Wednesday, October 31, 2018


We have returned and it's been a long while since I've visited you! Well, I hope to catch up, both with blog visiting and replying to the terrific comments you left while I was away. Thanks for checking in!

In case you didn't think I posted anything while I was gone, here are links to several posts that appeared (thanks to that wonderful scheduling feature!)

A Visit to Southern Exposure -- The Gardens
A Visit to Southern Exposure -- A visit with Chef Elsie
Interview with Author Richard Lassin (especially for my blog friends who love books!) Please note that the correct Amazon link for the book is HERE. I'll try to get it changed in the post, too. Thanks to a couple of you for pointing it out.

I'm organizing photos (all 3700 of them -- but  don't worry, many will be deleted!) and hope to fill you in on some of my travel adventures -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

Actually, almost all good. The bad and the ugly was my failure to walk well with my foot, which led to more than one meltdown and several wheelchair visits to museums. Rick was just terrific pushing me around (that didn't come out right!) but it did cut down on some of our plans.

What was best? The people, of course! Both seeing old friends, like my college friend Jerry and bloggers/instagrammers Peter Olson and Tara Bradford Holmes in Paris; blogger Jenny Woolf and her husband Tony in London; my forever friend Suzanne and her husband Jim in London and former colleague Joan, also in London. There were some wonderful conversations and grand times as we connected with them, along with new friends we met along the way.

Our trip took us from Paris to London, then on to Windsor, Oxford and Bath. Some of these places were new to me and all delighted in ways I never imagined. We went to five art museums, five historic residences, eight other museums/attractions, five churches, several parks and/or gardens and saw two plays and five concerts. (Actually, a little more than that, I think... I'm sure I'm leaving something out!)

We're both exhausted, the heat at home pooped out on my cat sitter while we were gone and still isn't quite right, my car is not working (it didn't even start and the brakes are dead... welcome home!) and it's cold. But Lizzie seems reasonably happy to see me (although she had such a sweet deal with her sitter, Jan, I'm not sure I measure up!).

So stay tuned! There is more to come, interspersed with real-life like Cork Poppers, more Southern Exposure, my upcoming art sale and perhaps a Baby Grand or two! And yes, the holidays are coming!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Morgan's Forge

This is where we will be spending a few nights outside of Bath, UK. Morgan's Forge. I hope it looks exactly like this!

A quiet spot in the country but not too far from Bath should be just the trick about now. Can't wait to tell you more about this spot. Can't wait to get there!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

An Interview with Author Richard Lassin

It's always fun to be in the ground floor of a project, and I think I've been on the ground floor of Richard Lassin's writing projects since the beginning when he penned his first novel, "Matchstick." 

Richard and I have been friends since the 1990s when we met at the WKAR Auction. A geologist in training, he has also worked with children as an elementary school permanent sub and is an avid collector of Mission-style furniture, loving auctions and getting some surprisingly good deals!

He asked me to proofread "Matchstick" and since then, have been one of his beta readers/proofers for several novels, all of which feature some of the same characters, yet are not dependent on one another in terms of sequence.

When he asked me to read "Red Jacket," set in Michgian's Upper Peninsula over the present time and the distant past a century ago, I was eager and intrigued. I knew Richard had spent a good deal of time living and working in the UP and was intimately familiar with the setting of the book and the past time period it covered. 

I wouldn't write this post if I hadn't felt completely satisfied after reading "Red Jacket." But I was. The book follows the story of Evangeline Attwood, who leaves her teaching job and an unhealthy relationship, taking refuge at her brother's cabin in the Upper Peninsula. The book follows two story threads -- Evie's discovery of a rock while diving that may be more valuable than she thinks, something others would kill for, and her inexplicable attraction to a museum in nearby Calumet, the site of a disaster that took place on Christmas Eve 1913. Was that affinity because perhaps she had been part of that disaster?

I asked Richard if he'd share a little about his experiences writing the book:

The book is titled Red Jacket and it has historical significance. Can you explain?
Red Jacket was the name of Calumet before it incorporated. It was named after its primary employer: Calumet & Hecla, a mining company.
You have written several other books before and some of the characters in your previous books return here. How did the plot of Red Jacket evolve?

Reincarnation has been a theme throughout my stories and reflect my own memories of former lives. "Red Jacket" is a fictionalized story regarding the Italian Hal where 73 persons died on Christmas Eve 1913 (Michigan's largest unsolved mass murder).

Your personal background includes quite a history of geological work in the Upper Peninsula. How did that help when building your story?

As a writer, I can only be eloquent about things I understand and/or experienced. Being a geologist has given me a wider view of creation. Essentially I blend science with mysticism in order to explain how things work.

There's a lot of action here and some sounds pretty wild to a reader. How did you do your research to help tell the story of Evie and those who tried to help her out?

