Please Snail-Mail a Recruit + Willow Croft on Writing and Animals

Justice… I’m in the middle of continuing writing, in between working on my novels, about doing jury duty. (Here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2 and here’s Part 3). In the meantime, it’s triggered lots of thoughts about justice in general. (Btw, check out the podcast audio version of this post HERE.)

Postcards and letters are much appreciated by Rebekah Hyde, USMC Recruit.
Postcards and letters are much appreciated by Rebekah Hyde, USMC Recruit.

Today’s post begins with hefty justice — a letter to you from Patricia Hyde, my friend whose daughter, Rebekah, is determined to do justice for her country by serving in the Marines. Rebekah needs our encouragement while she mends from injuries sustained during military training so she can jump back in where she left off. The week before she began training, she got married. With luck, she’ll finish and see her husband next February, a year later.

Of all the military branches, Marine boot camp is the longest and probably most rugged. While healing, Rebekah still works, doing less taxing activities. Recruits are restricted from the outside world. They are obliged only snail-mail and one phone call a week. That’s it.

Should you find it in your heart to write to her, I doubt you’ll find anyone as grateful to receive your postcard or letter. 

After Patricia’s letter here to us, continue on for speculative fiction/horror author Willow Croft’s guest post regarding how she came to be published and her love of animals…

Patricia with her soon-to-be-a-Marine daughter, Rebekah Hyde.
Patricia with her soon-to-be-a-Marine daughter, Rebekah Hyde.

Patricia’s Letter to Us About her Daughter’s Service as a Marine Recruit

Note: info within parenthesis added by da-AL

Dear Reader,

This story is about my daughter, Rebekah Hyde, age 22. She tried out for the US Marine Band after she finished high school. Alas, she wasn’t selected, so she applied again after graduating from California State University Long Beach. After four years of college, paid for by working at Jersey Mike’s (a sandwich chain) and as a piano teacher, she was accepted into the USMC band. However, she must first get through boot camp.

Her adventure began February 8, 2021. After a two-week quarantine, she was shipped with other recruits to Parris Island, South Carolina.

Two months later, I received a fateful call. My daughter was seriously injured while carrying her 65-pound backpack. She suffered a stress fracture of her pelvis, both sides of her groin were pulled, and one of her fingers was broken. Nothing, though, can make her quit her dream.

Presently assigned to a medical platoon, she is coming along, healing and feeling less and less pain. In a few weeks, Rebekah will be placed in an active platoon to finish boot camp where she left off.

I’m concerned for her during “The Crucible,” a test every recruit must pass to become a marine. To graduate, recruits need to be “Forged by the Fire of the Crucible”: 54 hours, 48 miles, 45 pounds of gear, 36 stations, 29 problem-solving exercises, 6-8 hours sleep, and 5 MRE’s (Meals Ready-to-Eat). Of course, I’m concerned about the 45 pounds of gear — whether her pelvis will survive the weight on her small 5-foot, 110-pound body.

Rebekah is my only child. Strong and courageous, she will not give up her dream of joining the “President’s Own” and traveling with the US President.

When Rebekah was eight, she begin her music career playing the piano. In the sixth grade, she picked up the flute and immediately fell in love with it. She participated in marching band all four years of high school and also traveled with independent bands like “Impulse,” competing and showcasing her skills with the flute, cymbals, and synthesizer keyboard. Throughout it all, I was by her side as a “Booster Mom.”

I’d appreciate your letters and postcards to Rebekah, to encourage and motivate her through “The Crucible.” Prayers are also welcome.

Please write to Rebekah at:

RCT HYDE, REBEKAH
4TH RTBN OSCAR CO PLT 4041
BOX 16430
PARRIS ISLAND, SC 29905-6430

God bless you and your family. Thank You!

Sincerely,

Patricia Hyde

Willow Croft's book of poetry, "Quantum Singularity."

Willow Croft writes and blogs from the high desert. Her speculative fiction/horror has appeared in many anthologies and journals. Her blog includes more of her writing, her Amazon page, and her other social media links. When she’s not writing, she cares for three rescued cats…

