Sunday, September 24, 2017

Autumn Means Change

Throw your heart over the fence,
and the rest will follow.
~Norman V. Peale

Summer flew by this year, like every other season before. Fall is here now, the leaves are changing and so is my life. Again. But, let me back up to springtime. The flowers were in full bloom in Connecticut. I was deep into researching and working on the first draft of my third novel. Mr. Lane and I were enjoying our life in the charming village of New Canaan, a few blocks from the train station to New York City. Our children were grown, and we had a beautiful grandchild, we traveled to see as often as we could, and quite the tranquil existence in our storybook town whenever we were home. But life for us is always changing, always has been, ever since we met. In fact, we'd both just moved to Atlanta from other states before our first dance together at a bar called Timothy John's in Buckhead. Neither of us were the least bit interested in a relationship at the time, both on the rebound, hearts mending after foolish choices. But, we danced the night away, anyway. We were married two years later and had a new baby by the end of our first year. Then we transferred to Stratford, then Seattle...and Saratoga Springs, Lacrosse, San Ramon, Irvine, Ridgefield, Antwerp, Chagrin Falls, and finally New Canaan. So, 32 years into our life together, when the company reorganized, we embraced the change once again, and found for the first time, after all those relocations, we could choose whatever we wanted to do, go wherever we wanted to go. Maybe even retire early. So we decided we would go somewhere where we could think about our future. But where? After some thought, the answer came easy. We chose a town near our kids on the west coast. Somewhere with trees. And seasons. Flagstaff. An untamed western town full of backpackers and eccentric hippies in an area we hardly knew, but thousands of miles closer to all three of our children and their families. We made an offer on a place we'd only seen once while visiting our sons and a few weeks later we sold all our furniture to the man who rented our townhouse in Connecticut. We packed our clothes, books and files and hit the road to Arizona. It was a quiet drive. Both of us lost in our own thoughts. Were we doing the right thing? Were we too young to retire? Could I really give up writing? When we arrived in Flagstaff, we swapped out some of the furniture included in the sale to make the home our own. The kids came for visits and we spent plenty of time with our grandchild. We golfed. We read thick books. I set up my writing space (even though I still wasn't sure if I wanted to write anymore). We took road trips, charged up our cameras, snapped plenty of photos on nature hikes. We spent lazy afternoons in nearby Sedona, lunched at the beach in Southern California, and enjoyed quality time with friends and family. A few months later, we were still having fun, living the dream, but secretly, we were both feeling under-challenged. After working so hard for so long, we both felt, well...restless.  And honestly, by then, I had started to wonder if Flagstaff might be too remote and maybe just a place to get away to and spend time with family. Meanwhile, it was out now that Mr. Lane might be available. One day while golfing, he asked me if I liked Pennsylvania. Of course, whenever Mr. Lane asks me if I like a particular place, it usually means he's been offered a job. I finished putting, and then told Mr. Lane, of course I liked Pennsylvania. Who wouldn't? After all, they have Philly cheesesteaks and Hershey chocolate. So, by summer's end, we were happily un-retired. When we told the kids, they were not surprised, and in fact, had all been wondering how long our 'retirement' would last. By the first day of fall, we'd moved cross-country again. And guess what? I'm not going to quit writing. In fact, I have plenty of stories in mind after taking the summer off. Mr. Lane started his new job and I found a home for us, a townhouse north of Baltimore just over the state line from Pennsylvania. And of course, now we have a vacation home in Flagstaff. Life is indeed, a series of changes not unlike the seasons. My Life on the Lane is full of new ideas, winding roads, falling leaves, mountain homes, harbor cities, fresh crabcakes, small towns where the air is scented in sugar and spice, and the people are so nice, farms with fresh apples and sweet corn, horses and cows, tidy brick row houses with train lines to cities steeped in history and stories, plenty of new stories to be written and yes, more life experiences and happily-ever-afters to experience...change is indeed good, after all.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Island Bookstores

An island.  A bookstore.  Together.  Heaven.

I've lived near the coast most of my life.  I was born in Oregon along the wild and rugged coastline of a hilly town beside a bay in the southern most part of the state.  With the waves crashing beneath the hospital windows,  my mother gave birth to me just in time to greet a full moon the next evening.

You could say the sea is within me, the ebb and flow of the tides, the rhythm of the waves rolling in and out.  I crave the salty breeze against my face, my bare feet in the sand, a foggy overcast morning, the warm sun burning off the clouds by noon.  And just like the tides, I often feel controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun against the earth.  I'm drawn to the water naturally.  There's nothing like a brilliant, blood-orange sunset melting into the ocean, watching sailboats return to the harbor from between the jetties or seeing surfers hurling across waves as if paying tribute to another spectacular summer day.  The sight of a lighthouse perched above the swirling, green-blue ocean is enough for me to hike through tall grasses and prickly spikes of wild flowers to snap the perfect photo.

