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Archive for the ‘Wild Beasts’ Category

It’s crazy how fast this year has gone.  And even crazier how fast Christmas is coming up.  If you, like me, are looking for a few last-minute gifts, here are some suggestions:

Beeswax candles from Three Sisters Farms.  We buy a pair or two of tapers every year at the end of the summer. When we burn them on those long, cold winter nights, I feel a bit as if we are conjuring back the sun.  They are beautiful and have a rich honey scent.  (Also, a gift of honey to go along with the candles would not be remiss.)

Soap by Red Antler Apothecary.  I’ve become obsessed with their root beer soap.  It smells exactly like the drink, and puts me in a good mood whenever I use it. It’s cheerful and happy, and who couldn’t use something like that to start their day?

Books.  Of course books make the best gifts!  (You were thinking I’d say something else? Come on — this is a writer’s blog.)  This year, for your dystopian-obsessed teen, check out The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.  First in a trilogy, it’s the smart, fast-paced story of star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a war. For your middle-schooler, I can’t say enough good things about David Barry’s The Worse Class Trip Ever and The Worst Night Ever. They are hysterically funny and at the same time absolutely gripping.  Finally, for the adult thriller junkie, consider Go-Between by Lisa Brackmann.  (Admission — this is the sequel to Getaway, which I have not read but have heard very good things about. You are probably better off starting there.) It’s an intelligent and all-too-realistic look at for-profit prisons, drug laws, and politics, with plenty of suspense to keep you turning pages and a tough talking female protagonist who may just have you believing in conspiracy theories by the end of the story.

So there — my gift to you.  (That and the picture of the Slobbering Beast.  Many, many cookies were involved in the taking of this photo.)

Happy Holidays!

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Photo by the awesome Kevin Harkins.

 

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Happy almost Halloween!  I have all kinds of treats here, and very few tricks, I promise.

all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-197x300First, I’m over today at Writer Unboxed, interviewing the talented Bryn Greenwood about her novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.  Bryn is the kind of writer who takes my mind, turns it inside out, stretches it, gives it a good beating, then puts it back together so it’s never quite the same.  Her books aren’t what I would call easy reading, but they shake me up and make me think.  I’d love it if you would stop by and check her out.  (And there may or may not be a picture of her own Slobbering Beasts there too.  Just sayin’.)

51h9kbdnbjlNext,  I am sooooo happy to announce that Author in Progress, a book to which I contributed a chapter, is available for sale.  It was spearheaded by the lovely and amazing author Therese Walsh, who is a cofounder of the Writer Unboxed site.  Over the years she’s managed to pull together a tribe of writers who are supportive, kind, and just plain fun to be around.  If you are a writer in any way shape or form, published or not, the group is one of the nicest and most drama-free I’ve ever known and well worth checking out.  As is the book.  (See my subtle plug there?)  And if you aren’t a writer, but know someone who is, I promise the book makes a lovely gift.

Finally, Monday is Halloween.  So I couldn’t let this post pass by without at least one trick.  Which I played on the poor Slobbering Beast, who will be confined to his crate that evening so as not to lose his doggy mind during the constant ringing of the doorbell.  (And also to avoid any surreptitious snacking on stray candy bars.  Hey, a dog can dream.)

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Totally Johnny Depp.  Okay, maybe Johnny after a few beers.

 

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Hi there!  I’m over at Writer Unboxed, talking about a topic that is very dear to my heart — how to create readers and read more yourself.  (Hint:  It has nothing to do with balancing books on your head.)  Please stop by and let me know what you think!

 

harleybook

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I never used to have gray hair.  Or wrinkles.  Or a loud voice.  I do not blame these things on age.  I blame them on the little being who came to live with us almost 10 years ago.  The one who likes to jump off tall lifeguard stands (resulting in a knocked-out filling), run helter-skelter down the stairs (resulting in a scar on his chin) and bomb along on uneven pavement at 100 miles an hour.  (That’s the scar over his upper lip.  We like to pretend he plays hockey to explain it.)

You know, the little being with the Y chromosone.

We had a pretty quiet life, my daughter and I.  We read books, and took long walks, and painted and colored and managed to do all those things with a lovely stillness.  Sure, we got rowdy once in a while — who doesn’t — but we are both on the introverted side, so the rowdiness never lasted for too long before we’d settle down on the couch, cuddled under a blanket, to snuggle and look at our favorite stories.

And then — BAM — I had a boy.  And almost every day since he learned to talk, and then walk, life has been a big adventure.  He’s an extrovert, as wiggly as a puppy, and he loves to sing and whistle and in general just MAKE NOISE. Even when we are doing a quiet activity.  Which — surprise surprise — is actually no longer quiet.

He also likes to push the envelope. A lot. And he’s good at it.

There are days when I wake up and tell the universe I’ve grown quite enough spiritually, thank you. I don’t need any more parenting lessons.

And then I went to the Writer Unboxed Conference last week, which was chock-full of good writing advice by luminaries such as Brunonia Barry, Lisa Cron, Donald Maass, Ray Rhamey and Heather Webb. Meg Rosoff was there too, leading a class on voice, but all of her writing advice was lost on me after one of her comments.

She was talking about being true to yourself, even if that’s hard for other people to understand.  Meg is funny and brash and the kind of person you want to just sit and listen to — like very few people around. Then she said that her mother, who is in her 80s, still gets upset when Meg does something she doesn’t like.  She’ll say ‘You always have to do it your own way, don’t you?’

And Meg looked at the class and said “What other way should I do it?  I’m me. Of course I’ll do it my way.”

Those words hit me so hard I couldn’t think of anything else for the rest of the class. Because I’ve had that conversation with my exuberant boy more times than I care to admit.   But of course he’d do it his own way — what other way should he do it?  Mine?

Well yes, sometimes.  In matters of major safety. And public good manners.  But the rest of the time, why should I expect a nine-year-old boy to do something the way a (insert age here) adult should?

My kid is funny, and outgoing, and so energetic there are days I’d like a nap by 8 a.m. He’s the polar opposite of me in almost every way.  He has a huge heart, and a huge imagination, and every single day he stretches me as a person and as a parent.  Sometimes that stretching is painful. Sometimes, by not accepting my ‘no’ or ‘you can’t’ he makes me think about why I said no in the first place, what my answer is based on, and who it is benefiting. Sometimes he drives me to distraction and to a glass of wine.  But always, always, always, he drives me to be better — even if it’s because I wasn’t my best that day.

