November has come and gone, and with it my participation in National Novel Writing Month. This was a hard-fought victory over stress and circumstances beyond anyone's control.
Now is the time to take a break, but not too long a break. I will go back to working on The DeFord Chronicles, Part II. The goal is to finish, edit, and publish it in 2014. If all goes well, North Pole: Confidential may also be finished, edited, and published before the end of next year. But I don't want to set my expectations too high, as we never know what life holds in store for us in the future.
My family had a nice Thanksgiving with two exceptions: three of the kids were in various stages of sickness, and I burned one of my fingers due to an unnoticed hole in an oven mitt.
I hope everyone has been well in my absence, and I promise to attempt getting back to a normal posting schedule. I also hope to resume my participation in Weekend Writing Warriors. Been missing the WeWriWa crowd, and reading everyone's posts.
That's all for just now. I'll post again next week, if not before.
Here it is the final week of NaNo and I have not posted a single update about the event (or a married one either) on this blog. What can I say? Life got crazy.
This year I have fallen behind several times due to stress of the kind that takes away all creative ability. Yes, it is said (even by me) that you should push through the block and just write something, but there are times when even that won't work. I think most people feel this when worried about one of their children. I won't post about all of that right now, we're still in the middle of it at this point, but I will in the future in the hope that I will be able to provide some help and hope to other parents who face similar issues.
Back to NaNo... The novel this year is a Christmas-themed humor story called North Pole: Confidential. It's the story of what really goes on up there, from Santa's fractured marriage, to disappearing elves, dirty cops, and a talking moose. The main character, through whose eyes most of the story unfolds is Jackson Frost, an investigator from the states sent north to find out what happened to Santa's right hand elf, who's been missing for several weeks. Other characters of interest include: Angel Claus, Santa's adopted daughter; Sergeant O'Hurley, grumpy local policeman; Mrs. Claus, a piece of work; Santa's colorful and coffee-loving assistant Donna; Angel's group of friends; and a little old lady called Teeny who is not what she seems.
I'll try to post an excerpt soon. Perhaps the entire first chapter. I rather like doing that.
Other NaNo happenings include my taking over as unofficial Municipal Liaison for my region, and running The NaNorphans Guild for mentorless newbies. The Guild has been my baby for four years running now, having been recruited to run it my first year, during which I was a 'Norhpan. I'm thinking it may be time to hand the reins over to someone else, as I've put in to be notified when applications open for next year's ML job. I love doing both, but I probably need to choose one.
Time for a break, to get away from the computer after catching up on internet things that go by the wayside during the challenges of the week, and play a game with the kids.
I was going to post a bit of my WIP North Pole: Confidential
, but that can wait because there is a need in the world that you might be able to help.
The damage in the Philippines from Super Typhoon Haiyan is unbelievable and catastrophic. The death toll at this point is just guessing and will undoubtedly be horrific. Power may not be restored for months. People are without homes, without food, without water and basic clothing.
In honor of a friend who has family there, I am posting some links for anyone who wishes to donate to the relief efforts. I know things are tough right now, and it seems like everyone wants a donation for something these days, but please consider how you would feel if it was your mother, your brother, your niece, or grandson with no food and no place to go. Even the smallest bit counts. If you can spare $1.00, that can help someone. And if you cannot spare even that, please give your thoughts and prayers, which are more powerful than you may know.The Philippines Red Cross accepts PayPal donations in Pesos (43 Pesos = $1.00 US)
World Food Programme
Save the Children
Catholic Relief Services
British Red Cross Haiyan Appeal
These are the links from my friend Tessa. They are the ones she chose. Please donate if you can.
I've begun this year's NaNo and already done something I haven't done in previous years. I started over. Granted it's only the second day, and I'm keeping what I wrote before, but this is new for me. I had a terrible time trying to write yesterday. I just wasn't feeling it and this morning I figured out why: I started too early. Not early for the event, but early for the story. The title is North Pole: Confidential, but did I start in the North Pole? No. I started with one character on a train. Boring! And if I'm boring myself how are the readers going to feel?
So I started over, after my character arrives at the pole. And it's going much better. The words are flowing, and I'm casting characters in my head. The first beginning will be reworked and included later in the novel so that wasn't time lost either.
