Friday, April 4, 2014

April is enough of a challenge....

A lot of my friends on their blogs are doing the “A to Z Blog Challenge.” In a nutshell, that challenge is for the month of April, every day except for Sunday, a blog post has to be written for each letter of the alphabet. While I would love the challenge, April is not a month that I would ever attempt this.

There’s a reason for my inability to commit to a blog post for 26 consecutive days—most years, the Collie Club of America national show usually falls in April. That means April is somewhere between totally insane and OMFG! I will never get everything done before I have to leave for wherever the nationals are held this year. I just can’t commit to that kind of time and at the Nationals, I often don’t even have time to call my DH until well after midnight. And, he just isn’t very talkative when I wake him from a sound sleep after the witching hour.

Speaking of the witching hour, this year at the Nationals marks a first for me. I’ve been involved with this incredible breed and the craziness which is dog shows for thirty-five years. I’ve campaigned dogs before, but I never got a dog into the top ten for the year—until this year. I came close several times: twice with a big, tri smooth dog named “Boots” who left HUGE paw prints on my heart when he went to the Rainbow Bridge, and once with a lovely blue smooth bitch who was known as “Magic” and she truly was magic. But this year, my boy Vander will be in the ring on Wednesday night  (April 9) under the spot-lights.

Vander, known officially as Grand Champion Bandor’s The Wyching Hour, finished 2013 as the # 6 dog—all systems. And, because Vander is going to be at the Collie Club of America’s national specialty show, it means I’ll be there, too.

All this means I won’t be on the internet much next week. I’ll try to log on to check e-mail, maybe do a cursory check of Facebook, but I won’t have time to blog daily, like the A to Z Challenge would require.
So, to everyone doing that challenge, I wish you luck. I’ll catch up on the blogs when I’ve recovered from five days of being immersed in the best the collie fancy has to offer, and four days total of driving to and from this show.

Have a great week and I’ll let everyone know how we did at the collie nationals.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Easter eggs, Disney, and smug eight-year olds

I admit it, I’m a total geek. Because I’m an English major, I look for deeper meaning and connections in works. And, I found one that I had a hard time believing and then my grand-daughter hit me with another one that literally blew me away.

We were watching Disney’s Frozen together yesterday afternoon (it's spring break, so we've been watching a lot of movies together) and Jadie suddenly yelled, “Gramma, look! It’s Flynn and Rapunzel!”

I laughed and said, “Right…” But, as skeptical as I was, I also know that Disney is great at hiding Easter eggs in their films. It’s one of those things that geeks everywhere love about movies—finding those Easter eggs. (Some time, I’ll have to blog about ALL the Easter eggs in Man of Steel, because boy howdy! are there a lot of them!)

She was insistent that she saw them, so I backed the DVD up and we went through the scene where she said she saw Flynn and Rapunzel, and danged if the kid wasn’t right! It sure looked like Rapunzel and Flynn from the back in the coronation scene for Elsa in Frozen.

After we watched Frozen, Jade said she wanted to watch Tangled. Being the ever so wonderful grandmother that I am, I agreed. (Hey, come on. It’s a very G rated romance, but it is a romance.) At the end of the movie, after Rapunzel and Flynn get married, it’s mentioned that the couple was going to Arendelle for their honeymoon.

SAY WHAT?

Jade and I looked at each other and her eyes were pretty big as she asked, “Gramma, do Flynn and Rapunzel know Elsa and Anna?”

Apparently in the Disney-verse they do. So, this morning, my tow-headed, brilliant grand-child comes into my bedroom at the crack of dawn and says to me, “Gramma, I’ve seen the boat that Elsa and Anna’s parents were in during the storm.”

I think I mumbled something about that being nice, that the ship reminded me of the Black Pearl, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. She then says, “Gramma, I was awake all night long thinking about Elsa and Anna and Flynn and Rapunzel. I know I’ve seen the King and Queen’s boat before.”

