In loving memory . . .

IMG_1639 On June 10, 2015 Bear “Puppy Chow” Haley passed away peacefully, surrounded by people she loved. She was twelve-years-old in human years, but around ninety in dog years.

Bear was born on July 1, 2002 in Flora Vista, New Mexico to a Blue Heeler and a Beagle. Her parents were unable to take care of a litter of five puppies, so Bear and her siblings were put up for adoption when they were two months old.

Though her first three siblings quickly found homes, the days came and went, and Bear still waited. That’s when Jason and Laura Haley came into her life, welcoming her into the family she would be part of for the remainder of her nearly thirteen years on this earth.

Bear developed an early taste for fashion, with a particular affinity for Laura’s shoes. She also loved the written word, once attempting to devour a hardback copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE in a single day.

Though she never graduated from obedience school (despite her parents’ regular threats to send her there), Bear knew every trick in the book. Except stay. And heel. Oh, and she wasn’t very good at drop it. And she only came when wanted to. Other than that, she quickly learned shake, roll over, play dead, and speak. She could also count to ten. She loved food, walks, food, playing fetch, food, her people and mostly food. She hated fireworks and swimming. And cats.

As she got older, Bear settled into a routine with her family. She loved to hike and camp, and her family always slept better knowing Bear was on guard. She enjoyed the company of other dogs, as long as they went home when she was done playing.

Bear eventually welcomed several siblings into her home: two human children named Vince and Shelby who she loved dearly. She was less welcoming of her canine sibling Kona, and her feline sibling, Sprocket. In fact, she probably would have eaten them given the opportunity.

For most of her life, Bear held down several careers, including, but not limited to guard dog, river dog, obnoxious dog panting and whining in the back seat because she hated car rides, cat and rabbit chaser, lizard de-tailer, and eater of all things, even broccoli, but especially New York strip steaks that were left on the floor by unexpecting grandparents.

During her last few years, after a leg injury received while bravely defending her backyard from the yappy dog on the other side of the privacy fence, she slowed down, taking up residence mostly as a doormat, and an obstacle to trip over in the kitchen. She remained an eater of all things until her final days.

After a brief illness, compounded with severe arthritis, Bear’s family made the painful decision to let her go. Her last few days of life were full of laughter, love and plenty of tears. In fitting style, Bear’s final meal consisted of ice cream and waffles.

Bear is survived by her human parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings, as well as Kona and Sprocket. She was preceded in death by dozens of squeaky toys, countless plastic bottles, several pairs of shoes, and a couch that she swore had a squeaker buried somewhere deep within its stuffing.

Bear will be greatly missed by all who knew her. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your local animal shelter. Or better yet, go take a dog for a walk.

We love you Bear. And you will never be far from our thoughts.

Knowing When to Say Good-bye

I’ve often heard that the hardest part of having a pet is saying good-bye. Dogs and cats become part of our families. Part of our lives. Yet they have tragically short life spans, and all too often, we are forced to say good-bye to those animals that have worked their way into the deepest, softest parts of our hearts.

And while saying good-bye is awful, in some ways, knowing when it’s time to say it, having to make that decision, can be much, much more difficult.

My husband and I got Bear when she was only eleven weeks old. We had both had dogs while growing up, but she was the first dog to join us in our new lives as a family. After receiving word from our landlord that we were cleared to have a dog, we both played hookie from our college classes and set out to find the perfect dog for us.

We spent the entire day on the hunt, visiting multiple animal shelters. We were about to give up when we came across an ad for Beagle/Blue Heeler mix puppies. My husband had his mind set on a beagle, so we called the number in the ad. The puppies were nearly fifty miles away, in a town we’d already visited once that day. But we jumped back into the car and made the drive anyway. An hour later, we were dog owners.

Bear's first night home

As young — and admittedly naive — college students, we made our share of mistakes when it came to raising a puppy. She chewed up more than one pen, leaving the carpets of our rented apartment spotted with black and neon pink. She chewed up several pairs of shoes. Always mine, and always only one from each pair. And on what was probably her worst day, she chewed up a newly released, hardback copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE.

But despite the hiccups, Bear grew into an amazing dog. She loved to play fetch and go hiking. She learned tricks as quickly as we could teach them. And when we brought our firstborn son into our home, she watched over him, made him laugh, and cleaned up his messes.

It’s been twelve years since Bear came into our lives, and sadly, the time is coming when she will have to leave us. As we get closer to her thirteenth birthday, her arthritis gets worse and worse. We’ve known for some time that her days are numbered, but it’s a hard decision to make.

Last summer, Bear tore her ACL. She was never quite the same. Her hips have gotten weak, and she falls down frequently. But she is otherwise healthy and there are days where I still see a flash of the puppy she used to be. Days like this morning, when she rolled onto her side, and playfully tried to grab my hand as I brushed her. While I don’t want her to suffer, I also don’t want to take her from this world before she is ready to go.

