Whippet Dave

When out on walks Mischa Skinny Dog always attracts attention. Ask anyone owned by sight-hounds and they’ll say the same; it’s like walking with a celebrity. People wander over and want to stroke her, ask questions about her or exchange tales about the skinny dogs they have been owned by. If their dogs come over for a play the owner always says “No chance of catching that one son” as Mischa hares away with a rotund Labrador in futile hot pursuit. Ah, she loves to tease does Mischa.

But today we met a different kind of admirer.

Mischa and I had bided our time this morning waiting for the storm to ease, ( A true sight-hound will never get her fur rain-sodden) and as the sun emerged so did we. Our journey took us across Nun’s Moor, through the copse and over the hills onto Town Moor. Apart from the cows we met not a soul. Until, seemingly out of nowhere, a figure ambled toward us. He was a little under- dressed for the weather in a baggy t-shirt and sweat pants, but hey, Geordies are a hard race of folk. Once he was up close I noticed the ears and realised we were in the presence of a particularly friendly elf.

He was impressed with Mischa’s shiny coat and clean white teeth and ran an expert hand along her back. He then counted the whiskers under her chin announcing that was a sure fire way of telling which number pup she was in the litter.

“Three” he declared with quiet confidence. I thought it best to agree. “Bin wi skinny dogs all me life” he said “Put a leash in me hand before I cud walk. That’s why they call me Whippet Dave”

And then he vanished.

Whippet Dave

Digital Doodle; Whippet Dave

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Knights in Black Leather

A couple of months ago, when England was still enjoying a glorious hot summer, author Kate O’Hearn swept into Seven Stories. She was not alone. Hot on her heels were an amazing crew carrying the most incredible set of props and costumes I’ve ever seen. All at once the office was filling up with the delicious aroma of animal hide as these people eased themselves into intricately detailed leather armour. I watched from behind my computer, mesmerised, as they transformed themselves from ordinary mortals into warriors of myth and legend.

Kate and her entourage were visiting as part of the tour to promote her latest novel Valkyrie. It’s a story that mixes Norse mythology with a contemporary tale that ends up releasing the Midgard Serpent into Chicago! It’s a great book and if this was a book blog I’d tell you  more. But it just so happens that my faithful hound, Mischa SkinnyDog, DOES have a book blog so check out her review here.

Anyway, back to Kate and her gang. They were so much fun and delighted both staff and visitors as they brought the story of Freya the Valkyrie to life.

Scary knight

Kate O'Hearn at Seven stories2

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The attention to detail on the costumes were incredible, in particular the dreaded Dark Searcher who took great delight in frightening me at every opportunity.

dark searcher 1

dark searcher 2

Kate O’Hearn herself was not adverse to a spot of dressing up either and was sporting the most fabulous red velvet Steam Punk coat complete with an ostrich feather festooned top hat.

Kate O'Hearne at Seven Stories

Kate being entertained by a young fan

It was probably one of the most fun days I had at Seven Stories this summer. They were such a delightful bunch of people with a great sense of humour. I was so sad when they left and when I returned to the empty office all that remained was the intoxicating scent of leather armour.

However, Kate being the crazy person she is, agreed to being elfed. She is the second author to undergo such a transformation. The first being Gareth P Jones who funnily enough was also wearing a top hat.

Kate O'Hearn elfed 2

Ok, I wimped out of drawing the feathers but Kate still makes an impressive elf.

I would recommend Valkyrie to confident readers and teens…..or any adult that’s still in touch with their inner child.

Digital Doodles

I pride myself on being “old school” when it comes to creating my drawings. You know, pens, ink, pencils and good old fashioned paper. The closest I’ve got to digital wizardry is taking images of my work with my phone and chucking them through a photo app.

Until now.

Fab artist Rosie Scribblah has recently posted up some sketches created on her tablet and they’re great! Take a look. Unlike me, Rosie is a real artist who works in a studio and stretches canvas, daubs acrylics and even etches! So I thought if Rosie’s giving it the thumbs up I’ll have a go.

Smudging around on the tablet with your finger is not dissimilar to messing with charcoal and pastel, but a hell of a lot cleaner. I have a nexus 7 and the app is Sketcher. A very basic app, but then I’m a very basic artist. This was my first attempt; the first two images are the progression and the last one was after a bit of photo digi-thingy.