STOP! Back up. She worried about that all night long? 

Okay, in her universe, this was apparently very important. I woke up fully and asked where she thought she saw it. She informed me that it was NOT Jack Sparrow’s boat—“It’s a ship, honey, not a boat. If you call it a boat, you’re insulting her.” Add eight-year old rolling her eyes and stating “Whatever.”—but she knew she saw it somewhere.

So, I told her to give me five minutes to unfog my brain and we would go look on the Internet and see what we could find. We sat down at the computer, Jade in her footie jammies and me nursing a diet coke (I don’t do coffee), and I typed into the search bar “Frozen Easter eggs.”

The kid was RIGHT! She had seen that boat before. There are numerous web sites for the Easter eggs in Frozen that make the connection between Tangled and Frozen and…(drum roll please for my absolutely BRILLIANTLY observant grand-daughter) The Little Mermaid. The ship that Ariel explores in the beginning of The Little Mermaid appears to be the same ship that was carrying Elsa and Anna’s parents to Rapunzel’s kingdom for Rapunzel's return party and that carried Elsa and Anna’s parents down to their watery grave.

Does anyone have any idea just how smug an eight-year-old can be?



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Welcome to Cowboy Charm Blog Hop for Spring! Be sure to comment and enter for a chance to win some great prizes, including a gift certificate of over $75 to Amazon by using the rafflecopter form at the end of this blog. The form follows all the linky-links at the end of this blog.  


Ah, spring…after this winter, the tantalizing promise of warmer weather seems to be making a lot of critters—humans included, just a tad bit crazy. Spring means the changing of the season of hibernation and death into one of awakening and new life.

We have a very old horse. He is literally on borrowed time after last year in the fall when he choked three times in four days. When a horse is pushing thirty (as he was), losing most of his molars (as he had), choking is almost always a death sentence. Fortunately, even after posting a blog about having to say good­bye, The Old Man wasn’t ready to give up, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye, and my DH refused to give up on The Old Man as long as he was willing to keep fighting.

Fast forward a year and three months to this Monday morning. We were woken up by our neighbor beating on the front door. He’d been on his way to work and saw The Old Man in the neighbor’s front yard and he was down on his side and couldn’t get up.

I literally leaped out of bed when DH came into the bedroom to tell me what our neighbor told him. I pulled on my robe over my night clothes (a pair of cut off sweat pants and a tee shirt), grabbed my barn boots and raced out the door, hopping into my boots as I did. I found The Old Man exactly as the neighbor said, and The Old Man wasn’t trying to get up. He was breathing shallowly, in obvious extreme pain, and when DH examined him, said that The Old Man didn’t have any abdominal sounds. Anyone who has horses knows this is a very, very bad thing. The Old Man also had a massive hematoma over his right eye, swelling along his head on a line from his right eye to his ear and there was blood in his right ear. The Old Man was also profusely sweating in 20 degree temperatures. All of this added up to a horse that was not going to ever get up again.

DH insisted that I go to the house and get something warmer on and we needed to get The Little One ready for school and get her on the bus. I screamed at him that he was not putting The Old Man down while I was within ear shot, because he didn’t have enough euthanasia solution at the office to put The Old Man down. The only way to put The Old Man out of his misery would be to shoot him.

DH promised me he would not do that, and he would come to the house as soon as I came back in warmer clothes. He would get The Little One onto the bus. Unfortunately, The Little One saw me sitting on the ground with The Old Man’s head on my lap. It’s a lousy way to start the school week.

After the school bus went by, DH came back. I kissed The Old Man on the muzzle, wished him God speed, promised him I would see him at the Bridge and ran to my van and drove off.

When I got back, fifteen minutes later, DH’s pickup was in the driveway, so I knew The Old Man was gone. And little things started to nag at me. Like where was his blanket? He’d been wearing it when I checked on him and all the dogs in the kennel the night before. And, where in the sam hill was his halter? He didn’t have either on. I got to thinking that if he had gotten hung up on something so that he fought enough to get out of his halter and his winter blanket, he might have riled the collies up and I needed to make sure that the dogs had gotten into fights and torn one another up.

