Books, Chocolate, and Wine

Greta Boris tagged me to participate in a chocolate blog hop. Each writer shares a few books they love, chocolate, and the wine they think will go best with both, then they pass the hop along to another author (s).

Picture 4 (2)-2Greta Boris is the author of The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Eat, Drink, and Lose Weight as well as forging the path for a new fiction genre, cozy horror. Visit her at for a free copy of her latest short story:  FAT – A Ghost Story. and sinfully great tips for living happy and healthy. (Available on Amazon.)

For such a cheeky concept (who can resist a wine and chocolate workout?), I’m going with  Salted Caramel Bees along with a small glass of Cockburn Port? (pronounced, co-burn, if you didn’t already know.) 

I’ve got so many favorite books that it’s really hard to decide which ones to pick. But because I just published a memoir, I’m going that route.

Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

For this raw authentic story (which takes place in Zambia where I’m from), I’m going to go a little nostalgic and take a detour back to Africa and suggest Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. I used to eat these bars by the bucket full. And let’s go with a Castle or Lion beer, instead of wine.

Mary Karr’s, Liar’s Club. 

This book gave me permission to let it all out in my own memoir, so I’m going with Deeply Dark and Salted Caramels, and Dom Perignon (love the bubbly).

A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas.

This is one of those books that stays with you, a real gem.  This means Chocolate Covered Figs, imported, mind you, from Spain. They’re filled with a silky smooth, whiskey infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache and hand-dipped in dark chocolate. (I just had  to describe them.)  I would add something light,  like a nice, chilled Viogner.

I’ll end with The Boys Of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard.

A smart, funny and moving book of essays about life and its defining moments. A real treat like this calls for Firecracker Truffles. I normally don’t like truffles, too bor-ring, but not these babies. I’m probably off here, but I’m thinking a Lambrusco would go down nicely.

I do hope you enjoyed my little indulgence enough to hop on over to the next chocolate blog-stop, author, Ronda Del Boccio.

ATastyMorsel-ParanormalRomance-byRndaDelBoccioRonda Del Boccio is a best selling, award-winning author of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Most of her tales take you on adventures that deepen your understanding of what it means to be alive. She also helps people turn your stories and expertise into best selling books.

The Culmination of a Journey

Three weeks ago, I arrived home to find a box tossed just inside my gate. (the beasties—my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers—can make a fuss if they spot a delivery man). I hadn’t ordered anything, it had to be for my body shop neighbor; it happens. I hefted up the box, headed down the street, and stopped. The box was addressed to me. From She Writes Press.  My book Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, in print: Advance Reading Copies—ARCs as they’re called—for me to send out to local bookstores, reviewers, etc. Twenty of them. Twenty bright and shiny real books, all the stages finally put together.

With one eye peeled for errors, along with a mixture of butterflies, and a feeling I can only describe as out-of-body, I flipped through the pages. I created this thing, this chronicle of my journey into the core of my being as I tried to come to terms with my husband’s disappearing acts, a dreaded journey home to Africa to help my mentally impaired brother, and the worsening ill health of my beloved dog. I needed to give voice to my experience, to articulate my feelings, to let off steam, to “see” what I thought. With each of these words I found power and mobilization. And then it was done.

Two months after signing with SWP (you can read about my journey to publication here), I wondered what the hell I was doing. Sure, I had to write the book, an imperative, but did I really have to publish it? Did I really have to lay myself bare and vulnerable for all to witness? But then would I be satisfied to stuff an account that had changed my life, that had also become an homage to my brother and to my cherished pet into a drawer and forget about it? For three months I anguished, ready to pull the book, especially after a bad night. But then something began to settle deep inside of me, a feeling that I needed to finish what I started. I needed to complete my journey out into the light of day, to claim it and set it free.

I continued to flip through the book, coming upon one photo after another: me as a sixteen-year-old, me carrying my baby brother, him as an adult, my dad and me, my ex and me, and my beloved dog. I’d worried about putting my hokey little photos in the book, but now it felt right, it felt complete. A new journey begins.


My memoir, Loveyoubye, is due to be released by She Writes Press on April 8, 2014!

loveyoubye_Cover 19Sept2013.inddNot a good rendition of the cover, it really doesn’t do it justice.

Sweets in bed

And here’s Sweetpea, the dog in the story, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, love of my life and a major player.


Loveyoubye describes the beginning of the end of my twenty-five-year marriage and my healing journey home to South Africa to help my younger brother who has special needs. It is a story of life transitions, parallels, and journeys. It is also a love story for my dog Sweetpea, and reveals the unbreakable bond between humans and their pets, along with the grief of losing them. It is a story of revelations; Sweetpea was a vital emotional link in my dysfunctional marriage. With her letting go, I was able to as well.

