A “pawsitive” difference for Hospice patients

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

This week’s “making a positive difference” (perhaps I should say a “Pawsitive” difference) Image of Interest is drawn from a video. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while has undoubtedly picked up on my love and respect for service animals of all types, but this week’s image is important to me for several reasons.

First, I have a family member whose certified Emotional Support dog has recently become a crucial part of winning her battle with addiction. Second, this week has been especially tough for several of my friends as a mutual acquaintance has gone into Hospice care for the final stage of her life.

I have long been an advocate of animal therapy for a variety of situations. this includes supporting children’s reading with dogs, therapy animals in hospitals and hospice settings, and service animals that assist the disabled, or help those with health issues (diabetes and seizure disorders to name just two) stay on top of their conditions.

Does your pet have the makings of a good therapy animal? Purebred or rescue, critters with the right temperament can make an incredible difference. I hope you’ll find inspiration in this video, which features the work of several different therapy dogs, including Lanie, who’s featured in our photo above.

IMAGE and VIDEO: Both the still photo and the video about San Diego Hospice therapy dog program demonstrate their well-deserved reputation as a “pioneering organization in end-of-life care.” Unfortunately, this program closed in 2016. I’ve chosen to post the images anyway, because they still demonstrate some of the best positive aspects of therapy animal work.

The choice is ours

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

We all know about Jane’s choices. From the very beginning, she took the opportunity to step up, to observe, to think independently, to choose compassion. No one’s perfect, but sometimes they’re the perfect person for a particular job.

Our quotes this month focus on making the world a better place. Jane did, and does, amazing things. She has demonstrated she has the will and the determination to do things that make a massive difference–for chimpanzees, and for people, too.

What opportunities lie open before you? What passions call to you, for your labors of love? What callings ignite your energies to work for a better world?

Say yes to them.

IMAGE: Many thanks to A-Z Quotes for this image!

Cleaning up our act

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 


Last week’s Image of Interest opened my month’s Image theme of volunteering in our community as a way of making the world a better place. That photo showed kids working in a food pantry. This week it’s a photo from 2011, of the results from a cleanup effort along the Huron River. 

It reminds me of the sequence in the movie Spirited Away, when the Stink Spirit comes to the bath house for a much-needed cleansing . . . and of the aftermath left behind.

Water quality matters–just ask Flint, Michigan. Does your calling lead you to aid efforts that promote water conservation and anti-pollution efforts?

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Ann Arbor News, for the Huron River cleanup photo. I am grateful to Ouno Design for the image from the 2001 movie Spirited Away, from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

What does it take?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Nelson was onto something, although “making the world a better place” is a massive goal, when we take it in the abstract.

So don’t look at it that way!

Luckily, we don’t need to have godlike powers to make a difference. As our last quote noted, it simply takes acts of kindness (random or otherwise), and the willingness to do something.

So speak up for what’s right. Pay it forward. Be gracious to those around you. Do something nice for someone, just because you can. Support a cause you believe in. Recycle. Think before you talk, or act, or hit send/post/reply. 

It really is in your hands.

IMAGE: Many thanks to The World Food Program’s Pinterest board, “Food for Thought–Inspirational Quotes.”

The value of volunteering

The Artdog Image of Interest 

One of many places where volunteers can make a world of difference is at your local food pantry.

One of the best ways you can make your world a better place is by volunteering in your community. Most places have a wealth of opportunities to volunteer.

Consider: animal shelters; food banks, soup kitchens, or homeless shelters; parks or beaches; libraries; retirement homes, nursing homes, or hospitals; charitable organizations; county elder resources, and many others. Most communities have a volunteer resource coordinator of some sort. Keep looking till you find the best fit for you!

The most amazing thing about volunteering for the betterment of your community is how good it can be for you! Making a difference in someone else’s life is a satisfaction few other pleasures can match.

Haven’t tried it? Consider doing it now!

IMAGE: Many thanks to AdmitSee for this post about the Lion’s Heart program for teens and its post “7 Easy Ways to Volunteer in Your Community.”

Random? Or not-so-random? Does it matter?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Yes, it’s late: not Sunday night/Monday. I’m sorry. Weird week–and one in which the occasional random act of kindness would not have gone amiss. We all need them.

It’s true the random ones are unexpected blessings at unanticipated times. It’s also true they can make the world a better place.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, though: random gets harder to do, if you commit to a daily repeat. Random tends to fall into patterns, when we’re not a computer set on “randomize” (Actually, even computers set on “randomize” eventually fall into patterns, or so I’m told).

Is falling into patterns bad? Not really. Any effort to spread kindness in the world has its heart in the right place–and your patterns can tell you things about yourself, such as: what are my passions? My favorite causes? My calling?

Knowing those things about yourself is never a bad idea, either. And prepared acts of kindness? 

Well, what do you think?

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Pennies of Time Pinterest Page, “Quotes on Service and Kindness” for this image.

Tales of ConQuesT (48)–The Writing Part

I love  participating in panel discussions at science fiction conventions–and I was part of several at ConQuesT 48 held this and every year in Kansas City on Memorial Day by my home science fiction group, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society


I participated in several panel discussions at ConQuesT. In addition to sharing an hour of reading with Sean Demory of Pine Float Press, my other scheduled panels all could be potential subjects for future blog posts. Please comment below, if you’d like to see more on any of these topics!

What Gives Characters Depth?

This panel focused on writing techniques, plus a review of “3-D characters we love” and why we chose them. It was ably moderated by Rob Howell. I was joined on the panel by P. R. AdamsLynette M. Burrows, and Marguerite Reed.