I want my kids to be individuals when they grow up.  I want them to think for themselves, to contribute to society, to be good parents and good citizens and just all around good people. I want them to figure out how to make the world better by seeing it in a way that no one else before them has — with their own eyes and their own hearts.  But to do that, they have to discover themselves, and discovery is an ongoing process — it doesn’t begin at age 21 when they move out of the house.

It begins now.  By doing things their own way. And sometimes as a parent, that means getting out of the way and letting them.

self portrait

self portrait

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Remorse.

Remorse.

A few days ago, a friend and I met up for a hike.  Just before the trail entrance, we heard a weird noise, like the commotion of a bunch of chickens.  We stopped, tried to locate the sound, couldn’t, and continued on.

The Slobbering Beast was with us, and it’s been a bit since he was on a trail.  He was excited, bounding in giddy circles. He was even more thrilled when two other dogs showed up.  Since I didn’t know them, I put him on leash and called for their owner.   No one appeared.  We waited awhile, the dogs wandered off, and The Beast, my friend, and myself  got back to hiking.  Since we were heading into an area where there’s a lot of wildlife, I kept him on the leash and we jaunted along quite successfully until almost the end.  When the two dogs appeared again.

Still ownerless, but with something white and fluffy between them.

Yep.  A (recently dead) chicken.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of seeing his potential pals, the smell of blood, the sight of something soft and fluffy, or a combination, but The Beast lost his mind.  He hurtled a small bush and dashed into the undergrowth. He scraped through plants that might have been poison ivy.  He bumped up against several small rocks.

And since I was still holding the leash, so did I.

By this time I was prone, surfing the ground on my shoulder.  My friend was yelling, The Beast was still gallumping happily away toward the dead chicken, the two other dogs were barking a bit, and a single thought went through my mind.  Let go, you fool.  Let go.

So I did.

It’s hard for me to let go — of work that’s not working, of friends who are no longer friends, of emotions that are not serving my best interests.  So every now and then, the universe likes to remind me in the most physical way possible to move on.  It happened with riding — letting go can sometimes mean the difference between a good, clean fall and a bad fall where you get tangled up with the horse and gear — and now, since I’m not currently riding, the universe has apparently tapped The Slobbering Beast as a stand in.

I can’t control the loose dogs or the dead chickens life may throw at me.  Some days, I can’t even control The Slobbering Beast.  But I can control my response, and hanging on to something that’s not working mostly only hurts me.

Sometimes, as the song that’s playing everywhere these days says, you have to let it go.

 

 

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Lately when riding, I am a hot mess. (That’s the technical term.  The actual term used by my instructor is unprintable here.) There are so many things going on — my seat isn’t balanced, my legs slide forward, my knees are jammed up against the knee roll, my reins get floppy — hence, the hot mess. (In fairness to my past riding self, it’s not all bad all the time — but compared to how I used to be, it certainly feels that way.)

This week, my instructor brought me back to basics.  She took a long whip, threaded it between my elbows and behind my back, and told me to keep it there while cantering.  Lean forward and hunch your shoulders toward your ears (my favorite riding position, apparently) and the whip pops out. Humiliation galore. (And an exciting ride if it happens to hit your horse on the way down.)

It’s an old trick, but it worked.  To keep the whip in place, I had to roll my shoulders down and lean back. Which centered my seat. Which fixed my leg. Which got my hands out of my lap and improved the way I held the reins.

One small change, and everything fell into place.

Writing is like that too.  Looking at an entire manuscript is overwhelming and can make you feel like a failure.  But if you pick just one thing to work on — your dialogue, for example, or the way you transition between scenes — one of two things will happen:

Either you’ll fix the main problem, and everything else will snap into place, or…

You’ll find out you have more work to do.  Which isn’t the end of the world, I promise.  It just means picking the next one thing. Fixing that. And moving on.

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(And if you’ve read this far, here’s a reward — one of my favorite riding videos is at the end of this page.)

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We had a chance to take a last-minute trip last week, to Ireland. When we were lucky enough to go two years ago, I had plenty of advance notice. That meant I checked out the six-disc audio book on Ireland’s history, signed us up for online Irish lessons, collected movies on Irish culture, and basically created a home school Irish program with which to torture my children.

This trip, there was no time for any of that, so I tried a quick review.

Me to Boy: What do you remember about Irish history?

Boy to Me: Hmmm. Well, when they weren’t fighting everybody else, they were trying to kill each other.

Me: Good enough. Let’s go!

So with that and a Dia dhuit, we were on our way. And you know what? We had a great time.  Maybe we didn’t see every castle and museum in a 25-mile radius of where we were staying, but we saw enough, and we had fun.

My husband booked a trail ride for me. The day I was supposed to go, it poured. Absolute buckets. So the instructor suggested we do a private lesson inside.  She asked if I’d ridden before (I had) and wanted to know what I’d done.  And about fifteen minutes later, she was saying things like

Instructor: “Okay!  Pick up the canter at the letter F!”

Me: “I haven’t cantered in years!”

Instructor: “That’s great!  Canter now, please!”

And so it went.  Every time I said I hadn’t done something in years, she would give a perky reply and tell me to get on with it, and in no time at all I found myself facing a two-foot jump.  Which doesn’t SOUND very high, but when you are sitting on top of a large animal and you’ve just realized there’s no seat belt, it’s more than high enough.

But here’s the thing:  My brain was making little gabbling noises in the back of my head, but my body remembered.  My body was saying things like “Shut up. We can do this,” and shortening reins and lifting my butt out of the seat. And when I shut down my brain and just moved, didn’t think, everything went surprisingly well.

As writers, we live a ridiculous amount of time in our heads. For me, that means not just when I’m writing, but when I’m living, too — I’m always analyzing everything, teasing apart whatever meaning could be hidden in a conversation, a glance, a silence. This habit can get in the way — of creating, of relationships, of simply living. Sometimes, we need to tell our brains to shut up and get out of the way.  It’s a lesson I need to be reminded of again and again, and when I am, whether by design or by accident, I’m always amazed at how present I feel, how sharp everything seems, and often, how much fun I (and those around me) manage to have.

Tell me — how does your brain get in the way? And what are your tricks for shutting it down?

Tall horse

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I have terrible muscle memory.  Ages ago, the first several times I tried aerobics, I always went left when everyone else went right. When I rode, my biggest fear was rarely the size of the jumps — it was doing them in the wrong order. (From personal experience, I can tell you there are few more humiliating experiences then being alone in the arena and having the buzzer sound with someone yelling “OFF COURSE!” Not that that ever happened to me.  Ahem.)