“Writing, Publishing, and My Love for Animals” by Willow Croft

About Me

I acquired a degree in writing and literature from Goddard College (Vermont) back in 1998-2001 but I didn’t actually start writing in hopes of getting published until about the mid- to late 2010s. When I was growing up, creativity was only something you did on the side (if ever!) once you found a job and were a fully functioning and conformist member of society. Only then was it okay to express your creativity, and only if it never took the place of “real” work. And it was because of my 30-plus quest for “real” work that I not only acquired significant physical limitations, I was in a place of mental and emotional desperation. I was living in increasingly conservative, intolerant Florida, I couldn’t find any sort of work, I had been threatened by one of a group of those rabidly conservative types my home state was notorious for, and I had just gotten my master’s degree in a (futile) hope of expanding my hire-ability, with no luck. Although I had started my own freelance business, I was still having problems earning enough income to be independent, and I was just living under so much fear and sadness and stress that I allowed myself to turn to writing, because I just didn’t know what else to do any more. I mean, it was to the point where I was like “I’m almost middle-aged, and I’m still living way below poverty level, I have nothing to show for my efforts to conform to the system just to ‘get a job’ and I have very limited options, so why not write just to keep yourself sane?” And, amazingly, I started to get published in magazines and in anthologies. Granted, there was an immense amount of hard work and dedication involved, but I was actually seeing a return on that, as opposed to anything else I had attempted to achieve over the span of my lifetime. I could spin out so many cliched terms about what getting published meant (and continues to mean), but they are all sincere: a lifeline, a light in the darkness, a refuge, a sanctuary… the list goes on.

So, that’s my main issue with standardized education (and standardized employment, for you grownups out there!). Why force kids to live up to a standard and regimen that many adults (including me!) would have difficulty managing? (I mean, come on, schools; by the time pencils are sharpened, supplies and materials organized, fidgets and energy calmed, and brains drifting into the task ahead, then  —BAM! — it’s time to go to the next period or switch to the next educational subject area and OMG I’M THE TEACHER and I’ve just gotten into the zone and HOLY COW it’s already time for the SWITCH?!??!?! And all I can hope for at that point is that I’ve at least provided the kids some levity in their otherwise dull, rote-learning educational experience by watching their substitute teacher’s brain implode.)

Photo of Potato, Willow Croft's tabby cat.
Photo of Potato, Willow Croft’s tabby cat.

I mean, come on, what’s wrong with making education dynamic and fun and intuitive and stress/pressure-free and exploration-based? When did we stop making space for kids to be kids (and not mini-adults) in schools?

So, even though I’m not currently teaching, I still daydream about this amazingly interactive, pod-based learning environment for the school system that allows children to immerse themselves for a week or two in diverse and wide-ranging areas of interest of their choice, while teachers and guest teachers can weave in essentials, like reading, math, etc., as seamless parts of each pod. And utilize them to build up skill zones like critical thinking, creative nurturing, curiosity-fueled engagement, and more.

And, in the end, the school system could actually not only prepare kids for the changing world (of which, I firmly believe, the standardized school system is outdated, inefficient, and impractical, and well in need of not just an update, but a complete overhaul.)

And, in the best part of all, give kids a chance to explore all aspects of their potential, while they have a safe, judgement-free, supportive environment to do so, instead of having to play self-discovery catch-up as best you can at an older age. I mean, I look back now, and I know that tendencies of mine that had been criticized and considered a detriment, would have been an asset in the careers I had wanted to explore.

But I’ve tried to make up for lost time. As you can see from my “Tips” list, below, I’ve had the opportunity as an adult to explore things, and causes — namely animals, and the environment — that interest me. I may never be able to be the marine biologist or live the purely artistic lifestyle I dreamed of as a child, but at least I can reconnect with my innate interests and passions as best I can, with the time I have left. Why can’t kids have that, with all the time they have ahead of them? I don’t think it’s fair, to strip them of their potential, while we, as adults, want to make them fit into confining little boxes just because we had to/have to.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box, and into the tips I learned from my explorations as an adult (where nobody could deter me from getting involved in causes like this!).

About My Love of Animals

Anyone who knows my blog knows I love animals. And if you don’t… well, guess what? I am very passionate about animals and animal welfare. And I don’t just blog about animal welfare causes, like in my fixed post, “The Real-Life Horror of Pet Overpopulation.” I have been very involved in animal rescue causes… everything from cleaning out kennels to assisting on a cat hoarding investigation (and the cats’ subsequent relocation) to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. I’ve even attended greyhound racing protests. I often have a wonderful rapport with my animal friends, especially cats, chipmunks, and…skunks!

Photo of super fluffy calico cat, Moon Pie.
Moon Pie was a five-year-old, un-spayed, feral cat that showed up in my portal. Many of her behaviors and her physical state also pointed to her having been abused at some point. She was a tricky combination of feisty calico and feral. But I patiently worked with her for almost a year, and she’s now a happy indoor-only cat (though still very feisty!). Moon Pie is one of a set of feral cats I rescued from the street — all of which are indoor-only now.

