Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Dreams Are Made Of

GCh. Wych's Prince of Summer "Snape"
photo credit: Erin Gorney/Fuzzy Feet Photography
So, I’m sitting at my desk, thinking about nothing in general and watching Dixie sleeping in her whelping box. And, that got me to thinking in a very specific direction. This is the first planned breeding I have done in more than six years. The last litters three years ago I had weren’t planned by me, but they were planned by Junior, who climbed the fence while we were on vacation to be in the same large yard with the girls who were in season. Thanks, Junior…NOT. But, even that wasn’t bad because one of the girls Junior bred, while it wasn’t the optimum breeding I would have done with her, still combined pedigrees and blended well. The only puppy, Miss Ziva, from that litter shown finished her championship under both all-breed and specialty judges. Ziva carries a legacy pedigree, through being line-bred on GCh Wych’s Prince of Summer—Snape. There are genetics she carries that many thought had been lost.





Wych's Where Honor Lies "Dixie"
photo credit: Tenna Perry
But this breeding…this was planned from the time I brought Dixie home. When I brought her home, Vander was already a grand champion and nationally ranked. As she grew and matured, the reasons to do this breeding became more and more clear. Where she needs help and improving, he is strong. Where he needs improving, she is rock solid. This is strictly a phenotypical breeding. Vander is a blend of some of the strongest, most prolific champion producing bloodlines in modern collies. Dixie carries much of those same bloodlines, but she also carries a legacy pedigree. Part of her bloodline is no longer available anymore. The genetics she carries from her grand-sire —Snape—are the legacy.
GCh. Bandor's The Wyching Hour "Vander"
photo credit: Johanna Lance





And this breeding has me thinking. More like dreaming. And hoping. At this stage of the game, while waiting for her to have her babies, I’m just praying for a healthy litter. But, I can’t stop the dreams from creeping into the mix…dreams of elegant, showy tri smooths, of glorious, dark-coated sable roughs…



Oh, the stuff that dreams are made of.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pure Vanilla

Okay, I have to admit I’m a little puzzled. I’ve now had three different friends tell me that though they loved reading The Devil’s Own Desperado and are looking forward to reading Smolder on a Slow Burn, they had some problems with “THE SCENE”. When I asked what they meant—was it too graphic (I didn’t think so, and apparently, neither did my editor because it wasn’t kicked over to erotica), too much not left to the imagination? What? WHAT? 

All three of them kinda danced around an answer and then blurted out, “I just kept imagining you as the girl in those scenes.”

HUH?

Now, two of these three friends I have known for years (and one of them for almost thirty years), and we have travelled to dog shows together and slept in the same hotel room. Sometime in the same bed if there were four of us in the same room. I never thought that there would be an “ick” factor in writing romance because these people know me. But, that comment did bring the “ick” factor up into the stratosphere and made me rethink starting to use a pen-name.

The problem with a pen-name is I’m starting to get a fan base and following under my own name. And, another problem I see with using a pen-name is I’m damn proud of what I have accomplished in my writing career, including “THE SCENE” in my romance novels. Damn it, that’s MY name on the cover.

I have been asked if my private (think sex) life has ever made it into my novels. The answer to that is a resounding “NO” followed up with the codicil that I just have a really great imagination. Sorry, hate to say it, but no…that part of my life is pretty much vanilla. If that was a TMI violation, I’m sorry.

I know those three friends will purchase Smolder on a Slow Burn when it’s released on August 20th. I’ve already promised them I will let them know page numbers for those scenes, and they can skip over them. That way, they don’t have to keep seeing me as the heroine in my books. All though…my DH might have to worry if the hero in Smolder ever came to life and walked up to our front door.




Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Devil is in the Details--of the Setting

(This blog is cobbled from notes I took years ago at a writer’s conference, and I’m sorry I don’t remember and didn’t note who gave this talk.)

Setting…yeah, that place where your story/novel takes place. The millionaire’s mansion, the wide open spaces of that western novel, the cramped quarters of a compact car your heroine steals to get away from the villain…setting is just as important to your story as are the main characters. The goal of description is to create a well-designed set that provides the perfect background for your characters. Without the details of setting, you’re condemning your readers to wander around an empty stage, trying to figure out where they’re at. Too much description though, especially in large chunks, and you’re risking what I once heard described as “the tombstone effect”—large blocks of description that are just so much grey material the reader will skim (and sometimes skip) looking for action.

