Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. ~ author unknown
Last week, my kids experienced their first real loss with the death of their dog Katie Bell. Our pets our important parts of our family and Katie’s death was very unexpected and hit us hard.
If you follow my blog, you might recall a little over two years ago I wrote about our new puppy, a Cocker Spaniel, which we named Katie Bell. She was a little black ball of fluff who bounced around like her legs were on springs. Unlike our other Cocker Spaniel, Sadie Rose, Katie Bell was very vocal. She barked and growled. And while she may have been smaller than Sadie Rose, she was the clear alpha dog. She had to be first at everything – the first to eat, the first to pick a bone to chew and the first to go upstairs. It was this very desire to be first that caused her downfall.
Every morning the dogs race up the stairs to enjoy some time in our bedroom. One Sunday, Katie Bell rounded the corner on the stairs, sliding as she did so. She yelped in pain. We thought at the time that she might have pulled a muscle. She wasn’t limping but clearly in pain. We gave her a little aspirin (later we found out we shouldn’t have done this especially on an empty stomach.) She spent the day resting downstairs. But later when she got up, her gait was off and she yelped in pain.
The next morning, she wouldn’t eat and wasn’t walking correctly, so I called and immediately got an appointment with the veterinarian. He too noticed that she seemed to be favoring her back left leg and suggested an x-ray. The diagnosis what that she had some compression in her spine. There was an area between the vertebrae that was narrower than it should be indicating she had injured her spine. He had also tested her reflexes and her back legs were not responding as quickly as they should. His recommendation was to have her on bed rest and pain medication for the next two weeks. They couldn’t give her anti-inflammatory medicine because we had given her the aspirin.
At this time she was still walking (albeit in that off-gait type way). As I carried her out of the vet’s office, there were dogs in the waiting room. Katie Bell went crazy and squirmed in my arms. I couldn’t set her down as I didn’t have her collar and leash on her. I don’t know if this incident had any factor on what happened later. Actually, there are lots of things I wonder if we could have handled differently and had the outcome change.
If we hadn’t given her the aspirin and they gave her anti-inflammatory medication, would it have helped? What if we had taken her to a veterinarian emergency room on Sunday when we thought it was just a pulled muscle? What if she hadn’t struggled in my arms as we left the vet’s office? What if we had taken her in when we first noticed she was losing the use of her legs? So many questions that I don’t think we can ever answer but I am jumping ahead of the story.
By 4 p.m., she was reluctant to walk. A few hours later, she couldn’t walk at all. We called the veterinarian the next morning and he had us take her to a critical care specialist. After some tests, they diagnosed a spinal cord injury. They would need to do an MRI to see if a disc was pressing on it or had merely hit and damaged it. If the disc was still pressing on it, they could do surgery, but there would only be a 50% chance of her getting feeling/motion back in her back legs. If surgery wasn’t an option, the chances of her walking again would be even lower.
We thought about our happy, energetic, bouncy puppy and knew that she would never be the same again. Even if by some remote chance that she did walk again, another injury could happen at any time. We truly didn’t believe she would be happy without being able to run or jump. She had been in pain all day Sunday and this morning she looked so upset about the loss of feeling in her back legs. We chose compassionate euthanasia.
We were both there, giving her loving as they administered the drugs. As hard as this decision was we knew it was the right thing to do. But of course, the hardest thing would come next – telling our children. My husband was scheduled for a meeting after work and wouldn’t be home until 9 p.m. He suggested waiting until he got home to tell them, but I would have had to answer the kids questions about where Katie Bell was when the arrived home. I decided not to hold off telling them.
I told Lexie first. I think she expected bad news. The hardest things for her were that she didn’t get to say good-bye and that it was so unfair that this happened to Katie Bell who was only 2 1/2 years old.
We picked Jase up from school and even though Lexie and I were somber, Jase didn’t pick up on our sadness like Lexie had picked up on mine when I picked her up from school. He was still bouncing around when I had to tell him. He didn’t believe me at first. To say it was a shock is an understatement. As far as he knew, Katie Bell was supposed to be on rest and the doctor thought she would get better. And here I was telling him that her injuries were too severe.
As the kids asked questions, I answered as truthfully as I could. (I had visited a few sites on pet death and kids to prepare myself.) I did tell them that we had her euthanized because they asked. I gave them space as they needed it and held them while they cried. I still feel utterly horrible that I had to take my son’s good day and crush it with devastating news. I feel I didn’t handle telling him as well as telling Lexie.
