Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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‘What’s in a Name’? Author Ricky Dean Wyrick Shares From the Heart

When we offer an author a guest post, most submit something about how or why they wrote their book. Or what they’d like readers to take away from their work. When we reached out to Bag of Lies author Ricky Dean Wyrick, however, he responded with something different. Something… unique. Something we didn’t expect.

This may be the most thoughtful, eloquent guest post we’ve ever received. Read on for more:

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What’s in a name? Given at an early age, it’s more than who we are. It’s who we will become. Our names outlive us in the memories of those that love and care for us. We name our children, our pets, the songs we sing, and the books we read. Even fictional characters are given names.

Over the years I’ve used various versions of my given name, Richard, Rik, or Ricky. Each one uniquely identifies me, yet conveys a very different feeling. One casual, one formal, one somewhere in between, choosing my professional pen name was not something I took lightly. I wanted something people would remember, something that rolled off the tongue. 

Parents often struggle choosing the perfect name for their children. They select names from friends or family who hold a special place in their heart and pass that name onto their kids. Authors can identify with this challenge as they are faced with naming each of their characters in a work of fiction.

As I wrote my first novel, Bag of Lies, I randomly pulled names wherever I could find them.  The hero, the villain, the soldier, the spy… They each got a name that suited them.  But one of my characters, a minor role at best, was renamed just before the book was published.

Major Tickner’s small stout bulldog originally had a different name. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. I just decided last minute that I wanted a certain name in the book, a name that held a very special place in my heart.

I remember sitting in an empty parking lot, almost ten years ago, holding the miniature piebald dachshund in my lap. She was wiggly and cute like most puppies anxious to explore the world around her. We had originally picked her out for one of my wife’s coworkers, so they named her and took her home. They picked out the silliest name, or at least I thought so at the time. Why would you name a dog after a type of cheese?

I would never have dreamed that the puppy would be returned to us a year later, but she was. I thought for sure we would find her another home, so I tried to not get too attached. But it didn’t take her long to wiggle her way into our family. She unexpectedly found her place in my heart.  

The year 2020 was a difficult year for us all. The world changed, and many of us experienced loss in one way or another. The world kept spinning but it left emptiness in our lives. For some the repercussions were minor, for others they were great.

It’s been a year now, since we lost our little Colby. We still don’t know exactly what happened. She just suddenly got sick and the vet couldn’t tell us why. We said our goodbyes May 4, 2020. She wasn’t the small stout bulldog described in my book, but she was a sweet dog and very precious to me. I miss her.

Sweet girl.

It’s so easy to get caught up in daily routines and long term goals. If we aren’t careful ambition can rob us of something we don’t even treasure until it’s gone.

Now, I’m not saying that your career goals and ambitions aren’t important; that your to-do list doesn’t need to get done. But the relationships of the ones around you should take precedence. The ones around us that make our world a better place may not always be there, so take every opportunity to wrap your arms around them. Let them know how much you love and appreciate them. Take the time out of your busy world to stop and enjoy the time you have with that friend or loved one. I promise you, there is no better way for you to spend your time than investing in the relationships around you.

My name is Ricky Dean Wyrick, and thank you for lending me your ear. For all who’ve lost loved ones and had their world shaken, I pray that God comforts and gives each of you peace. And should you find time to open my novel and enjoy an adventure, I hope that Tickner’s stout bulldog, Colby, brings warmth and a smile as you remember the good times and treasure the memories shared by those you love.

Ricky Dean Wryrick, Author of ‘Bag of Lies.’

To learn more about my latest novel and read my free novelette visit rickydeanwyrick.com

See our review of Bag of Lies here.


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6 Adventure-ish Titles For Great Outdoors Month

June is Great Outdoors Month. I love this month because… well… um… I love June because Mom loves June. And I love everything Mom loves. (Except broccoli. Gag me with roughage!)

Back to June. Check it out: Hiking! Frisbee tossing! Swimming! Canoeing! Frisbee chasing! Kayaking! Fishing! Frisbee-ing! Picnicking! Biking! Frisbees! The beach, the mountains, the desert, the plains!

Did I mention Frisbees?

Anyway, when it comes to books about The Great OutdoorsGary Paulsen titles top our list. Every time.

Mom says Paulsen’s a three-time Newberry Award-wining author. I have no idea what that means. Can you eat it?

More importantly, Paulsen is a super duper dog lover. Told you he’s brilliant.

Paulsen’s writing style is spare and lean to the point of terse. No excess fat. Brisk as an autumn breeze. Quick as a greyhound. Or me.

Reading any of the Paulsen books below would be a great way to celebrate Great Outdoors Month. You still have time to knock out a couple or more this month.