On the flip side, once I get that memory, I have it for years. (Seriously. Anyone want to see my step aerobics routine from the 1990s?) Writing is a bit like that, too.  If I can get my butt in the seat, if I can doodle around for a 45 minutes or so, the words start to come without my thinking about them. My fingers and my brain wake up and remember what to do so long as I stay out of their way.

These days, I’m trying to instill a different kind of muscle memory.  I sit by my children at night, taping together a Halloween costume, hearing them recite Spanish phrases, helping with new math. I do this not because I am so enamored of new math (which is different from the new math I had as a child, which must now be old math and is still ghastly) but because I’m hoping that I can instill in them, in their minds and their hearts and in their very muscles themselves, how much they are loved. I want them to remember without even thinking about it, to simply know it the way their lungs know how to breathe, so that when our relationship isn’t as simple, when the questions are so much harder than  How do you say cold in Spanish? and What is the lowest common denominator?, their bodies will remember what their brains may not.

Does muscle memory come easily to you? When is it useful?  And if you have time, check out this gorgeous video which includes footage of my riding crush David O’Connor almost going off-course at the Sydney Olympics.  (It happens around minute 13, but the whole video is worth a watch.)

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Sun and shadow

Sun and shadow

Today was the first day of school, and it’s tradition for me to drop off the kids and then bawl my eyes out. Three years ago, when my son transitioned from kindergarten to first grade, I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot. The second grade teacher on parent duty had to pat me on the shoulder and tell me to keep my sunglasses on so I wouldn’t upset the students.

But today I didn’t cry. Part of that is because the schedule is different this year: My son actually started school last week, and my daughter was with me when we dropped him off.  (At his specific request, I did not exit the vehicle.)

“You’re not going to CRY, are you?” my daughter asked from the back seat, a sweet combination of comfort and amusement. So I put my sunglasses on, swiped away an errant tear, and spent the day enjoying her company instead of my usual first day ritual, which is to take myself off to the hill where I hike.  That day, when her brother started school, the girl and I were talking about something in the future. And I said, without thinking “That will be six years. Right around the time you start college.”

“Six years,” she echoed, and we looked at each other, a bit aghast. More than two-thirds of my time with her is through — it was light years ago that she was a six-year-old, starting school herself, and light years beyond that a tiny newborn, when what seemed like unending time spooled before us.

But today it was her turn to start school, a new place where I know she will be happy, since I have researched it as only an over-protective, ex-reporter can do. And still it was more than bittersweet, dropping her off at the door where she’ll spend most of her waking days, in a sea of teachers and other students I may only ever come to know by name.

“You’re not going to CRY, are you?” she asked from the back seat, amused and a little panicked. “Because if YOU cry, I’ll cry.”  And so I put on my oversized sunglasses once more and assured her I would not cry. I offered to walk her in on this first day, and she was willing to let me, but the boy was bellowing “GO GO GO! She’ll be fine! I have to get to school too!  Don’t cry!” And so I let her go.  I drove off, watching in the rear view mirror as we moved away from each other, she growing smaller and smaller in the distance.

And then I took the boy to school, where we met up with one of his friends, and they played ball in the back seat until it was time to go in.  And then at last, in the sudden silence, I drove to my hill. There are other places that are more beautiful,  that offer a longer trail or a more scenic one, but this spot is so tightly wound into the fabric of my children’s childhood that there is no other place for me on days when I need peace or comfort. In my mind the hill is always the green of springtime, with short new grass and robins overhead. And today, my first time there in several months, that picture is what I was expecting.

But of course it was different. It’s September now, not May. The grass is high, almost to my chest, turning brown along the edges, ready for mowing.  The tall grass tunnels in, narrowing your options, making it more difficult to choose another way.   In past years I’ve run to the top, but today I took my time, winded by the humidity and a summer spent choosing beach walks over pounding along the sidewalks. It was supposed to rain, and half the hill was cast in shadow. When I reached the top, I sat and thought about all the times I’ve done this route, and how often I’ve had a baby or a toddler or small child along with me.  And I might have shed a tear or two then.

But it is hard to be melancholy with a dog, especially one who has had to be polite and on-leash for most of the summer and suddenly finds himself with room to run. The Slobbering Beast stretched out his legs and spronged through the tall grass like a rabbit, urging me on with friendly persistence until at last I got up and took the path toward the woods, the trail curving along ahead of us, dark and mysterious, with secrets of its own for us to discover just around the bend.

Happy Beast

Happy Beast

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For someone who hates being cold, I love winter hiking. There are no ticks or mosquitoes to contend with, no vicious horse flies, no gasping for air in the humid New England summer. Often, particularly if the weather is unpleasant, the Slobbering Beast and I can go for miles without seeing another human soul.

There’s a short hike I love to do in the winter.  In summer, the trail runs alongside a narrow, muddy stream.  Clouds of insects buzz about it, extracting bits of flesh in exchange for passage. In warm weather we go early and quick or we don’t go at all.

But in winter, the scene is completely different. There’s no rush, no hurry, so long as we’re out of the woods by dark. The downside, of course, is that this is New England, and the same weather that keeps the blood-sucking pests away has its own hazards. Ice and snow, sleet and cold, can make for treacherous footing. The most challenging section of the trail winds upward, through the pines and the birch, and runs along a small cliff. At the top, it weaves between two large boulders, skittering down among rocks and tree stumps until it meets level ground.

In summer, the path is a fun challenge, requiring just enough effort to make my heart race pleasantly. But in winter, the way is harder. What looks like secure ground is often no more than dried leaves covered with a dusting of snow.  Step too hard, put too much weight in the wrong spot, and you’ll find your feet flying out from underneath you. Going uphill, a fall may bruise your pride. Downhill, the stakes are a little higher.

There’s an alternative, of course. I could not hike at all, could traipse about my neighborhood, doing laps and logging miles. Or I could take a different path, a safer one, a path that has neither the highs nor the lows of this one. But the view from the top feeds my soul with joy, and the view from the bottom reminds me of my accomplishment, my tenacity and my strength. And so there is no other choice, not really, but to kick the toe of my 10-year-old hiking boots into the soft snow, scrape out a foothold, and hope that it holds.

For me, writing is like that these days. I’m not a ‘baby’ writer, not just starting out anymore. I know how high the hills are. My time might be better spent, more profitably spent, finding another type of writing. There are other calls on my time — family and friends, jobs and responsibilities, any one of which has more ‘real’ claim to how I spend my hours. There are book stores closing, publishers merging, a once staid landscape turning unstable. Step wrong, and who knows what will come plunging down next?