 

elf child 1

elf child 2

Elf child 3

Spooky Elf child

 

I have to warn you there are more of these because it turns out Digital Doodling is FUN. It won’t replace my fine liner pens or super soft pencils but it’s certainly an interesting alternative medium. I’d love to know what you think.

Has anyone else set aside their sketch pad for an iPad?

That Was The Summer That Was

That was the summer that was, it’s over let it go to paraphrase the sixties satirical TV series. But I can’t let it go without a final salute;

First there were animals to wrangle.

Petting a python

Petting a python

Meeting a meercat

Meeting a meercat

Story Book dogs to entertain.

Timmy the Dog from Enid Blyton's Famous Five series

Timmy the Dog from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series

George from Oh No George by Chris Haughton

George from Oh No George by Chris Haughton

Hot Rods to admire

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Seriously shiny

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richly rusted

 

Campervans to cook in

 

camper capers

camper capers

 

Knights to nuzzle

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What can I say!

 

And costumes to cavort in

 

Training Dragons

Dances with dragons

 

Taming a tiger

Tea with a Tiger

 

So, what did you do this summer?

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Read a Blog Post written by a Dog?

Hello, this is Mischa SkinnyDog sneaking onto Ziggy’s blog.

Ziggy has been very busy lately writing her very first novel for young adults. Given her inner turmoil it may be her last. I wish her well, I really do. I have been happy to wait hours for her to remember to feed me and walk beside her while she completely ignores me muttering about first person versus third person limited. Clearly I should be her first person and that would be limited to just…well…me!

Anyway, not having the attention I fully deserve I have taken to reading. Ziggy has lots of books, many of which have pictures in and I love nosing through them. Of course when you get to the end of a good book you want to talk about it to someone. Ziggy is too busy so I thought I would embark on my own blog and find people to have a bit of Book Banter with.
Do you like books? Do you like looking at beautiful illustrations? Would you read a blog written by a dog? If so you can join me here.

But dogs can’t read or write or blog I hear you cry! But if you believe in elves then you’ll believe a dog can blog. The trick is I use a tablet; I just dab my nose all over the Gorilla Glass (I thought glass was made from sand but.. hey?) and voila! I even Tweet. When it all gets a bit slimy a quick swish of my tail and I’m good to go again.

Also this IS a dog talking because it’s not in ickle wickle baby talk. If you ever see a dog writing about his hooman’s then his owner is talking for him. Trust me, dogs talk to each other just like you….except we do it telepathically. Plus if you look at the top of this post you’ll see it’s written by The Literary Lurcher NOT Ziggy Shortcrust. Proof, if proof were needed.

I know Ziggy will be back on here soon. After all she wants to talk to you about Hotrods, python handling, dressing as a Viking for the BBC, and very scary leather clad knights.
In the meantime please take a look at The Literary Lurcher and share in some Book Banter.
Love and Licks
Mischa x

You will believe a dog can read

You will believe a dog can read

 

A Small Life

I attend a writing class. We meet in the very chilly basement of the Amnesty Bookshop, after closing, once a week. Surrounded by stacks of books with improbable titles we read out our work and thrash out ideas. The group is led by a local author and playwright who sets us weekly “homework” to inspire our writing.

Once a term it’s poetry. I’m rubbish at poetry. Love reading it but can’t write it so I always do something daft. This terms poetry homework we were given one line from a song and had to use that as the inspiration and first line of our poem.

I’m going to let you suffer; here is my poem.

 

 

A Small Life

 

 The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars

And I want to reach through them and touch the stars

But I’m only a hamster and I don’t know what stars are

Can you eat them?

The beast in me is run ragged on the wheel

And I race around with such passion and zeal

But I’m only a hamster is zeal a meal?

I hope so.

The beast in me whirls around in a plastic ball

That spins down the stairs at the end of the hall

I’m only a hamster is this my all?

Probably.

 

Hamster

A frail and fragile hamster

 

Extra points if you can name the song and artist.

Ziggy and the King of the Rook Elves

Mischa SkinnyDog and I went for our usual walk; through the houses, onto the moor and up into the woods. As we made our way between the trees such a racket began above our heads.

“Look,” said Mischa “crows.”

“Ah my skinny friend” said I “if you see a rook on its own it’s a crow. If you see a lot of crows, then they are rooks.”

