Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Who are the #2Doods?

If you don't follow my personal blog, you might not know who the #2Doods are, so thought I'd make an introduction.

L-R: Murphy, 3 months and Cooper, 6 months
Here they are, freshly groomed.
L-R: Cooper, 9 months and Murphy, 6 months
Staring at the birds in the front yard....
L-R: Murphy, 9 months & Cooper, 13 months old
These are our two Goldendoodles. Yes, there are BLACK Goldendoodles. In fact they come in many colors. Yes, they are still puppies and yes, they are still growing! We learned that Standard Poodles can continue growing for 18-24 months. At close to 60# each, we have no idea how big they will get. When we got Cooper, the breeder thought he'd top out at 35-40#. When they sit inside their crate, their heads just touch the top, but they still need crate time (when we are gone and at night). Too many things they still try to get into.

They have their own Instagram account and Facebook page. Interested in learning more about Goldendoodles (and see more cute photos)? Click this image...

Need more photos? Visit their SmugMug Photo Album.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#SundayPhotoFiction: Gone Too Soon

Photo credit: Susan Spaulding
She was heartbroken, part of her was gone. She sat at the foot of the headstone and stared at the figurine wearing items she didn't understand. She cocked her head. "I guess that resembles him." She touched it, tracing the hard curves of the fur coat. "He was much softer." She sighed, remembering all the good times they had been through.  

They had been friends first, as youngsters playing together. That turned into a love relationship that lasted many years. Till...

She didn't want to think about it. The car that came out of nowhere, killing two. The screams still echoed inside her head and she shook it, trying to make them stop.

She heard a soft whisper by her side. "I miss them, too. I wish we could bring them back." She was enveloped in a hug. "At least we still have each other."

They sat silently for a bit longer. "It's almost time to go." She felt a tug on her leash and listened as he read the headstone...

Patrice Alicia Melton
Age twenty-two
Gone too soon,
The angels needed her
and Sparky,
her faithful companion.

188 words

Check out the other posts in this week's Sunday Photo Fiction challenge HERE.

Bucket Lists - Part Three (Left To Do)

I first wrote about my bucket list in this post, Bucket Lists - Part One (Over 45) and continued it in Part Two (Over 60).

Do you have a bucket list? Do you want one? Should you have one? Is yours full, being filled, being emptied or empty?

I had one that I started in my mid-forties, one of the best times in my life. Recently I came across it and realized I no longer feel the need to keep at it. I've done so much more than many folks, been so blessed to be able to do them.

Yes, I've been blessed to do a lot in my life. Click to read my "after 45" list and the "after 60" list. But there is still more I'd like to accomplish. Here's my outstanding list (always somewhat set in Jell-o):

Hot Air Balloon Ride:
And not just any hot air balloon ride...this all goes back to a memory. My late husband and I were living in the Rochester, NY area (where he was born and raised). We were visiting Letchworth State Park, a beautiful park, especially in the fall. As we walked across an open area, a hot air balloon with several occupants dropped down and the people waved to us, just before rising again. So my wish is for a fall ride, over a scenic color-laden forest!

Attend Scottish Highland Games:
This is an ALMOST made it, several times. Maybe this fall - there is one just outside Nashville, or next spring at the one in Maryville (we bought tickets but didn't make it this year - bad timing).

Visit Scotland:
I mean, after all, Stu is Clan McNicol and from my paternal grandmother, I am Clan MacQuarrie. While we'd both love to visit Australia, Scotland is tops on the foreign countries left to visit list.

Lipizzaner Stallions:
I grew up in love with horses, all horses, anything about horses (future blog post on this). But I especially loved the Lipizzaner Stallions. Some day, I hope to see them perfomr live.

See the Cirque du Soleil performance: Cirque du Soleil is like nothing else. Stu and his late wife saw the production "O" and he raves about it. Just the little bit I have seen on television has only served to wet my appetite to see a show. I'm not picky about what show...LOL!

