Thistle Dew Writers’ Retreats

I’ve had the opportunity to attend the regularly scheduled Thistle Dew Writing Retreats in Remsen. The retreats take place at Thistle Dew, a beautiful 1800s inn turned home turned B&B owned by fellow author and beloved friend, Andrea, and her husband Walt. It is overseen by their silky sweet doggie, Wuffka.

The home consists of the original inn and an updated addition, which combined consists of six bedrooms, an office, a game room, formal living room with two fireplaces, dining room with a walk-in fireplace, a nearly finished attic hideaway, an Adirondack themed den, two and a half baths, and a beautifully renovated kitchen with all the bells and whistles of contemporary living.

Each of the bedrooms have a theme. The three located in the former inn portion of Thistle Dew are The Daffodil Room, The Brass Room, and The Lavender Room. The three located in the newer addition are named The Strawberry Room, which features an all pink “princess” type of feel with three twin beds; The Blue Berry Hill Room, and The Red Room. The attic has recently been made available as a bedroom, and when completed will also provide a writing nook. There is also a cabin for use, and the back porch has become a designated sleeping area for visitors.

My most recent visit began on Friday afternoon, after an emotionally and physically exhausting week. I came in, said hello to everyone and went up to my room to unpack. Two hours later, I emerged thoroughly refreshed and ready to write after an unexpected, but apparently much-needed, nap.

I settled at the dining room table with my friend Molly (MJ Compton) and eventually Kat Morrisey joined us. I work really well with these two women. They are inspiring, motivating, focused, and offer a wellspring of information that leaves me thirsting for more. There seems to be a flow and synchronicity, with periods of silence and intense concentration interspersed with brief chit chat or something humorous, or a Dove Chocolate break when we are hungering for a fortune or bit of wisdom to keep us moving.

We each bring a meal and a dessert or appetizer to exchange throughout the weekend, and so each mealtime one of us is responsible for preparing sustenance to keep us going. This works out perfectly for everyone involved, and keeps the price of the retreat low, and helps us stay anchored without having to leave the premises to find dinner. Walt usually ends the retreat for us with a great breakfast on Sunday. This Sunday we thick Belgian waffles with homemade strawberry syrup. It was yummy.

I’ve learned that Andrea and Walt are now registered on the Air B&B site, and have opened their home up to travelers looking for a country, quiet, getaway. To view their listing, check out

They are located in the quaint town of Remsen, NY, surrounded by acres of lush green lawn, two ponds, and thick forest.

The house is filled with great conversation pieces, antiques, vintage collectables, and lovely décor.

I truly enjoy my time at Thistle Dew. I find the inspirational energy flow from other authors, the good food and snacks, the general atmosphere, and the love and friendship keep my creativity peaking, and my mind focused on the goals I set prior to my arrival.

If you need to get away, whether you are an author or not, you should check out Thistle Dew. You will not be disappointed!


Mothers and Daughters

Mothers. There is no denying the eternal bond shared between a mom and her child. Moms are the first life sustaining food source, our first love, teacher, judge, and disciplinarian. They shared our butterflies in our tummies with the first day of school; cried with us the first time we skinned our knee; struggled with us through homework assignments and class projects until all hours of the night.

They worried about us as we navigated through our teen years. They listened tirelessly about our first love. They cried and held us as we grieved our first broken heart.

They taught us how to be moms, and celebrated becoming grandmas.

And as we grew older, they handed the reigns over our own children took us through the same journey.

But then they pass, leaving a lifetime of love and memories, life lessons and laughter, tears and torment as we wish for just one more day with them.

April 7, 1942 my mother Joanne Jones came into this world, born to her mother, Evaughn Jones. Mom passed away on August 19, 2012 at 70 years old, leaving her own mom and three of her four daughters behind as she joined her eldest daughter, Jane, beyond The Veil.

It’s been nearly seven years and not a day goes by that I do not think of her. Some days the missing part is so intense it’s hard to breathe. Other days, I find myself talking with her as if she is right next to me, knowing what she would be saying if she could be there physically.

There are smells, songs, pictures, and memories that keep her alive. When I make her famous fruitcake, or sauce and meatballs, or eggplant parmesan, Mom is right there beside me.