But just as nothing else gives me the same joy as tromping through the woods on a snowy afternoon, nothing else feeds my soul like writing. When it goes well, when the black lines on the page turn into words that turn into sentences that turn into a real, true story, there’s nothing else quite like it. And so, even though the path is no longer smooth, even though it’s turning cold, I’ll keep kicking into the snow for a toehold, no matter how small, I’ll keep climbing upwards, one step at a time.

it may not look like much, but in winter it's my own personal Cliff of Insanity.

it may not look like much, but in winter it’s my own personal Cliff of Insanity.

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The only one more joyful about winter hiking than me is the Slobbering Beast.

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Snow Day!

I'm sticking my tongue out at the snow too...

I’m sticking my tongue out at the snow too…

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It snowed here last week — crisp and white and heavy. I’d planned for a snow day and finished  my work early, but the kids wound up having school.  And so I found myself with several whole hours and nothing (besides laundry! writing! dinner!)  to do.  I decided to play hookie and go for a hike.

Near the preschool where my children went is a parcel of conservation land. When the kids were little, I knew it well. The school was just far enough, and the program just short enough, that most days it didn’t make sense to go back home after I’d dropped them off, so I spent many of those two-hour segments wandering the trail.

I still hike there from time to time, but almost always the shorter loop — the longer one requires a time commitment I’m rarely free to give. Last week,  it felt almost sinful to start down the longer path, but I did.

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My, what big footprints!

The trails have changed since my children were little — the conservation organization has added new paths and extended old ones. The snow had covered the way in several places, and I had to backtrack until I found the right direction. And then I found a pair of footprints leading off on their own, through a part of the woods I hadn’t visited before.

I was hiking by myself. Normally I have the Slobbering Beast for company. He’s an ideal companion — an 80-lb missile of muscle with Orca jaws and white shiny teeth, ready to have my back if required but a waggle-bottomed enthusiastic greeter of the toddlers and their parents we sometimes encounter. He’s also my personal GPS.  He can find a trail in any condition, and is a stickler about staying on it. (Unless there are bunnies, in which case deviations are allowed.) But even the most handsome Beast occasionally needs to be bathed, whether he wants to be or not, which is why I was on the trail and he was getting his nails cut.

So when I saw the footsteps, I hesitated. I worried whether I would be able to find my way back. I wondered who I’d encounter on my own, with no Beast by my side. But the woods were lovely, dark and deep, and I had no promises to keep that day. Except to myself, so I stepped off the path and wandered away.

And it was lovely.  Peaceful and quiet, aside from the ice and snow falling from the trees, shattering into a handful of sparkles when they hit the ground. There were deer tracks, raccoon prints, and disturbingly large dog-like tracks that appeared on their own and disappeared down a little gully, but the only human prints were those that I’d followed into the woods. And then they veered up, toward where the trees broke along the meadow, but I continued on, along the hint of the path ahead, which curved and double-backed and eventually met up with the main trail, at the exact spot at which I’d meant to be. But the way I’d gone this time was so fresh and new to me, I was able to see it with clear eyes, and so the journey was completely different than it might have been.

Writing is like that. Sometimes you have to break away from the known, from the carefully constructed outline you’ve made, and follow that hint of inspiration where it takes you. It may get lonely. You may come across something that disturbs you. But the journey will be your own.  It will be unique, and it will be what your reader remembers, even if you end up in the exact same spot you’d intended all along.

The end.

The end.

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Max had it easy....

Max had it easy….

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A very bright kid I know likes to share what he calls the “irrelevant statement of the day” every time I see him. I’m stealing the phrase and using it here, because this blog post is a digression.  Today I’m not talking about writing or kids — I’m talking about killer whales.

Okay, it’s not TOTALLY irrelevant.  There is a book involved — Death at Sea World, by David Kirby. I am obsessed with this book.  I have read it twice in the past month.  It is a history of killer whales in captivity, specifically at Sea World.  It looks at whether keeping giant-sized, intelligent,  highly social animals in the equivalent of bathtubs is humane or crazy-making,  and it details not just the attack that killed trainer Dawn Brancheau, but also a host of other, lesser known incidents, some of which also resulted in death.

Here’s why I’m fascinated. For over half my life I’ve been around big animals.  Not orca big, true, but the Slobbering Beast is the first pet I’ve had in 13 years that didn’t top out at over 100 pounds. I’ve trained big dogs, shown them, loved them, and been concussed by them. And that’s just the dogs.

I’ve also had horses. And since I wasn’t gifted with a million dollar trust fund, I learned about horses the way lots of young women do — by saddling up whatever I could afford. That included a mare that fell asleep on me in the cross-ties and nearly broke my back, another that liked to jump paddock fences in the middle of a lesson and gallop the hills, a former stallion who tried to mount any mare that stood still on a trail ride, and a gelding who, when he wasn’t kicking you across stalls, was doing a credible imitation of a bucking bronco. Not only would he throw you, you had to ride with someone else on the ground at all times because once he got you off, he came back around to finish the job.

(True story: I took the bronco to a horse whisperer-type  clinic, and after we got him saddled and into the ring, the poor cowboy who had to ride him turned to me with the most mournful gaze ever. “You tiny women,” he said. “You always bring me either the nastiest horse or the biggest one.  You tiny women will be the death of me.”)

I rode like this because I was young, foolish, and loved what I was doing. At yet, aside from a few truly bone-headed choices I’d prefer not to share, I have always, always kept in mind that these animals were exactly that — animals.  I wore a helmet and sometimes a safety vest. I carried a crop and used a bit. Because much as I loved every horse, my instructor had taught me there would be days when he or she would not want to do what I was asking, that it would go against the animal’s personality , its nature, or simply its mood.  And that my safety could depend upon my being prepared for that refusal.

I teach my kids the same thing — to love animals, but to respect their nature. Much as you love the Slobbering Beast, remember he is a beast. Don’t stick your face too close to his, don’t put your hand in his mouth, don’t put yourselves in a position where your safety depends on trusting him to do the right thing.  Because the right thing to you and the right thing to him may be completely different. 

These trainers — the people who got in the water with the orcas — were also often young and deeply in love with the animals and what they were doing. But they don’t call orcas “fluffy bunny whales” — they call them killer whales. Whether the name is a misnomer or not, the fact remains that — unlike domesticated dogs and horses — these are wild animals.  They do not share our history, and they do not share our element.

And that is why although I am awed by the courage of the trainers who entered the water with orcas, I am also flabbergasted by the hubris that made people think we could control the outcome.  In Kirby’s book, in case of an attack the orcas are trained to return to the side of the pool when a trainer slaps the water with her hand or sounds a specific underwater tone.