So, even when I’m writing horror, I often include animals in my short stories and other written material. I especially like to include shelter animals and also try to give animals the agency and empowerment they often lack in the real world.

Here are a few examples (links) to stories (in anthologies) that include animals:

An attempt to liberate animals from laboratories:

Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Magic

Rescued, Adopted, and Shelter Animals/Animal Shelters:

EconoClash Review #7

The Hollow: Where All Evil Things Lie Vol. 3

Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown

So, for this guest blog post, I’d thought I’d share some tips learned from my years in animal rescue and wildlife rescue/rehab.

On Wildlife

  • Can be a hard thing to resist. Even I, a former, longtime, wildlife rehabber who absolutely knows better, sometimes feel the compulsion to feed my wild animal friends (which I don’t give into). But it can do more harm than good. Like with dogs, people food is not good for animals. So, the next time you’re tempted to feed ducks, turtles (or, heaven forbid, raccoons!), or any other kind of wild animal, please try not to give in to the urge. It may seem like a small act, but it can be a matter of life or death for the wild creature.
  • It should go without saying, right? If you find an injured wildlife, immediately contact your local wildlife center or wildlife rescue group for advice, and the most current information regarding the proper rescue of the animal. Be hesitant about handling injured wildlife, as to avoid injury to yourself from a scared or stressed animal. Also, wildlife rescue organizations always need volunteers, and that can be the best way to learn how to safely handle wildlife, and perhaps even assist on wildlife rescues and releases out in the field.
  • Instead of an environmentally detrimental turf lawn, consider a landscape design that provides food, shelter, and a more natural ecosystem for animals, birds, insects/bugs, and other critters. If you put out water for wildlife and/or birds, make sure it’s flowing and not stagnant. Standing water cannot only play host to harmful bacteria that can sicken wildlife, it can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consult with the Parks Department or the Extension Service in your area for more expert advice on supporting the local wildlife in your region. Bat houses, birdhouses, and bee houses can be fun additions to your wildlife-friendly zone!

On Adopting Pets

Again, do I even need to say it? Okay, if you insist. “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” Spay/neuter your pets to prevent shelter overcrowding and pet overpopulation. Don’t buy breed or purchase any animals from puppy and cat mills. I worked for a number of years (and plan to, again, when I get settled) in animal rescue and in animal shelters, both as a volunteer and as a paid employee. I even worked on a hoarding case, once. It’s fulfilling work, but also heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for so many different reasons. Mainly, there are too many animals and not enough homes. So, here’s some basics for navigating the pet adoption realm.

  • Give older cats and dogs a chance. For some reason, people seem to think any animal that’s not a kitten or a puppy as “old”. To put this in perspective, my own two cats (both adopted from a shelter) lived to be twenty and twenty-one, respectively. Cats over five years old are a lot more mellow and are often a better companion for families with kids, especially smaller kids. Teach kids (and, yes, even other adults) to be respectful of the cat’s boundaries, and provide spaces for the cat to get away from visitors, household residents, and the like. Adding vertical spaces to your home (cat towers, cat-friendly shelving, etc) can help the cat adjust and minimize stress and behavior issues. I’m not as much as an expert on dogs as I am on cats, but investing in proper training can be a life saver. Literally, in the case of the dog.
  • Keep cats indoors. I admit, I grew up in a household that let cats be indoor/outdoor, and I made the mistake of allowing my first cat be indoor/outdoor, and he developed so many behavior problems as a result. Everybody’s divided on this issue, but I am adamantly, fiercely entrenched on the side of keeping cats strictly indoors. It makes it easy to relocate, plus it saves on having to take the cat to the vet every other week for some abscessed wound after it tangled with a raccoon. Not to mention it’s so much less stress when you’re not worried every time the cat disappears that it’s been run over, or poisoned either accidentally, or on purpose by an angry neighbor because cats consistently ignore property lines. Plus, indoors, they’re not wreaking havoc on an already embattled ecosystem. Cats are opportunistic hunters and have a detrimental impact on local birds and wildlife. Now, here’s the worst parts to letting cats run free, and leaving dogs unattended in the yard: they are vulnerable to theft. And by theft, I don’t mean by people like me who might see a loose animal and think it’s a stray (Joking! Well, sort of.). I mean people who cruise neighbourhoods and steal pets in order to use them for bait animals in dog fighting or to sell them to laboratories for animal testing. Urban myth, right? Nope. Every few months, there would be a flood of lost pet posters in my (former) neighbourhood in Florida. I learned what was most likely happening to the animals from an animal rescue worker who’d been volunteering for about twenty years.
  • “Cute” pets like rabbits do not make good pets for kids. Which is a shame, because rescued rabbits need homes too, as they are often acquired as gifts and then discarded like so many other pet animals once the novelty wears off. I always make the joke “Unless your kid is 4-H experienced…” because rabbits require so much finicky care and handling. If rabbits are held the wrong way, they can kick and break their backs. They need so much specialized care, and unless the parent or guardian is prepared to take on that care, I wouldn’t recommend it. And, hopefully this goes without saying… get the rabbit spayed/neutered! Because rabbits really do breed like, well, rabbits! Or save yourself a lot of headache and stress, and turn the kid onto herpetology (from a licensed breeder that only sells captive bred reptiles, etc.).

