I love dogs.
Readers probably know this because a dog can always be found in my books. It’s also telling that I mention my Jack Russell in my acknowledgments. For proof, you can find him in the acknowledgment for my latest Scottish medieval, A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009). I believe it’s fitting to include him. He’s also the undisputed king of my world.
Did I say I’m a dog person?
Well, I am.
I believe dogs give so much to a book. But only if they are true characters and play a strong role in the story. They should have their own personality and charm, just like the dogs in our real lives. If they don’t, they’re just ink on the page and better left out of the book.
All the dogs in my books are real … or were.
And don’t worry – dogs never die in my books.
They’re champions, every one, and they all live forever. I’m sure they thrive even after the stories. I see them running across fields, lazing before the hearth fire, eating delicious meaty bones, being petted and loved.
Many of my story dogs are modeled after my own darling Em, the above-mentioned Jack Russell who rules my world. You can see him here, during one of our daily walks.
Once in a while, the dogs in my stories are fond remembrances of dogs I’ve loved and lost. And sometimes they’re based on a friend’s dog. Or they are dogs I’ve met in Scotland and who brightened my day with a tail wag or a sloppy wet kiss, always welcome when a dog lover travels and must leave our own best friend behind.
Below is a wonderful dog who lent me his companionship on an afternoon in Scotland’s far north. He was only my friend for a few hours, but he was so special that he became Boiny in one of my favorite Scottish medievals, Wedding For A Knight, (GCP/Sept. 2004).
A Highlander’s Temptation stars two canines. This was fun because I let them enjoy a romance of their own. Arabella MacKenzie, the book’s heroine, has a tiny dog named Mina who steals the heart of Frang, the shaggy brute who belongs to Darroc MacConacher, the hero.
I’m not sure my Em would like a romance. A second dog, even if female, would mean he’d have to share the affection I lavish on him. And, if you haven’t guessed yet, the little guy is quite pampered.
He does enjoy his walks.
I do, too, of course.
And even if our jaunts take me from my deadline, my mind is never far from work. I get my best ideas walking Em. Though, in all honesty, these gems of wisdom don’t always pertain to my work-in-progress.
But they do often give insights to writing. Here are ten such pearls, in no particular order:
Do it every day. It’s really true: use it or lose it. Just like a dog should be walked every day, it’s important to get in those daily pages.
Practice makes perfect. Similar to nr. 1, making the walks a habit is a good thing. In writing, this means that the more you write, the more you’ll learn and improve.
Weather, what weather? Don’t let rain keep you inside. Your dog looks forward to his walks and needs the fresh air and exercise. Writers, too, must work through all weathers. Deadlines don’t wait.
You should still be prepared. I always take along water and small bowl for Em. If it looks like rain, I’ll carry a jacket. There’s also a little towel in the bag I wear slung over my shoulder. Whatever comes, I’m ready. Writing well also needs preparation. Don’t write in a genre you don’t know or aren’t willing to research.
Expect the unexpected. I wish I had a dollar for each time the sprinklers burst to life just as Em and I stride by. We’ve been doused. And I do mean doused. Fellow writers know what I mean: those kicks-to-the-shin blows are wicked. And they always come out of nowhere. They’re a given in this business, so learn to shake them off and keep going. (or carry a little towel like I do, see nr. 4)
Take time to smell the roses. Or whatever other interesting things you encounter along the way. If you just concentrate on your destination, you’ll miss the fun of the journey. Writing is an adventure. Don’t lose sight of the joy that started you on this path.
Accept that dogs come in all sizes. There’s no doubt in my mind that my Em is the best dog in the world. But a reality check shows that, as a Jack Russell, he’s pretty darn small. The parallel to writing is obvious. No matter how great you think you are, someone bigger is always going to come prancing along. And when they do, barking at them isn’t going to help. It’s best to just swallow it and keep going.
Roll in the grass. Em loves to do this and he does so with total abandonment. For writers, this means celebrate the good times. This is a tough business that can bruise and maim if you let it. So live it up when you triumph. You deserve the reward.
Heed those I-want-a-walk looks. Dogs don’t live forever. Oh, how I wish they did! So when your four-legged friend gives you the look (dog lovers know what I mean) get up and take him out. In writing, this is your world outside writing. Don’t forget its existence. Deadlines are holy. But so are those you love. Be there for them.
When the walk is over, it’s veg time. Em is zonked after our walks. I am drained after deadline. Be sure to give yourself time to recover and refill the creative well between books. Your muse will thank you.
**Bonus point from Em’s pov: Wag your tail. When people smile at Em or stop to tell him he’s a handsome boy (he is), he always wags his tail and looks so happy. Remember to be gracious and always thank people who help you or take time to tell you how much they love your books. It’s good to be nice.
Blog question: Do any of the above resonate with you? Or do you have a similar gem-of-wisdom to add?
Dog loving readers might find more canine treats scattered throughout my website. For non-dog lovers, there are lots of Scotland photos, Celtic lore, and – of course – book news and goodies. Visit me at www.welfonder.com
***A HUGE thank you to Sue-Ellen Welfonder for her fantastic post! I have enjoyed reading this and I am sure you do too!
Also, with a HUGE thank you to Hatchette Book Group, we are able to give away 5 copies of Highlander's Temptation! YAY!!
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Answer Sue-Ellen Welfonder's Blog question: Do any of the above resonate with you? Or do you have a similar gem-of-wisdom to add?
That's it! Very simple!
I do not require you to follow my blog, however, I will NOT contact the winner. Winner will be notified right here on my blog and it will be up to the winner to contact ME within 48 hours of my posting the winner. This contest ends on October 30th. Winner will be chosen randomly by Random.org.