of evil and air,
Came into our lives without a sign,
So Pale, So Cold, So Fair.
Tall and silent, so certain was she that as
she drew him away
her eyes only spoke--two pallid cold eyes as never
saw light of warm day.
Pale of eye and hair and lip, still as Fair as
Death was she and
The strength of that frail and bloodless hand
Did take my love from me.
Thus she took him, unmindful of my grief
and the pain that many another
Before me had felt and after me
Will feel again.
She took him, his strong hand pale and weak
in her own
That many strong men before him had grasped
And with that Pale Fair One had gone.
Alone I now wait, waiting until the time
When a hand through my window will beckon
And my own pale hand is again in his
And once more he is mine.
(The above photo is "Death Comes for Alcmena" from The Thracian Horses, performed by the Mercer Players in Macon, Georgia, to have been performed on November 21, 1963. The performance was postponed because of the assassination of President Kennedy.)
I suppose I was nearly seven before I realized that Southerners were different, that they had customs and ceremonies which might seem unusual to the rest of the nation...such as the Mother's Day roses....
In the town I where I lived, we celebrated Mother's Day the way everyone else in town did: getting up on Sunday morning and having a big breakfast, then presenting Mama with her cards and gifts--some asked for, some unexpected, but all greeted with enthusiasm and appreciation.
Afterward, we would dress for church, in still-new Easter clothes, so lovingly sewn by hand and worn only a few Sundays previously. Soon we were all ready to go, Mama looking beautiful in a dress of her own making and my father--handsome in his navy suit with the thin white pinstripes and a burgundy tie. At that point, Mama would say, "Just a moment, we have to have our roses!" and she would take her shears from the kitchen drawer and disappear down the back steps into her garden.
Mama had an authentic Green Thumb. Flowers of every conceivable type and color flourished in her garden, camellias, azaleas, vines of wisteria dangling their purple flowers grape-like from the fence, golden forsythia, pink oxalis, and silver dusty miller--and roses--bushes, runners, florabundas, hybrid teas--everywhere. As I watched, she selected two red blossoms, half-opened and still damp with Easter-morning dew, clipped them, and stood there a moment, looking around hurriedly, before returning to where we waited.
One rose became a boutonniere, while the other was pinned to the left breast of my dress. Then, she said, almost forlornly, "The white roses haven't bloomed yet. What will I do?"
"Surely there's some other white flower," my father suggested. After all, there was no law that said she had to wear a white rose, and as she returned to the garden, searching among the plants and shrubs, I wondered aloud the thought I had always accepted until now:
"What's so special about wearing roses on Mother's Day?"
My father smiled, as if he'd been expecting this and wondered why it had taken me so long.
"They're to honor our mothers," he explained. "If you wear a red rose, it means your mother is still alive, if you wear a white one, then--she's not."
I thought about that a moment. It made sense. My father's mother was still living--we saw her all the time, but I knew my mother's mother only from old photographs. Most of the people at church who wore white roses were older people. Of course, their mothers wouldn't be alive, but I had seen one or two children wearing white flowers.
In a few moment, Mama was back, all smiles, returning the scissors to the drawer and pinning a spray of white English dogwood, with its sweet, sweet fragrance, like a corsage on her shoulder. Taking my hand and my father's arm, she went down the steps toward the car.
Many Mother's Days have passed since then. I became a mother myself and we moved to Nebraska, and when my son was small, I kept the traditions I had grown up with alive--a die-hard Southerner in the midst of the Great Plains. Each Easter, we had a frantic search for a red flower for him to wear, while I--well, I looked for a white one.
And every year, I would remember the day I learned the symbol of the Mother's Day roses and what having a mother really means.
I couldn't attend this monumental event because I'd elected to go to Homecoming, another blog about cars, so be forewarned, therefore, forearmed.
I am a great fan of Oscar Wilde and often post quotes from the Wilde. His contemporaries never knew whether to take him seriously. Over a century after his death, we don't know what to make of this witty man but his legacy has kept The Picture of Dorian Gray continuously in print.
As an anecdote about the man himself, the following is quoted from The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde: "Men of Wilde's size (a bulky six-foot-three) typically dress down to take the edge off their imposing physical appearance. Oscar dressed up. He wore knee breeches, red waistcoats, velvet jackets, and a massive fur coat. A hairdresser waived his hair daily. He chain-smoked gold-tipped cigarettes. His ring featured a large green beetle. The buttonhole of his jacket was invariably decorated with some expensive flower."
The following quotes are "Wilde's Wilde", witticisms from Oscar Wilde about Oscar Wilde.
I am never in during the afternoon, except when I am confined to the house by a sharp attack of penury.
I have blown my trumpet against the gate of dullness.
If I were alone, marooned on some desert island and had my things with me, I should dress for dinner every evening.
I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do—the day after.
I am afraid I play no outdoor games at all. Except dominoes. I have sometimes played dominoes outside French cafes.
Every writer on this blog is a dream chaser. We each chase a similar dream. Each of us sits down and writes stories we hope to share in "book" form. Some of our members have books out in ebook form. Some have books in print.
We want to sell books to publishers so readers can enjoy them. We also want to make money from our writing. To a new writer or a reader this might sound simple enough. Write a book and send it to publishers and someone will publish if for you. Sure! (Have any idea how many people say they want to write and book and how few finish even one book?) Folks have told me often that I can sell my books on the web. We should put parts our books online or our websites and readers will beg for more and buy the whole books. Have you heard that one? Of course it has happened, but consider the odds of selling enough books to make enough money to buy a few groceries or to get the attention of an editor or an agent who will offer us barrels of money. There are folks who don't consider that I'd have heard about that idea many times over. They just want to help.
Of course we can self-publish or go through a vanity press and sell our little hearts out to make any money, certainly not enough to pay bills. We have at least one member who has gone that route for some books and she can tell us more about that.
We can write for pleasure and let that be our reward. Changing the dream might be the answer or at least a temporary answer.
Many actors want to make money acting, but some work in local theaters for free. These actors chase a dream and have to decide how big the dream is or change that dream. Having people applaud and praise these actors might be enough reward for them.
Many children dream of being dancers, models, cheerleaders and more. Each can have a dream and a few will achieve their dreams as professionals. Some kids will become adults who make the pleasure of learning and performing without pay the dream.
Artists with enough talent and enough drive and the right opportunities might someday make a living doing what they love to do. More won't sell at all.
I won't get into athletes dreams for fame and fortune.
Should we chase dreams? Oh, yes. We need passion for something. If writing is my passion, I need to keep trying to sell a book, knowing that it might not happen. If I knew I'd never sell a book, I'd still keep writing. I'd need to change my dream, though. No NYT best seller list. No huge contract. No making a living as a writer. Giving away my stories.
