WOW! Women on Writing Book Tour: Jackie Rod And Her Favorite Places in Georgia!

thumbnail--Georgia Stories on My MindRemember last week when I shared a book review of Georgia Stories on My Mind by Jackie Rod? I promised you that Jackie would be back, sharing about some of her favorite places in Georgia (and coincidentally, some of mine, too!) so that you’ll have an idea of what makes my home state so wonderful (and the settings that add so much to Jackie’s stories, too). Jackie chose to highlight the Atlanta area (coincidentally, also the area where I live!) with a few other spots thrown in. And honestly, I didn’t tell her to include my beloved Tybee Island–but I’m so glad she did! So here’s Jackie Rod:


  Atlanta, Georgia has so many diverse points of interest it is difficult to narrow my discussion down to four in and around the city. Atlanta is my hometown and I love many, but not all, of the changes that have taken place. Perhaps one of the reasons I write about Georgia small towns with heartwarming stories is because I miss the genteel quality Atlanta had when I was growing up.

     When people visit Atlanta, I recommend they see the unique architecture of the Mandir Hindu Temple on Rockdale Road in Lilburn. It is called BAPS Shri Swamirarayan Mandir. The architecture is over the top. It is the most beautiful structure in the area. I have visited two or three times and think everyone would enjoy a tour and the authentic Indian food. There is a clip of pics on YouTube that shows some of its beauty. However, the ambience needs to be experienced. It is so peaceful. I was surprised at some of the similarities between their beliefs and the Catholic Church. The tours are very informative and the entire complex is a must-see visit.

     The Atlanta Botanical Gardens show nature at its best. During special events, the gardens come alive. I recommend everyone visit during the Christmas season and special exhibits. The lights are spectacular. My favorite event is the Chihuly glass sculptures. Every part of the gardens is enhanced beyond belief. Dale Chihuly brought his glass sculptures to the gardens in 2004. Every year the exhibition has gotten larger. Atlanta has purchased a few of his glass sculptures each year, making them a permanent part of the beauty of the Botanical Gardens now. Awesome.

     In the Atlanta area visitors and locals should visit Oakland Cemetery, the Historical Center and Swan House, the Carter Center, Stone Mountain, Mercedes Stadium and the many great restaurants too numerous to name. Anyone could spend a two-week vacation here and barely scratch the surface of the city. Atlanta isn’t called the Big Apple of the South for nothing. Or as locals say, Hotlanta.

     As a state Georgia offers a lot of living. We have mountains in North Georgia and beaches on the eastern coast. Below I’ve mentioned two of my favorite places. However, folks should visit Helen, a Bavarian town filled with shops featuring authentic German items. My favorite is the heavy stemware. Macon is located in the center of Georgia and is one solid pink haze during Cherry Blossom season. Blue Ridge offers an old fashioned train ride up to the Tennessee border. Augusta is the home of the Masters, but it can take years to get tickets. As a Georgia peach I invite you to my State.

     Chateau Elan located in Braselton is a vineyard one hour’s drive from Atlanta. The French chateau set on a hill makes a fantastic view from afar. When you drive through the gates, the main building reminds you of a European castle. It’s like a movie scene. The planting of the vineyard started 1981 but the Chateau, resort hotel, and other features were added later. The Versailles restaurant is a gorgeous setting for a formal dinner or a bridal shower. Special events like the hot-air balloon festival create an atmosphere of magic. Noted for conferences, overnight get-a-ways, or a day trip with friends—the Chateau will enthrall you. The Southern hospitality and the panoramic view of the North Georgia foothills make the visit an unforgettable experience.


At Tybee Island ♥

Plan a trip to Tybee Island and Savannah for a great weekend. The seafood is delicious and the sand, surf, and sunsets are breath-taking. I love to go during March for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is the second largest St. Paddy’s parade in the country. Everyone dresses for the occasion, including the pets. Some of the dogs have become famous for their outfits, beauty, and behavior. The dogs sit in their special green folding chairs for the entire parade. Amazing. After the parade the owners have the dogs perform tricks. It must take hours of training to have such accomplished dogs. Oh, please take a trolley tour of the beautiful city. The old oak trees form huge arches over the neighborhood streets, so it’s like driving under a tunnel of greenery with hanging Spanish moss. The city was built with squares of land like small beautiful parks. These squares have lovely statues, fountains, and flowers to die for. The city is steeped in history. One site I’d recommend is the Cathedral of St. John, often referred to as the “Sistine of the South.”

