Archive for September, 2008

Dogs In The Moonlight.
September 30, 2008

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Dogs in the moonlight … except in the desert it can be dangerous. The wild animals come out at night — coyotes, bobcats, javelina, wild dogs — and the moonlight belongs to them.

Christmas

My husband brings the rescue dogs outside each morning and safely locks them in their large kennels before he leaves for work. However, because Christmas has had knee issues, she’s become the temporary queen of the front porch, (which is fenced in), where she can’t play too hard or reinjure her knee.

When I woke up this morning and went outside, Christmas was gone.

For all of twenty minutes.

But what a long, long twenty minutes it was.

Christmas became so excited when the dumpster was being picked up that she undid the gate — a freak happening — because the gate is locked. Once she was loose, my best guess is that she took off after a rabbit or a butterfly.

Needless to say, a new lock was installed this afternoon so it can’t happen again, and I’m so grateful for a happy ending. After pulling a few pieces of jumping cholla off her legs, Chrissy was as good as new.

Sadly, dogs are lost all the time, and not all of them are found. I can’t imagine Chrissy being out there in the world and not knowing where she is, or if she’s okay, let alone having her lost in the desert at night.

If you’ve lost your dog, there are two great sites to aid you in your search: DogDetective.com and FidoFinder.com. Each site has tips on what to do when your pet is lost, an ability to register your dog proactively, along with a system of red alerts sent out to shelters, vets and even groomers in your area.    

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

The first thought I had after a panting Christmas materialized in the driveway and my world righted itself again, was thank God for answered prayers. And so quickly, too!

Universe, I owe you one!

Click here: Dog Detective® – Lost Dogs & Found Dogs – the first and largest pet recovery network on the Internet

Click here: Fido Finder® – Where Lost Dogs Are Found
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The Next President? A Lefty.
September 26, 2008

This is probably the only political post I’ll ever make, but I did a double take while watching the Presidential debate tonight to see that both Barack Obama and John McCain are LEFTIES!

Since only about 7 to 10 percent of the population are lefties to start with, and me proudly being one of them (hey — I can’t snap my fingers or curl my tongue, but I’m a lefty!) I found this very interesting fact to be, well, very interesting.

Supposedly, although others argue the veracity of this theory, left-handed people live out of their “right minds”, or, the creative side of the brain, in comparison to righties living out of their left brain, or, the analytical, logical mind.  

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Cite This SourceShare This

right-brained [rahyt-breynd] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation
–adjective
1. having the right brain dominant, therefore being more adept at spatial and nonverbal concepts and being more creative and emotional than logical and analytical.
2. of or pertaining to a person whose right brain is dominant.

 Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Cite This SourceShare This

left-brained [leftbreynd] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation
–adjective
1. having the left brain dominant, therefore being more adept at logic, calculation, language, andother thought processes or skills usually associated with the left brain.
2. of or pertaining to a person whose left brain is dominant.

Although, I do have to say, where writers are concerned — if righties are good with language, and lefties with creativity — it almost sounds like half a dozen of one, six of another.

What’s so interesting to me about being a lefty, is that scientists still aren’t sure why lefties are lefties. According to scientific theory, I could have had a right-handed twin who was absorbed into the womb (my favorite one) or too much testosterone in-utero.

So what if I can’t whistle. I’m a lefty like the President.

The Girl Next Door Series: Brave New Girl, First Five Pages.
September 25, 2008

Emily Murdoch

NaNoWriMo 2008 — writing BRAVE NEW GIRL.

 MINI-SYNOPSIS:

BRAVE NEW GIRL chronicles the afterlife of Carly Marchelier, a teenaged genius coasting through life until an unexpected accident changes everything. 

When death-by-clumsiness lands fifteen-year-old brainiac, Carly Marchelier, in a Heaven as real as life on earth, whatever she desires she need only think it in a place that feels like a permanent holiday. But her heart isn’t in it; there isn’t time to say goodbye to Firefly, her dog, or to mend fences with her annoyingly beautiful sister, Sharon. Even a joyful reunion with Grandma Beyla isn’t enough to pull Carly from her funk. 

How can a girl enjoy the magic of Heaven if her death shatters her family on earth? What’s so great about working in Heaven’s Wildlife Ward, cuddling litters of bobcats and riding lightning-fast Wildebeasts, if your Dad is cheating, your Mom fell off the wagon, your little sister is a pothead, and it’s all your fault? 

