Well? Are you ready to read YOUR brains out? I am well under way! And let it not be said that I’m not contributing to the reading season…
One of the things I don’t generally discuss overmuch is my health (although it’s the reason for my current paucity of posts); The Lyme has been active for 25 years and diagnosed for less than one. All the writing, the training, and the trialing is done in spite of…and because I’m really, really stubborn.
There are a lot of things I don’t do, or can’t do without a companion, and these things I integrate into my life as gracefully as possible, so most people don’t even put two and two together.
One of the reasons for that is a sensory dysfunction that generally has me fleeing (literally) for the hills. (Am I a hermit? Why yes. Yes I am.) To help manage this issue, I use certain focusing and brain exercises that take a lot more effort than you can imagine if you haven’t ever desperately relied on them. I use these constantly and pretty much invisibly.
One of the things I’ve always done to ground my brain is to bring a dog along when I drive. Having that quiet presence in the car is one thing–but the real value comes when I get where I’m going and we work together in the parking lot. It re-grounds me without adding overload…and it’s the very fastest way to do that. But when it’s too hot to leave a dog in the car…. I stop going places, or I pay a much larger price when I do.
So as of last year, I’ve gone official with Mr. D’Artagnan Beagle: He’s a service dog. Because a service dog can come inside.
The reason this works for us is not only because of who he is, but because of who we are together. And because I’ve been training dogs for [mumblemumble] years, I can make choices that are good for him, good for me–and most especially–responsible to the rest of the world. Before I took this step, I consulted with a service dog trainer–and now Dart and I will grow together in this. He is an imperfect service dog–eager and learning refinement–with an underlying aptitude, and that’s what makes him exactly perfect for me.
I’m immensely lucky. Not every dog is suited for service work, even if you start from puppyhood. (Neither of my other two kids would be happy or successful in this role.) So that’s luck #1. Luck #2 is of course the fact that training is one of the things I do, and have basically always done. Had I not run into the health stuff, I would have happily pursued it as a profession; as it is, I simply pursue it with dedication.
I don’t take this luck for granted, and I know…well, how lucky I am to be lucky. That’s why I’m outing Dart’s quiet Other Role in my life –so I can participate in the “Bloggers Help Paws with Cause” event.
See, FINALLY. We get to the part about winning things!
Basically, there are whole lot of blogs offering a chance to win a whole lot of bookish things–in return for donations to Paws for Cause (one entry per each dollar donated).
To Enter: Answer these questions in the comments! Don’t worry…it could be that there’s no exact right or wrong. I’ll do the pick from a hat thing–but I won’t lie. Thoughtful responses (as opposed to token words just to get entered) will have an edge.
- You’re attending an event. You see a service dog of awesome cuteness. YOU CAN’T STAND THE CUTENESS! You miss your dog who is not at the event. Because this is a service dog, you feel safe with it. Also, you used to/do have a dog of that breed. Your first impulse is to go “AWWW–!” and you feel an inexorable tug to go pet the dog. What do you do? (Or if you’re William Shatner, what DO you DO?)
- You see someone with a service dog who appears to be functionally intact. You wonder what on earth they need this dog for. Are they just gaming the system to feel special? Maybe they’re taking advantage! You are wildly curious! Your mouth opens! What do you say?
- You’re making casual conversation with someone who happens to have a service dog. The dog is behaving appropriately, but you’re surprised to see this breed with a service vest on. You know something about [family dogs/breeds/once taught your dog to sit], and you know this breed has a reputation for its cheerful resistance to training. You open your mouth and out come the words–
No, wait! This is a trick question! Out come the words, “I can’t believe you’re using a Beagle as a service dog! I [had/knew] a Beagle once, and it was so [dumb/stubborn] that it would never [sit/come/shut up/fill in the blank].” And here is my answer, the one I will probably never say in public so you now have this sneak peek into my brain: “Right! Because the dog trained YOU! Now who’s the SMART ONE?!” (And in my brain, I will use all caps.)
How to donate:
2. Click on “Make a Donation”
3. Enter your amount. Everibbon will add a small fee to your donation for processing. You will receive 1 entry into the giveaway for every $1 you donate.
4. In the box that says “on the behalf of” please put your name. This is the name that will be listed on the Everibbon website, so use a public name. Do not check the box to make an anonymous donation because Danielle won’t be able to track your donation and process your giveaway entry.
5. Next it will ask you for your credit or debit card information.
6. Then it will ask for your email address to send you a receipt. This is so that you can submit it for tax purposes.
7. Ta Da! Now contact Danielle to enter the giveaway!
8. Please email Danielle (RomanceBookJunkiesDanielle@Yahoo.com) with the name you used to donate your money, and tell her how much you donated and if you live in the US or are International.
