A few of my favorite things . . . from Ireland and England

A month long trip to Ireland and England and the most asked question since we returned to family and friends in the states is this: What was your favorite part? I’ve answered it differently, by simply throwing out whatever first comes to mind like a word association. 
What was your favorite part of the trip?
The Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. 
  
One of the many waterfalls we saw in Glendalough, in the Wicklow Mountains.
What was your favorite part?
Writing in Dublin. (I wrote better there than anywhere else.)
What was your favorite?
Introducing Spike and Genevieve to pate in Dublin. They have dubbed it smooth, creamy, spreadable meat butter. 
Your favorite?
Eating at Gordon Ramsey’s flagship restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, in London. It has three Michelin stars and now I know why. An amazing experience and will likely get a blog of its own later.
Favorite?
British Museum. Jonathon summed it up, “Every little emperor’s dream of avarice.” It was beyond amazing. It will also be getting it’s own blog later.
Fav?
Glastonbury Abbey, where the calling of crows led me to my first ever badger sett hidden under a huge oak tree. It turns out I followed the birds in the wrong end of the path. If I’d come in the proper way there was a sign to tell me the badgers were there, but honestly I prefer having found it the way I did. I followed the birds trying to see what they were fussing about, and then suddenly, badgers! I often find the most magical moments are the unplanned ones. 
?
That moment when I stood in a town I’d never known about, at a ruin I’d never heard about, and knew that my muse had been right. This was the place to put the monster. My imagination had whispered the name of this place to me when, to my knowledge, I had never known it even existed. I haven’t had that happen since the ninth Anita Blake novel, Obsidian Butterfly, when Edward insisted he lived in New Mexico, even though I’d never visited the state. I remember arguing with him, “I created you, how can you live somewhere I know nothing about?” I lost that argument, because he was absolutely right and I knew it the moment I stepped off the plane in Albuquerque. He still lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ireland took me longer to get my research feet under me, and I’ll be blogging in more detail about that process later, but once I got into the swing of things it was like that moment in New Mexico – this was it. I know where the monster is, where the bodies are buried, where the crime will happen, and who Anita follows to Ireland.  
Are the above really my favorite moments of the trip? Yes and no. They are some of my favorite moments, but not all of them. I’ll be blogging about more highlights and moments of inspiration, craziness, research, and sheer happy accidents over the next few weeks, but this gives you a taste of the trip. Yes, I have been deliberately vague about where the Irish book, as I called it for a long time, is set, because I’m not ready to share exact locations yet. I have a book to finish writing and it feels like if I give too much detail now on the blog that it will derail some of the energy that is driving the book forward. I need to be immersed in the fictional version of the town, countryside, ruins, etc . . . before I discuss the reality too much. In fact, I have pages yet to write today, a scene to complete, a fight to finish, but first, the reality of dogs and breakfast for them and myself and then back to my fictional world where dogs never interrupt and breakfast rarely seems to happen.

Going, going, gone . . . at the end of August!

  

 Sign out front of the British Libarary commerating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  

Totally seperate from the British Library, except for Alice, I had an amazing interactive theater experience here in London: Alice Underground is a fun, nightmarish, carnival ride of a play that ends at the end of the month, so if you hesitate you will miss it! It is a grownup version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, complete with a full bar served briefly before the show and after the show until, I believe, 2AM. Please check their website to confirm the time. If you get a token for a drink during the mad tea party it will be alcoholic, so it’s not for the kiddies. It’s really too scary for young children, and older children are okay, but it’s really designed for adults to rediscover their own sense of fun, and I don’t know about you, but when I’m having to be mum, I can’t relax and play and be mum. They even encourage you to dress in red and black to match the themes, which we totally forgot about it in our rush to make our ticket time. Though if you dress for a nightclub, please wear shoes you can walk in, run in, and go over topsy-turvy floors in, because you move from room to room following the cast members, and it’s a funhouse, or a madhouse, to walk through, so be prepared. Also, you will likely get wet, not soaked, but wet enough that silk might be a bad idea. 

 

Magna Carta is on display at the British Library to celebrate it’s 800 year anniversary! What the heck do you buy someone for their 800th anniversary? I don’t know, but give yourself a once in a life time present and go see this exhibit. Unless you think you’ll be around the next time it goes on public display, if so wait for another thousand years and see it then, but for the rest of us mere mortals, this is it! I’m a history geek, but I learned a lot about Magna Carta that I didn’t know. If you’re a theater buff it might be worth it just to see the oldest known Shakespearian film in existence is a small section of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s stage production of King John. The film was shot in 1899, and for that alone was amazing to me. Plus it was interesting to see one of the leading actors of the day doing one of the roles he made famous.   Did you know that Britain almost offered America the Magna Carta if we would join the allies for World War II? I didn’t. The plan was scraped, obviously, but that’s just one of the juicy bits of trivia in the exhibit. I love knowing that putting your likeness on merchandise was part of the publicity of the day in the 1700s. I’m barely skimming the surface, but seeing the Magna Carta, or should I say, Magna Cartas, in person was truly something not to be missed. (Yes, I did say, plural for Magna Carta. If you want to know what I meant, go see for yourself; and if you must, Google it, but if you look it up on line, you still owe it to yourself to see this exhibit before it’s gone.)

Signing at Forbidden Planet and Nine Worlds: GeekFest! London this weekend.

