The tale of a sad dog and how it grew

 

Some families play games together. Other enjoy family picnics,  or attending concerts.

My family likes to go antiquing.

It’s just something we do. My daughter-in-law and my niece actually make money by discovering old, dusty, rusty things and selling them. They won’t buy anything unless they think they can sell it for double what they paid for it, and usually they are right.

Jim liked to attend auctions and we have a few of his “finds.” Mostly worthless, but then he bought them because they caught his fancy and he didn’t intend to resell, just enjoy. He collected cobalt blue bottles.

Since I am an agreeable sort of person, I often tag along with whichever family member has the bright idea to spend an afternoon going through junk antique stores, thrift shops, estate sales, yard sales, or whatever is within a reasonable driving limit. My sister once told me it is more fun if you are looking for something definite instead just tagging along while your companion utters shrieks of glad discovery. Or not, if she doesn’t want the dealer to know she is that interested. Yes, part of the fun is bargaining.

One of my first discoveries.

One of my first discoveries.

I could have chosen spoons, or thimbles or any small item, but I decided after spotting one sitting forlornly on a crowded shelf, that I would collect sad dogs. Jim bought me a printer’s case after I’d bought a few and later on I bought a glass-front small curio case. I never intended to fill them up, but somehow, I did.

So on my last trip to Georgia, my daughter-in-law gifted me with some very small dogs she had found. I told her I had no more room, but I’d fit them in.

Well, what do you know. On our very first excursion to a thrift store she found a shadow box and pointed it out to me. For $5, I grabbed it.

The newest acquisition is on the right. Look at all the space I have!

The newest acquisition is on the right. Look at all the space I have!

Original printer's case.

Original printer’s case.

So that’s what I did this weekend. I cleaned up the new box, removed some art work to make room for it, and screwed it on the wall. Then I had to clean my printer’s case, and of course, clean all the rather dusty little animals. Yes, animals. I even have an armadillo. I was surprised at how many miniature cats I have, too. But it is still mostly dogs. Not all sad, but each with its own personality.

So now I have space for more.

I have no idea what will happen to this motley crew if or when I finally give up the house and move to an apartment or assisted living. (God forbid! But stuff happens.)

I suppose one of my kids will dump it all off on some poor unsuspecting dealer and let them –er–deal with it.

 

 

Feeding the birds

I have a whiteboard calendar on my refrigerator to remind me of appointments coming up during the week. Sometimes it is empty and sometimes there are two or three things listed for the same day.calendar

Three chores stay there permanently: Wednesday, volunteer at the animal shelter; Thursday, water the plants; and Friday, clean the hummingbird feeders.

It’s not that I would forget these things, but this way I keep on schedule.

My list of chores, written or unwritten, has grown during the past year. Little by little, I took over some of the heavier duties as Jim’s strength failed. So it wasn’t too much of a change to keep on after he passed. One thing I do now that he did up until he was hospitalized is feed the birds. This was more of a joy for him than a chore. He loved watching them and never let the feeders get empty.

So I added this to my list, and every time I lift the heavy feeders down, drag out the 25-pound bag of bird seed and fill them, then stand on my tiptoes to replace them, I think of him. I wonder if he is watching and giving his little nod of approval.

I’m happy to say the squirrels have disappeared and the birds have had free access to the suet feeders. And, I haven’t had to refill them every other day due to the little thieves making off with the suet, cage and all. I have had to search the yard for the cage more than once. Which isn’t as bad as my sister has it, what with raccoons stealing her bird feeders, never to be seen again. The feeders, I mean. The raccoons keep coming back.

But where the squirrels have gone, I haven’t a clue. Maybe because the they ate every one of my crop of figs, they are too ashamed to show their greedy faces. But I’d keep feeding the birds even if the squirrels did keep stealing the suet cages and tipping the feeders, spilling the seeds on the ground.

I feel Jim’s presence when I feed the birds, and when I sit on the deck and watch them in the evening. If I keep my head still, I can imagine him on my right, watching their fluttering and listening to their songs. I can hear him laugh as the hummingbirds wage war, zooming over our heads.

I don’t need to write anything on  my whiteboard to remind myself to feed the birds. It’s too much a part of me.

Of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always the season for books

While I love September and the onset of Autumn, there is also a feeling of sadness.  On the one hand, every beautiful day is a gift, for the next may bring cold weather, snow or sleet. So we cherish it, hanging on to each hour and minute. We take one more trip to the beach or mountains before packing up our summer paraphernalia for another season.

On the other hand, we know the clock is ticking, the leaves are falling, and winter will soon be here. It’s difficult to keep those thoughtstumblr_n169124Rsc1re1snbo1_500 from encroaching, even on the most blue-skied, sunshine-filled, dazzling day.