So, I went out to the kennel to check dogs and from the kennel I have a perfect line of sight into the barn. We leave the barn open so our free roaming chickens can wander in and out as they please. Standing in the barn, in all his ancient, aged glory, blanket and all, was The Old Man.
I turned around, ran into the house, grabbed DH, dragged him out to the kennel, pointed into the barn, and said, “Tell me I am NOT seeing a ghost.”

DH looked at me and when he could speak again, he demanded, “WHAT DAMN HORSE DID WE JUST PUT DOWN?”

The only thing we could figure was about two years ago, we boarded a horse that everyone who saw him said he was The Old Man’s twin by different parents. Sissy Boy and The Old Man are both Arab crosses, both are flea-bitten greys, both have identical snips on the ends of their muzzles, both have black leggings, both were born within months of the other in 1984, and both have a habit of sucking on fingers when they are scared, confused, or needing comforted. (The Old Man was a bottle raised baby and from what we knew of Sissy Boy, he had been weaned very young when his mother died of colic when he was about seven months old.) DH and I thought that it was Sissy Boy.

DH recovered enough to realize we still had to bury this dead horse, so he called someone we know with a back hoe. This person said he would be there between 11 and 11:30 that morning. At 11 AM, Mr. Back Hoe shows up and I showed him where the horse was. Five minutes later, he’s back, telling me that the 
horse isn’t there.

SAY WHAT?????

Nope. Dead horse is not where we left him. The tarp DH left over him was neatly folded up, the four large rocks DH put on the tarp to keep it from blowing off the dead horse were put on top of the neatly folded tarp.

When the neighbor who told us about The Old Man that morning came home from work, he stopped at our house to offer his condolences. DH told him there were no condolences to be offered, because The Old Man was still alive and fine. Neighbor Bob asked the same question DH did that morning. “What horse was that?”

We offered that it was Sissy Boy. Oh, no, it couldn’t have been Sissy Boy. He died last winter.

So, the mystery remains. . .One thing is clear. There was an animal in distress, he needed help, and we did the most humane thing we could for that horse.

Spring is the season of renewal, rebirth, and resurrection. The Old Man may not have died, but he certainly has been the recipient of several miracles.


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour

I want to thank Nancy Jardine one of the incredibly talented romance authors at The Wild Rose Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Nancy is the author of several fantastic romance novels. She writes both contemporary and historical, with a dash of mystery tossed in, just for good measure. 

Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

The first question I’m supposed to answer wants to know what I’m working on now. Currently, I’m working on a few things: one of which is the final edits for a western historical romance set after the American Civil War. The hero in this novel was a Confederate cavalry officer. A.J. Adams is probably the most honorable hero I’ve ever written but because he was accused of liberating a lot of Confederate gold, he’s been forced to don the mantle of a “bad boy.” Complicating matters for him is that he suffers from what would be termed PTSD if he were in a contemporary. The War did a real number on him. Fortunately for A.J., he’s got his equal at his side in the form of one Allison Webster.

I’m also working on the story for Marshal Harrison Taylor and the love of his life, Rachel. Harrison and Rachel made an appearance in The Devil’s Own Desperado and make an appearance in my soon to be released novel Smolder on a Slow Burn, A.J. and Allison’s story. I’m also tinkering around with a time travel romance and a romance set during the American Civil War.