  
Hello England, so far you have fed us an incredible dinner, confused us completely on hotel rooms several times, shown us the treasures of ages past, the resting places of kings, and the deaths of queens. We’ve heard stories of treachery, true love, and brutality to rival any modern crime drama. I hope we have the room situation sorted, at last. We are currently having tea in the garden, which does not suck, and may redeem any irregularities because it is tea served with the sweet smell of jasmine riding the soft summer dusk, though summer here has us in jackets against the chill. Its about 90F at home, too hot for tea in the garden. I’m still strangely homesick, which is unusual for me. So, I’m sitting in an English garden, drinking Earl Grey tea, and thinking about things. What things? Glad you asked. I’ll be signing books at Forbidden Planet here in London tomorrow starting at 5pm. It’s my first English signing, ever, which is pretty cool. On Saturday I’ll be a guest at Nine World’s GeekFest, which is my first convention over here. I’ll be doing group panels with other writers, but also a solo panel. Jonathon coined the term, ‘Laurell and a mic’ panel, because its me interacting directly with you, the audience. Questions answered, laughter shared, and if you ask about the racy bits just be prepared for the answers. I’ll be interested to see if your questions are different from the ones I get in America. Fans have been telling us that some of you are coming from other parts of Europe, so you English fans won’t have it all to yourselves, but so many of you Brits have been asking me to do a signing here, and to come to conventions here, that I finally decided to take you up on it. Come out to see me on Friday at the Forbidden Planet signing and Saturday at the Nine Worlds con and show me some English hospitality to chase away this desire to be home. 

  

Ireland Here We Come!

Blog – Irish trip & research

I wrote this blog before we left for research, but security issues being what they are, I’m going to be posting some of the blogs out of order. It’s a shame a few bad apples spoil things, but there it is.

I’m sitting in my office, just after dawn. The sky is still all light and shining with the blue color only now fighting its way through all that LIGHT! The air feels cool and calm, the day stretching ahead full of promise and possibilities, and yet . . . but . . . There’s always an, and yet, or a but, or so it seems of late.
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We are supposed to be getting on a plane for Ireland today, yes you read that right. We are headed to the Emerald Isle. We’ll see you all in London in August, but we’re leaving early for research. The book I’m currently working on is mostly set in Ireland, and because I’ve never, ever been there I’d put off this story for years. Wait, I kept telling it, and it waited. Don’t push, I said, and it didn’t push. Other ideas pushed hard and fast and paid no attention to my orders, or my requests, or even my pleading with them, because they were ready to be born, so I wrote them as they clamored to be written. Story ideas for me are like baby birds in a nest, the loudest voice and tallest held mouth gets the worm, and will fledge first, but unlike real life where the tiniest nestling can starve and die while it’s bolder siblings thrive, ideas don’t die for me. They live, they wait, and they bide their time. 
This book has found it’s time. It’s eager, excited, demanding to be written, and the damn thing is set in Ireland. It’s set in a specific part of the country that I have never seen or even read about before the book decided it was set mostly there. I’ve only had this happen once before and that was with my book, Obsidian Butterfly. It is set in New Mexico, which I’d never visited. My character, Edward, insisted that he lived in New Mexico. In fact he insisted he lived somewhere between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I argued with him. “You’re a fictional character. I made you up. You cannot possibly live in a place that I’ve never seen or even read about. You’re part of me, how can you go some place I’ve never been?”
When I stepped off the plane in New Mexico and saw those low, black mountains, that desolate, near alien landscape, I said, “Well, son of a bitch, you do live here.”
I have no idea how Edward, alias U. S. Marshal Ted Forrester, decided he lived in a place I’d never seen or read much about. He’s always been a character that went off on his own, and then would come back and tell me what he was doing, and some of what he had done. He keeps his secrets, even from me. Which is a very peculiar feeling for a writer, since I’m supposed to be making him up as I go, but somehow he has enough life of his own that he tells me what he’s doing, and surprises the hell out of me, a lot. 
I should have known that Edward would be in a book that was insisting on being set in a part of the world I had never seen. I can’t say I haven’t read much about Ireland, because I have been a serious lover of this section of the world for a long time. I’ve read the myths and folklore of Ireland, Scotland, England, and though I know they are part of England now, Cornwall, Wales, and almost every part of these myth-ridden islands. I was a serious Anglophile in my teens and dreamed of visiting all of it someday, though I don’t think I ever believed I’d manage it. Traveling to such far off places was for other people, not for girls living in the middle of farm country, raised below poverty level, so it turned out. I knew we didn’t have money, but I never felt poor in the sense that the word, “poverty”, makes me think. I never felt impoverished, I just knew we didn’t have money. I’m not sure anyone I ever knew as a young child ever traveled out of the country for anything except military service.
I’ve been to England twice. I’ve seen Rome and Milan in Italy. I’ve been to Paris and found it as romantic as advertised, which I didn’t think possible. Admittedly, I was with Jonathon and almost anywhere I go with him is romantic. But we both really enjoyed Paris and look forward to going back and taking Genevieve and Spike with us. I could live for a few months in Rome, or Paris, but strangely didn’t enjoy London all that much. What captured me in England was the countryside. Glastonbury, Avebury, and all the Salisbury Plain area spoke to our heart.
The closest we came to Ireland on that trip was seeing it from the air. I remember thinking, wow, it’s so green. This time we get to see all that verdant green in person. I’m so excited, and a little intimidated. First by the flight, because I’m terrified of flying, and second, by trying to write about a country I’ve never seen before. There’s always a pressure to get it right on paper. I’ve already started making contacts with people I need to help me with researching the book I’m writing, the book you’ll read next summer, and research in England for a book after that. Though both of these books are Anita Blake books, I’ve also had Merry Gentry whispering around in my head, or rather other characters from her books. Merry is silent, content with her new babies and trying to find happiness after grief. But her world is moving around in my head as I look over the books on Ireland that I used for research in her stories. This trip might make the Merry fans get the next story sooner, might, I don’t know yet. All I know for certain is the two books I am absolutely researching while I travel across the pond. 