As the days have gone by, we are all sad at different times. It is hard to walk into the kitchen and not see Katie Bell’s bouncy presence or to have her lying next to me on the bed at the end of the day. But things are getting better. And talk has turned to getting another puppy so that our older Cocker Spaniel, Sadie Rose, won’t be alone. A bundle of puppy cuteness can certainly make us all feel better but will certainly never replace our Katie Bell.
Today I welcome author A.V. Boyles to my blog. Her debut book, The Phazor’s Tale: Gems of the Dragons, came out in 2014. The second book in the Tales of the Four Realms series will be out later this year.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! I love to tell stories and fantasy is just right genre for me. My fascination with dragons started about a decade ago, with the first book I bought on dragonology. I don’t know what possessed me to do so; maybe it was the unique embossed cover, or the impeccable illustrations. Whatever it was that enticed me, I’ve been hooked ever since. For me, the entire enchanted realm is completely enthralling. Spin it all together with witches or wizards and my imagination soars with endless possibility. I have several manuscripts started at the moment, so there is no telling what will make out of the quirky spiral of my imagination on pages of future books. I only wish that I had more time to write.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I started writing one summer during my junior high school days, when I had to retake my English Literature class. (Well, no one is perfect.) I had an amazing teacher that challenged us to see our world from different perspectives as we read one classic tale after another; Mark Twain, Hemmingway, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens. Further, we were encouraged to write our own fictional story, thus setting my mind to creating a world that would be like no other. I recall that first story very well, because just underneath it all, I was fuming at having to spend my summer mornings in a musty school room. As an act of rebellion, I told a tale of imagined escapades of a school room desk. It wasn’t a far reach as the desk I occupied had been carved, etched and marked by those who sat there before. In any event, I owe a lot to teacher “X,” whose name, has gotten lost with the passage of time.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I’m blessed to have started book two in the Four Realms series; The Wizard’s Tale: Doom of Magic, which I hope to have completed by March of this year. Can I share a little? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that the plot of The Wizard’s Tale is taken directly for an incident revealed in The Phazor’s Tale, so you’re going to want to pay close attention. The Wizard’s Tale contains new characters, diabolical challenges and strength in overcoming one’s own inner turmoil. Also, a hint in the hunt for the location of the Four Realms island home. Happy hunting!
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I could write full-time; that is my heart’s desire, but no – I work a regular job for a large global construction company, currently attached to a project in Washington State. Finding time to write is a challenge, but I’m usually up at 4:30 am to write and answer emails. I don’t get home until sometime around six in the evening and I hit the computer with hand written notes I’ve taken all day at work. Usually, I carry a notebook to write thoughts, plot directions, character insights, etc., then as I’m writing weave them into the story. I suppose most of the story is very cerebral, before the tale is fully develop.
What fuels you as an author to continue to write?
What fuels me? People! My number one question to myself when I meet interesting unique people is. . . “What would you be like if you were a dragon?” Then I go from there! That is how the Phazor was born! I have a very good friend whom I have known for the better part of twenty-years, he inspired the dragon over a decade ago and whenever I need an inspiration I just observe him! It is his qualities, his virtues, and integrity that is personified in the character of the Mighty Phazor. People are my muses for all the characters in my books. The Dragon Witch of Airen Realm, Princess Bridget, Druid Master Garret, characters in my second book, are all real people that I interact with every day. They are wonderful people who give me pause to jot their idiosyncrasies that are later woven into the fabric my story. So, in a sense, my tales are about them, their hopes, there flights of fancy, and their day dreams.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Listen to that still small voice inside you, not to those around you. I listened when my father said I couldn’t be a journalist, which is what I wanted to be. I listened when I was told that couldn’t be anything more than a wife and mother. I listened when I was told that it wasn’t acceptable for me to have a career and that is was incredibly selfish to think I could be anything more than beyond what I was told. It wasn’t until I got a few decades under me that I began to believe in myself, in what I could accomplish and with the faith and love of my husband I started to write again. Now, that passion consumes me. About a dozen manuscripts started with a mind whirling with a dozen more! If I could tell that young girl anything it would be to follow your heart because as I heard someone once say. . . that when that voice inside you become so loud and so profound from all the other voices around, you will have mastered your life.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
Oh, yes! I outline the ever-loving heck out of them. I sometime even storyboard them. It’s often easier to storyboard them, because I can control the elements of the story much better. I often have several plots happening simultaneously, so without an outline or board my stories tend to take on a life of there own and it can take me several weeks to get it all back on track. But then again, whatever I remove ends up a plot for another tale! Happy accident, right?