Some of us have learned that selling our treasured books might be just the beginning of the job.
Do you have dreams, passions that might or might not come true? Drems that weren't all they were cracked up to be?
I'll be heading to San Francisco Monday to work toward living my dream. Approximately 2,000 writers, many members of Romance Writers of America, will be there to give and attend workshops to help us work toward our dreams. Agents and editors for publishing houses will be there and maybe offer us a big break. We'll be around writers who write for a living and some who make the big bucks writing. We writers will network and visit and try to uncover that secret to success! A special few writers will be honored in our version of the academy awards, the Rita and the Golden Heart. Dreams come true!
I have eight completed novels and more stories I haven't completed. I also have a stack of rejections. I'm not done yet!
In 1966, while working as secretary to the chairman of the English Department at Mercer University, I found a half-finished manuscript in the back drawer of a filing cabinet. It began with the words of a folksong, "Tom Woolfolk, Tom Woolfolk, what have you done?" the lyrics similar in subject matter to the ones about Tom Dooley, a Civil War soldier who had been executed for the murder of his sweetheart, becoming a popular song in the 1950s--but this one struck closer to home.
Actual newspaper stories written at the time tell a chilling tale which, for that day and age, was sensational. To contemporary readers--with our Mansons, Zodiac, and Student Nurse killers--it may, unfortunately, seem almost commonplace.
In December, 1887, Tom Woolfolk, a resident of Macon, Georgia, was arrested for the murder four months earlier of his father, stepmother, his six half-siblings (ranging from age 20-18 months) and a visiting relative, at his father's cotton plantation. The case gained notoriety not only for the viciousness of the act but the fact that this was the most people killed by one person in the entire history of Georgia crime, before or since. Except for three of the children, who apparently had tried to escape, all the victims were bludgeoned in their sleep and then hacked with an ax. Tom, claiming to have climbed out a window while the murders were being carried out, woke neighbors some time after 4:00 am. Returning to the house, he bathed and threw his bloody clothes down a well, saying when others arrived that the killers had just escaped through the back door. Entering the house, the neighbors found a sight rivaling that of any current slasher horror film--rooms spattered with the victims' blood, tissue, and other gory remains.
Because Tom Woolfolk was known to be hostile to his stepmother and his father's new family, and his aunt--with whom he lived after his mother died and whom he visited a month before the murders--testified that he had begun acting bizarrely, carrying weapons, speaking incoherently, and regarding everyone with suspicion--he became the prime suspect in the case. He had also recently argued violently with his father. The story goes that he refused to drink water from the well, and later his clothes and the weapon was found at its bottom. Although that and other evidence was all circumstantial--a bloody handprint on his leg, his bloody footprints in the rooms, his showing no emotion or reaction to the deaths, and no explanation of how he managed to escape--it was such very strong evidence that the coroner's jury's verdict was that Tom was the murderer. Public outrage was already so high, however, that even before this statement was released, Tom was arrested and taken to jail to prevent his lynching by his family's neighbors.
18th century Georgia law prevented a defendant from testifying although he gave an unsworn statement in which he denied the killings. In spite of his aunt's belief that Tom was crazy, no insanity plea was offered, and the prisoner was found guilty. Because the prosecutor's closing arguments were interrupted several times by spectators who yelled, "Hang him, hang him!" the judge overturned the Guilty verdict and ordered a change of venue, moving the second trial six months later from Macon in Bibb County to Perry, in Houston county. The question of whether this put him in the status of Double Jeopardy, could be raised at this point; perhaps that legal loophole hadn't been yet recognized back then. At the new trial, the defense attorney's closing statement took 13 hours, but the jury deliberated 15 minutes before bringing in a second verdict of guilty. A year later, the Georgia supreme Court upheld the verdict
Today, Tom Woolfolk would probably have been diagnosed as having some mental illness, and one wonders why his lawyer didn't use the insanity defense, which might have saved his client though he undoubtedly would have ended up in Milledgeville State Mental Hospital for the rest of his life. Perhaps, in that day and time, death was preferable to such a fate.
In October, 1890, three years after the murders, "Bloody Woolfolk," "the most brutal murderer that ever figured in the annals of our state," the perpetrator of "the bloodiest, blackest chapter in Georgia criminal history" was hanged. Throughout the trial, he maintained his innocence and at the end, refused to change his story. (Years later, another prisoner would confess to the crime but was not believed.) At the discretion of the sentencing judge, his hanging was made a public event, with 10,000 witnesses present, some eating sandwiches as they watched. In what the more vengeance-minded no doubt considered poetic justice, the noose was inexpertly tied and he didn't die of a broken neck but choked for fifteen minutes--ironically the same length of time it took the deliberating jury to find him guilty--before finally expiring. His execution was one of the last public hangings in Georgia.
Only one other murder trial has ever rivaled Tom Woolfolk's and that was Carl Isaacs', who was the ringleader of the men who murdered the six members of the Alday family in Seminole County in 1973. Tom Woolfolk's crime is rarely cited in books on American crime and has now been almost completely forgotten except for a few who have some ties to the story.
One of those persons is myself.
After finding that manuscript, I asked someone I knew about Tom Woolfolk, and she told me a chilling little side story. There was a girl named Ruby Mason, a distant relative of the Woolfolks who had been invited by one of the daughters to spend the night. For one reason or another, she refused. Imagine her horror at learning of the family's deaths, and realizing that--had she accepted the invitation--she would have been killed as had the visiting relative. Perhaps she couldn't believe Tom would do such a thing; perhaps she, like his aunt, believed he was crazy but actually could commit such a crime. Did she want to forgot the whole thing or did she try to go to the trial only to be told women had no place in a courtroom and to go about her chores? Did she rejoice like everyone else when Tom himself died such a gruesome death? Did she feel pity?
All I know is that many, many years later, she told her daughter the story and her daughter told me. It gave me a chill to realize that if Ruby Mason had gone to the Woolfolks' that night, I might not be here--
She was my grandmother.
(The Shadow Chasers: the Woolfolk Tragedy Revisited, by Carolyn DeLoach, 2000, re-examines this crime.)
Sunday dawned chill and clear, and I won't bore you with how lost I got by following stranger's directions instead of listening to my GPS. Tom-Tom and I have trust issues that we must resolve in counseling. Suffice to say, I visited Greenville, Tennessee twice in one day and from different routes. By noon, it was HOT. I had the top back and my temper was a little frayed by the time I reached Pigeon Forge, a place I hadn't planned to visit.