     Please come savor the intriguing venues Georgia has to offer. We would love to share our hospitality, and you’ll be glad you came.

Thanks, Jackie! And I’d just like to add, dear readers from afar, that if you do come and you’re anywhere around the ATL, let me know. We’ll walk and talk and see all Georgia has to offer, including Libs, the Tiny Terror.

You’ll probably want to move here.

And yep, I completely understand.

Just one last thing:

Book Summary:

thumbnail--Georgia Stories on My MindCome visit Georgia within these pages as you read heartwarming stories shaped by local traditions and legends. The characters live life to the fullest through joys and hardships. Inhale the essence of Georgia’s revitalized small town squares while eating hand- scooped ice cream on a park bench. Each town has its own magic. Sometimes the most real things in life are things we cannot see but those that deeply touch us, as the folks in these tales learn. Share smiles and shed tears as you travel the curving road of life with these Georgia characters. Are you ready for an unforgettable experience of hope, faith, trust, reconciliation, and love?


Print Length: 259 Pages

Genre: Short Story Anthologies

Publisher: Touch Not the Cat Books


Georgia Stories on My Mind is available to purchase on

You can find Jackie at:



Jackie and her book are on tour for a few more weeks, and at several of her book tour stops, she’s giving away a copy of Georgia Stories on My Mind, so check out the schedule and win!


Book Review: Georgia Stories on My Mind

thumbnail--Georgia Stories on My MindWhen I saw that WOW!Women-on-Writing had a blog book tour coming up with a Georgia writer, and the book was called Georgia Stories on My Mind, I just had to sign up! But when I found out that Jackie Rod, the author, is perhaps thirty minutes down the road from me—I mean, you know Georgia is pretty big, right?—I was beyond myself. Did I know Jackie and not know that I knew Jackie?

Well, no. We’ve never met. We write in different circles. But still. We both know and love Georgia and I feel like when we do meet, we’ll be fast friends.

Next week, Jackie will be here to share all the wonderful spots in Georgia that we both love.  (And I’ve been to all of ’em because I’m one of those people who believes in seeing everything at home before I roam.) Anyway, today on her blog tour, I’m sharing my review of her peach of a book:

Georgia Stories on My Mind is a collection of short stories that highlight hope, faith, reconciliation, trust, and love against a backdrop of varied Georgia settings. For the most part, they’re strong women characters figuring out their way in the world, whether that be in the North Georgia Mountains, the busy streets of Atlanta, or the magnolia-lined roads that meander through the middle of the state.

They’re longer stories than traditionally found in this genre but the tales tend to transverse through the years and sometimes generations so you need those extra words. And though you might find a mystery or two within these pages, they lean strongly toward romance so you’re going to get a happy-ever-after despite the trials and tribulations the characters face.

Though the author gives us plenty of information about Georgia in her introduction, the stories themselves are a bit light on details of my favorite places. I expect there will be more stories from this Georgia author and I’d love to see my state as developed a character as one of her richly-rendered female protagonists!


About the Author, Jackie Rod

IMG_5270_R_E“A good book transports me to another time and place. It lets me feel the sensation of heroes and heroines— dark loneliness, deep passion, a father’s pride and a mother’s grief.” Jackie Rod is a fiction writer, loving wife of a legal beagle, and mother of three children who has blessed her with seven fantastic grandchildren. After Jackie retired from teaching, her love of words and stories led her to begin writing fiction. Reading and traveling enrich her life and she jumps at the opportunity to teach a workshop or attend a writing conference. She belongs to five writing chapters/groups. Jackie’s work can be found in twelve published books on Amazon, in several Metro Atlanta libraries, and independent bookstores.


You can find Jackie at:


And here’s where you’ll find Jackie and Georgia Stories on my Mind for the rest of the tour (P.S. There are a few book giveaways, too. You can’t have my book ’cause I’m giving it to my Georgia friends but check out the tour and maybe you’ll win!):


There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (And a Bit of Writing Advice, too)

dog coverI’m so happy to have David Berner here today, along with his charming book of essays, There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (A Life in Pets). Every essay is a charmer, for sure, but I’ll sappily admit that he had me from the very first story he told, about his boyhood pet, Sally. Because as many of you who’ve followed me for years know, Sally the Crazy Dog was Youngest Junior Hall’s pet, and even though it’s been three years, there are moments when I forget and think Sally is under my desk.