Some of our favorites:

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GUEST POST: Author Raena Rood Talks Writing & “What Ifs?”

Today we’re chatting with Raena Rood, author of the Subversives trilogy. (Read our review of her latest book, Sanctuary, here.) Take it away Raena:

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Hi Kimber and Mom! Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post on your blog. This is the first time I’ve been asked to do a guest post and I’m very excited. 

A Few Quicks

A few quick things about me:

  • I’m a wife and mom of three boys.
  • I attended college at Penn State University.
  • Upon graduation, I commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. I moved to Ft. Rucker, Alabama and trained as a helicopter pilot.
  • After the Army, I moved home to Pennsylvania with my husband and worked as a probation officer for five years.
  • I actually wrote a novel in between appointments with my probation clients!

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‘Only My Horses Know’ Rides Tall

Only My Horses Know

By Cinda Jo Bauman

Middle Grade Fiction

Setting: Montana horse ranch and vicinity

Kylie Hannigan is being held prisoner by a secret. It’s a secret she only shares with her horses.

Once upon a time, the twelve year-old and her horse trainer mom dreamed of starting a rescue horse ranch. But that dream has gone up in smoke as Mom’s behavior has become so erratic, Kylie barely recognizes her. She doesn’t understand why her mom’s acting so weird. It’s embarrassing.

When Mom quits taking an interest in the horses, Kylie knows something is wrong. Something big. But what? How can she find out? Who can she talk to? Or should she?

Kylie can’t even talk to Joey ”the human vacuum cleaner” McLagan, her neighbor and best friend since childhood. But if Kylie doesn’t speak up to another person, who’s going to help Mom? How long will fear and shame keep Kylie captive? As Kylie’s life begins to spin out of control, she wonders if she’ll ever feel safe again. Will her life ever get back on track? How?

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‘Read Aloud Stories With Fred’ Charms Audiences Young & Old

Read-Aloud Stories With Fred (Editor-911 Books, 2021)

By Fred Olds

Children’s Fiction

Looking for uplifting, thoughtful stories you can read aloud to the kids or grands that are both enjoyable and engaging? Check out Fred Olds’ Read Aloud Stories With Fred.

Stories begin with a question for the reader and/or listener to ponder as the story unfolds. Each tale also includes an age-appropriate message and is hemmed with themes like kindness, honesty, or friendship.

Stories are lively and relatively short so as to keep the interest of little ones and not over-tax young attention spans. Vivid imagery and colorful illustrations combine with expert pacing and edifying themes to communicate specific, positive character traits or virtues.

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18 Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved Outdoor Classics

We’ve read and enjoyed these titles as a family. All include strong characters, engaging plots, and superlative story-telling. All have stood the test of time. (Kimber: You may detect a big canine bias here. Because everything is better with dogs. Including the Great Outdoors!)

Here, in no particular order, are our 100% unscientific, completely subjective recommendations for 20 awesome outdoor classics for older children. How many have you read?

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S.D. Howard on “God, Writing, & Things Between”

We always enjoy featuring good writers of good books. So we were delighted when S.D. Howard took us up on our offer for an author interview. (Say that 10x fast! That’s okay. We’ll wait.)

S.D. Howard is the author The City of Snow and Stars. Read our review: Fantasy Reveals Truth in ‘City of Snow and Stars.’

In the meantime, let’s get to know this talented author better. Ready? Set? Go!

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Redcoat & Rebel: Worthwhile or Red Light?

Kimber, were in a reading rut” Mom says the other day. “We need something new.”

And that’s how we wound up with a bunch of new historical fiction from The Reading Place. We’ll get to two recently read titles in a min. But first, I have a question: Why is so much “historical fiction” set during major conflicts? Ever notice that? Like, there’s enough HF set during WWII to sink a battleship.

So we looked around for a different historical setting. Someone who shall remain nameless recommended a couple new books. The first is Redcoat. The second is The Rebel Killer.

Here’s our take on both:

Redcoat

By Bernard Cornwell

Setting: Philadelphia, 1777

Things aren’t lookin’ good for George Washington and his rag-tag Continental Army. In fact, Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, has just fallen to the lobster backs.  Families and fortunes are split on both sides of the war. Between loyalists to the British crown and patriots fighting for their independence. Anything could happen. And it does.

Told from both British and American points of view, the story unfolds through the eyes of Sam Gilpin and young Jonathon Becket.

Sam is a British private who joined King George’s army along with his twin brother, Nate. They’re as different – and sometimes as alike – as day and night. And that could get one of them killed.

Jonathon is a patriot from Philadelphia who rides better than he walks. He’s also desperate to free himself and his sister, Marlene, from the clutches of his loyalist uncle. There are also lots of Hessians and Hussars. Sons of Liberty. Brandy. Fog and smoke. “Camp followers.”