9. Ta Da again! Thank you for donating!
Warning: Play nice! If Danielle receives more than one email with the same person’s name and donation amount, she’ll ask for your receipt from Everibbon.
Have lots of fun, admire a service dog, and head over to the Event Web Page to check out the other participating blogs and their prizes!
The Dart Outtakes…he’s not so fond of the camera flash! His tail would wag happily until the moment I lifted the camera, and then…oppression…
I’m delighted to have Lilian Darcy stop by for a guest post…I hope you enjoy the swans!
Doranna, thanks so much for having me on your blog, to talk about…
Anybody else out there have a thing about swans?
Just pause a minute before you answer this. Chances are, swans are more deeply embedded in your psyche than you thought.
For example, I myself didn’t realize I was afflicted this way until I sat back and thought about childhood fairy tales and classical ballet and my contemporary women’s fiction novel All Dressed Up with its beautiful, swan-like ballet/bridal dress on the cover, and most importantly the swan theme running through my newest book Saving Gerda.
European literature and history is full of significant and symbolic swans. Google swans, and you get 29,000,000 hits. Okay, so some of them are for a Sydney-based Australian Rules football team, and others for an American post-punk band. And this is interesting, too, because, seriously… Swans and football? Swans and punk music? Well, okay, if you want.
On Google Images you get… and I really can’t believe this, but that’s what Google tells me… 49,300,000 hits. Picture after picture. Beautiful, graceful, romantic, quirky.
Here’s some slightly dry stuff about swans:
They are the largest member of the duck family.
There are six or seven species.
The male is called a cob and the female a pen.
In Australia, swans are black.
Their egg incubation takes 35 to 45 days.
Here is what I really want you to know about them:
Their pair bonding is monogamous and often lasts for life. So many of those Google images of swans show a cob and his pen forming a heart with their mirror-imaged white necks. Because of this, they are often a symbol of love and fidelity.
They appear in countless songs and poems and myths and stories. In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus came to the Queen of Sparta in the form of a swan and together they conceived Helen of Troy. In an Irish legend called the Children of Lir, a stepmother transforms her stepchildren into swans for nine hundred years. In a Finnish epic, anyone who kills a swan will perish and be sent to the underworld.
“Swan Lake” is one of the best-known ballets ever created, and the re-imagined version directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, with an all-male chorus, is now the longest running ballet ever, in both the London West End and on New York’s Broadway.
“The Six Swans,” one of the hundreds of fairy tales recorded by the Grimm brothers, is at heart a story of love and fidelity. For six years without speaking or laughing a young woman must sew shirts out of nettles for her six brothers, in order to release them from an enchantment which has turned them into swans.
I love the swan on the cover of Saving Gerda. For me, it evokes all those feelings about sacrifice and courage, faithfulness and love and beauty – the things that the book is about, at heart. What makes us brave? Why is beauty important? What does fidelity really mean?
A Guest Post by Stephanie Draven
One of the things that annoys me about the critiques of the Romance genre is that it’s somehow trivial. As if love had not, in fact, given rise to empires or made them come tumbling down again. Maybe love is dismissed because it is often the interest of women, important to them–more important than battles. Or maybe it is because so many writers don’t understand that even when telling a love story, they’re telling a story about more than that.
Every story should have a theme–and ideally, more than one. In a romance novel, the overarching theme is a given: Love conquers all. That’s the argument. Everything you write in this story should support the premise that love overcomes all obstacles. That it is through love that our hero and heroine can get what they want. That’s the relatively easy part because the entire genre is built around this single theme.
But because it’s already built in, readers expect a second theme. And that’s where things get tricky. So what is a theme? ChuckWendig said it better than I ever could, but a theme is an argument that you’re making. It’s a thesis. Several themes of my most recent HQN Nocturne nove, Dark Sins and Desert Sands include: “War makes men into monsters,” “torture demeans both the tortured and the torturer,” “civilized nations ought to uphold laws even during wartime,” “women have a right to be sexy,” “women can’t and shouldn’t be owned,” “the human capacity for forgiveness is our salvation.”
Some of these themes are more controversial than others, but they’re all in there, and the story, the dialog, the plot…all of it works together to make an argument that supports these themes. So, did I set out with a list of arguments and then create a book around them? Not really. I had a central premise, but as the plot started to unfold, the underlying arguments started peeking to the surface. It was in the rewrite that I was able to uncover and expand upon my themes, which lends credence to my belief that there are no great writers in the world. Only great rewriters.
