16 Reasons to Celebrate Pigeons by Novelist Kathleen Rooney

Doves get loads of love.

Pigeons get nada. Make that less than nothing.

Why?

As an animal lover since birth, the kind who was severely bitten by a dog when I was six yet, who still never feared them, pigeon haters have always mystified me.

Hmmm…

Doves: white

Pigeons: colored

Hmmm…

Doves: a little trimmer

Pigeons: a little stouter

Hmmm…

A glance at Wikipedia underscores how pigeons and doves are basically the same bird. Getting all lovey-dovey over doves probably has more to do with the same kind of discrimination that exists for humans, when it comes to weight and coloring.

So what does a penguin and a pigeon have in common? Sure, both are birds, and one might consider what I mentioned about doves vs. pigeons. In this case, however, that’s not what I’m getting to.

Marvelously, Penguin Books published Kathleen Rooney’s novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, about a heroic pigeon!

Kathleen’s novel called, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, sent me into such complete nirvana that I invited her to guest post on Happiness Between Tails—and she did!!—in this prior post. Now she’s back to tell us about her historical fiction novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

She’s a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a collective of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poems on demand. Her most recent books include the novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte. Her reviews and criticism appear in the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Chicago magazine.

Today Kathleen describes the inspiration behind Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, plus 16 reasons to celebrate pigeons.

This is a link to buy Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey from your own favorite local bookstore.

Kathleen Rooney and a friend unbox her latest novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.
Kathleen Rooney and a friend unbox her latest novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

On the Under-Appreciated Marvelousness of Pigeons by Kathleen Rooney

My novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey—a World War I story narrated in the first-person alternately by a homing pigeon and an American military officer, both of them real-life heroes—has just been released by Penguin. The fact that the publisher for this book is named after a bird delights me because penguins and pigeons seem like an auspicious pairing.

Of course, the story of World War I has been told often but never from the perspective of the courageous messenger pigeon who saved the Lost Battalion and helped to determine the war’s outcome. Cher Ami was so famous in her day that when she died as an indirect result of the injuries she sustained in the conflict, they had her taxidermied and put on display in the Smithsonian. You can still visit her there today in their Price of Freedom exhibit, where she sits in her glass case among other important communication equipment. My hope is that if you love pigeons and decide to give this book a read, then you’re in for a treat, and if you don’t, then you’re about to change your mind.

Cher Ami, WWI heroine, at the Smithsonian.
Cher Ami, WWI heroine, at the Smithsonian.

Penguin understands that not everyone shares my admiration for pigeons, so as part of their marketing campaign, they asked me to come up with a set of pigeon facts designed to endear the birds to other people as much as pigeons have endeared themselves to me. Thinking fondly of the pigeon couple, Coo d’Etat and Walter Pigeon (as my spouse and I named them) who moved in under the eaves while I was writing my book, I set to work compiling those facts.

Pigeon couple, Coo d’Etat and Walter Pigeon.
Pigeon couple, Coo d’Etat and Walter Pigeon.

Coo and Walter and their babies Feather Locklear and Molly Wingwald have long since moved on with their lives, but the pigeon facts remain, and I hope they’ll inspire you to look more closely at these remarkable birds and also to give my novel a read.

