Friday, December 28, 2012

Farewell to Our Beloved Old Friend

Barkley 1999-2012
Dear family, friends and readers,

Yesterday, December 27, 2012 our beloved Barkley left us.  He came to us on a snowy Christmas morning 13 years ago, a beautiful, rambunctious ball of black and white fur. Still beautiful although infinitely wiser, he had the grace to see us through one more snowy Christmas morning. Words cannot describe how lost and sad we feel without him, but we can express how blessed we were to have known him, and how honored we were to have been his family. We understood from the moment he entered our lives that we were the guardians of a truly remarkable soul.

Posing for the Christmas Card!
Barkley was our family dog. The boys were his playmates and they explored the world with Barkley at their heels.  He was a champion at chasing them down the sledding hill, and never failed to join them in the water during the summer.  He made a habit of sitting beneath Jim at the dinner table, because he always knew where to get an extra treat. He fetched baseballs for Dan and romped in the woods beside Matt. John was his master and the undeniable alpha male of the family. Together they performed impressive tricks for us and wrestled nightly on the floor in front of the television. Barkley’s joy in the simple things was contagious.  He was always there when you needed him, whether to lick melted ice cream off the floor or the cheeks of a tear-streaked face. It was uncanny, but he always had a way of knowing what was needed, sometimes even before we did.

For me Barkley was more than just a dog, he was my muse, my deepest confidant, and my daily companion.  We spent our mornings beside the lake and ended each day with a walk beneath the stars. He was always with me, sitting patiently beside my desk while I wrote, and was the best listener I ever knew. He consoled me through every rejection letter I got and quietly inspired me to push on. The day I landed my first book deal Barkley was there, sitting at my feet wagging his little stump tail. He was the embodiment of pure joy, and a master of living in the moment.

In fact, Barkley was so remarkable—his daily antics reaching a near-legendary status among our family and friends—that last spring my niece, Dana, made a blog for him on the condition that I share my adventures with Barkley… or the Yard Panda as we liked to call him.  It was only natural that the blog be called Tales of the Yard Panda.  Barkley enjoyed being in the spotlight for once, and with his silky good-looks, his deadpan delivery and sarcastic wit, and, of course, his awe-inspiring love of bacon, he was a natural. We had fun sharing our adventures with the world, but by the time autumn rolled around I could tell that Barkley was struggling. I could see it in his eyes—that look of quiet sorrow springing from a deep understanding that his old spaniel body was failing his joyous spirit. 

Barkley playing hide-and-seek with his new friend Mr. Bacon
By mid-November Barkley had stopped eating bacon.  It was a devastating day for us both.  I knew it was time to take a break from writing and focus on my old friend instead.  I now feel blessed I had the opportunity to do so.
Barkley, our lovable yard panda, has left us, and because he was the heart and soul of this blog I think you can understand my decision to no longer continue writing it.  However, for those of you who knew Barkley, or were touched by his unquenchable passion for life and bacon, please feel free to leave a message. Although Barkley may have left this earth, our family takes comfort in knowing that his kind and gentle spirit lives on. 
Barkley and me

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is neither turkey nor bacon. It’s just sad—sad for all parties involved in the injustice.  And sad is exactly how the yard panda felt when the veterinarian did a double-take at the numbers on the scale. No, the yard panda is not a normal sized spaniel, and, yes, he’s well aware of it. But the suggestion of a calorie restricted diet including a “bacon substitute” was, to the yard panda’s thinking, akin to malpractice. The day grew a little darker, the scents that filled the room became flat, and the finely honed pork-palate that all YP’s are born with became plagued by a dry, pasty film at the thought of life without real bacon. It was the Dentabone incident all over again. Yet just because a Dentabone is thrown on the floor, one doesn’t have to chew it. Turkey bacon is another matter.  It’s turkey; and turkey is delicious, but it should never be made into bacon. The YP silently cursed the veterinarian and his dedication to the dog breed standardization chart, as well as the delusional poultry farmer who thought that turkey bacon was a good idea. It’s not. 

 On a brighter note, the yard panda's not above begging for food he believes in...  
and he strongly believes in bacon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Make Your Writing Sizzle!

 Make Your Writing Sizzle!

A yard panda's advice on writing 

You may be asking yourself, why should I take writing advice from a yard panda?  The answer to this is simple: because yard pandas have an innate sense… and a paw on the whimsical pulse of the reading public.  What do people want to read about?  Easy. They want to read about the same things they’ve always read about: love, sex, greed, violence, magic, and adorable puppies.  So how do you make these subjects sizzle? Just add bacon.