L-R: P. R. Adams, Lynette M. Burrows, Marguerite Reed, and moderator Rob Howell

Our discussion ranged through such questions as what makes a character come to life, our assorted techniques for “getting to know” our characters, and what happens when the scene you thought you were going to write takes a right-angle turn because “the character had something else in mind”/you realized it wouldn’t be in character for the person to do/say/think what you’d originally intended. It was a fun and lively discussion.

Intellectual Property and Literary Estates

I got to moderate this panel (former teacher: I like to make sure the discussions are fueled by lots of good, well-researched, leading questions, that everyone gets a chance to talk, and that the audience is actively engaged in shaping the conversation). I’d signed up to be on the panel because of my connection with the administration of my late brother-in-law’s literary estate.

My fellow panelists were Dora Furlong, who’d been involved in establishing a foundation to administer the literary estate of a writer and game-creator; Susan R. Matthews, who’d gone through the process of writing a will and discovered that there were all sorts of decisions to be made about who would administer her literary estate; and Craig R. Smith, whose focus was more on contracts and protecting intellectual property.

L-R: Susan R. Matthews‘ icon; Dora Furlong; Craig R. Smith‘s book cover.

We discussed the nature of intellectual property, the relative importance of registering ISBNs and copyrights, what is included in a literary estate, the kinds of decisions the executor or trustees of such an estate may have to make, leaving specific instructions (for instance, about what to do with emails and unfinished manuscripts), and many other issues that most writers, artists, or other creative people rarely consider–but which have everything to do with their legacy.

Writing Fight and Combat Scenes

I moderated this panel, too–but I did little talking about my own work on this one. Both of my fellow panelists, Rob Howell and Selina Rosen, are well-spoken, engaging, and knowledgeable, with a depth of background I could admire, but not match (SCA battle-experience, military history studies, martial arts training, and many more varied writing projects than I’ve racked up so far).

L-R: Rob Howell, a photo of an SCA battle by Ron Lutz; and Selina Rosen. Yes, it was a lively panel discussion.

It was a privilege to manage time and audience input, while offering them questions about varieties of research, frequent plot objectives of most fight or combat scenes, tips for keeping the action vivid and interesting, and pet peeves about other authors’ bad practices. Rob, Selina, and the knowledgeable audience kept the panel fast-paced, interesting, and wide-ranging.

Horror Fiction and Xenophobia

Yes, I did moderate this panel also–but as with the “Fight and Combat” panel, I ended up mainly facilitating the experts, namely Sean Demory, Karen Bovenmeyer, and Donna Wagenblast Munro.

Not much of a horror writer or reader myself, I approached this panel from the viewpoint of a multiculturalist who generally looks upon xenophobia (fear of foreigners or, more basically, fear of “the other”) as a negative thing.

L-R: Sean Demory, Karen Bovenmyer, and the Facebook Profile Picture of Donna Wagenblast Munro.

Not to worry. While earlier traditions of horror have embraced the “fear of otherness” via unfamiliar cultural practices, deformity, and/or disease to create the objects of fear, my three fellow panelists are contemporary horror writers who have embraced the “feared other” as their protagonists.

This brought new poignancy to their responses to my questions about “who are the monsters of today?” and which is the most potent bogeyman of today, the terrorist (domestic or foreign), the corporate overlord, the hacker, or the community dedicated to conformity? Reactions were mixed, but ultimately conformity won as the most stifling on the individual level.

I See No Way That Could Possibly Go Wrong

This panel focused on new technologies just beginning to emerge today, and our thoughts about their ramifications in the future. The panelists were, L-R in the photo below, Christine Taylor-Butler, Bryn Donovan, me, and Robin Wayne Bailey. The photographer (and knowledgeable contributor from the audience) is the writer J.R. Boles.

I was not originally scheduled to be on this one, but the designated moderator (who shall go nameless) did not show up for the panel. Bryn and Robin invited me to join them and moderate. Since I actually knew a bit about the topic (thanks largely to researching and writing this blog), I was delighted to leap in.

We had a great discussion, with a lot of intelligent input from the panelists and our knowledgeable audience. We spent most of our time on the question, “What technology that’s now in its infancy would you most like to see developed, and how do you think it would change things as we know them?”

Answers touched on flying cars, 3-D printed kidneys, earpieces or brain implants to transmit data, lunar colonies, asteroid mining, and much more.

IMAGES: I’m the one who put together the ConQuesT 48 banner. It features a logo design by Keri O’Brien and a photo of the lobby of our convention hotel, the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center, which provided the photo. 

The photos of assorted authors with whom I did panels come from the following, gratefully acknowledged sources:

The photo of Rob Howell is from his Amazon Author Page. That of P. R. Adams is from his Amazon author page. That of Lynette M. Burrows is from her Twitter Profile @LynetteMBurrows, and that of Marguerite Reed is from her Twitter Profile, @MargueriteReed9

Dora Furlong’s photo is from her Amazon Author Page. Susan R. Matthews’ image-icon is from her website; I was unable to find a photo of Craig R. Smith, so I finally settled for a cover image of his book, Into the Dark Realm

I’d like to offer special thanks to the Society for Creative Anachronism, and photographer Ron Lutz, for use of the photo Clash of Battle.

The photo of Selina Rosen is a detail from a photo by the indispensable Keith Stokes, taken at Room Con 10 in 2014 (a party hosted by James Holloman at ConQuesT each year) and posted in the MidAmericon Fan Photo Archive

Many thanks to the Johnson County (KS) Library for the photo of Sean Demory (there’s also a great interview with him on that page). The photo of Karen Bovenmyer is from her Twitter profile @karenbovenmyer; unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo of Donna Wagenblast Munro or a book cover for her anywhere, so finally I substituted an image from her Facebook page.

Last but far from least, many, many thanks to J. R. Boles for the photo of the “I See No Way” panel, from her Twitter account, @writingjen