I've got all my favorite (secret) spots up and down the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.  But there are just as many places I love along the shorelines of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and further south to the outer banks of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and the west coast of Florida.  Here in the Midwest, we have the shores of the Great Lakes, where the beaches have smaller waves but taller roller coasters, and the lake water is fresh, the salt saved for the kettle corn, and fishing boats are docked in quiet harbor towns, some more industrial than others with mills and giant power plants.

In all these places, whether by the ocean or the lake, beyond the gentle stretches of sandy shorelines and jagged cliff edges, oftentimes there are scatterings of islands, reachable only by ferryboats and bridges, and sometimes there are even villages and towns.  If you peak around, maybe you'll discover a bit of magic tucked between an ice-cream stand and a tourist shop, you might find a little bookstore, doors wide open, with rows of books lining the shelves.  Somewhere to mingle and dream, learn about the big, wide world.  And if you're anything like me, you'll think…

An island.  A bookstore.  Together.  Heaven.

Here's a list of some favorites (in no particular order)...

Lido Isle, CA:  Lido Village Books is a small independent (and very charming) bookstore located just over the bridge on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach.  After you visit the store, be sure to continue across another short bridge onto Lido Island, a man-made island that at one time was part sandbar, part mudflat…not so anymore…it's a lovely residential island surrounded by Newport Bay, Lido Isle Reach and West Lido Channel.  Lido Park at Via Lido/Lafayette has lovely views where you can sit and read your new book.
Ferry Between Balboa Island
& Balboa Peninsula, CA

Balboa Island, CA:  Island Tale Bookshop (formally Martha's Book Store, an island fixture for
years) opened in the spring of 2015 by two local teachers.  This children's bookstore is a quaint spot for families and children who love a unique collection of children's books with the occasional story hour.  The store also offers tutoring for young students with weekly sessions led by the owners who both have degrees in education.  A friendly place for families.

Coronado, CA:  Bay Books is an independently owned bookstore serving Coronado Island and San Diego for more than 20 years.  A great collection of new releases, indies, military history, young adult and children's books.  They also carry the largest selection of magazines in California, domestic and international titles, which might be fun to add to your beach reads.  Coronado Beach was named the #1 beach in America in 2012 by Dr. Beach, (Who?) Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research (That's Who!).

Whidbey Island, WA
Whidbey Island, WA:  Wind and Tide Bookshop has served Oak Harbor since 1967.  A wide selection of titles with a lovely ambiance.  The store was updated by the new owner in 2011 and the changes are all good for this island lover shop.  Hop on the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton (pick up some Ivar's clam chowder for the ride over) and drive north to Oak Harbor for a book stop and then continue on to Deception Pass State Park where you can enjoy incredible views while you read that first chapter.  Continue the road trip across Fidalgo Island then east to interstate 5 and head south to Camano Island (see below).

Camano Island, WA:  Uff Da Shoppe…okay, so this isn't a bookshop, but it's one of my favorite stores in the Pacific Northwest.  Ya Sure Ya Betcha, this store is all about Scandinavian things. 'Uff Da' roughly translates to, "Oh, darn," or "Oops" or if you're a racy Norwegian like me, "Oh, crap."  This store has been delighting islanders for over 25 years, and it's a favorite in my family since my parents once owned a home on the island overlooking the Puget Sound.  My brother who is an architect in Southern California designed and help build the house with my dad about a decade and a half ago. Camano Island and my family go way back, since we often visited the island before my parent's built there own home to visit our cousin's cabin every summer.  We young cousins (thirteen in all) trolled along the driftwood covered shoreline after climbing down a steep embankment behind my aunt and uncle's cozy, vintage home collecting shells and watching out for barnacles on the rocks.  Sometimes we'd get caught at high tide clinging to the top of a giant rock until my uncle would come fetch us with a plank of wood or abandoned log to walk across to shore or if we were too far out, he'd help us swim ashore.  His lectures of near death experiences of locals getting trapped by the tides were legendary, yet harmless, as all of us trailed behind him traversing the cliff to fresh baked berry pie and a warm, crackling fire.  I know a few of my cousins probably still have 'Uff Da" bumper stickers on their cars from our stops at this funny little shop in Stanwood.