And so we feel just the slightest tinge of melancholy. Or maybe not. Maybe you are one of those people who love winter. You are waxing your skis, checking out the snowmobile, sharpening the skate blades in happy anticipation of those first, fat flakes of snow.

Not me. I’m airing my quilt, stocking up on hot chocolate, and loading my e-reader with books. I know what I’m doing this winter.

But in the meantime, there are wonderful sunny days ahead to enjoy and I don’t intend to let impending doom Winter spoil them. The Earth spins and each season has its turn. Maybe you favor one over the other, or maybe you take each one as it comes with its own special wonder.

Meantime, there are books.And I don’t even have to wait for Winter. I have a deck and a  comfy chair where I can watch the first leaves fall, the hummingbirds fill up for their annual migration, and the butterflies get drunk on the fermenting persimmons.

And read.

 

 

 

Over the mountains down memory lane

I recently returned from a trip to Pennsylvania. I didn’t mention on any social media sites that I was going, as I think that is like announcing “Hey, y’all. my house is going to be empty for a week, c’mon in and help yourself!”

Not that any would-be thieves would find much  except two cats hiding under the bed.

I’ve made the trip before, but never alone, so this was a big deal for me–especially going over the mountains in West Virginia. Every other time I’ve sat in the passenger seat and admired the view. This time, I kept my eyes on the road and a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

It took me two days to get there, but I had company on the way up. Sydney, the rescue cat, was on her way to her new home. She gave me the excuse I needed to visit my sister and brother-in-law. Not that I needed a reason, but the cat was the “impelling action” as writers say when starting a new story.

She was very good on the trip, chirping and squeaking answers to my comments. She loved the motel. I think she thought it was our new home and I didn’t have to imagine her indignation when she was put into her carrier the next morning for the second half of the trip.

Cat safely delivered, my sister and I spent the week doing fun things. We visited Conneaut Lake Park, an amusement park well over 100 years old and home to one of the last wooden roller coasters, the Blue Streak. No, I didn’t ride it. I did that once when it and I were much younger and I swore if God let me live I’d never get on a roller coaster again for the rest of my life. I am happy to report I have kept that promise.ferris wheel

Another day, we went to the county fair. I hadn’t been to a fair in ages, and we visited every exhibition barn and saw all the crafts and all the livestock. Way back when, when I was in junior high, the school closed for the week of the fair because all the Ag kids were there with their pigs, cows, or sheep. Need I add we were a rural school? There was one day when all the  students who weren’t already at the fair took a field trip…to the fair. I couldn’t see that it had changed all that much since then–maybe more rides on the midway, but the rest was the same.

I remember when we got a new principal who was horrified that school was closed for fair week and put an end to that particular custom. But the first day of hunting season remained a school holiday because, you guessed it, all the boys were absent.

On the last day, my sister surprised me with a trip to an art show…steampunk. Since my last three novels are steampunk, this was a treat. I’ve shared a few pictures below.

S0…home again and ready to get on with everything, now that fall is almost here and church and community activities are gearing up again after a lazy summer hiatus. I  hope you all had a wonderful summer!

collage

 

 

The power of the pen

We know that the written word can kindle a revolution. What I’m talking about is the pen itself…that powerful little instrumepennt and its power to kindle the imagination.

Mainly mine.

Awhile back I received an ad in the mail. It was an introductory offer and I fell for took advantage of it. For a nominal fee, I ordered pens with my name, my book title, and web URL. I thought I would hand these out to friends, fans, and anyone who looked as if they might be remotely interested in                           reading alternate history with a touch of paranormal.

I took a bunch of them with me on a trip to Pennsylvania. My sister and I planned on a winery tour and I thought, “Wine lovers=book lovers.” Mostly because I fall in that category, because there is no other logic to pairing the two.

I did hand some out to various people who seemed to be enjoying the sunny summer afternoon along with a glass of wine, explaining that I was a writer pimping advertising my books. Some said “Thank you.” A few said they would look up the book. I figure if one in 10 followed through, it would be a coup.

Then, as we were leaving the last winery, having passed out all the pens I had with me, I heard someone call my name.

I went back and two women asked me to sit down. “Tell us about your books,” they demanded.

I was happy to. I talked until the waiter brought their order. It turns out they were both avid readers, and belonged to a book club that meets at a winery and calls itself “Well Red.” They said they were always looking for new books and would definitely check mine out.

I left on a happy cloud of imagining…that they selected one or all of the Question series to read, started a fan club, and sent my sales rocketing which landed me a movie contract.

Yeah, I know. My imagination works overtime. Still, if a pen can get me one new fan, I’m happy.