Take in a Broadway Show: My biggest regret was learning the show "Porgy and Bess" was having it's final performance on Broadway during a time when it would have been extremely difficult for us to get there (and probably already sold out). As a child, my aunt took me to Boston to see the movie. I was young, maybe twelve, and didn't understand the nuances but fell in love with the music and emotions. To this day, I can't hear "Summertime" without getting teary. But I digress, not sure what Broadway show it would be, but someday...

I'm sure more will be added to this list and some may drop off...what's left on your list? I know my years are numbered, by both physical and financial limits. So, what about you. Are you working towards doing/seeing/experiencing any of the items?

Friday, May 25, 2018

#FridayFictioners: Thrive

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
The cutting was a survivor, just like her. A sliver from her mother's plant, saved from the fire that destroyed everything. Her mother - gone. Her beloved cat - gone. Everything she owned - gone.

She only had the cut glass bowl and this snippet from the Philodendron.

She added a tiny bit of filtered water to the bowl. Not too much and not too little. Filtered to take out the bad and leave the good.

So similar to her life now. Filtered. Treasuring the good and tossing away the bad. She was determined to thrive, just like her mother's plant.

98 words

Read the other stories HERE.

#MAYKINGITWORK: May 25, 2018

This is my third post in the #MAKINGITWORK blog challenge set out by newly acquired friend, thanks to the April A to Z blog challenge, I.L. Wolf. My goals for #MAYkingItWork are to get back to reading (and less writing) and to restart my yoga. I will post on Fridays as to how I am doing.

We had such a busy weekend. My husband was prepping to be gone for a month, starting with joining in the Run for the Wall when it stopped for an overnight in neighboring Cookeville, then staying in Maryland for probably three weeks to visit family & friends as well as take care of a couple medical/dental appointments. While the #2Doods were at doggy camp, I was busy doing everything I could to help him get ready.

Tuesday was an errand day for me, then I picked up the #2Doods. I had to get up early for an appointment to get my wedding ring tattoo refreshed and I was busy all day until we got home at 5:30. Yeah, no yoga.

Wednesday found me and the #2Doods sleeping till almost ten in the morning! But I did organize my printed exercises for both my shoulder and my pitiformis issues. Hey, that's a start. Oh, and I did get some exercise bands at TJ Maxx on Tuesday. ;)

Thursday I managed some morning stretches. Hey, it's a start - being very careful to not stress my lower back again.

Now it's Friday and the start of a new week. May is almost over...will we have a JUkNowYouCanDoIt?

READING: I read one book...a comedy, part of a long series from an author I met at the Writer's Police Academy back on 2014. Nice break! I need to read more first person, quirky, humorous stories to prep for starting to write my Lia Rules series.

#writephoto - Family

My entry in Sue Vincent's Thursday #writephoto challenge: TURRETS

"How much further is it, Da? I'm tired." Little Joseph complained to his father.

"Not far. Do you want me to carry you?" Big Joseph brushed the snow off his son's nose.

"If'n I can piggy back." He jumped up and down, stamping the snow off his oversize boots.

"Up you go!" Quicker than you could say Dargrim, he swung Little Joseph up onto his shoulders. "all set?"

"Yes, sir." He looked around. "I can see forever and more from up here, Da!"

"Can you see the castle?"

Little Joseph shaded his eyes and stared ahead. "I think so. But maybe not. I don't know." He hung his head. "Sorry, Da."

"Not to worry. We'll be there in the blink of a pig's eye." He strode ahead, knowing the way from memory even though the forest trail had changed over the years.



"Why we going here again? I forgetted." He giggled as a stray hair tickled his ear.

"We're going to visit your grandparents."

"And why couldn't Ma come with us?"

Big Joseph sighed, hating that he had to lie to his son. "Your mum was feeling poorly. This trip would be too much for her."

"Oh, yeah. Now I rememberers..."

"Don't bounce or you'll get tossed off!"

"Sorry." Little Joseph concentrated on the view ahead.

"I think I see the castle, Da."

"Do ya, now. Tell me what you see."

After listening to his son's fanciful description, he laughed. "Well, that's a bit grandiose but it sounds like the right place." He paused and pulled his son off his shoulders. "You think you can walk the rest of the way now?"

