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Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

When it comes to dogs, I’m a certifiable nut. What can I say? I just love them! In the 39 years of married life, my husband and I have been the proud parents of four wonderful pooches. Fritz (officially Fitzgerald Oscar Longfellow), Corkie, Bandit, and now Sophie. In addition, we have two granddogs, Alfie and Nash. We also were very close to my mom’s dog, Jack, that passed away only a short time ago.

We believe in spoiling our pups. They sleep in our bed. They travel with us as much as possible. They have wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. They have middle names. We have professional portraits of them adorning our walls. Yes, we love our animals.

Just take a peek below. Aren’t they adorable?

Sophie
Jack

Why the post about dogs? What do these (or any other) dogs have to do with writing?

As writers, we’re told to ‘write what you know’. I know dogs, and I know country. So my stories will usually include (if not star) dogs and they will most often be set in the south.

My two newest middle grade novels are about children from the south. The most current one is about twelve-year old Eliza from the mountains of Kentucky and “stars” a dog named Bandit. This is not coincidence.

We had a precious dog, Bandit that was smart as could be. We had had him for several years when my hearing worsened and I qualified for a service animal. Our beloved Bandit went to school weekly (he did love the trip, training, and every hamburger) until he received his certification. We were devastated to lose him to cancer.

Bandit, our wonder dog

Back to writing. The first picture book I had published, The Best Baker in the World, had Bandit, the hungry dog next door, in it. I was fortunate to be able to meet with the illustrator, Glori Alexander, and request that she make the fictional Bandit resemble the “real deal”. She did a great job!

In the Mila Denton Chapter book series, first grader, Mila, has a dog named Alfie. Alfie is modeled after my granddog, Alfie. They have the same quirky personality (yes, every dog is unique!) I don’t recall if I requested that illustrator, David Barrow, draw Alfie like the real one, but it happened and cartoon Alfie looks like the real thing!

Back to my most recent work, For the Love of Bandit. In a nutshell, it’s about the love shared between a girl and her dog. That’s all I can say for now. I hope someday to see it on library shelves and in bookstores everywhere.

When you write, are you writing what you know, or are you able to write about places you’ve never been or random experiences? Great for you if you are able to do that. I haven’t mastered that ability. So for now, I’ll keep writing about my people and of course, dogs.

Snow Days

Is there anything better than a snow day? 

Beginning at a young age, I discovered a love for snow. In south central Kentucky, even a flurry would cause such a frenzy that school was canceled. And when we were actually blessed with a substantial snowfall, school could be out for days—or weeks! To make it even better, there’s snowball fights, snowmen, and snow cream, snow angels, and snow dogs (actually they’re just regular dogs like Sophie, Alfie, and Nash enjoying their doggy snow day).

I’m much older now and I still love snow, but for entirely different reasons. Snow brings the world to a grinding halt. It’s magnificent beauty literally lies all around like a weighted blanket of quiet and peace and calmness. It gives me a feeling that all is right in the world…at least in that moment. It’s like CHRISTMAS! 

Unfortunately, Oklahoma snow is here one day and gone the next. If you’re fortunate enough to have a snow day, enjoy it to the fullest. 

If you didn’t get a snow day, you missed all the fun! It’s only February. Maybe Mother Nature will give us another one before spring. My fingers are crossed!

Snow Cream:

  • 4 Cups fresh snow (avoid the yellow stuff!)
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract

Combine milk, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and pour over snow. Stir together until it reaches an ice cream consistency. You can add toppings if desired, but my philosophy is why mess with perfection? Enjoy!

Keeping a Journal

Journaling. As Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.” I’ve attempted many times over the years. For some reason, I never stick to it. 

I didn’t realize there are tremendous benefits to spending as little as five minutes, three times per week putting your thoughts or dreams on paper. People from all walks of life are journaling and quietly reaping the rewards.

Recently I enrolled in a writing class and the first assignment was to write in a journal a minimum of three times per week. Getting started was difficult, but after about six entries, it didn’t feel so intimidating. 