I once held the number nine  spot in the entire country for obedience in my breed (my father used to like to point out that probably only nine competed). I’m a decent trainer.  And yet  I can’t guarantee a reliable recall on the Slobbering Beast a hundred percent of the time. Would I trust my life — or my children’s lives — on my ability to call him to heel when he’s chasing a squirrel or removing the drain pipes from the house? Not bloody likely. And yet that was the extent of the orca trainer’s arsenal in an emergency — the simple hope that this wild, intelligent animal would always do what it was being asked to do.

Apparently OSHA agrees that hope alone doesn’t create a safe working environment. In OSHA versus Sea World, the government agency ruled that a slew of safety measures would be required for future trainer/orca work.

I think orcas are beautiful.  By all accounts, they sound intelligent and social. But after seeing videos like this, would I want to get in the water with one?

Would you?

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I am behind today. There are many reasons, including the holiday weekend (in the US Monday was Columbus Day) and the fact that someone was Put Out about having to run in almost rain conditions. Can you tell?

The Slobbering Beast does not care for damp.

Instead of rocketing along at near-heart attack pace, we took a more leisurely approach today. Which was wonderful for my lungs, but not so great for time management. So I am asking you to go and play with these links, and I’ll be back next week with a real post.

What does your brain look like on Jane Austen? NPR finds out.

Are you a gritty writer or reader? My friend Vaughn Roycroft asks the question over on his blog. (My answer: Not so much. The world is a pretty gritty place already, and I try not to add to it. My reading exception is John Sanford, whose Prey books and hero are awfully gritty but very compelling.)

Can changing your genre change your career? Newly repped author Kell Andrews thinks so.

And finally, what causes a published author to disappear? (Besides grumpy Slobbering Beasts and poor time management skills?) Find out here. (Link stolen from the wonderfully readable Jan O’Hara.)

Happy Reading!

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Years ago, when we lived in Connecticut, our house overlooked  a meadow.  It was wide and grassy and bordered a copse of trees, the perfect habitat for birds.  We’d put up a large bird house to attract purple martins, because we also had mosquitoes the size of eagles.  And then one day when I was working at my desk, a flash of blue at the edge of the yard caught my eye.  It was brighter than a jay, slightly larger than a chickadee, and with a breast as bright red as a robin’s.  I’d never seen a bluebird before, but my handy Audubon guide confirmed what this cheeky visitor was. Within a few days, he’d moved into the bird house.  And then he brought friends.

Over the summer months, I counted at least four male blue birds.  It was an excess of excitement — they’d swoop around the garden, like fat little fairies who’d fallen into a vat of dye. My birding friends were amazed and impressed — until the bluebirds discovered my car.

Back then, we had a one-car garage, and my husband, because he commuted, had dibs on it. My vehicle, an enormous SUV, hulked in the patch of gravel off to the side.  Because I towed a horse trailer, the SUV had oversized side mirrors. One of the bluebirds discovered it and, convinced his reflection was a rival, would sit and scold all day long.  Of course, while he was chattering, he also pooped — a lot.

For weeks I would show up at gatherings, the right side of my car brilliant white with bird poop.  I suffered through more than my fair share of “Don’t let the bluebird of happiness crap on your car jokes’ until I came up with the bright idea of taping  brown paper sandwich bags over the mirrors.  This worked fine, so long as I remembered to take them off before I got in the car — otherwise I was liable to take out a mailbox or two. The bluebird of happiness had turned into a big fat pain in the rear.

When we moved to our new house, I set up a feeding station almost immediately.  We brought our old bird houses, too — the ones supposed to be too big for bluebirds — and lo and behold, the bluebirds followed us here. I knew they weren’t the same birds, but it was comforting, when everything was new and strange, to have those bright flashes of blue outside my window.

And then one summer, the bluebirds stopped coming. In early spring, when they usually start checking out the houses, the garden remained empty.  I didn’t see a single bluebird – until I happened to take a walk down the street one afternoon.  There, in my neighbor’s yard, a pair of the pint-sized chirpers sat on a nesting box, one built specifically for blue birds.

I was crushed — they’d abandoned me! I immediately forgot all the bad words I’d said about them and set about trying to woo them back.  Now my neighbor and I engage in a friendly rivalry for who can attract the most nesting couples. (Friendly enough that he even gave me two nesting boxes of my own.) I spend a crazy amount on bird food, but it’s worth it — I had a mated couple of my own last year that laid and hatched four eggs.

A bluebird is on the feeder as I type this, fat and sassy and full of himself.  There are pine needles in the nesting box, a good sign.  Happiness is fleeting and changeable and sometimes messy.  Grab hold when you can.

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Balance

If you are a slightly shy person with introvert tendencies, publishing a book will not change that.  You will simply become a slightly shy person with a book to sell (and, if you are lucky, a large poster of that book to hide behind).  IF you are really, really lucky, you’ll get to take that poster and your book to an event like last Friday’s author night at Zorvino Vineyards, one of the most fun author signings I’ve ever been to.  (And I can hear you thinking, by the way. That isn’t the wine talking – the only bottle I bought was the one I took home.)

Pear Tree Publishing pulled together what must have been the nicest collection of authors ever.  I saw some familiar faces, met lots of new ones, and had the best of times with my two table mates, who kept me laughing and plied me with sugar cookies.  The talented Daniel Palmer (he plays in a band, too — my family bopped around Saturday  morning to his cd) has a new thriller out, Helpless, that’s so good, my MIL swiped it a day after it was in my house.  (Ahem — if you are reading this, oh MIL dear, it’s a loan.  I was clear on that, right?)

And Allan Leverone’s book, The Lonely Mile, has made it to the top of my to-read list next.  (The books I cleaned out last week?  They multiplied and brought their friends.) It looks spooky and scary and it’s not one I’ll be saving for a night when I’m alone. For a horror writer, Allan certainly is a nice guy, and he has a lovely family.  (It’s gotta be an act, right?)

Finally, I devoured Tara Masih’s Where the Dog Star Never Glows in one sitting.  Her collection of short stories is lovely and subtle and stayed with me all weekend.

And then, after so much social time, it was time to go somewhere quiet, also with good company.  We hiked for two hours, and the falling snow felt like a benediction. However your weekend was spent, I hope you found your balance, too.