Coo and Walter's babies, Feather Locklear and Molly Wingwald.
Coo and Walter’s babies, Feather Locklear and Molly Wingwald.
  1. The word “pigeon” is a French translation of the English word “dove.” There’s no scientific difference between the two; they’re the same.
  2. The common city pigeon (Columba livia) is a descendant of the rock dove and is one of the first birds ever domesticated by humans, probably dating back to about 4,500 BCE in Mesopotamia.
  3. Humans and pigeons have lived closely together for millennia, thanks in part to the birds’ phenomenal homing skills, which allow them to return to their nests from up to 1,300 miles away.
  4. In addition to being good navigators, pigeons are extremely strong with high endurance and have been known to fly as far as 1,500 miles on a single trip. They can fly as high as 6,000 feet and average a speed of almost 77 miles per hour, with top speeds of almost 93 miles per hour having been attained by some birds.
  5. Because of pigeons’ homing talent, humans have called upon pigeons to carry the news throughout history, ranging from messages on flood levels up and down the Nile in ancient Egypt, to the results of the Olympic Games in Greece in the 8th century. As early as 500 BCE, the emperor of China used pigeons to receive messages in Beijing from outer provinces because a bird could travel in as many hours as it took a horse and rider days. Hannibal used pigeons during his siege of Rome, and Julius Caesar sent them to relay messages from his military campaigns in Gaul. Genghis Khan and his grandson Kublai Khan created a pigeon post that spanned a sixth of the world. Besieged Parisians relied on pigeon post in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and, of course, pigeons served as messengers in both WWI and WWII.During World War I, over 100,000 pigeons were used on the battlefield.
  6. Pigeons are included in the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park London in honor—as the dedication says—of “all the animals that served and died alongside British and allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.” It was unveiled in 2004 on the 90th anniversary of the start of World War I.
  7. People didn’t start calling pigeons “rats with wings” until this false idea was popularized in the 1980 movie Stardust Memories; pigeons are actually quite clean and not at all disease-ridden.
  8. Pigeons do not migrate, but rather adapt to one environment and remain there year-round—a lot like humans.
  9. Pigeons are one of a relatively small number of species who pass the mirror test for self-recognition.
  10. Pigeons can distinguish different humans in photographs.
  11. According to a 2016 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pigeons can be trained to recognize dozens of words, with the most accomplished pigeon being able to learn as many as 60.
  12. According to a 1994 study published in The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, pigeons can successfully learn to discriminate between paintings by Monet and Picasso.
  13. When pigeons mate, they mate for life.
  14. Male and female pigeons share equal responsibility in raising their chicks. Both take turns sitting on the eggs and both feed the babies pigeon milk—a secretion that both male and female birds produce in their crops.
  15. Pigeons are still kept as pets, bred, and raced around the world; in 2019, a Belgian racing pigeon named Armando sold for $1.4 million. The auction house said that Armando’s athleticism made him, in soccer terms, the Lionel Messi of the avian world.
  16. The brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla fell in love with a white pigeon who visited him at the window of his room in the Hotel St. Regis in New York City: “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was purpose to my life,” he wrote.

Do you like pigeons? (It’s ok if you didn’t before this post.)

Novelist Colleen Tews Owns a Publishing House

Writing a novel isn’t easy, which I know first-hand from working on my own, but compared to — attracting a powerful agent, getting one’s novel published, and reaching a sizable audience of readers who want to buy it — it sure is!

There’s traditional publishing, and there’s self-publishing. As if either of those isn’t asking for enough trouble — then there’s becoming the publisher of not merely one’s own books. Here blogger/novelist/publisher Colleen Tews of Akron, Ohio, shares what it’s like to open a publishing house of her own…

Author/Blogger/Publisher Colleen Tews.
Author/Blogger/Publisher Colleen Tews.

Running an Indie Publishing House in 2020 by Colleen Tews

Let me start by saying that I cannot speak for the big companies or even the decent-sized companies. Delphian Hope Publishing, or DHP, is what you might call a Mom and Pop Publishing company for the 21st century. We don’t put a catalog together and ship it off to brick and mortar bookstores. Not that we have much of one. There are only my books — for now. Everything we do is done either electronically or print on demand. We’re eco-friendly.

Our biggest sellers are from my Shadow Faith Series. The style in which these books are written could be described as if Stephen King, Taika Waititi, and Laurell K. Hamilton combined their forces for a big vampire fantasy. It’s that horror thrill ride meets sexy espionage meets strong female heroine meets “Wait, what did she just say?” laugh out loud movie in your mind.

I love reading and writing paranormal because anything is possible. The boundaries are our imagination. We get to ask ourselves: How far can I push reality and still make it believable? It’s grounding the awesome wonders of our universe into an understandable scope. One that the characters can relate to, the readers can resonate with, and one that can maybe open someone’s eyes a little. Making the impossible plausible is… fun.

Cover of "Between the Shadows," by Colleen Tews.

So, when it comes time to publish, we are all over paranormal, horror, mystery, science fiction, urban fantasy, and thrillers. We are looking for books with something to say. Not gore for the sake of gore. You can stream that on Shudder. We want a reason behind every decision. Smart dark fiction. Something that shows light in the darkest of times.

