A New Family Member: An official introduction

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As many of you know, we lost Buddy, a dear four-legged and furry member of our family back in September 2020. By December, we were feeling the pull to adopt another dog. After three months of mourning had passed, I wouldn’t say we were healed; we were just open to expanding our hearts again. After some searching and conversations with our kids, Jonathan and I reached out to Needy Paws Animal Shelter in Clarksville, Arkansas. It was there we became interested in a young adult Kelpie mix named Roscoe, whom we adopted on December 30. I mentioned him in my first post of 2021, but here’s some more information about him.

Family with two dogs

Adopting Roscoe

It was love at first meeting for all of us with this young pupper…well almost all of us. Peanut wasn’t impressed during that first meeting, but we knew he’d come around at some point. We listened to the shelter on the 3, 3, 3 rule. Three days for the dog to decompress, three weeks to develop a routine, and three months to finally feel at home.

Roscoe is the sweetest dog. He’s probably the most affectionate dog I’ve ever had. After a couple of hours, the human members of our family had fallen in love with him. It took two weeks for the fur brothers to get along, but not for lack of trying on Roscoe’s part. Peanut was just a little bit persnickety at times (he can’t help it that he’s a Chiweenie), but eventually he realized that having a bodyguard/playmate was a good thing. There are still some sibling squabbles on occasion, but the boys love each other and snuggle up together now. And boy, do they love to play.

Two dogs grooming themselves

Roscoe and Peanut

Tomorrow is the three-month mark since Roscoe joined our family, and I think he already feels at home. We had a couple of minor hiccups during the first few days with potty training, but we conquered that really quickly with positive reinforcement and treats. The fact that it was pouring rain for the first few days Roscoe was here probably contributed to that. Now, Roscoe’s a pro at going outside through the dog door to take care of his business or just to play or bark at something.

 

 

Dog lying on sofa

Roscoe’s perch

Now that he feels at home, he no longer gulps his food too fast. With some trial and error after consulting with our vet, we have Roscoe on a feeding schedule with a slow feeder that helps with his previous tummy trouble. He’s a champ at taking his monthly heartworm preventive medication, he loves cookies (that’s what we call his dog biscuits), and we’re working on leash training and liking (or at least tolerating) bathing and nail clipping. He’s a good sleeper most of the time alternating between his blanket on the couch in the living room and his dog bed that’s on the floor beside my bed. He’s an expert snuggler, an audible passer of gas, and the funniest big guy. While Roscoe was never intended to replace our dear Buddy, he has definitely helped us heal from our grief, and I look forward to spending many years with him.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

Self-editing a Story: What it Takes

Woman typing on laptop
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Independent publishing takes perseverance, time, guts, and high self-esteem. It also takes money if you need to hire people for services such as book file setup, cover creation, and editing.

I’m fortunate that I work as a professional editor in my day job and that I have graphic design experience. Because of these skills, I am better equipped than some indie authors when it comes to setting up my own book files and creating my own covers.

Editing is a HUGE step in publishing a novel. Reader reviews can be brutal, and nothing spells amateur quite like publishing a book full of grammatical errors and typos. Of course, no one is perfect. Even major publications will have typos. It’s just inevitable. Thankfully, there are tools and strategies to help. These are a few things I’ve learned.
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2020 in Books and Other Worldly Things

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I set a goal to read 125 books for the year 2020, which was 25 fewer books than the number I finished in 2019. I went lower because I knew I’d be finishing my fourth novel in 2020. Little did I know that a pandemic would hit the world a mere two months later and that the year would be the strangest on record for me.

While I didn’t meet my reading goal, I did manage to finish 116 books, which is great.  If you’re interested in seeing my reviews of these novels and the others I’ve read in the past, you can check out my Goodreads page here. Here are my top 15 books for the year, all of which I rated at five stars for different reasons for each of these amazing works.

  1. The Stand by Stephen King.
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
  3. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds.
  4. The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts.
  5. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.
  6. It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne.
  7. Bloodline by Jess Lourey.
  8. The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos.
  9. Find Layla by Meg Elison.
  10. Anything Once by Meka James.
  11. A Whisper of Smoke by Angela Hoke.
  12. White Out by Danielle Girard.
  13. Raising Boys to Be Good Men: A Parent’s Guide to Bringing up Happy Sons in a World Filled with Toxic Masculinity by Aaron Gouveia.
  14. This Won’t End Well by Camile Pagán.
  15. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.

Also, in 2020, COVID-19 hit the world hard. It started slowly and then grew exponentially, just as the experts predicted. On March 17, 2020, my children’s schools went virtual, and so did my employer, luckily. All I can say is that I did my best to help them with schoolwork while keeping up with my own work and sometimes my sanity. Continue reading