If she hadn’t lost the damned Instruction Manual, maybe she’d know the answer to the most important question of all: can the dead go back to check upon the living? And an answer she probably wouldn’t find in the manual: can she handle what she’ll find there?

Whoever said you can’t go home, again, never met the likes of Carly Marchelier.

Chapter One 

 

O wonder!

How many godly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in’t!

The Tempest, Act V, Scene I.

William Shakespeare

 

     When she died, she arrived at a huge Winn Dixie feeling as confused as she’d always felt under those blinding florescent lights. She’d been expecting a different kind of light, and angels playing harps — not muzak and The Carpenters singing Rainy Days and Mondays. As she wandered the aisles in a daze, (she wasn’t the only one), Carly lingered in the produce section, leaning against the dewy heads of iceberg lettuce, trying to wrap her brain around the situation.

     It still feels as if things are spinning, a bit.

     Like a ballerina, she focused on one, fixed point: the fat tomatoes across the aisle that she could eat like an apple, if only she had a shaker of salt. 

     “Breathe deep,” said the kid in charge of carts. (There was still a kid in charge of shopping carts.) 

    “Huh?” Carly said. 

     “I said, take a deep breath. It’s okay.” 

     Only, he talked in her head; his lips didn’t move at all. He was the same guy who’d handed her a cart when she’d first arrived, manifesting next to her in the entranceway, giving her a little shove through the automatic doors. He’d pointed toward the shining aisles of the Winn-Dixie as if everything was perfectly normal, and he’d handed her a list: a shopping list for death. 

     As it turned out, she still had to eat.  

     She didn’t need money, though. The signs above the cash registers stated this fact in thick black marker, the letters looping and sloping in perfect calligraphy. And, just like the wish of young women everywhere, she wouldn’t gain weight from the food. Every package she picked up? Zero calories.

     As she made her way past the vegetables, Carly couldn’t help but wonder if some sort of happy gas was being pumped through the store ducts, like an infusion of peace and serenity that helped new arrivals get their bearings and shop for their lists. How else could she explain the overall sense of calmness?

     I’m DEAD. How can I be calm?

     An intake worker sat behind a long folding table overrun with file folders, pamphlets and a stack of books, his makeshift office set up in front of the Deli section. Carly did a double take. He looked exactly like the Easter Bunny.

     “Next! Who’s next?” His ears stood at attention as he shouted to the crowd, searching for the person that matched the name and photo taped on the manila folder he held in his hand. Carly squinted to make out the sticker on his vest:

Hello.

My name is Mr. Easter

     Upon seeing her smirk, the lady behind the deli counter weighing tubs of macaroni salad smiled at her warmly.

     “It helps put the newly dead children at ease, you know, and the adults find it funny, if not comforting.”

     Carly had to agree; there wasn’t anything scary about the Easter Bunny. He looked like a real rabbit, too – a jack rabbit, going by his ears – although walking upright.

     The kid in charge of carts appeared with a case of Pringles in his arms. He winked at her, and then waved her to the front of the intake line.

     Carly parked her cart next to a leaning tower of saltines. She was wearing the same uni-sexual, baby-blue, long-sleeved nightgown as everyone else. She was still feeling woozy, too, although it appeared the younger folk had a quicker recuperation period, judging by the older folk who continued to look pretty out of it.

     She’d noticed most of the shoppers were older, around her parents’ age and upward. She’d only seen two other kids, both younger than her, holding hands. The matching dimples, pointy chins and blue eyes meant they were probably brothers.

     Each time he was done writing, the Easter Bunny looked up, smiled, and sent the newly registered off to finish their shopping lists. He pressed a pamphlet, a spiral-bound book, and a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny into each person’s hand.

     I’m allergic to chocolate; I always was, and I know that chocolate bunny is going to taste like – dare I say it? – heaven. I’d hazard a guess that I’m not allergic, here. Not to chocolate, nuts, shellfish or cats. 

     I wonder when I’ll get a cat.

     “Miss Marchelier? Please step forward.” Mr. Easter’s teeth were whiter-than-white as he smiled at her, motioning her toward him. Hesitantly, she stepped from the crowd and stood in front of him.

     “Ah, Miss Marchelier, welcome! Have you found everything you’re looking for, today?”

