Tag: author thoughts

Guest Blog Post – Long and Short Reviews

Guest Blog Post – Long and Short Reviews

Proximity and Touch: In Life, In the Pandemic and In Emergence by Ellie Beals

I have a new puppy – he’s 15 weeks old now, and is doing a lovely job of taking brisk walks around the neighborhood on a loose leash. Many people we encounter on these walks get that soft, mushy “OMG, a puppy!” look on their faces when they see him, and I respond affirmatively when they ask if they can greet him. This is a pandemic puppy – he needs all the input and stimuli I can allow or provide. I keep him on a long leash, and step back and turn my face away, to allow appropriate distance between humans, while he moves forward to greet the new folks. As I watch puppy and humans interact, the way the humans revel in the physical contact seems more pronounced to me than what I’ve witnessed in the past with other puppies. Am I imagining this? I don’t think so. I think the hunger for the tactile exchanges that we used to take for granted are profound. We have all become, or are becoming, pandemic puppies ourselves – constantly attached to invisible leashes that prevent us from interacting with the world the way we want to. The way we need to.

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Guest Blog Post – All the Ups and Down

Guest Blog Post – All the Ups and Down

Me, OJ, & Psychological Suspense

I have had a love-ignorance relationship with football all my life. Despite having a father and husband (a former player himself) who were not only fans, but were extremely knowledgeable about the arcana of this complex sport, I never took the time to master that. Lazy Ellie! The rules still elude me, and I have only the broadest general understanding of the game. But that’s all I need. Because I LOVE watching football for completely different reasons. The extraordinary beauty and power of these athletes transfixed me from the time I was first exposed to them as a child. My abiding memory of how little Ellie perceived her first view of Jim Brown playing, only a day after my dad had introduced me to a wildlife special on the big cats of Africa, was “OMG – some rare humans can also effect the grace and power of wild animals”. (Not in those words of course. But that was the idea.)

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Guest Post Blog – Fabulous and Brunette

Guest Post Blog – Fabulous and Brunette

Fierce Women: Empathy Vs. Pity

When I was a little girl, my favorite game was Make Believe – essentially a child’s version of role-playing.  A persuasive child, I was able to convince my playmates that there was a better choice than those on the usual Make Believe menu of doctors and nurses, cowboys and Indians, or mommy, daddy & me.  My better choice was a family drama that featured one prominent character: the troubled teenaged daughter. I don’t know how I became aware of this stereotype when I was so young, but assume that I encountered it in television or movies, and as an emergent histrionic personality, was drawn to the dramatic possibilities written into this type of family drama.

So is it a surprise that years later, I became a legendarily Troubled Teenager?  I think not. This speaks to the power of archetypes, whether they’re drawn from real life or from any of the media with which we’re constantly bombarded.  For those of us who are readers, the archetypes we absorb unknowingly can have a tremendous influence on our identities – including, and perhaps most particularly about what makes for an appealing woman. Many writers over many decades have recognized this and shaped female protagonists from Jo March (Little Women) to Nancy Drew, to Hermoine (Harry Potter) to help girls recognize strength and independence as desirable qualities for girls. But I wonder to what extent that kind of early indoctrination stands up to a steady and very different archetype that may subtly invade and pervade our adult reading?

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Guest Blog Post – Becoming Extraordinary

Guest Blog Post – Becoming Extraordinary

A Sort of Well-Behaved Minor Character

In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. I’m always curious as to whether other authors experience this, so I asked Ellie Beals if she had such a character in her novel, Emergence? And if she didn’t, I wanted to know how she got the characters in her head to behave so well!

Here is her fascinating answer.

I have been a chronic over-planner and over-preparer all my life.  I waited an obscenely long time to start work on a novel, because I so dreaded what I anticipated to be the long and grueling planning process required before I could actually WRITE.  And then one day, I said:  What if?  What if I don’t do that?  What if I just sit down and start writing?

And that’s what I did.  My plan at the outset was this simple:  I knew that:

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Guest Blog Post – Westveil Publishing

Guest Blog Post – Westveil Publishing

Which characters in Emergence were easier to write, the humans or the dogs? – Or, what’s love got to do with it?

Long before you can hope to write well, you have to be able to SEE well – to observe your subjects, or characters like your subjects, well and truly, in order to be able to describe them convincingly to your readers. I am a dog-trainer, and in the dog-training world the paramount phrase that constantly recurs is: “Read your dog”. You have no hope of being successful in this field if you are not able to understand what your dog is telling you.