Ferry System -- Puget Sound, WA
San Juan Island, WA:  Griffin Bay Bookstore in Friday Harbor has served this beautiful island since 1979.  The thing I always remember about this island are the wild flowers -- lavender and poppies growing wild in the fields and along the sides of the roads, and how green everything is…a total utopia of nature for hikers and fisherman and lovers of all things gorgeous.  I wrote about Friday Harbor in my first novel, RESTORATION and those are still my favorite chapters.  Visit this bookstore when you're on the island, not only do they house great titles, they host well-known authors for readings and signings.  You might just run into your favorite Pacific Northwest author.

Bainbridge Island, WA:  Eagle Harbor Book Co.  is a well-established, full-service community bookstore, and really fun and friendly bookstore.  The shop opened in 1969 as Betty's Books and later expanded, moved and changed the name, but kept the same commitment to providing quality literature and a place for the folks to gather and share in a love for words and stories.  I visited this store when RESTORATION was first released, signing copies when my publisher was still distributing through Ingram.  The publishing world has changed a lot since then, but this store has stayed the same, providing great books and a wonderful atmosphere to those who still love to hold a printed book in their hands.

Mercer Island, WA:  Island Books holds special memories for me.  When Mr. Lane and I lived in Redmond, WA with our three kids, I'd often stop off on Mercer Island on my way into Seattle, and I'd always stop at this charming bookstore.  They've been there for 40 years, a proud independent bookstore serving Mercer Island and the Seattle area.  I remember the warm, friendly booksellers who were always happy to help me remember a title or suggest a book for my young children.  There was a sense of community at this shop and a nice place to go for story hour with my youngest who was a toddler at the time.  Stop in if you're crossing over Mercer Island, you won't be disappointed.

Victoria Island, British Columbia, Canada:  Renaissance Books is a wonderful secondhand bookstores with a nice collection of first editions, modern literature, poetry, BC history and children's books.  One of the reasons I added this eclectic bookstore is because it sits in a lovely area of Bastion Square in old town Victoria not too far from where the Port Angeles, WA ferry arrives on the western side of Victoria, the most probable route for US citizens, especially those who want to travel through the Olympic National Park to Port Angeles, totally beautiful drive.  Another reason…this quiet shop is a nice place to catch your breath before touring Victoria, an island in Canada's Arctic Archipelago, which also happens to be the eighth largest island in the world, second largest in Canada compared to Baffin Island which lies between Greenland and the Canadian mainland (fifth largest in the world and an island I hope to visit one day).  Pick up a few inexpensive titles for those quiet evenings wherever you stay on the island.

Huntington, NY:  Book Revue.  Let's travel east now to Long Island, NY to the village of Huntington where this family owned bookstore has been in business since 1977.  It happens to be one of the largest independent bookstore in the country.  It's quite a treat for book lovers and when we lived in Connecticut, I always made sure to stop by when visiting the island.  Besides attracting bestselling authors for readings & signings, this store is an important cultural hub for their local community offering many events for adults and children.  Plus, you'll probably hear a few authentic Long Island accents if you hang around long enough…be sure to grab a cup of cawfee or some chawcolate or a yooj hero (not a hoagie, not a sub -- but, the best sandwich in the world!).

Looking From Sea Island
To Saint Simons Island, GA
St. Simons Island, Georgia:  G.J. Ford Bookshop is the largest independent bookstore in The Golden Isles located in the Shops at Sea Island on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia.  This charming shop is a great stop to pick up your next beach read (and if you forgot your bathing suit or want to pick up a tropical print shirt or a sundress, there are other wonderful shops nearby for men and women).  St. Simons was a favorite island to visit when we lived in Atlanta and needed a good dose of ocean.  Just a few years ago, Mr. Lane and I celebrated our 25th anniversary along the Georgia coast and St. Simons was one of our stops.  Of course I loaded up on books, but I have to admit, I didn't get much reading done that week…wink, wink.

Bayfield, Wisconsin:  Apostle Islands Booksellers in historic Bayfield on the south shore of Lake Superior, across the water from Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands.  The store is open year round carrying a collection of books on history, culture, nature and other topics centered around the lifestyle of the region.  You'll enjoy this friendly independent, locally owned bookstore, especially if you're after literature about the history of the area or looking for a title from the unique array of general fiction based on local interest.  Check out their calendar of events for author readings, book groups and other events.  A true community bookstore serving surrounding towns and the islands, as well as visitors from around the world.  A nice stop on a tour of the Great Lakes.

Heading To Sanibel Island
From Naples, Florida
Sanibel Island, Florida:  MacIntosh Books & Paper is a wonderfully charming island bookshop and I heard they recently moved to a new location, so be sure to check the website before you visit.  MacIntosh offers the latest best sellers, many classics, island themed books, works by local authors (they really support their community of authors) and other literature about local wildlife and island lifestyle.  I loved the lovely supply of greeting cards and stationary as well.  I picked up a signed book by local author, Christine Lemmon, and enjoyed reading beach fiction sitting in the sand along the west coast of Florida, just gorgeous.

