A Dog Vacation (It’s Mud Season)

While the trailer was getting ready, my mom and I went skiing. Why does the best snow always happen when we are packing?

Sandra Neily : Raven’s vaca post is all ready to share.  She (my dog) is partial mostly to pictures. Below, I comment on “Middlemarch,” C.J. Box and hot moments, and confess an edit. 

Raven here:


Please fix it so we get there.

                           When something breaks, duck under the picnic table.


  At McCoy’s Ferry I get the great AM walk; they get the afternoon off.

   I think KOA must mean Kinda Outrageous Airstreamers. But mom choses places for off-leash walks when we have to do one-night-quick-lets-get-out-of-here stops. Thx, Mom.






They say it’s cozy inside. Oh sure. Stuff gets dropped on me. They use carrot bits to move me around so they can use the bathroom. That’s OK; I like carrots.

I love my Asheville dog cousins and all their toys. I love Aunt Joy. She loves me, too.

We had trips to streams in the Smokies and mountains. Mum likes to lie on rocks if there’s no trout biting. I do too. Bob almost never gives up.

The way home was not as much fun (except for Kit and his beg-from-all-campsites dog, Dirk O’Daring. They got invited to Maine.) Bob loved the Waffle House; carrots are better.

Someone left fresh tracks in the mud (Yup, still mud) outside my front door.    I rolled in snow. I hauled out moose antlers mom piled under the feeder, chewed on bony ends, and listened for hiding chipmunks. Home was really good. When I am with my family, I’m happy and we’re happy together.

(ps: moose. it was a moose)

Sandy’s back:  I did use a bit of brain.

On the road, I did some editing of my last chapter for mystery #3.  (Patton is talking to her daughter Kate.)

I held the hug and then broke away. “Not up for a party, Kate.”

“No. Think of big night as starting with capital letters—like a special event. The Big Night. I’m home on a school Citizen Science project.

My first unedited version: “For credit, I’m to accomplish something real that helps forest health. I’m organizing local volunteers to help salamanders, frogs, and anything slithery that needs to cross the road to make it to a breeding pond. Happens on the first, warm, rainy night, and my weather ap says it’s coming soon.” She squeezed me again. “Your kind of party, Mum—helping animals do what they need to do. Real vernal pool stuff, not just your maps.”

My edited version; characters better defined and different.  “I’ve got to do something that actually makes a difference. We’re going to help amphibians cross roads so they get down to the pools.” She danced a few steps, undulating her pelvis. “Amphibian sex, Mum. In the rain. What could be better?”

Well, how often does a parent get to agree with her college-aged child? She’d slipped into the woods, her pack bouncing behind her ponytail, but I answered her anyway. “Right. What could be better? Animals that might need help. Warm rain. The next generation eager to bring vernal pools to life. “Even…” I sighed, “amphibian sex.” I whistled for Pock who’d followed them down the trail.

What Else? Bob and I listened to a C.J. Box murder mystery where I was reminded of this writing lesson: if a scene is hot, slow it way, way down. (Tree splinters powder hair a different color after a bullet’s narrow miss.)

If a scene is not hot, speed it up or cut it.

I tried to reread “Middlemarch” and failed miserably. I know the novel is a masterpiece, but I lost the plot during the decades-long sentences. I did, however, appreciate the flashes of George Eliot’s  brilliance. Often, a character’s wisdom just smacks me: “But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.”


I plan to get my own copy of “Middlemarch” so I can highlight moments that smack me and slowly savor a few pages at a time. Write notes in the margins.  Maybe we will have an author-to-author conversation. (Maybe I’ll be a third through by 2024 NC trip. The redbud and dogwood will be like fairy blossoms hanging in woods just starting to get green. Back home, moose will think it’s a good time to eat all the birdseed that got spilled on the snow.)

Sandy’s debut novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” was published in 2021. Her third “Deadly” is due out in 2023. Find her novels at all Shermans Books (Maine) and on Amazon. Find more info on Sandy’s website.

About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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2 Responses to A Dog Vacation (It’s Mud Season)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dogs make excellent narrators, don’t they? Maybe you could read Middlemarch to the dog? If you want zingers without the slog, try Laurie Colwin.


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