Monday, September 26, 2011

This Dog Story May Not End Well

A few weeks ago, I put up a couple of posts about our good old dog, Tracy, who disappeared and then mysteriously reappeared. At the end of the post telling about her return, I noted that there seemed to be a new dog hanging around that someone must have dumped on us. Well, it was true. We've become the owners of a big, active puppy - willing or not.

Obviously, this dog had been abused, because any time we raised our hand or our voice, he would cower. He also had a really strange mark on his side; it looked like someone had cut or branded an "X" about the size of a dime into his hide. He was so pitiful, he made me think of Dobby the house-elf from Harry Potter, in his dirty pillowcase, so that's what we named him - Dobby.

Dobby quickly got over his fear of abuse. Like his namesake, he has become almost obnoxious in his friendliness (remember, Dobby the house-elf nearly killed Harry several times before actually saving him!). When we get home, Dobby is there waiting, ready to flail us with his bullwhip of a tail. It's gratifying, in a way, to see what a difference a tiny bit of positive attention has made in him.

However....Dobby likes to chew. In the picture above, Dobby is posing with some of his early handiwork - a chair cushion he got from the tree house and absolutely shredded.  Since that time, he has gone on to loftier missions.....

like chewing up one of our daughter's barn boots....

frequently scattering the trash...

and worst of all, TOTALLY annihilating a cardboard box and its contents that had been sitting in the garage for YEARS.

What gets me about Dobby's destruction is that it is so complete. He's like the atomic bomb of dogs. All that's left of the box is small bits approximately 2x3 inches (he did more damage after this picture was taken because we simply didn't have time to clean it up that week; it IS football season, after all). 

I try to remind myself he's a puppy and puppies chew. Tracy was a chewer. She once tore a hole in a quilt hanging on the clothesline, and so far Dobby hasn't touched any of the laundry. (So far.....) But we're older people now, and we were used to a nice, calm, old dog....AARRRGGGGHHHH!

It brings to mind the beginning of Old Yeller, when the dog first shows up and gets in the smokehouse and goes swimming in the drinking water with Little Arliss. Old Yeller turned out to be worth the trouble; I can only hope the same will be true of Dobby -- and that we have the patience to wait for it to happen!

(By the way, PLEASE spay or neuter your pet!!!! This makes the fifth dog we've had dumped on us over the 14 years we've lived in this house. If a person isn't going to be responsible enough to take care of the offspring, he/she ought to be responsible enough to prevent any offspring. It's not fair to stick other people with a responsibility they didn't choose.....)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Here's a Switch...

In my last post about "Try It Out Tuesday," I said my husband likes just about anything I cook, and that I hadn't yet found something my daughter would eat. Well, tonight turned all that on its head!

I found a recipe for Three Cheese Stuffed Shells in an older Taste of Home magazine. This is the first time I've ever cooked with ricotta cheese, and it was sort of fun to make the filling and stuff the little limp pasta shells. I might have put in too much spaghetti sauce, but I thought it came out looking pretty well:

It was really, really rich! Two shells was almost more than I wanted. That might be one reason the hubby didn't like it - he spooned three shells out to start with. He said he doesn't like the texture of the ricotta.

The kids, however, did clear their plates, and when I asked if this was a recipe to keep, my daughter said, "Well, I don't want to have it every night." But she agreed it would be something we could put in the menu rotation.

The last thing I would say is, don't laugh at my fancy garlic bread! : )

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Case Study in "Feeling"

Agent Mary Kole had an interesting post over at this week in which she talked about a writer's number one objective: To make your reader feel. Her post made me think of a song I'm really liking right now exactly because I think it does such a good job of conveying feelings without hammering us over the head and telling us how the song's persona feels. We have to fill in the gaps - to feel it ourselves.

The song is Nothing by The Script, and I think it is the best song at portraying misery that I've heard in a long time - maybe ever. (Of course, The Script is an Irish band, and I joke that no one knows how to be miserable like the Irish.) (That is a joke - I love you, Irish!) Here's the video for the song:

The gist of the song is that a guy has broken up with his girlfriend (or been dumped, more likely) and his friends decide to "help" him by taking him out for drinks. After one too many, he decides he will call her and say he still loves her, which will solve everything, right? Except...all he hears on the other end of the line is nothing.

