Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Author R. Leonia Shea, Legendary Magic, and The Dog Days Of Writing

It was a subtle transition.  At first, I dismissed it for a variety of reasons:  it's too hot, the ground is too damp, the humidity is too high.  I never thought it was just old age or the cataracts that clouded her big, brown eyes.  Instead of wanting to spend the days in the garden with her furry hip pressed against mine and her black nose twitching excitedly, she napped in her bed, sleeping contentedly while I read a book.  Every once in a while, she'd chase dream-rabbits with her small paws twitching, her ears pricked forward, and a doggy grin of joy flashing across her white muzzle. 

After a few weeks, I felt the need to do something and tried to coax her back outside.  She wasn't interested, so I had to find another way to amuse myself.  Soon, we replaced the chattering squirrels in the trees with air conditioned comfort and the clicking of computer keys.  I began writing to keep my dog company.    Between chapters, I would reach over and rub her belly while I thought up plot twists.  She would regard me with an interested expression, and I'd read snippets of my stories to her.  Listening to the words in my own voice gave me a sense of the cadence of my writing. 

My dog was the one who listened to my first manuscript.  She watched as I stared into space trying to come up with the next line, ever my patient companion.  As she grew older, we spent more days writing (okay, I wrote and she slept) and when we went out for walks she was my excuse to get some distance from a scene which just wasn't working.  When we returned home, I was refreshed and able to concentrate again.  She was ready for another nap. 

It is because of my dog that I finished several outlines and developed a few stories that I have since published.  The garden we once tended together has long since filled in with weeds, but I have found a new fertile ground to cultivate - my imagination. 

When the inevitable happened, my manuscripts went untouched for months.  Writing had become something that we did together and I found my grief paralyzing.  What had been routine became impossible, but eventually the impossible became therapeutic.  Writing soothed my lonely hands and I published the novel I had written on the living room floor years earlier.  It became Elementary Magic.

Naturally, there is a dog in that story.  The mythical trickster spirit Coyote is my tribute to my writing partner because she was indeed, my partner in everything.  She inspired me to be a better person than I ever thought possible, taught me compassion, patience, and fortitude.  She planted the garden in my imagination.

Although she was blind (almost overnight, as sometimes happens to diabetic dogs) she seemed unaffected by her condition.  In fact, she would sit in front of the window as if she were looking out it, and I would open the door so she could look outside on sunny days and feel the warmth of the sun on her fur.  She taught me just because you can't see something, doesn't mean it isn't there.  I made concessions to her blindness, her medical conditions, and her needs.  She made me a better person and a writer.

Many years have passed since then, and I have a new writing companion now.  She loves spending the day stretched out on the couch listening to clacking of the keys on my keyboard.  She rises before dawn with me and takes up her post on the couch in my office while I work.  She has taught me to approach everything as an adventure, to slow down and take the time to chase the moths that flutter around the patio lights, to explore the overgrown garden, and to take breaks to throw a ball or a stuffed toy instead of getting frustrated when a scene simply won't come together.   She is also the inspiration for the character of Coyote because to her, everything is fun and needs to be done immediately. 

The speed and cadence of my writing has changed as a result of the switch in writing companions.  My new co-author has a short attention span and a persistent nature, so I must get my thoughts down quickly because I never know when she'll present me with a toy and an invitation to play.   We have formed a partnership of our very own, one different from that of my first co-author, but one which reflects our relationship and our personalities. 

She listens when I read things aloud.  Paws at me when I've become too absorbed or when I seem frustrated.  She distracts me or lets me work for long stretches of time, and she is always there to lend a supportive ear.  She also keeps the area beneath my desk free from random goldfish crackers and pretzels.

I always write with a dog around.  They keep me centered, provide me with just enough distraction, and give me a non-judgmental ear.  They also keep me from becoming too serious.  Writing should be fun, and there should always be short breaks to rub bellies, throw balls, or just plan the next plot twist.  It's a garden of a different sort, and I have a partner to help me tend it. 