The top five reasons for me keeping a journal are: to boost memory and comprehension, to strengthen self-discipline, to spark creativity, to achieve my goals, and to solve problems.

Boosting memory and comprehension.  When you write something down, you’ve told your brain it’s important. It can be your hopes and dreams or something less exciting. Boosting memory and comprehension goes hand-in-hand with sparking creativity. 

Strengthen Self-discipline.  When you actually commit to writing in your journal (make an appointment if you have to), you are putting value to your writing. You’ve made it a priority. Not only for writing in your journal, but that same self-discipline can spill over into other aspects of your life. 

Spark Creativity. Writing in a journal the old-fashioned way (pen and paper) helps to spark ideas. There is a correlation between the hand and brain that typing on a keyboard does not capture. This is why many writers prefer to hand write their first draft. 

Many times, journaling drums up old memories and feelings. These can be bouncing-off points for that novel you’re working on. Once you start writing, the ideas seem to come at you more freely.  

Achieve Goals.  When you write out your goals, it’s like a plan of action. You know more about which direction to go to make it happen. You will discover what you are truly passionate about and pursue it.

Solve problems. Many times writing things down will help you to see the big picture. Maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought. Seeing your problems in written words may give you the courage to tackle problems head on. Maybe it will give you the will to forgive or to fight. Whatever the case may be, many therapists recommend journaling as a coping mechanism. 

These are only a few of the benefits of journaling. Other benefits are:  you may feel calmer, gain clarity, build empathy, decrease the symptoms of arthritis, counteract stress, and heal physically and psychologically. People from all walks of life are journaling. It’s the “in” thing. 

With so many wonderful advantages to keeping a journal, why would you NOT do it?

Happy journaling!

Frankenstein Lives!

When I was a much younger chick, my daughter and I traveled to Germany to see my husband who was serving in the U.S. Air Force. Four countries in two weeks is exhausting, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

One thing we saw was castles. Lots of castles. That entire region of the world was rich in history and nothing like I’d ever seen. When we saw Frankenstein’s Castle, I thought the name was intriguing. Since there was so much else to see, I really didn’t give much thought to Frankenstein’s Castle after that. It was almost like the episode in Chevy Chase’s Vacation where they visited the Grand Canyon. Nod and move on. Many other things to see.

Here I am twenty years later revisiting a memory that was jarred partly because it’s the Halloween season, and partly because I’d heard a snippet on the news.

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein was published. Mary was a mere twenty-one years old and the book was published anonymously. Five years later, the second edition came out with Mary Shelley’s name on the cover.

According to history and some folklore, Mary Shelley and her husband, a poet, loved hearing and telling spooky stories by the fire when they entertained. Their circle of friends challenged one another to write such a story. Only Mary completed the task and  Frankenstein was born! But how did she come up with the idea? As a writer, I know that’s a question that comes up frequently. Did she just “dream” it up or was it sparked another way?

It seems Mary Shelley and her husband had traveled through the region where Frankenstein’s Castle was. She may or may not have seen or visited the actual castle. There were rumors circulating about Conrad Dippel, born at the castle in 1673, a scientist (mad scientist perhaps). Dippel was the inventor of the color Prussian Blue. He had many other interests. It seems he experimented on cadavers attempting to transfer the soul from one to another. As well as playing with dead humans, he experimented on dead animals, and even had been said to have been a grave robber. All of the activities he participated in were done at Frankenstein’s Castle. Sounds somewhat familiar, huh?

Years after the book Frankenstein was published, Mary Shelley denied visiting the castle or hearing rumors of past goings on at Frankenstein’s Castle. Once again, as a writer, I know you have to be very careful about things. Sometimes you see something on television or you read something and it’s like a little seed planted in your brain. You don’t recall any knowledge of it coming from another source. It’s original to your thought process. Where Mary Shelley got the idea of Frankenstein is not relevant to me. What I am impressed with, is after TWO HUNDRED years, the story of Frankenstein is still going strong. It proves that if you have a good story, it will stand the time. As a writer, I’m waiting for my Mary Shelley story. I’m sure the royalty payments are totally different nowadays.

Happy Halloween and Happy Writing!

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