Stranded On An Island
 Is Always Better With Books
Island Sunset
My Life On The Lane is sandy and coastal when visiting my favorite islands.  If you ever find yourself stranded on (or just visiting) one of these islands, I hope you'll stop by the local bookstore and find just the book you were looking for...


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books Across America Eastbound

After spending a few weeks over the holidays with our grown children and our little granddaughter out west, it was time to turn around and finish our road trip and my project, Books Across America.  We were headed home to Ohio but along the way, I wanted to visit some more independent bookstores with the same simple thought in mind, to say thank you…

It's not fun to say goodbye to those we love, so to get inspired about the drive, we chose a different route heading north from California through Nevada, across the tip of Arizona past the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, crossing southern Utah into Colorado, through the Rockies and Denver to Nebraska, then Iowa and into Illinois before finally hitting Indiana then crossing the border into Ohio as we made our way northeast to where Pennsylvania, New York and Lake Erie border the state, to where we live in Cleveland.

Traveling this route across the US in January can be tricky, but we chose this route to avoid the flooding along the Mississippi River further south.  I was so glad we'd traveled the southern route on our journey west, and I'd already visited bookstores along the lower mid-section of the country (see previous posts for must-visit bookstores).  Now we had all new cities in front of us with dozens of bookstores I wanted to visit.  Mr. Lane kept me on track and insisted on doing ALL the driving so I could work on my new novel (he does not allow writer's block) and snap photos between stops.  We had great weather the entire trip and experienced some of the most beautiful scenes across our great country.  If you've never road-tripped for long distances before, you really are missing out on all the wonders of the different regions.  Get out there and see the country…you won't be disappointed.

I've compiled several lists of independent bookstores I visited along the way, and most of the time, I was able to meet with the owner or manager and present them with a signed copy of my newest release, The Lies We Keep.  Sometimes it took some convincing that it was just a gift for them, for their store or for their personal collection to show my gratitude for what they do, for promoting literature, and a place for readers to browse and talk about books, for authors to share their works and even more so, for the charitable work they do in their communities.  Oftentimes, I found stores were contributing to literacy programs, providing story hours for young children, offering meeting rooms for book clubs and writing workshops after hours, and even donating a percentage of proceeds to schools and needy families.

"I just want to say thank you for what you're doing, what you are providing for your community and for supporting authors and people who love to read," I said each time.

More often than not, they'd tell me it was a first, that authors never just stop by to meet them and say thank you.  That the more likely scenario is a series of phone calls to try to schedule an author for an event and then find that the author can't fit them in on tour.  Yet, these booksellers support local authors, offer events throughout the year for their customers and even sponsor conferences for authors and readers.  Of course all authors appreciate them, but I got the feeling these small Main Street America bookstores were not used to being recognized as special, and important to our communities.

There's just something wonderful about entering an often historic building, the door sticking a bit and the bell jingling as you step inside, a friendly bookseller saying hello from behind the counter, stacks of books lining the walls, sometimes so tall a ladder is needed to retrieve a favorite title.  Nooks containing overstuffed bookcases filled with all the stories that transport us to other places and times, new worlds where we can learn and experience through characters from all walks of life.

Stephen King said, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."

So true.  And to me, these cozy bookstores tucked along rural roads and highways, set within strip malls and town centers all around the country are providing a bit of magic for all of us.

Here are a few I visited along the way…

Grand Valley Books, Grand Junction, Colorado:  This lovely bookstore is located at 350 Main Street and has a fantastic selection of used and new titles.  I arrived at this store on a very cold evening right before closing time.  I somehow didn't have them on my list of stores to visit, but after we checked into our hotel for the night, we took a drive in search of a good steak dinner and behold, I spotted Grand Valley Books tucked along Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.  Mr. Lane was happy to drop me off while he drove around for a few minutes to see if their was a good restaurant for dinner.  When he came back, I was standing outside on the sidewalk with a bag full of books.  I couldn't resist grabbing a few titles for the road, two on western history and one new release of contemporary fiction I'd been wanting to read for some time.  I noticed they were closing up shop and knew Mr. Lane was waiting on me, so I didn't mention that I was an author, since I tend to go on and on once I get going and didn't want to hold anybody up, so instead, I decided to keep it short and sweet.  "This is a lovely store, we're just driving through and I'm so glad I spotted this shop, what a wonderful place."  A very nice woman at the register said, "Thank you," and smiled -- and for a moment I wanted to be her, live in this town, own this shop and live everyday surrounded by books about the Old West and Native American Topics, with literary fiction and other genres all mixed together within the cozy confines and bookshelves of this sweet small town bookstore.  The mountains off in the distance surrounding this place were so beautiful as I stepped outside where I could see my breath and just as Mr. Lane pulled up, the snow began to fall and I knew the world of literature was alive and well on the Western Slope in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Too bad that when I read more about this store a few days later, they described themselves as folks who "Cater to odd requests, brilliant conversationalists and esoteric interests."  I guess I could have struck up a longer conversation after all.  If you're heading to Colorado on a ski trip, do stop in at this charming book store.  You'll definitely discover a good read for the trip.