Now, a bit about the story for you: Undercover detective Jackson Frost is posing as a writer planning a piece on the North Pole, but he's really there to investigate a disappearance. Santa's right hand elf has gone missing just as they're gearing up for their busiest time of year. Jackson will uncover secrets he never would have guessed about what really goes on at the North Pole: the Claus' troubled marriage, blackmail, union issues, financial problems, a cookie smuggling ring, and possibly even murder!
Just so you know this is a humor novel. I've created an inspiration board on Pinterest (joined specifically for that purpose) and a playlist of YouTube videos to keep me in the holiday spirit. I'll post links to these if anyone is interested, and I'll try to keep everyone updated on my progress.
Happy writing, and for those not writing, happy reading!
Last time we covered myths about National Novel Writing Month
. For this blog post we'll talk about reasons why anyone might choose to participate in this event.
For those who are as yet unaware: National Novel Writing Month, commonly abbreviated as NaNoWriMo, is a 30 day literary challenge in which each participant strives to write 50,000 words before midnight on the last day of the month. All of these words must be written during the month of the event, which is November. And contrary to the name, it's actually inter-
But what's the point, you ask? The point is to let go of your doubts, your fears, that voice in your head that says you can't/shouldn't/have-no-business doing something. In this case that something is writing a novel. A lot of new and established writers deal with doubts about their work. NaNo give you an excuse to force those doubts from your mind, suck it up, and just write the first draft.
On to the reasons!Reason 1: Anti-Someday
Have you been thinking about writing a book someday? Ever noticed that someday never seems to come around? Half of everything is just showing up. If you want to write a book, you have to "show up" to write it. Sit down and do this thing. NaNo can be very helpful with that. It's only one month out of a year. And if you try and decide it's not for you, that's fine. NaNo asks the question: why wait until someday when you could write it in Now
vember? Yes, I made up that word. I like it, and I shall keep it.Reason 2: Motivation
Maybe you're already writing but you've hit a slump, or a block, or like me you couldn't self-motivate to save your asterisk. Well it's oddly motivating to have several hundred thousand people all over the world doing this with you. Everyone writes their own story, but you're all writing at the same time. If you're competitive, you can use your writing buddies' word counts as motivation to do better. If you're not competitive, there's still the self-challenge, which isn't much to ask for one month. I do most of my writing in November. Why? Because NaNo is highly motivating for me.
Oh, and before I forget, you don't have to be a novelist to participate. The Rebels forum is full of people who are writing non-fiction, memoirs, short story collections, etc. You can even work on an existing story, as long as you only count words written during the event.Reason 3: Support
The site is jam-packed with people who know the joys and pains of writing. Whatever you're going through, someone else has been there. Need advice, or just a place to vent about a character who won't behave? Go to the forums or NaNoMail a buddy.
There are Pep Talks too, to boost your spirits in those middle days when your momentum is flagging. This year alone we will have pep talks by Bella Andre, James Patterson, and Patrick Rothfuss, and those are only a few of the well-known authors who will help us along our journey. Also writing pep talks: NaNo veterans and staff who have been there and done it, and quite literally have the t-shirts.Reason 4: Community
This is sort of related to support, but goes to a whole other level. There are inside jokes, and tips, and entire fora devoted to helping you on your NaNo journey. Need a name, a plot twist, a bit of dialogue or a title? Check out the Adoptables. Have a research issue? Try the reference desk. Plot holes the size of small European nations? Go to Plot Doctoring. Can't decide between two or more things? Post in the polling booth to get opinions from others.
There are genre lounges, and age groups, and fan groups, there's even a forum called "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul" for people having trouble (though I think I've laughed more in that one than any of the others, except maybe "Adopt a Villain Catchphrase"). The world of NaNo is also organized into geographic regions so you can connect with other writers in your area, if that's something you want to do.
Throughout the forums the rule is friendliness and help. There is a real sense that we're in this thing together. We cry on each others' proverbial shoulders and celebrate each others' successes, and we all share a unique experience. Win or lose, we are WriMos. And we are awesome!Reason 5: It's fun!