Quiet time

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We’re doing some spring cleaning here, and I’m trying to wrangle all the books back into their respective homes.  The baby books we can’t bear to part with go in the basement (Carl’s Birthday, anyone?), the books we love the most go in the living room bookcase, the kid books and the books I don’t want to part with but probably won’t read again go upstairs.  We’ll sort through the stacks on the coffee table and by everyone’s bedside and fit them in where we can, but in a few days they’ll start creeping out and multiplying on every possible surface.

It’s not the house they take over, either — key phrases and lines have infiltrated daily speech around here, too.  I realized this the other day when I asked one of small fry how they were feeling, and they answered “Respectabiggle.” (We’d just finished listening to “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis.) It’s become the new catch phrase, joining several others that have become a part of our daily speech. Favorites include:

“Word of knightly honor,” from Igraine the Brave (Cornelia Funke)

“Nobody likes a wet dog,” slightly changed from To a Stranger Born in a Distant Country Hundreds of Years From Now(Billy Collins)

Not even damp, just a gratuitous cute pic from the puppy days.

“Hop it!” spoken by the mother trying to get the kids moving.  I think we stole it from Peter and the Starcatchers (Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson)

The last two are cheats, coming from movies based on our favorite books:

“You think that, Jane, if it gives you comfort,” from the A&E production of P&P.  (Used by my husband when I am being overly optimistic about someone.)

And,

“What about second breakfast?” Elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea?  Dinner?  Supper? He knows about them doesn’t he?” (Said when the small boy is complaining about being hungry.  Again.)

What phrases have made it out of the pages and into your life???

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The Grinch looked around, but since reindeer were scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop the Grinch?

No!

The Grinch simply said “If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”

A dog with his dignity intact.

Happy Holidays!  See you in the New Year!

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Change.  I’m not a fan of it.  My daughter’s not either.   It used to be that I was the only one who tried to hold on to the way things are with both hands, but now I see that tendency in her, too.  I’d like to save her 40 plus years of stress and tell her to relax, that change is inevitable and she can’t control it, but I’m still working on that lesson myself.

Sometimes, the changes are big and obvious.  The trees I wrote about a few weeks ago, for example, now look like this:

The sad oak stump

Even though we planned it, it’s a shock every time we look out the window.

But sometimes, change just sneaks up on you, so stealthily you don’t even notice, and there’s nothing you can do. Day by day, I tell her, the saplings that we planted to replace the oaks are growing, are stretching and reaching tall.  In a few years, they’ll be big, even though the changes are happening so slowly  it looks as if no change is taking place at all.

Little snowdrift crabapple sapling has a lot of growing to do.

When she asks me how I know, I just shrug.

Trust me, I tell her. I just do.

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1) Moo and Writer Unboxed are running a contest in which five people will be given a free pack of mini-moo business cards, and everyone who enters will get 25 percent off their order.  (I love my moo cards.) Even if you have no plans to enter, go and read the entries — they are funny and amazing.

2) You know how, when you are out driving, you sometimes see people dragging their dogs for a run?  And you feel bad for them, and want to stop the car and give the poor animal a drink of water or something?  Harley is not that dog.  Harley is the dog who, when I take him for a run, other dogs hang out their car windows and yell “Yo, stuuuuud!  Keep on truckin’!”  We ran 3.5 miles together yesterday (or rather, I ran, and Harley kind of ambled along ahead, breaking into a trot only when I sprinted at the end) and when we were done, he would have been happy to do the whole thing again, only without the 115 pound weight attached to him.  I want people to stop their cars and give ME a drink.

Mid-stride, with a halter on to prevent me surfing along the pavement.

3) I am writing again, slowly.  I find I can write entire sections in my head, but then when it comes down to getting them on paper, I have to write all this other stuff to get to where I want to be first, before I can write those scenes.  And then I wind up cutting most of the other stuff anyhow.  Does this happen to anyone else?  Or am I just exhausted from all this running?

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Fierce

Fierce!

I used to be fierce.

Not as fierce as Linda Hamilton in T2, although I coveted her biceps.  Just fierce enough.

It took me a long time to get there, and didn’t really happen until I was in my twenties.  I’d been shy as a kid and a teen, but a combination of factors pushed me over the edge:

I landed an exciting job, with a boss who was tough and expected me to be too.  The first time I came back with a story that didn’t have the hard questions answered, he made it very clear that what I had wasn’t good enough.  If I wanted my story to run (and wanted to get paid) I need to call back my source.  And call again.  And again, until I got the answers I needed.  It was difficult and terrifying and somewhat exhilarating, and I had more than one person hang up on me.  I don’t think it ever got any easier, but it changed me in a good way.

I also fell in with fierce friends, women who thought nothing of hopping on the back of a thousand pound beast and sailing it over a four-foot fence, of galloping DOWN a hill with a broken arm, of marching into the boss’s office and demanding a promotion.  If you wanted to hang with them, you needed some backbone.  And while I can’t honestly say I cleared too many four-foot fences, I managed to hold my own.

And then I had kids.  With my first pregnancy,  not much changed.  I still made the tough calls, rode until I was about eight months pregnant, power-walked two miles a few days after the emergency c-section (Can I tell you what a bad idea that was?).  I took my baby on interviews, hired someone to watch her a few mornings a week so I could write, took care of the horses with her strapped to my back.

With the second child, I rode for about five months — much more cautiously.  I’d fallen in love with baby breath and fat baby knees by then, and since I couldn’t bring two kids on interviews, and hated to leave them, I found other writing jobs I could do around their schedules.  The horse died, and I didn’t get another.  I traded hanging out at the barn for hanging out at preschool. I stopped asking the tough questions.

The other day, I was at school for pickup and another mom and I were kvetching about the parents who always cut the pickup line.  “I’m waiting there patiently for my turn for like 15 minutes,” she said, “And then they just zoom in front.  It makes me so mad.”

I agreed, and we talked about how we’d like to say something.  How we’d like to honk the horn, even, but we won’t, because it wouldn’t set a good example.  It wouldn’t be polite. It would be too fierce.

It’s a dumb small thing, but it got me thinking.  Those friends of mine, the ones I made in my twenties and love dearly, are still fierce. They (mostly) have chosen not to have children, and are doing well in their careers. They are lovely women, all of them, but you cross them at your peril. You might cut them off in line once, and they’d let it go.  Twice, they’d say something.  The third time, you wouldn’t have to worry about driving, because you wouldn’t have any knees.

It’s not that my mom friends aren’t fierce in their own ways. They’re fabulous women and I’m lucky to have found them. Hurt their kids, and they’d kill you without thinking.  But on a day-to-day basis, they’re like me — busy making sure everyone is getting along, everyone is happy, everyone has friends.  Too busy being civilized to be ferocious.

