A Dog Day of a Pandemic Summer in 12 Steps and a Cool Video by da-AL


What’s a novelist, writer, creative, any kind of person, to do amid COVID-19? Preface: I know I’m super lucky that to date, and fingers crossed that it stays that way,  my circle has been relatively unscathed by any coronavirus. That said, I invite you to join me in whining…

There’s only so much writing and reading I can do during this pandemic sheltering-in-place without feeling stir-crazy… lonely… and just plain hot. We’re into the dog days, the part of summer when there’s no evading stickiness and the persistent “fragrance” of each other……

Khashayar and K-D dog stroll the beach.
1. K-D likes the seashore, um, sorta…

These days, masking up, talking to people from afar through the muffling, and daring the germs feels like endeavoring a safari, albeit not a blood-letting one. (Dear reader, my condolences if you’re plagued by maskne.)

Nevertheless, we decided to make a foray — to the shore — dog beach, to be exact. Mid-week and mid-morning, we calculated, would be sparse. Once we got there, no lifeguards shooed us away, so the three of us were tight.

Khashayar and K-D doggie wet their feet at the beach.
2. …but K-D’s not so certain about liking water.

Masks on… it was time for our dear little K-D doggie to learn to swim!

After all, my lovely girl has water-loving labrador-ish-ness twined into her DNA. Unfortunately, her older lab-ish sibs taught her to be suspicious of water. The sorely missed Lola and Pierre would tremble through warm showers. Their hearts, nonetheless, were huge, their love of their hu-Man great. That water-fearing duo steeled themselves to wade into a shallow lake when they thought their hu-Man was drowning, never suspecting that he was play-acting.

Khashayar and K-D doggie look at a stick floating in the water.
3. K-D spotted a toy! Alas, it’s in the water…

K-D is defined by two loves: playing and eating, in that order.

Khashayar and K-D doggie look at stick in water some more.
4. Khashayar assures her there’s nothing to fear.

Joy! She found something to play with; a stick.

Khashayar shows K-D a stick at the beach.
5. My bigger sweetheart wades into the water to show my littler honey how refreshing it is.

With gentle persistence, my dear Khashayar enticed her deeper.

Khashayar walks into water as K-D doggie looks on.
6. K-D worries when one of her fave people is getting wet…

It took time for play-mode to kick in — that plus her aversion to getting left behind by her fave hu-Man.

K-D runs along beach with Khashayar in tow.
7. K-D is perfectly aware of doggie on the far right and has already told all roving canines to ‘stay offa my stuff’…

At some point, she set down her toy to pursue other activities — but when another critter showed interest in it, she told ’em off. Three sessions of that, and she’d had enough. Dang it, she was going to play with it with her hu-Man… maybe…

Khashayar continues to coax K-D doggie into water.
8. K-D waits to be super-duper sure that water is ok…

Khashayar had confidence enough for both of them!…

Khashayar coaxing K-D doggie into water some more.
9. K-D subscribes to “better safe than sorry” no matter how awesome that stick looks…

… and Khashayar has patience…

Khashayar looks on as K-D doggie doggie paddles back to shore.
10. K-D wants me to tell you that they don’t call it “dog-paddling” for nuthin’. Note: she’s sheltering by watching Emergency!, wherein TV Californians talk lakka Chicagoans…

O-m-g!!! We should’ve brought a surfboard for her to hang ten!

K-D doggie swims past a wave as Khashayar looks on.
11. K-D also wants me to tell you that she never was scared…

Patience and love work well in all situations, no?

Khashayar looks on as K-D reaches dry land.
12. K-D, a natural water sprite!

Turn up your speakers and sit back for a cooling video of one of her many subsequent swims that day. Bliss out to wet ears flapping against a happy dog’s face, one who’s fresh from a doggie paddle frolic and free of the day’s worries…

Read more posts I’ve written to uplift you during the pandemic here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

How’s it in your part of the globe? How’re you personally weathering all this?

Guest Blog Post: Backyard horse heart lessons for writer Mary Lynne Carpenter


Photo by Tatiana from Pexels.

Horses are wonderful!!! Not that I really know much about them, aside from how beautiful they are, the little I’ve learned from TV — and thanks to fellow bloggers. (Certified self-avowed Horse Addict Anne Leueen is one such blogger.) As far as I’m concerned, Mary Lynne Carpenter (creator of The Backyard Horse Blog: Living The Dream and The Reality of Keeping Horses at Home) has won the lottery — she has backyard horses! The very idea sets my mind reeling at how fun that must be. Surely my doggie would love having a companion and accompanying her people outdoors far more than she gets to these days. Not that I’d be picky, but if I had one, perhaps it would be nice if it were not too big… and if it was black… with a little white!… to go with my existing four-legged sweet family.