When I smell Ponds Cold Cream, or Johnson’s Baby Powder, or freshly washed laundry, Mom is right there.

When I sit on my front porch, or on my back deck, or in my living room; when I pass a garage sale or thrift store (her favorite pastimes); when I hear Loretta Lynn, George Strait, or any of the old great country singers . . . there is Mom.

In Ten Bucks and a Wish, Deanna Drake must deal with many losses, including the loss of her mother. Rather than addressing it at the time, Deanna moves away from her home town after her mother’s death, unable to cope with that loss and the loss of her first and only love, Michael (Cord) McCord.

She returns a few years later to deal with the aftermath of her neglect and is forced to clean up the mess that resulted following her refusal to accept her mother’s passing, and the break up with her first love.

By writing about Deanna’s journey and the closure she found in finally accepting her mother’s death, I was able to work through my own grief.

Boxes of letters tied up in string. Canned preserves. Torn flannel night gown with a tissue stuffed in the pocket. Even the kitchen Deanna and Trish eat breakfast in is a replica of the kitchen I ate my Cheerios in growing up. As a writer, I was able to bring my mother (and my sister) back to life through Cord’s mom, Jane McCord. Her no-nonsense, take charge, advice-giving tendencies are both things I remember about my mom and my older sister Jane. And while I can’t bring my Mom and Jane back, I honor them with my words.

Ten Bucks and a Wish was originally called Coming Home. And although the name changed, the story is the same. It’s about wishing things could stay the same, wishing they could change for the better, and making those wishes come true.
If you’ve lost your mom, or anyone you held close in your heart, you don’t have to let them go in sorrow. Hold them close in love, keep the memories alive by sharing their stories.

Ten Bucks and a Wish is more than just a romance. It’s a way to honor my mom, and all the moms who have passed.

So, if your mom is alive, go hug her. If she is passed, light a candle in her memory and tell her you love her. And thank her for the memories and life lessons.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

April is National Poetry Month

She lifts her eyes
towards the heavens;
wants to rub her cheek
against the soft, black,
velvet midnight sky.
she reaches up
to catch a falling star
as it lights up the night
in magic and mystery.
One hand anchors
against the lush green Earth.
Moon shines above, guiding.
The world around her,
once cloaked
in folds of grey
and sleep-filled nights,
is alive
and pulsing
and breathing –
to Her Awakening.

Janine Phillips
(original written May 3, 1996)

27 Days Left!

My lifetime dream is now just 27 days away.

When I first started attending CNYRW meetings I was repeatedly told (for inspiration):

A lot of people say they want to write a book.
Some people write and actually finish a book.
Some people get brave enough to send it out.
Some books get read and rejected.
And then there are those people who keep going. Who persevere until their book is published.
These were the words that replayed over and over in the back of my mind through the years I was with CNYRW and pursuing my writing career, and then in the years following, when I took a break.

And now my lifetime dream is just 27 days away.

Moral of the story: Don’t give up on your dreams.

How real does it feel?

How real does this all feel…? At the moment – VERY! I’m at work. David’s home for lunch. My business cards came in.

How real does it feel? VERY! Thanks for the photo DAVID! 😀

Favorite Mugs Reflect My Mood

Do you have a favorite mug? My husband, David, always seems so surprised when it comes to that change-of-season time to rearrange my coffee mugs. I don’t understand. I have my seasonal dishes (which also confuses him), so why wouldn’t I have seasonal mugs?

I explained it this morning by telling him I have a mug for every mood. He replied, “No, you have a mug for every minute.”

So, that got me wondering. Who else has favorite coffee or tea mugs?

There are my ‘’I’m a writer and I’m writing at the moment’ mugs. My favorite is the one emblazoned with “Central New York Romance Writers” on one side and “My hero can kick your hero’s butt” on the other. Guess who my hero is? My Sixth-Degree Black Belt husband, David. Even though he doesn’t understand my mug collection (obsession)!

There are my magical mugs, when I’m feeling witchy (that’s my other life!). My current favorite is the one with a witch flying on a broom on one side, and a topaz crescent moon on the other. Then there is the Peanuts gang mug, which my awesome children Anthony and Allie gave me a few Yules ago. That has Schroeder banging away ferociously on his piano- an artist caught up in the passion of creativity. (Like me.)