As the city settles in for winter, Washington’s army teeters on the verge of collapse. He retreats to a frozen refuge called Valley Forge. As the freezing months wear on, one side dreams of victory and the other of liberty. Meanwhile, Sam dreams of a forbidden love. Who will win, and at what cost?

This is a well-written story with sturdy, three-dimensional characters. The author’s expertise with the subject matter and all things military and strategic is impressive and immense. A fast-paced, action-packed historical fiction novel, Redcoat is also full of surprises. Just about the time you think you know where the story’s headed, the author drops in a U-turn. You better hold tight for the next plot twist. It’ll keep you hopping from start to finish.

There’s a lot of intriguing Revolutionary War history here and a lot of action to keep readers engaged. But Mom found the graphic accounts of savagery and sadism (Hi, Sergeant Scammell) too much to swallow. The needless use of profanity got old pretty fast, too. Hand over the Pepto!

***

OUR RATING: 3.0

 

The Rebel Killer

Jack Lark, Book 7

By Paul Fraser Collard

Setting: Mostly Virginia, 1861-62

Forget the Pepto. Hand us some industrial strength Dramamine. Or Nauzene. Because. Barf.

The main character in this revenge soap opera is Briton Jack Lark. He fights his own internal battle as the U.S. Civil War rages around him. Consumed with hate, this bloodthirsty automaton is “a mercenary; a man with nothing in his heart but a cold, remorseless desire for revenge.” Think Edmond Dantes comes to Virginia. On steroids. Cuz Jack is a “hardened, lonely killer” who’s “better at hating than he was (is) at loving.

Be still my heart. Pardon us, Jacko, but you’re hardly the kinda of fella we want to spend any real time with. Certainly not four hundred+ pages. (At least Martha Joseph was a pleasant reprieve. Coulda used more of that.)

Oh, and Jack is also a consummate fake. He’ll impersonate anyone and do anything to extract revenge on the Confederate major who killed Rose. So Torquemada Jack sets out on an “epic journey” across the Confederacy disguised as a Confederate captain. This after he ran from a prior battlefield disguised as a Union officer. Before that he was a Redcoat. And so on.

The narrative, though crisp, is savage. Dripping with butchery and brutality. It’s enough to gag a camel. Probably worse is the cruelty Jack the Jerk inflicts on animals.

So done with you, bub.

The Rebel Killer is historical fiction that you’ll either really like or really won’t. The title has a double meaning. The author exhibits a masterful command of military history. The story is briskly paced and there’s plenty of action. If you can call killing people every twelve seconds “action.

The U.S. Civil War wasn’t a garden party. Got it. No need to beat us over the head with it. Or continuously drag us around bloody battlefields knee-deep in carnage.

Bottom line: This book isn’t a party, either. If we’d known going in that its mountains of violence and profanity push the outside envelope of “R,” we wouldn’t have bothered. Not our cup of Kool aid.

OUR RATING: 2.0

 


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WOOFWorthy! Why “Aslan: Running Joy” Isn’t Just Another “Dog Book” (and we oughtta know!)

Aslan: Running Joy (CrossLink Publishing, 2021)

By Kristin Kaldahl

Christian Fiction/YA

Mom and I can’t wait to tell you about Aslan: Running Joy. It’s super woofworthy. But first. Watch P!nk FLY!!

Basic Plot

Recovering from a kidney transplant, Krissy’s health is delicate. She’s always been about horses and dogs. The 14 year-old Oklahoman sold her mare cuz she’s afraid she’ll get hurt riding. But Krissy’s more afraid of dreaming and failing. Again.

Horseless, Krissy sets her sights on dog agility competition. The sport is intense and demanding, both mentally and physically. Are Krissy and her “totally-wrong-for-agility runt,” Aslan the Shetland Shepherd dog (Sheltie), up to the challenge? Will they rack up enough Qs to earn a shot at the Big Dance? Will Charlotte ever shut up? And what’s up with Krissy’s used-to-be bestie, Violet? Or her sulking big bro, Peter?

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What Do ‘Sanctuary’ & Secretariat Have in Common?

“Okay, Mom. Close the pages and step away from the book,” says I, Kimber the Magnificent. You know. The one with sense. Cuz it’s like, the middle of the night. And Mom’s buried in a book. Again.

Well. You know Her Momness.

“In a minute, Kimber,” says Mom. “Just let me finish this chapter, okay?” In a voice that never means an actual, real minute. Then she gives me The Look.

Insert eye roll here.

Cuz Mom said “in a minute” two hours ago. She also said “finish the chapter.” Thirty-one chapters ago. So why is it the wee hours and we’re both still reading Sanctuary? I’ll let Mom fill you in:

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