I won't lie, the first year was terrifying and nerve-wracking, but it was also amazing. Each year since the fear gets less and so far the fun keeps going. This will be my fifth NaNo, and it's something I look forward to each year. In fact, it something a lot of people look forward to. There are many, many repeat WriMos.
We have a great time bonding over strange things that appear on our computer screens, especially when we're writing while tired, or fun typos. There's a forum called "Games, Diversions, & other Exciting Forms of Procrastination" that's full of word games and such. There are word wars, which I've never done but I hear are a ton of enjoyment and also help with the word count. People write songs about NaNo, poems about NaNo, there's even a musical about NaNo (look it up on YouTube; it's great!). NaNoToons, an ongoing, event-specific comic about fictional WriMos, is awesome!
Some people have parties, and write-ins. And if you win, there's a certificate, special offers from the sponsors, and if you like you can buy that year's one-of-a-kind-design winner's t-shirt (see last line of Reason 3). Not to mention this little detail of having written a novel.
Well, it's late and I have novel-planning to do. I apologize if I forgot anything, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.
November is just around the corner so I thought I would take a few moments (or more) to talk about something that has become near and dear to me as a writer: National Novel Writing Month
, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. Lest anyone wonder, the pronunciation is NA-no, as in a nano-second, and RYE-mo, as in wri-ting and anyone called Mo.
A simple internet search will reveal a wealth of information and an even greater wealth of opinions about the event, some giddy and praise-filled, and some so scathing they could burn the rust off a car's bumper. I'm hoping to provide a middle ground, battle some myths, and have some fun using spiffy statistics. Of course that's a lot to cover so this is going to take more than one blog post. Today I'm focusing on myths surrounding NaNo (the event) and WriMos (the participants). Myth 1: NaNoWriMo is about writing a lot of crap.This is a common misconception which I think is made by people who don't understand that giving yourself permission to write a less-than-perfect first draft is not the same thing as aiming for the gutter.
Personally, I choose to write at least 50,000 words of workable fiction. Is it perfect? By no means. But it's also not total crap. Requiring quantity does not preclude quality.
That said, first drafts are first drafts for a reason. More than 99% of them have problems, and often major problems. Stephen King says his first drafts suck, though he may not use that exact term to describe them. In fact I believe his term is rather stronger than mine.
The point of NaNo is not to write crap but to give yourself permission to suck, which you will anyway to start with, so that you can get the first draft written. Once that's done, then you can start editing and turn a jagged, gritty, ugly first draft into a shining gem. Or leave it as is, print it out, and use it as a doorstop. The choice is yours.
Myth 2: You can literally write the word "eyeball" 50,000 times and win.This is technically correct but I'm classifying as a myth because I don't believe very many people would go to the trouble of signing up, writing or copying one word 50,000 times (or two words 25,000 times), validating their "novel" and printing out their lovely winner's certificate to show off when they'd have to face this: "You wrote a novel? Cool! What's it about?" Seriously, who would do that? The level of "impressed" goes down a great deal when friends, relatives, co-workers, etc., find out you essentially cheated. And how would they get out of that situation? Actually that could get interesting, and I'd probably want front row seats and popcorn.
NaNo does work on the honor system. Nobody checks your writing. No one but you even sees it unless you choose to share it with someone. And I think there is something admirable about trusting people to be on the up and up.
Yes I'm sure there are people out there somewhere who would do this, however, that is not NaNo's fault. Those people are the ones who will cheat at anything. It points to a flaw in them, not in the event.
Small note: there are minor discrepancies between many word processing programs' word counts and the official NaNo word count, so technically they might have to write "eyeball' 50,147 times.
Myth 3: NaNo makes it sound like anybody can write a novel.Newsflash: anybody CAN write a novel. A novel is defined, not by industry standards mind you but by actual definition, as a work of prose at least 50,000 words in length. That's it. You don't need an MFA, or a background in journalism, you don't need a life of fascinating experiences. There are no qualifications for being a writer other than simply to write. Anybody who thinks otherwise needs to get off their low-horse and take a good look at the world. NaNo is not a good place for snobs, that much is true.