So, how do you reveal setting without etching it in that tombstone?

Setting is revealed through motion. Put your character into a place she isn’t familiar. Let’s pretend she’s a girl of humble origins and she’s just landed the job of a lifetime—nanny to a widowed multimillionaire’s kids. Now, have her walk through that rich dude’s home on her first day on the job. Which details would she notice immediately? The softness of the Persian rug underfoot? The paintings on the wall? How do those paintings make her feel? Can she tell the difference between a Monet or a Picasso? Does she sink into the leather couch? Can she smell the leather? Use active verbs as she makes her way through this place. Instead of explaining/telling that the chandelier glittered and danced in the light, make her blink because of the display. Instead of telling your reader that there’s a heavy, HUGE marble table in the room, make her detour around it. And, we can’t forget the kids…are they happy there is someone new there? Or, perhaps looking at her as if she’s just one in a long string of many who have come and gone. Make sure it’s your character that’s doing all the action—not the setting.

A character’s level of experience reveals setting. Different characters perceive the same surroundings in very different ways, based on each character’s familiarity/lack of such with the setting. Let’s take our girl of humble origins above and our rich widower and put them somewhere else. Let’s suppose our rich widower lives in a secluded home high on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the only way to get there is to walk across a rugged, boulder-strewn beach. She’s shivering and bundled to the teeth but the wind is still cutting through her wool wrap while the rich widower beside her is wearing only a cable-knit sweater and doesn’t seem to be affected by the damp, cutting cold in the least. She tripping and falling over half-buried pieces of driftwood in the damp sand and is utterly certain that her shoes will be completely ruined by the time they reach his home. She’s pretty sure that the wind, the dark clouds, and the waves pounding the shoreline mean a major storm is brewing. The stench of rotting seaweed and dead fish makes her nauseous. However, she sees the incredible beauty in this wind and water carved fantastic landscape, while he just sees another barrier to keep people out of his life. (Good grief, I think I just came up with a clich├ęd Gothic novel…) Familiarity doesn’t always imply good.

Use your character’s mood to establish setting (and to set the mood with your reader).  Let’s go back to our poor heroine trudging along that beach and take out the rich widower. From her vantage point on the beach she can determine that she’s halfway between her car on the shoulder of the road and the imposing house on the cliff. As she walks along the beach, different sea birds wheel overhead. The wind off the water is invigorating, and scented with the tang of salt. The surf pounding into the massive boulders jutting into the water and along the shoreline booms as it slaps the weathered and intricately carved black rock. She laughs at herself as she trips over a partially buried large piece of driftwood. Pleasant, isn’t it? She’s on her way to a new job and this colors everything she looks at.

Now, let’s change her mood. She’s still halfway between her car and the house, but her car is broken down. She’s got no way to call the owner of the massive, bleak looking house that looms over the cliff side. The wind is biting, hurling sea spray and sand into her face. The birds overhead shriek as black clouds encroach on this stretch of beach and she can smell the rain that is imminent. Falling to her knees when she trips over what is suspiciously reminiscent of a sailing ship’s prow buried by the relentless wind piling sand against it, the black rocks rounded by eons of wind, surf, and sand appear to be grave markers, noting the loss of life that has happened so often on this bleak, wind-swept, and unforgiving stretch of shore. Your character’s mood will determine how the setting is described.

The five senses reveal setting. Different senses evoke different reactions. Visual information is processed primarily at the cognitive level. In other words, when our character reveals the scene in terms of visual input, our readers will usually react at an intellectual level. Sound, smell, and touch all evoke sensory responses and emotion. Smell has been determined to have the strongest attachment to memory. Touch gets romance writers a whole lot more mileage than sound. Taste is the toughest to incorporate into writing, but it can be done. Show your reader what your characters are seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching and you will establish the setting without reading like a travel-brochure.



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Calling Me Home

Summer’s here. The garden is in and doing really well. We’ve already had several green peppers from the garden, the tomato plants are bending their branches over the edges of their cages they are so laden with baby tomatoes, the potatoes I’ve planted are growing like proverbial weeds, the corn’s already knee high and it isn’t the Fourth of July yet, and once more the squash plants are threatening total domination of the garden.