"C'mon, Da. Don't be so slow!" Little Joseph started running ahead.

Big Joseph shook his head. "I'm right behind you, son."

As the approached the forbidding structure, the duo slowed their pace.

"Da, my tummy feels funny."

"You'll be fine son. You're just excited about meeting your grandparents for the first time."

He stopped and looked up at his father. "What if they don't like me?"

"How could anyone not like you?" But Big Joseph had his own doubts. It had been almost ten years since his wife's parents had kicked her out for getting pregnant with an underling. A lot had changed since then, some things for the better, some for the worse. His wife had sent a missive to her parents, begging them to take in her son and raise him. He had no idea whether they would welcome Little Joseph or not. But he had to try. He linked hands with his son and urged him forward.

A bugle sounded as they approached the front gate of the castle, turrets rising high into the clouds. They waited for the gate to open. Little Joseph gripped his father's hand with surprising strength. He whispered, "I'm scared."

"Stand tall, son. Make your mum proud."

With that admonishment, Little Joseph dropped his father's hand, stood up straight and clasped his hands behind his back. Big Joseph mimicked his son's posture.

A puff of smoke preceded the entourage walking towards them. The group was lead by his wife's father. He stopped and stared at Little Joseph. "Humph. He doesn't look like much. Are you sure?"

Big Joseph nodded.

"Two years?"

He nodded again.

"Looks like you," the man who was purported to be his grandfather snorted toward the boy who stiffened. The man waved his hand, dismissing the people standing behind him. He knelt down and stared into Little Joseph'e eyes. "You know why you're here, boy?"

"Because you're my grandpa and me mum is feeling poorly. She says you can teach me things."

"Oh? And what kind of things do you need to learn?"

Little Joseph brought his hands forward, closed his eyes, said a few words as he pointed upwards. A huge explosion in the air removed one of the castle's turrets.

"He'll do. You can go." He dismissed Big Joseph and took the boy's hand. "You're going to be a great warlock, just like me, your grandfather."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Masters of Writing Flash Fiction week 6 - Erased

He painted, transforming the time worn concrete wall into a work of art. He never knew what would appear, the can always knew what to do.

The sun set but the painting continued. In the wee hours of morning, he fell asleep, empty can in hand. For the first time he couldn't see the outcome but he knew he'd wake and feel the joy.

He woke and stared at the wall. A black wall...that was all he saw. Where were the colors? He turned, everywhere he looked was black. All the color was painted out of him. He was blind.

100 words

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Going by the seat of your pants....

photo by Shena Tschofen
Did you ever think about where that phrase originated? As I was typing this, I wondered so I Googled it and came up with this explanation page.
This is early aviation parlance. Aircraft initially had few navigation aids and flying was accomplished by means of the pilot's judgment. The term emerged in the 1930s and was first widely used in reports of Douglas Corrigan's flight from the USA to Ireland in 1938. The old flying expression of 'flies by the seat of his trousers' was explained by Larry Conner, means going aloft without instruments, radio or other such luxuries. [source]
That's how I write, by the seat of my pants. People often ask me, so thought I'd talk a little about how I write my mystery books,

Coming from thirty years in the computer industry, ranging from data entry operator to programmer to systems analyst to VP of Client Services, I always believed it'd be a plotter. I was sure I'd be outlining the entire book, scene by scene as well as detailing every little idiosyncrasy of each character. I mean, after all, my career in IT demanded that level of detail.

Imagine my surprise when I wrote my first mystery novel, Not a Whisper. I had the prologue, which came from a dream I had written down years before, which gave me a dead body. I had a setting, an area where my late husband and I had lived, and I had a couple of characters loosely defined. I had no idea who the killer was, or even who the dead body belonged to...I just wrote. I think in that book, the killer changed half a dozen times.

The same thing happened in book two in the Klondike series, Barely a Spark. I knew who was going to die but had no idea if it was murder, suicide or an accident. I just wrote. With book three, Almost a Touch, I kind of knew who the killer was but wasn't sure who was behind the killing (you'll have to read the book to understand what I mean).

