Encountering the Black Dog

Tales of the Black Dog was Corrugated Sky’s first anthology.

When you tell someone that you’re a writer, the first thing they ask is what kind of things you write. The second question they ask is where you got your inspiration for a story or book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

When we decided to form our own publishing company we put our heads together and came up with some themes for anthologies. The black dog legend has a long history and surprisingly is found in cultures around the world. For my story I was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as well as traditional English ghost stories that I grew up reading. The atmosphere of a lonely country road, the local inn where the country folk harbor some dark secret, and being stranded or trapped in a place or situation that you can’t get out of are all part of the setting for these traditional stories, and they worked their way into mine.

During the summer when we were working on Tales of the Black Dog my husband and I went on a trip to Maine. We stopped at a coffee shop for a bite to eat and took our coffee and sandwiches outside, where there were tables and Adirondack chairs for guests to enjoy. I went back inside the shop for something, and when I came out there was a huge black dog sitting next to my chair as though it were patiently waiting for me to return. No kidding, this really happened!

My husband gave me one of those knowing looks, and I burst out laughing. I sat back down and for a few minutes the dog didn’t move from that spot. Yes, it was really weird, but despite reading old legends of black dogs being associated with death, I’d read other legends that said the black dogs were protector spirits, especially of women. I’m pretty sure it was a real dog, and that is was just a coincidence, but there’s always that small doubt … in any case, that particular black dog did a good job of protecting my chair and making sure no one else sat there until I got back!

And now we’re working on our third anthology, which is about zombies. I hope I don’t meet one of them!

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Thursday Writing Prompt No. 144

It’s time for another Thursday Writing Prompt. These prompts are as much about getting me moving on the keyboard as they are idea-starters for generating stories. It’s been raining heavily for the past few days and all I really want to do right now is curl up on the sofa and read a good novel. Problem is, though, that I’ve read through the ones I just bought and I have a full work day ahead. And I’m trying to convince myself that I really do need to go out at lunch for half and half. Coffee is one thing I will not do without!

We had new windows installed in a few rooms, which meant moving some furniture, which inevitably meant cleaning up dust bunnies and tossing a few odds and ends, mostly boxes and papers that were extinct months ago. So now I have it in mind to rearrange my office, but I need to do that without reinjuring my shoulder. Still, I’ve started culling books and magazines I won’t revisit, and trying to convince myself to give away some craft supplies for things I’ve tried and really don’t like to do — mostly, that’s anything related to sewing. I’m just not a seamstress. Sigh.

In the spirit of cleaning house, your writing prompt is to imagine that you have fallen in love with a tiny house. You know, one of those little homes, around 400 or 500 square feet. They’re often quirky, sometimes based on a theme, and generally have some ingenious solution ideas. Never mind whether you could really afford one of these little gems, or that you, your family, your dog, and your pony would fit into it — your task is to imagine an incredible tiny house and take your readers on a tour of the little home. Have fun!

And don’t blame me if you end up spending waaaaay too much time trawling the web looking at tiny home photos.

Trapped in the Traffic-o-sphere

I got up early this morning — a lot earlier than I normally get up on a Saturday, in fact. I had breakfasted and washed my hair and was out the door before 8 o’clock this morning, equipped with my DSLR and enough money to do some serious shopping at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

But I never got there.

From where I live it took maybe half an hour to reach the intersection of Routes 70 and 32, which are just north of the road that runs past the fairgrounds where the festival is held. It’s a huge event, and I think I’ve gone to the last three or so. But as I sat through the light six times to get off the I-70 exit ramp and onto Route 32 south, I got stuck in more traffic. It took half an hour to creep another quarter of a mile to get through the next traffic signal. And then nothing moved. Not. At. All.

I had a quarter mile to go for the intersection with the fairground road, and then maybe another mile to the grounds. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in the car for another hour — or more — to get that far, so I swung into the left lane and came home, where I am now parked in front of my keyboard, which is apparently where I spend my life. Unfortunately, jettisoning the opportunity to have a day outside has made me very angry and frustrated — and the feelings of being trapped are running high. That is my number one angst: being trapped. I’ve had some very bad times in my life and this latest frustration isn’t helping me. It’s like no matter what I do I get knocked down.

Well, I’m sitting here, at the keyboard, and at least I’m writing. I wish it was something fantastic I had to tell you — another great story, a second or third novel — but it’s just a blog post about life’s annoying issues. A few hours of slaying virtual monsters in Guild Wars 2, a glass of wine and a spaghetti dinner will likely set me straight, at least for another day or two. But that’s sometimes all we can do: get through the day and hope tomorrow isn’t as annoying.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 143

“Sienna City,” one of my digital paintings.

It’s been some time since I’ve had the energy to sit down and write a blog post. Work has been tremendously busy and at the end of the day I find myself just staring at the TV or playing Guild Wars 2 or Random Mahjong and telling myself that tomorrow I’ll do some writing. Since I work full time as a copy editor I pretty much read all day and that type of work is intense; editing requires that I make a lot of decisions (you might not believe the angst that hyphens can cause for editors) and by the time five o’clock rolls around I’m mentally spent. At that point I chuck any unused hyphens in the recycle bin and shut down my office connection.

So, last week I was avoiding writing my zombie short story for Corrugated Sky’s upcoming third anthology by looking at the digital tools over at Creative Market. I picked up a set of Photoshop brushes called Cityscape. I spent some time “doodling” until I came up with a nice composition, and then combined my newly minted city with effects from Topaz Studio to create “Sienna City.” Art and photography are cross training for writing, since they are all creative endeavors, right? I mean, at some point you have to do something other than write, or else what can you write about?

So, what’s a city without people? For this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt, you get to describe Sienna City and its population. In 350 words, write a travel guide entry for tourists that will compel them to pack their bags and head to town. Think about the kinds of things you want to know about a place before you visit, but mostly, think about what is so compelling about Sienna City that people want to go there. Are the restaurants world-famous? Is there a special landmark or museum? Is it a shopping destination? Or does the city hold some special festival each year that pulls in tourists by the busloads?