Whoa Bessie — again, sure I know nothing about horse husbandry. And yes, I’ve left out that we live in the big city in a) a small house with b) a backyard the size of  — what? — more insignificant than an Olympic-sized swimming pool? No worries — I’m living my vicarious whimsy through Mary Lynne. Home for her is somewhere in the United States, among equestrian pals. She writes about their dreamy as well as sometimes challenging times together for various horse publications and sites, plus her own new blog. Here she shares a sliver of the bitter-sweet heaven-on-earth backyard part of backyard horse ownership…

Mary Lynne with her horse, Pumpkin Spice. Photo by her friend, Nancy.

The Circle of Life By Mary Lynne Carpenter

I first saw the nest out of the corner of my eye. It fell to the ground as I rode my lawnmower past a tree branch. The nest’s appearance stopped me cold on that warm Spring day. The nest’s maker selected chestnut-colored horse’s hair as its main ingredient. I keep my horses at home, so it is not unusual for me to find these horse-hair nests. The birds take discarded strands of mane and tail that they find lying in the pasture or snubbed up on a fence post where a horse scratched an itch. I marveled at how resourceful and industrious the birds are. I never built anything in my life except for building a mess.

At the time I found the nest, I didn’t have any chestnut-colored horses. I puzzled over the situation. Then it hit me. My horse, Pumpkin Spice, was chestnut-colored. Spice was euthanized the year before due to an illness. That means that Spice’s hair had been collected from my pasture while he still lived in it. Unbeknown to me, the nest clung to the tree branches for almost a year after Spice’s death.

Pumpkin Spice’s horsehair reincarnated into a bird’s nest. Photo by Mary Lynne Carpenter.

Happening upon the nest was like running unexpectedly into a friend from the past. A reunion tinged with sadness for all that was lost. Yet a welcomed and treasured event nonetheless. Spice was such as kind horse, so relaxing to be around. I enjoyed his company very much. While I still miss him terribly, I see that parts of him live on not only in my heart. In a practical way, his hair helped house the new life of another even after his own death. How fitting that the nest, in the shape of a circle, also symbolizes the circle of life.

What sort of horse might you keep in your backyard?…

U.K. Castles n Mushy Peas: Harlech, Conwy, Penrith, Ullswater by da-AL


Our visit to the United Kingdom was studded with castles, each well worth a stop. We were on our way to see Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle, and then to overnight in Penrith with a look at Ullswater.

On my way to Harlech Castle.

Our vacation began in London, where we enjoyed the British Museum here and here and here. We left with a rented car and were almost accustomed to driving (my husband) and riding (me) on the ‘wrong’ side only inches from England’s gorgeous stone-walled roads by the time we reached Bath. We admired Avebury, then a little of Wales on the route to Stokesay Castle, and later we would be awed by the Kelpies of Scotland.

Even this black dog admires the sights.

Harlech Castle in Harlech, Wales, a World Heritage Site, is categorized by UNESCO as one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.” Enormous, it offers grand views…

The panoramic views from Harlech Castle are impressive…
…even on a cloudy day.
The city of Harloch is lovely…
…including when you see it…
…from here with my honey.

It was time for lunch. A short drive further up the coast, we stopped in the city of Conwy for fish and chips fried in beef fat for Khashayar, and mushy peas (marrowfat peas cooked down to mush — a love-it or hate-it staple throughout the U.K.) with vegan gravy for me. Conwy is a walled market town in the north of Wales. After the filling meal, we strolled the nearby river and marveled at the Conwy Castle’s exterior. Writer/TV personality/activist Rick Steves offers a fascinating view of the interior. UNESCO calls Conwy Castle one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.”

Conwy Castle is worth a visit…
…and so is the region around it.

We spent the night in Penrith, Cumbria, a market town with more sights than we could take in. Exhausted and the evening late, we checked into a beautiful bed and breakfast, glad to find an attractive room with a scenic window. Once settled, we strolled to what must have been a theater at one time. Whatever it was, it’s now the biggest Indian food restaurant I’ve ever seen!

Elaine, Richard, and Dora are terrific hosts.

That following morning, our hosts, Elaine and Richard plus their lovely Dora, charmed us with their kindness. Their extensive English breakfast equally accommodated my meat-lover husband and my veggie self.

Ullswater is a quick twenty-minute drive away, so we enjoyed a nine-mile ride along the lake. It’s the second largest lake in the English Lake District. Here’s a video by someone else of the boat jaunt we took.

Rain or shine, a ride down Ullswater is fun.

What’s your fave region in the U.K.?

Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri


Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Guest Blog Post: Goodreads Listopia for Book Promotion by Mae Clair


Mystery and suspense author Mae Clair.

Goodreads is sort of like Facebook, only it’s a site for book lovers! How do you find out about good books?