Myth 4: NaNo makes people think they can write a book worthy of publishing in only a month.If you think this you haven't been to the website. Nowhere does it say you will have a finished final draft, just a first draft that it is then up to you to revise, edit, and otherwise polish. Does the world of agents and publishers issue a collective sigh and rolling of the eyes each December? Possibly. But really all NaNo contributes to that is volume. Every month of the year sees new writers pitching first drafts. The number may go up after November, but that's it. This is not a new thing.
But not everyone who writes a novel wants to publish one. Some people don't write for compensation but for the sheer joy of writing. I don't know whether they are rolling in dough, are true artists who are above such material concerns, or just have a lot of time on their hands, but that really doesn't matter. We should all know by now that people are different. We do not all think the same way. We do not all want the same things.
Myth 5: Nothing good has ever come out of NaNo, and by good I mean traditionally published.I have twelve words for you: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen; The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. These are only two of many published books that started as NaNoWriMo novels. Not only were they traditionally published, they're both bestsellers! And they are not alone. There's a list. Here's a link to it: Official List of Published NaNo Novels.
And here's another link: Goodreads list of Published NaNoWriMo Books
.Bonus Myth: No real author would participate in something like NaNoWriMo.
The reasoning for this one varies from the idea that "real" authors write a lot all year long, to just a general scorn for the event and by extension any one who would participate. In refutation, please look back at my response to Myth 5. I'm not going to name-drop but there are famous authors, other than those I've already mentioned, who participate in NaNo. They may not make a big deal out of it, but they aren't looking down their noses at the event.
Also consider that there is more to NaNo than just the writing, though that is absolutely the main goal. NaNoWriMo is a community where writers around the world can connect and commiserate on the trials and the joys of the craft. Sure there are people who just write as a hobby, but hobbiests can be every bit as passionate about their hobbies as professionals in the same field are. All writers share certain things: love of stories, frustration with characters, fear of plot holes, and much more. NaNo brings us together and reminds those of us in an often solitary endeavor that we are not really alone.
That's all I have to say for now. I hope you've found some of this instructive, or at least entertaining. Stay tuned for my next post in this special NaNo series as we hurtle toward November.Kate
As promised I am having a giveaway!
Well folks, I said when I hit 300 followers on Twitter I would be having a giveaway, and the time has come! I'm sliding this post in between storms and hopefully will be able to post it before the end of the day. :o)
I've been thinking about how this should work. Should I give away eBooks? Printed books? Non-book items? And then it hit me, why not do all three?
So I'm going to be to be choosing ten winners by random drawing (because I like randomness), all of whom will be getting books, two of whom will also be getting non-book prizes! From the ten I will draw two more names for the Grand Prize winner, and a runner up.
Grand Prize - an autographed copy of your choice of either Bridging The Gaps or The DeFord Chronicles, Part I + a CD of original music I recorded many moons ago under a stage name.
Runner up - an autographed copy of either book + a unique hand-painted glass pin (floral design).
Remaining prizes - eBook copy in format of your choice of either book.
About the two books: Bridging The Gaps is a contemporary novel about a family going through divorce and rebuilding their lives with humor and friendship. The DeFord Chronicles, Part I is a historical novel set in a fictional country and inhabits a genre I like to call Medieval Soap Opera. A fast-paced, fun story with swordfighting and treachery. For more information regarding each book to assist you in deciding, see the Bookshelf page, the Exclusive Excerpt page, or check out the previews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Entries will close at 12:00 AM, Central Time, Monday October 7th. To enter just leave a comment with your preference of book. Best of luck to all.
P.S. My Twitter followers will get a more than 24 hour head start on this giveaway as I will not post about it on Facebook or G+ until Friday evening.
Dear readers and anyone who stumbles onto this site by accident,
Life has been decidedly difficult lately. It's a blustery, gray, rainy day, and my headaches have been an absolute plague in recent days. So I've decided the best thing to do to break out of the doldrums is to share something with others. That's right, a peek at the still-unfinished first draft of The DeFord Chronicles, Part II (preliminary cover image by Elizabeth Layne at left, isn't it awesome?).
Without further ado I shall go to my trusty random scrolling method and give you a scene from Chapter *drumroll* 15! The scene: our hero, Chauncy DeFord is concerned about Lady Eleanor Boyd who has been recently widowed. Her husband had been a close friend of Chauncy's. The setting: Eilding Castle, home of Lord and Lady Ralston. Lady Ralston is the former Elizabeth Brighton, a girl who means more to our hero than he is comfortable with.
