Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Dog for All Seasons

In honor of National Dog Day, I'd like to share a few moments from the life of a happy, funny, and loyal companion, Roxy. Roxy likes to play. Always. She's happy to chase a ball, or tug on a rope, or pounce on a laser pointer. She even thinks the reflected sunbeams from her dog-tags are a toy and chases them across the wall.

She thinks every action is an invitation to play, including vacuuming the living room, when she attacks the vacuum cleaner and lifts it from the floor. 

She enjoys watering the garden ...


and shoveling snow ...


and she likes to find the hidden icicles and carry them away to hide them. 
This one was a little more than she could handle.


When we adopted her, we told Roxy she wasn't allowed on 
the couch, but she assured us she was. 

Guess who won that battle.

Happy National Dog Day. I hope you have someone who bring as much joy into your life as Roxy does to mine.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Collecting Words

English is a rich language, mostly because of our habit of plundering words from other languages all over the world. As a writer, I like reaching for just the right word, the word that conveys my meaning exactly. Sometimes it’s illusive, but often the perfect word is right there, waiting.

I love words, playing with them and moving them around. I love collecting interesting words and storing them away for later, like jars of jam. These are a few of of my favorite words. Not that I necessarily use them often, but I love the pictures they paint.

It means to enlighten, to convey the truth, but to me it means so much more. I picture illuminated manuscripts, with rich detail incorporated into the text like the ones at here, at Diana Wilder's blog. To illumine is to bring knowledge that glows with light, like a Raphael painting.


Can’t you just see the dust flying, hear the noisy bickering, and experience all the fuss and bother in this old Scottish word?


Not just a meeting, with a never-ending PowerPoint presentation while participants surreptitiously check their emails, but a gathering where ideas will be discussed and celebrated. I also love the word surreptitious. It sounds so sneaky.

Trademark -State of Wyoming


Long-horned bulls and fearless cowboys. Surefooted horses, American flags, and the smell of livestock. All packed into one little word.


A mucky, boggy, frustrating situation. It's accompanied by the sucking sound my feet make as I struggle to pull them from the mire and make my way to solid ground. "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."*

First of all, it's fun to say. And the whole idea of a happy accident, a coincidence that leads to something wonderful, is a story in the making.


I won’t just think about it. I’ll contemplate, ruminate on it, chew it over in my mind. This idea isn’t a quick snack; it’s a whole meal. A feast. And I will give it the attention it deserves.

What are some of your favorite words?

*Catchphrase from  Laurel and Hardy

Friday, August 14, 2015


Hospitality: the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.

Summer is the time for visitors, at least here in Alaska. As we’ve been getting the house ready for guests, I’ve been thinking about hospitality.

I’ve been on the receiving end of hospitality countless times, with friends and relatives who share their homes, their meals, and their lives. They’ve been welcoming and generous, but one of my most memorable acts of hospitality was unexpected.

Once upon a time, my husband and I were on a camping vacation in Montana. We set up the tent in a state park campground. The woman in the camping spot next door greeted us and said they'd come to pick wild huckleberries. When I mentioned I'd never tasted a huckleberry, her mouth dropped open in surprise. She ran into their camper calling, "They've never tasted huckleberries!"  and returned with a small box full of what looked like giant blueberries. They tasted like blueberries, too, but more so, sweeter and juicier. Delicious. Sharing her harvest with strangers: a wonderful example of hospitality.

I thought of her many years (and two kids) later, on a family vacation in Hawaii. We picked up a pineapple at the grocery store and hiked to a waterfall. After we swam in the pool under the falls, I cut up the pineapple for a snack. If you've never had fresh, ripe, locally grown pineapple, you can take my word that it's exponentially better than canned. A young couple walked by, smiling at the sight of my kids with pineapple juice running down their chins. When I offered them some fresh pineapple, their faces lit up as if they'd won the lottery.

I like books that offer hospitality. Books that make me feel at home, that invite me to relax and get to know the characters. And when the stories offer an unexpected treat, sharing a little taste of something unique, that’s when I fall in love.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Best Pictures I Never Took

Have you ever had one of those encounters where someone wounds you with a cutting remark, and you’re tongue-tied? You know they’re wrong, that you should be able to defend yourself, but you can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t make it worse. Then later your think of the perfect comeback? I know I have. One of the perks of writing fiction is the ability to use these moments, to rewrite life so that this time, I come out on top. And in my writing, I can capture other missed opportunities.

Photography is a long-time hobby of mine. My father taught me to use a twin-lens reflex camera with manual focus and light settings. It produced a 2 1/4 inch square negative that made developing and printing a breeze. But I missed a lot of shots trying to adjust the focus and aperture/shutter speed on that camera. Besides, the thing was huge, not something you’d carry around casually. Nowadays, the high-quality camera in my cell phone means I can snap a picture whenever something catches my interest, but I still miss some great opportunities.

Chugach Range
I once saw a double rainbow stretched across the Chugach range, but by the time I grabbed a camera, it was gone. Just imagine the photo here, but with green instead of snow and a double rainbow above it. 

One autumn night, a harvest moon had just risen above the almost bare white branches in a grove of birch trees when a raven flew by. For just an instant, the shape of the soaring bird was silhouetted against the golden moon. I still feel a shiver when I remember it.

On a corner I drive by frequently, a man sells moose planters he makes in his workshop. He usually has a half-dozen or so in various sizes displayed on his lawn. One day when I was passing, a real bull moose crossed the road in front of me and stopped to sniff one of the moose planters. Now that would have been a great photo.

There are so many others: the bumblebee on the fuchsia flower, the laughing face of a child on a sled, the glimpse of an old bridge, visible for two seconds from a busy highway. These photo ops will never come again, but it’s okay because I can use them in my writing. I can paint a picture based on what I’ve seen and share it with my readers.

Are there pictures you wish you’d taken? Things you wish you’d said? Will they end up in a story?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cover Dogs

I believe I've mentioned a time or two that I love dogs, both real and fictional.  Some of my earliest memories of reading involve dogs. The dog in my first grade reader was named Tip. I don't remember the names of the children in the story.

Old YellerSavage Sam,White Fang, The Call of the Wild, and Where The Red Fern Grows were all favorites I read again and again. 

I'm still a sucker for a good dog story. Five of the six stories in my Choices series feature dogs as significant characters. So do three other stories I've written since, but so far, none of my dogs has made it to the cover of a book. 

Eventually, that has to change, because I'm suffering from cover envy. I look at the beautiful covers like the ones below, and I want one. I have an idea percolating in the back of my mind right now involving a pair of inseparable dogs who will bring two people together who normally wouldn't have given one another a second glance. That one is up next to be written, once I'm done with my current WIPs.

 That's one of the ways I motivate myself when the writing process bogs down and I feel like I'm slogging through the manuscript. Just keep writing everyday, and before long I'll have a first draft. Then I can rewrite and edit and polish until I have a story. And once that one is done, I'll have another fun story waiting in the wings to be written. 

And someday, I'll get an adorable cover dog, too. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Simple Joys of Summer

Happy Solstice!

AKA First Day of Summer

Hanging Baskets

It's officially summer, and while vacations are great, some of the best things about summer happen right here at home. As of today, we have nineteen hours and twenty-one minutes of daylight in Anchorage, and the other four and a half aren't really dark, so there's plenty of time for summer fun. Here are a few of my favorite things about summer. 

Summer Fruit


Duckings, all in a row

Reading on the Deck

Sun Tea 


And Roxy loves summer, too.

Hope yours is just as joyful!