I’ve often been asked why I write what I do and the simple answer is I write romance because I’m a hopeless romantic. Why do I write what I write is the second question in this blog tour. I write romances set in the American West, during the period of westward expansion because in a figurative sense, that’s where I grew up. I cut my television viewing teeth on syndicated reruns of shows like The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger, The Sisco Kid, The Virginian, and Rawhide. My mom was a huge fan of the television show Bonanza and both my parents were dyed in the wool John Wayne fans. If it was a John Wayne movie and it was on the television, it was being broadcast into our living room. I also grew up with the tales of the Knights of the Round Table, so to see the transfer of that code of honor from Arthurian England to the American West wasn’t that hard a stretch. I grew up with the belief that there was a code of honor among these knights of the high plains because I saw that code lived and acted on in all those syndicated Westerns I watched and in most of the John Wayne Westerns. A man’s word and a handshake were as binding as any contract. Respecting others (as far as the good guys went) was the norm. Women, children, and the elderly were treated with deference and accorded a greater degree of respect. A man was careful with his words. He took care of his horse. He did a full day’s work for the wage he was paid. These are all still good ideals to strive for.

Another question for this blog tour is to write about my writing process. Oh, dear…My writing process isn’t pretty. I usually bounce around in the manuscript, and I certainly don’t write in a linear process. Usually, a story takes shape with one pivotal scene that keeps playing in my head until I put it “down on paper.” And, from there, I have to create the rest of the story. Smolder on a Slow Burn actually started life as a contemporary romance, many moons ago. That didn’t work out so well, so I picked the hero and heroine up and dropped them into the middle of the Nebraska prairie, on a train, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Devil’s Own Desperado started life with one scene in Amelia’s kitchen, when Saul has found Colt’s Peacemaker and he’s pointing it at Colt’s heart. I build forwards and backwards from those pivotal scenes.

The one question for this blog that really made me think long and hard was how does my work differ from others of its genre. I think what I bring to the table that is different are two things: my complete love for the American West, namely Wyoming, and the accuracy that I use in the descriptions and in adding in historical detail. I have a master’s degree in English, but as an undergrad, even though I have a BA in English, I was also three credit hours short of a BA in history as well. I’m a historian. I love to research. It’s the small details that bring a story to life and authenticity to the story, allowing the reader to suspend disbelief while immersed in the world I’ve created in the pages of the novel. And, if I can share my love of Wyoming through the written word, so much the better.

Because this is a blog tour, let me introduce you to a few bloggers you need to check out.
The first is Christy: Originally from Southern Indiana, Christy Effinger now lives near Indianapolis where she teaches English at a community college.  She earned an MA from Indiana State University with a creative writing emphasis. Her novel Say Nothing of What You See is coming soon from The Wild Rose Press. Christy can be found on the web at: christyeffinger.tumblr.com.

Second is Maggie Wheeler: Maggie is a graduate of the Butler University MFA program and has had fiction published in Punchnel’s, Word River, and Indiana English.  She is an Instructor in the Department of English at Indiana State University where she teaches Advanced Composition and Creative Writing. Maggie resides in Terre Haute, Indiana with her “ultra-supportive husband” and three rescue dogs. She is also currently putting the final polishing touches on a novel she hopes to have published very soon. Maggie can be followed on the web at: http://maggiewheeler.me/

Last, but certainly not least, is Mindy Mymudes. Mindy has worked in a hazardous waste lab, where under the sign for the Right To Know law, was added: if you can figure it out. She’s been a metals tech, a bakery clerk, a professional gardener, taught human anatomy and ran two university greenhouses. Along the way she picked up a Master's Degree in Biology, specializing in the population genetics of an endangered plant. She is also a top breeder, handler, trainer of English springer spaniels, with three in the equivalent of the National Club's (ESSFTA) hall of fame. Every time she thinks she knows dogs, another dog comes along and proves her beliefs are totally wrong. Mindy’s YA novel George Knows features an egotistical magical basset hound named George who believes it's his duty to train and protect his 12-year-old Girlpup, a greenwitch named Karly. He and his Girlpup must solve a murder as well as save their park from being developed. George is the perfectly designed familiar for the job. Mindy can be found on the web at http://mudepoz.wordpress.com/.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Thunderstorms, Victorian houses, and ghosts

What a night! We hit 65 warm, wonderful degrees today—which in March or April would be just fantastic, but in February in central Indiana, it’s never a good thing. We had a line of strong storms come barreling through here right about nightfall. There were tornado warned storms all around us. Yes, tornadoes in February, in Indiana. Like I said, not a good thing. And, by morning, we’ll be at 30 degrees…much more like February weather.