For reference, Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge along with unlimited entertainment attractions. I happened upon the best attraction the little town has to offer. The Pigeon River runs through Pigeon Forge (imagine that!). The Pigeon River isn't very wide or deep. It gurgles and whispers over rocks. It is enchanting. As a kid, my parents took me to Cherokee, North Carolina and my Dad and I fished in such a river. I actually use that memory in my vampire novel, Cardinal Desires.
Back on track and on the road again: I knew the way to Deals Gap at last. I stayed in a hotel overlooking the Pigeon River, could hear it when I left the balcony door open, which I did to a crisp mountain night, and (drumroll) the room had a Jacuzzi tub.
Next morning I saddled up Z3PO and it's off to Deals Gap we go. Stopped for a Hardee's country ham biscuit (not available everywhere—not in TX) and off I go to Tapoco, North Carolina. I was in high spirits and in love, of course, with Z3PO when I stopped at one of those fake but lovely mountain stores selling expensive, unique gifts. The sign that turned me around was "Moonshine," and I thought that would make a nice present for my Ex. They didn't sell moonshine, silly me, but they directed me to heaven. And I bought a beautiful candle with an extraordinary smell (reminiscent of sandalwood).
The enchanted forest: A winding road by a gurgling river (served on the rocks), the air filled with yellow and black butterflies. Like manna from heaven, dogwoods dropped pink and white blossoms, into the open top of my car. The sunlight filtering through leaves. Fresh, crispy mountain morning breeze. And threaded through this natural beauty the musical purr of the Z3's exhausts. The total sensory input was like music—made visual as well as auditory.
Along the way, I stopped by a waterfall and across the rushing water was a man with a pad and paper, without a shirt, writing away. Trust me this Waterfall Ernest Hemingway should have been wearing his shirt!
The winding river road led to Cage's Cove, a nature preserve. I saw deer and bear, crossed shallow streams in the car. I stopped to visit the past in log cabins and to say a prayer in an old wooden church. This slow 10 miles behind mini-vans and sedans braking every five seconds was still a serene part of a magical journey.
I ran Deals Gap—both ways—to and fro. At the motorcycle resort, I flirted with a gorgeous young man who looked Native American, bought my Tail of the Dragon sticker, a tee for me and for my son, and returned to the Pigeon River and the Jacuzzi for my final night as a free spirit in the mountains.
The trip to home was a bit grueling, as I'd played too long and was due back at work on Thursday. On Tuesday, I set cruise control at 85 and zippy-Z'd along the interstates. Eight hours of intense driving later, I stayed the night at a something hotel, ate something. On Wednesday, ditto on the cruise control and at 3:30 PM, I rolled into Houston and had the bugs washed off my new car.
Time was to be, as it always is, too short. I left part of me in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Not just any car but the one I'd been searching for a long time. I ran a wild-card, shotgun blast search on Google and the 2002 Sterling Gray, 3.0i, manual transmission, Z3 popped up in Pennsylvania. I live in Houston. After a month of numerous phone calls with the owner, who I was surprised believed that I was a serious prospect since I'd answered a free ad on Craigslist, we made a deal and I bought an airplane ticket.
Friday I flew to Philadelphia, PA to look at the car and have it checked by a mechanic (Fat lot of good it did me in the end. Two weeks after my return, I had to have a new clutch). I was looking forward to my train trip to Harrisburg, through the Mennonite country, BUT
I have a touch of neuropathy in my feet, am OUT OF SHAPE and avoid stairs at all costs. Guess what? Going to the train that took me from the airport to Amtrak, I had to haul my bags down a flight of steep stairs. At the Amtrak station, ditto. Needless to say, I made it, fearing that I'd crash and burn on the descent.
For weeks, I had talked with Dan more than I'd talked with my family. In the train station, I heard, "Linda," and turned around. Dan looked nothing like I'd imagined. He was in a word handsome—and it turned out very witty. I mention that here only for texture for my tale as this is a romance blog. He was also married to a very nice woman with three lovely children.
At gone five, we completed our transaction. I'd forgotten my thyroid meds, phoned my doctor and had another few minutes to wait. By six, I decided to leave Harrisburg and drive as far as I could, though I was exhausted. My son, every mindful of my welfare, had dropped me at the airport at 6 AM for an 8:30 flight.
My destination, at all times, was Deals Gap, North Carolina, Highway 129, 11 miles with 318 hairpin curves that attracts motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts alike. I was bound and determined to get a sticker for my new car after I'd mastered the Tail of the Dragon (web site advert: Ride me if you dare.) http://www.tailofthedragon.com/
First night, I only made it 50 miles before I crashed at a Hampton Inn. Next morning, I popped out of bed, gobbled a free continental breakfast (you know how good they are) and grabbed Z for the next leg of our journey. Since I was flying solo, anthropomorphism rapidly occurred, and the car became Z3PO. I'd been told that when they first hit the market they were called "land shark" because of the long, sloping nose.
On my trip through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I'd intended to see our PFS Beth, but I'd left her telephone number at home. I did a short side trip to Staunton, took a top back drive to the scene of one of my great adventures—an English Civil War Reenactment of the Battle of Worcester where my stallion Alegre and I joined the King's Calvary. Another story, another road trip.
Sundown Saturday, we made beautiful downtown Fancy Gap, Virginia—a dot on the map, but I was too tired to drive farther in the dark, in the mountains. My accommodation was one of those one-story L-shaped motels that you once saw so much in the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains. Z3PO was incensed at the potholed parking lot. But the motel had a restaurant attached, or the other way around, not quite sure. I had a REAL hamburger, genuine beef, lettuce and a tomato with flavor. Two guys from Canada were unpacking next door to my very sparse (not even a phone) room and we started talking. They were antique enthusiasts returning from a show in New Orleans. They offered me a rum and coke and I accepted. We sat in plastic chairs, sipping our drinks, from very different climes geographically and personally. I have a folder of memories. This one was filed under how nice people can be.
Hey, our blog is almost a year old. YAY!!!!!!
Some of our original bloggers have moved on to other things. We wish them the best.
We've added new members, some within this week. How cool is that?
Can you tell us the first blog date? No fair giving it away too quickly, Sherry or Beth or Pam.
Would you like to see a repeat of some of the original posts before or after our birthday? If you don't respond, I'll know you don't read our blog. Big Time Out in the corner for you.
We can start a count down to our birthday soon.
Anyone know how many of our ladies have sold since joining out group? How many books or stories have been sold by Pink Fuzzy members since they joined us? How many books or stories total have Pink Fuzzy members sold?
Mama Mary Marvella
We can count those who have left us.