London Here I Come!

My first signing in England will be August 7, at Forbidden Planet in London from 1700-1900. See you all there! 

 

London , here I come

 
I will also be appearing at Nine Worlds on August 8 in London.  

 Saturday 8 August.  

  • 15.00- 16.00 – Kaaffeklatch
  • 17.00-18.15 – “The dead will rise again” (Resurgence of Gothic Literature)
  • 18.30 – 19.30 – Book signing
  • 20:30-21.45 – “The F-Word in Fantasy” (Sex in Fantasy)

So for all you fans that have been asking, “When will you do a signing in Europe?” These events are for you, so come out and see me, because I’m finally here and I don’t know when I’ll be back. 

Fear of Flying

I loved to fly on airplanes until I was on a flight that experienced wind sheer, or something like it in the middle of a flight coming back from Mexico. One minute, the nice flight attendant was serving us all coffee and soft drinks, and the next minute the plane was diving for the ground so hard that the flight attendant was plastered against the ceiling of the plane above us. People were screaming, and then people started to pray. I had a death grip on my then husband’s hand, and the woman beside us began to recite The Lord’s Prayer in German. I don’t speak German, but I knew the rythmn of the prayer. I offered her my hand, we locked eyes, and she took my hand, because in the end, when you think it is the end, you offer a hand to the person next to you, because that’s what you do. I started saying the prayer in English with her. There were other languages reciting in the plane, in among the screams.  
 Then, as suddenly as it began to dive, the plane righted itself. The flight attendant dropped to the floor of the plane, shaken and covered in coffee from chest to almost thighs. She staggered to her feet using the seats to stand, some people offered her a hand. She said, “I’ve flown for six years and I’ve never seen anything like that.”
 The Captain came on the speaker and said, “I don’t know what just happened, but we seem to be fine now. I’m going to keep heading for our original destination. If it happens again I’ll set us down somewhere closer.”  
 The rest of the flight was perfect, other than the crew kept commenting to the passengers about it. When the flight crew is saying how scared they were, and yes, thought we were going to die – you know it’s a rough flight.

 

A picture out the plane window on a much calmer flight.
A picture out the plane window on a much calmer flight.
 
 I never really liked to fly after that. I didn’t like how few options I had if things went critical. Fast forward a couple of decades and another flight, this time for a book tour. We took off, and there was a loud mechanical knock that shook the plane a little. It happened just as the landing gear went up, so I thought that had gotten stuck. I’d researched planes by then in a vain attempt to get over this phobia and I did not want a belly landing for the plane – I really didn’t. I prayed, just let the landing gear work. Like many times in my life, I should have asked Deity for more.
 The plane never gained much altitude. I’ve flown out of St. Louis a lot, and this was not how you did it. We barely cleared some trees and then it was too quiet. I realized, we’d lost an engine. But I also knew that this type of airplane could fly with the engines it had left. We were okay, but we never gained the sky, not really, we were too low and we began to circle back towards the airport. “Please, let the landing gear work,” I whispered, and then the smoke began in the cockpit. They had to open the door to keep the smoke from filling the cockpit so I could see white smoke and them using a fire estingquisher on the general direction of the smoke inside the plane. More smoke began to come out of the engine that had ceased to function, when I say we lost, I don’t mean it fell off, it just stopped working, and now apparently it was on fire. Perfect. Now, did the landing gear work?
 We got lower and lower, people were beginning to freak, and the Mississippi River was there way closer than I wanted it to be. I started praying, “don’t let it be a water landing, please not the river.” I don’t know why, but that thought really scared me. But we made a runway; yay!
 They taxied the plane to the far reaches of the airport. People were asking, “Why aren’t they taking us back to the terminal?” “Why are we in the empty part of the airport?” Here’s where too much research can hurt you: I knew why the plane was sitting in the middle of no man’s land. We were still on fire, or they thought we were and they won’t take the airplane near the terminal and endanger more people until they’re sure it won’t blow up. The fire trucks and ambulance came whirring towards us and stopped at a safe distance. Each airport only has so much equipment, and again they aren’t going to risk it getting blown up with the airplane. Finally one smaller truck drove slowly by us, while other passengers asked, “Why aren’t they letting us off?” It was like you were bleeding in the Emergency room and the doctor walks by and says, “You look fine,” and just keeps on walking. Finally they started spraying the plane with white foam, which meant they thought we weren’t going to blow up – Yay!  
I still don’t have the words for how relieved I was to step off that plane and be back in the airport in St. Louis. My first thought was, “I’m going to have whipped cream!” Because I’d refused to get a rich, creamy Starbucks coffee drink (Lets just call them what they are, a coffee shake), I’d been all virtuous and not gotten the extra whipped cream I’d wanted and after the adventure we’d just had my first thought was that damned whipped cream, so I went to Starbucks and paid full price for a cup of whipped cream. Yes, the barista was confused.  
I don’t know what it said that the first thing I thought after I realized I was safe was something sweet and creamy, maybe it means I don’t drink. It would take six and a half hours to get another plane and arrive in Chicago where the next tour event was scheduled for the next day. I could have driven faster, but I got there and the tour went on as scheduled, but the whole plane on fire thing didn’t help my fear of flying, though weirdly I hadn’t panicked either during or afterwards. I think I’m always more surprised that nothing goes wrong when I fly, so when something happens it seems like, “Oh well, of course.” Either that, or I have nerves of steel and I don’t think that’s it.
 