Right now, we are preparing to publish, “Between the Shadows,” which is set to come out June 11, 2020. It’s a collection of five short stories that take place between Shadow Faith series book one, “Birth Of A Vixen,” and book two, “Virus Within.” The events in these stories will shape the future of many books to come. It’s going to be huge.

Plus, I’m working on book three in the Shadow Faith series, “Vindication.” It’s going to be epic. Veronica will be leaving Kent, Ohio, for sunny Miami, Florida. True, she won’t be able to enjoy the toasty beaches, but she will get to revel in the romantic moonlit ones.

Like Tigger, I bounce everywhere. I rely a lot on my husband, Ken, and youngest daughter, Danelle. They keep me down-to-earth by listening to my ideas and ramblings. I work from a home office. Chores are evenly split. Just because I work from home doesn’t mean I sit around all day streaming Amazon Prime on my laptop.

Cover of "Birth of a Vixen," by Colleen Tews.

DHP has two new editors to help me. They are a godsend. Everyone gets a piece of the pie, so no one goes stir crazy. We recently purchased recording equipment. All of our books will be available on Audible just as fast as I can read them without slurring my words.

Self-publishing and wanting to help other authors publish is not easy, but it’s worth it. It is made ten times harder when readers fear taking a chance on unknown authors when money is tight.

Which is why we are offering the first ebook in the Shadow Faith series for just 99 cents through Kindle. I guarantee you’ll love it as much as we do. As an added bonus, because authors live and die by word of mouth, by leaving a review, you’ll be entered into a contest to win a signed paperback of “Virus Within.” When the book reaches 100 reviews, a lottery will be drawn, and three lucky winners will get book two sent to them by me personally.

What’s your dream publishing company look like?

DIY Fondant Peonies by Robbie Cheadle

Click here for an audio version of the blog post that follows.

Staying home makes me hungry, whether it’s to keep safe from disease, the weather, or working on my novels-in-progress! How about you? And when I get hungry, my first thoughts are of sweets! Cute ones are all the more enticing…

Robbie Cheadle is a writing dynamo! Go to her main page for the extensive catalog of books, stories, and videos she’s published out of Johannesburg, South Africa. She writes for all ages; there are her “Sir Chocolate” children’s books (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), her middle-grade “Silly Willy” series, her preteen/young adult fictionalized bio about her mom’s World War II childhood in England, her supernatural and horror stories for adults and young adults, and her poetry!

Photo of author Robbie Cheadle and her fondant peonies.
Photo of author Robbie Cheadle and her fondant peonies.

How to make fondant (sugar dough/paste) peonies, by Robbie Cheadle

My husband’s birthday is approaching, and I wanted to make something special to mark the day, especially as we are likely to still be in some form of COVID-19 lockdown. I decided to make peonies in a dark pink and dust the outer petals with edible gold.

Making the peonies was quite a challenge, as I wanted to get the shape right. Peony petals curl inwards, which means that each layer must be allowed to dry completely inside a correctly sized bowl-shaped container. I made these containers out of tin foil, which I pleated and folded to fit the four different stages of the petals.

You will need…

  • Fondant coloured dark pink
  • A large fondant rose cutter
  • A large and a small ball tool
  • Edible sugar glue
  • Peony petal cutters in three sizes (standard pack)
  • Edible dark pink food colouring powder
  • Edible gold dust
  • Two medium-sized paintbrushes
  • A flower veining tool or toothpick

Process

Mix a quantity of dark pink fondant and place it in a lock zip plastic bag. Take a small amount and roll it out as thinly as possible. Use a thin layer of cornflour on the surface of the fondant when you roll it out to prevent it from sticking. Cut out two rose shapes using your large rose cutter.A rose-shaped layer of fondant.
Use a ball took or toothpick to frill and flute the edges of the two rose shapes and use the flower veining tool or toothpick to texture the petals. Place in a small silver foil container pleated to round the petals. Allow to dry to the texture of leather.A silver foil container pleated to round the petals.

Roll a bud from fondant with a fatter base and narrower tip. Use a bit of sugar glue to attach it to one of the rose shapes. Paint a small blob of sugar glue on the bottom part of each petal on both sides and wrap the petals around the bud. Use a toothpick to separate the petals and create a rosebud shape. Use sugar glue to attach the enlarged bud to the other rose shape.Building the layers of a fondant peony.

Wrap the other shape around the enlarged bud. Leave to dry overnight.The other shape wraps around the bud.