Three more mysteries, all set in Hawaii, and I wrote the same way. By the seat of my pants... I guess it's working!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bucket Lists - Part Two (Over 60)

I first wrote about my bucket list in this post, Bucket Lists - Part One (Over 45).

Do you have a bucket list? Do you want one? Should you have one? Is yours full, being filled, being emptied or empty?

I had one that I started in my mid-forties, one of the best times in my life. Recently I came across it and realized I no longer feel the need to keep at it. I've done so much more than many folks, been so blessed to be able to do them.

Here are some of the things that have been crossed off my bucket list, all after age 60:

Become a Full-time RVer:
I didn't know this was on my list until after my husband died and I realized I needed a cheaper place to live if I wanted to travel. After searching several towns in other states, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the phone while driving home. She suggested I consider selling the house and becoming a full-time RVers. I had fifty reasons why I couldn't. By the time I got home, I realized I could.

And I 2006, I sold my house and almost everything in it. The buyer asked me to move closing up by two weeks, so I did. Then two weeks before closing, she backed out (her kids talked her out of it, they wanted her in an apartment). For two months I survived with a webbed lawn lounger in the living room, watching the TV my neighbor bought and let me continue to use. I slept in the guest room on the bed another neighbor had bought and let me continue to use. My clothes were stored in totes and I used a lot of paper plates for a while.

In August, I found a receptionist job for a local real estate company and pulled the house off the market, thinking it just wasn't meant to sell. I then bought all new furniture and other things that I had sold. It was September when my UPS man told me his wife really wanted to buy my house but they had no contract on theirs so they couldn't make an offer.

Fast forward to September 2007, my UPS man and his wife put a contract on my house, I bought a small Class C motorhome in Florida (sight unseen), sold everything - again - and on October 31st, I left the driveway and headed out as a sixty year old, widowed full-time RVer.

Visit a Renaissance Faire:
After meeting my current husband in Gillette, WY at an RV rally, we traveled around all the states but each year we returned to his home area of Maryland to see family and friends and take care of doctor visits. During one of these visits, we attended the local Renaissance Faire.

What a blast we can see all my photos HERE.

Travel More:
Oh, my! Have I ever!! Besides visiting all fifty states, I have been to:
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Honduras
  • Colombia
  • Panama
  • Belize
  • Jamaica
  • Costa Rica
  • Aruba
  • Bonaire
  • Grenada
  • Barbados
  • St Lucia
  • Antigua
  • St Thomas, VI
  • St Maarten
  • Puerto Rico
  • Bahamas
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Ecuador (including the Galapago Islands)
Thank you to the Princess and Carnival Cruise Lines!

Live in a foreign country:
In January of 2013, we saw an episode of House Hunters International and it featured a story about  family living in Cuenca, Ecuador. We were intrigued. We planned a thirty day visit to see what we thought. That was in April. In December, we packed up nine almost 70# bags and flew business class to Ecuador. What an adventure. We lived there for two years before coming back home. It was an experience we will never forget. You can read about the entire journey, starting with our exploratory trip, on our blog Retired in Cuenca.

White Water Rafting:
I was a bit nervous about this one, even knowing it wouldn't be anything but the lowest class of rapids if I ever did it. Well, things change. In Grenada, we did river tubing and it was just a hair below rapids. I had a blast and told my husband that I was now crossing White River Rafting off my list.

The other thing about Grenada, was my first time with cars on the wrong side of the road. I was sitting on the right and admit to being TOTALLY freaked out!

I never, I mean NEVER thought I would go zip-lining. But I did. My first time was in Alaska while visiting Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska. At the time, Ziprider was billed as the highest, longest and fastest zip-line IN THE WORLD! What was I doing??? Sixty miles an hour? I just kept repeating to myself, "You've ridden faster on your motorcycle." By the time I arrived at the bottom, I was laughing!

My second time zip-lining was in Belize last year. We booked this cruise to meet up with our "band sons", musicians we had friended on two previous cruises earlier in the year. After we booked the cruise, they told us they wanted to go on an excursion with us. What a blast!!! But my zip-line days are over. LOL!