Last year, I reconnected with my old boss.  He threw me a few softball assignments, and I loved it — a part of my brain that had been unused for too long kicked into gear.  But after those articles were completed, I decided to hold off on doing more for a while.  The deadlines were a big part of it , for sure, but there was something else, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  And then it came to me — I was getting a big old adrenaline rush from chasing down sources and asking a few tough questions.  I was feeling fierce, which isn’t always compatible with raising well-behaved children.

I’m speaking for myself only here — I’m sure there are plenty of moms who are still just as fierce as they ever were.  For some reason, the few I know have only one child, and manage to keep a balance between the challenging careers they have and the quality family time they need.  More than one child, and something seems to have to give.

It’s a luxury to have time to think about something like this, but it’s come up a lot recently in stuff I’ve been reading.  Justine Musk has done a few posts that made me think, like this one, and this one here.  And John Scalzi recently wrote about the different ways male and female bloggers are treated — in part because there is the perception that women are too gentle or nice or not fierce enough to fight back.

I’ve passed a few barns recently and thought hmm.  I could take a quick lesson, and nobody at home would be the wiser.  I’ve held off on getting back into riding for a bunch of reasons, (the money!  the time!) but one is that I’m not sure I want to watch my daughter take the chances I did, both stupid and smart.  I don’t want to put her at risk.  I want to keep her safe, and if I start riding again, she’ll want to too.

But what message does it send to always play it safe, to (almost) always be polite, to avoid asking the hard questions?   Is being fierce a good thing, or a bad?  Does it change as you get older?  What do you think?

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A Plan

So it appears that I need some structure.  Without the kids here, demanding to be fed on a regular basis, I’m just wandering around the house, getting distracted by dirty socks and trying to keep them out of Harley’s mouth.  Order is called for. My new schedule — just so you know — is to blog every Tuesday.  I can’t tell you how many times last week I sat down to write a post, clicked on some random link, and two hours later was all whoops!  Where’d the time go?  I have all kinds of plans to become the next Martha Stewart, or at least clean out the hall closet, but I’m not even going to get to my list of potentially procrastinating activities that keep me from writing my next novel UNLESS I step away from the internet periodically. (And how’s that for a run on sentence?)

So.  The plan.  Blog entry every Tuesday, unless something so exciting I can’t help sharing it occurs.  (My mom’s still e-mailing Oprah, so ya never know.)

In the meantime, if you’ve liked me on Facebook (and you have, haven’t you?  And made all your friends and relatives do the same?) you’ll have heard about the gaping loss several libraries are facing due to the recent flooding.  I can’t imagine not being able to take my kids to check out books — the library is the first place we visit in any new town, and we’ve met  life-long friends doing so.  If you’d like to help, author Kate Messner has pulled together the information on her web site.  My kids chose to donate toward a purchase of Where the Wild Things Are, which seems particularly fitting since my house is Wild Thing free most days lately.  Except for Harley.  And even he’s depressed.

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That’s the sound summer makes as it is flies by.  Can you hear it?  The kids start school in just over a week, and there’s still a long list of things we want to do.  More time!  I need more time!

But the time we’ve had so far has been pretty special.  Long days on the beach, lazy days at the pool, afternoons with friends and family where we can have real conversations, not just the hurried sentences that carry us over during the rest of the year.

The menu

Highlights for me include eating here. It’s the third year we’ve been, and it is a magical night under a huge white tent rimmed with fairy lights,  filled with fun and sparkling conversation and a meal you just won’t believe.  And good friends, of course.  If you ever have a chance to attend, gulp at the price tag and then sign over your credit card — it’s totally worth it.

I also read this, which was magical in a completely different way.  I found myself thinking about the book and the language it was written in for days after.  I think it is going to be huge, and I highly recommend it.  (Erin also posts short stories on her blog every Friday — you can find it over on the links list to the right.)

What else happened this summer?  Well, my children each grew a few inches.  I went to a family reunion slightly sunburned, wearing a large brim hat for protection, and realized after I saw the photos I looked vaguely like a crazy southern spinster aunt who writes gothic romance.  (It wasn’t the look I was going for.)  In the frenzy of friending relatives on Facebook after, I forgot to mention I have an author page there as well for them to like.  (Cousins, if you are reading this, help the crazy spinster writer out.) I did a guest post at Writer Unboxed about the secret pages on my website.  We tried to rescue a baby bird, whom the children christened Annie.  Alas, the sun did not come out for Annie, and we had a burial ceremony in the back yard.  I read Ronald Dahl’s autobiographies, BOY and FLYING SOLO, and loved them so much I’m adding his biography to my list. I almost got sprayed by a skunk, I got pooped on by a seagull, and I had all of my underwear stolen and frozen. (If you ask nicely, I might follow up on that story with details.)

How’s your summer going? 

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This is Harley.

Harley came to us when he was an adorable puppy and looked like this.

Now he looks like this.

Harley has many positive attributes.  He is firm in his belief that the only good squirrel is a dead squirrel.  He thinks teenagers should have 9 p.m. curfews, and if their parents insist on letting them out after that, he insists that they stay on the opposite side of the road from our house.  If they forget, he reminds them.  Loudly.

His best trait, however, is the fact that he loves kids.  Mostly mine, but if they aren’t available, he’s fine with whoever happens to leave theirs laying around.  He is never happier than when there’s a pack of children over and he’s in the middle, tongue out, running hard alongside them in a game of tag or ball.  The kids use him to find each other during hide and seek, and as a shield during water pistol wars.

He’s very agile and has managed to avoid more than one collision that made me cover my eyes by leaping to the side (and sometimes over) a small child who has forgotten the rule about not running around corners of the house.  I cringe, expecting to hear the ‘thunk’ of eighty pounds of muscle hitting forty pounds of boy flesh and instead I see Harley, valiantly twisting his body into an unnatural pose in mid-air.

I am a very protective dog owner, and still somehow Harley has been stepped on, ridden, painted with marker, dressed up and sat upon.  So long as he can be involved, he’s okay with it.

Harley’s main, overriding flaw, and one that he has had since we adopted him, is that he lacks … intestinal fortitude, shall we say.  Our previous dogs had cast iron stomachs, ate everything from horse poop to dead rodents and barely belched.  Harley’s stomach formerly belonged to a little old Victorian lady who only used it for weak tea and cucumber sandwiches on white bread.  She still got the vapors.

