Monday, September 13, 2021

Taking Time...isn't wasting time

 It's been awhile since I "took the time" to write a blog post. There always seemed to be other projects to
which I needed to bend my efforts. But then, this morning, I began mulling over the whole concept of taking the time to do something and knew it was time to write another post...aimed squarely at yours truly. (And if any of you see some benefit here, then...bonus!) 

I had a bit of a Eureka moment when I thought about what taking time means. It's not about taking precious time away from other things we deem more worthy. It's not losing time. It's taking ownership of time. We take it into our keeping. 

So with that notion in mind, I thought of a few things for which I need to take the time on a regular basis. Perhaps some will speak to you, as well.

Take the time to:

Listen


To people of all ages, even to those on opposite sides of the "fence," whatever fence it is that divides us. Perhaps, especially to them. It doesn't mean we condone their opinions, but it does mean we recognize them as fellow human beings. And, really, if we are arming ourselves for whatever social or political battles we see fit to engage in, then we sure better know what the other folks are saying. Not just saying, but feeling. And that, my friend, takes real listening. Not just listening with our ears, but with our hearts and minds.

To the sounds of nature. There is another world out there, beyond our human making, and it is alive with sound! I find the best time to plug into that world is early morning before so many of us fill the air with our vehicles, and lawnmowers, and radios, and words. It's a reminder that we share this planet with innumerable other beings, ones that live their lives alongside us and, if we listen, fill it with beautiful and fascinating song and chatter.

Read.


I'm aiming this specifically at my writer-side. Reading enlarges our world and allows us to live vicariously through a universe of characters, both fictional and historical, who go places and do deeds beyond our ken. As a writer, immersing myself in a well-written book helps inform my own writing for the better. ("Just look how effortlessly this author spins dialogue..." "Those short, punchy sentences really help build up the tension in this chapter..." etc) And even reading less than stellar material can be a literary object lesson. ("Whoa. I better watch out for these kind of run-on sentences in my manuscript...")

Practice Self-Care.

An especially difficult concept since this seems to be simultaneously time-wasting and self-serving. But, honestly, how well can we do the other more "important" things if our health suffers: mental, physical, or both? 

As a writer, hyper-focusing on the computer screen in front of me, this means I must set my alarm and get up and move around (particularly my stiff neck and shoulders) on a regular basis. My physical therapist, trying to help me alleviate my terrible neck stiffness and pain, is the source of this advice. He wants me to take a break every thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! I'm trying. 

Now, this next bit of self-care will surely bring out the scatological fifth-grade humorist in us, but it's important to take time to...poop. Yes, I said it. When I grew up, our family bathrooms were devoid of reading material. We were encouraged to spend as little time there as possible. It wasn't until I began visiting the bathrooms of friends that I discovered the whole "reading room" concept. ("What the heck are all these magazines doing in the bathroom?!") Needless to say, years of chronic constipation taught me that some things just can't be rushed. 

Take time to rest. If we grind ourselves down to the bone (again, mentally or physically,) there is nothing left with which to carry out that important work we are driving ourselves to perform.  And sleep. Oh my goodness, food of the gods. Science is now telling us that sleep isn't a waste of time; it's essential to our brain cells to regroup and revive and keep on ticking away.

Savor Food.


Think of this as a subset of Self-Care. Even the most humble of meals, deserves our attention. After all, without food, where would we be? Nowhere. And, I've been told that focusing on each bite we take, really tasting it, noticing its texture, is one way to slow down our consumption and actually eat less. Eat less, enjoy more. Mindful eating. Sounds reasonable to me. And, lucky for me, I'm married to a man who loves to cook! Win/win! (Time to pull this post together because I smell something delectable coming from the kitchen...)

-There are many more things for which I need to take the time, but this is a start. I welcome your own thoughts on taking time in the comments, below.

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back, now!

Kate


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Baking a Book...don't judge a book or cake by its cover!





As I was preparing my latest cake, celebrating member birthdays for my writers group, it dawned on me how similar the baking process was to the writing process. Especially with this cake, baked in the shape of a giant, open book, with its particular challenges. I have to say that, in the end, it was delicious and well-received, but it was quite a journey getting there!

Choosing the Confection Type/Literary Vehicle:

First, I had to make a choice of the type of baked goods.

Cupcakes/Short Stories? Cookies/Poetry? Cake/Novel? OK, cake it was. A full-fledged novel of a cake seemed most appropriate for a birthday party.

