Monthly Archives: June 2012

Musings… and Angus

My DH (Darling Husband) and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary later this week. “How many years?” you ask. Well, suffice it to say the handsome man and I have been married more years than most of you have been alive *lol*

Because the upcoming day has me thinking of friends and family, I thought I’d share a short narrative nonfiction tale with you. Yes, I know it’s a surprise, but I can write something besides fantasy. I just don’t do it very often…

And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to one of the best pups I’ve ever known:

 

Angus MacDubh

by Debbie Mumford

My life has been littered with dogs. Miniature Poodles who thought they were wolves; Bullmastiffs who believe they’re lap dogs. All sizes and personalities of canines have enriched my life. But the story that tugs at my heartstrings involves a Black Lab who was never mine…Angus MacDubh.

Angus came into my life when he was barely old enough to leave his mother. My youngest daughter had opted to live at home that year as she trained for a career in massage therapy. Ultimately, this is her story.

A family friend announced that her purebred Lab would soon produce a litter of AKC pups, and my girl jumped at the chance to buy one of Sage’s offspring. Preparations were made, but before we’d convinced our Dalmatian, Diamond, that the addition would be a wonderful boon to her existence, the little black fur-ball had taken up residence in our home…and our hearts.

I’m not too proud to admit it; I was smitten at first sight. I’d recently enrolled in a Scots- Gaelic class, so when my darling daughter asked for name ideas, I suggested Angus MacDubh: “Angus, son of black.” She liked the rhythm and the pup acquired a name longer than himself…a very short-lived problem, I might add.

My beautiful daughter doted on her puppy-boy, and her father and I agreed that we’d never imagined a more amazing grandpuppy. I even found myself singing nonsense songs to the little rascal, much as I had done when my children were small. The only holdout in our household’s puppy love-fest was the aging Dalmatian. Diamond remained convinced the family had been just fine prior to Angus’ advent, thank you very much.

Angus, for his part, adored Diamond, but delighted in baiting the adult dog. He had his own small kennel, but would lay in wait beside Diamond’s much larger den. The moment she stirred from her blanket-strewn lair, he would charge inside with a joyous yip and seize her castle by right of possession.

His mistress enrolled him in ‘puppy kindergarten’ and diligently trained the intelligent Lab. Not to be outdone by the newcomer, Diamond soon learned to wait patiently beside her young protégé. My daughter or I would prepare their food while they sat immobile. We’d place the bowls of delectable tidbits in the expected positions, and still the dogs waited with rapt attention. Drooling, yes. Quivering, undoubtedly. But neither moved until one of us uttered the magic word: Release!

Diamond had never suffered such indignity, but the proud Dalmatian refused to be bested by an upstart of a pup. And so, our high-energy, often out-of-control Diamond became a model dog-citizen—all because a Black Lab puppy shamed her into it.

My daughter, an accomplished figure-skater, had agreed to supervise a young colleague and her brother while their parents were away on business. Since the family had a fenced backyard, Angus accompanied her on his first overnight excursion.

When the phone rang after dinner, my husband and I were unprepared for a hysterical daughter. She’d been busy chauffeuring kids to numerous activities; they’d just gotten home. Angus was not in the yard. The family’s dog reclined peacefully in the unfenced front yard, but the exuberant, joyful Angus had not been found…and the unfamiliar neighborhood backed to a busy highway!

We chivvied Diamond into the rear of our Jeep and rushed to join the search. Anxious though we were to reach our daughter, we slowed to a crawl as we approached the area, scrutinizing the shadows at the edges of the highway for a small, black, broken body. Thankfully, no such apparition appeared.

A few minutes later we wandered the unfamiliar neighborhood calling the pup’s name and shining flashlight beams into darkened corners of suburban lawns. The occasional homeowner emerged to question us, and a few gangs of preadolescents joined in what seemed to them an amusing scavenger hunt, but the search was no game to us.

My daughter berated herself with a running monologue of recent transgressions: she shouldn’t have brought Angus on this glorified baby-sitting job; she should have inspected every inch of fence line; she should have taken him with her while she ferried the kids from activity to activity; she should have left him locked inside the house…On and on until her father stopped her.

“Life happens, sweetheart. You’re a good pet owner and Angus is lucky to be your dog.” He hugged the shaking girl, smoothed her hair from her forehead, and chucked her under the chin. “We’ll find him. A year from now, this will all be a memory.”

We split up. My daughter and her young charges headed one direction, while my husband and I urged Diamond the other. The neighborhood became familiar as we wound through the streets of manicured lawns again and again. Feeling like an idiot, I sang Angus’ baby songs at the top of my lungs, hoping he’d come bounding out to play.