About the author:

R. Leonia Shea
R. Leonia Shea is a writer with the heart of an artist - or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, she can usually be found at her computer or in her studio creating something while worrying that there's something else she should be doing.

Come to think of it, she's one of those people who seems to always be torn between two things like art and writing or the mountains and the sea. Maybe she simply believes you can do it all - as long as you have supportive people around you.

Her latest release is Legendary Magic: Relic Hunter Book 3

The Books:

Find all R. Leonia Shea's books on Amazon.

 Published October 2014
Buy On Amazon
Dr. Arienne Cerasola might have a suspicious mind, but that doesn’t mean something nasty isn’t being planned by two of her former acquaintances. They have banded together on an archaeological expedition in the United Kingdom, and that could spell trouble for the magical community. The magical apocalypse kind of trouble.

As a witch and disgraced archaeologist, Arienne shouldn’t be surprised when Kingston Pon asks her help to find a lost relic. After all, Kingston is one of the senior members of the United Coven and Alliance and Arienne is one of the few people who knows about his secret resistance activities with the Crux Crucio Orbis. When she learns her own Grandfather is involved in the C.C.O., Arienne’s more than a little angry that her family has been keeping secrets. Secrets about their involvement in the magical world. Secrets about Arienne’s legacy. Keeping secrets means creating lies and Arienne is determined to unravel the deception even if it means collapsing the foundation of her new life.

Caught between the clandestine world of the C.C.O., the dangers of the Alliance, and the treachery of a new magical organization Arienne must trace the grain of truth in the legends passed down from the ancient Celts, through the Roman Empire, and right into King Arthur’s court. Legends that were created to protect the truth and keep the relic from passing into the wrong hands.

The confines of loyalty and duty make it an even more complicated quest. She might be the only one who can balance the power without collapsing the foundations that hold magic in check but to accomplish that, she’ll have to face the truth about herself, her family, and her place a world she was never really part of.

Links:  Amazon   Amazon Author Page   Author Web   FaceBook
              Twitter  @RLeonia1    Smashwords     Goodreads

Martha Conway, Author of Thieving Forest, and Her Dog Nico

Nico, Martha's golden doodle
Meet author Martha Conway and Nico today on Writer With Dogs. This post is part of the author's book blog tour for Thieving Forest with WOW! Women On Writing. Link back to Martha's original interview on The Muffin and follow the tour, dates and stops listed below.

Nico and Mini Me

I still have dreams about Willie, my childhood dog, who went with me to deliver papers on my paper route and often got tips (usually bones) from my customers at Christmastime when I did.

Willie was a mutt; my current wonderful dog is a golden doodle named Nico, whom I think of as a mutt, too. Sometimes she looks more like a teddy bear with her overgrown curly fur (technically hair, I guess), which nearly covers her eyes. As a city dog, Nico isn’t allowed to run down the sidewalks without a leash, which is fine because I don’t deliver papers anymore. But like Willie, Nico is as kind and loyal a dog as you could want.

About three years ago when I broke my leg skiing, I had to lie on a couch for two full months, and then for two months after that I still used crutches and couldn’t drive. I was basically housebound for four months. Having Nico lying on the carpet next to my couch every day for sure saved my sanity. I rigged up my laptop and bought a lot of music and worked non-stop on my novel, feeling a little like Margaret Mitchell when she wrote Gone with the Wind. (Apparently she grew up with a collie dog named “Colonel” after Teddy Roosevelt.) 

