They Steal Our Hearts and then …

We lose them.

If you’ve owned a dog, you know what I mean. You invest time, energy, money, and love. They fill your heart to overflowing, yours day with laughter. Then one day your beloved pet journeys over the Rainbow Bridge.

From the moment you pick up that fluffy little ball of fur, your head recognizes a dog’s life span just isn’t the same as yours. Yet, for some reason your hearts refuse to acknowledge what your head knows and when the time comes your heart cracks into a bazillion pieces.

2016-collage-croppedI know. Mine did when we lost our beloved Toby this summer.

Toby was our fourth Old English sheepdog. Obadiah, Micah, and Rhinestone met him on the bridge. So did Lucky, Azariah, Bernie, and Scuttles, our little mixed breed babies.

Toby left behind two very, very sad and lonely humans, and his four-legged pal, Buster.

Even though losing is pet is part of owning a pet, the goodbyes never get easy. The separation is hard no matter how many times you go through it.

stone-croppedWe coped in different ways with each loss. This time we have a memorial stone (from a friend who loved Toby as much as we did) to place in Toby’s favorite spot on the front porch.

Our grieve is the same as when we lose a human loved one or friend. Time will heal the sadness we hear, we know. That doesn’t stop the tears.

We move on one day at a time. Some days are better than others.

On those not so good days, we focus on the fun times: the long walks, the snuggles, the tug-of-wars, all the comical things Old English are known for…

And, quietly hope that one day another Old English sheepdog puppy will appear to steal our heart, and we can start the journey all over again.


Turkey – 1, Chicken Wrangler Sara – 0

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I believe I mentioned in last week’s post that turkeys are not very smart. This is only half true.  They are smart enough to figure out how to get out of their pen but not smart enough to get back in.

This would not be a problem except that once the sun sets, they like to be in the coop with the chicks. Sunday night, one of the turkeys was on the wrong side of the fence and was quite distressed.  I felt sorry for it and tried to catch it and return it to the proper pen.

The chickens like to burrow in the dust and leave holes throughout the chicken yard.  These holes are hard to see when the sun sets.  One is in a particularly treacherous location, and I have thought many times that I should fill it in.

This has not yet happened.

Sunday night, I found the hole while I was trying to catch the wayward turkey.  I stepped in it and sprained my ankle.  I heard the pop as I fell to the ground.  I knew I was in trouble.ankleBeekeeper Brian returned the wayward turkey to the coop and then took Monday off work to take me to the doctor. The X-ray showed no break so I’m using crutches this week in the hopes that I can go without them next week.  The kids at school are being very helpful.

At least I have a good story to tell when people ask what happened.  And I will definitely enjoy the turkey next Thanksgiving.

How’s your writing schedule compare to Henry Miller’s?

scheduleIn 1932-1933, while working on what would become his first published novel, Miller devised and adhered to a stringent daily routine to propel his writing.

While working on his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller devised a stringent daily routine to advance his writing. This is his 1930s blueprint for productivity.


If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

(Now if you wondering what a fettle might be: according to the British Dictionary a fettle is state of health, spirits, etc  We’d probably say mood today.)


Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.


See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

I love his additional note for the evenings:

Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride.

Sketch in cafés and trains and streets.

Cut the movies!

Library for references once a week.

(In our 21st century vocabulary, we’d probably change Library to Internet or Social Media.)

His daily schedule points out to things:

Prolific writers write every day.

Prolific writers write most of the day.

I can only wish I had such discipline.

What do you think about Miller’s tight schedule?

The Romance Genre Part 2

book-heartAs defined in my last post  on the romance genre, a romance novel centers on the developing relationship of two people, culminating with a happy ending. Length can vary from 25,000 (Novella) to 75,000+ words (Single Title).

The heat level divides romance novels into very specific classifications. Publisher guidelines provide specificity. My classifications for readers include:

Erotica is no holds barred with the caveat that the novel must have a compelling story.

Most mass-market romance stories fall under the General Market (Steamy) category. Readers expect several sex scenes. Descriptions within the sex scenes are toned down, euphemistic.

Sensual romance novels have kissing, heavy petting, making out, but explicit body parts are not mentioned, and the deed occurs behind closed doors or off the page. If you watch Lifetime movies, you know what I mean.