Book Review–Female Troubles: Stories

These stories sneak up on you. You’re really not a fan of short stories, but you heard this collection was good; you need something to sink your teeth into, so you start reading, yeah, it’s pretty good. And then all of a sudden, a sentence hits you between the eyes and you’re struck by the clarity and insight and you want to go back to the beginning to start all over again. The stories just get better and better.

Here’s the end of “Happy Hour,” about a woman who’s having an affair.

Andrea leaned across the space between them to put her nose into his neck. She ran her tongue over stubble. It was this sensation she would wake later in the night to review, lying beside her sleeping husband. Robin’s hot textured throat on her lips. “I’m in love with you,” she told him now, miserable. Ahead of her lay a few drinks, wine or perhaps gin, the bedtime rituals with her children, the tired sad friendship she shared with her husband, dishwashing, door locking, videotapes. She had forgotten her little pillow, she realized as she pulled away from Robin, and when she woke later, mouth cottony, dizzy with dehydration, her back would also ache, a flare in her shoulders from sleeping wrong. Sleeping all wrong.

“That dog stinks,” her husband would complain.

“He has wild desires,” Andrea would explain.

She stepped out of Robin’s truck into the dusk, the lonely post-happy-hour walk to her house full of evening, indistinct shadows (along with the dog who she was supposed to be walking.)

Almost Time To Go

My last day arrived. I didn’t want to go home yet. I wanted to have tea in Morland’s kaf, see what their scones were like (it felt good to be able to say skon and not be corrected like I am in America where it’s pronounced with a long o). The scones I’d had in Cockermouth where Donna and I toured William Wordsworth’s house were rock hard. We joked how Miss Powell, our cookery teacher at Kitwe High, would’ve taken the cook to task; had she used her pinkies to gently nudge the dough into shape? I also wanted to return to the sweet shop in that same town to buy all the sweets of my childhood, those I thought I’d buy later then forgot: Wilson’s toffees, peppermint crisps, Turkish Delight to name a few. That’s Donna below ordering our Rock Scones.

I wanted to hike up Blen Cathra peak, also known as Saddleback (we have our own Saddleback here in California, not half as grand though). I wanted another train ride up to Scotland. This time we’d go to Edinburgh, spend a couple of nights, have some more haggis, as well as neeps and tatties, attend the Edinburgh International Festival, roam the highlands. I wanted to enjoy the rain for at least another month. I’d miss it, how the grass becomes an eye-popping luminous green when it stops. I’d miss seeing those sweet, heart-melting little lambs every day. I’d miss seeing buildings older than I am (what’s with most of America, especially California, the minute a building gets dirty they tear it down). I’d miss heading down the hallway from my bedroom to have tea in bed with Joan and our laptops, with her popping up to serve me another cuppa every now and then—the way I like it, two sugars and milk. I wanted to spend more time with Donna. I wanted to return to the Great Strickland pub for Quiz night. In fact, I wanted to hit every pub around just to enjoy the sight of dogs sprawled under tables or sitting next to bar stools, leash less, content. That’s how it should be. Well, at least we still had dinner to enjoy. It would be in a poob, to be sure.

P is For Pot-Bellied Piglet

Remember my blog on Finley, my Rhodesian Ridgeback? Well, here’s another couple of shots of one of these wonderful dogs. Only this one has company: a tiny pot-belly piglet. Too damn cute, eh? Here’s the story. The piglet runt was dismissed by its own mother. So, surrogate mum, Katjinga, an eight-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, took on motherly duties for grunter Paulinchen and seems to be taking the adoption in stride. Lonely Paulinchen was luckily discovered moments from death and placed in the care of the dog who gladly accepted it as one of her own. Thankfully for the two-week old mini porker, Katjinga fell in love with him at first sight and saved his bacon.

O is For Orangutan

You can tell I like monkeys, can’t you? Did you know that orangutans have been called the world’s most intelligent animal in a study that places them above chimpanzees and gorillas, that they are considered closest to the human in evolutionary development?

Here’s a sweet story for you. After losing his parents, the three-year-old orangutan pictured above was so depressed he wouldn’t eat and didn’t respond to any medical treatment. The veterinarians thought he would surely die from sadness. The zoo keepers found an old sick dog on the grounds in the park at the zoo where the orangutan lived and took the dog to the animal treatment center. The dog arrived at the same time the orangutan was there being treated. The two lost souls met and have been inseparable ever since.