And for the first time in twenty four years, we aren’t planning a trip to Wyoming. I don’t know how I feel about that, other than a part of me feels utterly empty knowing that this summer—at least—I won’t be able to find the solace that I do in such open spaces.

I’ve told so many people that I live in Indiana, but my home is in Wyoming. And, I’ve wondered more than once how it is I can feel that a place I’ve never lived in during this lifetime can be home for me.

I’m not a wanderer. I’m very much a homebody. But that place, those spaces where the perception of distance is skewed by the sheer immenseness of it all, is where my heart calls home.

I have several friends who live in Wyoming. They’re often sharing memes about Wyoming. They also share pictures of that place I call my heart’s home. I can visit vicariously. I can see the mountains which draw me in; I can view the incredible vistas with skies so blue and clear it doesn’t seem real; I can almost hear the wind whispering as it moves through the towering Ponderosa pines, the Douglas firs, the lodgepole pines, and the aspens; and I can almost smell the dryness of the land and the sharp tang of the sage…
So, to my friends who live in Wyoming…keep sharing your pictures.

I will be there. Perhaps not this summer, but I will be there. I will live there in this lifetime. Wyoming is calling me home.


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Borrowed Angel

I have struggled and struggled and struggled with this blog post for several days now and I’m not sure there will ever be enough time to put distance between my heart and these events. Just the thought of putting down how my emotions ran the gamut from sickened to cautiously optimistic to complete despair is bringing tears to my eyes, choking my throat, and leaving my heart aching, anew. Please be forewarned that some of the images in this blog post are very graphic and disturbing.

In late January or early February of this year, pictures began to fill my newsfeed on Facebook of a young, sable and white collie who had been shot multiple times in the face and left for dead in a roadside ditch in Kentucky. He was no more than seven or eight months old when he was so hideously abused and dumped into that ditch like yesterday’s garbage. The fear and pain in his eyes still haunt me.
immediately upon admittance to vet hospital

Around the world, collie lovers, collie fanciers, and even just dog lovers rallied for him, offering prayers, healing energy, and financial support. We, the collective collie world, claimed him as “our” collie, because he was one of us. He could have been any puppy any one of us brought into this world and placed. He was named “Lad”—and the name fit, because one of the most moving tributes ever written for a collie was written by Albert P. Terhune when he had his Lad’s headstone carved. That Lad was immortalized with the epigraph of “thoroughbred in body and spirit.”

Because of the damage done to him when he was repeatedly shot in the face, there was no other option but to remove most of his lower jaw. I am not here to question any of the medical treatment Lad received because I believe it was all done with his best interest in mind, and being married to a veterinarian, I trust his judgment. When my husband saw the x-rays that had been posted on a Facebook page of Lad’s injuries, his response was there was no way to save the jaw.
a few days after surgery, being tube fed


Learning who had perpetuated this horrific abuse on this sweet, young dog was not my priority. I am a very firm believer in Karma. She is a BITCH and She will visit the animal who committed this violence in Her time, in Her own way. I am also a very firm believer that there is a special level of Hell reserved for those who abuse the most helpless and defenseless among us. My priority was following Lad’s story and praying for his recovery and doing what little I could to assist with what I knew were going to be astronomical veterinarian expenses.

A Facebook page was set up so we could all follow Lad’s progress. (There is a Flicker account that followed his progress, as well, found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thearrowfund/sets/72157640806884844/) And, what progress he made! 

playing with one of the many toys sent him
From a frightened but still trusting, emaciated and abused baby to a vibrant, happy, loving playful young dog—the pictures often brought a huge smile to my face and were shared on my Facebook page for my collies, often with the simple tag line of “Good boy, Lad! Good boy.”





