. Coffee, pills, and maybe a muffin. But that's how I roll at the moment.  (Look, almost a pun . . . muffin, roll . . naw, I agree with you. Sadly unexciting.)

Living alone (if you can call living with six dogs alone - let's rephrase that to living without a human companion in the house) has shaped how I do things. It's just me and the dogs, and as I've mentioned, they have to wait for my next move to see when food comes their way. Surprisingly, they have learned to be fine with that. When I head back to bed to get my energy level up to for the day and to let any meds do their magic, they jump in with me. Food has taken a back seat to snuggling on the bed.

Somehow this silly lifestyle of mine agrees with me. I plan to find a better way to do things, sooner or later, but most probably after my next surgery. My non-surgery hip is very uncomfortable most mornings. I have to ease into my day, limber up, and then move on. I am blessed with so many wonderful friends. When I do head out, I eat out. With my friends. Sometimes brunch, sometimes lunch, and most times dinner. Sometimes two meals a day out with different friends. I love that. Not so much the food, but the company.

In fact, I love it so much, I may have a new title for myself.  Social Diner. But that is the subject for another post!

I have a frozen pizza waiting for me to zap it! Oh, and the dogs are getting impatient with me. I've taken way too long to feed them this morning.

 


 

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Very Sick Dog With A Great Attitude

     

Annabelle and I have long chats in the car to and from the vet.
 Our most wonderful vet!

Once again I am learning lessons from my dogs. Annabelle is a very sick girl, but she is moving along, enjoying the moment, and teaching me to live in the now.  

     Recently diagnosed with Lymphoma she will not be with the pack much longer. I say that and find it hard to believe. Do I sound accepting of this fact? Not really. I am more in denial that she is so ill. She is a trooper. Now on prednisone, her symptoms are masked, and she is quite content for her remaining days. However many there are. I don’t have a clue, no one does. The fact she is with me now, happy, pain-free, and enjoying her time here is good enough for me. I chose not to put her through extended treatments. She is old. It would not buy her enough time to make that time so unpleasant for her.

     Her age is a mystery, too. Her owners lied about it to animal control. Perhaps with a good intention out of a bad act. As a younger dog she might find a home. She came to me in late April 2009, when I was on my dog adopting frenzy. She was number two. The folks with animal rescue pulled her from DeKalb Animal Control. Her owners turned her in, giving her age as five years old. A quick run by the vet brought up many guesses as to her real age. Anywhere from 8 to 10, based on her teeth and overall health and appearance. She had puppies at one time, maybe lots of them, her belly sagging low as she walked. Her teeth were a mess, and shame on me, they still are. Annabelle had a few teeth pulled but the rest are still in her mouth. Her breath could knock you over. Yet, she gives kisses freely, even now, and her breath? Well love conquers all.

      Annabelle had her chapter, Someone New In My Bed, in my widow memoir. Her first night in her new house - my house, our house, and the doghouse, where the numbers were growing -  told me all I needed to know about her. She got up on my bed and curled next to me. I rolled on my side, slipped my arm over her chubby tan frame, and slept the best sleep since my husband had died the year before. She had come in for a trial run but I knew she was mine forever.

      She could put the cartoon character Maxine to shame. Annabelle can be a curmudgeon, a cantankerous old lady, or a sweetheart.  She looks like an old school marm on days and on other days she smiles her partially-toothless grin that is infectious. She is a heartbreaker, no doubt about that, and soon will be breaking my heart.

     Our time now is fun. I treat Annabelle as a princess. Of course, all my dogs are spoiled; she is just getting a bit more attention and a bit of special food. I tuck her meds in hunks of rotisserie chicken. She inhales the bits so quickly she has no clue what is inside. Her eyes are bright as she does a happy dance.

      Trips to the vet include a stop along the ride home. A bit of Chick-fil-A sandwich, a small cup of low-fat yogurt from Brusters (free to dog visitors) and plenty of treats tucked in my pocket to keep her entertained on the short drive.

      Her arrival back home is that of a rock-star. Five dogs sniff her butt, saying Welcome Home. Rascal licks Annabelle’s face, a caring gesture that happens often and I have yet to figure out why. I wonder if they know.

     I do not count her days. I count my blessings. I am lucky to have this time with her and with all my dogs. Each day is a miracle. For her, for me, for you. None of us, canine or human, know how many days or years we have left. The gift is to live those days full of love and compassion. Perhaps a dog enjoying her remaining time teaches a lesson for all of us. My old gal Annabelle is full of grace and beauty, and yes, rotisserie chicken. She won’t let me forget the chicken . . .
 
 
More chicken, please!
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Failing NaNoWriMo I Will Post Here For 30 Days

I am failing quicker than I am writing. NaNoWriMo inspired me that I could sit down and write. I started November 1st with a plan to knock out a 50,000 word novel.  I am now, on day 19, still at just over 5,000 words. My main character stopped for coffee at the Waffle House and never left. As I sit here and sip my steaming hot cup of java, so does Mallory. She must be on a high now, sixteen days in a row drinking coffee. I think I left her with a plate of waffles, too, if I remember correctly. Since fictional writers say their characters take on a life of their own, perhaps Mallory has done that and ordered more food. Eggs, bacon, and in the evening hours, I hope she had a burger, well done with all the works, to keep her strength up.

It was going to be an romance novel, not steamy hot, but a kind look at a woman trying to rebuild her life. I'd like to think that while I have failed Mallory, the Waffle House has not. Is she sitting at the Formica top table with a handsome cowboy? Yeah, yeah, the old cowboy hook. But she is in Florida and there is horse country around her. Far off, actually. She is by the beach. Cowboys like the beach, too, don't they? Romance at the Waffle House is quite possible. And if you steal that as the title for your next book, I'm coming to find you.

I have a list of reasons why I haven't written more. If only they were exciting reasons. But I am a slug in a void about writing. I don't even want to label it writer's block. It may come down to this, fiction is difficult for me. I like non-fiction, short essays, and with my crazy life with dogs, I like to write about  . . . . me!

 
It isn't that I missed Lesson 94. I haven't gotten there yet. I think I am wallowing more around lesson # 32. And truly, it isn't all about me. But writing about my life and the things around me, help me sort out dealing with life's big issues and perhaps my little missives hit a nerve with someone else, someone who can relate to what I am saying.

My reason for writing in the first place was to learn how to cope with the loss of my husband. A year's essays turned into my memoir The Unfaithful Widow. That book connected me to others who had a loss and I made friends, friends I've never met in person but feel as close to them as if I had.

Non-fiction, no matter how deep or silly it gets when I start hitting the keyboard, is my way of connecting to people. I am a social gal and sharing my thoughts with others when I write is as good as sitting and having a margarita with friends. Except I don't have to wear makeup, can stay in my PJ's and frankly, sad as this is, I can't drink at the moment, still on a few pain meds for my hip.

Aha, a flash. Pain meds and margaritas . . . maybe I can get Mallory out of the Waffle House. Probably not. She, we, us - well, it's a big menu. I'll just drop in and have dinner with her. In my PJs because she is just a fictional character. . .

In lieu of a novel writing month, which is a tad past halfway over, I've pledged to myself to write on this blog for the next 30 days. We'll see how that goes. Time will tell if I am good for my word, or just a procrastinator who wants to be a writer.

For now I am signing off and heading out for breakfast. All that talk of the Waffle House has made me hungry. Perhaps a bit of bacon and an omelet (who am I kidding, and a big fat waffle full of butter and syrup) will inspire me to figure out what Mallory would do next.

I've a heard a sugar high can get you going, too!