 Flavor/ Genre:


Chocolate/Mystery? Coffee/Literary? Coconut/Fantasy? Citrus/Humor?

Oh, we all needed a good laugh, so citrus was my choice.

 

Cake Size/Word Count:


Single Layer-Double Layer-Large Sheet/60,000-120,000 Words?

Well, the book-shaped cake pan I purchased for the occasion determined this—a large, very large sheet cake, the equivalent of three cake mixes worth. With the frosting, my cake weighed in at a whopping ten pounds. (I weighed myself, empty-handed, on our bathroom scale, then stepped back up on the scale balancing the finished cake in my hands.)

This was not going to be a fast read! If it were a book, it would be pushing close to a 200,000- word tome. At least there would be plenty extra cake to hand out to all the group members to take home to their families!

 

Customizing the Cake/Literary Voice:


Just as the author’s own unique word choice and narrative style determine the voice of a book, so does adding those extras to a basic recipe to make the end product special. I normally make my baked goods completely from scratch, but this time I began with three boxes of orange cake mix to which I added/exchanged some extra ingredients (orange juice, sour cream, vanilla instant pudding mix, orange zest) that made it sing with moist flavor.

 

Icing the Cake/Mixing Genres:


All went well until I got to the icing of the cake. I wanted a lemony cream cheese-based frosting for the balance of flavors, but I needed a frosting that would dry firm enough to allow me to write on it with edible markers. So...I created a combo icing, much like mixing genres. (Fantasy and humor. Literary and mystery. Harder than I thought!)

 

First, I laid down my yummy cream cheese frosting and let it chill well in the refrigerator. Then, I (attempted) to coat the cream cheese frosting with buttercream frosting. All that lovely, soft, slippery cream cheese icing didn’t make a very sturdy foundation for the heftier buttercream! And, sadly, even after allowing the buttercream topping to dry, it still wasn’t firm enough for writing with the edible markers. Argh! So, I made matters even more complicated by adding medallions of firm, glossy royal icing on top of the buttercream (on top of the cream cheese on top of the orange cake.) By then, I was running low on time to have my masterpiece completed for the night’s meeting.

 

Checking online for ways to make royal icing firm up faster, I discovered the quickest method was warming it with a heat gun. My husband just happened to have one of those in his workshop, so I plugged it in and set to firming up the royal icing. Of course, you can already see the problem. Heat is great for drying out royal icing in a jiffy, but also for melting its buttercream and cream cheese underpinnings. Having failed to first create a high enough border between the medallions and the rest of the top of the cake, the confectionary dam broke in places and royal icing oozed out of its assigned position. My cake was taking on a decidedly surreal Salvador Daliesque appearance.

 

But! I finally wrestled the frosting back into place (kind of) and was able to write words on the royal icing medallions. Not beautifully, but at least somewhat legibly. Then, there was the challenge of storing the cake before its evening presentation. You guessed it. Mixing genres and frosting were, again, the issue. Cream cheese frosting requires refrigeration, but the moisture inside a fridge will soften royal icing and make it run. Noooooo! So, that’s why, our home office that has its own window air conditioner was sealed off with the AC running full blast. We turned it into a giant, dry, cooling area for the giant mixed-genre cake!

 

The time arrived for transporting the cake to the meeting. With no container big enough to safely cover it, I sat in the backseat of our car, balancing the cake on my lap. “No sudden stops or fast corners!” I instructed my husband.

 

We made it with the cake in one piece and it was, after all the drama, a hit with our beloved group members. They are astute enough readers and writers to know you can’t always judge a book by its cover! (And they know me well enough to know my heart was in the right place even if I did make some misguided frosting decisions.) So, lesson learned. Think ahead when baking or writing and if you decide to mix genres, be sure they are compatible!

Thanks for stopping by! Y'all come back, now.

Kate

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

If Spring Had a Color...then yellow, it must be

It's the end of April, and Spring has come at last. Not the false spring of February, or the teasing spring of March, but finally, the true Spring! I'm celebrating with an original poem inspired by that most springy of colors: yellow. All of the photos are ones that I took in my own backyard (with the exception of the forsythia and Carolina jasmine which I let slip past my camera lens this year—those are from the royalty-free Pixabay site, bless 'em.)

 Spring Yellow/Yellow Spring

by Kathryn Louise Wood


If Spring had a color,

then yellow, it must be.

Buttercups, and daffodils,

and Carolina jasmine,

forsythia, and dandelions,

and yellow powdered pollen.