It’s in the editing that magic happens. Where you can spot the arguments in your subtext and use metaphors to hammer them home. So the next time you’re looking over your first draft, ask yourself what your book is trying to say. What fight is it picking? And if it isn’t saying anything at all, it might be time to put it back in the drawer and write something else.
*applause from the gallery!*
Stephanie Draven is currently a denizen of Baltimore, that city of ravens and purple night skies. She lives there with her favorite nocturnal creatures–three scheming cats and a deliciously wicked husband. And when she is not busy with dark domestic rituals, she writes her books.
Stephanie also writes historical fiction as Stephanie Dray and has a series of forthcoming novels from Berkley Books featuring Cleopatra’s daughter.
How cool is this? I not only have a guest blogger, I have agent/writer guest blogger Lucienne Diver. MY agent. Yes, that’s right. Mine, mine, MINE. But I’m delighted to share, so without further ado… PS Wait…more ado mixed with gloat…I pre-ordered this book on my Nook, and the other day it automatically downloaded and it was SO COOL.
The publication of a new novel feels something like having the flu. Seriously! Think about it:
The chills: icy fingers of fear running up your spine. Will they like me? Hate me? Hate my characters? My plot? My conflict and resolution? I’m doomed!
The fever: the blush of praise in a positive review. The flush of exhilaration when you get to post a quote calling you “brilliant” or “hilarious” or even just “readable.”
The nausea: the stomach churning anticipation when you inquire about your print run or sell-through or any number of details.
The bathrobe: because, let’s face it, by the time the book is out and we’ve written our seventy zillionth guest blog, we’re lucky we made it into the bathrobe. We’ve certainly not gotten as far as a shower and actual grooming.
The tissues: those afore-mentioned reviews? It’s a guarantee at least one will suggest that your book is a waste of the paper it’s printed on (luckily, my new one starts out in digital – ha!). Whether the reviewer’s taste differs from what you have to offer or there’s an element that maybe didn’t go down as smoothly as intended or insert reason here, almost nothing is universally loved. Not even chocolate. Yeah, I can’t believe it either.
That achy feeling: my chiropractor calls it “writer’s back.” We spend so much time bent over notebooks, hunched over keyboards or simply squinting at tiny type that aches and pains just sort of go with the territory. Stretching is a must. Regular adjustments or massages…yes please! With sugar on top.
The lethargy: after the insanity of your launch month, where you’re frantic to do everything you can to get the right sort of attention, all you want to do is sleep for a week…or six. I’m not judging.
Prescription: ride it out.
Yeah, sadly, there’s just no miracle cure for the publication panic. I advise lots of fluids, a gross of scrunchies, maybe some decent fuzzy slippers to go with that bathrobe and protect your toes from stubbing when you do the inevitable lack-of-sleep shuffle, and a very understanding significant other.
Dr. Diver, signing off.
My name is Doranna, and I’m a Farscape Fanatic.
Didn’t you know?
Right from the start.
In fact, when the chance came to write an essay about Farscape for BenBella, I leaped at it, and the result is in the book Farscape Forever.
I got my hands on that expensive first release of the first season, but I just couldn’t scrape together the dough for the following seasons, and sadly gave up…until the recent release of the complete series.
It is Way Cool. It is a wonderful indulgent wallow. I will take it for long sunset walks at the beach, let it sit in front of candlelight dinners, and feed it chocolate.
Or not. Maybe I’ll just watch it.
Anyway, if you feel as I do and would like to get your hands on this DVD set, have I got a deal for you:
Sign up to get free stuff, and get FREE STUFF.
Or in less cryptic terms, sign up to receive newsletters, bookmarks, and postcards, and enter to win the compete series of Farscape on DVD.
If you’re already on the newsletter list, no biggie–hit the Gimme button over there in the right-hand column (under the book covers) and you’ll have a chance to add your snail address info. Only those entries with both email and snail mail contact information will be eligible.
(And if you’re already on the newsletter AND postcard list, then I love you to pieces, but you still have to head to the Gimme button and get your address synced with your email.)
The contest runs through the end of the month. Go get ’em!
posted on Sunday, of all things
W00t! The Fresh Fiction Valentine’s Day contest is over, with many thanks to those who came over to WordPlay to read and comment. And it’s a round of WHEEE! to Lexie, whose name fell under the magic cursor and who will be receiving a copy of THE RECKONERS, newly released from Tor this month (in spite of Amazon, thank you very much).