Of course, dogs have no words. Which is not to say that their communicative abilities are limited. They speak with their bodies, and for those who have learned it, canine body language is as richly nuanced as any message you receive from a human. And it is vastly easier to read, because given the dog’s absence of ego, you don’t have to triumph over and through attempts at repression, concealment, obfuscation and even deceit, which ego so often superimposes over the messages that humans transmit. For those attuned to canine communication, the amount you can read, simply from watching the action of a dog’s butt, as it quivers with joy, tenses in fear or anticipation, moves nervously as the tail fast-twitches from side-to-side, or goes up in the air telegraphing fun as the dog produces a play-bow, is exquisite. How often I’ve approached humans, wishing our bottoms were similarly communicative, so I’d know if the person I’m approaching is indeed, feeling approachable.

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Guest Blog Post – Andi’s Book Reviews

Guest Blog Post – Andi’s Book Reviews

What does dog training have to do with becoming an author? Ellie Beals, author of Emergence, is going to tell us all about it in a special guest post today. You can also check out an excerpt from her book before you download your own copy. Be sure to also follow the rest of the tour to get to know her even better, adding your own comments and questions along the way. Best of luck in the giveaway!

My Journey to Becoming an Author: Thank you, Dog-Training

If you’ve read my novel Emergence, you’ll know that Cass Harwood, one of my protagonists, is a management consultant who is also a dog-trainer. As a successful mangement consultant, she is a chronic over-preparer, whose foundation of preparation allows her to put aside whatever script she’s created in order to successfully improvise. The same thing is true of her as an obedience competitor. This creative friction between the two poles of performance readiness (no preparation vs. obsessive planning) is an undercurrent throughout Emergence.

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Ellie’s Book Review – Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Ellie’s Book Review – Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

A Perfect Marriage

I am an avid reader of non-fiction studies about dogs, and about the relationship between dogs and people. Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz has been for me, the most rewarding and enjoyable such book I’ve read, because of the way it spans the divide between the lyric and anecdotal love story (like Merle’s Door) and the scientific treatise (say, anything by Konrad Lorenz).

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Light in the Dark

Light in the Dark

Last year, I was at an event in Jerusalem. There were tens of thousands of people crushed into the squares and twisted streets of the old city. It was so crowded that movement was almost impossible – this huge throng of humanity was shoulder-to-shoulder and unable to move freely. Amplify my dislike of crowds with my concerns about how perfect these conditions were for a terrorist attack. As I fought my way through this crowd I was not happy, and suspect that very few people were.

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Six Month Pandemic Interlude

Six Month Pandemic Interlude

It has been exactly six months since David and I retreated to the cabin. When we left:

  • koalas were just emerging from the devastated ashes of the Australian outback, their arms extended to anyone who might help them.
  • Fracas, dog of my heart, who was still adjusting to the loss of his left eye, had become slow and uncertain, his joy no longer the palpable force it had been for the previous thirteen years
  • one of my dearest friends, Susan, was moving from the hospital back into the home she loved and shared with her husband.

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Ellie’s Book Review – All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Ellie’s Book Review – All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Missing Three Pines (4/5 stars)

I have been a long-time fan of Louise Penny’s. Her writing is so descriptive that it feels like I can roll around in her descriptions of people, places and food (OMG – the food descriptions!) like a northern dog rolls in snow. The depth, clarity, uniqueness and believability of her characters is compelling. I love Chief Inspector Gamache with all my heart, and feel close to the same affection for the quirky group of residents that inhabit the hard-to-find village of Three Pines.​

All the Devils Are Are Here is not set in Three Pines. It unfolds in Paris. The Parisian setting may be the reason I gave All the Devils are Here four stars, as opposed to the five I would have awarded to every other of Penny’s preceding Inspector Gamache novels, all of which were set in Three Pines, Quebec. It may simply be that I miss the places and faces I’ve grown to love. Of course, Penny has brought her legendary descriptive prowess to Paris. But as a creature of habit — that didn’t displace the degree to which I missed Three Pines.​

I also found the plot didn’t unfold with the same sense of natural inevitablity I’ve experienced in her previous books. It felt like I had to accept some of the premises that moved the plot forward as a matter of faith, rather than seeing for myself why and how Gamache and crew considered them to be benchmarks leading to solutions. I acknowledge that this may simply be a reading failure on my part. I have long believed that Louise Penny is smarter than I am. But usually her books do not make me feel inadequate, and in places here — I did.​

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did, and I consider four-stars to reflect my feeling that this is a very good read, and one well-worth undertaking. However, I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t already read any of the preceding Inspector Gamache novels, start with one of her Three Pines settings, rather than leaping immediately to Paris.