Sweet is sometimes classified as clean, i.e. no sex, no swearing and no religious/spiritual content. If you love The Countdown to Christmas Hallmark movies, you understand clean.

In Inspirational stories, characters are Christians when the story begins. Physical attraction centers on character, not lust. There is limited physical contact. (Occasional kissing allowed.) NO sex before marriage. No quoted scripture, sermons. Story may center on a spiritual lesson like forgiveness.

Evangelical stories follow inspirational guidelines with additional limits on sensuality. Publisher guidelines define specifics such as only one or two kisses, scenes should include quoted scriptures, prayers, and sermons, and the resolution of the relationship must include a profession of faith.

Romance novels also fall into recognized subgenres. These are what I consider major subgenres:

  • Romantic Suspense – the two main characters must are involved in something that threatens one or both of them. If the romance is removed from the plot, the suspense is gone and vice versa.
  • Paranormal – stories include vampires, werewolves, faeries, shape shifters, etc.
  • Fantasy – a romance story in a fantasy setting
  • Time-Travel – one or both of the main characters travel through time. The most famous is probably Outlander.
  • Science Fiction/Futuristic – To be classified as romance, the fantasy must center on the relationship.
  • Licensed Theme Publishers sign licensing agreements with a professional sport or organization and writers’ books feature that sport or organization. Harlequin’s NASCAR series would be an example.
  • Medical – one of the main characters must be a medical professional and a medical situation must be resolved along with the relationship.
  • Regency – stories set in England between 1800 and 1820.
  • Medieval/Highlander – stories set between 900 to 1400 in England, Ireland, or Scotland.
  • Gothic – generally written in first person and the heroine is in peril (real or paranormal, genuine, or imagined)

There are other subgenres combinations — as many as a writer can imagine and mash together. Pam McCutcheon combines fantasy, science fiction and paranormal while Leanna Ellis blends Amish and vampires.

If you’re a romance reader, what would you add to my list?

Talking Turkey

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

A friend of ours recently borrowed our incubator to hatch turkey eggs. In exchange, we received two turkey chicks called poults.  What a deal!

We figured it couldn’t be very different from chickens. Now among our flock there are two turkeys.  And I can add to my list of fowl experience – chickens, ducks, geese, quail and now turkeys.

You might call me a poulterer – a person who deals in poultry. It was not on my list of things to be when I grow up but that is fine.

turkey2turkey1Turkeys are actually not as smart as chickens which is an amazing feat.

Baby turkeys do not know how to eat and drink when  they hatch and must be taught by other chicks.

Our friend borrowed two of our chicken chicks to show the turkeys the fine art of drinking and dining.  They apparently caught on because they are growing.

I suppose at some point they will be bigger than the chickens but until then everyone is getting along fine.

11 Commandments for Writers

Writers are always seeking tips on how to be more productive. I’m no exception.

A recent web search turned up this interesting list of commandments from Henry Miller (December 26, 1891–June 7, 1980). By the way, not only was Miller a prolific writer he was also a painter.

henrymillercommandmentsWhat do you think? Do these commandments work for you? Would they work if you’re not a writer?

Miller also has some daily schedule suggestions. Next Wednesday we’ll will look at those. For now, I’m off to focus on Commandment #10.

September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941: Days of Infamy

newspaperOn December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called December 7, “a date which will live in infamy.”

December 7 and the words of his Infamy Speech have become synonymous with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Within an hour of that speech, Congress passed a Declaration of War thrusting the United States headlong into World War II.

Roosevelt’s words had a profound an impact on our nation. Recruiting stations were jammed with surges of volunteers. And, when World War II ended, the world was not the same.

Pearl Harbor was before my time. Thirty years after Pearl Harbor another event occurred giving us a new date I will always remember– September 11, 2001.  Once again a day of infamy changed our world dramatically.


My heart rate still surges on the 9-11 anniversary as I recall waiting to know all our family members were safe . I have vivid memories of watching Katy Couric describe the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.

Those same memories return to bounce around in my head every 9-11. We’d had lunch in the Towers with family members only two months before. That made the terrorist attack more personal.

It’s been fifteen years now, but no matter how long it’s been from either date of infamy, one thing remains constant.

Nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania lost their lives on 9-11, 2001. World War II causalities numbered over 60 million.

Pausing on the anniversaries of both events allows us to honor those we’ve lost.

Never Forget.