It's as though the flowers,

 and their magical dust—
                       
 collected by the bees,

 and spread from bloom to bloom—

 encourage the young sun

  to linger, ever longer,

  until the old world dances

  in the golden youth of Spring.




Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back now. (And Happy Spring!)

Kate

Thursday, March 4, 2021

On Writing...just do it

("Foreword"— Please forgive any wonky formatting you see in this and future posts. I am still trying to get a handle on Blogger's new version! )               With my first traditionally published book, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost, being launched by Blue Ink Press, next month, I am in the midst of developing my author website. One of my pages will be a section "On Writing." And, so, I thought I'd give you a preview of my soon-to-be-published website by sharing this page with you, ahead of time.      When asked my advice on writing, my words are simple. Just do it. Set out a time each day (or each week,) pour yourself a cup or glass of your favorite beverage and set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and start writing. This part of your writing is for your eyes only. You know that popular phrase, “Dance like nobody’s watching?” Well, write like nobody’s reading over your shoulder. Not your family, not your friends, and certainly not your former English teacher. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it probably won’t be. The procrastinator’s best friend is perfectionism. Trust me, I know this intimately. You can and will always go back and clean things up, hunt for that perfect word, run down that bit of research, and polish that diamond in the rough until it shines. But...if you don’t write something down, there will be nothing to polish. 

My second piece of advice is also simple. Read. Read, read, read. Read within your current genre, read outside of your current genre, read the classics, read the new, read the great, and read the not-so-great. We learn from it all. Read. Write. Repeat.                                                       
My third suggestion, is to find yourself a group of Kindred Spirits, either in person or online, in which you share your written work with one another and where each member reads and offers impressions of the writing. You will learn at least as much from the act of reading and thoughtfully considering the writing of others as you will from the insights they provide into your own writing. I am so very fortunate to be a member of a wonderful and supportive local writers group that meets twice monthly for this purpose. Even in the time of Covid 19, we continued to meet via Zoom. It has truly helped me stay sane and grounded!

I am often asked if I am a planner, creating thorough outlines and character sketches          before I write that first chapter, or am I a pantser, writing by the seat
of my pants without a safety net? Just like my car, I am a hybrid of the two. Long before I begin writing my new manuscript, I’ve thought in generalized terms about the plot, the setting, the characters and what they have at stake in the world I will be creating around them, as well as the genre, and the target audience. Then, as I consider the book as a whole, I write out a loose outline of the action. Opening, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. I include my main characters, but leave them LOTS of leeway to expand upon themselves and introduce me to supporting characters I didn’t even know I needed. This flexibility allows my book to live and breathe as it takes on a life of its own. But the general outline makes sure my characters don’t lead me too far astray and down a rabbit hole that might take me weeks from which to dig back out. 

My favorite music to write by? The sound of a fire crackling in the fireplace (or a virtual one on my computer or TV,) the sounds of the natural outside world: birds, rain, wind, and waves.  When it comes to manmade music, it has to be purely instrumental. I am way too verbally-oriented to tune out lyrics. That goes for either vocal music or even tunes associated with lyrics known to me. I will hear the unsung words in my head and they interfere with my concentration. I enjoy movie soundtracks for background music, especially music from the Harry Potter films.


One more thought. I love to bake. (Check out my recipe Face Book page, Kate’s Giving Plate:
https://www.facebook.com/KatePlate15 ) And I see a direct correlation between baking and writing. Both take forethought, assembling the right ingredients, measuring them out into workable proportions, mixing them together, then allowing them enough time in the right environment to bake to delicious fruition. Food for thought, you might say! With that in mind, I look forward to meeting with school children as we step into my literary kitchen and “bake books” together. 

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back, now. (And "write on!")
Kate

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Old Dog, Young Year...Wolf Moon


Having had both big and small dogs share his life over the years, my brother once told me that little dogs often live longer but...they were old for a lot longer, too. This is certainly playing out with our experience with our dear little Shih Tzu, Minna, who turned fourteen, this past December. She has lost her sight and  has become increasingly frail, suffering what her vet calls "cognitive decline." In other words, doggy dementia. Hers mostly takes the form of getting turned around in odd places, getting "stuck" in corners or behind doors, and barking for no apparent reason. Our younger dog, Sophie, just looks at her then, with a puzzled look on her face, as though trying to understand what she's
talking about. 