Diamond paid particular attention to one home. We passed it several times and each time her nose twitched, ears cocked forward, and she pulled at the leash. We checked the front yard by flashlight and walked the perimeter of the fenced backyard shining the light into every corner. No familiar puppy exuberance greeted us, but when I sang his songs, I could swear I heard muffled yips and barks. My husband strode to the front door and knocked. No one answered.

We noted the address and continued scouring the neighborhood. Those muffled cries came from somewhere and their existence eased my daughter’s fears.

Exhausted and out of options, we retreated to the kids’ home. Phone calls to the Humane Society and Angus’ vet garnered no information, but put those agencies on alert that a beloved puppy had gone missing. Unhappy and unfulfilled, we parted company with our daughter, loaded Diamond in the Jeep and drove home to a restless night of worry. Angus had never been alone before…he was only four months old…a baby cold and hungry in the wild! Never mind that it was high summer in Colorado and the Boulder suburb hardly qualified as wilderness–my imagination ran amok. My grandpuppy was lost!

The phone rang early the next morning, sending a shot of adrenaline zinging through my system. The vet called to say Angus had been found. The ordeal over, I sank into a chair and waited for my heart rate to return to its normal easy plod.

We called our daughter and arranged to meet her and her charges at the vet’s office to retrieve her puppy-boy. Once he’d been reunited with his mistress, he was coming home with us. Diamond would have charge of the recalcitrant Lab until the kids’ parents returned from their trip.

At the vet’s office, we met the family whose house Diamond had identified. The children had found Angus wandering the neighborhood and had fallen immediately in love. Who could blame them? A more adorable fur-ball has yet to grace the planet! Their parents had fed him and prepared a safe haven for him in their laundry room while the family went out for the evening. First thing the next morning, the parents had called the Humane Society with a description of the little guy.

Thank heavens the organization had been alerted to our loss. Our vet was able to verify Angus’ identity and our daughter was reunited with her precious puppy-boy.

Angus MacDubh is no longer an adorable fur-ball. He has grown into a majestic male with an indescribably luxurious coat, but he will always be the best grandpuppy in existence for this doting human. Last summer when our daughter married a career military officer in a garden ceremony, Angus accompanied her down the ‘aisle.’ My husband escorted our daughter to her soon-to-be husband, kissed her cheek, and in a symbolic gesture, handed her young warrior Angus’ leash. They were a package deal.

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Author Spotlight: Harrison Davies

Ever since the eBook revolution started, reviewers complained about the lack of quality of self-published stories. They claim that too many of the available eBooks are badly edited, have confusing stories, or are plain boring. They are partly correct, but there are also wonderful new authors that deserve to be noticed (like my colleagues here on the Independent Bookworm). Therefore, I will present a new Indie author once a month; one that is worth being read.

Through the Magic Appreciation Tour, I got to know author Harrison Davies. He was born in Hartlepool in the United Kingdom and now resides in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North of England. His passions include the written word, visual media such as Indie filmmaking, and photography. He lives with his long time partner, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and African Grey Parrot. Harrison completed his second book in early 2012.

Destiny of the Wulf (The Aduramis Chronicles, #1)
It is a time of great upheaval, and from time immemorial the destiny of two boys has shone like a beacon. Death desires to rule as high king of the gods, and is poised to ignite a war in the heavens that would consume all life on Er’ath. Brothers Coinin and Marrok are thrust into a world of magic when their parents are slain. Whisked away to their uncle’s home, there they live a peaceful existence, until the day that they are summoned to a secret temple, hidden from the world. An ancient mage brotherhood tells of a great destiny that surrounds them, and events take a sharp downward turn. The fate of this world hangs in the balance, and it is left to Coinin and Marrok to reunite the Swords of Cerathil that would save the planet from destruction.

How did you get started? Was it a childhood dream?
I guess you could say it was a childhood dream. At school I had always excelled at English and literature, and my work praised for its creativity. At aged twelve I wrote a 40,000 word story about a scientist who was abducted for his research. His teenage son follows the clues that lead him to his father. Fortunately the military turn up at the right time to rescue their eminent scientist and his son. As it was written at age twelve, it shall not see the light of day in its current form, the language is a little “Enid Blyton” and will need to be rewritten since it is a great story, in my humble opinion.

Why are you focusing on epic fantasy?
I don’t focus on one particular genre. I had several other stories planned out with varying genres such as thrillers, historical fiction. But I do love fantasy. One can be so creative in this area. Aside from the thriller I discussed earlier, fantasy is where I started because I wanted to write and got together with a friend who enjoyed fantasy. Sadly we parted ways weeks later having never really started our collaboration beyond a few ideas. That early work set the foundation for my jaunt into fantasy with a whole new story.