J is For Just a Dog

From time to time people tell me, “Lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or, “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, time spent, or costs involved for “Just a dog.” Some of my proudest moments have come with “Just a dog.” Many hours have passed with my only company being “Just a dog,” and not once have I felt slighted. Some of my saddest moments were brought about with “Just a dog.” In those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “Just a dog,” provided comfort and purpose to overcome the day.

If you too think it’s “Just a dog,” you will probably understand phrases like “Just a friend,” or “Just a sunrise,” or “Just a promise.” “Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. “Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of “Just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks, and look longingly to the future.

For me, and folks like me, it’s not “Just a dog.” It is the embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday people can understand that it’s not “Just a dog.” It’s the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “Just a man or just a woman.”

So the next time you hear the phrase, it’s “Just a dog,” smile, because they “Just don’t understand.”

Author Unknown

The above photo is of my beloved Sweetpea, who passed away on April 21, 2009.

F is For Finley

Finley was a Rhodesian Ridgeback my parents got for me from a man named Mr. Finley who lived in the veld outside Welkom, South Africa, when I was seven. We’d moved there from the sisal plantation my dad managed for two years in Zimbabwe. There are many things I remember about our stay in Welkom, it was an eventful time. But my year and a half with Finley was the most memorable. We were inseparable.

But then when my brother was born with an allergic reaction to Finley’s fur, my parents had to give Finley away. I came home to find him missing one day. They’d given him to a family one hundred miles across the veld. I carried on so loudly, people came from out of their houses down the block to see who was being murdered. I was inconsolable for months.

And then six months later, Finley showed up at the house, his paws bleeding and much the worse for wear for his journey across the veld to find me. I fell on his neck, blubbering and insisted he sleep in my bed. I don’t remember how long he was allowed to stay. All I remember was that we returned him to the people, who were very kind and wanted him back, but for the life of me, I cannot remember the occasion. I must’ve blocked it from my memory. There’s still a sore spot in my heart.

The Magic Faraway Tree

An unpublished Enid Blyton book has just been discovered: Mr. Tumpy and His Caravan. It’s about an anthropomorphic caravan that befriends a dog, develops wanderlust and goes off on an adventure involving a dragon. Lovely stuff. Who’s Enid Blyton you might ask? A prolific British author who died in 1968. And still selling.

As a kid, I devoured everything I could find of hers in our dinky library in the copper mining town of Nkana, Zambia. This was a room half the size of the “Men-Only” bar on the other end of the T-shaped Mine Club, social center of the mining community. As you can imagine my choice was limited, but with holiday trips down to South Africa to visit the relatives, I managed to get my hands on enough of her books to satisfy my addiction.

I loved Ms. Blyton’s The Famous Five and The Adventurous Four series: kids embarking on adventures and solving mysteries. But my favorite was the Magic Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Wood where the trees, “a darker green than usual,” whisper their secrets: “Wish-wisha-wisha.” This wonderful tree, laden with fruit of all kinds from acorns to lemons was inhabited by colorful characters like Moon-Face, Mister Watzisname, Silky, and the Saucepan Man, draped with all kinds of saucepans. Its topmost branches led to ever-changing magical lands above the swirling clouds. All this took place in the lovely English countryside, so regular and so civilized.

We had our own version of The Adventurous Four, only our adventures took place in the jungle which wasn’t so civilized, all kinds of snakes, notably, the deadly black mamba, and crocodiles, along with lions that lived in the bush at the bottom of town. The “foofie” slide we built across the croc-infested Kafue River featured in our adventures. This was a purloined mine cable strung between two trees across the river, a homemade metal cylinder the size of a toilet paper roll providing the ride down the cable. Wearing your cozzie (bathing suit), you climbed the tree on one side of the river, wrapped your hands around the roll, leapt into the void and zoomed fifty yards across the swiftly running water to land on the other side. Hopefully you made it. Fun. Belly button tingling, pants pissing fun. I don’t remember anyone not making it.

But the thing is I also wanted Enid Blyton’s world, filled with high teas, hedgerows, badgers, Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and fairies, where magic was part of its history. A Magic Faraway Tree could only exist in the lush verdant English countryside; a black mamba would make short work of all those fairy folk in their buttercup dresses and foxglove caps. I’m grateful to Ms. Blyton for instilling in me the love of ceremony and magic. It showed up in my first book, Monkey’s Wedding, featuring English fairies along with the African equivalent, tokoloshi. I can’t wait to buy Mr. Tumpy and His Caravan, so I can read some of the passages over the phone to my two grown sons (one in South Africa, the other up north in Davis, California) and see if they connect to the characters from the days I read the old Enid Blyton books to them.