But just as with some old humans, who have a sudden decline in physical and mental abilities, it's important to keep in mind that in the big picture of a lifespan, these last years of fragility are just a tiny part of the life they give to the world. And so, I was inspired to write a poem after our wee-hours-of-the-morning experience, today. (Please forgive the awkward formatting. I've yet to master the new version of Blogger!)

Old Dog, Young Year, Wolf Moon

by Kathryn Louise Wood

~Since her decline in body and mind,
blind in eye though not in soul,
we watch and listen for signs of distress,
and come to her aid when she's stuck behind doors.

And ask, without hope of answering word,
what it is that she needs when she croaks out a bark,
as, sometimes, her blind eyes stare out into space
and she shouts to the empty air that surrounds her.

Now, our sleep comes in fits and in frustrating starts

as she "woofs" in our bed, just under her breath,
and our muscles clench tight at the 3am hour,
we know that soft woof will reach desperate pitch.

Then it's jump-up-and-carry her into the night,
out the back door in the wintery cold.
But, sometimes, the chore is a gift, unexpected,
as early this morning, when urgency barked.

I gathered her up, throwing coat over gown,
and carried her out for her needed relief,
into the frost (prayed inspiration would strike her,)
and hoped she'd remember our purpose outside.

I noticed the snow-laden ground was quite glowing
and, turning my gaze away from her snuffling,
my tired eyes were filled with the shimmer of moonlight,
from a moon, crystal clear, in the frozen expanse.

And, then, I remembered its sky-spirit name,
the one for the first full moon of the year.
Then, looking back down at our tiny canine,
knew her heart was as large as the Wolf Moon was full.


I sensed the wild blood that coursed through her veins
as the clear lunar light set her form all a' glimmer,
bathing her body with bright primal beauty,
her fierce, ageless spirit belying her years.

Though shivering cold, warmth flooded my heart
for the privilege of caring for such a dear soul
who the universe granted our love to entwine, 
and the years of sheer joy she's brought to our world.~


Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back, now!
Kate (and Minna)

-All photos by either Kate or husband, Bill Ahearn-

 

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Joys of Secret Santa...and Secret Santa Paws too

"Sophie Investigates the Secret Santa Paws Package"- Photo by K L Wood

Last Christmas, 2019, seems a whole lot longer than just one year ago. I think we need a new time measurement for 2020. You know, like one dog year equals seven human years—although that old adage has come into dispute, lately. I propose one 2020 year equals ten "normal" years. (And that, I believe, will remain indisputable.) 

Anyway, one year ago, our growing family decided it would be easier to handle, both time-wise and finance-wise, if the adults exchanged names for Christmas gift-giving for the following year. (The children would continue to receive gifts from everyone.) We picked names from an elf hat and kept them secret until Christmas 2020 gift-opening time. This led to a year of surreptitious glances and thinly
"Sophie Keeping an Eye on the Secret Santa Paws Gifts"- Photo by K L Wood

disguised inquires of clothing sizes, ears pricked to any mention of needed items, and grateful perusing of Amazon Wish Lists. It really has been great fun and a wonderful way to share (even if by video chat!) 

2020 was also our introduction to the doggy version of Secret Santa through our dogs' participation in the FaceBook group I wrote about in September, Nibblers-Patterdale Wanderers FC. Secret Santa Paws delivered gifts all over the world! 




"Some Nibbler Mates"—photos submitted by the Nibblers


"Some More Nibbler Mates"- Photos submitted by the Nibblers

The organizer kindly and wisely matched those on their respective continents to save on postage and delivery time. (Delivery time being an especially great challenge this past year!) Our dogs, five-year-old Sophie, and fourteen-year-old Minna, were the happy recipients of gingerbread squeaky toys and yummy doggy cookies! Thank you, Secret Santa Paws! (I've included more photos submitted by the Nibblers. Such a darling group of dogs and their human “beans.)
"Minna with her Secret Santa Paws Gift"—photo by K L Wood


From our home to yours, we wish you the simple joy of keeping sweet secrets and the pleasure of selfless giving (and the not-so-selfless receiving, too!)

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back, now. 
(And Warmest Wishes for a Merry Christmas season and a Very Hopeful New Year!)

Kate







Wednesday, November 25, 2020

We Gather Together...as we socially distance

2020 has been the year of irony. 
The very things that pull us together, push us apart, and vice versa. The entire world
has come together in the sharing of a single virus. A virus that, while it reminds us of our joint human frailty and similarity, has forced us behind smile-covering masks and into our socially-distant corners. And, for some, it has cast loved ones into a place from which they will never again return in this earthly life. 

