On Pets and People

As we reach the turn of one year into another, leaving behind the eating season, I’m reviewing 2021. While the year has had its share of ups and downs, midway through it, I hit some serious choppy water and stopped writing my weekly blog. There were a couple of reasons. Three, really. The first two I’ll get to in a moment, the third is a happier one, so we can start there.

Books; were my reliable friends during an often lonely childhood. When I was young, my favorite place was the library. I started with Nancy Drew and crew and The Phantom Tollbooth, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, then moved on to longer series like Lord of the Rings, and The Dark is Rising. Our weekly Saturday morning jaunt to the Wichita Public Library was a highlight of my week. Back then, I’d check out six or seven books per week. My pace has slowed, but I still go through two or three books a week in a broad range of genres.

All of which is warmup to say; I’ve always admired writers and wanted to be one since I was a wee tot. The idea of being a “real writer” was too intimidating, though. I wrote plays and screenplays instead, to some degree of success, while I kept books in their safe place, competently completed by others. Perhaps a bit of complacence there, but mostly I just didn’t believe I could.

That status held until The Fire, the thing that consumed all of our material possessions as well as a good degree of self-confidence as the maraschino topper. The Fire changed everything, as disasters are inclined to do. The only way I was able to cope with the enormity of it was to fight through my fear, write a non-fiction book about our stumbling recovery from that disaster, and publish it. People liked it and gave it great reviews. I gave away half of the profits to animal shelters and rescues. That felt pretty good, and I proved to myself that I could indeed, write a decent book.

But.

I still yearned to write books like the ones I loved as a kid. Fiction books. Magic and Monsters and Other Realms. So just before my latest big birthday (not a coincidence) I took a class, read books about writing by authors I admire, (Thank you @emilycollin, @neilgaiman, @danbrown, @annelamott, and @stephenking) joined a fabulous community of writers online (looking at you, my 20booksto50k friends), and then dove in. Sink or swim.

Eight months into the process of writing “real” books, I’m hopeful that being a “real” writer is going to become my rousing third act. Even though it scares the pants off me some days. It’s a harder road than I expected. The process has involved gnashing of teeth and crying jags. Now I know why babies who are learning to walk and chew solid food cry a lot.

Since May of this year, I’ve written two and a half dark fantasy/twisted fairytale/adventure YA books, two flash fiction pieces that got short listed in a contest, and a tie-in dark fantasy novella that is available right now for free, it’s linked below. If you read it and like it, you’ll like the Darkwood series I’m writing. The learning curve came with the need to find an illustrator and a proofreader and Beta readers, purchase editing and formatting software and learn how to use them, create an author newsletter, update my website, code an onboarding sequence for said newsletter, purchase ISBN numbers from Bowker, and register and launch my own publishing company, EWP Publications. I copyrighted the crap out of everything.

So, my blog went to the wayside for a bit as I waded through all the above. It took up a lot of bandwidth. That was reason number three for the absence of a weekly blog. A nice reason, all told. Except for the crying and gnashing of teeth bits.

The real reason I stopped writing this blog was the loss of two beautiful souls. They were not the only loved ones that passed this year, but they were the two that cut deepest for me. Sally Nemeth and our dog Keisha are my reasons one and two. Both gone in July. It’s taken me this long to write about their passing. I thought about writing this very blog multiple times, then just had to put it to the side as being too painful to the touch. There are no right timeframes for grieving. Maybe it never really stops. Maybe we just grow around it, like an oyster does with grain of sand creating a pearl, or a tree with an irritation, generating more wood around the weak spot.

I find my pearl to be misshapen and my extra wood ungainly. The journey is accepting both as being just the way it is. Being patient as I grew my wood and made my pearl. Now at the end of the year, I feel ready to share what they meant to me.

Sally was a couple of years ahead of me in college. She was part of the in-crowd, cool theatre kids. I was perpetually cool-kid group adjacent. Sally was always friendly, and I admired her immensely, especially as a playwright. Facebook brought us back together, and I grew to like Sally even more as I saw how she lived her life. We had a lot of similarities. Both swimmers, writers, dog lovers, teachers, gardeners. Just like in college, she operated at higher levels than me. Sally was an award-winning writer, avid dog-rescuer, prolific mask sewer, searing political activist, Japanese drummer, and went swimming with whale sharks. She planted milkweed for monarchs and raised nice hens.

Sally was sick for quite a while. Nonetheless, she kept living her life in a beautiful, out-loud sort of way. And then she was gone. I’d hoped to go swim with her and the whale sharks. I’ll still go on that adventure one day, and I’ll think of Sally the whole time. I’ll also plant milkweed, rescue animals, and be politically active. Not doing the drumming though, I’m not musical that way. Not the hens either. I can only hope that someday my writing is as good as Sally’s.

I’m so glad Sally contributed to my first book “On Rescue Dogs.” It makes it even more special to me.

Keisha, our beloved rescue dog, was with us for many years. She famously rescued us from The Fire. She made us laugh and go on long walks every single day until the last weeks of her life. She had a wonderful growling laugh and would play fetch for hours at a time. Keisha showed us (as all dogs do) what unconditional love looks like. I still miss her every time I walk in our front door. Or when I see squirrels, which were in Keisha’s opinion, the worst things ever to inhabit the earth.

We were there at the end for her. Our whole family crowded into the vet’s tiny room. We gave her whipped cream, her favorite. Told her we loved her and petted her and held her to that very last minute. So she wouldn’t be scared and alone. I miss my dog.

It’s true, you know. They rescue us.

I believe both Sally and Keisha are happy and pain-free now. Joyous. It’s just taking me a while to get to that point myself. It takes a long time to grow a pearl, to overcome a wound. And yet, we do.

Half of all proceeds from your purchase of “On Rescue Dogs and Losing Everything” goes to Rescues and animal shelters. You can get a copy here: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B07P1GHW7L&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_TDTTAA0BN61KQX2N415P

Grab your free copy of my dark fantasy adventure YA novella “Witch of Darkwood” and sign up for my 1x a month newsletter, I offer great tips and ways to get more free books: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/cnwtflchg3

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