Roll out more dark pink fondant and cut out six peony petals using your smallest peony petal cutter. Frill and flute the edges using a small ball tool or a toothpick. Use the toothpick for flower veining tool to texture the petals.Toothpicks help frill and flute edges.

Place them upside down in a sliver foil container and allow them to dry to the texture of leather.Outer petals take shape.

Dab sugar glue along the bottom half of both edges of the petals and place them around the bud, pressing them firmly into place with your fingers. When all six petals have been placed around the bud, place the flower into a piece of silver foil shaped into a cup. Leave overnight to dry. Your flower will look like this…Taking shape after several days.

The following day cut out six middle-sized peony petals and repeat the steps above. Place in a slightly larger silver foil cup and leave to dry overnight.Foil helps the shapes to hold while they dry.

Repeat the above process on days three and four, using the large peony petal cutter and slightly larger silver foil cups.Fondant peony, almost done!

Once the peony is completely dry, use a medium-sized paintbrush dipped into dark pink food colouring power, and smudge it into the centre of the peony. Dip a medium-sized paintbrush into edible gold shimmer dust and paint over the outermost petals until they shimmer and shine.
Your peony flower is now complete.

Photo of Robbie Cheadle's finished fondant peonie.
Robbie Cheadle’s finished fondant peonie.

For step-by-step instruction on how to make more of our fondant artworks, for recipes, and for free audible readings of our free Sir Chocolate books, please visit our YouTube site.

Our YouTube site is a community service project that my two sons and I have started to bring readings of our free Sir Chocolate books and simple recipes to children and their parents to help keep children entertained during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our step-by-step creature videos can be made with children using playdough or fondant.

These are trying times worldwide — perhaps my other posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here will lift your spirits a bit?

Has your eating changed since COVID19?

Book Art and Video by Cecilia Levy

(Click here for an audio version of the post that follows…)

What do books mean to you? For me, the sight of pages bound together conjures adventure, romance, learning and joy. A book suggests what a heaven-on-earth it would be to occupy the most epic reading room ever! In such a place, librarians would work to honor the greatness of fiction (like my soon-to-be-published “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat” novel), as well as non-fiction. Once published, every book in that magnificent reading place would live forever.

Artist Cecilia Levy resides in the small Swedish village of Sigtuna, between Stockholm and the university town of Uppsala. Her art ensures printed pages are neither discarded nor forgotten. In her hands, they are reincarnated, afforded three-dimensional lives as exciting as their first ones!…

Cecilia Levy, artist, working in her studio, Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, 2019. Photographer: Stewen Quigley.
Cecilia Levy, artist, working in her studio, Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, 2019. Photographer: Stewen Quigley.

“Paper Art” by Cecilia Levy

I am Cecilia Levy and I create sculptural objects in paper, using old book pages, wheat starch paste, and papier maché technique.

My work is exhibited internationally and is included in private and permanent collections, including the Swedish National Museum.

In 2017, my public art commission, “In Fusion –- Contemplation Pieces,” was installed in the main entrance to Stockholm’s New Karolinska University Hospital, NKS, twenty plinths displaying over twenty-five of my unique paper sculptures.

My home is in Sigtuna, my studio is at Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, and I’m a member of Konsthantverkarna in Stockholm, where my pieces are sold.

"Companion," teacup and strainer, 2018.
“Companion,” teacup and strainer, 2018.

I have a background in graphic design and bookbinding, and paper has always been my medium. I make sculptural objects in paper, using book pages. I only use old books, up until the 1960s. They have the paper quality, layout, and typography that I appreciate.

"Longing," mocha set, 2020.
“Longing,” mocha set, 2020.

Old book paper is a fragile and delicate material. It carries several narratives at the same time, both in content and regarding the passage of time. My works reflect this, the fragility of life. The pieces reflect my personal stories and memories.

For instance, my a mocha set, called “Longing,” is a replica of a set given as an engagement gift from my grandfather to my grandmother…

"Chapter One," thistle, 2015.
“Chapter One,” thistle, 2015.

Visible traces from the passage of time, marks from previous owners and readers, paper quality, color and typography, holes in the binding, wrinkles and dog ears, olden expressions and spelling, and the (sometimes) odd content. All of these are characteristics I value and are what determine my choice of working material. Every single piece of paper is chosen with care.