The United States presidential election has brought the citizens of the country together, as never before, to exercise our freedom to vote. We came together in record numbers to cast our votes, either by mail or in person. And yet. And yet, that very election has pushed so many of us into opposite corners, across a political divide that has, for many, become intensely personal. 

And now, we come to the season for giving thanks. 

November 2019 was the first time in many years that both of my daughters, along with my sons-in-law and three grandchildren, could gather together with my husband and me for a Thanksgiving dinner. My older daughter’s husband has a military career, which has caused their family to often be too far away to join us for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was confident that we’d have a repeat of that festive gathering in 2020, while they were still stationed only an hour away from us. But then...the curse of Covid 19 struck, snatching away our plans, just as we learned that Thanksgiving 2021 will find them stationed several hundred miles away. 

And while I’m deep into my pity party, I might add how hard it is to refrain from embracing all of them for the past nine months, especially our 13-year-old and 16-year-old granddaughters, who will be moving so far away next year, and our 22-month-old grandson who, although he lives just an hour away, may as well be across the country as far as hugging distance is concerned. 

This year, we had a masked and socially distant exchange of Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts which we will enjoy
separately in our own three homes along with the turkey each will prepare for their families. We are all trying our best to protect one another from this dreadful illness. An illness that has had tragic consequences in so many families. 

And so, the first thing for which I give thanks this year, is that none of us has contracted it. None of us has fallen ill. We will remain socially distant because it’s one way we show love for one another. 

The second thing for which I give thanks, is the gift of technology. The Internet can be a dangerous and wasteful place to spend our time, but it can also be a lifesaver when we need to draw close to one another for social, creative, or business gatherings. With video chats, I can interact with my family and friends in ways unheard of a few years ago.

Because of the World Wide Web, I can connect with readers and other writers. And our beloved writers’ group has continued to meet twice a month via Zoom, proving it is possible to teach old dogs, new tricks, after all. (Speaking of dogs, this technological wonderment is responsible for bringing me a whole new trans-Atlantic world of friendship and inspiration through the “Nibblers” Facebook group of dog-lovers I wrote about a couple months back.)

So, I give grateful thanks for the love and health of my family, and for the fellowship of kindred spirits around the world. And, if the worse happens and Covid 19 strikes close to home, I give thanks that we have the technology to draw near to one another and provide the warmth and support we all need in a world that could, otherwise, be a cold and distant place. 

Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back, now. (And keep smiling behind that mask as we count our blessings, this Thanksgiving.) 

Kate

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Ghost Stories...'tis the season

"Buttercup Cottage Halloween" photo by K.L. Wood
 Anyone who has followed my writing is well aware that I often incorporate a ghostly element into my stories. For example, my Middle Grade novel, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost will be published by Blue Ink Press https://www.blueinkpress.com/in 2021. As you may surmise, I also enjoy reading ghost stories and watching television programs and movies that center on otherworldly action and characters. Especially if they are based in true events. I am alone in this within my household of two, in which my husband has no such interest. Although he humors me from time to time, he mostly just finds something else to do while I watch or read my ghost stories. Strangely, enough, between the two of us, he is the one who has had more actual ghostly encounters. Encounters of which he is the first to acknowledge their validity and truly supernatural qualities. I wrote a poem about my proclivity towards ghost stories which was selected to appear in the 2017 edition of the College of the Albemarle's annual visual arts and literary journal, Estuaries, and present it, here, as my October offering. Enjoy! (As you learn a bit more about me and my obsession...I mean my interest.)
"Edinburgh Ghost Tour" re: Pixabay


Ghostwriter

by Kathryn Louise Wood

Why are you always reading about ghosts,
or watching their hunters on reality TV,
or searching for clues on the internet,
or writing them into your stories and books?

These are the questions my husband asked me,
forehead creased in spousal concern.
Well that’s a good question, I’ve given it thought,
and wondered, myself, at this strange fascination.

So, after some probing and inner reflection,
I think I’ve discovered the root of my quest.
Two things have always stirred deep in my psyche:
the spellbinding thought of a magical world,
and life after death where lives never end.

I’ve seen too much, and heard even more,
to dismiss the existence of bodiless souls,
spirits so free of earthly constraints,
they pass through walls and visit the living.

That non-corporeal realm seems magic made real.
When days are numbered—some many, some few—
the promise that all that we are is not lost
lends comfort, but also a thrill of intrigue
to think we are all so much more than we seem.

