Before I ever dreamed of being a writer, I was a storyteller. I remember that the games I used to play with my brother and the neighborhood kids were not games of football or frisbee, but games of imagination. We would, in reality, be riding our bikes in circles around the block and the city park - but the whole time we would be following my imagination as the bikes became wild mustangs with names like "Singing Moon." We would wrestle a sled to the top of the monkey bars and sit balanced there while I told of our adventures in outer space aboard our spacecraft. We would clamp the metal roller skates to our tennis shoes and dart around the full basement, but we would be people who had been born with bone wheels on our feet and had become inventors simply to deal with the needs that created, a way to transport pants onto our bodies, a way to zip up mountains and so on.
My brother was surprisingly willing to allow me to direct the play, even following my cues when I ordered, "Now you say . . ."
Then I lost my confidence in my stories. The kids at school did not understand how I played, and I became a bearer of "Dixie Fleas" who had to have invisible disinfectant sprayed on any desk I had occupied before another child would sit there. At school at least. I lost my voice.
Then Jr. High - our school blended with two others to create classes where not everyone knew I was outcast. Some people actually asked to see what I was writing all the time behind the curtain of my long red hair. Amazingly, the comments were positive and they asked for more. But I was still timid and mostly believed that my stories were not as good as the books I loved. After all, there was nothing coming from my pen that didn't share aspects with things others had written.
So as I grew, I wrote poems and stories and tucked them away, I had to write but the only writing I shared was the letters I wrote by the mailtruck load to friends and family.
Then, the books I loved fell into a wide range, but one category completely claimed my heart. The Narnia Books, A wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I wanted to write about my own creation of a world, but it felt like they best stories had been told and so were off limits.
That is when I found the Harry potter series. Like most people, I loved Harry and Company, but I was astonished at how so much of their story were elements from other stories. It was old stories re-told in a new and delightful way, not because no-one had mentioned a castle or a three headed dog before, but because of the compelling friends we could make in that world.
So I started thinking of the stories we all love. They are different but they are all the same in one thing, Harry potter, Narnia, Cheers, Lord of The Rings, Friends, MASH, Star Trek. The addictive stories we beg for more of, have the kind of friends where you felt safer and more included than you had ever felt at home, friends you had always wanted, who made you look around with a lump in your throat, wishing you could stop time? They were a group of imperfect, overwhelmed and harassed people who became winners because they didn't have to face the overwhelming odds, alone. Even in the face of dark wizards, popular girls, bad hair days or War, they had each other's back. When one of them had a weakness, another had a strength to balance it out. When one was a jerk, someone else saved the day, and forgave them eventually.
So I started realizing I needed to develop characters we could love, before creating the world for them. Then I walked into a Big Dog Outlet store and there was a wall of Punny T-shirts about Hairy Pawter and the Goblet of Fur, Or The Sorcerer's Bone. I was amazed that an author could be popular enough to be infiltrating the public mind like this, and thought I'd love to have the Big Dog shirts make fun of my character.
That is when I started to dream of a boy, with Cerebral Palsy, who walked with crutches and so had a kind of 4 legged gait. He was 9 years old and named "Duffy Barkley" but he definitely was not a dog. He , survives tragedy in the form of a school shooting in which his younger sister is seriously injured. Falling into a new world, he regains his health but finds himself the focus of historic prophecy. While trying to deny his place in their prophecies he discovers his own abilities & changes his life & that of others in both worlds. He enjoys being physically strong but must give it up to save the villain, and find his way back to save his sister, Izzy.
My book has those friends we all want. Now times are turning more difficult again. The world needs that kind of support. We need a source of encouragement so that we can find a way to be that kind of support when we are needed. As times are dark, people look for a reason to laugh, love and hope again.
Duffy Barkley is not a dog, a middle grade fantasy, gives you those friends, that escape, that voice of hope in the darkness. Duffy is alone, handicapped, desperate. He is picked-on, lost, & yet, never defeated. In the most alien of places he finds friends. In the most dire of emergencies he finds courage. In the most evil of villains he finds compassion and a solution. In giving away what he most needs, he gains everything.
Now I have to find away to share him with todays kids. Duffy and the other books I have since published are my chance to show that there is still beauty in this world and we can create more of it. I can be found on blogspot at both http://echo-echosvoice.blogspot.com and http://duffybarkley.blogspot.com