carrying another of his toys

Then came news that the veterinary medical school at UC Davis was interested in Lad’s case. As UC Davis is at the leading edge of creating synthetic prosthetics in animals, cautious optimism was allowed to creep in. Maybe, Lad could have a life with a lower jaw again. Though, many of us who saw the pictures of him drinking from a bucket, patiently waiting for his “meatballs” to be made so he could have his meals, playing with and CARRYING his toys in that play felt that Lad could and had adapted to his altered life. Yes, life without a lower jaw would have required a very special forever home, but I know I would have been one of the first ones in line to take this boy into my home. I’d already taken him into my heart.
drinking on his own




patiently waiting for supper
Lad was flown by private jet through a charity that does just this very thing for animals to California. The pictures of him at UC Davis were beyond heartwarming. Lad won the staff at UC Davis over as thoroughly as he had won the worldwide collie community. The initial news from UC Davis was mixed. Since being in the care of The Arrow Fund, Lad had gained weight, he was very healthy, considering what he had gone through, but he had osteomyolitesis—a deep, deep infection of the bone that remained of his jaw. An aggressive course of IV antibiotic therapy was begun and he was closely monitored. When he ended the antibiotic therapy, all the signs looked good to attempt to rebuild his jaw.
winning over the hearts of the UC Davis veterinary staff

He was surgically fitted with a prosthetic jaw and the complications began. He had to be kept sedated. He began throwing blood clots into his lungs. He was placed on a ventilator. And, his young body couldn’t keep up the fight. Lad couldn’t fight off this last trauma.

Almost immediately the recriminations began. “The surgery to fit him with the artificial jaw was too soon after ending the antibiotic therapy.” “He never should have been subjected to that.”

I don’t know where I fall with those recriminations. I know the thought of seeing Lad—perhaps not whole—but with a functional lower jaw to ease his ability to live a “normal” life had a very strong pull. I also know that Lad, as collies and most dogs will, had adapted to his changed life. He could function with his lower jaw missing. I also know that EVERYTHING the veterinary staff at UC Davis learned while treating Lad will benefit another animal and will move them so much closer to being able to restore normalcy and functionality to another animal, and perhaps, translate into human medicine. However, I am still left with the question of just because you can do something, does that mean you should do it?

I just know that someone once said that there are very special angels here among us and they are borrowed angels. We are allowed only a brief moment in time with them, but they deeply touch our lives, our hearts, and our very souls. The last months of his life, Lad was showered with so much love, treated with so much gentleness and kindness, that those things are what made his spirit shine like a beacon in the darkness. I like to believe, that somewhere in that sedated state Lad was in for the last few hours of his life, he heard a Voice that called with love and compassion, cutting through the fog of sedation, “Lad, come.”

Lad ran to that Voice and crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be enfolded into the arms of the Creator.

And, for the very last time, I will write:
Good boy, Lad! Good boy.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Not so Completely

It’s supposedly summer here in the Midwest. All the signs point to it: my collies are supplying undercoat to line the sparrow nests, which I’m sure the mommy and daddy sparrows appreciate to give their little ones a warm, soft place to grow up; the trees are in full leaf; the grass is green (and DH is mowing once a week); the pool is open and the annual battle to get the algae out of the water after wintering has begun; the garden is in; and the mosquitoes, chiggers, and no-see-ums have returned in force due to a cool, rainy spring and so far the summer is following that trend, and I’m not looking at judging panels due to the fact all my collies are shedding.

Usually in the summer, I’m able to concentrate on getting at least the rough draft to two stories in place. Usually…so far this summer, I haven’t had the time to write. Now that I finally do, I’m not writing anything new. Instead, I’m gutting an older romance (the very first one I wrote lo these many moons ago) and completely reworking it so that I can submit it to my publisher. For more than twenty years, this romance has been titled Completely and has moved from my Brother Word Processor, to my first lap top and to every subsequent lap top. 

I had toyed with the idea of self-publishing that romance and decided I didn’t want to go that route.
Gutting and reworking that romance is harder than I thought. This is a couple that has been with me from the very beginning. It was into their world I escaped when reality became just too ugly to bear. When I was ready to give up on the dream of ever being a published author, it was their voices I heard, pleading with me not to let their story die untold. It was her love of Wyoming that I felt the first time DH and I went to that wild, open, harsh and beautiful land.

