Who’s In Your Backyard?

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Not the Jersey Shore. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I grew up at the Jersey Shore. The shore consists of the hundred fifty miles (roughly) from Perth Amboy to Cape May. That’s a lot of space and many shore towns in there. We had the boardwalk and the pier that housed the famous Haunted Mansion, an arcade, fair style games, and a bar at the end of the pier. Pier Pub. Clever enough name I suppose. I rode my bike to the boardwalk almost every day. I didn’t even realize I lived in a shore town even though after every Labor Day the streets emptied out. The shops closed up. As teens, we didn’t have a lot of places to go besides the movies and the parks to drink. In 1987, the pier burned down and my shore town wasn’t the same for many years.

The Coffee King and I bought our first house two miles from the beach. We sold that house during the housing boom in 2005 for a lot more than we paid and bought another house five miles from the beach. We lived down at the shore for fifteen years.

I loved both of my houses. The second house was in a pretty neighborhood with sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and mailboxes at the end of the driveway. The neighbors took care of their lawns, planted flowers in the spring, and parked in their garages. I never saw them. In fact, the people who lived to my right never said a word to us for the six years we lived there until a large tree that sat right on the property line fell into their yard after Hurricane Irene. Then the wife came running over to see who the tree belonged to. (Here’s a tip sweetheart, in NJ it doesn’t matter where the tree sits. Whose property it falls on has the responsibility to remove it.) We didn’t take that approach. We split the cost with her. You know if we wanted to put a fence up around our property she would have insisted that tree belonged to her and she wouldn’t be able to part with it. And on an aside, I used to wave and say hello to her every chance I had to just to aggravate her. Ha!

That town was what some call a backyard community. Kids didn’t play in the front yard because they were at sport practice, dance class, gymnastics, painting, and science club. No one sat on their front porch to watch the neighborhood spill out onto the streets like an old fashioned game of jacks. Including me. I had a deck and a privacy fence on two sides thanks to the people on my left and behind me. (Oh, the guy behind us was in his seventies and he swam naked. My house sat higher than his so I could stand in my kitchen or on my deck and see over the fence. Not pretty. Let me tell you.)

My readers have told me they like the town of Heritage River in A Second Chance House. (By the way, I came up with that town name because a Heritage River is a tree that grows in Tennessee where my fake town is located.) Someone asked, was there a specific town I had based Heritage River on. The answer – no. I wanted Heritage River to be the opposite of a backyard town.

Isn’t the charm of a small town that you know everyone? Of course, some times that’s not so charming. I wanted Heritage River to be a place where you can knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for sugar. Or where you can fall in love. Where the townspeople have your back. Here’s a tiny spoiler: in book three of this series The Essence Of Whiskey and Tea, the hero, J.T. Davies, isn’t very well liked by the people of Heritage River. He has a reputation he can’t shake even though he’s been gone for twenty-four years. He doesn’t appreciate the charm of the town very much, but he does know it’s a good place to finish raising his daughter and his father recently died so no matter what, Heritage River is home. And of course, there’s Savannah.

Heritage River is a place I could live. To me, it’s an extension of the Savage family. A family I would also like to be a part of. Hey, I kind of get to be a part of that family since I’m writing them. I love what I do. And I love my characters and my little southern town. I hope you will too.

I hope you’ll allow me to share a video with you. I held my Book Launch Concert on March 28 where Patrick’s Pub so graciously allowed me to be a part of the open-mic night and do a reading from A Second Chance House. There’s some noise in the background, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 

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Start A Neighborhood Watch.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

What are your neighbors like? Not to brag, but I have wonderful neighbors. That doesn’t always happen and we’ve been lucky enough to experience it twice. The first house the Coffee King and I bought, many years ago, we had fantastic neighbors. We moved out of that house ten years ago and we still keep in touch with many of them. The second house we bought, well, let’s just say during the six years we lived there we never said two words to the people who lived next door to us. And believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. In fact, the more they ignored us, the more fun it was to say hello.

But out here in the country, we struck gold again. Let me tell you a story….

It was a warm, June morning. The kids had made it to their destinations without a hitch. The morning was looking good and I needed exercise. Who better to go with me than my furry monster? Munson and I headed into the neighborhood.

Now, I don’t know what it is with this dog, but three minutes into every walk he has business to do. I’m always prepared. But on this particular walk, Munson had more business and I was out of bags. We were almost home and I tried to make him run the rest of the way. Poor dog. He must’ve been thinking, “Lady, I’ve got to go! Are you crazy???”

I couldn’t let my dog make a mess all over the street. Well guess what? Dogs and toddlers can’t hold it.

I was faced with a dilemma: Did I leave the mess and come back with bags?  Or just leave the mess? In all honesty, bags weren’t going to work here, more like a fire hose. Maybe I could wait for a good rain to come along?

Instead, I called my neighbor Bobbie. She lives across the street from the crime scene. Frantically, I searched for Bobbie’s number. “Are you home? I need help,” I said to the voice mail. I figured a similar text might get me an answer.

But when Bobbie didn’t respond to my overwrought request for help I decided to wait for a good rain and went home. (Don’t judge me.) That’s when I decided to pull my phone from my pocket. And there were four texts from Bobbie. She’d sent the neighborhood watch to my house.

Charlie, who lives across the street, was searching in my windows. You see, he saw the garage door closing and assumed someone was in the truck holding me at gunpoint. He watches the same television shows I do.  I would’ve assumed the exact same thing was happening had I received the desperate message I’d left Bobbie. Plus, my overactive imagination and the fact I write thriller type novels, always has me assuming there’s a dead body in need of hiding in every scenario.

While Charlie and I were having a good laugh over the mishap, another neighbor pulled up. He was coming to see if I needed an ambulance. Bobbie had called him too.

And that’s when I read the rest of the four texts. Bobbie was coming back from wherever she was! I didn’t get to her in time. She too pulled into my driveway ready to rescue me.

The lesson here? Be more specific on your voice mail messages. Unless kidnapping is involved, “I need help” might not be the way to go.

But I know I have great neighbors. Who Watch. And you can’t beat that.