Here mystery and suspense author/reader/blogger Mae Clair explains how book lovers of all sorts can use Goodreads to let others know about their favorite reads…

Story Empire

Hi, SEers! Mae here today with a small promo tactic you may not be using. This one involves some help from your friends, but it’s another avenue to get your work noticed.

Screenshot from Goodreads showing navigation drop down for listsHave you ever searched lists on Goodreads? You’ll find them under the BROWSE drop-down on the main navigation bar (screen shot at left). The link will connect you to Listopia—Goodreads’ home for sorting books by category.

You’ll find plenty of genre lists, along with specific niche lists as well. These are the ones likely to benefit you the most.Screenshot of book covers for several cryptozoology fiction lists on Goodreads Listopia

As an example, I enjoy books featuring creatures from cryptozoology (i.e, Loch Ness, the Mothman, the Van Meter Monster, etc). Fortunately, Listopia has a Crypto Fiction list that allows me to sort through a number of books at once. As a reader, I find GR lists easier and more accurate to use than Amazon, especially when I want to search…

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Guest Post: Alone on Valentine’s Day: I Promise, It’s OK by R.K.B.


Blogger/poet/writer/daydreamer R.K.B.

Is there a certain day that you least enjoy spending alone? Valentine’s Day is meant to be about love — let’s start with ourselves! It’s only a day — only one day — as are all days — wise reminders from guest blogger/ poet/ daydreamer/ writer R.K.B. …

Take a Shot -Facing Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety and Suicide

Lonely-WomanYou won’t die. It’s not the end of the world, but I know it feels like it.

I get it. This day might even cause you to become depressed every year.

This year, let’s change that.

You are still worthy. 

You are not worthless. 

You have love, because you love yourself.

I know, it sucks because you might want to know what it feels like to be spoiled on this day. Or maybe, you just would like to know what it feels like to be acknowledged and told that you are beautiful. Sure, you can take yourself on a date and get all dressed up, but you’d want to know the feeling of having someone else to appreciate it and share it with.

I get that, too.

This isn’t your typical, feel-good post about how “loving yourself will cure all wounds,” because even though that is true, nobody really wants…

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Guest Blog Post: The Tao of RELATIONSHIP by Bryan Wagner


Communication is not easy. Whether I’m listening, reading, looking… all my interactions are colored by my perspective that’s shaped by my present and past. Sometimes my simplest, most straight-forward conversations are with my dear doggie.

Who do you interact with most easily? Blogger/writer Bryan Wagner presents workshops on Zen, Tao, and Shamanism. Here’s his take on relationships…

Bryan Wagner and a friend spending quality time together.

“The Tao of RELATIONSHIP” by Bryan Wagner

Communion is creating and embracing an emotional, spiritual, sharing of each other.

We can enter a state of communion if we are present and each of us has the desire, openness, and willingness to remain so. 

We can also use that willingness of communication to build a more intimate exchange that leaves traces of each participant within the other. That is the act of communion. Communion is not just language and sharing. Communion is a process further than language, it is the art of complete communication in the moment. Genuine communion happens when things move between those in relationship that is grounded in the awareness of the moment.

I believe that the sharing of emotional content is important to the state of being in communion. That means to express emotional, non-verbal content, and then allow the receiver to process it in whatever form that action takes.

Communion happens inter-species because spoken language is only a very small part of communion. Some of my happiest moments are in communion with animals. I think in part because they are aware and painfully honest in how they respond. Being with animals has the effect of clearing the detritus and fog from my thinking and reference frame on life. I engage in the state of love so readily with animals!

I honor and value those that I commune with and actively seek out building those relationships that offer that place of intimacy. I encourage people to embrace the idea of communing with others and seek those relationships out in their own lives.

Today I will spend some time communing with Spike and P’nut and a horse named Anastasia. I can’t think of a better way to share life. – Bryan Wagner

Who do you interact with most easily?

Guest Blog Post: The Gift of a Book by Tom Darby


The smallest kindnesses of strangers, things that they probably no longer remember doing, have benefitted me for my entire life. Those gestures combined with the sorcery of books can conjure magic potent enough turn lead into gold!

Tom Darby is a blogger and writer, born in Chateauroux, France, raised in Klamath, California, residing in Spanish Springs, Nevada. He is an award-winning journalist and hall-of-fame radio jock. You can find his stories and other articles here.

Read on for Tom’s example of exactly what I mean…

One of Tom Darby’s “Trees of Mystery” tags.

“The Gift of a Book,” by Tom Darby

The roadside tourist destination opened at seven in the morning, and I was expected to be there an hour later, ready to work. My job was to place a red-on-yellow piece of 15-by-5 inch cardboard on each automobile that read: ‘Trees of Mystery’ in large letters and ‘Shrine of the Redwood Highway,’ below that.