What inspired you to write this book?
My friend Robert Frazier is the Phazor dragon, he inspires me every day. After knowing him for several years, I came to know him as a truly generous person. He is intelligent, articulate and can see the truth and value of any person that comes into his circle of influence. It is these traits that are rendered in the Mighty Phazor and in watching him I too, have become an observer of people. Seeing their life, their presence, their trials and how each person handles tribulation based on their filters. He has a unique way of silently guarding those who come into his circle; these are the characteristics of the Mighty Phazor.
How did you come up with the title?
Well, now that’s an easy question to answer: Frazier – Phazor! Eight years ago, when I began writing this story, Robert had lost his father abruptly and for just that period he found himself searching for firm footing, and his place in the world. While he withdrew into himself, he was simultaneously searching for the jewels (gems) of life. The name evolved from these circumstances – The Phazor’s Tale: Gems of the Dragons.
How do you select the names of your characters?
It’s very easy for me to give names to my characters, because they are inspired by people I know. I just apply some variation of their name or sometimes it’s a mannerism that come to the forefront. As in the case of a character called Lionette, I am she. I view myself much like a lioness. I have five children with whom I was very protective as they were growing up. I’m still very protective of those in my circle, wanting them all to find their own brand of success.
What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?
For me there are two types of scenes to write that are very challenging; one is a fight scene where characters must die, the other are love-making scenes. Both types of scene are tragic, personal and intimate and evokes depths of emotions that for some readers is difficult to come to terms with. Therefore, writing these types of scene must be done with their evocative sensibilities in mind. I want to ensure that just the right note is struck for both types of scenes. I must admit that The Phazor’s Tale ended up have more battle scenes than I anticipate, but I don’t think that I could have told the story without them.
If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?
Growing up I was a huge Jane Austen fan! I think my favorite book must have been Sense and Sensibility. I have always been captivated by the fact that her first edition was published simply with the author’s name as “A Lady.” I think I would have bought the book for that little intrigued along. I find the Georgian era captivating. Just think . . . only the educated knew how to read and reading aloud was a past-time . . . if one could do it well, you were in demand as a much sought-after party guest!
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
Ernest Hemingway . . . most definitely! Why? Who wouldn’t want to have a drink with that man! The other without question, Jane Austen. To see the world through her eyes, while marching to the beat of her own drum . . . how great is that?
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I’m a huge Justin Timberlake fan!
The Mighty Phazor orders the worlds dragons into hibernation, but a lone conjured dragon remains awake. Defying the Phazor’s order, Salpacha, created by Drew, the arrogant apprentice of Pūrus, Master Wizard of Aberglenn craves power over the forces he does not fully understand. Ransacking Pūrus’ home, Drew discovers the Boka di Draconis, the Book of the Dragons, which holds the key to waking the dragons. The Master Wizard having been summoned to Collin Castle is asked to accompany the Queen her children to safety of Norselan. Now that the dragons are gone King Collin fears a war with the blood thirsty Greer Family of Furran Realm. Queen Antillium is a Dragon Witch and hopes she and her sister residing Norselan can perform an enchantment to awaken the dragons and save the realms. But she soon finds out that she only possesses a fragment of the spell and they must have all the elements before the enchantment can be performed, including the Boka di Draconis.
About the Author
As a Document Management Professional in a highly regulated environment, writing fiction enables me to release my creative side. Fascinated by dragon lore, my first book, The Phazor’s Tale was inspired by a real person. I simply asked myself this question: “If he were a dragon, what would he be like?” Then wrapped the story around that! Although it took eight years for The Phazor’s Tale to become a reality. I am blessed to have such inspirational people in my life and my second book will be no exception.
In creating a world of the Four Realms, I became lost in this mythical place where dragons and magic are a way of life. Where magic prevails, there is always the temptation to use it for ones own advancement. Thus, these tales have a moral-to-the-story along with hard-won triumphs tangled amid the chronicle of a world of dragon lore.
You can purchase The Phazor’s Tale: Gems of the Dragons on Amazon.
This post is the twenty-eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.
I am a fantasy author. Over the years, I have written numerous posts about writing a fantasy novel. Today, I wanted to highlight a few things that a fantasy author might want to consider before they begin writing their story. At the end of this post, I will list links to two of my fantasy post recaps.