Please welcome Melanie Atkins, a writer who is going places! Melanie answered all my questions but the one about boxers or briefs. She prefers her men in....
Melanie, what was your first published book and by whom?
HAUNTED MEMORIES, in both e-book (2004) and print (2005) by a former publisher I’d rather not name. This book has since been re-edited and lengthened and is about to be re-released in e-book format by Cobblestone Press (July 25). I’m really excited about that.
What themes go through your books?
Honor, loyalty, and facing the unexpected seem to come up most often. This is reflected in the books I read and the movies I like. All have strong, alpha heroes and gritty, determined heroines.
How did you write with kids, family, and deadlines?
My kids are grown, which helps. My mother, however, is elderly and I spend a lot of time taking her to the grocery store, doctor appointments, and the like. I work around it. Writing on a laptop helps, because I can do it anywhere. I write at all times of the day, even at night, depending on my schedule. It differs every day, every week.
How many books have you published?
For me, this is a complicated question. I sold 12 books to my former publisher, but only six came out before it folded. I’ve now sold four books and novellas to Cobblestone Press (two of which are re-releases), and one to Treble Heart Books. So…I guess that means nine, not counting the two short story anthologies published by a small press in my hometown in which I placed stories.
What other jobs have you had?
I worked part time as a cashier, a newsprint measurer, and a waitress at various times while in college. Later, I worked in child care and as a secretary. Nothing exciting, that’s for sure, but those jobs paid the bills and I learned a lot.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on a single title romantic thriller, the third in a three book series, and a shorter book targeted to Harlequin Intrigue. I’m also searching for an agent.
What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?
Exactly what I’m writing. I’d love to write both single title and category romantic suspense. I write fast, so I know I can handle it. I just need the chance to do it!
What do you have out now and coming soon?
VOODOO BONES was released in June from Cobblestone Press and is available at http://www.cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/voodoobones.htm
HAUNTED MEMORIES, June 25, www.cobblestone-press.com
EMILY’S NIGHTMARE, August 2008, www.cobblestone-press.com
Do you have a website?
Yes. You can check out all of my projects at www.melanieatkins.com and www.myspace.com/melanieatkins
Thank you, Pink Fuzzies, for allowing me to guest blog!
Thanks for your time, Melanie!
Check this out to see why books by Melanie will be on many people's keeper shelves.
Well my first book signing was last Saturday, at the World Erotic Art Museum. A very interesting place indeed. I saw some of the most tasteful paintings I have ever seen. Some of the them, the faces just told you a story, of desperate adoration to complete boredom. I saw statues of erotic nature from as far back as 500 BC. Even then sex was depicted in many ways. Some beautiful, some of which I'd rather not think. All in all, I am glad to have seen it. I got to see things from Egypt, Africa, Japan, and all sorts of other countries. I also got to see my chapter president, a wonderful educated and fun woman sit on a huge, I mean huge statue of you know what. I still have it in my cell phone, along with one of my friend who came with me. Hmmm, could be useful.
After a tour which made me feet feel like cement blocks, I sat down at my first panel, at my first book signing, and gulp, short speech on Sensuality in Romance. A topic that I am not sure I know about. In any case, knees knocking, and heart pounding, with a paper in front of me, I waited for the panel to start. Wonderful and talented people sat all around me. Zelda Piskosz moderated the panel. Also on the panel were Joanne Straatsma/Jianne Carlo, Lyn Armstrong, Lisa Manuel/Alison Chase, Traci Hall, Linda Conrad, Mona Risk, and me. I'm thinking to myself for quite a while before the event. What the heck are you crazy? What are you going to say, wear, say. You get my drift? So first, the wonderful Zelda spoke, then Traci, then Joanne, by this time I'm thinking I can do this. They Aren't talking long, this is nothing too difficult. The Lisa spoke, and then me. Heart thumpin', sweat rolling and stomach jumping all together at one time. Fear. But somehow, I did it, I really did it! And I didn't make a total fool of myself. Flashbulbs lighting to accommodate pictures in front of me, was so strange to see. They were taking our pictures like crazy. Next was Lyn,(show off, that level of comfort was so hard to take). After Lyn came Linda, and then finally Mona. Everyone had finished and when no one had questions, we were done. Done! Whoo Hoo, done!
Everyone got up to leave, and I felt instant relief. I'd accomplished something my agoraphobic mind could not imagine. Yeah! Then Lisa who was sitting next to me pointed behind me. She said softly, "Look who is with us in all the pictures." I looked behind me, and shock took hold. There was a huge organ there, and you know what kind of organ I mean. It even had fur glued to the bottom. It was bright pink, like my face. I couldn't speak for a minute. Then I looked at Lisa and we both laughed, me out of incredulous, her because she writes sweet and sensual, not hot or even spicy.
And so I'd done it my first book signing, even if all I had were bookmarks and no release date. I'd done it. Albeit in an unusual way, I did it.
The Alleghenies are shrouded in mist this morning and the colors muted. Columbine blooms outside my kitchen window, a mass of pink bells. I’ve planted all kinds of columbine because it’s one of my absolute favorites. I have the red-yellow woods variety too and the blue one from Colorado. The roses beside the old, red barn are so big and thorny, like guardians of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and badly need pruning.
I’ve a sea of herbs and flowers ever changing with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by me and my nature child, Elise; still others by the birds. One wild aster, carried to us on the wind, blooms in late spring. The robust plants are covered with small white flowers and very pretty really, although difficult to contain. I'm partial to white flowers, glowing at dusk while all else fades.
Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charging the air with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.
Dill is also rampant because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis. Then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.
Elise showed me where the robin is tucked down in her nest in one of the crabapple trees. She knows where the soft, brown dove nests in the pear, where the six goslings are at any given moment, and is on the prowl for the new kittens, but that wily mother cat has hidden them well.
Author's note: Elise, now in college, still loves the garden(s) and is my right hand. This pic is one taken of our farm.
There's a Shadow waiting at Home for me Warm and soft and watchful, And I never appreciate him more Than when it's raining and it's cold while The wind blows sheet-water in icy blasts. As I slam the car door and dash up the drive, head down, collar up, I see That glow in the darkness--fuzz-furred shape against the light, tapered ears twitching, gold-gleaming eyes Watching Waiting With a soft purr Welcoming me Home.
(Believe it or not, this is a poem though the computer made it into a paragraph! The handsome feline at left is Thibault Minuet, the "Prince of Midnight", named after the hero of my most favorite romance novel ever. It had Fabio on the cover. It was the first time I'd seen him and a day later saw him on TV and recognized him from the cover on the book!)
Please welcome fabulous author Carmen Green. I've known Carmen forever. She has graciously agreed to be our guest today.
