Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dog Hair in the Refrigerator

Many thanks to Heather Huffman for including my guest post in her "Writer Wednesday" blog series.
My husband and I operated a very exclusive doggie day care for the past year. We had only one client: our daughter and her boyfriend's exuberant German Shepherd mix named Toby. Either Erin or Elliot dropped him off at six each work day and picked him up about twelve hours later. They lived in an apartment. We have a yard and a doggie door, a doggie door my husband had permanently sealed (or so he thought) after the death of our last dog. We had no intention of getting another.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike dogs. I grew up on a farm. I rode horses, milked cows, fed chickens and pigs. We also had several dogs through the years, but they were "outside" animals. My mother would never consider allowing them indoors anymore than she'd invite the pigs or chickens into the family room. Read more . . .
Tom, Erin and Mozart in 2000

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 - What a Year!

I've never written one of those holiday letters some send in lieu of Christmas cards. But 2014 was quite a year, and sometimes you just need to share (or brag) a little.

The year began with a bang, and I'm not referring to the fireworks at midnight. Tom and I were with a sister and her husband at their island get-away. We were settling for dinner, but I couldn't relax. For some reason, I checked my phone. That's when I learned that my first novel, Running Secrets, had just been released.
There were more fireworks in February when Tom and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Because my life is dictated by an academic calendar, our real celebration had to wait until quarter break in late March when we flew to Paris for the first time. A week in the City of Lights and another exploring the hills of Provence was a second dream come true.
Erin's 25th birthday, Ride-to-Work and the beginning of bike training as well as the publication of my second novel, Biking Uphill, marked the month of May. I had a busy summer of promotional readings, intense bike riding and long hours of writing while Erin flourished at her new job at Harborview Sexual Assault and Trauma Center, and Tom continued laying business plans for a new venture into the world of legal recreational cannabis.
In July, my third dream came true when I stood at the podium of Seattle's premier book store, Elliott Bay Book Company, and celebrated the publication of Biking Uphill. The same month I rode my first century, and then August arrived and I completed RSVP, the 2-day, 200-mile bike ride from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada.
Throughout the summer, Tom struggled with weakness associated with a rupture hiatal hernia and the frustration of trying to find a home for his new business. For a normally healthy, can-do man, it was a tough time.
In October, we celebrated my 60th birthday at a cabin in the San Juan Islands. A few days later Tom was in surgery at the UW Medical Center. I took a week off work to be his Nurse Ratched. I'm certain he was relieved when his mother flew out for a visit, and I returned to teaching. By November he was slimmer, stronger and sexier than ever! And, he signed a contract on a new production facility for the business, fondly referred to as The Shack given the work needed to get it up to production speed. With a 15-minute commute in a city that seems to be exploding at the seams, he's not complaining.
 Thanksgiving was a quiet affair at our house. Tom still needed to be careful of consumption, and Erin and her boyfriend, Elliot, were traveling in Spain. Now Christmas has arrived. I'm busy with the final edits of my third novel, Walking Home. Tom's working like a madman at The Shack with plans of having Prohibition Gold edibles on the market by summer 2015. Erin, Elliot and Toby, the dog, just moved in with us - an austerity measure designed to save for a down payment on their first home.

The tree finally stands in the front window, the monster sofa moved in with the kids, and for the first time ever there's a television and a dog in my living room. It all goes to show that people can change. Even when we're old and gray!

Happy Holidays
 and Here's to All Your Dreams Coming True in 2015!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Clubs Rock!

Many authors claim there's not much better than a good review. I certainly agree about the importance and pleasure of receiving juicy book reviews, but I'd also argue that an evening in the company of thoughtful readers eager to discuss my work beats all!
I enjoyed such an evening this week. Nine women, members of a long-standing book club, had read Running Secrets and invited me to join them. The conversation around issues of race and immigration I shared with these intelligent, well-informed women was deep. Their willingness to share their thoughts, experiences and values with a stranger touched me. And the food and drink were delicious, too!