Still have questions? Need advice on the weird and wacky things cats do? I’m always willing to talk animals. Visit me on my blog.

Do you know someone who could use a snail-mail letter or postcard? And have you rescued any animals?

Poetry and you? A few poems and thoughts by writer David Selzer

Poetry, for me, lies somewhere between blissful and excruciating. When I take the time to read a piece, which is seldom due to the reasons above, I marvel at how only a few precise words can haul a truckload of soul. More often than not, though, it makes me antsy at best, question my intelligence at worst. Never mind trying to write some of it myself.

Do you have experience writing poetry?

Read on for the great kind of poetic journey, courtesy of blogger/writer David Selzer. He’s a poet who makes it look easy…

Photo of poet/blogger David Selzer by Sylvia Selzer. Photo of poet/blogger David Selzer by Sylvia Selzer.

Making Poetry by David Selzer

I was born in London, UK, in 1942 but have lived most of my life in Hoole, a Victorian suburb of Chester, a city in the north west of England.

I have been writing poetry since I was 14. In the summer holidays of 1957, I was on a day trip with my Auntie Renee to Llandudno, a town in North Wales. We were sitting on the steep slope above St Tudno’s church. Two things happened. Inspired by a poem, about the terrors of a nuclear holocaust, written by a sixth former and published in that summer term’s school magazine, I decided that I should be a poet. It seemed a grand thing to write about important subjects and be read by hundreds of people. (I hadn’t at that point actually written anything).

Before or after the decision, I can’t remember which, a group of nuns, in the long, black habits they wore then, left the church and climbed along one of the sheep tracks up the slope. My aunt would have commented on it, I’m sure, but I can’t remember what she said. The pristine image has stayed with me. I used it in a poem more than twenty years later, and in a screenplay nearly forty years later.

Poetry in some ways is the easiest of the arts. It is solitary, and comparatively economical in terms of time-over-task. The technology needed is minimal — just a pencil and some paper. No violins or blocks of Carrara marble.

I have always had things I want to say about love and death, and human history, pictures I wanted to create, stories I wanted to tell. Making poetry has been part of my life for more than sixty years. It is a compulsion. I cannot imagine ever saying to myself, I shall write no more poems.

In 2009, I came to the conclusion that, in order for most poetry to reach as wide a readership as possible –- and a readership which, if it chooses, can truly interact with the writer — publication on the web rather than in book form is the way forward. My website was launched in April of that year.

The first poem to be published on the site was:

A Short History

For a generation, like weather cocks,

their skeletons swung near the highway.

James Price and Thomas Brown had robbed the Mail.

Years turned. The Gowy flooded and the heath

flowered. Travellers noted the bones

hanging in chains by the Warrington road.

Justices ordered the gibbet removed,

the remains disposed of. In Price’s skull,

while Napoleon was crossing the Alps

or Telford building bridges or Hegel

defining Historical Necessity

or Goya painting Wellington’s portrait,

a robin made its nest.

The latest to be published (i.e. as of June 25th 2020) is:

The Colston Bun

‘And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.’ DEUTERONOMY 12.3

‘Black deaths do not have a good press, especially when they occur in the custody of our custodians. The media leads the public to believe that our guardians can do no wrong. Racism leads them to believe that blacks can do no right. The silence of the custodial system is compounded by the silences of racism.’ DEADLY SILENCE: BLACK DEATHS IN CUSTODY, Institute of Race Relations, London, 1991

 

Anger, one Sunday in June, overcame

decorum in that diverse city,

and – no doubt, inspired by the toppling

of other graven tyrants – righteously

pulled down the effigy, with a thump of stone

and a hollow gong of metal, and tossed it

from the quay into the harbour water.

***

The Royal African Company received

its charter from Charles II and James,

his brother, hence the US east coast seaports

Jamestown and Charleston. It was established

by the restored royals to provide them,

free of interference from the Commons,

with their own spending money. Board members

included the philosopher, John Locke.