I salute those who find their Belief is sufficient
in resting assured of eternal existence.
I find that the Faith of My Fathers is bolstered,
renewed, and strengthened, and greatly supported
when the stardust of supra-natural beings
reminds us, all, we are made of the same.

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back, now! 
(And Happy Halloween!)

Kate



Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Doggone Inspiration...and surprising source of comfort

"Patterdale Wanderers" illustration by Mo Palios


As an American writer amid these strange days of the Covid 19 virus pandemic, social unrest, vitriol-spewing politics, dangerous hurricanes and wildfires, and even a freakish damaging earthquake in my state of North Carolina, I find myself struggling to focus on my writing, wondering what plague will next strike us. All too often, my mind veers away from my work and onto the next crazy or horrifying thing in the news.
"Sophie" photo by K. L. Wood

But I have discovered a new and unexpected source of both creative inspiration and warm-hearted comfort. I (actually, my dog, Sophie) was invited to join a private Facebook group called the Nibblers—Patterdale Wanderers FC. In case you don’t know, FC stands for Football Club. (That’s football, as in soccer.) No, Sophie is not a soccer player or a Patterdale terrier, but she’s a friend of a Patt named Wanda, here in Edenton, and Wanda extended the invitation to join this positively (or “pawsitively” in Nibbler-speak, but more on that, later) wonderful group. Four year-old Sophie, in turn, invited her old litle sister, thirteen-year-old Shih Tzu, Minna, to join the Nibblers. This creative pack of canines is centered in the United Kingdom, but Nibblers stretching from Kansas to Canada to the Netherlands have also been welcomed into the fold.
"Magic Wanda" photo by K. L. Wood



What gets my writer’s juices flowing is that the members all communicate in their “dog voices,” viewing and speaking from the dog’s POV (Point Of View, or perhaps POD- Point Of Dog is more accurate.) There is a whole host of dog dialect-enhanced words. For example: going on a vacation is usually referred to in the UK as going on holiday, but in Nibbler-speak, it’s going on “holibobs.” Archie, the Nibbler who started it all, has become the official group attorney, usually called a solicitor in the UK, except in Nibbler land he is the “solly sitter.” One term that has gotten a lot of use recently is the “carrot walrus.” In other words, the corona virus, which has invaded the Nibblers’ lives on both sides of the Pond. And we human beings are referred to as “beans.” As in, I’m Sophie’s Mom bean, and there are Brother and Sister beans and Grandma beans and Uncle beans, etc. There are many more examples, but you get the picture!

This group shares photographs and stories of their everyday adventures of taking “walkies” and sneaking treats, such as that ever-popular UK Nibbler favorite, custard creams. (A vanilla cookie sandwich with a cream center.) I’ve learned a lot of new terminology, both gastronomically and colloquially-speaking, which sets my writer’s brain a’ ticking. There is also the creative challenge of writing in your own dog’s voice. My Sophie, for example, consistently speaks with her own brand of eccentric phrasing. She often adds an “s” where none is needed. (“Where nones is neededs.”)
 
"Minna" photo by K. L. Wood, all other Nibbler photos on this Blog, provided by their Beans

The members also share exuberant joys and heart-wrenching sorrows. In addition to celebrating birthdays and “Gotcha” Days (the days on which rescued Nibblers with unknown birth dates joined their forever homes,) there have been baby beans born and new Nibbler siblings adopted. But there have also been sick or injured Nibblers, as well as their beans, and we have offered get-well wishes and practical advice when requested. And, as might be expected, there have been both beans and Nibblers who have passed away into what they call, Everafter Land. When that has happened, one can feel the warmth and love of hundreds of kindred spirits wrapping the bereaved in comfort.
 
"Sophie's First Birthday" photo by K. L. Wood
The Nibblers participate in complex virtual events such as sports competitions, birthday celebrations, beach parties, travel adventures, and even a recent Nibbler wedding for Mr. Scruffs and Miss Lilly. (Several romances have blossomed online in this cyberworld!) In future posts, I will share some of these entertaining stories (especially the wonderful tales spun by Kiki’s Grandpaw bean,) as well as more photographs and drawings of these endearing canine characters. (Today’s post has but a few of their portraits. Just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of Nibblers who have offered their images for the blog!)


It all began with one of the beans, a talented writer and artist named Mo Palios, when she began a page in the name of her adorable rescued terrier, Archie. As she told and illustrated Archie’s fantastic tales, he gained a following that blossomed into a life of its own and eventually became the basis for the broader Facebook page: Nibblers-Patterdale Wanderers FC.