Published Author:
I have always loved to write...fiction when younger, a ton of non-fiction throughout my career and then in 1996 when I started writing web content on various topics. In 1998, I started dabbling part-time with fiction writing. Children's stories, short stories, picture book ideas and one short story for a woman's magazine - which never got submitted. My husband was diagnosed with cancer and writing went on the back burner.

Fast forward to 2012, encouraged by good friend and fellow RVer, Nick Russell, I began to write again, using prompts from various flash fiction sites. I fell in love with it and participated in my first April A to Z Blog Challenge. I wrote flash fiction and later self-published all the stories in a book on Amazon, A to Z in 10 by 10.

That summer I joined Camp NaNoWriMo (a challenge to write 50k words in 30 days) and thus my first mystery was born, Not a Whisper. Since that time I have published two more books in that series, and three novellas set in Hawaii, as well as having short stories accepted for publication in several anthologies.

Coming up next week - what's left on my list?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#SundayPhotoFiction: Freedom Sought

Sunday Photo Fiction - CLICK for more stories!
Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

He'd been monitoring the tunnel for weeks. During the day it was filled with tour groups, anxious to get a sense of how those living on the other side of the wall might have felt when they snuck through, free at last.

He wanted, no, needed to be free. He'd tried tagging on the back of the tourists but they always caught him. He had no money for bribes and they'd drag him back to where he had started.

But he wasn't discouraged. He'd figured out a way to get in at night. A way no one, that he knew of, had ever tried. He'd had to lose weight so he'd fit, but after measuring and building a duplicate of the opening, he knew he would fit.

Tonight was the night. Three hours after the sun set, dragging his duffel bag behind him, he slithered down deep into the hidden opening. His heart was racing, not with fear, but with joy. He was going to be free.

Regimes change and the new one was determined to erase the past. The tunnel was blasted and as the rock was carried off, one worked held up an old duffel bag.

198 words

Saturday, May 19, 2018

#FridayFictioneers: A Long Day

PHOTO PROMPT submitted by Courtney Wright. Photographer prefers to remain anonymous
His bent back and slow walk betrayed his fatigue, but he still found a smile for his son.

He ruffled the boy's head as the four year old asked, "I help, Pappa?"

He sat on the timeworn concrete wall beside the house, unzipped a boot and extended his foot.

"I got it." The boy tugged till it let loose. He held it up. "See?"

"Very good. Next!" He held out his other foot.

"Wiggle it, Pappa!" This time he fell, boot in hand. He stood and brushed the seat of his pants. "I gots it, too, Pappa. Eat now?"

He straightened, no longer tired. "Sure."

100 words
[read more entries HERE]

Friday, May 18, 2018

#MAYKINGITWORK: May 18, 2018

This is my second post in the #MAKINGITWORK blog challenge set out by newly acquired friend, thanks to the April A to Z blog challenge, I.L. Wolf. My goals for #MAYkingItWork are to get back to reading (and less writing) and to restart my yoga. I will post on Fridays as to how I am doing.

Umm, not a good week. With hubby back home, I back slid. I slept in and when I finally got on the computer, I ended up sitting there the rest of the day. week WILL be better. Right?

Oh my! I have done a TON of reading, just not necessarily pleasure reading. I added several more flash fiction prompt sites to my reader list AND I joined a "women of a certain age" group and am participating in their blog hops.

I've been reading and commenting on 6-12 flash fiction posts a day. In fact, I am often doing more reading than writing. I need to pare down my list and only follow the ones I really like. Hard to do when there are "Linky Lists" involved.

Hubby is gone for a month, at least, and I have the #2Doods to take care of as well as all the other household stuff (no, not mowing, will be calling someone for that!). I have to be careful to take some ME time.