The company’s profits came mostly

from enslaving West African men, women

and children, and transporting them across

the North Atlantic’s turbulence. More than

two hundred thousand were taken, and nearly

fifty thousand died on the journey,

the firm’s double entry bookkeeping shows.

 

One prominent member of the board

was Edward Colston, a Bristol merchant,

the city from whose harbour the slavers sailed,

and which, in due course, would make chocolates

and cigarettes. His philanthropy

inveigled the streets like a bad conscience,

almost a rebuke of victimhood:

his name on a hospital, a school,

a bun flavoured with dried currants and allspice

topped with sugar, given to the poor yearly

and still made for sale by local bakeries –

and himself looking thoughtful in bronze

with a periwig and a walking stick.

 

Apologists who claim he was merely

of his time, an accidental racist,

and collateral ethical damage,

like Henry Wills and Elizabeth Fry,

should remember John Locke, his damascene

moment unrecorded, who threw his shares

into the fire. ‘Slavery is so vile and

miserable an estate of man …that ’tis

hardly to be conceived’. That June Sunday

civic anger overcame decorum.

To my surprise, one of the most read poems is:

Marjorie Beebe’s Bottom

For Ian Craine (Note from da-Al: here’s a guest post by Ian Craine here.)

‘Marjorie Beebe is the greatest comic possibility

that ever worked in my studio. I think she is

destined to become the finest comedienne

the screen has ever seen.’ Mack Sennett

 

Her bottom was a serious matter:

the butt, as it were, of numerous pratfalls

in many Mack Sennett two reelers – like

The Chumps, Campus Crushes and The Cowcatcher’s

Daughter – in which she was a capricious,

lubricious Columbine with witty eyes

and good teeth and various Harlequins,

who ended invariably as losers.

From Kansas City, her mother took her

on the Yellow Brick Road to Tinsel Town.

Beebe and Sennett became lovers, despite

or because of the thirty year difference,

so he knew her asset first hand so to speak.

From silents to talkies, slapsticks to wise cracks,

her Mid West accent playing well, then Mack goes bust

and Marjorie gradually disappears.

Was it the booze? She was certainly

a toper. Or, more likely, The Hays Code:

irony suppressed, vulgarity outlawed,

Puritan America triumphant!

One of my favourites is:

Enchantment

“Do you know, Grandpa, this book has seventeen

chapters, and I’m on chapter fifteen,

‘The Forbidden Forest’?” “I didn’t,” I say,

“That’s excellent!” and this seven year old,

who has mastered the use of apostrophes,

curls up, like the proverbial worm

on the sofa, and continues to read

‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.

I am re-reading, in English, ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’.

 

In the garden, using extended loppers,

Grandma is cutting choice blooms from a rose

we have had some thirty years, a rambler

as high as our upper floor and worthy

of Sleeping Beauty’s entranced gardens.

 

I look up to watch my grand child read. My pride

tempts me to ask fatuous questions –

“Are you enjoying it? What’s it about?” –

then speak of alchemy. Humility

prevails. I hear Grandma in the kitchen.

She is hammering the ends of the stems.

The deep scent of the roses, from wherever

she has placed the vase, enters the lounge

like a wisp of sweet smoke.

For more great poetry, visit David’s site!

What’s your experience with poetry?

Novel Writing, Furious Creative Kolkata, and Tagore by da-AL

Tagore (c. 1925), by unknown author, State Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47866012
Tagore (c. 1925), by unknown author, State Archive, Public Domain

How’s your novel coming along? If you’re writing one, did you outline it first? Or is it evolving?

“I have spent many days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” Rabindranath Tagore

In the case of the two books I’m working on, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” I outlined it, wrote a bunch, thought I was about done — and then a new character introduced himself!

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” Tagore

Blogging has brought me the unexpected joy of meeting many new online friends from India, thereby stoking my curiosity about the country. It was only natural that my books include someone at least partly from there.

“Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance.” Tagore

Niks is a minor player. It’s the year of 2002. He lives in Southern California, the best place to surf and earn a living as a model and actor. He’s a gay man in his 40s. His parents were studying business when they met at UC Berkeley’s International House, a social club intended to help foreign students feel less alone. Pasta is the dish he makes best because his Italian mom taught him how to cook. His love of great Indian literature is thanks to his dad, who grew up in Kolkata.

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.” Tagore

Are you from India? If so, feel free to correct me and/or add to what’s here…

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” Tagore

Kolkata has been called the “City of Furious, Creative Energy” as well as the “cultural [or literary] capital of India.”