In Mo’s words: “I think the Patterdale Wanderers Football Team was the first big bonding event and that’s when i invented the Nibbler nickname. They were appallingly bad players but devoted themselves to coming up with tricks and strategies to beat their opponents! Like wearing dachshund face masks to confuse the other team. And the Nibblettes dressing as bunny rabbits to distract the whippet team.”


I’ll end this segment of the fantastical world of the Nibblers with a quote from their Facebook page:

~Join the Nibblers for fun, fantasy football and lots of amazing adventures in Pattland.
Players and supporters of Patterdale Wanderers FC - nicknamed the Nibblers are all welcome!
Old, young, slow, fast - every Nibbler can play in our matches and go on our adventures as they only happen in our secret Pattland. Nibblers don’t always have to be Patts ... just friends of Patts. We have Nibblers all over the UK and in the States as well. We have a magic patterbus that transports us anywhere in minutes so we can all meet up wherever we want, whenever we want. (Without our mum and dad beans). We share jokes and tricks and games and our beans share stories about us being funny or cute or naughty ... mostly naughty. We’re great mates and our team motto is All For One - One for All. We’re pretty rubbish at football but our team, Patterdale Wanderers, has lots of tricks (sorry - tactics) up our sleeves. We’re proud and thrilled to say we somehow managed to win the Canine Football Association Cup against the Favourites, Dachshund Bangers. 🎶🎶🎶We are the champions my friends 🎶🎶🎶 ~

"Nibbler Flag" illustration by Mo Palios
Be sure, also, to check out Archie’s original Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/archie.paliostyte.3 where you can find some wonderful “Nibbler” oriented gifts; a portion of the sales are donated to the Dogs Trust, the largest dog welfare charity in the United Kingdom.  

Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back, now! — And, as we navigate these dangerous days, let’s all try to live by the Nibblers’ motto: 

“All For One - One For All!”

Kate











Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hard Road South and The King's Oracle...safe travel through books

"Books" photo via Pixabay.com
Reading is a way to travel through time and space and never leave the safe harbor of our homes. And even though our country is slowly reopening to the new normal of mask-wearing social distancing, the Covid 19 pandemic still ravages the planet, and the number of related deaths in the United States has risen by nearly 100,000 more than I noted in my blog post, just two months ago. Thank goodness for books to "take us away!"
So, today, I'd like to introduce you to two wonderful new books I've recently read, from my publisher, Blue Ink Press. (You may remember that Blue Ink Press will be publishing my middle grade book, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost, in 2021.) Before reading my reviews of each book, below, I think it’s important to note that although historical fiction, Hard Road South by Scott Gates, and young adult fantasy, The King’s Oracle by Sherry Torgent are from completely disparate genres and target readership age groups, they both excel at voice, pacing, world building, and character development. Both books succeed in making the reader care about the characters and become emotionally invested in the outcome of the story and how it affects those characters.
Another element they have in common is the theme of a journey. Journeys can be geographical or spiritual or a combination of the two. In the best stories, the physical journey leads to spiritual growth, as it does in these two novels. And when I speak of spiritual, I refer to the core of the person on the journey. That which is home to, and a reflection of, their true selves, regardless of the physical vessels in which they are housed. Following, are my reviews for each book in the order in which I read them.

Hard Road South by Scott Gates 
 (Published by Blue Ink Press and available through Amazon  and independent book stores listed at IndieBound )
Hard Road South is historical fiction set in the era just after the end of the
Hard Road South by Scott Gates
American Civil War. On an April morning in 1869, former union solider, Solomon Dykes, leaves his Connecticut home, of which he has little to hold him, and begins his journey to a place that
caught his heart and imagination during the American Civil War—the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He doesn’t make it quite that far, but settles in Loudoun County, near Middleburg, Virginia. There, his life becomes entangled with a South struggling to recover, both physically and spiritually, from the ravages of war and that which drove the nation to civil war.
Jeb Mosby is a farmer living with his wife and his elderly father, a father whose mind and body, both, tend to wander. On their farm, just outside of Middleburg, Mosby coaxes crops from the rocky ground as his lovingly tends to the needs of his home and family. It’s one of his Pappy’s wandering spells that brings Solomon Dykes into Mosby’s corner of the world. An encounter that forever changes the life trajectory of both Mosby and Dykes.
Although written for an adult readership, it would be appreciated by young adult readers, as well. After all, high school-aged readers are not limited to reading books written specifically within the Young Adult genre. High school is where I discovered and devoured some of the great works of literature, from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky to Hemingway. Although parents have less influence over their teenaged children’s reading habits than they did when those offspring were younger, they can rest assured there is nothing, in this novel, that could be construed as inappropriate for younger readers. If it were a movie, I’d rate it PG-14 for subject matter and interest.
The story is told, primarily, from the points of view of its two main characters, Dykes and Mosby, with a smattering of chapters told from the viewpoints of minor characters. Each chapter is devoted to one POV at the time and skillfully captures the voice of the character in dialogue, thought, and action.