My different pieces represent different sides of me. I often use everyday objects, those found at home, or in thrift shops. These Hobo Boots are special to me. They are appealing to the eye. They were fun and pleasing to make, yet they also have a serious underlying message about homelessness and poverty…

"Hobo – Homeward Bound," boots, 2012.
“Hobo – Homeward Bound,” boots, 2012.

My 2017 public art commission, “In Fusion – Contemplation Pieces,” was installed in the main entrance of Stockholm’s New Karolinska University Hospital, NKS. In all, twenty plinths held over twenty-five unique paper sculptures. I was inspired by folk medicine, especially plants and herbs that can be used for infusions, in other words, herbal teas…

"Coltsfoot and Artichoke," medicinal plants for a public commission, 2017. Photographer: Alvaro Campo.
“Coltsfoot and Artichoke,” medicinal plants for a public commission, 2017. Photographer: Alvaro Campo.

The title of the commission is a play on words that indicates a fusion between art and folk medicine. “Contemplation” is used, in a sense, to look at/be aware of/be exposed to. It’s an essential term within philosophy and theology. People coming to a hospital are often anxious and worried. My hope is for visitors to halt for a while, and to let their minds wander.

Here’s a video of Cecilia at work.

What do books mean to you?…

Discovery + Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Note: for an audio/podcast version of the blog post below, click here.

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere! And it’s not easy to do as I write my own novels

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.

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

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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Dogs Fly, Books, Unsung Art, Vistas, Dolphins in Los Angeles by da-AL

Having people stay over is the best time to get to know my sprawling Los Angeles better! This month we had the bonanza of double guests. I’m kicking myself (metaphorically) for botching photos of some family, so please envision cheery faces between all these shots…

Pasadena’s lovely Norton Simon Museum (of art), is modestly sized yet dense with treasures! Pablo Picasso apparently made the women in his life miserable, which may explain why this one finds sweet refuge in her book…

Woman with a Book, 1932, Pablo Picasso of Spain, oil on canvas.

I knew about Edgar Degas’ captivating ballerina sculptures (the Norton also features some of those), but not that he created atmospheric monotypes…

Autumn Landscape (L’Estérel),1890, Edgar Degas of France, monotype in oil colors on heavy cream-colored laid paper.

Unsung artists sing out! There’s a special place in my heart for ‘unknown’ artists, given my current status as a not-yet-published novelist. In this work by a lesser-known painter, this hat maker might be more content reading a book, no?…

The Milliner by Valere De Mari of the U.S., 1917, pastel on wove sketch pad paper.

Reading Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winner “The Goldfinch,” which sets an amazing portrait of a little bird at its core, put me in the mood for Dutch art. Unknown artist(s?) committed these masterly tulips to paper for a tulpenboek, a.k.a. a humble flower catalog…

Branson, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.
Root en Geel van Katolikn, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.

Animal lovers, join me in a swoon at this visual paean to dogs! Note the proud master’s coat of arms on the collar, his ‘country house’ in the background…

Aldrovandi Dog, c. 1625, Giovanni Francesco Barbiere (a.k.a. Guercino) of Italy, oil on canvas.

Griffith Park is as wonderful for the park itself as it is for the views. You met this part of my family first here

My year ‘round Valentine and moi in front, Angela and Kim in back, with the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair, and grand Los Angeles behind us.

Our doggie barely touched the ground, she had that much fun at Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach. Thank you, Justin, for your many many good works, including getting the city to okay this canine paradise. As for dolphins, dear reader, your imagination is needed — every dang many times those amazing creatures surfaced only yards from us, they eluded my photography. All the same, they were breathtaking!!!!!…

See the joyous dog in flight, visualize the dolphins cavorting, ignore the oil rigs in the background…

What sight do you most wish you could have photographed?

Self-Publishing Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson

Photo of Ashley L. Peterson's guinea pig, Peanut, sitting at a laptop.
Ashley L. Peterson’s guinea pig, Peanut, is a great help when it comes to self-publishing!

Note: here’s an audio version of this post.

From any angle, writing a book is a huge undertaking — and then when it comes to publishing, that’s even huger, whether through the traditional route or by self-publishing. While I struggle to complete my novels while building an author platform, Mental health nurse/blogger/author Ashley L. Peterson of Vancouver, Canada, has put out several books!