So, my fear of flying is trauma based according to the therapists I’ve seen about it, and phobias that originate in trauma do not respond to typical phobia therapy. In fact, I saw my current therapist before we left and she had no strategy to share that I hadn’t heard before, so I’m stuck with being afraid of flying. I could live my life without flying, but that would mean most touring for my books wouldn’t happen. You guys wouldn’t see me much, at all, but I could do the whole recluse thing, I guess. But . . . there are places in the world that I want to see that flying makes possible.

 

 I’ve seen Rome and stood in the beautiful ruin of Palatine Hill, I’ve stood in the museum hush of St. Peter’s with all the mummified pope bodies with their begging boxes next to some of the most amazing architecture in the world. I was finally able to weep for my grandmother’s death in Milan at the Basilica at the Mary altar with it’s hundreds of candles. Paris is actually as romantic as its supposed to be, which I didn’t think was possible. Having my husband, with me may have influenced me on that, but it really is a beautiful city. We found the Parisians friendly and happy to help as we spoke our few words of French to them. Apparently my pronunciation of French is really terrible, but they appreciated my effort. Jonathon’s accent was so good that if I kept my mouth shut no one realized he didn’t speak the language even better than he sounded. He has a real ear for languages and I seem to be tone deaf unless I’m singing.
 I’ve stood on the white sand of a tropical beach and seen the ocean roll out to the offing until sky and water merged into one blue line. I love the warm ocean spread in turquoise, and aquamarine waves. It’s like magic to this midwestern girl. It was so worth the planes rides to get to spend weeks staring out at that view while I finished my latest book.

 

A picture from that trip
A picture from that trip
 
If I wasn’t willing to get on a plane I couldn’t go back to England and do my first ever signing in London on August 8! I’m so excited to sign books for all you patient fans across the pond. You’ll have another chance at seeing me on panels at Nine Worlds Con on August 9th. This is your chance to see me in person and hear what you’ve been missing at the American conventions I attend. There will be other great writers on the panels with me, as well. I’ve been to England twice before, once on a family trip with our daughter and Jonathon’s parents. If I hadn’t faced my fear of flying I’d have missed Trinity when she was so small she could curl up completely in the Devil’s Seat at Avebury, or climbing the Tor together, and having tea at the Abbey Tea Room across from the Abbey Ruins at Glastonbury. Hampton Court was fabulous and the Tower of London is a must see! The British Museum is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. We’ve had two days there on different trips and we’ve only seen portions of the treasures inside each trip. The sun really didn’t set on the British Empire.
As we prepare to fly back across the pond, I’m just as scared as I was last time, but I know that it’s worth the it. Every time I’ve gotten on a plane the destination has been worth the trip. I just have to hold onto that thought and keep moving forward. Somehow we missed Stonehenge both times, so maybe this time.
 

A Dog always Breaks your Heart, at least once

I’m sitting in the sunshine on our patio listening to our water garden sing down the stones, with our pug, Sasquatch in my lap. He’s been my office dog since he was twelve weeks old. He’s fourteen years old now, and will be fifteen this summer. He’s the oldest dog I’ve ever owned from puppy to now. We had a rescue, Jimmy, that we got at age ten, and he made it seven more years, but we never saw him when his paws were soft, and he was all uncertain of the world. Jimmy was decidedly himself when we rescued him on his last day from a kill shelter. Sasquatch was all puppy uncertainty as we let him sniff his mother good-bye and took him with us in the car.    Sas helping us on game night. 
He is an old dog now, our oldendogger. I can’t imagine waking up without him in the house, but I know it’s coming. Even now his heart beats frantically against my hand, the rhythm of it is unsteady and unfamiliar. I know his heart beat almost as much as I know my husband’s, and this is not it. We took him with us to lunch and sat outside at a table with him. The four of us took turns holding him so the others could eat. Yes, he got scraps and probably got more chicken than he normally does at a meal, but that’s okay, roast chicken and a little bit of chips won’t hurt him. He’s always been a good dog, easy going, letting us use his paws to do the YMCA song by the Village People when he was a puppy. Yes, I’m that kind of dog person. If you don’t do silly things with your dogs then we are not the same kind of dog people and you may want to skip the rest of this essay, because much sentimentality may ensue.  
I wrote the above on a day when we thought Sasquatch would pass on his own, in his own time, but it turned out to be an upper respiratory infection and antibiotics helped him get better. Every day after that has been a gift, but today is the last day. Today will be Sas’s last day. He’s stopped eating, even his favorite treats cannot tempt him. Any of you that have ever owned a pug know that a pug that will not eat is a very sick pug indeed. Pugs will eat until their stomachs explode, no joke, but Sas is only taking water, lots of water. He continues to lose weight, and for the first time ever he has a wasp waist, stylish if you’re a Weirimer, but pugs are meant to be square, not round, not fat, but blocky and solid. When I pick him up now he is too light, I can feel his bones and tendons under my hands, against my arms. He is wasting away and we cannot save him.