Those are my top three – out of about a collection of 50 or so- mugs. We have Yuletide mugs, springtime mugs, autumn mugs, and even every day mugs. The only type of mug we don’t really collect are the mugs that boast of places we’ve been.

Who else collects mugs? Share a picture of your mug in the comments. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours! Author Status Confirmed!

My GoodReads Author Status is Official!
Remember those song lyrics, “My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”? Well. I need shades.
This journey has been so much fun even though it’s been demanding. I’m scared to death people will read my book and ask, “What is this crap?” But that is normal, I’ve been told repeatedly.
The marketing is totally stressing me out. Every day I’m wondering if I’m doing it right.
But then the baby steps kick in and there I go, moving forward, thinking, “I got this!”
My most recent baby step/fumble took place yesterday, when I thought I had achieved author status on I didn’t even know my book was listed there! So, when I realized I was, I created my profile and voila! I thought I had an author page.
Nope. I had taken that baby step. And then fell on my butt.
It was only when my friend Lesley pointed out that that is not an author page (Very discreetly and compassionately, I might add), that I fixed things and applied for Author Status. Another baby step!
This morning, amidst all my running around, I quickly checked email and there it was! I received notification that I am now officially an Author on Goodreads! Woohoo!!!
My site can be found by going to and searching for either Ten Bucks and a Wish or Janina Grey. Follow me and say hi!
So. Here’s my blog celebrating another baby step forward on my journey. I thought you all would like to celebrate with me.
I will be drinking a big glass of Mead later with my friends to celebrate Spring, birthdays, and achieving life goals.
After all, life is for living, and I’m living it!

Getting used to the term “Published Author.”

Have you ever seen The Big Bang Theory storyline where Howard is “an astronaut” and all he ever talks about is being an astronaut.

I don’t want to become Howard.

But, damn! This is exciting! But it’s also a lot of hard work. I have even more respect for all the published authors who have gone before me, and who successfully marketed and promoted their literary treasures.

This is harder than plotting, world building, and even harder than perfecting The First Kiss.

Where I used to find myself living, breathing, and dreaming Deanna and Cord’s journey (Or Beth and Ian’s journey, or Katie and Jesse’s journey) I know I now have to focus on the reality of MY journey. And that journey is to promote and market my book as much as possible.

There’s a lot that goes into this. There is creating a brand, then creating a presence, then interacting with potential readers, turning readers into fans, engaging in the writing community, coming up with contest ideas, learning social media, and especially deciding the most frugal way but exciting way to thank readers for supporting me. How much is bragging? How much is promoting? How much is seeking support? How much is nagging?

So, I’ve been taking everything one step at a time. But the first task I had to undertake and I’m still struggling with is expressing with confidence the fact that I am a published author. Achieving this is a huge, huge dream for me. And to see it becoming reality is at times breathtaking and overwhelming.

I’m writing this because I’ve JUST created my Amazon Author Page. It still has to be approved by SMP so Amazon can make it go live. But I did it. It took me three days, asking for help, and then finally finding a number to call at Amazon before I figured out how to do this. But I did it.

Having a professional photo taken (By RETRO RUBY’s IN HERKIMER – CHECK HER OUT – SHE IS AMAZING!), setting up a blog that has been inactive for the most part since 2013, sorting out the differences between Facebook PAGES vs PROFILES, and ordering business cards, are all things I can check off my to-do list.

But now I have what seems like the unsurmountable task of building my fan base, entering contests, submitting to review sites, coming up with daily posts to keep everyone updated, and again coming up with contest ideas, and setting up tour dates and a release party left to tackle.

My fellow writers have been amazingly supportive, and I’m so thankful to have them all here to listen to my unending questions and what seems like incessant whining.

There is lots of Googling, trial and error, and going off on tangents when I find something really cool to read about that I didn’t know. Then there is my family, my real life, my day job, my house, my editing responsibilities to my clients, and my other responsibilities that keep diverting me from these tasks.