Scott Gates, author of Hard Road South
Scott Gates wisely sets the pace of the book to that of a gentle, but steady and unceasing, plow-driven mule. It perfectly matches the pace of the era and the reader easily slips into that 19th century spirit, never boring, always pushing forward. The author seamlessly weaves in details of life in the 1860s, which add to the interest and credibility of the “historical” part of this historical fiction.

The King’s Oracle by Sherry Torgent
(Published by Blue Ink Press, available June 16, 2020 and may be pre-ordered through Amazon and independent book stores listed at IndieBound)
Set in an indeterminate time, the clothing, modes of travel, and weaponry give
The King's Oracle by Sherry Torgent
the novel’s setting a medieval quality. Because of a long-ago clash and disagreement among the civilization’s leaders, approximately half of its population (the Alrenians,) resides in the tree canopy, living and moving about by an intricate network of rope bridges and platforms, and the other half (the Uluns,) are earth-bound, attempting to survive on the ground, much of which was made toxic during a past event known as The Great Destruction, when fire rained down upon the earth.
Twenty-two-year-old Wynter is a member of the Alrenians, the people of the eagle, and, like her father before her, is a Transporter, whose job is to transport items from place to place among the branches. We first meet Wynter as she reluctantly and secretly takes the place of her cousin, Jack, as an escort for the Alrenian queen. What follows, tests not only Wynter’s ability to disguise herself as a man, but her ability to think on her feet when she finds those booted feet, not skittering among the Alrenian treetops, but planted firmly on the dangerous ground of the Uluns.
The other primary character is Gideon, heir apparent of the Ulus, the people of the wolf. Troubled by a disturbing and recurrent dream of interaction with the Alrenian queen, he seeks the counsel of the Ulun seer, a Merlin-like character named Gotz. As the future king tries to make sense of the dream-induced vision Gotz presents him, and how it plays into his destiny as leader of the Uluns, Wynter enters his world of ground-dwellers and an uneasy partnership of sorts emerges as they both attempt to do what is best for their people.

Sherry Torgent, author of The King's Oracle
I was privileged to receive a digital version of The King’s Oracle as an advanced reading copy (ARC) and have, since, pre-ordered a paper-printed edition of this intriguing novel. Call me old-fashioned, but when I truly enjoy a book, I long to hold it in my hands and give it a home on my bookshelf!
 Although it falls within the young adult genre, I believe it has crossover appeal to both older (11-12 year-old) middle grade readers and adult readers. Parents of older middle grade readers will find the subject matter and its treatment, entirely appropriate for that younger readership. Although, at twenty-two years old, the main character’s age falls beyond the common young adult genre’s teenaged protagonist, “the star of the show,” Wynter, has a youthful personality to which teen readers will relate. (I use the phrase “the star of the show,” because the book has a cinematic quality, which engages the reader and makes the book hard to put down.)
Although the majority of The King’s Oracle is told from the point of view of either Wynter or Gideon, the POV of a few other characters is also entwined throughout the book, with each chapter titled with the name of the character whose viewpoint is utilized in that section. By this method, the reader learns not only the thoughts and actions of the two main characters and their views of the world, but also becomes privy to the co-existing intrigue of other characters of which Wynter and Gideon are unaware.
There is just enough humor to buoy our spirits as the action moves swiftly along among forays into both realistic battle scenes and into the desires and sometimes confusing emotions of the human heart. Sherry Torgent has managed to weave together the look and feel of a long-ago time and far-away fantastical land with a fresh, contemporary voice that invites 21st century readers to feel at home amid the strangeness.
I invite you to read more about the authors, Scott Gates and Sherry Torgent, at Blue Ink Press.

Thanks for stopping by. Ya'll come back, now! (And, please, stay safe and healthy out there.)
Kate