Chauncy watched Eleanor carefully. He had noted the change in her immediately upon seeing her. She was pale and thin and the light seemed to have gone out of her. She spoke when spoken to, but rarely initiated conversation. She was at her most animated with young Jocelyn, and she had been genuinely glad to see Chauncy and James but she was a far cry from her usual merry self. She had no appetite and took little pleasure even in the performance of the minstrels in attendance.
There was little Chauncy could think to do. If he was to learn anything more than the very little Eleanor had said he would have to speak with either Her Royal Highness, Princess Sophie, or with Lady Ralston. It would be far easier for him to approach Lady Ralston, yet he was loath to do so. He had thought he was prepared to see her mistress of Eilding, but he could not have been more mistaken. The sight of her sweeping toward them to bid them welcome had been like a blow to the stomach. When had he become so enamored of Elizabeth? When had he begun thinking of her as Elizabeth? Perhaps before she had wed Edward Ralston. He should have abandoned that practice after he had learned of their marriage, but he did not care to think of her as Ralston’s wife. The man did not deserve her.
Something was amiss in this household. He could not put his finger on it, but there was a tension in the air that was not entirely owing to his own presence. Remarkable how his name alone had the power to make life difficult even for others. Well he would be leaving in the morning with the prince, who was trying to catch his eye from across the great hall. He casually worked his way to his highness’s circle and joined them, which caused Ralston to withdraw.
“Pray excuse me gentlemen,” His Royal Highness said. “I have matters that need my attention.” Turning to Chauncy he continued. “Lord DeFord, would you accompany me?”
“I am at your service, my lord prince.” Chauncy acquiesced.
Prince Nicholas waited until they were a goodly distance from the great hall, on the way to his chambers to speak. “It is glad I am to see you. And so is Sophie. I do hope you enjoyed your visit with your cousin.”
“I did indeed, your highness.” Chauncy instinctively knew that they were not to discuss anything of import until they reached the prince’s chambers. “Jacqueline is ever the same.”
“What is she like, your cousin?”
Chauncy thought for a moment how best to describe her. “She is merry and clever, sweet and strong. Hers is a difficult position.” At a questioning glance from the prince, he continued. “Widow of the only son, mother of the sole heir. She has what could be considered a position of honor within the Baricaud family, yet she is also dependent upon their good will. They could not turn her out, but they could make her life very unpleasant.”
Lines of disapproval formed at the corners of Nicholas’s mouth.
“Yes, I imagine they could.”
“Fortunately, her son worships her. And as long as he does she is safe.” Chauncy added.
They had now reached their destination. Nicholas conferred briefly with his personal attendants before sending them out. He crossed to a cruet on a crystal tray. “Wine?”
“No, thank you, your highness.” Chauncy glanced around the room at the gaudy display of wealth. Gold was on every item possible and some that he had not known could be covered in it. Silks from the orient had been used for the upholstery. Everywhere he looked he saw the trappings of one to whom status was all and taste was in short supply.
Nicholas noted Chauncy’s disapproval. “Not to my taste either. The room positively reeks of Ralston, does it not?”
Chauncy should not have been surprised. It was customary for visiting royalty and higher ranking noblemen to be given the best sleeping quarters available and those were always the master’s rooms. He could not picture Elizabeth in the room without feeling faintly ill, so he turned his attention to the prince. He had not long to wait.
“I imagine you are curious as to why I brought you here.” Nicholas began.
“Indeed I am, your highness.” Chauncy replied.
“Please dispense with the formality and call me by my name.” The prince insisted.
Chauncy demurred. “I could not, your highness.”
“Yes, well, you may not always be of that mind.” He paused to sip is wine. “You know about Andrew Boyd.” It was not really a question, and as such did not require an answer. “And you also know that arrow was meant for me. I would give anything to have been the one in his place.”
“You must not say such things, your highness.” Chauncy objected.