What formats do you offer your customers (eBook, POD)?
I offer all the most common formats. ePub, Mobi, PDF. There are printed copies available as print on demand through Createspace, Amazon and Lulu.

What’s your greatest obstacle in writing?
Television and my own self-motivation. Writing Destiny and finishing it has been the greatest boost in my confidence.

Who is your favorite Indie author?
Currently an as yet unpublished author by the name of Rory Mackay. This guy knows how to write. I’ve had the privilege to review his work, and he’s going to be big.

Who is your favorite traditionally published author?
This has to be JK Rowling, a great rags to riches story and an inspiration never to give up. She inspired a whole generation like nothing I’ve seen beyond the pioneers of the computer revolution.

Tips for other Indies?
Start early with your preparations for:
1. obtaining a cover image
2. find good betas readers who will help you perfect your yarn. I have three wonderful beta/proof readers
2. finding a editor that is top quality
3. start promoting early, even before you’re published, keep your audience up to date

Weddings, Singing and Other Distractions

You’d really like to be writing. But stuff happens and you all know it. Squeeze that schedule, try to wring water from the stone, but somehow the days slip by and you haven’t pushed the manuscript at all. Don’t abandon me on this one- confess! It happens.

And there was a time when these distractions were so prevalent I wasn’t writing at all. In the early years, before I got the bug, I had what some might have called a life. An odd one, admittedly, but stubbornly persistent and even now when I’m trying to make it as an author (between husbandry, fatherhood, oh sure, and that full-time job thing), I keep getting reminders. Honestly, dear reader, I’d rather break upon the shores of your mind the way Athena did- full grown and armed for war- or as Solemn Judgement came to the Lands- an orphan but strangely complete. Not to be! I am already unjustly famous, it seems, even on the web- or at least, much more famous for other things than I am for writing.

At Williams College in the late 70s (yes, the 1970s!) I joined the original reincarnation of the Williams Octet, an a cappella singing group first started in the 1940s at my dear alma mater. You simply cannot imagine the fun and good times that ensued: these fine fellows are among my closest friends to this day (and more than one is a hero of the Lands). After road-tripping the Eastern Seaboard, singing for gorgeous female audiences and sleeping under pianos in the lobby later on, in an undergraduate career that crested with singing the National Anthem on opening day in Yankee Stadium, the group continued as the Lemmings, and I rejoined shortly after moving to NYC. We sang at the Guggeinheim Museum, on busy corners and for Sesame Street! In fact, one of our group made a movie loosely based on our ridiculous post-college exploits, and you can split a rib laughing at The Wedding Weekend if you want. The author/director and one of my fellow baritones freely admitted, one of the characters in the group is a bit like me- see if you can guess which one!

We Lemmings have become older, and jobs and family have split us up somewhat (art imitates life in this case, but only because we came before the movie). The Lemmings have arrived at the stage when we sing for each other’s weddings and that’s about it (next up, singing for each other’s funerals!). I was among the last to commit such a dreadful act (a wedding- I haven’t committed a funeral yet), and here’s where it finally starts to come back together. On February 10th 1996, I plighted my eternal troth to Ms. Dorie Hoover for the second time (another tale, another day), and the Lemmings were there to share the hilarity. Medieval costumes and doo-wop singing alike were captured on film for posterity.

And when the evil genius who runs the group’s media existence started a blog about the Lemmings (“Cliff Notes“, clever), he encouraged me to write about the time the madcap men of music sang for my lovely bride. It was an immortal occasion, I can assure you- many people have told me it was the best wedding they ever attended. I can say that with all humility because I had nothing to do with it- Dorie planned the entire thing. But I did bring in the Lemmings.

So I blogged about my wedding day over on Cliff Notes. The entry came out in mid-July, just after I starting publishing tales; it has a video link right on the page and you can listen to us sing and laugh and enjoy the day.

So now we come to it. Nearly four years since I started writing seriously, I have three stories out on the web and more in production. I am pleased to say that I have a tidy number of sales- several dozen, and then a few score freebies- plus a few very enthusiastic reviews which I treasure. Last summer my friend Kevin cajoled me into writing about my wedding, and did all the work of posting the media under my text.

And this blog entry that I shot off less than a year ago has HUNDREDS of hits for some reason. So I’m already much more famous than myself, for the wrong reasons. New goal- become better known for my chronicles based on thirty years of watching the Lands of Hope, than for this accidental blog about the real world that I rattled off in about an hour . Actually, how about if I just CATCH UP to it first…

What part of real life competes with your writing for attention? How goes the battle to become well known as an author?

P.S.: An impassioned groveling plea, if you haven’t checked out the Lands of Hope Facebook page, I’d be very grateful if you did. I’m only halfway to the minimum for “Likes”, so FB can start telling me how few friends I have and other useful facts.

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