The wild story was a balancing act with the violence centered around the copper mine strike of 1913 and use it as a tool to provide contrast. "Red Jacket" is essentially a love story and not unlike the movie "Titanic," it too has trauma incorporated. Enlightenment rarely comes without hardship

A part of this story was inspired by your personal experience. Can you explain what inspired you to actually write the novel?

What inspired me to write this?  think you know this answer as well as I do. It's not something I asked for, and to be perfectly honest, I would of rather not have had those experiences. 

Being trained as a geologist, made it exceptionally difficult to make sense of what happened. Yet, there were so many things I couldn't logically explain. For example, how did I know the two victim's names? There's no logical answer to some of these questions. In the end, I couldn't deny the possibility I lived back then. Not only could I remember it, but I could feel the emotions associated with the tragedy.

When writing about specific locations, how much -- if any -- did you fictionalize (names of places, for example) and if you used real names, how did you pitch the idea to those involved? Was it a hard sell? 

Geographic areas and public places are not fictionalized. There didn't seem to be any need.

How long did it take from your concept until your publication?

It took six months to write a crummy first draft and two-and-a-half years to edit it.
Talk a little about proofing the book. Apart from things like typographical or grammatical errors you found in the proofs, how did your beta readers help clarify some of the content?

Beta readers were essential. I think most people see the world a certain way, and a writer needs to get input regarding style of writing. I got a lot of criticism, and it helped me become a better writer. I accepted 95 percent of the recommendations offered, and I think the story is better for it.

Tell me a little about your experiences with self publishing. What recommendations would you give someone considering self-publishing their own book.

My experience with self publishing? A lot of work! Research and editing take a lot of time. Had it not been for my spirit guides, I would never have undertaken this endeavor. They told me it was time to write this story. Also, I suggest getting proof copies and read the actal book, not the version on one's computer screen. It looks and reads differently. I found literally hundreds of issues. 

I know you have revisited some of your earlier books and edited and re-edited them. Do you think you'll ever be satisfied with them?

Writing is an artistic expression and it takes time for inspiration to come. Yet, it is rewarding, writing something personally satisfying. "Red Jacket" isn't for everyone. It's just a story about going home and karmic justice. Things do work out eventually.

How do you plan to market your book? There are a lot of books out there!

For many authors, it's difficult to make cold calls and ask a stranger to market one's book. Yet it's absolutely necessary if one wants their book to be noticed. Amazon alone offers millions of titles on their website and without a marketing strategy, your book will never get noticed. I started my marketing plan by targeting stores in a specific geographic area. My novel is based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. So, I called just about every place that sells books and asked how I could get my book into their store.

As of September 2018 my book is in 13 stores. Another seven are reviewing the book before purchasing it. A part of my story is located in Escanaba and I mentioned Rosy's Diner in the book. I stopped in at Rosy's for lunch the other day and before I knew it, I had three customers headed to Canterbury Books to buy a copy. Several of my retailers want me to come back and give a talk/reading, which I plan to do. I told them I'm there to help them sell books. Essentially, they are my business partners.

In the near future, I plan to have newspapers do a book review for publication and have branded my name on Facebook to have a platform for my readers so they can interact with me. (Look for Richard Lassin, Author on Facebook).

Brainstorming ideas is the food that drives my marketing platform and any new author needs toput as much energy into marketing as they put into writing their book.

What's next?
I've been reworking the prequel to "Red Jacket," "Reflections." It's a story about a guy who goes home. He's still in love with his ex-wife but she dies, leaving him with a bunch of regrets. What's next? Not sure. Marketing, most likely!

Richard's book is available in 13 Michigan bookstores, mostly in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and the State of Michigan Museum store. It is also available online at Amazon here.

The video above features photographs from the region in which it is set as well as archival photographs from the period and is set to original music, written for the book.

I'm sorry I won't be able to reply to comments or visit for a few weeks. I will be offline getting all sorts of great photos and inspiration for posts to come. But please do leave a comment if you like -- I read them all and they make me smile more than you know. We need all the smiles we can get!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Southern Exposure -- An Evening with Chef Elsie and Friends

In my last post, we visited the gardens of Southern Exposure on a rainy, late September evening. Imagine how nice it was to step inside, be dry and see this lovely table!

Or this vignette.

It was cool but cozy on the patio as Angie prepared a wonderful blood orange mimosa for us.

So pretty! And with lots of garnishes -- raspberries, candied ginger, orange, even gummy bears!

Then inside for a fabulous dinner. Chef Elsie prepared duck with ratatouille, roasted potatoes and salad, to go with our wine and bread. Note the pretty garnish of rosemary and mums on the plate. It's little touches like this that make Southern Exposure so special. Our dessert was pumpkin creme brulee!

While Kate was chatting with the other ladies at our table, Jan and I had to toast the evening!

