Dalmatians 101

It’s Fire Prevention month! Good timing with Jack O’Lanterns and Halloween right around the corner.

My picture book, The Cookie Eating Fire Dog, is chock-full of fire safety tips, one set for adults and one just for kids. But the question I’m asked most often is: Why Dalmatians? How did they end up with fire-fighters? Wait ’til you hear! I did a little research and learned all about this spotted four-legged wonder. Every fire house should have one.

Here’s why:

– In the days before fire trucks and engines, fire wagons were used that were pulled by horses. Guess who gets jittery and anxious when around a big fire? Besides you and me, that is. Horses. Fire-fighters were on the lookout for a way to keep the horse power calm. Guess who fit the bill? Dalmatians and horses get along splendidly! Plus, Dalmatians take their jobs seriously (when they’re not eating cookies). They’d race along the fire wagon, keeping the horses under control, and they’d chase away stray dogs that tried to run alongside or nip at the horses’ hooves. When the fire fighters jumped off the wagon and dashed to the fire, the Dalmatian would keep on keeping the horses happy, while standing guard to make sure no robbers showed up to steal valuable fire equipment.

– Now that we have fire engines, Dalmatians are still used in fire houses as watch dogs and because they’re expert at catching mice and rats. Yay!

– Guess who the first president was to have a Dalmatian? Benjamin Franklin was also a fan.

– Dalmatians can run for hours without getting tired. They like to swim, too, which made them the perfect WWII spy.

Our spotted friends were used to send secret messages across enemy lines. When the other side saw a funny looking, spotted dog running around, they’d laugh and pay no attention to what the Dalmatian was really doing.

Dalmatians are the only breed of dog with spots all over (including on their toenails, in their ears and mouths, too). They are stubborn, smart and athletic (when they’re not eating cookies, of course.) Is it any wonder why they made the perfect fire dog?

Me and My Heroine

My heroine, Corrie Locke, is a newly minted lawyer who works in a movie studio. That was me, once. What else do we have in common?

– We’re both Southern California natives and Angelenos;
– We can’t resist a tasty dessert. Every one of my teeth is a sweet tooth;
– Both attended UCLA;

– Corrie works at a movie studio that happens to be in the same spot as the studio where I once worked;
– I lived in Hermosa Beach on the same street Corrie lives;
– We had interesting bosses at the studio;
– We’ve driven BMW relics;
– Our mothers are dope in the kitchen;
– I do have a few sleuthing skills up my sleeves (minor compared to my heroine, but she has an advantage, thanks to her dad);
– We have both investigated petnappings;
– We both may or may not have been involved in an impromptu low speed car chase. That’s all I’m saying.

Unlike Corrie:

– I’m not the¬†daughter of a late great PI;
– I have no illegal weaponry, but I have one of the top five stun guns on the market. That must count for something;
– I was happily married during my entertainment attorney days;
– My legal assistant did not harbor a not so secret ambition to open a PI agency;
– No investigations of alien encounters or homicides for me, thank you very much;
– No dartboard in my living room;

As the series progresses, so do Corrie’s crime-cracking skills.

The action and situations Corrie experiences don’t even come close to my more humdrum encounters. There was a Hollywood movie legend that my studio division handled, but she wasn’t nearly as colorful as movie legend, Lacy Halloway, who appears in MURDER: DOUBLE OR NOTHING. But that’s where the idea came from.

Like Corrie, I watched a movie or two being filmed on the lot, but none where the fictional action scene turned real, thankfully, or I would’ve been scarred for life!
 

Writing Contests: Friend or Foe?

Writers seeking recognition, validation, or those with a competitive streak: you’ve probably heard plenty of opinions on writing contests, good and not so good. I’m going to throw my opinion in the ring since I’ve a few writing contests under my belt, so I know a little something. Maybe very little, but still.

Were the contests I entered worthwhile? Yep. That’s because I didn’t enter contests with large fees or that appeared illegitimate (per this site and this one).

I entered my first one when I was ten years old. I submitted a poem about horses to McCall’s magazine. And received a certificate of recognition. It felt pretty good.

Fast forward a few decades. I wanted to write a book, but didn’t know how, what, where or much of anything. But I stumbled across a writers’ contest sponsored by the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. The winner would attend the conference for free. I entered the first chapter of something festering in one of my drawers. I dusted and sent it off. And surprise! I won. That win changed everything. When I attended the conference as the winner, everyone seemed to think I could write. For the first time, I thought I might be able to pull it off.

Fast forward a year later. I had a nearly finished manuscript for a mystery novel. I entered another contest with no entry fee. The winner would win $500 to be used toward taking a writing course. To my great surprise, I won! It felt wonderful!

I’ve also entered contests with small fees, lost and received let-down feedback. One of the four judges gave me a very low score. She made it clear she didn’t like the writing (this was the same manuscript I’d used to win the scholarship). Two judges gave me okay scores and one thought the manuscript was perfect! I learned the importance of not focusing on negative feedback and that opinions are subjective.

Would I enter a contest again? Sure, if the price was right. Contests can be confidence boosters, learning experiences and notches in our belts…if we choose carefully and not take any feedback too personally.