Wednesday, May 28, 2014


It's been too long since I've been here. Winter, as long and hard as it was, has definitely turned to spring, deadlines have come, more deadlines are coming, and I had to deal with some technical glitches with this blog, not being especially proficient at such things, so was actually unable to post for many weeks. I know, lame, right? "The dog ate my homework" lame! But true. I'm glad to be back in business, so to speak. So some things have been happening here in writing land, even though I haven't been by to tell you about them. Chocolate is well on its way to being a book next spring. Houghton Mifflin's amazing design team is creating what I think (from the few advance peeks I've had) will be a thing of beauty, and copy is being composed even now for the catalog and the ARCs. I'm excited, and can't wait to see how it all shapes up.

At the same time, writing two big books like this in close succession has been keeping me very, very busy. I'm writing, writing, writing my first draft of The Dog in the Cave, and I wish I could say it's going quickly. What I can say is that the stuff I'm writing about is amazing, especially for all the dog people out there (and we know who we are). But really, for almost anyone interested in people, animals, science, and history, which probably covers most of the rest of us.

I love writing books, but one thing I don't love about it is the many hours of sitting it tends to require. Technology has made it so much easier to research and interview without physical travel, at least some of the time. But the sitting, that whole requirement to apply butt to chair in order to research and write, gets to me more and more. That's one reason among many why I'm so grateful that I have dogs, and my awesome horse, because all of them require me to get up and move on a regular basis. But last year I also added another strategy to combat chair-butt: I installed a treadmill desk in my office! Do I totally love it? Yeah, pretty much. I walk most every morning, while I work, and it's great. However, as you can see from the photo above, there are occasional glitches there, too.

That's Saada, my muse (especially for this book), and the larger half of my office management team. The smaller half is here:
  Working hard, as always. Obviously a deep thinker, and so sweet.

Saada is a real love, too, and she loves to be close. Very close. It's great inspiration when I'm writing about how the long, long bond between humans and dogs began, and how it's changed us all, dogs and humans. But having an 85-pound hound turn your very cool treadmill into yet another dog bed is slightly inconvenient, even when she gives you the googly eye of guilt to remind you that you've been inside far too long. Walking comes to a screeching halt, and sometimes work does too. Then it's time for a reboot, or maybe a walk in the fields or a splash in the stream, which has become Saada's favorite summer activity. Then it's time for yet another hosing off, before work can resume in the office. It's a slower way to write a book, but I guess it's my way. Hoping to pick up the pace, though. My editor might not take "my dog commandeered my desk and prevented me from writing" as an excuse for missing my next deadline.

I'm hoping to check in a little more frequently now, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Is it STILL winter? Really??

Well, I see from the date of my last post that it's been quite a long time since I had anything to say here! Or more precisely, time to say it. It's been a very, very long winter in many parts of the country, including here in south central Pennsylvania; between shoveling snow, chipping ice, keeping up with my various critters and finishing revisions and photo research for my next book, this little corner has gotten short shrift. Sorry! As an example, here's what the view outside my office looked like one morning not long ago:
I can't remember if this was before or after the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad ice storm that knocked out not only our electricity, but that of many of my friends and neighbors for up to 4 days at a time when overnight temperatures were in the single digits, while at the same time making our farm look as if a tornado had passed through, with branches and whole trees down everywhere, fences knocked to the ground, and shiny icicles on all the trees that would have been a lot prettier if they hadn't been so destructive. I'm not making excuses, but . . . yeah, I'm making excuses. Anyway, the good news is that Winter Storm #Who-Knows-What? that was supposed to bring us another layer of ice and then a big dump of snow on top of that today kind of fizzled. Yeah, it's still all white and mighty cold outside, but this storm (which one national weather prognosticator is dubbing Winter Storm Titan!) fortunately failed to live up to its billing. We still have a lot of cleaning up to do one of these days, when spring finally shows up and we can actually get to the piles of branches and toppled trees, but the days are getting longer! Another week, and we get back on Daylight Saving Time, giving another hour of precious light at the end of the day.Yay!

In the meantime, I wanted to share this really cool poster that my friend Laurel Ross sent me. Laurel lives in Chicago and is a dedicated Tai chi practitioner, among many other things. Her Tai chi school held a fundraiser to celebrate the Chinese New Year recently, and because it is now the Year of the Horse, they donated the more than $1,500 they raised to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota. 
I think that is awesome! If anyone else wants to celebrate the Year of the Horse the same way, there are a lot of wonderful groups out there working to provide both sanctuary and solutions to the perceived problem of wild horse population densities. (Laurel mentioned that making a similar donation last year, the Year of the Snake, was a harder sell to her group. I would have liked to see THAT poster!)

Finally, an update on my coming books. CHOCOLATE is almost finished (copy edits on their way to me now) and ready to move on to Houghton Mifflin's talented designers. I can't wait to see what they come up with. Here's a teaser, a view of the Amazon rainforest of Peru (where cacao trees, from which we get chocolate, grow) that I bet you've never seen before (huge thanks to both Laurel Ross and Alvaro del Campo here):
I'm deep into research for the next book, on a subject even more near and dear to my heart than chocolate: dogs! I'm happy to report that our new pup, Saada (see my post from December) has settled right in and loves the snow. Unlike some of us, she's not a bit tired of it! How dogs got to be dogs, and walked right into our lives and hearts, is going to be a really fun story to track down and tell. Stay tuned, as I'm sure I'll have lots more to say on this over the coming weeks!