I’ve spent a lot of days and nights lying awake, and I’ve already shed gallons of tears in anticipation of losing Bear. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m crying now as I write this, while she sleeps peacefully at my feet. All I can hope is that when that day comes, when she reaches the point that it’s harder to be here with us than to be without us, we will recognize it for what it is. And we will be strong enough to let her go.

Bear and our new puppy Kona

Eyes on the Prize

When I first started mountain biking, a friend of mine went out with me to help me learn the basics. The most important piece of advice he gave me was simple: “Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.” Easy enough, right? With every swoop and turn, I felt a little more confident. I rode over ledges (a whopping four inches tall) that I wouldn’t have thought I could ride. I was feeling pretty damn good. (We’ll ignore the fact that the trail we were on was equivalent to a two-lane highway as far as mountain bikes are concerned.) We were almost to the end of the trail, and I was really getting in the groove. We came to a spot in the trail that dropped down into a creek bed before climbing up the other side. My friend went first, telling me he’d wait at the top.

I dropped into the wash. And then I saw it. A big rock on the side of the trail. It shouldn’t have been a problem. It was well out of the middle of the trail. But I couldn’t stop staring at it. “That’s a big rock,” I thought. “I don’t want to hit that.” Next thing I knew . . . BAM! I’d hit the rock and crashed in the bottom of the ravine. Luckily the crash was relatively minor, and I had to laugh. If I had kept my eyes on the trail, I probably would have been fine.

While riding my bike today, I realized that this advice applies to more than just mountain biking. Last month, I submitted my work into a pitch contest. The results came out last night, and suffice to say, I didn’t make the cut. Am I disappointed? Definitely. The people involved in the contest all seem awesome, and I would have loved a chance to work with them more closely. But at the same time, I can’t keep staring at the rejection like I stared at that rock.

If you get on a mountain bike, you’re bound to crash. If you decide to put your work out there, rejection is bound to happen. And like crashes, rejection can hurt. But you can’t concentrate on the obstacle, because you’ll never make it where you’re going if you do. Keep your eye on your end goal, whether it be in school, in writing, or just life in general. And whatever you do, keep an eye out for that rock!!!

Why I write (and other things): My PitchWars mentee bio

Okay. So it’s do or die time. I think I’ve rewritten this blog post almost as many times as I’ve rewritten my query letter. It’s time to suck it up and post it.

I took the plunge and submitted my current manuscript to PitchWars this year. And, to be honest, I submitted largely because all of the people involved seem so awesome, and I want to get to know them better. So here’s a little bit about me.

I grew up in a tiny tourist town in Colorado. I wish I still lived there. Instead, I now live in a tiny tourist town in Utah. I grew up reading books and raising all different types of farm animals: sheep, goats, rabbits, horses and the occasional llama.

I wrote my first novel in middle school. I credit it with surviving that period of pre-teen angst. During seventh grade science, instead of listening to the teacher, I sat in the back of the class writing a story about my adult life operating a horse ranch with my best friend. We even raised a Kentucky Derby winner. The story enabled me to see past the bullying and failed friendships. It showed me a future that was only possible if I pushed through and survived. So I did. I didn’t go on to raise horses, but I am raising two pretty awesome kids.

I never really planned on pursuing writing. In fact, in high school, even though I did well in English, it was one of my least favorite classes. It wasn’t until college that I decided to abandon my dream of professional trumpet playing (just one of my not very realistic career choices, including country music singer) and pursue a degree in creative writing.

I am now a stay-at-home mom, and a freelance writer doing regular work for the local newspaper. I have written six novel-length stories, though many of them are doomed to the obscurity of my computer’s hard drive.

So why pick me? Well, I can sing my alphabet backwards (a trick I taught myself after hearing that cops made you do it for sobriety tests), and I can ride a unicycle. Not very far, but I can do it!

I’m also a hard worker, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get this manuscript whipped into shape so that it’s presentable to the world.

So there you have it. That’s me in a nutshell. I just hope you aren’t allergic to nuts.

Oh, and if you’re interested in checking out some of the other awesome authors that I’m up against, you can find more bios here: http://dcmorin.blogspot.com/2014/08/2014-pitchwars-contestant-hop-now-its.html

Need to get away?

Sometimes in life, we need to escape. Hit CTRL, ALT, DEL. Reboot. Whatever. But that’s not always easy. Life can make it difficult to hide from all of its problems, so we find our own ways to escape within the confines of daily life. Some people use music. Others turn to drugs and alcohol. Me? I write.

When I sat down to write my first novel-length piece, I had no intentions of writing a novel. It was just a story. A story about my future. A story that gave me hope. I was in middle school, and I was miserable. Now, to be fair, middle school is a rough time for most kids. Changing hormones, acne, trying to fit in . . . I don’t know a single person who wishes they could go back.

Middle school was extremely rough for me. I was bullied routinely. Because I cut my hair short. Because I listened to country music. Because I preferred soccer over makeup. It was non-stop noise, constantly buzzing in my ears, making me question everything about who I was, and who I was going to be. Add to that a healthy dose of family drama and a falling out with my best friend, and some days I was pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

Then I started to write Rosewater Creek. It was silly, really. A story about my life on a ranch on a horse ranch in Texas. All of my friends played lead roles. I had a jockey who eventually quit to take a job riding wildebeests, a sassy stablehand who was always yelling at me, and even a trashcan prophet.