Mischa was contemplating this when the rooks swooped down and took hold of us. There were dozens of them grasping at us with their sharp talons and beaks. They lifted us from the ground and took us high above the tree tops until we came to an old oak whose trunk had a gaping hole. From our vantage point it appeared like a wooden chimney. Down flew the rooks taking us with them into the depths of the tree.

Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole we fell further and further and deeper and deeper under the ground. All at once the rooks loosened their grip and we were dropped unceremoniously on to leaf littered earth. Considering how far we had fallen it was surprisingly light and I could see that Mischa and I were in a vast cavern tangled with tree roots suspended from its roof. The rooks circled around us cawing loudly but as the settled amongst the roots they took on their true guise; Rook Elves. These are particularly clever, yet mischievous creatures who excel in thievery.Each one had about their shoulders a cloak of glistening jet black feathers but only one wore a crown made from a rook. He leapt down from the roof top roots and stood before me and spoke.

“Now I’m the King of the Rook Elves, a Pixie VIP. I’ve reached the top and had to stop and that’s what’s bothering me. I want to draw like Ziggy Shortcrust and doodle round the town. Give me the dibs on your inky nibs, I’m tired of elfing around.”

“Goodness me!” I said, “I’d be happy to help in fact it would be an honour but I’m afraid I don’t have my pens with me.”

“Now don’t try and kid me Shortcrust,” he said, “Clue me what to do. Give me the gen on your fine liner pen so I can be like you.”

Then all the elves gathered around Mischa and I and started chanting, “Oh oobee doo, we want to be like you, we want to draw like you, sketch like you too. You’ll see it’s true, Elves like us can learn to be doodlers too.”

I could see these creatures weren’t going to take no for an answer but I had no pens. What could I do? Then it struck me….quills. We could make pens from feathers. So I set Mischa to work nibbling away on the rook feathers until we had enough for everyone. I can’t tell you what we did for ink, but it was a scary process getting it. Silver birch bark served as paper and off we went. I conducted my very first Elf Doodling class. We were only there for a couple of hours but on our release it turned out we had been gone two whole months. You may remember from my last visit to the OtherWorld that the elves sent out a Ziggy Changeling in my stead. It would appear this happened again as nobody missed me at all. But she appears to have an aversion to blogging so that’s why I haven’t posted anything for a while.

Fact or fiction?

You decide.

 

King of the Rook Elves drawn with a quill.

King of the Rook Elves drawn with a quill.

A Final Farewell to Honey the Skinnydog

For me a home is not complete without a dog or two lounging around it. Over the years I’ve had some fabulous canine companions to sprawl across the sofas with. They’ve always been rescued dogs who have enjoyed a second bite of the cherry and the most recent hound to join us has been Honey the Skinny Dog.

Hunny on the Moor

taking the occasional rest

A dog of very little brain but a huge heart who has given us so much love since bursting into our lives back in September 2010. I have not met a creature who fizzed with energy like Honey. For her, every day was an adventure that had to be attacked at 100 miles an hour. But sadly, last Saturday morning Honey suffered an embolism in her spine leaving her back legs totally paralysed and her front legs partially so. 48 hours in the vet’s care saw no improvement. Honey was not a dog to lay still for the rest of her days watching the world go by, so, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say a final farewell to this beautiful dog.

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Honey had springs for legs

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A great pal for Mischa the Skinnydog

But I don’t do sad or regrets. Yes, sure, I bawled my eyes out holding her head in my hands, feeling it grow heavy as her  life ebbed away. And heaven knows what her world was like before us; she was found as an emaciated stray. But we had two and a half fabulous years together. My regret would’ve been not to have given her a home and not to have known her.

Tattoo Honey

Honey inked up

So raise a glass to all those pets who bring so much love and companionship to us feeble human beings. Tip your head back and give a howl of happiness.

Return to Sender

My very first Ziggy Letter Elf has been returned to sender…address unknown…..no such number….no such zone. ( I hope you are singing along?)

Return to sender

This little elf has been all the way to New York and back all because I omitted a number one in the address. Silly Ziggy. So, I shall try again. The unopened envelope has gone into another envelope, because, well, now it’s got a story to tell. And in light of the post title here is Elvis Elf from last summers Celebrity Elves in July.

Elfvis

If you would like to get involved in my illustrated letter challenge take a look here. I’ll do my best to address your letter correctly.