  Our puggy boy.
We knew something was wrong, but finally got tests back a few weeks ago that is was cancer. If he’d been a younger dog we would have risked the surgery to remove his spleen and take a bigger sample of his liver, but the chances of him surviving the anthestia was very low, so we chose to treat the symptoms, but not actively treat the cancer. He’d already been losing some control of his bowels, but there are doggy diapers, not sure how he felt about his curly pug tail sticking out of the ridiculous things, but he took it like he takes most things, patiently, good naturedly, trusting that his humans know what they’re doing. I hope we do. I know we try to be worthy of the level of trust he places in us. 
His back legs have been giving him trouble for awhile, but now they are going out from under him. He doesn’t so much lay down as collapse. He woke my husband, Jon, and I up about every hour from 1:00 AM this morning. Jon got up twice, and so did I. The first time I came back to bed I put Sasquatch up on the bed, which I knew was a bad idea, but I wanted him to sleep in the bed one more time, he loves it so. By the time I could no longer sleep about 5:30 he was deeply asleep on the corner of the bed. We had two of our younger dogs with us, too. Mordor and Keiko, both Japanese chins, good naturedly went out every time we took Sas out, but this time they were solidly asleep, too, so I left them with Jon and went downstairs to start tea, breakfast, the day.
Unless the veterinarian tells us some miracle later today, I know this will be Sas’s last day, because I called and made the appointment when I got up with him about 4:00 or 5:00 this morning. His vet isn’t on duty today, but she won’t be in until Friday, and it’s Thursday, we can’t make him suffer for another day just for a different doctor to help us, it wouldn’t be fair to him.  
Jon texted me about thirty minutes later that Sas had thrown up. He’s been doing that for a few days now. By the time I came upstairs with new paper towels he’d also lost control of his bowels on the bed. Why wasn’t he in a doggy diaper? Because I knew this was his last time to sleep on the bed with us and somehow I just wanted him to be as comfortable as possible, and the diapers are for our benefit, not his, so I didn’t put it on him. I started cleaning up the blanket and Sas, Jon took Keiko and Mordor downstairs, and then came back up to help strip the bed. The bed clothes are in the washer now. Sas is asleep at my feet in my office with me, which is one of his favoritest places in the world. He’s always loved coming to work and has spent many a dawn and late night at my side while I wrote. I’ve already carried him to his favorite dog bed in the family room, and put him in his favorite bed here, but he’s chosen to lay on the floor which he almost never does. I even put a dog bed under my desk so he could use it, but he chose the floor at my feet. Keiko is in the bed, because chins are just as comfort loving as pugs. Mordor stayed in the kitchen with Jon which is unusual, because both the chins love to come to the office. Heck, the two big dogs are learning to love it, too, and there are days when I have all five dogs curled around me as I write. The two big dogs are with Genevieve and Spike in another bedroom. We all discussed it, and there’s no need for all of us to have this kind of disrupted night, but more than that we still don’t have a bed big enough for four adults and five dogs, and last night was about Sasquatch. He needed his corner of the bed, and just the little dogs, because sometimes the new bigger dogs are just too physical for him now.  

  Sas helping me write in better days.
Pugs are very stoic dogs, they don’t show pain much, so we have no way to be certain how much pain Sas is in, but he’s started staring into space in that way that some animals have when something hurts as if the pain is something they can see off in the distance, or maybe they see the end of the pain, I don’t know. This morning we carried him downstairs every time, because the stairs are beyond him now. For his last morning in the office with me I carried him up the stairs which I hadn’t had to do since he was a very little puppy and couldn’t quite manage them safely on his own. Now, as our oldendogger, he can’t manage them safely again. 
Our daughter, Trinity, is home from college, so she’ll get a chance to say, good-bye. She got to dog sit Sasquatch this long weekend past while the four of us went on a retreat. It gave her some serious quality time with Sas. The other four dogs went to the puppy spa, but we wanted Sas to be at home with familiar things and people.  
I’ll sit on the couch with him later today in his favorite spot which is a combination of mom’s lap and the corner of the couch near the arm. He’s on his third couch for this lifetime and he always chooses the same spot no matter if it’s the original green couch, or the red couch, or the new gray one. They all have arms and a spot where he can tuck himself in, so he does, with, or without a lap to snuggle into, though Trin informed me that he found her lap a suitable substitute, so maybe it’s not mom’s lap, but just whoever sits in his spot. Maybe to Sasquatch it’s never been him sharing my spot on the couch, but him sharing his spot with me, or whichever of his people was sitting in his spot. 
Tomorrow his spot on the couch will be empty, his favorite dog beds filled by the other dogs, no eager pug face waiting for treats, cuddles, pets, and to curl up beside me. We will be a pugless household, for me that will be a first in almost thirty years. I don’t know how I will bear it. 

New meds helped Sasquatch to recover himself for a few weeks after I wrote this blog. He never had another night where he threw up, or lost control of himself. He started eating again, though only soft food, and only certain foods. He liked cooked green peas mixed with his meat, not sure why, but we fed it to him, because that’s what you do. But now, we are back to him refusing all food, even cooked peas and chicken. For the first time he’s not even drinking water, so that’s it. We might find another round of miracle meds to help him limp on a few more days, but to what purpose? There comes a point with a beloved pet where you have to ask yourself, am I doing this for them, or for me?  