“If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door — or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.” Tagore

Tagore performing the title role inValmiki Pratibha (1881) with his niece Indira Devi as the goddess Lakshmi, by unknown author - Indira Devi Chowdhurani. Rabindra Smriti — Kolkata: Visva-Bharati, 1974., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16150280
Tagore performing the title role in Valmiki Pratibha (1881) with his niece Indira Devi as the goddess Lakshmi, by unknown author – Indira Devi Chowdhurani. Rabindra Smriti — Kolkata: Visva-Bharati, 1974., Public Domain

Did you know that the world’s largest non-trade annual book fair takes place in Kolkata?

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Tagore

The region is home to India’s major publishers. So are many great thinkers, such as Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 – August 7, 1941), India’s equivalent to Shakespeare.

“The most important lesson that man can learn from life, is not that there is pain in this world, but that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy.” Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath with Einstein in 1930, vy UNESCO - UNESCO Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27489646
Rabindranath with Einstein in 1930, by UNESCO – UNESCO Gallery, Public Domain

To my mind, Tagore as much a sort of Leonardo da Vinci. He was a revolutionary politically and artistically. At eight years old, he was already a poet and went on to be a musician, artist, Ayurveda researcher, actor, playwright, and more.

“Love’s gift cannot be given, it waits to be accepted.” Tagore

Quite the globe-trotter, he introduced the world to India’s creative treasures.

“Love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it.” Tagore

In 1913, he became the first non-European Nobel-prize laureate.

Rabindranath Tagore Cherishsantosh / WikiCommons
Rabindranath Tagore Cherishsantosh / WikiCommons

More quotes by Tagore…

“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

“A lamp can only light another lamp when it continues to burn in its own flame.”

“Love gives beauty to everything it touches.”

“Dark clouds become heaven’s flowers when kissed by light.

“Music fills the infinite between two souls.”

What’s your creative writing style?

Guest Blog Post: Soulmates by Kevin Cooper

Writing can be lonely — unless one has a special friend — like a beloved pet! Do you have a soulmate who’s not human?

Author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader Kevin Cooper blogs from England. Two furry mates cheer him for all his endeavors…

Aragorn and Rico when Kevin Cooper and his wife first got them.

* * Soulmates * by Kevin Cooper * *

Our cats are our little soulmates. They bring us a wellspring of joy and happiness and are a huge source of comfort, well-being, and healing.

When we first got the brothers: Aragorn (grey) and Rico (black) at 6 weeks of age, Pat had just come home from hospital having had a major surgery that involved placing a rod in her ribs to support her shoulder blade which hung loose after the muscles around it had wasted away. Having them on the bed with Pat brought such comfort and joy to her.

Aragorn now.

It was only a few months later when I became really ill and bedridden myself for a few days, and I never forget it. Rico never left my side except for natures calls. Before that, he hadn’t really paid any attention to me at all. He was always far too busy exploring every little corner of the house so you can imagine my great surprise when he decided to spend all that time by my side. I know without a doubt that his presence had much to do with my swift recovery.

Rico is quite reserved and doesn’t take to visitors… He loves his privacy and doesn’t like any kind of change in the house. But secretly, he loves to play and loves to be loved. Recently he has taken to fussing a bit as well. I say secretly because no one else ever sees it.

Aragorn is a fusspot. Make up the bed, and he’s on their kicking up a fuss, and rolling around. He has to be in on EVERYTHING and will nosey up to just about anyone.

Rico now.

Whenever we go out, they greet us at the door, and Aragorn fusses… They want to know what we have in the bags, but more importantly, what we have brought for them. And so of course, we ALWAYS remember to get them something!

They are the most lovely of pets and while they do have their moments. (As do all brothers, I’m sure.) I absolutely love watching while they chase and play with each other. But my favourite times are those when they want me to get down on the floor and join them. Each of them has many a time stolen a stylus while I’ve been reading on my kindle or pen from me while I’ve been writing and ran away with it in their mouths to get me to play with them. And sometimes I get a good telling off if I ignore them for too long.

They are seven years old now, and we have been there for each other over the years and will be for years to come. They are a Godsend, and without a doubt, they are Soulmates.

About the author: Kevin Cooper is an author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader. He lives in England with his wife and two adorable cats. When he is not out with his wife at the movies or playing on the floor with his cats, you might just find him quietly sneaking away to write about the latest book he has finished reading. You can find out more about his books and music, and the books he reads on his website.

Guest Blog Post: Traditionally Published Author Suzanne Craig-Whytock

I’ve featured several self-published novelists here at Happiness Between Tails. Now it’s time to hear what it’s like to be published the old fashioned way!

BookLand Press conducts most of Canadian writer Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s publicity, i.e., taking her book to conferences like From Page To Screen (where Ontario film producers find books) and distributing it to all major outlets. On her own, Suzanne arranges book signings and local TV appearances.

