One of Those Women

One of Those Women

I never thought I would become one of those women. You know the kind. The women who carry little dogs in their purses everywhere, dress them up in clothes, and wheel them around in strollers. Don’t they look silly? It’s so easy to judge, isn’t it?

Then I experienced a traumatic loss in my life. The kind that makes you re-evaluate why you even exist. Why you’re even still breathing.

One of my best friends kept recommending that I get a dog, but I kept pushing back. I was fine with my cat. Why would I want the stress of having a dog? The last dog I had was a nightmare. So much so, that after five years, I couldn’t take it anymore and had to find him a new home. He got a wonderful home, by the way.

I finally relented and started looking for a dog. I knew that it would have to be small, because I would want one as a companion. I’d never liked Chihuahuas before, but one day, I saw a puppy that took my breath away. She was the cutest puppy I’d ever seen.

The day I got her, I put her in her new carrier.  She sat there and stared at me for the longest time, like she was accessing me. She was so tiny! I grabbed my camera & quickly took a picture because I knew no one would believe me when I told them about this moment later.

I named her Kiwi. And that tiny puppy who weighed about a pound completely changed my life.

She helped pull me out of the deep sadness that ran like a current just below the public veneer of being a bubbly, happy person. Every day, I woke up and looked forward to seeing her. Instead of wishing I was no more, she gave me someone to care for, as she in turn cared for me. She made me laugh every single day. Kiwi had such attitude. She was so self-confident.

One day, I went to a dog expo. As I walked around the booths brimming with dog products and service offerings, I spied a cute three tiered tropical themed dress. It was so adorable, but I figured Kiwi was a dog and wouldn’t like wearing clothes. Plus, it would be ridiculous. I’d look like one of those women. Yet, I bought that dress anyway, fully expecting Kiwi to try to take it off. To my surprise, Kiwi didn’t mind me putting the dress on her. In fact, after it was on, she flounced around the room. It was stinking cute and absolutely adorable. After that, I slowly added more cute little dresses to her “wardrobe”. Kiwi didn’t mind wearing them. I only put them on her when we were out in public.

Kiwi, naturally, got attention wherever we went. She preened under the compliments and admiration of people. If I walked with her wearing one of her dresses, people would point and exclaim with delight. She stopped traffic a time or two.

I took pictures of her all of the time. I wanted to preserve every memory of her. One day I mentioned to a friend that Kiwi seemed to pose for pictures. My friend thought that was ridiculous until she later looked at some pictures of her. She finally admitted that I was right.

I took Kiwi to a pet supply company’s retail store one day. The employees were so taken with her that someone at the corporate office came in and asked if I would let them use Kiwi to model a tee shirt for their catalogue. That photo ran in their catalogue for 2 years. We ended up doing doggie fashion shows together, with me holding Kiwi’s leash as she strutted down runways with her nose high in the air.

Kiwi traveled with me everywhere, from one end of the country to the other. She never made a nuisance of herself and many times, people didn’t even know she was in my bag. She’d sit quietly in her purse at airports and watch people walk by. Once a woman asked if I’d drugged Kiwi to behave that well!  We were sitting in the Oakland airport one day waiting for our flight, when the boarding flight crew saw us. One of the flight attendants asked if they could visit with Kiwi after we landed. After we landed and the flight deplaned, the crew crowded around Kiwi. One flight attended presented Kiwi a pair of wings pin. The captain of the plane even wanted Kiwi to sit in the cockpit.

When Kiwi and I went to a local yacht show, we were invited onto a yacht because of Kiwi.  Being with her was like being with a celebrity. Going through security at airports was easier because of Kiwi. I’d have to take Kiwi out of her purse to go through. When the stern TSA workers saw her, they would melt and start smiling. She just had that affect on people.

Kiwi met a couple of celebrities (Susan Lucci & Bobbi Zeman from General Hospital) and many, many authors. I took her with me to three book conventions. Needless to say, Kiwi was a hit. She even helped me judge a male cover model contest.

After a while, carrying Kiwi in her purse with all her paraphernalia got heavy, so I finally relented and bought a stroller. I’d resisted getting one for years because I was concerned about looking ridiculous. After I got it and saw how much Kiwi loved it, I felt so guilty for being more concerned about how I’d look. So, yes, I ended up being one of those women with the dog in the stroller.