Here’s an example:  He got out of bed, shivered as his feet hit the cold planks of the floor, and carelessly draped the plaid around his naked body.  It was gaping, she noticed, in all the right places. “Sun nearly up and I’m for a swim.” He turned to the bed and, delivering a very intimate grin, whispered, “Come join me.”  But here, as the reader, we just shake our heads and ask ourselves why?  Why would anyone want to leave the warmth of their bed for a freezing pre-dawn swim? 

Let’s look at the same paragraph again, this time making one small addition.  He got out of bed, shivered as his feet hit the cold planks of the floor, and carelessly draped the plaid around his naked body.  It was gaping, she noticed, in all the right places. “Sun nearly up and I’m for a swim.” He turned to the bed and, delivering a very intimate grin, whispered, “I’ve got bacon. Come join me.”
Bacon? Hell yes! Now there’s a reason to get out of bed and brave the cold.  The reader, while not at all certain what the naked man was getting at, will certainly be able to identify with bacon. 

Lesson: The mere suggestion of bacon can put the sizzle back in any situation.

Think of how much better some of these beloved titles would be if we only added bacon.

 Fifty Shades of Grey, with a side of Bacon  (It doesn't even matter if we don't know what this is about, it’s got bacon in the title.)

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer, Bacon Master  (Who wouldn’t vote for this guy!)

 The Bacon Games (Makes more sense, doesn’t it?  Kids killing for bacon is a premise we can all get behind.)

Pride and Bacon Prejudice  (Can a bacon snob ever be charmed by a common bacon eater?  What a romantic and delicious conundrum!)

Have a book or movie title that would be better with bacon?  The yard panda would love to hear it!  Please leave a comment in the comment box.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bacon Poetry

After spending a lifetime trying to refine his literary tastes by basking in the realms of quality fiction, satire and very juvenile humor, the yard panda was nonetheless disturbed to find that nothing, no nothing, moves him quite like the crisp, sizzling honesty of bacon poetry. Thank you, Pam Higgins, for sharing this, and for reminding us that bacon is not only delicious, but the preferred poetical meat of yard pandas and breakfast lovers everywhere.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Yard Panda's Musings on the Economy

When he saw that his morning plate of One Eyed Sailors was suspiciously void of bacon, the yard panda cursed the economy and secretly wished that his owner would just put away the pen and get a "real job".  It's all fun and games until somebody loses their bacon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where do Yard Pandas come from?

People ask me all the time, "Where do yard pandas come from, and how can I get one?"  Yard pandas are a literary breed of semi-aquatic mammals that float in lakes, drink coffee, read Scottish historical fiction, and live on a diet of bacon.  If you want to catch one all you have to do is go down to the water's edge early in the morning with a good book (YP's recommend anything written by Darci Hannah) and a cup of coffee.  Then keep reading until a yard panda appears.  It may take years, but it's well worth the effort... and hey, you'll read a lot of books.

Yard Panda, the real inspiration behind Brave?

Every once in a while I see a movie that sparks my interest, and this year it was Brave, the new Disney Pixar movie. Being an author of Scottish historical/adventure fiction this was the one summer movie that seemed right up my alley, or so I had thought. Truthfully, all I really knew about it was from the little I could glean by watching the vague movie trailer. For instance, I knew that it was set in the Highlands of medieval Scotland, at a castle, and the main character, aside from being handy with a bow, had really awesome ginger hair. This was all I knew, but it was enough to get me to buy the tickets...

Now, I'm not a movie critique so I won't bore you with what I thought of the story.  I will say that the animation was AMAZING!  The audience is instantly transported to a mystical Scotland of the past and further charmed by lilting Scottish accents and breathtaking scenery. And then Angus, the main character's Clydesdale horse, prances onto the screen.  Angus stole my heart the moment he appeared but I couldn't figure out why...until I went home. There I was greeted by my own devoted, silky-coated, overly fluffy, black-and-white familiar, namely Barkley the yard panda.  And then it hit me: the striking similarity between Merida's horse and my dog.  Now, Barkley is neither a panda nor a horse.  He's a bacon loving spaniel of low motivation. Yet beneath the silky ribbons of fur and the extra layers of chunk lives a quiet nobility, and a level of devotion that's truly humbling.  It's that I'd follow you anywhere--even through the dreaded standing stones mentality that tugs at the heart-strings.  In return for this devotion all that's required is a little love, and, in the YP's case, a little bacon as well.  Where else can you find such a bargain these days?

I cannot say whether or not the yard panda was the inspiration for Angus, but for me there's no question.  If the yard panda was a horse he'd be a silky-coated Clydesdale. I can picture him now, galloping through the high moors of Scotland, kicking up clods of heather as he makes a beeline straight for the smokehouse... and the bacon. Truly, Brave was not the best movie I've ever seen, but because of Angus and his uncanny resemblance to this author's favorite pooch it's become my favorite summer movie of 2012.