     “I’m still shopping, but so far, so good, Sir.” Carly cleared her throat, husky due to nerves. She couldn’t stop staring at him. It took all her self control not to reach out her hand and ruffle his thick, ticked fur.

     “I have some very important documents for you,” he continued. “I’ll need you to read them after you reach your Predestination.”

     “You mean I’m not staying at the Winn-Dixie?”

     “Of course not.” Mr. Easter shook his head, chuckling. Kids.

     “Do all dead people come to the Winn-Dixie?” Carly asked.

     “Only those who are supposed to.”   

     He handed her the pamphlet, first. On the front was a family standing together as if for a photo: a mom and dad, son and daughter in the middle, and Fido on the grass next to them, still in his traveling crate. In the background, a 747 engulfed in flames lay mangled in a field beneath billowing clouds of smoke.

     She skimmed the words inside.

Because the Dead

 

Because the Dead have a need, we have a job to do.

Because the Dead have sensibilities, we must be considerate.

Because the Dead have an urgency, we must be available.

Because the Dead are unique, we must be flexible.

Because the Dead have high expectations, we must excel.

Because of the Dead, we exist. 

 

Welcome to Heaven!

 

     Next, he handed her the book.    

     “This book is of vital importance, Carly. You must take good care of it.”

     She took it from him and read the words across the front. She couldn’t believe it.

Instruction Manual

     “For death?” she asked.

     “For Death,” he replied, and in such a way that the “D” sounded capitalized.

     “Seriously?”

     “Dead seriously,” he said, smiling for a moment, before frowning again. “Don’t lose it. Some of the younger kids hang it around their necks so they don’t leave it somewhere. Any questions that come up, you’ll find the answers inside.”

     “What if I have a question that isn’t covered in the manual?”

     But Mr. Easter had already turned to the next person on his list.

     The cart kid gave her a “time to move on” look, like she was loitering outside a 7-11 or something. She wasn’t about to argue with him, either.

***

     It was all a little disjointed, what had happened to her on earth, or how it happened, because it happened so fast. It was the last thing she’d expected on a sunny, quiet Tuesday morning. She was supposed to be babysitting for Joey Maxwell that afternoon, too, and she’d promised to read him the new Doug-Dennis book. Truth be told, she couldn’t wait to read it, herself.

     Carly wondered what was going on with her family that exact moment. Even more pressing, what would happen to Firefly, her dog? No one could take Carly’s place. She and Firefly were connected in a special way, occupying that sacred space between dog and human that made dogs and humans a little bit of both.

     That’s what worried her most, as she checked ‘cookies’ off her shopping list, grabbing a package of raspberry Fig Newtons and a package of Keebler’s Pecan Sandies. She’d had to bug the crap out of her mother to get Firefly. No one had wanted a dog except Carly.

     Could Firefly end up back at the pound? What if everyone was too freaked out to remember to feed or walk her? Mom would never keep a dog that pooped in the house.

     Carly hadn’t been paying attention, and found herself in the gardening aisle. One object in particular caught her eye: the circle of looped-up garden hose, jogging her memory.

     She remembered now what had landed her in the Winn-Dixie; it was quite embarrassing, actually. She’d gotten her leg tangled up in the garden hose, when all she’d wanted to do was rinse her mother’s car after washing it. When she fell, she’d hit her head on the car’s back bumper.

     Considering the fact that her brain was in there, obviously it wasn’t a smart place to land — twice — first the bumper, and then the driveway’s unforgiving blacktop. The little snap that happened next only complicated matters further.

     It was definitely one of those life-changing moments. 

     What a boring death, Carly thought. What happened to being gunned down in a third world country while saving orphans? She’d read that getting shot happened so fast a person didn’t feel it. What about skydiving and the chute failing to open, or dead from smoke inhalation after dragging five toddlers to safety?

     Instead, it was death by garden hose. 

All The Pretty Rescue Horses.
September 24, 2008

Hush a bye, don’t you cry

Go to sleep my little baby,

In your dreams, you will ride

All the pretty rescue horses,

Dapples and grays, sorrels and bays

All the pretty rescue horses. 

Faithful and brave, free as rain,

All the pretty rescue horses.

These horses were saved from slaughter.

(photos by Emily Murdoch)

As some of you know, I’m an advocate for slaughter horses. I use my writing to bring attention to the inhumane practice of horse slaughter, with the goal of ending the transport of America’s horses to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. 