We had so many amazing adventures, Kiwi and I. We got to do things that I probably would not have done without her. She enriched my life and brought me so much joy. I was so proud that this incredible dog was mine, that out of all of the people in the world I got to be her “mommy”.

Years went by. Last December, a woman mocked me as I carefully wrapped Kiwi in her little brown coat and lowered her into her stroller. Kiwi, by now, was getting old and got cold very easily. I stood silently as I looked at the woman, who had a smirk on her face. I thought how ridiculous I did look to her, to others, but she truly didn’t know what I’d gone through; how far I had traveled in my grief in large part because of the little dog now nestled in her stroller. I decided not to say anything. Instead, I prayed that she never found herself one day in my shoes. Never experienced that kind of life pain.

A couple of weeks later, it was time to say goodbye to Kiwi. I held her in my arms and thanked her for all the love and adventures. I thanked for changing my life. I thanked her for what she meant to me.

I had her buried in my backyard because I couldn’t bear not even having her body nearby. Several times a day, I’d find myself standing by the window looking at her grave. I missed her dearly, but more than missing her, I was grateful for the years I had her and that made me smile. People assumed that I would be devastated, but surprisingly I wasn’t. It was her time. We all get a limited amount of time. She was old and her health was failing her. She was not suffering any longer. I loved her enough to let her go.

Three months later, I got another Chihuahua puppy. While she looks similar to Kiwi, her personality is different. As my friend who recommended that I get a dog in the first place said, “Every dog brings different things to the table.” And she does. She, too, fills my life with joy. And, yes, she now wears Kiwi’s old dresses. I carry her around in a purse and push her around in a stroller. The difference is that now I don’t care if people laugh at me or what they think. I’m happy and so is my dog. So, yes, I AM one of those women and unapologetically so.

Have you met Kevin O’Brien?

Have you met Kevin O’Brien?

I met author Kevin O’Brien in 2012 at a Romance Book Convention in Chicago. That in and of itself would not be so unusual, except for the fact that Kevin doesn’t write romance books; he writes probably the complete opposite: thrillers. He was on a panel with James Rollins & Greg Horowitz, also not romance novelists.

Have you ever met someone that you clicked with instantly? That’s how it was when I met Kevin. Kevin is just one of those people who is completely likeable. We had a great time talking up a storm. He is a lot of fun!

Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. One day, I joked about him putting me in one of his books. A couple of month later, to my surprise, he asked if I was serious about that. I told him, “Sure, as long as I don’t get killed.  I don’t think I could read that.” He told me that I would be a minor, but important character. Several months later, that book, Tell Me You’re Sorry, was released.

“The blond woman beside him in the bed was a stranger. The sheets covered her to the waist, and she had on Vanessa’s nightgown –the pink lacy number that got him hot whenever she wore it. But from the moonlight coming through the bedroom window, he could see she wasn’t Vanessa. And he could see she was dead.”

Isn’t that an awesome beginning?? I was immediately drawn in, so much so, that when my name appeared in the book, I actually jumped. I had forgotten that he had put me in the book!  Since then, Kevin has inserted my name at least somewhere in some of his other books. He calls them “Deborah winks”.

Kevin loves classic movies, especially Alfred Hitchcock. Kevin would be the most awesome person to watch Hitchcock movies with. His writing is clearly influenced by the master of suspense. Kevin’s books are suspense thrillers without the gratuitous gore. I think the funniest thing about Kevin is that he is such a sweet person, but writes these nail-biting, read with the lights on stories. Where does he come up with all of these ideas?

A couple of years ago when I was waiting for my Book Club to arrive at the store, I grabbed a copy of Tell Me You’re Sorry to show the group. I don’t think any of them had read any of Kevin’s books before. Several bought copies just because Kevin had made me a character in his book.  However, once they read Kevin’s books, they were hooked and became fans.  

So when Kevin was finally able to join us for an Author Chat this past August, everyone was very excited to meet him. He did not disappoint. Everyone had a blast. Kevin regaled us with some of his tales and we all laughed and had such a great time.