I will also have to work on my “Professional Published Author Who Exudes Confidence” persona. I’ve Googled for help with that and I come up with nothing.

But I guess, in the end, by this time next month I will be preparing for my release date, and all this will be in place, and I will be soothing the butterflies in my tummy, drinking lots of coffee and wine, and trying not to screech in excitement when people ask me how things are going.

So, for anyone reading this, forgive me if I pull a Howard, or if I screech, or if I stutter when you ask me about being a writer and how my journey is going.

Because underneath all the promotion, the details, the decision-making and date-setting. . .I’m still Janine. Don’t let me forget that. That is YOUR SOLE TASK. And I’m holding you to it.

So. With that said… keep checking my Amazon author page at . It should be live any day now! 😀

And remember… life is for living. So live it.

Happy Spring!

Today is the first day of Spring, and it is marked by the Vernal Equinox. That means today we experience 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime.

Today also marks the beginning of a season that is so heartily anticipated because it signifies warmth, light, new life, growth, transformation, and new beginnings. Spring is when the flowers begin to push up from the ground, the snows begin to fade, the trees begin to show buds. It’s when birds return, and squirrels and chipmunks skitter about again, chittering and playing and celebrating the warming of the earth.

Spring is also a good time to contemplate balance. With the darkness and the light vying for equal time, today reminds me take into consideration the balance we struggle with each day. And the growth and transformation that takes place during the dark times of our lives.

The day I told my children their dad and I were getting a divorce, we held each other and cried until the afternoon light faded into the black of night. We didn’t even move to switch on a lamp. The three of us sat in the darkness, just enveloped in our grief. Then, like a timid flame of a newly lit candle, Alexandra, in her sweet little six-year-old voice whispered, “Mama, it’s going to be okay. Sometimes we need to be sad so we can make the good times better.” She made the darkest moment of our life brighter with that glimmer of hope.

And that is what Spring is to me. It’s that glimmer of light at the end of the darkness of winter that promises lighter times, brighter times, warmer times. There may be snow flurries, or rain, or ice storms, but every day we move closer to summer, warmer temperatures, barbecues, camping, hiking, kayaking, visiting with family and friends.

We just have to hang on and not lose hope, because warmer days truly are on their way.

This concept can be applied to our lives year-round. Life hangs in a continuous balance, each day bringing positives and negatives. How we cope, how we handle these moments determines the life we live.

Sometimes we need to step back and assess the balance we maintain. Is it off kilter? Have we become comfortable in stagnation? In our grief? Have we reconciled ourselves to the fact that life sucks and this is how it is? Or do we look at what is, and imagine how it can be?

Now is the time to take a look at how we define ourselves. Do we define ourselves by our losses or our gains?

Do we remember the jobs we applied for and did not get, or do we celebrate the jobs we applied for and received?

Do we lament over the loved ones who have passed, or do we celebrate the memories we made when they were alive? Do we remember with regrets the moments of pain, or push them aside and embrace the moments of love?

Do we look back at our lives and stew in bitterness over the lost relationships, the trips never taken, the house we didn’t buy, the car we do not drive?

Or do we look around in gratitude and see our accomplishments, and own our efforts, and plan for the next success we want to see?

Are we that little green shoot pushing up through the slightly frozen earth, that thin blanket of snow, searching for sunlight and warmth, determined to blossom into a beautiful snowdrop or hyacinth?

Or are we going to lay around like a dormant, stagnating pile of autumn leaves, clinging to the deteriorating shape that once defined our glory, refusing to let the past go so that we can nurture who we are yet to become?

That is the balance of life. That is Spring. Now is the time to embrace the endless possibilities that await us, and let go of the past we cannot change.

Now is the time to prepare the soil for the goals and dreams you want to plant and nurture throughout the year.

Now is the time to acknowledge and accept the balance of good and bad, sorrow and joy, life and death, dark and light, in your life.

Now is the time to celebrate life. And as I always say…

Life is for living, so live it.

Happy Spring!

The earth truly is in balance on the first day of spring. Try standing an egg on its end, and see what happens. But it has to be at the exact time of the equinox.
This year it is 5:58 p.m. Eastern time today, March 20, 2019. Have fun!