What was your first published book and to whom?
Now or Never –Kensington Publishing Corp 1995
What themes go through your books? I’m most known for the Crawford Family. I enjoy writing about families because I come from a big family and they’re very involved in my life. I derive a great amount of comfort in writing about what I know most. I also write about strong women characters who are single and meet men who ultimately convince them to commit to a relationship.
How did you write with kids and deadlines?
It was hard sometimes! I wrote in the car, doctor’s office and in bed. I became very versatile. Writing is a business that needs to be responded to. My children were a priority when they were small, but they’re grown now and I’m home alone now, so I write according to deadlines and other priorities. I have challenges, but I respond to them accordingly. I work writing as a business. I have work hours and I go to school full-time. I write all day long and all night too. When I’m not writing, I’m reading and when I’m not doing that, I’m sleep.
How many books have you published? I think 25.
Other jobs you've had? I don’t know. I’m a student now. I’m finishing my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing.
What do you love most about writing and do you not like? I love creating stories and people that don’t exist. I love that! I hate being in the house all the time. But I’m not a big fan of noise either so going into the world has its disadvantages. See, writers are quirky.
What are you writing now? I just told Mary I’m writing 4 book and you should see her eyes. She said what?? Yes, but they’re at different stages. One is for school, which is my thesis. The second is due in August, and that’s an internal deadline—meaning it’s not due to the publisher until November but I have another due in October so this one has to be done now. The third is October, and that’s in the synopsis/chapter breakdown phase, and the fourth is in the synopsis/three chapter phase ready to be developed.
What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write? My thesis novel. It’s about a woman with OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Since many of us enjoy animal stories, I'm sharing this one, with the permission of the cat owner. There is such a thing as too much excitement for one night.
The Night All Hall Broke Loose at My House
The cat was sleeping in the dog's crate with the door open. She stretched her back legs and one went through the bars of the crate. She managed to weave it through 4 of the bars. When she tried to move she was trapped. Immediately she went into fits of hissing and spitting, spinning over and around scratching and biting.
The dog, hearing the noise, jumped down from the sofa where she'd been napping beside me and went to investigate. When she saw the cat, she entered the crate with the wild cat and that's went all hell broke loose! The cat was fighting the dog and the crate, the dog turned into Cujo and was fighting back.
About this time I entered the fray. I pulled the dog out of the crate and reached for the cat, who continued to spin and spew with her leg trapped. The dog ran back into the crate and I had to pull her out and slam the crate door closed to keep her out.
My daughter heard the noise and came downstairs. I shoved the dog at her and told her to put her up somewhere. At this point, I hadn't seen the cat's trapped leg, since she was too busy spinning and spewing. Don't know how she was spinning with her leg trapped, but she was. I thought the cat was having some kind of fit.
When she had worn herself down and stopped for a moment, I saw her leg and figured out what was going on. Every time I tried to reach to free her she'd go wild again. Finally I managed to reach behind the crate and I pushed her toes back through the bars. She was then able to pull her leg back through the bars and free herself.
She ran out of the cage and behind the end table, dripping blood all over the living room carpet. It was pooled all over the place and it scared her so bad that she pooped all over herself and the cage. I went upstairs and called my son to come help us with the cat. It looked like she was going to bleed to death!
Finally we were able to get the cat into the kitchen where the floor is tile and waterproof. She bled all over the kitchen, but settled down in the corner, finally, and when her heart rate slowed the bleeding slowed. She finally stopped bleeding and went down to her sandbox in the laundry room. We put water and food for her there and closed the door. I checked on her periodically all night to be sure she'd stopped bleeding and was okay.
In the meantime, the dog was locked up in the bathroom upstairs. She didn't see the cat when we got her loose, so when she came out of the bath and all she saw as blood all over the carpet and both the crate and cat were gone. I didn't let her go into the laundry room,because I didn't want the cat and dog fighting anymore.
Well, my daughter took the dog to bed with her, but she wouldn't go to bed. She whined and whined and finally had to come back downstairs with me. She looked all over the house for the cat. She didn't settle down until after 10 this morning when the cat came out of the laundry room and she looked all right. (They grew up together and really do love one another)
We tried carpet cleaner to no avail. I now have a crime scene in my living room. If CSI were to come here they'd think someone had been murdered in here!
I'm getting new floors in the living room, den and my office. We went to Home Depot and bought it this afternoon.
How was your day?
It was a song by Bing Crosby, and I danced to it when I was 12.
I became a ballerina at the age of five. My dancing career ended at the age of 28 when the Toyota Corolla in which I was a passenger was broadsided by a Ford Fairlane. (One can't dance very well with a hip which has been shattered like an ice cube smashed by a hammer.) In between those years, however, I had a long and sometimes entertaining (to both me and my audiences) life.
My mother sent me to dancing class for two reasons: she was a Stage Mother par excellence, and I was hyperactive, as well as being morbidly shy. Dancing gave me an outlet for my over-activity and while it didn't cure me of my shyness, it gave me--at least while I was on stage--confidence to remember and perform the intricate steps and routines of a specific dance number.
One of the most difficult things I ever learned to do was dance on my toes, using pointe shoes, also known as toe shoes. With a shortened wooden or leather sole, the satin on the shoes is pleated and attached under the sole. Dancers are taught to walk with their keels in and toes turned out in order not to break the soles of their shoes. There are generally a pair of shoes for rehearsals and a pair for performances but if only one pair is used, they are sometimes worn with covers, to protect their satin finish and soles from scuffs. Ballet shoes come without ribbons. These have to be sewn on by the dancer, as well as stitching across the toes to prevent them from becoming smooth from wear and causing falls. The ribbons are wrapped once around the shoe at the instep, then around the ankle and tied. A drawstring in the shoe also tightens it around the foot. Though shoes can be dyed to match the costumes, the most common color is pink satin, and occasionally black. After seeing the movie The Red Shoes, I absolutely had to have a pair of red shoes, which were specially ordered for me. Later, I also acquired a green pair!
I also had a pair of toe-tap shoes, with steel taps nailed to the toes so I could do tap dances while balanced on tip-toe. (And if you think that's easy, just try it!)
I still have my first pair of toe shoes--eight inches long, painted gold with gold glitter on them. The glitter has tarnished now, the heels are frayed and the toes worn through, and the soles were fitted with a steel brace to insure that they kept their arch. .