Contrary to how publishers have been described to me, hers give her much control every step of the way. Her first book’s cover, Smile, was publisher-designed, yet she designed the cover for her upcoming book, The Dome. For both books, the publisher went with her titles. They would have deep-edited her books, but given how print-ready she handed them over, their revisions were minimal.

For more about Suzanne — and when you want or need to laugh — visit Suzanne’s humor blog, mydangblog. In her own words, here’s how she became a traditionally published author…

For author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock (and Titus), “A supportive dog is a writer’s best friend.”

* * Everyone Needs A Carol * by Suzanne Craig-Whytock * *

I’ve been writing all my life. Poetry, short stories—you name it, ever since I can remember. I still have them in a drawer—and that’s where the manuscript for my first novel was hiding for a long time. It was a Young Adult novel that I’d submitted to a couple of different publishers and got immediately rejected, as one does. So I shrugged my shoulders and put it away. It wasn’t until I changed jobs 5 years ago and met a colleague who was a literary editor that my publishing journey really began. We were talking about writing one day, and I said, “Oh yeah, I have a manuscript sitting in a drawer at home.” She replied, “Oh, I’d love to read it!” She was excited; I was terrified. My family loved the book, but she was a professional editor with a Ph.D.—what was she going to say about my little YA novel?! But she gave me excellent feedback and said, “You need to get this back out there.” So I did some much-needed revisions based on her suggestions and took a chance. I didn’t know anything about agents or “querying”; I just sent it to a reputable Canadian publisher that considered unsolicited manuscripts. Shockingly, they accepted it. I ran down the aisle at work with the email on my phone, looking for my colleague to show it to her before anyone else. When my author copies arrived and I held Smile in my hands for the first time, I cried. 50 years old and finally a published author. Now, my second novel The Dome will be out this October with the same publisher, and the third book is underway. Thanks, Carol.

Cover for soon-to-be-released “The Dome,” by Suzanne Craig-Whytock.

About the author: Suzanne Craig-Whytock is a Canadian writer published by Bookland Press. Her first novel, Smile, was released in 2017, and her new novel, The Dome, will be released this October. Both books are available on Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and with most other online booksellers.

You can read all about her weird sense of humor on her website mydangblog or find her on Twitter @scraigwhytock

Animals in Fiction: Part 2 of 2 about novelist Peni Jo Renner

If you’re planning to be a soon-to-be self-published novelist like me, what’s your game plan? Mine is first to gather a following of folks who enjoy my general sensibility and style. Everyone can get an idea of both through Happiness Between Tails and the other social media I use. That way (fingers crossed) there will be some people interested in reading my books when they finally debut.

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Peni Jo Renner, who lives in Maryland, is a self-published historical novelist — plus she’s a blogger. In a prior post about her, she shared her self-publishing insights.

Her three books are available by clicking on their titles. The 3-part series begins with multi-award-winning Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, followed by, Letters to Kezia, and lastly, Raid on Cochecho.

Here she discusses the value of animals in fiction…

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

“The Importance of Furry and/or Feathered Characters” by Peni Jo Renner

I spent my childhood pounding out corny stories on a plastic manual typewriter that printed only in caps. Admittedly, my plots were shallow set in idyllic valleys where the protagonist’s biggest challenge was locating a runaway Palomino mare named Nugget.

Accompanied by a bloodhound named Trapper.

And a pet raven named Edgar (and no, I’d never even heard of Edgar Allen Poe yet!).

Fast-forward about 40 years, and after putting aside fiction writing for nearly a quarter of a century, the writing bug bit me again and I realized my dream of writing (and getting published!) when I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

My novels are peopled by my own Colonial ancestors, and it was really fun researching life in the 17th century. During my research, I was reminded that although styles may change and technology may advance, humans retain their proclivities throughout the centuries. 

As do non-humans.

Some of the most fun characters to bring to life are the four-legged ones. Riff, the big, loyal dog in Puritan Witch, continues his role as a devoted companion in Letters to Kezia. In the opening scene of Raid on Cochecho, the purity and innocence of childhood are embodied in a playful white kitten simply called Kitty. 

A human-only cast of characters, with their human foibles such as hate, greed, and selfishness, in this author’s opinion, needs a little respite with the sprinkling of a few animal companions here and there. After all, they can be the most fun to write!

Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2

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

Many who visit here are soon-to-be self-published novelists — me too! Fortunately for us, Peni Jo Renner (who lives in Maryland) has three self-published historical novels worth of experience to share with us…

da-AL: What advice can you give to writers who want to self-publish? And who’d like to get their books into public libraries?