We survived. The only damage that we seemed to have sustained was a few downed tree limbs. The power flickered for a moment but we never lost it. All the critters were battened down for the storm. The collies were all in the basement in their crates…all the wet, muddy, happy collies. We’ve had above normal temps for the past couple of days, and all that snow we’ve gotten in the last couple of weeks melted. Melted into big puddles…and most of the collies loved it. I have one who makes her own mud puddles in the summer by splashing the water from her bucket onto the ground, so she was in heaven with all the puddles in her kennel. (Dang, Dixie…do you have any idea how hard it is to maintain your coat if you’re constantly applying a layer of mud to it?)

On the other hand, I have a few collies that will go twenty feet out of their way to avoid even getting their sparkly white paws damp. Snape and Vander are the first two who come to mind. Snape is a gentleman and would NEVER splash in puddles. I’m still trying to figure out how it is that his grand-daughter Dixie is such a mud puppy. And Vander get his feet wet? Dear Dog, he might melt…There is a reason that Vander’s nickname is “Lavender Larry Princess Paws.”

Anyway, I was sitting in my office in the basement (in the dungeon, as my grand-daughter says) when the power flickered. I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a new line that The Wild Rose Press is shortly going to announce (and I’m not telling anything, so I’m not spoiling anything) when a scene to that idea I’ve been tinkering with flashed in my head.

Imagine a huge old Queen Anne style Victorian home, perched on a rugged cliff on the sea coast of Maine. She presents a very austere face to the world, built of local limestone and a dark slate roof. Her widow’s walk is on the third floor. She’s been turned into an upscale bed and breakfast, and on the first floor is one of the best mom and pop places for seafood for one hundred miles. The woman who has considered this grand old Victorian home all of her life is facing losing this place. And, the person who saves The Widow’s Walk (the name given to the B & B) is the one person that Victoria would rather never see again—the one who got away.

Originally, this was just going to be a straight up contemporary. Well, my Muse has other ideas—including a ghost or two. It was the storm outside that triggered this scene—with a ghost throwing things at the hero, including a few carving knives from the kitchen.

I’ve put myself on a deadline for this WIP. I’ve given myself until April 21st to finish the first, rough draft. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I need to figure out what the ghosts want…because one of them isn’t very happy.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lad a Dog

Just when I’m ready to throw the towel in on humanity, I’m very pleasantly proven wrong.

About a week ago around Owensboro, Kentucky, a dog was shot in the face. Shot three times, to be exact. He should have died from his wounds—from being unable to eat or drink. The brutal cold we’ve been having should have killed him. In the face of incredible odds, he survived long enough to be picked up and taken to an emergency veterinary hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. The Arrow Fund is assisting with his medical expenses.

No one knows who this dog belongs to and he was dubbed “Lad” because he’s a beautiful, sable and white collie. Collie people like myself who have seen him have speculated that this dog has a strong show pedigree behind him and that someone loved him very much because despite being shot, his coat was not matted. None of that matters to “Lad.”

What matters to him is that he is warm now, his wounds are being treated, he’s being fed (albeit with a feeding tube), that the humans he trusts aren’t hurting him, and in the face of the unspeakable abuse he suffered at the hands of another human that trust in humanity was not destroyed. He is still able to respond affectionately and positively to his caretakers, as exhibited by his willingness to put his paw into one of their hands. Granted, while this footage showing how damaged his jaw was from the gun shots is very hard to view, the trust and gentleness Lad shows softens that blow.

Right now, because of the damage to his lower jaw, he had to have it amputated. His recovery will be long, but there is hope that this brave, trusting, and sweet boy will make it. He can relearn to eat and drink. Collies are very resilient. And, this boy has a strong will to live. The latest report is that almost a day after his surgery he’s sitting up, trying to drink, and even wants to play.