Though some ballerinas decline to use them, I was instructed to use lambs-wool pads in the toes of my shoes to protect my toes from blisters. This was sold in a box, in a two foot-roll. A length was cut long enough to cover from the tips of the toes to where they joined the foot and shaped to fit. Some dancers used ready-made pads of rabbit fur, but I preferred lambs-wool, though occasionally even this grew thin or slipped slightly and I'd end up with very painful blisters. Then it was bandaids and toe-pads. I also soaked my feet in brine and Epsom Salt-water to toughen them.
My costumes ranged from the classic leotard and tutu to the more formal long skirted leotard to flowing draperies. With my partner, Charles, I was supremely happy as I moved in time with the music--arabesques, fouettes, grande ronde de jambe--twirled in place by his hands, brushing the floor with my fingertips as I was bent backwards over the curve of his arm, carried across the stage and held above his head as if I was as light as the ribbons on my shoes. The first music I danced to was the gavotte from Rosamunde--the last time I was on my toes was for a piece called Crespuscule (Twilight), a fitting way to end a career.
(The above picture is a picture of Yours Truly performing Twilight.)
A teacher friend of mine wanted to share this advice with our readers. She works with kids with learning problems, so she knows whereof she speaks.
Johnny Can’t Read
Having a child with a learning disability can be a heartbreaking thing. Often our children are so adept at hiding their difficulties behind disruptive behavior that we don’t realize there is a problem. If your child is having difficulty learning to read the first thing you should do is go for a vision test. I’ve done that you say, yes, but there is more to consider than whether your child has 20/20 vision. It could be a muscle control or tracking issue. Ask your child if the letters or words ever dance or jump on the page. If the answer is yes, that’s a good indication of a vision problem that should be referred to a specialist.
When your child has difficulty learning to read, the sooner you become pro-active in the process the better. Don’t leave it up to your child’s teacher to solve the problem, there are several things you can do to help. The most important thing you can do is read with your child. Don’t just have him sit quietly at the table reading silently. Guess what? If little Johnny is sitting at the table quietly reading his reader, he isn’t really. Does that come as a surprise? Well it shouldn’t. Children are very good at entertaining themselves within their own little world. He sits there, book open, head pointed in the right direction and his eyes are open, but where is his mind? Outside playing ball, in his room playing his new video game, anywhere but on the book he’s supposed to be reading.
The easiest way to get around this is to have him read aloud to you. Pay close attention as he reads. If you have a copy of the text so you can follow along that’s even better. But if not, stand behind him or sit next to him and listen to him read. The important thing here is to have him read aloud to you or another member of the family on a consistent daily basis. It doesn’t matter who he reads to, as long as he reads. It doesn’t matter what he reads, as long as it is at his comfort reading level. If he struggles with it, it’s above his level. This isn’t the time to reach for a higher level, but the time to build confidence and fluency. It doesn’t matter if the child has read the material before. In fact, reading a story he is familiar with will increase his confidence and fluency.
News flash—the best way to teach your child to read is to make him read aloud everyday. Invest fifteen minutes a day, everyday, even if it is five minutes three times or ten minutes twice a day. Be lavish with praise and gentle corrections for mistakes. Don’t make him labor at sounding it out, count to three silently and give him the word and move on. Provide reading material at his comfort level in topic areas he finds interesting. Try reading with your child and see his reading level climb!
Somewhat involuntarily, the Midwest became the area of choice for immigrants from middle Europe and Scandinavia, since by 1867, the Eastern Seaboard had become filled with the English, Scots, and Irish.
Many would find it an ugly place, an interminable plain broken by the creeks and streams of the Platte River, the single waterway that traversed its length. Others would see beauty in the silence and the solitude and those were the ones who would stay, no matter how inhospitable the prairie became.
Those traveling further Westward drove their oxen-pulled wagons to follow the Oregon Trail across the prairie, encountering first the rolling foothills and then the sandhills of Nebraska's Panhandle, with its red sandstone buttes and buttresses thrusting savagely upward as if clawing at the sky. At the end of the Great Plains, where the high mountains of the Rockies began, they carved their names and the dates of their passage, and sometimes the deaths of loved ones, into the soft surfaces of the majestic pillars called Courthouse and Chimney Rocks. Leaving behind this monument to their existence, they faced the even more alien terrain of the Northwest which appeared to have been ripped from another planet and deposited into their paths.
It was given the name of The Badlands by someone with a malevolent sense of humor, described by more than one survivor as the place where the devil might vacation and still feel at home! Though it might later prove a Hell in disguise, tales of the land across the Ocean with its vast open plains filled with fertile soil lured many wishing to own their own little bit of Eden.
Besides the elements and the lack of water, they fought disease and sickness. Entire families perished of influenza and the little country graveyards filled with several generations within days. Many hopes and dreams lay buried in makeshift coffins in little plots of ground dug into the soil they had once owned and which they would never leave.
Sometimes the survivors, not being able to bear looking upon the land which had stolen their loved ones, admitted defeat and returned to Europe, bitter and brokenhearted. Others simply abandoned their farms and moved on, hoping for easier times and more accommodating environments further west.
(This is an excerpt from WALK THE SHADOW TRAIL, my novel published in honor of Nebraska's 125th anniversary of Statehood. The photo is of a sod house at Ash Hollow on the Oregon Trail.)
Well ladies, if this post reaches the blog, I am in business. I can tell you all about how when the phone rings, Junior, (who has a very big voice), starts to bark. Now I have no idea why. It's really funny because he starts just before the phone rings.
I could tell you how I have finally trained my canary,(known for not being finger friendly), to hop onto my finger. Now it helps that he falls asleep in his food dish,(he thinks it's a nest), while singing to what he thinks is his mate, me. When he is sleeping in the food dish I stuck my finger near him, and he did it!
Maybe I could tell you how sad I was to find a dead cat in my pool. I cried for days, not understanding why he didn't just get out?
And yes it finally happened. My twenty year old dryer has been replaced. My husband could not fix it. Yeah! He wanted me to have a clothesline, but I balked.
Or maybe I'll tell you about the thrill I had on the 4th of July. One of my neighbors had a launcher and we saw fireworks as good as they get. Right from my front yard. Luckily it had rained that day and no fires started. But it was like a war zone. I could hear and see fireworks in every direction. And some gun fire thrown in for good measure.
And today my niece told me she loves me more than a zillion stars in the sky, now that's nice.
I can tell you about all kinds of things. And I think I will!
Recently, I was blackballed from a women's organization in which I had been a member for 46 years. No reason was given for this decision and I was at a loss to determine why; indeed, now the other members won't even speak to me. Had I inadvertently stepped on someone's toes, insulted another member's mother, husband, child...pet aardvark? Never one to deliberately make waves, I am still at a loss as to the cause for my expulsion; nevertheless, expelled I am--with a vengeance!