Indigo Bridge Books, Lincoln, Nebraska:  I visited this independent bookstore inside The Creamery Building in downtown Lincoln on a quiet Sunday afternoon and found the store filled with people enjoying a cup of coffee, flipping through books or reading intently with others chatting quietly and enjoying a pastry at tables lining the sun drenched front windows.  I'd read about this store and how it had opened based on an idea that came out of a discussion about having a bookstore that could serve as a community resource, a place to support literacy, located downtown to bring together Lincoln's diverse population, especially welcoming those who don't speak English, offering multilingual events.  Children from the neighboring areas were invited to help with the decor, painting chairs bright colors and creating artwork for the large branchy tree created by artist, Toby Hollingsworth Thomas, standing proud and large in the center of the store.  
With the mission to build a stronger community the store has continued on in this tradition, offering events every week from writing workshops, a variety of reading groups like Graphic Novel Book Club, multilingual story times, and local author readings, as well as  bestselling authors on tour.  A delightful space with a wonderful coffee bar offering up a menu of specialty coffee and tea drinks and some lovely treats and sandwiches.  This is not just a bookstore but a place to gather, discuss books, study, write or just steal a quiet moment in the middle of a busy day.  There's a feeling of community the minute you walk in the door and a friendly, helpful staff at your service.  Check it out.  Also…Lincoln is a wonderful town and high on the list for livability, ranked as one of the best towns in America to start a business.  (My favorite besides Indigo Bridge Books was the cozy library in the lobby at the Marriott Hotel, this town loves books!)          

Cafe Indigo at Indigo Bridge Books 

Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa:  I met with the delightful owner of this charming bookstore, Alice Meyer who talked to me about her store with warm pride about waiting for two years for the perfect corner location on Beaver Avenue in a lovely north Des Moines neighborhood.  The store carries all new titles in a wide variety of genres for devoted book lovers.  With the perfect location  and plenty of parking, the store was filled with natural light from the wraparound windows.  There were cozy corners to sit and read for a while and tidy rows of bookshelves with room for events and author readings.  Alice was so kind and seemed truly devoted and enthusiastic about being a bookseller, telling me about independent bookstore owners being a tight-knit group and devoted to books and the neighborhood customer.  Other cheerful booksellers were at work behind the counter helping customers find the titles they were searching for and seemed to love their jobs.  Once a week, booksellers read from their favorite children's books at Storybook Time on Thursday mornings at 11:00 with time for singing and other surprises.  The store hosts several book clubs, offering discounts on books the groups are reading, groups like Book Browsers Book Club, Environmental Book Club, Mind-Body-Spirit Book Club, Mystery Book Club and Second Saturday Book Club.  The store also offers a discount to teachers for books for their classrooms and for home-schoolers as well.  The booksellers are happy to order books for customers if there is not a copy in the store.  The store supports local writers by hosting regional authors for readings and signings, and the Beaverdale Writers' Group meets at the store  offering the aspiring writers information about the publishing process and marketing a book once it's published.  Beaverdale Books will host The Season of Story in February 2016, sponsored by the Stories Are History Committee dedicated to promoting storytelling events throughout the state of Iowa.  Beaverdale Books is an active community oriented bookstore dedicated to serving Des Moines book lovers.  Stop by this wonderful gem of a bookstore next time you are in Des Moines.  

My Life On The Lane is busy with lists of bookstores to visit and miles and miles of highway to discover along the way.

Stay tuned for upcoming favorites from my recent trip, my lists of Coastal Bookstores, Big City Small Bookstores, Island Bookstores and Tiny Town Bookstores.  Also, a post about the newest trend in lending libraries -- Little Free Library.


"My bookstore obsession grew to the point where I'd search for the new shops during family trips, as if that were the reason for our travel."  ~Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History

"A bookstore is one of the many pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." ~Jerry Seinfeld

"those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers." ~Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Home Is Where You Hang Your Heart

Leaving home is always tough, and home for me is California.  We've moved twelve times over the years, living all around the country and even overseas, all corporate relocations.  But, California is home.