Nicholas did not reply. He knew what Chauncy would say next, what everyone said. Think of the kingdom, of his family, his bride. He had not asked to be born a prince, and while he enjoyed the privileges of his rank, he hated that another had died in his stead—a man he respected, a man with a wife and child, a man among men who would have gone on to greatness if not for the fact that someone wanted the Crown Prince of Frandia dead.
Just at the moment when the prince’s thoughts were darkest, his princess arrived. His mood lightened at the sight of her, and improved still more as she embraced their guest.
“Lord DeFord, how pleased I am to see you again.” She smiled brightly at him. “I am sorry that I did not say so before.”
Chauncy bowed over her proffered hand. “You are too kind, your highness. I am certain you were occupied with far greater matters.”
“I should have made time for you.” She disagreed, but said nothing more about the matter. She went to sit by her husband and waited for him to speak.
Nicholas leaned toward Chauncy. “Do you know why I have brought you here? No, I can see that you do not. When Quinly arrived, was there anything in the message that seemed odd to you?”
Chauncy nodded. “The word ‘cousin’ caught my attention. I thought he must have heard incorrectly.”
“He did not.” Nicholas paused before adding “You and I share the same blood.”
And that is where the chapter ends. How do you think Chauncy will react to learning that he is somehow related to the royal family? And if someone wants members of the royal family dead, does that mean someone will want him dead too?
My summer vacation was made up of a great deal of noise, some funky weather, a lot of stress, watching rented DVDs on occasion, and best of all: reading!
I began the summer determined to finish two ebooks that I'd started reading while school was still in session, and promptly got distracted. This is not a fault of the authors, or the novels in question. I am truly looking forward to finishing both of them. It's just that I forget to use my eReader and I don't like taking it with me around the house because the chances of the kids getting a hold of it and breaking it are pretty high during the months of June, July, and August. So I turn to my trusty friends, the paperbacks.
I put in some Georgette Heyer time, reading Faro's Daughter, which was short, and The Foundling, which was less so. Both lovely reads. I've never yet been disappointed by Heyer. But the real distraction, reading wise came by way of my mother. I know, "blame the mom" is such a stereotype, but I'm sure when I explain what happened, you'll agree with me that it's all her fault.
Mom has been watching Game of Thrones on DVD, and was asking me questions about it. I'm not certain if she forgets that I've never seen the show, or just thinks of me as so brilliant that I should be able to easily follow, predict, and explain plots of which I know slightly more than nothing. Probably the latter. Anyway, I happen to have a paperback copy of the first book in the series on which the TV show is based. Bought it on sale for my husband because he'd heard something about the TV show and thought it could be interesting. He never started reading it, so I decided I'd give it a go and maybe be able to answer some of Mom's questions. That's how I got hooked.
It was slow going at first but at some point the addiction kicked in and I devoured the book. Then I went to the library and got the second book. I finished that one so quickly that on the next trip to the library I got books three and four! Now I'm onto book five. The sixth volume is supposed to be coming out in late October, so I won't be reading it for quite a while. Though I may drop hints about Christmas presents. :o)
I'd heard of George R. R. Martin before but never read his work. Now I'm a fan, at least of this series, called A Song of Ice and Fire. It's effect on me is unique in that I can call up vivid images of what I think these places look like, but I have not pictured myself there as I have with, say Regency England. I do not recommend beginning this series unless you are prepared to go through all of the available books back to back.
The only other reading I can remember having done over the summer is a series called Ellie's People, by Mary Christner Borntrager. I read and loved the series as a girl and now I'm reading them to my children who are equally enthralled by the stories.
List, if anyone wants it:
Faro's Daughter and The Foundling by Georgette Heyer
A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons (currently reading) by George R. R. Martin
Ellie, Rebecca, Rachel, Daniel, Reuben (currently reading to boys), and Andy (currently reading to daughter) by Mary Christner Borntrager
Looking back over my list, it seems awfully small. But then my summers are awfully hectic. It's amazing I get any reading done when the weather is hot.
Next up on my reading list are finishing A Heart On Hold by the lovely and talented Sarah Barnard, and a bunch of books about autism. If I'm lucky I may sneak in some writing too.
What did you read on your summer vacation? And what will you be reading next?
Ladies and gentleman, readers of all ages, I have a confession to make: some days I like dogs a lot better than I like people. Today is one of those days.