Instead of doing a take-home project, tonight was a "food night." We started by going to the main house where the owners of Southern Exposure live. Kevin, who makes the garnishes for our meals, led us through a look at herbs -- growing them, mincing, and making herb butters. Of course when I got home, I immediately wanted to strip my garden of all herbs and make butters. And you know I'm going to.

Then we moved to the next building, the Hog House, where Elizabeth shared a recipe for delicious brownies. (And I know they are delicious because we each had one!) She also talked about using chocolate in cooking and a bit of the history of it. Cocoa beans were considered a marketable item for bartering with the Spanish explorers of the 1600s and from there it went to Spain and into Europe, primarily as a liquid. But I never knew that in England there used to be hot chocolate shops everywhere and that it was there that they developed the process of turning cocoa as a liquid or powder into a solid.

Then it was on to...

Yes, Chef Elsie's kitchen! She shared with us the recipes from our wonderful dinner along with a few prep tips.

Everyone in our group was eager to find out how she prepared the duck so it didn't taste fatty or too gamey. Slitting the skin, dusting with salt, pepper and paprika and doing a five minute skin-side-down cook in a hot skillet before transferring to the oven is the secret.

Angie was back when we went to the Corn Crib for look (and recipes) of several winter drinks, including a delicious mulled wine, the mimosa we had earlier and the recipe for a hibiscus sugar syrup. Elizabeth of Brownie Fame earlier in the evening made wonderful truffles to go with our wine. Of course, the table looked so pretty!

We hated to leave! But we know we'll be back.

Although, I'm not so sure the view outside the window will look this green when we come! But I bet there will be sparkly lights on those little trees!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Southern Exposure: Autumn at its Finest

You want to talk crazy week? The traumatic congressional hearings, trip anxiety (what am I forgetting?!) and house-cleaning anxiety, too, so Jan at least has a place to hang or place clothes, put food in the fridge and not have Tupperware fall on her head when she opens the cupboard. So what could put me in a mood of lovely Zen?

Southern Exposure!

I will be going three times this fall but the other trips aren't until mid-and-late November. So even though it was raining, I had to visit the gardens, so walk along with me!

I think gardens tend to look more lovely in September than almost any other month. There is still loads of color and pretty much everything is in bloom.

This post will focus on the gardens. The next post will look at what we did -- and it wasn't a project!

When I come here, it's like I truly walked into another land. All the tension and stress seems to fall away, I breathe deeply and smell blooms as I pass and the warm rain-smell of this particular day. I am at total peace.

While Kate and Jan warmed themselves on this cool, rainy evening inside, I had to visit the greenhouse -- one of my favorite spots.

They always do something fun with their vintage typewriter and I couldn't resist this!

The gazebo has been the site of many a Southern Exposure wedding. Imagine walking down this path and either standing in front as you take your vows...

Or being within and looking out.

Of course, their lighting is always just perfect. I loved walking under that lighted arch as we moved from one station to another for our evening's activities -- but that's the next post!

Their use of statuary is abundant...

...and always makes me smile.

The hydrangeas? Enormous!

Birdhouses dot the landscape...

...and should you feel like a bit of a contemplative rest (let's stop here for a journal entry or a sketch! Well, maybe not today...), you'll find benches or even cozy chairs.

Autumn is coming to my special place.

But I'll be back. Just in time for holiday projects! Now, I'd better get back to cleaning out the dresser drawers for Jan! My dresser below? I wish!

Next post, we'll check out the inside!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Running Away From Home!

Rick and I are running away from home for a little bit. We'll stop for a few days in Paris and see our friend Jerry, and enjoy a cafe and a musee or two!

Our Paris list includes Lumieres des Artistes, the Orangerie, perhaps Musee Luxembourg, Poilaine, Sennelier and a market or two. (I really want to go to Rue Mouffetard!)

Then on to London and a bit of England.

Our itinerary includes loads of London, Windsor, Oxford and Bath with a few side trips.

Lest evildoers think Lizzie is home alone and they want to rob me of way too many art supplies, books, CDs and out of style clothes, they're wrong! My wonderful house sitter Jan is staying with her during our time away. She is going to be so spoiled! (Lizzie, that is!) Jan stayed with Gypsy during his last days while we were traveling and kept him going long enough to welcome us home and be with us another couple of weeks. There is no one I would trust more with Lizzie.

I'm not going to be posting from the road apart from FB and Twitter, possibly, but I will be pre-scheduling an interview with author Richard Lassin, photos from our first fall visit to Southern Exposure and maybe one or two other things, so do check in and I'll be sure to read and hopefully reply to comments, if not then, as soon as I'm back.

I'll miss you all! And I know I'll have plenty to catch up on!

I'm sorry I won't be able to reply to comments or visit for a few weeks. I will be offline getting all sorts of great photos and inspiration for posts to come. But please do leave a comment if you like -- I read them all and they make me smile more than you know. We need all the smiles we can get!

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