I grew up mostly in Northern and Southern California, south of San Francisco and then south of Los Angeles.  So the entire state feels like home to me.  But my hometown is Irvine in Southern California.  That's where I went to high school, commuted to college, got my first job, bought my first car, my first house, and gave birth to my first child.  Irvine holds a part of my heart, even though the thousands of acres of orange groves and miles of open craggy coastline are nearly built-out with red-tiled roof houses, corporate office parks with glass-walled mini-skyscrapers, outdoor shopping malls with elaborate landscaping and fountains, designer boutiques and movie star owned
restaurants, giant manicured parks with lit-up baseball fields and balloon rides.  The lazy ranch lifestyle I knew as a kid is gone now, replaced by a fast-growing metropolis, but I still feel the same connection to what it once was when I go home.  I see past all the new development to long days at the beach with friends listening to the top 100 against the sound of crashing waves while playing backgammon on our towels while half the group was out surfing.  I see the old Angel's Stadium before they changed the name to The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Just for the record, Los Angeles is a good hour away from Angels stadium, forty-four minutes under the most perfect traffic conditions, plus Angelians have the Dodgers.  Just saying.  The Angels are not a Los Angeles team just because 'Angel' is in both names.  That would be like calling the San Diego Padres the Los Padres National Forest Padres of San Diego.  Ugh.

Okay, back to the subject.  Home is where you hang your heart.  And as I said, that's California, but it's also New York.  Upstate New York.  Way up -- where Lake Ontario meets the Irondequoit Bay which rests against a bluff with a little town called Webster where Mr. Lane grew up.  That's home, too.  We've lived in New York and California, so we both feel a kinship to each place, the water, the soil, the air, the people, the burgers, the burritos…we both feel 'at home' in either place.  The only dividing factor at this point is that my husband is a Yankees fan, a rival team to the Angels.  You'd think he'd give that up for the love of a good woman.

Baseball aside, it's getting more difficult to leave what I consider to be our hometowns and go back to our regular life in the place we actually live.  Both of us are beginning to long for home more and more.  For that sense of same.  Being grounded.  Don't get me wrong, we've had a great life and I wouldn't change a thing, we've seen the world, traveled through dozens of countries, living near some of the most beautiful cities in the world.  But now, as we face our future as empty-nesters, the idea of settling down finally sounds good to us…and it's about time.

The last time we left California was recently, right after celebrating the holiday season with our grown children and our new granddaughter.  We woke up on our last day in town and Mr. Lane was not feeling well.  We got as far as the lobby before he looked at me, green-faced and said he didn't think he could get in the car and drive all the way to Utah that day.  I placed the back of my hand on his forehead and sure enough, he was burning up.  "Honey, you're sick."  He looked at me like, duh.  I guess I hadn't noticed in between packing and trying to get out of the hotel on time.

I grabbed him by the arm and headed back up to our hotel room and put him straight to bed.  We stayed another night, and he was sick for exactly 24 hours.  I have to say, I wasn't at all sad about having to stay another day.  However, since he was so sick, I remained with him at the hotel instead of visiting more with our family.  I ordered up an extra down blanket and pillows and got him comfy.  While he slept it off, I worked on my new novel, but whenever he awoke for a bit, we'd talk about our kids and how great they were all doing.  "Thriving" was a word that kept coming up.

So, if everyone was doing so well, then why did it feel the pull to move home was stronger than ever?

Well, let's face it, our granddaughter is the cutest person ever born.  I'm sure our children were cute too, but we don't remember anymore if they were or not (sorry kids, that's just the truth).  And this little bundle of silly love is so fun and so in love with her Nana and Poppa that we can't get enough.  So, she's definitely a large part of the pull.  As we talked some more, the sun streamed into the room from the corner window where if we stood just right, we could see a hint of ocean in the distance.  Winter in California means clear blue skies and several zillion less people on the freeway trying to get to Disneyland or Universal Studios, so the view was beautiful and even peaceful glancing toward the highways.  "But, the taxes," we kept reminding each other.  "The price of real estate," we cringed.  Then we'd glance back out the window at the snowcapped mountains to the east and roll our eyes…"It's just so darn gorgeous here."

You see, we're at a juncture in our lives where we are considering all opportunities, we both have a resurgence of energy to work hard in our careers until retirement, which is still a decade off.  So, looking out over Orange County, it was hard to not think maybe we should be working there instead.

When we finally left Irvine and headed toward the eastern edge of California, we were both quiet along the way, and as we crossed over the border into Nevada and then across the tip of Arizona into Utah,  I began to cry.  Mr. Lane reached across and held my hand and said, "I know, I feel the same way."

"It's so hard being away from all of them," I said.