The fact is, Americans don’t eat their pets. Pets are family, not food. Horses are pets, companion animals, and deserve a dignified ending no different than our dogs and cats. If Americans don’t eat their horses, foreigners shouldn’t be eating America’s horses, either. 

I hope if you or your family are considering buying a horse, you might consider adopting a horse, instead. In doing so, you not only give a deserving equine a home, but avoid adding to the problem of equine overbreeding. You can help to change the world for horses by offering a space in your barn and your heart for one or several horses in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Speaking of horses, have you read my Blog entry, Your Voice For The Wild Mustangs.? Presently, the Bureau of Land Management, (BLM), a government agency, has mismanaged its budget and wants to kill off some or all of the 30,000 wild horses in BLM captivity.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the massacre of thousands of wild horses in order to balance the BLM budget is both ludicrous and out of the question.  

The post link above provides more information and will take you to a petition you can sign to help save the horses. You can make the world a better place, today, without even getting out of your chair.

Please sign it today, and pass it on to three friends through the “pass it on” function. The original goal was 30,000 signatures, a mark which has since been reached. New goal: 50,000 signatures.

There would be no America without the horse. We care about the horses!   

To read an update on this petition, along with an update on the fate of the BLM horses, please go to:  Saving The World, One Horse At A Time. and scroll to the bottom of the page. (The Care2 update won’t fit into my wordpress theme’s column width.)

Whether they’re domestic horses on feedlots or wild horses rounded up and sent to slaughter, we need to do better by America’s horses. They’ve done better by us than we could ever repay. 

This country was born on the back of a horse. It’s time to show our gratitude.

Novel, Take Two.
September 22, 2008

So here I go, again, drinking the writing antidote, but gallon-sized, this time.

I read somewhere that John Grisham always starts a new book the day after he finishes the book he’s writing, and although I needed a little more time than that, off I go, again.

Most of all, I feel relieved that I’ve even come up with a new novel premise; I really had to dig deep. As I told a writer friend, my new novel is going to be about a nineteen year old young woman who dies before her time, and has to come back to “life” as another person, namely, her same aged next-door neighbor, to continue with her life.

She will then live next-door to her “previous” parents, sisters, brothers, family, without being allowed to disclose who she really is.

I’ll have her interact over the backyard hedges, as a babysiter for her (old family) next door neighbors, and play with family dynamics on both sides, along with all the personal conflicts that go with it, along with her attempts to fit in to her new place in the world, and her new family.

I’ll balance out both lives with the main character, who told me yesterday that her name was Carly before she died, but is now Kinsey, having a talent or ability her old self didn’t have, maybe better parents, different financial situations, her old boyfriend being attracted to her new self, too, etc. and etc, along with exploring the inner conflicts that come from losing her old family.

I don’t have all the details yet — I know from my past novel that it’ll come as I’m writing.

This will either be a novel, again, or a YA book, maybe series. I’m thinking, since YA is so hot these days, with an age group known to read and spend money on books, besides it being a great genre for books in series, AND with a usual word count that is approx. 1/3 the count of my finished novel, it could be a smart move to write in/break in through this genre.

I remember the first time I heard a more seasoned writer say that if you couldn’t break in with your first book, you write another — and sometimes another, and even another. I found the concept horrifying and absolutely mind-boggling — not just the amount of work indicated, but you think, what about THIS book, the one you wrote for years and put all the hard work into, emptied your soul into, not to mention the query, synopsis, edits and rewrites.

But that’s not it — only now do I really and truly get it — you can’t drown or live in just one book, no matter how attached you are to the characters and story. Even as the writer instead of the reader, still the last page turns. Nor, hopefully, do you want to write only one book, if you plan to make writing your career.

So, now I’m looking at it like, in the future, when Harper Collins (or some such yummy publisher) offers me the three book contract, wouldn’t it be awesome to have the three books already written?

The first page and a half of my new novel is copied below, still drafty, of course. I’m going to have fun with this one.

New Novel, Still Untitled: Working Title: The Girl Next Door.

Untitled Chapter One

When you die, you wake up in a huge Winn Dixie feeling as confused as you always felt under those blinding florescent lights. I’d been expecting a different kind of light, and angels playing harps — not muzak, and The Carpenters singing Rainy Days and Mondays. Wandering the aisles in a daze, (I’m not the only one), I linger in the produce section, studying myself in the mirror over the dewy heads of iceburg lettuce.