Black-balling is a very interesting little bit of History--as well as a fine example of Human Behavior.
The method of black-balling a person began with the ancient Greeks who used the ostrakhon (a piece of shell or potsherd) in voting: a white piece was a positive vote, a black piece a negative. Thus were people excluded from membership in seats of government. Often, a man's entire social standing could be brought down by the refusal of his peers to allow him entry into their elite society.
The technique was later used in Eighteenth Century gentlemen's clubs, as well as other organizations developed along those same lines (such as the Freemasons and college fraternities) in order to retain the principles of the club--as well as keeping out the riff-raff and other undesirables. Since the vote was secret (balls or ballots placed in a box), there was no way one could discover the identity of the one objecting. This also made the club itself exclusive since each prospect had been invited to join by someone already a member. Thus each member would already be known by two others--the one who nominated him and the one he nominated. This insured that all participants were compatible and had more or less the same mind-set.
Although in most clubs, the use of a single black ball no longer can be disastrous to a prospective member's election, in some organizations, this once could have been the case. Roberts' Rules of Order also recognizes the black-ball and notes that there are now rules to make certain no one person can wield such power.
The term black-ball has now come to be synonymous with black-listing.
Black-ball, black-listing, whatever.... I'm neither devastated nor demoralized by my peers' successful attempt to oust me from their ranks...just confused, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. No problem. I'll just use it in a novel some day.
(This blog was prepared with the aid of the Internet and www.wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia, available in ten languages.)
Part 1 of this battle appeared yesterday.
June’s second email to her daughter.
Better change your bet,….He has eaten two or three meals with carrots mashed into them. I’m getting smarter and he can not separate the carrots from the chick-chick. (chicken and rice) Plus, I decided to fix the Little Shit and I mashed in some green peas. So the battle is 3 -3, but knowing him as I do, he’ll find a way to show me who’s boss.
He is chasing the kittens with so much vigor that I can hardly restrain him when we go outside the garage to get into the car. He can’t shuck his harness because I tighten it around his gut. That will fix him. He thinks I’m playing games…
Risa’s response is as funny.
Oh, Mother, this is one of your VERY BEST stories. I am still crying from laughing so hard. I can see it as it happened. My money is on Lou.
It made me laugh, too.
Comment if you have a vote. I'll try to get June to respond.
June Kinion is a South Carolina girl who moved to Georgia and has stayed. This transplant has a law degree and has sold millions of dollars of real estate and raised three children and a grandchild. Her humor speaks of her country raisin’ and her zest for life.
June has a beautiful rescue dog named Lou. Lou has a lot of lab in him and some bulldog from parents who got around. When June’s daughter gave Lou to her, she had her work cut out for her. The poor boy needed a firm and loving hand to help him overcome such fear he trembled and cowered from almost everyone. Now his coat shines and feels like black velvet. He lives the life of a king.
Lou isn’t spoiled, but when June first got him he wouldn’t eat, so she cooked chicken and rice for him to build him up. She still does. Lou, the wily critter, has found a loving human to own and train. In exchange, he guards his human and keeps her company. He leads the dog’s life and prospers in it.
Her daughter, Risa, is in California now, working for the National Park Service, uniform and all.
I read this email exchange and begged June to let me share it in her own words.
| The Dog and the Carrots
When you live with a dog who thinks or rather knows that he is a lord and master, you reach a stage when you must show him that he is wrong. I kept telling him that he was a dog and I was his mistress. He didn't listen or rather pretended to not understand, just like my children did when they were younger, now they just decide that I too old to be smart. My dear Lou is in the middle of letting me know that he will overcome.
A couple of weeks back, I decreed that he would learn to eat carrots as I had read in a doggy book they were good for him and not fattening. He likes to be called 'chubby' or hear 'my, but you are a fat dog.' Since he first came to live with me he has eaten only a handful of dry dog food and millions of pounds of chicken, de-boned and packed away in the freezer until he deems it is time to eat.
I found a place, that I refuse to name, that sells chicken legs and thighs cheap - 10 lbs at a time. After a while I learned to roast 20 lbs in my huge electric roaster, almost enough to last for a month, maybe. And so we have lived, with him thinking I am the world's greatest white hunter who brings home ever so much good food for him to eat --until the day I learned to cook carrots in the big roaster and mash them into his chick-chick.
Then he stopped eating one night and looked up at me and gave two buff buffs and marched into the other room. I looked down and there was a bit of orange carrot staring up at me. He did not come back to eat the remainder. The next night he took forever to eat his chick-chick as he was gently pushing back all the orange pieces. When he finished and all the carrots were in a pile on the side of the bowl. So much for him being healthy.
At present there are 20 lb's of chick-chick frozen with carrots in the fridge waiting until he decides to eat again. Keep tuned in as the battle continues.
Like a lot of kids, when I was small, I was horse-crazy. From the ages of seven through twelve, I collected the "Horses of Destiny" series, The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, anything by Marguerite Henry, and any other horse story I could lay my hot little hands on. I kept spiral notebooks of drawings of horses, with their names and fictitious pedigrees. I knew the breeds, their origins, famous horses representing them. The first stories I wrote were horse stories, patterned closely after the books I'd read. I dreamed of one day owning a horse like those in my stories...a beautiful, intelligent steed who would carry me on my adventures.
One Christmas, I dared to ask Santa for a pony. I knew it was useless. I lived in the city--where would I keep a horse? Nevertheless, every store Santa who asked me got that answer: "I want a pony."
My parents talked it over. They looked through the newspaper, saw an ad, went to see the pony advertised, came back shaking their heads. "We were too late. Someone else bought him." To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Christmas day arrived with plenty of gifts but not the expected pony, but...what was that on the table next to the plate with the crumbs of cookies? A note! "Dear Toni. I hope you like your presents. I left another one for you at your grandfather's, because it was too big to put under the tree...."
Good ol' Santa came through!
Arriving at my grandfather's farm, I hurried to the corral to stare at what stood there staring back at me. I couldn't believe it. "Oh, Mama, can I be dreaming?"
A bay and white tobiano pinto, a streak of white resembling the Mississippi cutting through the splotch of red on his chest, sweeping mane, tail brushing the ground. Barely fifteen hands high (just tall enough to be considered a horse), he was the product of an amorous Morgan stallion and a little Shetland mare everyone had thought too old to breed. Guess that showed 'em! His name was Nipper, for he loved to take a quick bite...out of the unwary.
From that day on, Nipper, my grandfather's dog, Midnight, and I were inseparable. Riding the pastures and red hills of my grandfather's 220-acre farm...through pine forests and cornfields...into swamps and down dusty Georgia roads, my beautiful, intelligent steed carried me on my adventures, some of which have undoubtedly found their way into my books.