Every few months something inside him just … lets go.  To avoid offending delicate reader sensibilities, I’ll just say that Harley turns into the Blast-Ended Skrewt from Harry Potter.   It is not pleasant.  We’ve had him tested for parasites multiple times, changed foods, kept him under hawk-eye supervision to make sure he’s not eating contraband … nothing seems to help.

Our latest efforts involve putting him on a grain-free diet.  It’s too soon to tell if it will work, but I can say that a bag of this food — which has salmon and sweet potatoes and probably a maitre d’ in there somewhere– costs the equivalent of a nice … a very very nice … bottle of bubbly.  Not that I’m resentful, or anything.

However, I’ve decided that the Slobbering Beast needs to start earning his keep, not just eating it.  I thought about his many talents, and while I could rent him out for squirrel patrol (Hi Dad!) or possibly babysitting jobs (he’s very good at wearing small boys out) I was looking for something a little more … glamorous.  Something that befits a dog of his dignity, so to speak.

Then I read that the fabulous and kind-hearted Joshilyn Jackson was running a contest to promote the paperback release of her novel Backseat Saints.  I am a die-hard Joshilyn Jackson fan, and I loved that book.  It has a very nice dog in it, too,  one that is not a Blast-Ended Skrewt.  Harley and that dog could be friends, maybe, if Harley were fictional and smelled better.

So, I decided to try renting Harley out, like billboard space.  I’m doing a test case with Backseat Saints and  Jackson’s not-yet-released next book, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.  On our daily three-mile jog we must pass at least … I dunno, fifty houses? Maybe more.  Plus cars and whatnot.  And that’s just here.  Sometimes we humiliate  the poor dog by taking him for walks in other places, too.

Oh humiliation, thy name is dog.

Harley says, Four Paws Up!

I think I have single-handedly solved the publishing world’s dilemma of how to reach readers, don’t you? J.K. Rowling, feel free to call me anytime. Me and the Skrewt are waiting.

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I still have HIGH HOPES for this blog.  I have a fun slobbering beast update all planned, but unfortunately the slobbering beast is making it difficult to actually write about him, as I am too busy dealing with the chaos he creates to actually sit down for longer than thirty seconds.  I swear, he and my son are in league.  BUT … do not give up hope.  I should get to it this week, even if I have to give him Benadryl (Side note:  I did actually have medical approval to Benadryl the heck out of him last year, when he swallowed a wasp.  Before going down that giant maw, the wasp stung the holy crap out of his face, making it swell up so that the flesh over his eyes was the size of walnuts.  He did in fact konk out, and it was the quietest evening we’ve had since Harley came to live here.)

In the MEANTIME, I am offering several shiny distractions:

The Secret Writer has an interview up with me.  Thanks, Calum, for your thoughtful questions and attention to detail!  (Plus, it’s my first international interview — do I get frequent flier miles with that?)

Tartitude ran a fabulous Mary Stewart contest (I posted it on my Facebook Author page — you do know that I have a Facebook Author page that you can like, don’t you???) and I may or may not have entered said contest with a tiny snippet from my work in progress.

Finally, between the cold and the rain and the cold and the thunderstorms and the cold and the tornado warnings, my little secret garden is still managing to come to life:

Tucked away...

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Spoken by the youngest at a very early hour, inches from my head on the pillow:

“Those lines there (finger poke) are they wrinkles?  I think you are getting wrinkles.  That means you are going to die soon.”

Followed by:

“Did you know  you should always check your eyebrows for dead flies?  I checked and I found one there yesterday.”

Hope your Mother’s Day was a good one!

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Sunday I went letterboxing.  Letterboxing, for those of you who might not know, is like going on a treasure hunt in the woods.  You have a map, and hopefully a compass, and you search for hidden boxes that contain rubber stamps, which you then stamp into your notebook.  I had volunteered to lead a Girl Scout letterboxing expedition this week, and since I truly could get lost in my own home, I thought it might be wise to cheat and do the route in advance.

I took my daughter and the slobbering beast and we set off.  We were under a time constraint, and at first I step-marched us through the woods at a brisk pace.  And then we came to the first cache and couldn’t find the stamp and the normally benign Harley decided to terrify an adorable fluffy intact German Shepherd puppy for absolutely no rational reason that we could see, and the day kind of started going to hell.  (Strange man holding the leash:  “Wow.  He looks really strong.”  Me, holding leash and tree: “Yes, he is.   Please leave us now.”)

But the sun was shining after what seems like an eternity of New England winter, and I was with my nine-year-old daughter, who is growing up and away too fast, so I gave up on the quest and just enjoyed the time with her.  And then miraculously, we discovered that one of us had been reading the map wrong.  (Hint:  The nine-year-old was not at fault.) And then we (okay, she) figured out where the first cache was, and from there the path was clear.

Writing, I think, is a lot like letterboxing.  There’s no guarantee of success at the end, no promise of a treasure box of riches or a spot on the best seller list.  If you write, the best thing you can hope for is that you enjoy it, that you find your way from one plot point to another, that the story unfolds beneath you in a way that makes sense.  And then, if you’ve worked hard and are very, very lucky, the rest may come.  But it’s the journey that will matter either way.

The chastened Harley

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Conversation with the smallest one:

“So, did you have a good day?”

“Yep.”

“What did you do?”

“I flirted.  Then I tooted.”

‘Nuf said.

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I know, I know, I’ve been slacking.  I started out with such good intentions, but somehow my three posts a week have dwindled to an anorexic one or two.  I promise to be better in April.  It will be SPRING!  and WARM! and everyone will be HAPPY! (Those of us who live in New England are such optimistic fools.)

Anyhow, I have been busy.  I have finally established my Facebook Author page (or rather, my sister did it for me) and I would take it as the greatest favor if you would hie yourself over there and like it.  Or me.  Or whatever one is supposed to do on The Facebook. (Random  elderly relative story — a favorite aunt is in a nursing home, and periodically she would call us up and say “I played The WOO today,” and cackle like a maniac.  It sounded vaguely dirty and I always covered the children’s ears if we were on speakerphone.  Well, it turns out The WOO was Wii, the other bane of my existence because it is the joy of my six-year-old’s life.  So, around here we tend to stick a capital THE in front of any newfangled technology.)

Also, I am being interviewed by the charming and lovely Debra Driza, no mean writer herself, and among other things we are commiserating over our BAD DOG stories.  Because I didn’t want to horrify her too much, I left out the one where my 110 pound unneutered show dog took a, um, special liking to my 100 pound friend.  He would back her into a corner, then very gently reach out one paw to wrap around her shoulders….

Come back Thursday for a better behaved blog post.

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