We kept driving and with my bookstore visits for my project, Books Across America, we both began to get sidetracked from our sorrow at having to leave.  We were slowly making our way back to Ohio, taking the northern route through Colorado this time versus the southern route through Texas from the way out.  Crossing 18 states and a total of 5500 miles roundtrip.  The further we traveled the more I thought about going home to where we currently lived in Ohio.  I thought about the friends we've made there, our cozy home, the snowy winter days, the gorgeous green trees in the summer and I knew it would be okay.  I smiled at Mr. Lane and he grabbed my hand again, holding it for a long time.  "Home is where we hang our hearts," he said.

"I know.  I was thinking the same thing," I said.

We stopped at the next bookstore and I did my thing while Mr. Lane went searching for treats and coffee for the remaining 100 miles until our next hotel stay.  I kept thinking as I took photos of the storefront, it's true, home is where you hang your heart.  Every town we passed through people had chosen to make that place their home.  It's more about making a life, blooming where you are planted.  But still, I missed the kids.  I just did.

Where we live in Cleveland is currently on the rise enjoying a renaissance of sorts with new buildings downtown and once dormant neighborhoods coming back to life with a new generation and redevelopment.  But, was it home?  I kept asking myself that question for most of the trip.  We've lived in Cleveland for four years.  We have LeBron James, for Pete's sake.  And I'm a member of the best book club ever.  When we finally made our way south from Lake Erie and then east from the city and drove into our neighborhood, I spotted our house and the pretty pond across our lane and I glanced over at Mr. Lane who was smiling again at me and I knew I was home.  For now.

Six weeks on the road visiting our family out west had made us take a closer look at who we are now, what we want going forward.  We know we can't go 'home' to California just yet, that the direction of our careers will continue to lead us for the time being, but we do know that eventually we want to go home, back to our roots, near our family, where our biggest memories dwell.  But until then, our home is where we hang our hearts.

My Life On The Lane is full of adventure, long winding road trips, plenty of bookstore visits, a third novel underway with my heart still hanging in the midwest for now.

Watch for upcoming blog posts about the independent bookstores I visited on the second leg of our Books Across America road trip.  Some wonderful experiences with booksellers heading east.            

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Week Five: Books Across America

Week Five of Books Across America, and we've traveled through nine states from Ohio to California, visiting more than a dozen independent bookstores.  I'm happy to report I've been greeted by friendly, enthusiastic and sometimes even grateful booksellers everywhere I visited (other than one owner who never even bothered to glance up from her inventory list one early morning when I decided to squeeze her store into my schedule…at least it wasn't a total waste of time, since I found a fabulous coffee shop right next door).  Overall, it's been a fantastic experience and I can report that literature is alive and well in America.  Bookstores are busy and filled with people who love to read.  Now, before heading back through several more states, where I plan to visit a whole host of bookstores, I want to fill you in on where I've been lately.

The week before the holidays, traveling around Northern Arizona, I visited a few more independent bookstores with signed copies of my new suspense novel, The Lies We Keep, which just happens to be set in Sedona.  Much of this area was inspiration for my book, so it was with heartfelt pride to meet with booksellers in this part of the country.  Besides the fabulous bookstores I visited, I couldn't get enough of the spectacular wintry scenes.  The red-orange sandstone formations jutting up from the desert floor near Sedona, silvery blue skies, puffs of clouds pink like cotton candy, and the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff snow-capped in a glaze of white frosting.  Heading back down highway 17 to Phoenix, the Ponderosa Pines and Aspens thinned to brush and cacti as the sun set in the west, creating silhouettes across the dusty landscape, casting brilliant splashes of color against the heavens.  The next day, I wandered through shops in the rustic buildings of Old Town Scottsdale and then made my way to a couple more bookstores before taking some time off with family for Christmas.

Don't miss these fine bookstores in Arizona:

Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe (with another location in Phoenix) is often featured on lists for Best Bookstores in America.  So, of course, I couldn't pass it up.  At one time, employee owned and operated, the store continues to be community-minded, donating proceeds from book sales to local teachers, public radio and other charities.  You'll find a nice collection of new and used books while enjoying a cup of coffee or even a cold beer at First Draft Bar.  They host plenty of author events, writing workshops, book clubs, weekly story-times, reading programs and offer textbook rentals.  This is one fabulous bookstore not to be missed.

The Poisoned Pen Bookstore located in Old Town Scottsdale was another must stop in Arizona.  Opened in 1989, The Pen is an independent bookstore which carries works of mystery, literary fiction, thrillers, historical and Southwest themed literature.  They are known for hosting author readings and signings, and other literary events, such as themed mystery conferences most years.  The shop has a charming ambiance with a cozy feel, comfy chairs and a friendly staff.  They ship worldwide and have a good collection of first edition signed books, including mine.  If they are sold out of something you want to read, they are happy to order a copy for you.  A lovely well-lit place to browse the next time you are poking around Old Town Scottsdale's Art District.