So how did you do this past week?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top Ten Thursday: Circus

Well, I'm going to give this a try - Top Ten Thursday. Each week there is a theme and you are challenged to post your top ten thoughts. This week it's CIRCUS. Here I go...
  1. The smells - I don't remember that as a kid, I imagine kids don't pay any attention (at least in the 1950's we didn't), just like they don't notice the feeling of a salty body covered in sand at the beach. LOL!
  2. The elephants - they were SO BIG and SO POWERFUL but they made them dance. I was hypnotized.
  3. The clown car - how did they ever get all those clowns inside that teensy-tiny car?
  4. The trapeze artists - I always held my breath, afraid someone was going to miss and fall.
  5. Cotton candy - almost every child's magical concoction, melting in your mouth.
  6. The rides - we always had an associated carnival with the circus. My favorite rides were the ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl.
  7. The games - carnival games, that is. We rarely won anything but that was okay. It was all about the challenge.
  8. The crunch underfoot - peanut shells, tossed to the ground, pleasantly crunching underfoot.
  9. July 4th - the circus seemed to arrive just before or after the big holiday, at least in our neck of the woods.
  10. The noise - a cacophony of sounds, some pleasant, some not so much.
Loved this challenge, took me back to some almost lost memories. Thank you!

Now, what are YOUR favorite circus memories from childhood?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Paradise Trilogy" - Kindle Worlds, no more!

Sad news in the Amazon world...Amazon is closing the Kindle Worlds. What does that mean to you? Right now it means you have until July 15th to purchase the three novellas in my Lei Crime Paradise Trilogy before they are no longer available!

Only $1.99 each!
 "Paradise" Trilogy

Paradise Down
Aloha Nicholás! But will this be a hello or a goodbye?

When Lucia Santerez returns home to Hawaii to help her brother Nicholás with his new dive shop, she learns Nicholás has disappeared--and someone doesn't want him found. 

Enlisting the aid of hunky vacationing firefighter, Jared Stevens, gets them the wrong kind of attention. They discover what lies under the water off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kaua`i could make you rich or get you killed.

 BUY NOW - "Paradise Down"

Paradise Dead
Hawaii - paradise or a death trap? 

Ten friends gather in Kauai to fulfill the final wish of an old friend - the scattering of his ashes. One by one, they are beset by accidents. 

Are they really accidents?

Or could something more sinister be at play?

 BUY NOW: "Paradise Dead"

Paradise Drift  

A fiery explosion sets a new course for the passengers on a charter boat. 

What is intended as a relaxing vacation for three childhood friends and their partners becomes a fiery inferno and not everyone will escape.

When the survivors gather a year later, they find themselves involved in a surprising investigation into the events of the prior year.

Will anyone’s life ever be the same?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bucket Lists - Part One (over 45)

Do you have a bucket list? Do you want one? Should you have one? Is yours full, being filled, being emptied or empty?

I had one that I started in my mid-forties, one of the best times in my life. Recently I came across it and realized I no longer feel the need to keep at it. I've done so much more than many folks, been so blessed to be able to do them.

Here are some of the things that have been crossed off my bucket list, all after age 45:

Learn to ski:
I am not and never have been an athletic individual. Sports were, and still are, a spectator sport for me. This item became an item added to the bucket list after doing it! I was about forty-nine when we bought my nine year old daughter a ski package for Christmas. My husband had been skiing since college and my daughter turned out to be a natural. They kept badgering me to try and I continue to decline.

Then New York State decided to offer the "Ski It to Believe It" campaign. Since it was only twenty-five dollars for a ski rental, a lesson and a lift ticket at a local (small) ski spot, I was determined to show them how bad I was and that would be that.

Well, that wasn't that! I discovered I like it and I wanted more! The next winter we moved from New York to Colorado and I had the chance to ski some real mountains. I never was great, but I always had fun.

Participate in community theater:
Back in the late 1990's, while living in Columbus, GA, I tried out for two plays and got parts in both. I was working full-time as a systems analyst/programmer at Tom's Foods. We had rehearsals five nights a week, then production for ten days. What an amazing time!
Pack of Lies: It was a small part as a background actor. I needed a Scottish accent, I opted for semi-British which was the best I could do. We had a director in from NYC and she was amazing to work with.
~ When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?: I had a key role as Clarisse in this and learned so much from our amazing director, a local. I also made some wonderful friends.
Learning to ride a motorcycle:
I had tried back in my mid-twenties and hadn't done all that well. But in the fall of 2001 at the age of 55, while my late husband was getting his six weeks of radiation treatments for his cancer, he spent all his spare time convincing me I needed to learn to ride. We ended up trading in his Electra-Glide for a Softail Heritage and buying me a Sportster.