 

 

A little memory

It has been a long eight months since a knock on my door at 5 a.m. changed my world forever. I am still trying to get used to waking up to an empty house. People ask how I’m doing and I say I’m fine, which is not entirely the truth and not really a lie. I have come to terms with the fact that the emptiness will always be with me. Sometimes I pretend Jim is just outside working, and that helps. I picture him in that faded, shapeless hat he wore to keep the sun off his head. He might be barefoot and shirtless, but the hat was always on. (I gave his clothes away months ago, but I kept that hat.)

Another image of Jim came to mind while I was watching “Dancing on the Edge” the other night, and Louis and Stanley were talking. Each man was smoking a cigarette and I was idly thinking that the smoke alone would tell you that the story takes place in the past because no one smokes on TV any more.

Jim smoked when I met him. A lot. At the time, though, it didn’t seem like the vice we view it as now. It was just a habit.

I remember him taking out his ever-present pack of cigarettes, shaking a cigarette from the pack, and lighting it. His hands were strong and slender, and their movements were graceful. He inhaled, tipped back his head, and blew the smoke out. His body visibly relaxed. He was a very nervous person, always moving, and this was the only time he was still.

A cigarette was as much a part of him as his shirt or tie, an accessory of sorts. Sometimes I looked out the window to see the car gone, and knew that he’d run to the store for a new pack. It got to be a family joke, because he never told anyone he was going. It was both an impulse and a necessity.

Later, of course, when the Surgeon General’s report came out, we  knew smoking was a Very Bad Thing. The boys learned about the dangers in school and urged him to quit. I knew he wouldn’t–or couldn’t–and he didn’t.

Then he had a stroke. For six weeks he was housebound and not allowed to drive. No more quick runs to the store. He asked me to buy him a carton and I did the unthinkable. I refused.

He never argued or yelled or complained. He was pretty stoic about it, and when he could drive again he told me he had gone this long without smoking and might as well continue. He never smoked again, but used to say if he knew he was dying the first thing he would do is get a pack of cigarettes and light up.

I wonder now, if he had kUntitled-2nown he’d never leave the rehab center, if he would’ve ask for a cigarette. I think I would have given him one, or a whole pack, and let him smoke to his heart’s content, knowing it wouldn’t make any difference. He could have gone out in the courtyard and smoked as much as he wanted.

But maybe he didn’t crave nicotine any longer, not after 40+ years. I never thought to ask him, because I didn’t think he was going to leave us. I thought he was going to come home. But he didn’t.

And so I am doing fine, really, but sometimes little things bring back memories. And I think of him as young and vital and how graceful his hands were when he gestured with that ever-present cigarette.

 

 

 

 

That “dirty” word

We all know about the late George Carlin’s famous list of seven dirty words that can’t be used in broadcasting. My mom would say they shouldn’t be used at all. I remember when she innocently asked me what MF meant.

A word I want added to the list is “promoting.” Not that it is a dirty word, but it’s a word that makes me cringe as much as the words on Carlin’s list.

Unfortunately, it’s a word writers hear a lot. Writing a book is a stroll up a gentle slope, with the scent of gardenias wafted on summery breezes and Disney-like rabbits and birds accompanying you. Promoting it is like climbing Mount Everest in a blizzard with no oxygen.

Some people love it and spend hours happily signing up for blog tours. I did that once and forgot the dates I was supposed to be blogging. Or they get their books on email lists or compose tweets or… Well, you get the picture. There are many ways to push your book, and to me, most of them are annoying.  I’d just as soon stand on a street corner and wave one of my books in the air and yell “Buy my book!”

Which is essentially what we are doing, only online.

But promotion is one of those necessary evils in the publishing world and if we want to be noticed, we have to do it. My businessman son tells me I need to look at ROI (return on investment). Early this year I ran an ad in InD’tale magazine. It wasn’t all that expensive, but it didn’t generate any sales either. However — and this is a big however — I also submitted the book for a review (which is free unless you want a thumbnail of your cover to go along with it), and the subsequent 4.5 star listing made me a finalist for the RONE award. So spending money doesn’t necessarily mean your book will get noticed. front cover

Like many other authors I am looking for that magic door that will lead to sales. I’m afraid there isn’t one, just hard work and patience.

All that said, I am willing to climb back on that horse and try again. All this week my first book, Angels Unaware, will be on sale at half price. It will also be the featured book on e-book Soda on Monday, August 15. It’s a site for free and bargain e-books, so it’s worth checking it out. I signed up for their newsletter because I love the words  “free” and “bargain.” Those words are on my A-list.

Anyway, we will see what my ROI is on this promotion. Maybe this time I will break even.

If you are a writer, how do you promote your book? What was your best ROI, if you don’t mind sharing? I think a lot of us would like to know.

Outside of course, having a fairy godmother wave her wand.

 

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