I am grateful to Sue for inviting me into her lovely home and to the women of her book club for making me feel so welcome. Thank you for choosing Running Secrets and for you interest in my other books. Maybe we can do it again some time!

My apologies to the two members who'd left before I thought to ask for a photo and to the gal stuck behind the camera!

Monday, November 17, 2014


Many thanks to Lisa Stull for inviting me to participate in her blog series, The Struggling Artist. Lisa Stull? Lisa M. Gott? You'll have to ask her to clarify that one! But I can assure you, she's one and the same. In any case, check out her blog.
Piece of cake, I thought, when Lisa Stull offered the opportunity to write a guest post on the obstacles faced by writers for her “Struggling Artist” series. My obstacle is obvious to me … I never have enough time. Twenty four hours each day just doesn’t cut it. Not for a full-time job, a writing career, a family and a life that includes time for friends, exercise and reading.

But as I began to formulate my thoughts for this short piece, I had to admit I was often more productive on a daily basis during the academic year when I’m teaching a full load than come June when the long unstructured days of summer stretch before me. Read more ...

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Final Third

Many thanks to Meredith Schorr for including my guest post in her blog series "Age is Just a Number."

Dad 1979
“It’s time to start buying bananas one at a time.”

I can hear Dad’s voice in my ears. If he were here, he’d be teasing me now as I enter the sixth decade of life. But Dad passed a dozen years ago, and I’m giving myself at least another decade or two before following that particular piece of his advice.

“The older you get, the faster it goes.”

This too, Dad was apt to repeat in a voice filled with an odd mix of frustration, bewilderment and warning. Reluctantly, I’m beginning the see the truth in those words.

But mostly, as I enter this final third of life, I realize I’ve begun to count backwards. If I live to 90, that gives me 30 years. 85 gives me 25. So what am I going to do with those remaining years? Read more...
Dad's 80th Birthday 2001

Friday, November 7, 2014


"In purist terms, and according to the U.S. Customs Service, an antique is an item with at least 100 years of age under its belt."
I enjoy wandering antique shops, guessing at the age and purpose of objects, imagining the stories they could share if only they possessed the gift of speech. We have a few old things in our home, but I hesitate to call them antiques because the 100-year definition above seems to fluctuate depending on the source, and because I don't necessarily know the age of everything in my house.
My mother once told me when she and my father married in 1947 her telephone desk was one of their first purchases. At just under seventy years old, it is likely not an antique, but that is of no importance to me. I see my mother sitting at that desk each time I walk past it. I see the heavy rotary phone with its tangled cord and the tooled leather notepad holder she brought back from Mexico beside it. And I hear the shattering ring throughout the large house of my childhood. My mother's telephone desk with its sideways seat and deep slot for a fat phone book is useless in this age of mobile phones and the internet, but it has a permanent place in our home.
My husband and I bought our West Seattle "war box" almost a quarter of a century ago from the estate of the original owners. The basement was full of junk, most of which we carted to the dump. But a few items we held onto: the small bookcase I still use in my writing room, the old wall cabinet that now holds my jewelry and a small item I thought was a pipe holder. The "pipe holder" remained stashed in the basement for years. During one of many remodeling projects we've done on this "starter home" we never left, my artist husband pulled it out and set me straight.

"It's an inkwell," he told me and stuck it on a bookshelf in the basement.

Years passed and the so-called inkwell remained forgotten. Yesterday I was moving things around as I tend to do with each change of season. I came across the old inkwell, dusted it clean, and set it on the fireplace mantel.

"That belongs on your desk," my husband told me when he saw it.

"If it's really an inkwell, I wonder if I can find ink bottles for it," I said.