Fantasy novels can be set anywhere. While there is nothing wrong with setting your story here on Earth, you can always create your own world. In this case, you would be in control of everything – the names of cities, geography, culture, religion, systems of magic, history, creatures and more.
If you are going to create your own world. It is best you do so BEFORE you begin writing. You need to be familiar with your world so that the details remain consistent and logical throughout your novel.
Now don’t take designing your own world lightly. It is a lot of work – more work than your reader will ever see. But this work will pay off. You will create a world that your characters live in and have your readers believing it.
Dragons & other creatures
Many fantasy novels contain mythical creatures. I love dragons, so they have appeared in every one of my novels. Since these are imaginary beasts, you have the creativity to do whatever you want. They can be small, large, friendly, menacing, have magical powers or even the ability to speak. You can portray them as a snake-like creature like a Chinese dragon or a lizard-like beast with huge bat-like wings. They can be evil and hinder your protagonist’s moves or they can be a friend. Feel free to go against the norm. After all, you are only limited by your own imagination.
In addition to dragons, you can populate your world with any sort of creature you want. And why stick to unicorns, fairies, elves, griffins or vampires when you can create your own unique creation. One way to create a new creature would be to combine attributes from other mythical creatures. Or you can just decide what the creature needs to do in the story and let your imagination run wild.
But a word of warning – don’t go around creating creatures or throwing mythical creatures into your story just to do that. As with everything, the creatures need to serve a purpose whether it is to delay your protagonist or help your antagonist.
Creating believable magic
Magic can show up in any genre – not just fantasy. And while magic can certainly enhance a story, you need to make sure it is believable. You need to clearly define what can and cannot be done with magic. There must be limits on magic otherwise the person using magic would always win and there would be no conflict in your story.
You as the writer get to decide what the limits will be. If the magic is an innate talent, the amount of magic one can perform can be based on the physical or mental strength of the user. It could be restricted by the person’s knowledge or imagination. Or perhaps energy is taken from the spell-caster to power the spell itself so performing magic drains the user. Or maybe the person draws on magical fields, and once those fields are depleted no magic can be performed in that area. Along the same lines, maybe there are magical lines running through the ground and magic is strongest when you are standing on or near one of the magical focal points.
If the magic is acquired through studying incantations and spells, then magic might be limited to what spells that person has learned or the wizard’s access to those rare and exotic books. Perhaps each magic user has a certain allotment of spells that they are allowed to use and when they have used them up, no more magic. Or perhaps the use of magic creates a “sound” that other sorcerers can hear, so your character has to be selective of when and where they perform their magic.
The possibilities of how you limit magic in your novel are endless. But you do need to establish your rules of magic BEFORE you begin writing so that your story builds off the character interaction and not the easy use of magic to solve the problems.
Be as detailed as you want and work with the idea that your reader may never know all these “rules” but know that by establishing your magical system you are creating a more believable magic and a more believable plot.
If you want to read more about writing a fantasy novel, check out my Fantasy Novel Recap (covers fight scenes, magical battles, poisons as well as naming places) or Fantasy Novel Recap, part 2 (covers food, travel, weapons, myths, Gods, and fantasy without cliché).
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. ~ Buddha
When Jase was five we began giving him a small allowance to teach him about money. In the beginning, I would put cash in his wallet. When he went to store, he paid for his items. We did the same for Lexie when she turned five. (For those of you who don’t know, the kids are now 12 and 9.)
Then in 2015, the kids received iPads for Christmas and with that came online purchases for apps and games. As online purchases became a norm and with Jase making money doing yard work, it became easier to keep track of their money on a spreadsheet.
As time passed, we ended up just keeping track of their money virtually and stopped putting cash in their wallets. It was easier with online purchases or for the times when we were out at the store and they didn’t have their money with them.
But this meant that I had to know how much they had. I would have to remember to check the spreadsheet before we left or before the kids bought anything online. The information was tied to this one file and the kids didn’t have access to it. And with us making purchases for them and just keeping a running tab, we worried they weren’t effectively learning money management.
We decided to look into other ways to handle their money or more importantly, put them back in charge of their money. We looked at apps, but they didn’t improve what we were already doing. My husband’s office uses a debit card through Wal-mart, but it charges a fee every time you add money which we would be doing weekly for their allowance. We were going to look into a PayPal account but while it may do what we want, it didn’t have the ease of access for us to oversee their accounts.
A quick internet search led us to the answer to our problem. We found three programs designed to let kids or teens have their own debit card with proper parental monitoring.