Cool enough as a setup for a song. But since I am excessively high in need for cognition (that's a joke for my Persuasion Theory students, should any of them be happening to read this), I couldn't leave it at that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Sense of Intimidation

After finishing the final draft of Book One (which is called Dancing in the Checkered Shade, by the way), I was forced by the day job to take a couple of days off. Today I started reading the first draft of the followup, most of which was written while I was on sabbatical from the day job, from January-May 2010. I haven't allowed myself to look at that draft since that time, although I've thought about it quite a bit. As I remembered it, I had done a pretty darn good job, if I do say so myself.

Well....let's say there are some pretty darn good spots mixed in with some pretty mediocre spots. One thing I noticed immediately is the amount of "telling" -- yes! After all my grumping about that writing style on this blog! Fortunately, this is a first draft and I can fix that problem. But, wow, that will take some thinking and some real writing work.  I also never completely finished the story, so I have to write the first draft of the last few chapters.

Overall, I am pleased with it as a beginning. It's really sort of funny - there are so many differences to DitCS (see, I even have an acronym!). For one thing, it was a lengthy struggle to cut DitCS down to a reasonable length; so far, this second book has 15 chapters (of probably 18) and fewer than 50,000 words. That's too short, really. I hope the conversion from "telling" to "showing" will help. I know it's going to be some work, but as one friend put it, it's "lovely" work.

To be honest, there is something else that intimidates me. The same friend asked me, "So what's next for DitCS?" Well....I don't know...... This friend has self-published two books, and she has encouraged me to do the same. That route does have some appeal, although I know I don't have the time to do the promotion needed to give the book a decent chance in the world.  And a little part of me still would like to have an agent think it's good enough to request the full manuscript to read (although the mainstream publishing world has some disadvantages, like a short window of opportunity to "make it," that don't appeal to me at all). I don't know....I don't want to be famous, and I don't want to quit my day job (at least not today!). would be kind of cool to have people reading about these characters and loving them as much as I love Will and Susanna, Kit and Nat, Laura and Almanzo, Hannah and Tice.....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Sense of Accomplishment

I may have mentioned at some point that I've been writing a novel. : ) This past Saturday morning, my husband and daughter went spelunking with a friend, and my son was sleeping in after a hard week of high school. So I decided to forego the work I brought home from school to spoil myself by a day of working on the edits for my book instead. Well, I became consumed with the task and ended up spending the entire Labor Day weekend editing (I did go to church, do laundry, and keep the family fed!). Last night around 10:00, I finally typed "The End" and closed the file with a sense that the book was finally finished

It's been a long process. I first had the idea for these characters about 25 years ago, but it wasn't until about seven years ago that I actually started writing. My first draft was 169,000 words, which is down to about 92,000 in the final draft. For a while I was stuck in the middle of the story, unable to explain why some of the scenes were included. But after "killing a few babies" (as the agent blogs call it), I feel satisfied that everything finally ties together into a tight plot package. For the first time, there's nothing I think I need to change.

Of course, I've heard authors say there is always something to change, even after the book is published. But at this moment, I feel pretty happy. And excited, because now I'm going to dive right back in to the first draft of the sequel to this book. That will be fun!

A quick update on "Try It Out Tuesday": We didn't try anything new for the main dish tonight because the kids had a practice meet for their cross country teams and weren't going to be home to eat. But I did try a new cookie recipe. It's called Orange Chocolate Drops. The story of how I got this recipe is kind of funny. You may remember I said I was going to let my daughter pick the new dish for this week since she didn't like the dishes the other two weeks. So Thursday evening of last week I mentioned to her that she needed to pick something out so I could get the ingredients needed. On Friday, she went to the school library and checked out a big, old cookbook. Then she and one of her friends looked through the book and picked out four recipes, including Five-Cheese Pasta (FIVE cheeses!!!????) made from scratch, not from a jar. This is a cookbook for REAL cooks. Yikes....

One of the four recipes was this cookie recipe. I'm not sure I like it much. I haven't eaten one of them yet (don't want to eat too close to bedtime), but they are sort of small and there weren't really very many (only 2 1/2 dozen) and they seem like they may be sort of dry. My son did try one, and he announced they are "not poisoned" (family joke - someone always has to try the cookies fresh out of the oven to be sure they are safe for everyone else). I'm not sure if that was an endorsement, ha ha.