Wow — the big zit on the left side of my chin has (poof) disappeared. Also gone is the scar that, for as long as I can remember, etched a thin, white road across my left eyebrow, separating it into two sections if you looked real close. The ragged scar on my right kneecap that I sustained at age ten after taking a dare to ride my bike down Mammoth Hill without using brakes is also gone. So is the beauty mark on my cheek.

All identifying marks are gone! I don’t even have fingerprints, anymore! I think I’m about to lose it! I’m freaking out!

Breathe deep, says the kid in charge of carts (there’s still a kid in charge of carts).

Huh?

“I said, take a deep breath. It’s okay.”

Only, he talks in my head; his lips don’t move at all. He’s the same guy who’d handed me a cart when I first arrived, manifesting next to me as soon as I walked through the automatic doors. Pointing me toward the shining aisles as if all of this was perfectly normal stuff, he’d also handed me a list: a survival list for death. (I swear!)

As it turns out, you still have to eat.

You don’t need money, though. And, just like the wish of women everywhere, you also don’t gain weight. You can choose your own face, hair, skin color, body type and age; at least that’s what I heard over the p.a. system earlier, when they welcomed us. (That, and can Wanda please report to aisle five for clean-up.)

However, I guess the shape shifting stuff happens further down the line. If going by my life means anything anymore, I have a feeling I’ll be stuck at death 1.0 for a long time. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve always been pretty much okay with how I look. Although it could be fun to change things up a little bit, I’m already so over change I can’t even tell you, after finding myself here.

I think they pump some sort of happy gas through the store ducts, too; not like the kind the dentists use, but more like an infusion of wisdom, part of the very air, that helps you get your bearings, shop for your list, and integrate the fact that you’re dead.

I see Maybelline’s Great Lash is hanging in its usual slot in the cosmetics aisle, a comforting beacon of green and pink just as hard to miss here, too. I take two, and put them in my cart. You never know when they might throw the Afterlife Ball, and of course you’ll want to look your best when The Big Guy (That’s what they call him, here – The Big Guy) asks you to dance. (The guy wrapping roasted chickens even said, though not to me, that everyone gets at least one dance.) A long, thick set of lashes always sets off a gown beautifully; I still know at least that much – I did go to prom, and even a wedding, once.

I better grab an eyeliner pencil, eye shadow, eyelash curler and lip gloss, too. Mom always said we should put our best face forward.

The Big Guy’s helper, his intake worker, I guess, has a long table with three stacks of forms set up right in front of the Deli section. And, drum roll please, he happens to be the Easter Bunny. (And he’s eating purple pickles.)

I know, I know; at first I thought it was a joke, too, but it’s no joke. The lady behind the counter weighing tubs of macaroni salad said that it helps the newly dead children, puts them at ease, and that the adults at least find it funny, if not comforting. I have to agree; there isn’t anything scary about the Easter Bunny. He looks like a real rabbit, too – a jack rabbit, going by his ears, although walking upright. The kid in charge of carts waves me into line, parking my cart full of makeup next to the boxes of saltines. I’m wearing the same unisexual, baby-blue, long-sleeved nightgown as everyone else, and still feeling woozy.

Each time he’s done writing, the Easter Bunny looks up, smiles, and sends the newly registered off to finish their shopping lists, but not before pressing a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny into each person’s hand. I’m allergic to chocolate; I always was, and I know that chocolate bunny is going to taste like – dare I say it? – heaven. I’d hazard a guess that I’m not allergic, here. Not to chocolate, nuts, shellfish or cats.

I wonder when I can get a cat? Will it be a dead cat, too?

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m dead. Instead, I’m noticing irrelevant things – like, how white the Easter Bunny’s teeth are, and how the icing on the donuts in the Bakery section has been so artfully and impeccably applied.

But I’m dead!

It’s still all a little disjointed, the details of what happened, or how it happened, because it all happened so fast. It’s the last thing you’d expect to have happen on a sunny, quiet Tuesday morning. I’m supposed to be babysitting for the Maxwell’s this afternoon, and little Joey is expecting me to read him the new Junie B. Jones book. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait to read it, either. Those are some funny books.