We called them ‘tags,’ those who put them on, ‘taggers,’ and the act of doing so, ‘tagging.’  The object of the job was to slip a piece of wire through the holes at either end of the tag and hook the wire over the bumper so that the tag could be seen as a vehicle passed by on the highway. 

Advertising at its simplest.

There were usually three or four taggers on duty each day in the summer months. Each boy hauled a hundred tags and twice as much precut wire in a leather satchel in, through and around the vehicles that quickly filled the parking lot.

One early morning I approached a young couple from British Columbia, Canada, driving a burnt orange Volkswagen bus and asked if they’d like a tag on their vehicle. They did and I obliged them.

As I stood up I saw a thick paperback book shoved down between the dashboard and windshield. The artwork of a ‘naked woman’ swimming with a gigantic shark, mouth agape and swimming out of the depths to gobble her upheld my attention.

“I jus’ finished it,” the woman said, “Do you want to read it?”

“Yes, please.”

She retrieved it and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I responded.

It took me all of the summer of 1974 to finish “Jaws,” written by Peter Benchley. That gift helped to germinate, not only my young but ripening imagination but also my continuing desire to write.

Has the kindness of a stranger ever affected you profoundly?

A castle by any other name… Stokesay plus a glimpse of Wales by da-AL


in The green moat and land around Stokesay Castle make me smile!

Oh, England your castles are fabulous living museums, each unique and wonderful, let me count the ways of them… Wait — never mind — according to this list, there are over 2,500 of them if one counts ‘fortified manor houses,’ a.k.a. castles too! Our vacation included London, the British Museum Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, Bubbly Fun at Bath, Avebury Henge, and the Kelpies of Scotland.

(L-R) Stokesay Castle gatehouse, courtyard, manor, church, and graveyard.

Stokesay Castle of Shropshire, England, is a manor (an important house owned by important people) with enough fortification to deem it a castle even though it was more of a house than a… Well, dear reader, hopefully by now you get the idea…

Stokesay Castle gatehouse features interesting wood carvings.

Built mostly in the 13th century by leading wool merchant Laurence de Ludlow over another castle that continues to partially survive, it’s regarded as the finest survivor of its type. It’s so impressive that there’s a sort of replica of it in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Stokesay Castle is amazingly well preserved.

There’s the gatehouse with fabulous carvings featured on Wikipedia, the courtyard with a well, and the main part that includes a couple of towers, and a hall.

If I woke to these beautiful views each morning, I’d wonder if I were still dreaming.

The views are marvelous from any angle. I love promoting fellow WordPress bloggers — there are more photos of Stokesay Castle at this blog and at this one.

Green as far as the eye can see surrounds Stokesay Castle.

There’s a charming graveyard at a church alongside the manor.

Fortunately, my honey and I were only visiting the graveyard next to the church.

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” my upcoming novels, feature romance between an older woman and a younger man, so this gravestone especially intrigued me. Violet Enid Grace Dawson nee Richard, (18th April 1899 – 14th September 1991) was 18 1/2 years older than George Frederick Dawson (25th September 1917 – 27th October 2010)! So sweetly were they buried together that surely they were happy together…

Hoping the couple buried here enjoyed a good times together…

On our way to the rest of our U.K. adventure, we spent a night in Wales. Who knew that in the market town of Dolgellau we’d eat delicious Indian food and homemade bread at a pub near the 200-plus-year-old bed and breakfast where we slept. Ty Seren is Welsh for Star House. Our following morning began among hikers and cyclists, all of us chatting over our mouth-watering hot Welsh breakfasts thanks to our charming hostess/cook, Sharon Watkins…

If we had more time, we’d have delightedly stayed longer in Dolgellau, at Ty Seren with Sharon Watkins.

What’s the oldest place you’ve ever slept in?…

Guest Blog Post: Peni Jo Renner’s call for book reviews


Books can defy time and geography, age and gender, culture and politics, fact and fiction… and they’re among the best friends one can acquire!

Do you absolutely adire books too? Author/blogger Peni Jo Renner has written for Happiness Between Tails here and here and hosted me here. Peni wants to feature your thoughts on your favorite book…

Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner has self-published three books!

Musings of an Author

So what did you read in 2019 that you particularly enjoyed?  Or maybe even less reecently–in the past 2 or 3 years?

Whether it was fiction or nonfiction, I’m looking for book reviews written by fellow readers (and writers!) that I can post on my blog. Whether you loved or hated or were even indifferent to a book, let me know!

If you’re interested, please email me at puritanwitch@gmail.com. Or PM me on Facebook;https://www.facebook.com/PuritanWitch/

I’m looking forward to getting some great recommendations!

brown book page Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

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