The picture to the left is a dog we had years ago. Gorgeous, wasn't she? She was a sweetheart and we all still miss her.
We have two dogs now, smaller ones. Both are half Shih Tzu, but the other halves are different. One of them has social anxiety disorder, caused in part by the myriad of therapists we have had in and out of the house, working with the two of our children who are officially autistic. He needs retraining that will take months, and because he bit someone--a stranger to him, Milo's always gentle with his family--he needs to be confined whenever we have company, until his retraining is finished and he can be trusted, and even then we'll still watch him very carefully.
Unfortunately, Milo doesn't like being confined. He has a secure yard within our back yard, and he doesn't like being in there when there is fun going on in the bigger yard. And so he barks. Milo's never been the quietest dog on earth. He has sensitive hearing and will sometimes bark for what appears to be no reason. Our usual joke is that he's barking at a squirrel in the next county. He'll bark at vehicles, people, stray sounds. Some of that is normal and some is due to the anxieties of his new situation. It will lessen in time as he gets used to the changes we've had to make.
Now, we're responsible dog owners. We don't let our dogs roam the neighborhood, we keep them well groomed and up to date with all veterinary visits and vaccines, and we try to limit Milo's barking as best we can. We don't want to inconvenience anyone else. It's harder in the summertime when the kids are in and out all the time and the dogs follow suit. Milo barks more when he's outside. But we've never had a complaint from anyone in the village...until today.
I was out in the big yard pulling my daughter and our neighbor's daughter in a wagon. Milo and our other dog were in their smaller yard and Milo wanted to come play, but we're not ready to trust him with other people's children yet. An older gentleman in a shiny black SUV from two streets over drove up on the road behind our yard and proceeded to shout at me (without leaving his vehicle) about my dog who barks "all day long" (not true) and he's sick of it and if we don't take care of it he'll have the Sheriff at our door. Then he drove off and I watched him go straight back to his garage. He made a special trip for this. With what he drives that probably cost him a full tank of gas, so he must mean business.
Being me, I called the Sheriff's department and asked about the penalties for barking dogs. Turns out that in our county, there are no noise ordinances. Granted we don't want trouble with neighbors, but legally there is nothing the Sheriff's department can do except to maybe suggest a bark collar, which we will not even consider without consulting our veterinarian. This being the year of rotten timing and vexing occurrences, the vet's clinic is closed for Labor Day.
This little village isn't a bad place to live, provided one stays out of politics. But between last year's visit from Human Services (unfounded report, most likely made by the guy who was yelling at my kids last summer about the way they were dressed), the river, the railroad (much more traffic since the sand mines went in), the state highway, and this little wrinkle, I'd love to move. My husband and I are country people and would prefer more space around us. That will have to wait though. And there is no chance of us giving away a dog that our 9 year old autistic son calls his "best friend." We'll find a way to deal with this as responsible neighbors and pet owners.
I'd just like to say, for those of you who have issues with a neighbor's barking dog, please do not approach the situation the way this man did. Dog owners are people too. Try going to their door and introducing yourself. Mention that you've noticed their dog is barking a lot and wondered if anything was wrong or there was something you could do to help (there probably isn't but it's a nice gesture). You may find out that the dog is undergoing retraining and that the barking will subside in time. Or you may find that the owner is irresponsible and the dog is barking for help, but at least you will have mentioned the problem without threatening anyone or shouting in front of children. A little common courtesy can go a long way.
This has been a difficult summer. We're still waiting to hear if my sister has more cancer than what was removed during her surgery. We've severed ties with the therapy company that was working with our boys and are researching other options. The dog bite incident. The irate neighbor incident. And all of this has occurred within the last five weeks. I'm looking forward to fall.
Oh well, school starts tomorrow and that will calm things down for everyone in the house. I hope your summer has been better than mine. I'll post again soon with a more cheerful topic. Now, I'm going to go spend some time with my dogs, because they never threaten me, talk down to me, short-change my kids, or otherwise act in a deceitful or mean way. Yep, I definitely like dogs better than people today.
Fun Fact: I have rewritten the lyrics of Deck the Halls to make it a Back-To-School carol. I am considering doing this with more songs. Suggestions are appreciated.