Kevin is very close friends with fellow author, Garth Stein, most famously known for The Art of Racing in the Rain, which also got made into a movie starring Milo Ventimiglia & Amanda Seyfried. By the way, I did ask Kevin if he would ask Garth to slip Milo my phone number, but he declined. Hey, a girl can try! 

Garth was scheduled to visit us for an Author Chat in September. His latest book is The Cloven, which is fantastic. Usually, I close Facebook right before I jump on my Zoom calls. However, one minute before we were scheduled to start, I got an instant message from Kevin asking if he could “crash” our call. We were all delighted to have Kevin join us. Garth and Kevin were hilarious together and got each other going. It is no exaggeration to say we all had a blast! Garth is absolutely fascinating, but the two of them together make for a jolly good time. Garth has his next release in The Cloven series coming out next summer. Kevin also has a book, The Night She Disappeared, releasing next summer….are you thinking what I’m thinking??? Hint, hint, Kevin & Garth! Let’s make that happen!

If there is one downside to Kevin, it’s that he lives so far way! He’s in Seattle, while I’m on the east coast. Thankfully, through the miracle of technology, Kevin can visit us via Zoom. Tonight makes the 3rd time he’s visited us this year!

So, I encourage you to join us tonight, November 30, 2020 @ 7PM EST, for our Author Chat with Kevin O’Brien, so that you, too, can then say, “Why, yes. I have met Kevin O’Brien!”

And Kevin, I’m so grateful for the fates that caused our paths to cross that day 8 years ago. I’m glad you’re my friend. And, please, don’t kill me off in one of your novels!

Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com. Kevin’s books are available for sale at my Bookshop: Deborah’s Book Club Bookshop. Link on upper right hand side of this page.

A World without Jack Reacher??

A World Without Jack Reacher??

Lee Child and Andrew Child will be joining us for a Zoom Author Chat on Monday, December 14th @ 7:30 PM EST.

In preparation for their visit, I checked out their “About the Authors” section on their website. I learned something about Lee that I did not know. He had worked in television in England for 18 years as a presentation director and was quite successful. Then in 1995 at the age of 40, he was fired due to corporate restructuring.  He had a wife, daughter and no skills except for the work he had been doing for television. So, what did he do? He went out, spent $6 for paper and pencils, and decided to write a book.

That endeavor would become his first Jack Reacher book, Killing Floor. Since then, Lee went on to write 24 more Jack Reacher novels and sell over 100 million copies of his books worldwide in 49 languages and 101 territories. The Jack Reacher brand is worth over 1 billion dollars. You read that right. Billion. It is estimated that every 9 seconds, a Jack Reacher novel is sold somewhere in the word. I’d say that’s pretty darn good.

This past January, I woke up, got my liquid vitamins, turned on my computer, opened Facebook, and quite nearly spewed my liquid vitamin drink when I read that Lee Child had announced he was transitioning to retirement and that his brother, Andrew, was going to take over the series. As a long-time Bookseller, this news was quite shocking. It also rocked the literary world.  On the other hand, it was wonderful news because I happened to know Andrew, who is also an extremely talented writer and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I sent him an IM to verify the information about Lee and he said it was true. He was very excited to take on the challenge. When Lee wrote Killing Floor all those years ago, you know who was the first person to read it? Andrew. He’s been there every step of the way. There is no one better suited to take over the franchise.

The story of how Lee Child created Jack Reacher stayed with me for several days. I thought about all of the upheaval we’ve experienced this year. Life as we now know it is nothing like life one year ago. No one had this on their bingo cards.

What happened to Lee in 1995 was really rotten. I’m sure whoever fired him feels like a fool now. But, what would have happened if Lee (his actual name is James Grant, by the way) had continued in his TV presentation job for a couple of more decades? Got his plaque or gold watch for his service and quietly retired. Would we have Jack Reacher today? Consider this, the man who got fired, now as a result of his books, has helped employ a lot of people. Helped give Tom Cruise a couple of jobs and there is a new Jack Reacher series coming on Amazon Prime (this time not starring Tom Cruise).

Something incredible happened out of something horrible. Maybe you’re dealing with some kind of disappointment. Maybe something grand can come out of something bad, like with Lee Child.