She first visited HBT here — and now she’s back with a new book and more self-publishing advice!…

Ashley’s favorite photo of herself with one of her adorable little ones!

“Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier” by Ashley Peterson

I remember how overwhelming it was when I published my first book. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and I was just flying by the seat of my pants. I had no idea what to expect when the book was released.

My second book was released 7 months later. I felt much more prepared, but then tossed in the new challenge of selling on sites other than Amazon, including my own website. There were also some hiccups; it felt like forever before Amazon accepted the file for my paperback, which turned out to be because there was a special character that it didn’t recognize and therefore didn’t accept. The biggest problem was my paperback cover; it wasn’t showing up on the Amazon listing as the same colour in the cover file I’d uploaded. I spent a whole lot of time trying to get that sorted out,

Now with my third book, I’m a lot more relaxed about the whole process. Sure, formatting and converting file types is still frustrating; I don’t think that would change even if I’d published a whole bookstore. Overall, though, I’m much more at ease. I feel a sense of mastery that I know how to do this – a very different feeling from the first time around.

I’m a huge list person, and my book launch lists are nicely fine-tuned. I’ve got all the steps laid out, so I can just do things without having to think about them.

While the learning curve is steep and self-publishing can be daunting, it gets easier – really. And if you’re thinking about self-publishing, dive right on in; the water’s warm.

Details on my new book Managing the Depression Puzzle can be found here.

What’s your experience with publishing and building a platform?

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?

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson

Ashley L. Peterson blogs and writes about mental health. Here she is with one of her guinea pigs.
Ashley L. Peterson blogs and writes about mental health.

In my experience, sometimes happiness (some HBT posts about it here and here) comes easily, and sometimes it requires a heck of a lot of work. When I’m upset with my writing in particular (about my books here), I take heart from seeing what publishing rock stars like Ashley L. Peterson accomplish!

Want to listen to this blog post, not just read it? Check it out here!

Mental health nurse/author Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s adamant that it’s time we remove the stigma around mental health issues. Among her book titles are, “Psych Meds Made Simple,” “Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis,” “Managing the Depression Puzzle,” and “A Brief History of Stigma.”

When it comes to self-publishing, she finds it’s wise to stay flexible with her listings at Amazon. On a daily basis, she experiments with keywords, especially in terms of how they work with setting bids per clicks on ads at the amounts suggested by Amazon. She has a guest blog post for Happiness Between Tails H-E-R-E.

Some of Ashley L. Peterson's books.
Ashley L. Peterson publishes regularly on mental health issues.

Here’s why she calls herself, “a proud crazy guinea pig lady”…

Ashley’s favorite photo of herself with one of her adorable little ones!

“Thank Goodness For My Thera-Piggies,” by Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org

I am a crazy guinea pig lady. Crazy in more ways than one.

The most obvious, perhaps, is that I have 5 guinea pigs (3 girls and 2 boys), and I treat them like my children.

What may be less obvious is that I’m crazy in a mentally ill sense. I have depression that only partially responds to treatment, so I deal with effects of the illness every single day.

I take medication and do various other things to manage my illness, but my guinea pigs are an important part of my overall wellness.

I live alone, and my illness has made it difficult to be around other people, so I’m on my own a lot of the time – at least in terms of human contact. But I’m never actually alone when I’m at home because I have 5 very active, very vocal munchkins to keep me company.

Photo of one of Ashley L. Peterson's guinea pigs, a white furry one.
“Cute” doesn’t begin to describe Ashley’s gorgeous guinea pigs!

Routine helps me manage each day, and the piggies thrive on routine. I have a rather odd sleep schedule, which they’ve adapted to quite happily. They know that when I wake up, they get fed, so as soon as they hear me start rustling around in bed, they start wheeking (an onomatopoeic word for their “feed me” noise). It’s a pretty good motivator to get my butt out of bed.

Ashley’s pets are truly adorable!

I prefer to practice mindfulness focused outwardly rather than inwardly, and my piggies are a perfect target for that. I can just gaze at them in fascination as my mind just shuts off.

More than anything, though, they need me. They’re very good at making their needs known, and they know that I can be counted on to meet them, no matter how lousy I’m feeling. Because of that, I mean the world to them. It’s definitely mutual.

What’s your best stress reliever?