  One of the last pictures I took of our boy.
I’ll carry Sas over to the office one last time, because he can’t get over here by himself anymore. It’s not just stairs now, but even walking across the floor is hard for him. We’ll all say good-bye today, and this evening we’ll take him into the vet and it will done. I’m trying to be very unemotional about it all, but what I wrote earlier is very true. We will be a pugless household by tomorrow and even with four healthy, wonderful dogs remaining to give doggy kisses, beg for belly rubs, play with their favorite toys, fill the dogs beds, go for walks, its not the same. For all of you that have found “your breed”, you know what I mean. YOUR BREED, should always be in capital letters, because it is a profound bond not just to a particular dog, but to all the dogs everywhere that look like your dog. Genevieve and Spike are members of the Church of Dog, but they are new to our denomination of Pugdom. They brought two wonderful mutts into our lives, but neither of them has found “their” breed for certain. Jon, Trinity, and I have been pug owners for a lifetime, literally in Trinity’s case, and tomorrow we will not be. Japanese chins are a close second for us, but we always saw us with chins and pugs, never without our snoring, snuffling, wrinkly faced, rolling-gaited, curly-tailed, pugs. It somehow makes losing Sas feel even more awful, because there is not another pug to come home to, once we say, good-bye to our fuzzy pug boy.
The End: All five of us went with Sasquatch on the last trip to the vet. When the time came, I held him in my arms, made sure my skin was close to his nose so he would have my scent, and know for certain that I was there. He went very quickly, so fast the vet was surprised. She double checked his vitals, but he was gone, so ready to go that he didn’t even wait for all the anesthetic to be administered. She used it all, just in case, but Sas wasn’t there. He was already somewhere else, where nothing hurt, and he could be reborn to a time when he was younger, healthy, happy, his cast iron stomach back and puggish appetite back so he could be the shape a pug is meant to be which is barrel shaped. Multum in parvo, much in little, a big dog in a small package, true of every pug I’ve ever known and certainly true of our Sasquatch.    

Angels, Demons, and the Writer

The hardest thing about writing is that you are alone with your personal demons. Now let’s define terms; when I say demons, I mean personal issues so large, so painful, so intimately damaging, that it either cuts your soul to face them, or heals it. You don’t have to be writing about the issues that make up your personal demons to have them torment you as you write. Oh no, it’s more insidious than that, just as writing will call the muses to you, the angels come to dance around you in shining choruses, so creativity calls the demons. I’m sure there are writers out there that are so mentally and emotionally healthy that only angels come to dance around them when they create, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met one of those writers. Most of us are fairly self-torturing, emotional angst seems to come with the job description. I don’t mean we all go through life doom and gloom, oh woe is me. Some of us are fairly cheerful people, actually. What I mean is that when we sit down to write we are alone with our thoughts.

 

If the idea of being alone with your thoughts doesn’t give you a twinge of panic, then I’m not writing about you, but for most of the writers I know we both crave to be alone to create and dread it. Some days it’s all muse-driven inspiration and the pages flow like the proverbial water from the cleft rock. Those are the days that I love the best. The days that make me think being a writer is a great career and all I was ever meant to do, or be. Then there are days when nothing is coming down the muse-highway. I sit and I stare at the screen for hours, literally sometimes, or I write and erase, or I write and rewrite, and its all terrible. Or the writing is good enough, but it’s like dragging each word out of the void one painful inch at a time. Those are the days when I think, maybe I should have bought that horse farm, or become a field biologist, or . . . runaway and joined something, somewhere, anywhere but in this one room in front of this damned computer, trying to draw words out of thin air.

  

 “If you can’t stand your own company alone in a room for long hours, or, when it gets tough, the feeling of being in a locked cell, or, when it gets tougher still, the vague feeling of being buried alive–then don’t be a writer.”

― Graham Swift

 

Your angels tell you positive things and hold hands with your muse, or sing behind her like upbeat backup singers, but your demons . . . they sing other songs. They start out with actual issues from your past, and most writers have things that haunt them, its part of what fuels most of us, but after they hit the real issues the demons move onto other things, false things, lies. Demons are those voices in your head that tell everyone, “You’re not good enough. She’d/he’d never go out with you. You’re too fat, too thin, too short, too . . . something. Your thoughts aren’t important enough to fill a whole book? That’s boring, you’re boring. People will hate your writing. They’ll reject you. She/he will reject you.” See, everyone has those negative voices in their heads that I call demons, its just that some of us have louder ones, or more persistent ones, or maybe we just don’t know how to shut them out as well as you do.

 

I never sweated rejection either in dating, or in writing, I accepted it as a given in both. But it was just one boy saying, no, he didn’t want to go out with me. Okay, there, done.  Now I knew he wasn’t interested so I could move on and find someone who did want to date me. I always saw it as their loss, not mine.  Dating you have a fifty/fifty chance, but writing is much harsher odds.  Writing is designed to get you rejected.

  

  “My first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was rejected over two hundred times.”

 

“The first thing you have to learn when you go into the arts is to learn to cope with rejection. If you can’t, you’re dead.”