Starrlight Books in Flagstaff is situated on Leroux Street with historic brick buildings lining this rugged yet charming college town street.  The store is filled with an impressive collection of mostly used books in a wide range of categories.  There's a Barnes & Noble right around the corner, but this sweet little store is so worth visiting for true book lovers.  With a solid sense of choice in literature throughout the tidy space, and a lived-in, squeaky entry door type of  environment, this shop will put you in the mood for a great read. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Books Across America: DAY 3

Another great day on the road, traveling through New Mexico and Arizona after a long day crossing the Texas Panhandle on Friday.  Today, I visited Bookworks in Albuquerque, NM.  Bookworks is one of Albuquerque's last remaining independent bookstores, in operation for 31 years, first in the Rio Grande Valley and later moved to its current location on Rio Grande next door to Flying Star Cafe (which by the way, has the yummiest turkey sandwiches and cookies -- really good cookies!).

Bookworks is committed to providing a wealth of literary events for the community, hosting 400-500 adult, young adult and children's events annually, for both nationally touring authors, best-selling authors and local authors.  Amazing.  They actively support local authors and provide a wide variety of genres, including both used and new titles.  They are also active in the community, donating books and gift certificates to local nonprofits.  I found a wonderful section highlighting local authors and even several shelves dedicated to local book clubs.

When I stepped inside this unassuming shop, I realized instantly that this was not the average bookstore.  A fire burned in a southwest style fireplace, and customers were browsing books and checking fliers for upcoming events.  Book sellers were buzzing at the counter, helping customers remember titles, taking orders over the phone and cheerfully helping anybody who had a question.  A really nice group.  I was also impressed by the casual vibe, the almost cozy living room feel to the place.  This store was inviting, in a regular neighborhood kind of way, welcoming all ages, providing a wide variety of genres and interests.  An absolutely charming and helpful staff, a warm and creative environment, and an obvious diverse reading community.  So many wonderful, unique and sometimes obscure titles right alongside best-selling, highly commercial titles.  I had the feeling, all literature was important to this staff and their customers, books from famous authors and emerging authors filled the shelves, juxtaposed together, sharing the same shelf space, which gave the place a strong sense of community and a commitment to the interests of their readers, with deep love for literature.  I loved this bookstore and even more so, what they seem to be doing for the promotion of literature in Albuquerque.  Bravo.

My life on the lane is filled with long days on the road, wonderfully colorful bookstores, and best of all, this trip has shown me how dedicated independent bookstores are to their communities of readers.
We will be crossing the border into Arizona, where THE LIES WE KEEP is primarily set, where I will continue to visit more bookstores after Thanksgiving.  My wish to you, dear reader, is that you will be surrounded by who you love or what you love during the holiday, and that your life is blessed with beautiful stories, a love for reading and time to sit back, relax and enjoy a few chapters or maybe even more of something you've really wanted to read lately.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Books Across America -- DAY TWO

Today, I visited the largest independent bookstore in Oklahoma.  Full Circle Bookstore is located on the first level of the 50 Penn Place building in Oklahoma City.  This charming bookstore boasts more than 60,000 titles in dozens of genres, beautifully arranged within oak book cases with rolling ladders to reach those high volumes.  There were sections of poetry, fiction, travel, classic literature, education...the list goes on, including Native American books, and an entire area dedicated to local Oklahoma authors.  Comfy seating areas with wood burning fireplaces added a warm ambiance to the entire store. There was even an alcove with a coffee bar and cafe offering breakfast and lunch items, and some treats, too.  This is the bookstore that everyone who wants to own a bookstore would love to own.

I was greeted by the friendly staff the moment I entered, Beverly at the front desk, John stocking shelves, and helping customers.  Both, so kind and helpful, and I could tell John knew his literature and was eager to show me around telling me about upcoming events and the fact that they hold one of the largest selections of poetry anywhere.  The children's area was filled from floor to ceiling with a lovely selection of literature especially for the youngest of readers and beyond.  Story hour, wooden train tracks, and cozy corners to curl up with a favorite book.  A paradise of sorts, and a dream come true for book-lovers.  I signed a copy of my new suspense novel, The Lies We Keep, and then lingered for a while, browsing, and chatting about books, and then enjoyed a cup of tea with Mr. Lane before hitting the road to our next destination.  I highly recommend Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City if you have a chance to visit.  Absolutely charming.

I love these vintage theater seats.
John couldn't have been more kind!