So, this morning, I raise a glass (of my liquid vitamins) to Lee Child. Thank you, Lee Child, for giving the world Jack Reacher. Thank you for all of the Jack Reacher books you’ve given us. Thank you for the entertainment. Thank you for the book sales that have helped booksellers like me the world over.

And to you, Andrew Grant, I raise a glass (of my liquid vitamins). Thank you for continuing the tradition & the legacy. Thank you for taking on Jack Reacher. May the franchise continue to bloom and grow in your very capable hands.

Lee and Andrew’s latest Jack Reacher book is The Sentinel. I loved it! Action packed and has some humorous moments. Everything you’d hope for in a Jack Reacher novel.

For the rest of you, be sure to mark your calendars for Monday, December 14th @ 7:30 PM EST. Follow me on Deborah’s Book Club on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for upcoming details for our Zoom Author Chat. Their books, including Killing Floor and The Sentinel, are available for sale at my Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/lists/lee-child-andrew-child-grant.

Love at any age

Love at any age

Have you ever noticed when you go to the romance section at any bookstore, all of the romances feature young people? Pick any romance in that section and most, if not all, of the protagonists are in their 20’s or early 30’s, occasionally, they may be (gasp!) in their late 30’s. Rarely do you see any with the main characters over 40.  You might point to a couple of books where there is a secondary character that is older, but let’s face it; it is rare to find romances that feature middle aged or seniors citizens.

I’ve been trying to diversify my Romance Book Club selections each month. This age issue really bothered me. Finding a good, fun romance featuring characters over 65 had become my blue whale. I posed the question on a book lover’s Facebook page: can you recommend a good, fun recent release featuring senior citizens?  I got lots of responses. Most were for books that had been written decades ago & were tragic love stories. Yeah, that sounds fun.

So, that got me thinking, what does that say to people about love? That love is only for people in their 20s up though 35 and then it’s over? That’s ridiculous. For those of us who have been on this earth long enough, we know that life doesn’t always go according to the script. Marriages fail, spouses die, spouses leave, people break up, etc. What about someone who got married right out of college, thought they were happy, then comes home to find their spouse of 25 years has taken off to Las Vegas with his secretary? Or the man who has been in love with the same woman for 10 years, then one day, his lady love says, “It’s over”? Does that mean love is no longer an option for them?  Does that mean they have nothing left to look forward to except loneliness? Like I said, ridiculous.

I am an optimist. I believe that as long as you have a pulse in your veins, love can happen for you. Never give up, no matter how many years you’ve been single or dating endlessly. You never know what can happen. One day, you might be grocery shopping, reach for a bag of oranges at the same time as someone else and then it happens.

Take my recently widowed 65 year old stepfather.  After my mother died, I told him that he’d most likely be married within a year.  I told him that whenever an eligible bachelor becomes available, there is an invisible alert that goes out to women within the tri-state area, especially for someone who is a good man like my stepfather. He’s managed to keep his looks, too, so that’s an added bonus.

He scoffed at my prediction. Then a couple of months later, I got a phone call from him. He was seriously dating someone! He had recently re-connected with his high school sweetheart on Facebook. They were a big item in middle school. By the time they turned 16, they were at the (gasp!) handholding stage. She told her mom that she would not be surprised if she had his last name one day. Her parents, for some reason, did not want her to continue her relationship with my stepfather and made her break up with him. He was devastated. It hurt him so deeply that whenever her name came up among his friends, he just could not talk about her.

Life & years went on for both. Both got married to other people and both became widowed. Then they found each other again, 50 years later, and picked up where they left off. They’re getting married in January, 50 years to the date of their first date. How sweet is that?

So, you never know what will happen. I say have an attitude of hope. Life is so much better when you believe good things are coming than to be hopeless.

Oh, and that blue whale? I did find a really good romance, The Switch by Beth O’Leary. It’s about a 79 year old grandmother, who is looking for love, and her 20 something granddaughter switching lives. It’s available at Deborah’s Book Club Bookshop at https://bookshop.org/a/13380/9781250769862.

Books! Books! Books!