Because they make an appearance in both The Devil’s Own Desperado and my upcoming release Smolder on a Slow Burn I’ve known all along I will have to finally share their whole story. Harrison Taylor with his seeming inability to see any of the finer shades of gray and Rachel’s down-to-earth common sense combined with her indomitable and unflagging will to thrive are the cornerstone I’ve placed for a whole series of romances set in the town of Federal, in what was then the Wyoming Territory.

The hardest part of gutting and reworking their story was convincing both of them that I had to do this. When it’s been their voices, their story, I’ve carried with me for so many years, they have an annoying and unnerving tendency to start screaming at me when I change something that whatever I’m changing “Isn’t how it happened!”

While reworking their story, I realized I was starting it in the wrong place. I didn’t need the introduction of Jake Giles on the very first page. I could still show Rachel’s strength without Jake. When I rewrote that opening scene, I must have done it right, because both Rachel and Harrison were conspicuously silent in the back of my head. There was no mutterings, no exasperated sighs, no outbursts about that not being how the events unfolded.

I’m about halfway through reworking the entire story line and I realized that a pivotal moment can’t happen when it originally did. I wonder if they’re going to complain when I change that.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Bring Her Home

Can you imagine your worst nightmare involving one of your beloved dogs? How about your worst nightmare involving a beloved champion? What about your worst nightmare involving the very people who should have helped turn that nightmare into a happy ending?

A week after the collie nationals, the American Shetland Sheepdog Club held their national specialty in St. Louis, Missouri. A dog was lost while that specialty was underway. I’m not talking about the tri boy who got away from his people at Purina Farms, because that nightmare had a very happy ending. He was found about a week after the Sheltie Nationals—hungry, thirsty, a little thin and with a few hitch-hikers of the external parasitic types—but he is fine and is with his owner as I write. I’m talking about a dog which was left with a pet sitter in Ohio while her owner was in Missouri, got out of a fenced yard, was picked up by the local humane society, and was taken in after three days by a local breed rescue, run by a woman named Penny Sanderbeck.

Nightmare over for Piper and her owner, right?

WRONG!

This rescue, which was supported by the local specialty clubs, supported by the parent club, has refused to give Piper back to her rightful owners. Piper’s owner bred, whelped, and had Piper shown by a top handler. She tried to get Piper back and was stonewalled. She offered to present proof of AKC registration, offered to pay for a DNA test on Piper to prove Piper is indeed Piper, offered to have the handler who showed Piper to her championship identify Piper. Nothing was good enough for Penny. In desperation, Piper’s owner called friends in the area to try to get Piper. A mediator from the parent club attempted to get Piper returned to her owner—all to no avail.

Attorneys are now involved, or so it’s my understanding.

This whole situation is wrong on so many levels that it makes my head spin. Penny Sanderbeck has pulled down her web site, shut down her Facebook page, will not go to meet and greets—all because she said she has been “harassed” by people who want her to do the right thing and return Piper to her breeder/owner. Supposedly, Ms. Sanderbeck also stated that because of the harassment, she was not returning Piper. SAY WHAT???????

Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone contact Ms. Sanderbeck and try to convince her to return Piper. As a matter of fact, I am begging people NOT TO DO THAT! But, I am asking that you go to http://www.gofundme.com/941kuk and make a donation to Piper’s fund. None of us should have to mount a protracted and expensive legal battle to get one of our beloved dogs back from a rescue, not when that dog was positively identified through the use of a microchip (the shelter that held her for three days made an attempt—on Good Friday afternoon—to contact the veterinarian who implanted the chip and is Piper’s veterinarian), not when so many people were urging this “rescue” to do the right thing and return Piper, not when Piper’s owner was willing to undergo the expense of a DNA test to prove that was her dog.
If you want to read more about Piper and how these events unfolded (and hopefully will still unfold with a 
happy resolution for Piper and her breeder/owner), here are several links.

This was written by Animal Legal Resources, LLC in response to Piper’s theft  - https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=702894946438596&id=150005925060837&fref=nf

Article written by The Examiner regarding Piper- http://www.examiner.com/article/when-rescue-goes-wrong

Please keep Piper and her breeder/owner, Veronica Covatch, in your thoughts and prayers. If you can afford to, send Piper’s legal fund a few dollars. Every little bit helps. And pray that the legal system will get Piper back where she belongs. Veronica has waited long enough to get her baby home. This has gone on long enough.