The road ahead was rocky, lots of spills, lots of learning opportunities, but by the time he passed in October 2004, I had the bike of my dreams.

All my bikes [2003-2013]
Top L-R: 2002 HD Hugger XL883L - 2003 HD Low Rider FXDL - 2005 HD Softail Deluxe FLSTNI
Bottom L-R: 2006 BMW F650GS - 2009 HD Nightster XL1200N - 2011 HD SuperLow XL883L
Visit all fifty states:
I had managed to ride my motorcycle in 42 states in 2005, the year after I was widowed. I had to miss the last six, all New England states, due to weather. Stu, my current husband, and I picked those last six up the summer of 2011. We took a cruise to Alaska in 2010 and one to Hawaii in 2016. Fifty states done!!

See the Rocky Mountains:
Well, this was accomplished several times over. The first was when my late husband and I moved from Rochester, NY to Colorado Springs, CO in 1992-1993. Oh my! There was no photo that had ever done justice to it. Years later, I rode my motorcycle across them and after that, took my little Class C motorhome across them.

Well, that's enough for this post...more to come in part two. Do you have a bucket list? If you do, what are some of the things on it. Have you accomplished any of your list. If not, do you want one? If not, why not?

Monday, May 14, 2018

AUTHOR GUEST POST: Guilie Castillo {Mexican expat, writer, dog rescuer)

Donna, thank you so much for having me here today to share a bit about how this book happened—and, hopefully, to share one or two things I learned that might help your readers.

My passion has always been for fiction, not just to write but also to read. My shelves are full of novels and short stories; I can get lost for hours in a Neil Gaiman book, a García Márquez novel, a collection of Margaret Atwood’s stories.

And when it comes to writing, nothing beats giving a what if the wings to fly. Creating a character from scratch and watching them come alive draft by draft—that’s joy. Those middle-of-the-night bursts of inspiration when the perfect plot twist comes to you, and you just have to get out of bed and get it down, at least scribble a few notes so you won’t forget—that’s my high. (And let’s not forget the addictive factor of that escape from reality that fiction supplies.)

Which is to say that no one is more surprised than me that my second book wasn’t the novel that I’ve been working on since 2011, not even the ‘new’ novel (I started that one in 2015) about the LGBT community here in Curaçao. No. Instead, it turned out to be a non-fiction how-to guide to dog rescue.

Hard to get any farther from the tender arms of fiction than that.

The whole thing began innocently enough with an April A-to-Z series in 2016. My publisher saw the posts and suggested turning them into a book. How hard could it be? Everything was already written. A little editing, a little reshaping, some additional material, maybe, and finito.

Oh, boy.

What I thought would take me a couple of months at most took me nearly two years. The original date the publisher had suggested for the book was November or December 2016. Instead, the book was (finally) released this April.

Why? What happened?

I wasn’t hospitalized. No deaths in the family. (Well, one: Sasha, one of our dogs, died last June. But at that point the book was at the publisher’s, for the umpteenth revision. I refuse to use her as an excuse.) My computer didn’t crash, my hard drive didn’t get erased. Nothing major happened, really—except a rapid series of those fierce lessons life is so fond of hurling when we’re not looking.

It’s one thing to claim something on a blog—a statistic, a percentage, a source. Translate it to a book, though, and suddenly the whole thing takes on a rather solemn tone. For one thing, it’s not just my reputation that’s on the line (for whatever it’s worth), but the publisher’s. Also, a blog is—well, just a blog. An online, public journal. Personal opinions. A book carries more weight, more gravitas. It was no longer enough to think I knew something; I had to back it up. Double- and triple-check facts, obtain sources, add footnotes.