I have always loved books. I don’t actually know when it began, but I do remember my mom taking me to the library in Alabama. The kids’ room was a long room and the librarian sat at a desk near the door. My mom would drop me off while she ran errands. Not that I’m that old, but you could do that in those days in my small town in Alabama. I would lovingly look at all of the books for my grade level and then I’d look at the shelves of the older kids’ books. I couldn’t wait until I got old enough to read big kids’ books.

Money was tight when I was growing up.  Whenever we’d go to the stores, my mom would say, “Deborah, we’re not buying you a book today!” If we were at the mall and passed by the bookstore, I’d drag my feet while longingly walking past the window.

Do you remember the Scholastic Books fliers you’d get at school? I loved when we got those! My mom would let me select 2 books. I’d circle several then agonizingly select my limit of two. It was a great day when my teacher would come in with the box of our shipment! She’d reach into the box and give everyone their order. I actually still have several of those Scholastic Books.

Every summer, I participated in the reading challenge, faithfully completing my reading log. One summer, I went to Los Angeles to stay with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Their library in Pacific Palisades had a summer reading challenge, too, but they gave you a choice of a free book if you completed your reading log. Wow, we were so cheated in Alabama!  My cousin, Lisette, said that she remembers me always reading that summer.

When I became a teenager, a used bookshop opened. I loved to go there almost every Saturday. I’d bring in my used books and use the credit to buy more. That’s when I really got into romance books. The lady who worked there would recommend romance books to me.  I went back years later, after I’d left Alabama, and that lady still remembered me!

During some of the worst times in my life, books have been such a comfort. Anything I wanted to know could usually be found in a book. I’ve always loved the idea that I could open a book and be transported to another world, another life, another era, anything. I’ve always thought that books give you wings.

         I’ve never understood people who don’t like books. I usually quip, “That’s because you haven’t found the right book.”

         I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to work in the book industry as a manager & buyer for an independent bookstore during college and as a bookseller at various times in my life.

         In 2008, I went to my first Romance Book Conference. I didn’t know anyone when I went. It was just a bucket list thing I’d always wanted to do. Through attending book conferences over the years, I’ve made lots of friends with authors. How cool is that? I’ve also gotten tons of books through those conferences and as a bookseller.

         Today, I have one room in my house that I’ve made into my library. IKEA has the best deal on bookcases, by the way. The bookcases go completely around the room. Sometimes, when I look at all of the books, I’ve amassed, I can still hear my mom say, “Deborah, we’re not buying you books today!” and I feel blessed.

         After all of those years, I’m finally in my happy place surrounded by books!

Who me? A writer? Are you mad?

I’m actually surprised how many people ask me if I want to be a writer. I don’t know what about me screams “writer”. I’m a much better talker than writer. I would actually have to enjoy writing, which I don’t.  I think in the back of my mind, I see my English teacher from high school frowning at me.  She must be hugely disappointed that I frequently write run-on sentences, use “be” verbs, and write in passive voice.

So, when my wonderful website developer encouraged me to start a blog, I think my exact response was, “Ughhhh, really??” If he asked me to talk about anything, then, yeah, no problem, but writing??? Ugggghhhhhhh!

            Ok, so let’s set expectations.

  1. I will probably have run-on sentences. Sorry, Mrs. Hooks.
  2. I will try to blog at least once a week. Try being the operative word.
  3. I don’t know how long they will be. There. That takes off some of the pressure.

Ha! So we’ll see how this goes. Who knows? After writing my blogs, I may never again be asked if I want to be a writer. #win  LOL

Hello, World!

Due to COVID-19, I moved my Book Club online via Zoom.

It’s allowed us to keep our book community going, have fun, and through the miracle of technology, include friends from far away. We discuss two Book Club books per month: one Romance and one non-genre specific.

In addition, we have Author Chats where different authors visit with us. These connections gives us an opportunity to learn more about their work and get to know them as people. It’s very casual and a lot of fun! We’ve been fortunate enough have many New York Times bestselling authors visit us, such as Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs, Jayne Ann Krentz, Garth Stein, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Grant (aka Andrew Child), Tasha Alexander, Meg Tilly and so many others.

I’m fortunate to gather so many diverse backgrounds together and while many people suggested we open it up further, I agree. Why not? Join us for our next author chat or book club gathering.