― Warren Adler

 

 

I like writing quotes, they help me realize that what I’m feeling is felt by a lot of wordsmiths. I am not slogging in the literary salt mines alone, or at least while I’m digging in my mine, I know others are getting just as tired and discouraged as I am. I find that comforting, and one of the reasons I’m doing this blog is to reach out to other writers, especially the beginning ones and say, “Look it’s hard, even for me, but if I can do it, you can do it.” You are not alone.

 

 

But we are alone while we create, and most of the time that’s great. In fact a certain amount of solitude is absolutely necessary for most of us to write a novel, or even a short story. We need to be uninterrupted by real flesh and blood people while we play with our imaginary ones. But the rub is, alone with our thoughts means there’s no distraction from what’s in our heads, our hearts, our souls. We try to pour all that onto the paper and turn into fiction and share it with others, but . . . You knew there was a but, didn’t you? But the personal demons come like vultures on days when the writing is slow, and the muse is reluctant or missing in action. On days when the writing flows and shines, and it feels like magic, you can almost feel the brush of angel feathers on your cheeks, but on the other days, the hard days, if there are feathers anywhere around you, they’re black. Black isn’t a bad color necessarily, Odin’s ravens are black and He is a God of inspiration, poetry, language, and magic, so black wings can inspire and lead you to greatness, but they can also pick over the corpses of your dead dreams like carrion crows.  

 

My demons don’t have wings of any color, or pitchforks, or any of the traditional Western ideals of devils and demons. My demons are the voices in my head that tell me, I can’t. That I’m turning perfectly good paper into garbage, or back in the day when there was no internet and everything had to be printed and mailed, “I was killing trees to no purpose.”

 

 

Those are the days when I’m most likely to post things on twitter about fighting dragons, but dragons are not demons. The latter come wherever they smell hesitation like blood in the water for sharks, they gather when they feel you weaken. A moment of doubt is all the negative voices need to whisper horrible things in your ear. One of the ways I chase them back, force them to shut up and leave me alone to create is to pick up my metaphorical shield and sword and go hunting the dragon. I see it as taking the fight to the monster, rather than letting the monster have the upper hand. On a bad day, the dragon wins, but I know that I will take up my sword, my pen, my keyboard, the next day and I will fight on.  

 

I’m going to stop writing the blog now, because that can be a distraction from the actual purpose of writing novels. Blogs are so fast and so much easier than writing a novel, especially on days when the demons are loud in my head. I’ll leave you with some more quotes that seem appropriate for the topic of inspiration, personal demons, personal Angels, and dragons.

 

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.” 

― Tennessee Williams, Conversations with Tennessee Williams

 

“An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.”

 

 

― William Faulkner

 

 

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

 

– Jack London

 

 

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

 

― G.K. Chesterton

 

 

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.

– Harlan Ellison

Happy 4th of July!

 Today is a national holiday here in America, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and becoming an independent country, though declaring ourselves so didn’t make it true. There would be several more years of fighting before England gave up its rights to the colony that would become the United States of America. If we’d lost the war then every man who signed the Declaration would have likely been hung. So, while you’re grilling meat and veggies, consuming potato salad, cole slaw, chips, and other traditional goodies, think about what we’re really celebrating. This is the date that marks the birth of our nation. In the history of the world America is a very young country, we’re a teenager. If the world were different we’d be in the Imperial expansion stage and probably have colonies of our own now, but by the time America got to that point the world had changed too much. Can you imagine what the other world powers would do if we started conquering and keeping other countries? Before anyone says, well America is conquering other countries. No, we aren’t.  
  