Bullet points, lists, headers, sub-headers, footnotes, margins, indents—it was a nightmare to keep them all uniform. Even when the manuscript (in Word and in PDF) looked okay, the first proof copy revealed all sorts of irregularities: sub-headings that looked like headings, shifts in indents, lists that weren’t properly spaced. In fiction this kind of formatting hardly ever comes up, and when it does it’s limited to a section or two. Working through an entire manuscript like this was… torture. And not just for me; for the publisher, too.

The Issues of Voice
A blog is an informal thing, and blog posts usually have a rather informal tone. The original dog rescue series was no exception. Which worried me. Wouldn’t that personal feel influence how seriously readers took the book? Wouldn’t it take away from whatever authority I was claiming in writing a guide for beginner dog rescuers? I considered rewriting the whole thing, trying for a more professional, ‘authoritative’ voice; that know-it-all attitude so commonly associated with nonfiction. Then again, I could hardly claim to know even a fraction of ‘all’.

To quote the book’s introduction, “The only thing that qualifies me to talk about dog rescue—and I use the word qualify rather loosely—is the fact that I’ve botched more than my share [of rescues].” Also, dog rescue isn’t a popular subject (most people would much rather not know, let alone do), so maybe a more personal, informal approach would make the book more palatable? How to walk the line between sounding like a crank and coming across like a snooty grandstander? (I’m still not sure I figured this one out.)

The Gamechanger
When the final (final-final-final) draft of the manuscript was approved, when both publisher and I agreed that this was done, I thought to myself, “Never again.” Nonfiction was clearly not my thing—and maybe that’s true. But I did discover something unexpectedly beautiful about it: nonfiction can get a lot more personal than fiction. This morning I received a photo of It’s About the Dog from an acquaintance; it had just been delivered. I can’t tell you how weird it felt. As if a part of me had been teleported to her kitchen counter.

When my first novel came out in 2016, several friends sent me photos of the book in their homes, in their cities, in selfies—and it was exciting (and much, much appreciated), but… not like this. Maybe it’s because the dog on the cover is my own dog (and the photo is mine, too). Maybe it’s the subject matter; dog rescue has been a defining force in my life, after all.

Or maybe it’s more than that. In fiction, there’s a certain ‘curtain’ between author and reader, even between author and the characters, the world of the book. We inject parts of ourselves in it, certainly; tell our truths through them. But there is a distance, however small, that separates ‘them’ from us. I thought nonfiction would be even more so, that it would feel impersonal, that I, as the author, would feel further removed from the reader than with my novel or my short stories. And I was wrong. Seeing this book in the hands of a reader feels like I’ve given over a piece of my heart.

I really didn’t expect that.

This post is a part of The Dog Book Blog Tour; during April and May, author and book will be making the rounds of dog-loving sites on the blogosphere to talk dogs and rescue—and to give away THREE signed copies. (More about both tour and giveaway here.)

Guilie Castillo
, Mexican expat, writer, and dog rescuer, is the author of It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers (Everytime Press, April 2018), a hands-on, less-tears-more-action, 100% practical introduction to dog rescue. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#SundayPhotoFiction: The Elephant in the Room

Photo Prompt: C.E. Ayr
"Okay class. What do you think of when you look at this exhibit?" The exhausted teacher gathered her wards around the display of a mother elephant and her little one. Several hands were raised. "Samantha?"

"Its a momma ephelant and her baby. Like me and my momma when I wuzza baby." She beamed.

"Wonderful. Who's next? Lily, go ahead. What do you think about when you look at this?"

"Circuses and clowns and peanuts."

Before she could reply one of the kids whispered, "Circuses are smelly."

Before things got out of hand, she looked around and spotted a partially raised hand. "Missy?"

"Um, the color gray. Lots of gray."

"Very good." She always praised the shy ones.

"Very good. Next, um, Jimmy?"

"I see a big butt! I'll bet an elephant's poop is really big."

The boys all laughed and the girls giggled. The same voice that made the smelly comment yelled out, "And elephant poop stinks."

She sighed. What about her? Like Jimmy, she saw the butt. Actually an ass. A gigantic ass that reminded her of her ex-husband. She chuckled and smiled at the kids. "Okay, let's move to the next exhibit. Over here we have..."

198 words