When this story first hit my newsfeed on Facebook, the call went out to the collie world and we have responded—from all over the world. People that I know involved in this breed have opened their hearts, lifted Lad in prayers, and we’ve opened our wallets. I know some people who survive on what they make with a small business through PayPal have literally emptied their account for Lad and his medical expenses.
This is a breed that is sweet, trusting, loyal, and very generous. So are the vast majority of the people who love this breed and who share our lives with collies. That someone could so harm “one of our own” hurts all of us, and I know it’s made me hug my “furkids” a little tighter.


I know just yesterday I posted about the Last Chance Corral, a wonderful organization that saves as many nurse mare foals as possible. I’m not going to ask anyone to help with Lad’s expenses. Just go to the links. View the footage. Follow your heart. And, if you have “furkids”, give them a hug. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Last Chance Corral

I love horses almost as much as I love my collies. I follow Thoroughbred racing, not as avidly as I did some years ago, or even when I was a teenager, but I still follow Thoroughbred racing. Because I write western historical romance, and I own a horse that I trained by myself, I have to know a bit more than the average person would know about horses.

Even though there is a lot of glamor in what the public sees in Thoroughbred racing, there is a very ugly, dark underbelly to this industry. I’m not talking about the “catastrophic breakdowns” that occur on far too regular a basis where a green sheet is drawn around the fallen animal on the track and a merciful, humane end is achieved with a massive overdose of barbiturates, either.

I’m talking about the “nurse mare” industry and the foals that are left behind. A nurse mare foal is a foal which was born so that its mother might come into milk. The milk that its mother is producing is used to nourish the foal of another mare, a more “expensive” foal. Primarily these are thoroughbred foals, though certainly nurse mares are not limited to the thoroughbred industry. The foals are essentially by-products of the mare's milk industry. A thoroughbred mare's purpose is to produce more racehorses. A mare can give birth to one foal each year provided she is re-bred immediately after delivering a foal. Because the Jockey Club requires that mares be bred only by live cover, and not artificially inseminated, the mare must travel to the stallion for breeding and may be shipped as soon as 7-10 days after giving birth to a foal, but a period of 3-4 weeks is generally allowed.

In general there are a number of reasons why a nurse mare may be called upon.  Traveling is very risky for these newborn racing foals, and insurance costs are prohibitive for the foal to accompany the mother to the stallion farm. At this point a nurse mare is hired to raise the thoroughbred foal while the mother goes and gets re-bred. In order to have milk, the nurse mare had to give birth to her own baby. When she is sent to the thoroughbred breeding farm, her own foal is left behind. Historically, these foals were simply killed. Orphaned foals are difficult to raise and no one had tried to raise large numbers of them. These foals do have value, however, their hides can be used as “pony skin” in the fashion and textile industries, and the meat is considered a delicacy in some foreign markets (copied from http://www.lastchancecorral.org/foal-rescue).

Last Chance Corral is a non-profit rescue organization that tries to save as many foals as possible from the nurse mare industry. The only way to save the foals is to purchase them, and the foals cost between $200 and $400 each. Then, there is the cost of milk replacer, veterinary care, transportation costs, stabling, bedding, and later—feed costs.

Several of my friends on Facebook have had fund raisers to help Last Chance Corral. You can help, too. Go to their web page, found at Last Chance Corral. Read up on the work done here. If you feel so moved, help out with a donation. Even a donation as small as $5 can help.

I’m calling on all my fellow western historical romance writers and western historical writers to go check out Last Chance Corral. If we’re writing westerns, we’ve got horses in our novels. Even if we never name a single equine in our novel, we have these magnificent animals in our works. They carry our heroes, pull the wagons and stage-coaches and buggies of our characters. Let’s give something back to the animals that have so influenced our characters.

Support Last Chance Corral.