Peni Jo Renner: Advice? Well, in 2012, I hadn’t written in like 25 years, and I felt I needed a refresher, so I took a class at our local community college. A fellow student told me that she had published HER book with iUniverse, so I went with them. But due to the measly 20% royalties iUniverse offered, I looked into other self-publishing companies and settled on Lulu with its 80% royalty rate. LuLu took care of all the copyrights and stuff. Self-publishing with companies like this can be expensive, so if money is an issue,  Amazon’s Createspace is free. 

I’m not big on self-promotion. I didn’t write my trilogy to make money, more to fulfill a lifelong dream. However,  I do ask new Facebook friends to “Like” my author page, and I participate in #SharingIsCaring on Facebook. #SharingIsCaring is this campaign on Facebook (and I suppose Twitter and Instagram) that authors list their FB author pages on other authors’ pages. Everyone Likes everyone else’s pages. Usually, the campaigns begin on Sundays.

In the past, I have participated in local book-signing events, but they are few and far between. However, I like to keep a supply of “The Puritan Chronicles” bookmarks, and I’ll ask people, “Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?” If they reply in the affirmative, I give them a bookmark. 

As to libraries; I know my trilogy is at my local library, but that may be due to the fact I used to work there! However, a cousin in Texas did show me a photo of my book, “Puritan Witch,” that she found at HER library!

My books are POD (Print on Demand), so the best way to purchase them is online. I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

Here’s the bookmark that historical novelist Peni Jo Renner hands out.

Dear Happiness Between Tails friends: Check back soon for the follow-up to this Happiness Between Tails blog post, when in “Animals in Fiction: Part 2 of 2” about novelist Peni Jo Renner, she gives us a peek at her writing process.

Are you writing, or planning to write, a novel?

Guest Blog Post: Writing – ways to learn the craft by M.L. Davis

Novelist/marketer/copywriter M.L. Davis blogs from South West England.

Love, practice, and persistence go far with any endeavor — including when it comes to writing. For me, it helps if I can tap into something fun about a project (like with my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”). What works for you?

Novelist/marketer/copywriter M.L. Davis blogs from South West England. Here’s how Davis hones her craft…

Uninspired Writers

Writing is a skill, and like all skills it cane be learned and honed. Some people have a natural talent and flare for certain things, others have to try a little harder. Wherever you stand, if you love writing you should write. And if you’d like to improve and grow there are plenty of ways to do so.

1. Write
Let’s start with the simple and most effective answer. Write. You learn as you do, and you improve as you do. As with all skills, you will get better with practice and perseverance.
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2. Read Fiction
If you’re writing fiction, you’ll learn a great deal about what you like/don’t like by reading fiction. You’ll get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And if you’re going to tell stories, it’s important to get used to the way stories are shaped. (This can also be done by…

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Guest Blog Post: No Single Word Have Spoken I This Day by Ana Daksina

Cropped black and white photo of man with a bird in his mouth by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography
This is by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

Listening requires attention and openness. Poet Ana Daksina reminds us how silence allows us to hear the beating of our own hearts…

** DEAR READERS, PLEASE NOTE ** I pay WordPress not to display advertising on my site. In the case of guest bloggers, if you click forward to their websites, be aware that I am neither directly associated with them, nor the ads there. ** ALSO ** When you see ‘amazing’ offers on the internet, rest assured that they are scams. For instance, of late I’ve encountered a quite slick one that purports that one has randomly won money from Google. Don’t allow yourself to be enticed into revealing information to strangers.

Timeless Classics

*****

Today I spoken have no single word
Nor have one spoken by another heard

Today I listened to a sighing breeze
Wistfully stroke the branches of the trees

Perhaps for the first time I fully heard
The language in the singing of a bird

Mid lovely silence, oh, so quietly
My Muses whispered many dreams to me

Today no single word hath passed my lips
Came seven poems from my fingertips

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Let’s Make Every Week Banned Books Week! by da-AL

Persepolis is discussed by a UK teen on youtube video about Banned Book Week.

Does the threat of a book being banned ensure that it’s among the finest books written? Check out the fantastic examples cited by the smart folks in this 29-second video (and pat yourself on the back if you smile when “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is discussed — *see end of this post for why)…

Banned Book Week needs to be every week of the year! Started in the U.S., the now international event has been honored every last week of September since 1982.

* Whereas the girl in the video remembers the story as happening in South America during the 1920s, here’s how Wikipedia tells it: “The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County.”

Once my novels-in-progress are published, I hope they’re not banned! How many potentially banned books have you read?