Thursday, July 31, 2014

Letting Go

My heart was shredded today, left bleeding on a table, and then patched back up. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. Today, in Clay Circuit court, our guardianship of my beautiful grand-daughter came to an end.

We reached an agreement with Jade’s mom for visitation (very liberal, I will add because Jadie will be staying with us except for three days a week). This visitation will be written into the agreement and become an order of the court. Jadie’s mom, Ken, and I all agreed that until after Jadie’s father’s trial, her uncle D.J. will continue to pick her up on Tuesdays and take her to see her dad for half an hour and then D.J. and his family can spend time with Jadie.

Jadie’s dad was in the court room today, and let me tell you, it was horrible to see him in striped pajamas and shackled with a waist chain, hand-cuffed to that waist chain, and fettered around the ankles. I am in no way condoning what he has done—but, for a while there, he seemed to have his life in order. What made it so horrible was at no time did he ever once admit that where he was and the circumstances he found himself in were his fault, through his choices. He made promises that I’ve heard over and over in the past six years, promises to do better when he is released, promises to never put her in harm’s way…

And, I have to trust that Jadie’s mom will abide by the court order. A large part of me believes she will, because she does love her daughter very much and says she wants what is best for Jadie. Yet, there is so much broken trust between the two of us.


I’m just going to have to let go and pray. And, I’m not really good at letting go…

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chocolate Frosting by the Spoonful

I’m having a pity party. A full-blown, eating ready-made chocolate frosting from the container by the spoonful, moping, whining pity party…

Why the pity party? BECAUSE I CAN!

Seriously, because I can. Because my proverbial, literary hide should be a whole lot tougher and I really thought it was. Because when someone leaves a review on my Amazon page that leaves me scratching my head and asking myself if that reviewer even read the book, my first instinct is to rip into said reviewer with every weapon at my disposal, call them out into the middle of a dusty street and suggest they slap leather. (Unfortunately, that’s illegal and I really do not look good in prison jumpsuit orange—or any shade of orange, for that matter.) My second instinct is to curl up in a ball, whimper like a frightened puppy, and eat ready-made chocolate frosting from the container by the spoonful. My third instinct is to do what I do best, and that’s write. (Lemme finish this container of frosting, first.)

My hackles come way up when it’s suggested I ripped off the plot line of an old movie, even if it is a John Wayne movie, as much as I love The Duke. As any of my former students in college freshman composition will tell you, if I even think a paper is plagiarized, I’m on the war path and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul. For the record—here are the similarities between that John Wayne movie (Angel and the Badman) and The Devil’s Own Desperado. Wayne played a character named Quirt Evans. My character’s name is Colt Evans. Quirt is a shootist who gets shot and ends up at the home of a family of Quakers. Colt is a shootist who gets shot and ends up at the home of a young woman raising her younger brother and sister. (I wonder how many Western novels, romance or not, have an injured gunfighter showing up on the doorstep of the female protagonist. Oh, wait…it’s a standard trope of the genre, actually.) Both men hang up the iron by the end of the movie/book and stay with the female protagonist. End of the similarities. Quirt never agonizes over the decision to take up hanging onto a plow. Colt knows he can’t hang up his revolver because he knows that it’s a question of when and not if his past finds him and he not about to leave Amy and her younger siblings in the line of fire. There are no battles over water rights in my novel, I’ve got a young woman orphaned by gunmen raising her younger siblings, and her father was a gunman who hid his past behind a preacher’s collar. The only things quaking in my novel are aspen trees.

This reviewer also said that I was using idioms in the wrong context so that they meant exactly the opposite of what was implied. Riiiiiiiight…NO. I had two multi-published and highly respected Western historical writers read the final draft before I started to shop it to publishers. One of those writers has won the Spur Award twice and was short listed for the Pulitzer. She was checking my idiom usage and the slang of the period. I trust her judgment.

Oh, and the comment about needing an editor…maybe I should tell MY EDITOR at my publisher that I need an editor. She’ll probably get a chuckle out of that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have some chocolate frosting to eat before I go write my hero and heroine out of a particularly nasty situation.



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.


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