Our men and women are serving their country on a lot of foreign land, but we have not kept anything we’ve fought and died for in the last two centuries. Unlike France, England, Spain, Portugal, Germany when their countries were the same age that we are now, America has kept nothing. Thousands of American lives lost in wars, peacekeeping actions, and just when other people call our military in for aid. Everyone that complains that America is tyrannical and aggressive don’t know their world history. This teenage country has been better behaved and more peaceful towards other countries than any “superpower” or world leader that I’m aware of, and that includes, Russia/The Soviet Union.  
 If you think the above paragraph sounds like I regret that my country hasn’t kept some of the soil we’ve fought and died on, you’re right. If we pay with blood and death for a piece of land, we should get to keep it, that’s the way countries and empires work, but America came of age in a world that no longer believes in empires. Would it have been a good idea for our country to keep more of what we’ve bled and died for, probably not, but I am beyond tired of other countries accusing us of aggressive behavior when we seem to have behaved ourselves better than they have in their pasts. But America was created on the principal of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to protest, freedom to bitch, and heaven knows Americans are good at that last part. It’s almost a national characteristic to complain about government, politics, social issues, you name it. Today there are groups that are going to express that Freedom of Speech by burning the American flag, because they say it is a sign of tyranny, abuse, and aggression. I do not agree with this, but I am an American which means I will fight for their right to say what they believe, because that’s what Freedom of Speech means. They are free to burn our flag, as much as I hate it, and I am free to put up a flag pole in front of my home and fly that same flag proudly.
Is America perfect? No, but then name me a country that is, and if you’re honest you won’t be able to, because nothing and nowhere is perfect, but I live in a country where people can burn the national flag and not be arrested, or shot, or disappeared. Thats more rare than you think in today’s world, but we, Americans, forget how good we have it in this country. Again, not perfect, and if they gave me the magic baton tomorrow I wouldn’t know how to fix the economy, but I know I’d concentrate on bringing jobs and manufacturing back to America. What I’m hearing across the country is that Americans need jobs that pay enough to support a family. All the other issues maybe important, but I believe in the end they are smoke and mirrors by the politicians on all sides of the aisle to divide America, when what is needed is to bring us together. We live in a country where we can disagree vehemently with each other, and that’s okay, that is a gift. This year has divided our country along so many lines, over so many issues, to the point where I’m against any issue that is divisive, and am trying to find things that are inclusive, because we are all more alike than we are different. The same hopes and fears are in most hearts. We hold our children’s hands, we dry their tears, we try to explain that the world is not a fair place, but you can still try to be a fair person. We try to teach our children to be kind in a world that is often unkind. Should we teach them harsher things? Some people seem to be doing just that, and I don’t know what to say in the face of such hate. Except perhaps this – hate is not the opposite of love, disinterest is, anyone that’s gone through a bad divorce will know what I mean, so everyone that is burning the American flag today here and abroad, remember that only love can spark such hate. America is loved for what it promises to be, and hated when that promise is not fulfilled.  
I’m not sure what to do about all of it, but I know this, I will fight for your right to do something that I find repugnant – burning our National flag. I will fight for your right to do something I don’t approve of, because that’s what Freedom means. It doesn’t mean freedom from being offended, or disappointed, but freedom of belief, speech, and actions within the law. Enjoy your flag burnings if it makes you happier, but I see it as the same as someone’s ex-wife burning the husband’s car. It’s a way of saying, I am hurting so much, and I want you to hurt, too. I hope we find a way in the coming months to help everyone stop hurting and find a way for all of us to start healing.
Now, I’m going to join my family and raise the flag of our country, so that all our neighbors can see it, because I do love my country. I don’t always love the politicians, or their policies, but they are not the country. Sometimes I think the politicians forget that America is two things, the land itself and the people, all the people, that inhabit it. Sometimes I think we, the people, forget that we are the nation and every time we let politics, or economics, or anything divide us, then we are weaker for it. As a group the American people can do anything we set our minds to, I truly believe that, but we all need to remember that we are the United States of America, not the Divided States of America. United we stand, divided we fall, isn’t just a saying, it’s the truth.  
I don’t agree with any of you that are protesting and burning our flag today, but I will defend your right to do it. I hope you will give me the same courtesy and support my right to hoist the flag high and honor it. 

Triggers

Triggers, trigger warnings, have been in the news a lot lately. Talk of trying to keep everyone safe in college lectures, panels at science fiction conventions, news items even, as if the world should be wrapped up in cotton wool and bubble wrap like your great-grandmother’s china so it doesn’t get scratched, cracked, or broken; but people aren’t dishes that only come out at the holidays. People move through the world every day to go to work, to school, to vacation, to . . . life. If you spend all your time trying to be protected from anything that could possibly upset you, how will you ever grow strong enough to overcome it? A trigger doesn’t go away but we can grow to the point where it no longer controls us. We can master our triggers and own ourselves to the point where we are no longer subject to the word, phrase, events that once made us so afraid, or angry, or upset. We can take back ourselves, our lives, all the words, all the memories, and we can own them again rather than them owning us. I swear to you that this is true because I’ve done it, but here’s the trick – you must not hide from your triggers.  
   
image
  ​If you hide from them and avoid them forever, perhaps you’ll never be “triggered” again, but you also give up parts of your life and yourself forever. Whatever made you feel like a victim, or took your sense of safety, will forever win, because you haven’t faced your demons, you’ve given ground to them. Old maps used to come to the edge of the known lands and then write two phrases, “Here be Dragons,” or “Here be Demons,” which meant that beyond that point the map makers couldn’t guarantee safe passage because the unknown was full of monsters. If we avoid triggering events and allow people to keep us “safe” from everything then the maps of our lives are not edged with monsters, the maps of our lives have sections right in the middle of them where a sign says, “Here be Demons,” right in the middle of our life. The middle of our life is full of places we pass through on a regular basis, so we pass that sign every week, maybe everyday, a sign that reminds us that here is a place that was once a part of our life and now it’s too scary to enter. To me, that was a constant reminder of what frightened me and made me feel like a victim, every time I stepped around that area of my life rather than walked through it I would feel a little more scared, a little more unsure that I was strong enough to do what needed doing, because the demons had won, they’d claimed a piece of my life forever.  

 

​How I faced my triggers was by walking into that place, those words, that moment with the big glaring warning sign over it, and I faced my demons. Was it scary? Yes! But every time I faced something that triggered me I got a little bit of myself back, I reclaimed pieces of my life, of me, from the demons; and every time I did that the “demons” got smaller and weaker, which meant I felt bigger and stronger, because that’s what triggers are, they are ways for things that hurt us to make us feel small and weak forever, but we aren’t trapped with our demons anymore, we survived, we moved forward, we built a life. I refuse to let the bad things control me by making me avoid parts of my life. I will reclaim all of it, every last bad word, hurtful phrase, frightening moment, all the pain, all of it is mine and helped make me who I am today. One of the things I discovered as I faced the pain was amazing to me – I didn’t die. Even having to live through the painful event by facing the trigger didn’t kill me, and Nietzsche had it right, that which doesn’t kill me really does make me stronger. My goal is to live the quote a little differently, “That which does not kill me had better run, because I’m coming for it.”

 
“Destroy your personal demons, use their corpses as fuel to light your way.” LKH

For those of you who may need help, please see the following links, courtesy of Dr. R. Kieran

http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/index.aspx

http://www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org/