"Maybe I'm wrong," he said. "I mean, square ink bottles?"
I got curious and googled antique inkwells. To my surprise, I found two items very similar to the inkwell on our mantel. One on eBay was labeled "Antique Civil War Victorian Wood Portable Inkwell" and another on Pinterest was dated 1906. I also saw loads of little square ink bottles. So maybe this thing on our fireplace mantel is an inkwell. And maybe it is an antique. But what I find intriguing is this writer's inkwell was in our home when we bought it twenty-three years ago. It was stashed away somewhere a dozen years ago when I began writing. And now as I begin revisions on my fourth book, I understand its secrets.
When my daughter was a little girl, we read aloud every evening. The Secret Garden was one of our favorite books. On one afternoon of antique store explorations, we came across a wicker wheelchair.

"That's just like Colin's wheelchair!" my daughter exclaimed.
"It would make a fun chair for the living room," I said without thinking. 
To this day my husband enjoys telling the story of pushing our daughter home from the antique store in that wheelchair. As he hit the hill, he realized it had no brakes.

Banned from the living room, the wicker wheelchair has held court in every room of our small house through the years. It's too big and it just doesn't belong, but I can't seem to get rid it.
Whether an antique or not, whether worthless junk or hidden treasure, I really don't care. I cling to the stories the telephone desk and inkwell and wheelchair hold. My mother will be with me each time I pass her telephone desk or sit down to put on a pair of shoes. I will search for ink vessels and pens for the inkwell and wonder about the stories or letters prior owners may have written. And despite the space it occupies, I remain unable to part with my wicker wheelchair.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Seattle Times mentions Biking Uphill

Many thanks to my friend, Luli, who not only told me Biking Uphill was mentioned in The Seattle Times on Tuesday, October 21st, but also cut the page from her newspaper and delivered it to my mailbox. What a wonderful nice surprise!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guest Post: Bonnie Dodge


Today I'm pleased to share this guest post from fellow Booktrope author, Bonnie Dodge, author of WAITING. I'm sure you'll enjoy her essay on the joys of autumn as well as her wonderful novel.

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
–Emily Brontë (1818–48)

It’s fall, one of the most glorious seasons here in southern Idaho. By some odd fluke we haven’t had a killing frost and there’s still time to linger outdoors where the leaves on the birch trees are changing a bright, happy yellow. As the aspen trees splay their colorful leaves against the clear blue skies, the chill in the air begs for long walks and apple cider.

In an eulogy for his friend Gene Van Guilder, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Best of all he loved the fall . . .” I think of those words as I gather pumpkins and pick the last of my green beans.  Once again summer has raced by and too soon it seems I am pulling wilted vines and collecting the last straggling tomatoes. The only thing growing in the garden is the row of beets I will dig next week and drop into jars to be enjoyed later this winter. I love growing my own food, but there is something satisfying about putting the garden to bed and preparing the soil for another season.

My friend Shirley has a hard time each fall. “It’s all dying,” she says, close to tears. I don’t need to explain that everything is cyclical, she knows that, and it’s hard to cheer her up when I’m humming as I work. What Shirley sees as death I see as celebration. A glorious show of colors—yellow, red, orange—before everything turns dark and drab for winter. Like Hemingway and Van Guilder fall is the season I like best.

Perhaps the writer in me welcomes fall because the shorter days mean more time indoors at my desk. With a hot cup of coffee and Ruth Fazal playing softly in the background, instead of harvesting cucumbers and lettuce I will harvest words, cultivating them into something palatable for readers.

But not today. Soon enough it will be time for winter coats and gloves. The colors outside beckon. Everything else will just have to wait.

Bonnie Dodge was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, and grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is the author of Miracles in the Desert and for six years wrote “Life in this Magic Valley,” a weekly column for Ag Weekly, a supplement to The Times-News. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in Idaho Magazine, Sun Valley Magazine, Rawhide & Lace and Calico Trails. She lives in southern Idaho and has an avid interest in Idaho history and historical preservation. She is the winner of numerous awards, including first place in the 2005 IWL novel contest for her novel, The Bones of Pele. Many of her short stories, poems, and essays have won awards, but her passion is women’s fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is reading or working in her garden on her 10-acre farm near Jerome.