There’s no better way to write lots of pages than to be forced to stay sitting for hours on end. However, during that time I couldn’t get up and do research, like go for walks in the swamps and woods of northern California (my novel takes place mostly in the wilderness). But in a way Nico was my research. My novel has lots of animals in it —wild animals, for the most part, and very unlike my lovably cowardly dog— but animals that I needed to think about and describe. I spent a lot of time watching Nico: how her nose quivered when she was trying to work something out by smell (her first line of questioning); how her ears lay back when she was looking at a bird out the window; the way her muzzle dripped after drinking water.
I think I may have even added a few more animals to my narrative because of her!
Both Nico and I were overjoyed when I was able to take her out for walks again. Nowadays she will wait pointedly at the front door if I let too much time go by before I take her on her morning walk.
However, broken leg or no, during the day Nico is still my “mostly companion,” as Eloise at the Plaza Hotel said of her nanny. I truly feel that my dogs, both Willie and Nico, have always taken care of me. Nico barks too much and she jumps up on people coming into the house, but I can live with that. She knows when to lie by my side and give me that needed sense of companionship, and she wags her tail whenever I enter the room, even if her back is to the door.


I wish I could do that.

About The Book:

On a humid day in June 1806, on the edge of Ohio's Great Black Swamp, seventeen-year-old Susanna Quiner watches from behind a maple tree as a band of Potawatomi Indians kidnaps her four older sisters from their cabin. With both her parents dead from Swamp Fever and all the other settlers out in their fields, Susanna makes the rash decision to pursue them herself. What follows is a young woman's quest to find her sisters, and the parallel story of her sisters' new lives.

The frontier wilderness that Susanna must cross in order to find her sisters is filled with dangers, but Susanna, armed with superstition and belief in her own good luck, sets out with a naive optimism. Over the next five months, she tans hides in a Moravian missionary village; escapes down a river with a young native girl; discovers an eccentric white woman raising chickens in the middle of the Great Black Swamp; suffers from snakebite and near starvation; steals elk meat from wolves; and becomes a servant in a Native American village. The vast Great Black Swamp near Toledo, Ohio, which was once nearly the size of Connecticut, proves a formidable enemy. But help comes from unlikely characters, both Native American and white.

Thieving Forest explores the transformation of all five sisters as they contend with starvation, slavery, betrayal, and love. Fast-paced, richly detailed, with a panoramic view of cultures and people, this is a story of a bygone place sure to enthrall and delight.

Meet The Author:
Martha Conway has taught fiction at UC Berkeley Extension and at Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio. She tweets ten-minute prompts and exercises every day on twitter (#10minprompt, #WritingExercise) via @marthamconway.

Martha’s first novel 12 Bliss Street was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, The Quarterly, Folio, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications.
She graduated from Vassar College and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, and The Iowa Review, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she now lives with her family in San Francisco.

See Martha's Blog Tour schedule below and links to her website, Amazon site, and social media.

Martha Conway Blog Tour Schedule (as of 9/4)
October 13 at The Muffin  http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/  interview and giveaway
Oct. 14 at Writer with Dogs http://writerwithdogs.blogspot.com/ guest post
Oct. 15 at All Things Audry http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com guest post
Oct. 16 at Book Talk www.barbarabarthbookblog.blogspot.com/ author showcase
Oct. 17 at Deal Sharing Aunt http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/ guest post and giveaway
Oct. 19 at Writer Unboxed www.writerunboxed.com guest post
Oct. 21 at Katherine Hajer http://www.katherine-hajer.com/ guest post
Oct. 22 at Caroline Clemmons http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com guest post
Oct. 23 at Renee’s Pages www.reneespages.blogspot.com guest post
Oct. 24 at A Writer’s Devotion http://www.awritersdevotion.blogspot.com/ interview
Oct. 27 at Katherine Hajer http://www.katherine-hajer.com/ review
Oct. 29 at Words by Webb http://jodiwebb.com interview and review
Nov. 3 at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com interview
Nov. 6 at Escaping Reality Within Pages http://escapingrealitywithinpages.blogspot.com/ guest post, review and giveaway
Nov. 11 at The Lit Ladies http://www.thelitladies.com/ interview
Nov. 12 at Kathleen Pooler http://krpooler.com/blog guest post, review and giveaway
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