As I read about dogs and cats and a squirrel and even ants, I remembered all the pets who’ve padded through my life, and my children’s lives: Albert the cat and Sally, Fluffo the rabbit, Hermie the hermit crab, and even the not-named-but-still-pet horny toads (that’s what we called the horned lizards we found in our yard in Texas).

It was nice to remember some of my best friends, and I loved hearing about David Berner’s friends; I loved his voice as well as his viewpoint. And when he sent me some writing words of wisdom to share with my readers, I loved that, too. (And I kinda needed some of that discipline, here in the middle of the summer. Bet you could use a little, too!):

Here’s the thing about wanting to be a writer…you have to write.

There is no way around it.

You want to eventually run a marathon, a 5K, or just jog around the block? You have to train for it; get up and do it. So you run. A lot. You want to play better golf? You have to play the holes and go to the range and you have to do it often. You want to lose weight, get in shape? You have to workout and you have to do it on a regular basis, even when you don’t feel like it.

David Berner

It’s the same with writing. There is no muse to wait for, no inspirational moment that hurls you into the work. It’s hard. And just like your day job, sometimes it’s tolerable, sometimes it’s arduous, sometimes it’s a very nice experience. And if you’re lucky, sometimes it’s utter joy.

“There is nothing to writing,” Ernest Hemingway said. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

That may be hyperbole. Let’s put things in perspective. Writing is not digging ditches, not physically. But maybe it is metaphorically and emotionally. You are digging holes to find your best words, your best narrative, and to find the time.

So, how do you find time?

Just like running, golfing, or working out, you have to make the time. There is no mystery. Get up an hour earlier each day. Got to bed an hour later. Write during your lunch break. Write while you wait for the commuter train, while you wait at the doctor’s office, while your children are on a play date. Keep a notebook and write when something interesting comes into your head, when you overhear an attention-grabbing conversation. Write it down. All of it.

I have a friend who wrote an entire novel on small slips of paper he kept in his shirt pocket. Little by little, when he had five or ten minutes, he would write. When he had hundreds of those pieces of paper, he organized them on his laptop into a story, a full-length book. It took a long time, but he did it, inch-by-inch.

I wrote the personal essays in my latest book—There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets—one small story/chapter at a time. I squeaked out an hour over a weekend, week after week, until a draft was complete. Any Road Will Take You There, my memoir of a father-son road trip was written on consecutive Sunday mornings for more than a year. A couple of hours just as the sun came up. I was lucky enough to finish the manuscript as a Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando. But you don’t need that opportunity. It’s nice, certainly. A luxury. But writing it still about finding the time and sticking to it.

You have kids? A spouse? A job? Still, find a sliver of time that is yours. Tell your family that during that one hour, you will be locked inside your room with a laptop and unless the house is on fire, do not bother me. This is YOUR time. They may moan or complain, but they’ll get used to it. And when you have some tremendous stories to share, they will be amazed, proud. They will envy your discipline. My first book—Accidental Lessons—about a year teaching in a troubled Chicago-area school district was written when my children were young. But I got up before six o’clock on Saturdays and wrote for an hour or two until I heard the tapping on the door and the whisper, “Dad, are you up?”

There is no secret formula for finding the time to write. You just have to decide if you are willing to make the sacrifices. For me, it was worth it. And if you are one of those writers who feels you must write, that you don’t feel complete unless you put words on paper, then certainly find your little moments in your busy day and write, write, write.

So here’s the official book summary if I haven’t sold you yet:

A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.

And here’s where you can pick up your own copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard:

Print or Ebook: Amazon

Print copy only: Dream of Things

But I’ve got a surprise for all of you who’ve read all the way to here: I’m giving away my copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard! If you leave me a comment about one of your pets, I’ll enter you in the drawing (You must be a continental US reader). And if you share about the book on Twitter (#HamsterDash), I’ll add another entry for you. In fact, if you mention David and his book anywhere, I’ll give you another entry. Just let me know where you shared. I’ll keep the drawing open till Thursday and post the winner on the last day of July for Friday’s Fun Find.

‘Cause really, y’all, I found a true gem when I opened There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (My Life in Pets).