Though the story was awful and will never see the light of day, it was not a waste of time. I didn’t write Rosewater Creek dreaming of fame and fortune (though I did ask a famous country singer to come star in the film adaptation my friends and I had planned. I’m still waiting to hear back on that request. I’m sure he’s just busy.) I wrote Rosewater Creek to remind myself that life could get better. That middle school wouldn’t last forever.

I don’t live in Texas. I don’t even own a horse. And I certainly didn’t raise a Kentucky Derby winner. My life isn’t anything like I pictured it to be during those bleak days, but that’s okay. Because by picturing that life . . . by writing it down, I gave myself hope. Enough hope to struggle through the daily grind that was middle school. And I came out the other side. A little bruised and battered, and definitely a different person than I was going in. But I made it.

Rosewater Creek isn’t my only novel that is destined to never see the bright lights of publication. I’ve written several novel-length pieces that are likely to reside in obscurity, but they’ve all served a purpose. One helped me realize that I wanted to pursue the dream of being a writer. Another helped me handle the ups and downs of an unexpected pregnancy. And every single word I wrote brought me closer to a reality where I can call myself a writer.

When you write, there will be naysayers. People who think you are wasting your time. And chances are, in their opinion, you will waste a lot of it. But you know what? It’s not a waste. Because if you’re anything like me, even if you never achieve your dream of being traditionally published, you love writing. And doing something you love can never be a waste of time.

Pitcharama

Title: PLAN B

Author: Laura Haley

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 80,000

A mid-summer party, the perfect red sundress, and the attention of a college football hottie. Eighteen-year-old Sadie Howell has all the ingredients for a truly memorable night. But when she wakes up in a strange bed the next morning, she can’t remember most of it. Forced to put the pieces together, Sadie realizes that football demigod Derek Owens drugged and raped her. His pseudo-celebrity status is just one of the reasons Sadie decides not to tell anyone. Instead, she tries to pretend like nothing happened. Three weeks later, a positive pregnancy test makes her reconsider, and she reports the incident to the police. As word of her accusations spreads, the town that she grew up in turns their backs on her. Officer Sean Prescott soon becomes one of her only allies, and the two quickly become friends. Sadie is faced with criticism, harassment and all of the aches and pains that go along with a pregnancy she never asked for. When Derek decides to pursue custody of the baby conceived that night, Sadie is forced to ask herself how much she’s willing to risk to protect a baby she doesn’t even want.

Victory!

I did it. I have won the epic battle. It’s taken me seven years, more hours than I am willing to admit, and literal blood sweat and tears, but I finally accomplished a feat I once thought was impossible. A feat that an estimated less than one percent of the US population can lay claim to. I have slaved. I have toiled. And I have triumphed. I am unicyclist. Hear me roar.

Wait! You’re probably asking yourself if you read that right. Well, you did. I can finally say, without an ounce of trepidation, that I can ride a unicycle. Now to some of you, that may not be as exciting as say . . . getting a publishing contract. And maybe it’s not. But there is a lesson to be learned, and it’s all about perseverance.

I started falling off the unicycle around seven years ago when my husband got it into his head that he was going to learn to ride one. (I’m still not entirely sure of the thought process there.) He ordered one, and promptly left a grey streak of rubber across the living room carpet as he wobbled his way through our house (because naturally he decided to learn this skill in the winter.) It wasn’t long before we were making excursions to the park. He was riding further and further every day. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted me to learn with him.

So I indulged him. I grabbed a stepladder and started falling off the unicycle. Repeatedly. Again. And again. And again. And eventually I started to make some progress. But before long, life got in the way. Or I lost motivation. Either way, I quit trying.

That became a constant cycle over the next seven years. I would decide I wanted to try again. I’d work at it for an hour. I would make progress. Then it would get put away, and I wouldn’t try again for another six months. Or a year.

This year, the Moab Munifest (mountain unicycle festival) returned to Moab after a five year hiatus. My husband was thrilled and eagerly signed up to go ride some trails. I took their return as a sign that I finally needed to get my ass in the saddle (literally) and make it happen. So I did. I spent night after night outside, falling off the unicycle. Making progress and falling off again. And you know what? All that hard work paid off. I’m not a great rider. I still fall off more times than I don’t. And I can’t ride more than a couple hundred yards before my legs get tired, and I need a break. But I can ride a unicycle dammit! And that’s more than a lot of people can say.

Now what does this have to do with writing? You probably already figured it out, but I’m going to indulge myself and spell it out for you anyway. When you’re a writer, you’re going to fall. A lot. And there are going to be times where you’re going to walk away from it all because you’re tired of it. That’s okay. If you need a break, take it. But keep coming back. Keep fighting. When you fall off, dust yourself off and climb back on. You may not get it this time. Hell, you may not get it the next sixty-two times. But if you keep trying, eventually you will make it. 

Or you can give up writing, and learn to ride a unicycle with me.