We can become so tied to our jobs and our families we forget to have our own lives, especially mothers. Those of us with dreams and passions beyond those others understand have to fight harder.
When I taught school I had no time for writing or friends who didn't teach at my school or know my husband through photography. As a woman born in the early 1940's, I believed being a good wife mean giving up anything that didn't help my husband, and make me a good daughter, a great mama, and a good teacher. Mama was the perfect example of the woman I wanted to be.
I graduated from college and married in time to escape the "free love" and "do your own thing" period. (Actually, my personality wouldn't have allowed me those freedoms.)
I have no complaints about helping my husband,now my EX, build his Photography business, but I regret that I didn't allow myself to branch out and make more friends. I don't know when I would have done that while taking care of my daughter, my parents, and my job. I often wondered if I did a good job in any of those areas.
Once I stopped teaching I gave in to my secret passion, writing. I'd been a storyteller all my life, the time had come for me to write stories.
A stroke of luck sent me to Georgia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America and friends who wrote stories. I made new friends who understood the characters who interrupted my dreams and entertained me while I drove alone. Some are still my best friends.
Discovering computers led me to the Internet where I found more friends. Now my friends are people who are here for me when I feel like the world isn't working. I've belonged to several critique groups and have made lasting friends though them. When I need a shoulder to cry on because of a rejection or a personal setback, I go to my friends online and my critique partners. When I need someone to celebrate finishing a book with me or just feeling good, I call my critique partners. Writing even helped me connect with a high school and college friend.
One other friend became my first reader and my friend when I told her I wrote novels at least fifteen years ago.
If you don't think you have time to make and keep friends, re-think that. My friends, even those I made online, helped me get though the deaths of my parents and my divorce.
If you put off your secret passions or delay going after your dream, you might miss it completely. There is no better time than now.
I celebrate everyday with help from my friends.
Meet my friend Pam, a writer and member of my critique group and future NYT Bestselling Author. I invited her here today to discuss how she stays inspired to keep writing.
When asked how she handles writing problems, here's what she said.
I always look for motivation and inspiration from others. Therefore, I agree with author Amy Tan when she says, “The kind of imagination I use in writing, when I try to lose control of consciousness, works very much like a dream.”
Like Amy, I believe a person’s subconscious is a powerful tool. If consciously applied, it can help solve almost any problem. And not just possible plotting issues, but all the worries and heartaches humans encounter on a daily basis. Our dilemma though is how do we tap into this virtual goldmine? Most of our bodily functions are performed on a subconscious level. We breathe without doing anything. Our heart beats, kidneys and liver filter, and eyes blink without us having to lift a pinkie.
So how do we reach this state of subconsciousness that hordes all the answers?
For me, it’s nothing more than getting a good night’s sleep. Right before I doze off, I concentrate on my problem. I even write it down because that what most experts say is the smart thing to do. I believe the magic happens while I dream about the situation. The answer doesn’t always come the next morning. Sometimes days pass before the light bulb in my mind flashes on. But one thing is true--it always does come on.
Give it a try and see what happens.
Bio: Pam writes sensual romantic suspense and paranormal, and in 2007 sold a short story to True Romance magazine. Currently, she is a 2008 Daphne du Maurier contest finalist.
An abused young wife stranded in the Alleghenies in 1783 is rescued from drowning by a rugged frontiersman who shows her kindness and passion. But can they ever be together?
The challenge for this novelist was to write a short story for the Wild Rose Press Free Reads Promo. I packed a lot into nine pages. Take a look--for free. Here's the link. While you're there check out some of the other great offerings.
His name was Whitey McRowdie. His parents were Conan and Amber. His mom was 42 in People Years (6 in Doggie Reckoning), his pop a mere pup of 14 (2 years). He was a toy poodle and the best friend I ever had.
At birth, he had the biggest strike in the Animal Kingdom against him--prematurity. The vet determined that Amber's tiniest pup was two weeks premature, that she'd had two litters, in fact. When the first litter reached gestational maturity and was ready to be born, he was forced to come along for the ride whether he wanted to or not.
He certainly wasn't much to look at--a body the size and width of my middle finger, with a rat-like pink tail and paws to fit on the head of a corsage pin...a concave scoop where his stomach should have been...a head resembling a baby bird's with bulging sightless eyes. Fighting weight: two ounces on a postage meter. If I'd had a stamp, I could've shipped him anywhere!
"Ain't no way this li'l critter's gonna live!"
I was determined he would, Amber seemed determined he wouldn't. The instinct to cull the unfit made her push him out of the warm little nest. I pushed him back in, fitting him between his bigger, happily-nursing siblings. The next day, the vet gave me a syringe and tube, showed me how to put it down the pup's throat and inject formula directly into his tummy.
"If you can keep him alive a week, he might live."
For the next two weeks, I performed that arduous task, every two hours, day and night, placing him on a heating pad to keep his body temperature constant.
At the end of that time, he graduated from 6 ounces of formula every two hours to 12 ounces, supplemented with very watery pablum, strained egg yolk mixed with formula, and applejuice. By now, Whitey had a new name. There's a scene in Ghost Busters where the three men hunt for the little green slime ghost and one of them says, "Ugly little spud, isn't he?" That was the pup--an ugly little spud. So Spud he became.
He continued to grow, I continued to be surrogate mother. At four weeks, he was the size he should've been at birth, weighing 8 ounces. His sisters weighed 2 pounds. They liked to play "Spud-ball"--tossing him around. Guess who he ran to when they got too rough? As far as Spud was concerned, I was Mama, and he just happened to have been born with 4 feet instead of two!
We celebrated milestones, such as the day he got his first tooth--at six months. Did an IQ test for dogs we saw on PBS. Spud rated as having the intelligence of a two-year-old human. He understood 24 words. I think I have more baby pictures of Spud than I do of my own son who informed me he was jealous. I told him to imagine Spud was the baby brother he'd always wanted.
It was around this time that the vet finally decided perhaps he wasn't going to die after all....
...and he didn't...
...not for 14 years. The day we lost Spud was the day our entire family was devastated. After such a dramatic start and living for so long, he was as dear to us as any human member. He was my constant companion, my Little Buddy, my Baby, the family member who called the shots, the one who decided the Gentleman Caller was going to be permitted to stay.
Who says animals can't feel, can't love, can't experience emotion? Anyone who's had a beloved pet knows better. Anyone who's had a beloved pet will echo me when I say (to paraphrase slightly):
"Spuddy , I'm glad I knew ye!"
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892, Act I
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892, Act III