Current offers a Visa card for teens. It allows teens to put money into three different wallets – savings, giving and spending. Parents can set up allowances and chore charts and have the option to set spending limits and block purchases from certain categories.
The main negative in our case was that your child had to be 13 to have a card.
Price: $3/month for one kid, $4/month for two kids (each additional kid is an additional $1/month) – billed upfront yearly.
Greenlight offers a Mastercard for teens. While similar to Current, it does not offer payment for chores, and there is no way to divide money into savings, giving and spending categories. The card also cannot be used at ATMs or to get cash backs on purchases.
Price: $4.99/month per family.
FamZoo also offers a Mastercard. With this program you can do a virtual tracking of money or you can opt to get a debt card attached to your child’s account. If you opt for a debt card for anyone under 13, the card will be in your name, but after they turn 13, the debit card can be in the teen’s name. You can divide the money into savings, spending and giving but each one will be on a different card. You can also set up allowance and chores.
Price: $5.99/month for up to 4 cards. There is a discount if you pre-pay making the amount as low as $2.50/month.
After weighing the pros and cons of each card and reading reviews for each program, we decided to go with FamZoo. We signed up for three cards – one for each child and then one for me (aka The Bank). My card holds the money I want to be able to transfer to their cards.
We loaded the app on Jase’s phone and Lexie’s iPad. They have their own log ins and can only see their own information. On my app, I see all accounts and can review their purchases.
They have tried them out at the store with no problems, and we linked their cards to their iTunes and Xbox Live accounts.
The only negative we have had so far is that I put money on Lexie’s card for the school book fair, but they couldn’t process her payment. They only take credit cards and hers is a debit card. (Actually, it brought up a screen where the librarian could call and process the payment, but the librarian wasn’t willing to do that for fear it would take too long.) It worked out okay as I had my credit card with me. Seconds after making the transaction, I moved the money out of Lexie’s account and back into my FamZoo account. Problem solved.
I think we are going to like the FamZoo cards, and I definitely think it will help the kids be more aware of their money and where they are spending it. It will put the money management back in their control instead of mine.
Please welcome author Pat Bertram to my blog. Her book Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare came out in August 2017. Here is an excerpt from it.
I didn’t want to kill Grace—it was her idea. I’ve literarily massacred hundreds of thousands of people, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to do away with one petite older woman, but the truth is I couldn’t think of a single reason why I—or anyone—would want Grace Worthington dead. Though most of us humans frown on murder, we do grudgingly admit some folks are so villainous they need to be eliminated, but no one would consider Grace a villain. She is charming, kind, with a smile for everyone, and the ghost of her youthful beauty is still apparent on her lovely face.
Besides, killing a friend is a good way to lose that friend, and dance class would not be the same without Grace.
I was still trying to make up my mind about killing Grace when several of us dancing classmates met for lunch. After nibbling on salads and sandwiches, we rose and gathered our belongings. I’d hung my dance bag on the back of my chair, and I yanked the bag with more force than I intended. The bag swung out and narrowly missed hitting Buffy Cooper, a tanned, elegant blonde a couple of years older and a couple of inches shorter than me.
Buffy deadpanned, “I’m not the one who volunteered to be the murder victim.”
That cracked me up, and right then I decided I had to follow through with the project. I mean, really—how could I not use such a perfect line?
I turned to Grace. “How do you want me to do the deed?” Since she’d initiated this lethal game, I thought it only right that she got to choose the means of her demise. So much fairer than the way life works, wouldn’t you say? I mean, few among us get to choose our own end. Life, the greatest murderer of all time, chooses how we expire, whether we will it or not.
Grace laughed at my question and said she didn’t care how she died.
But I cared.
Death is often messy — and smelly — with blood and body wastes polluting the scene, and I did not feel like dealing with such realities, especially not at Madame ZeeZee’s Dance Academy.
So begins the story of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always suspenseful novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class.
Even though it took me a long time to decide to write Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare (as I said, “killing off one’s friends a good way to lose those friends,” and I don’t have any to lose), and even though it took even longer to actually sit down and write the book, the writing itself was easy. I used whatever happened in class for inspiration, and if that failed me, I asked one of the characters what she would like to do, and if that failed, I wrote me writing the book. That was fun!
I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did.
Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?
About the Author
Pat Bertram, a native of Colorado, is looking for adventure in whatever comes her way, most recently, dance classes and hiking in the desert. In addition to Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels: Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of the non-fiction memoir Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”
You can find out more about Pat on her blog.
Pat’s books can be found on Amazon.