Monday, October 16, 2017

Pet News 27: Making your Home a Safe Place for Pets

Here is a list to get you thinking about your backyard when you have a pet given by the Humane Society of the United States ( Note that it doesn’t matter if you live in a house, an apartment, or other dwelling. The important thing is making sure your pet is safe and has the basic necessities.
  •          always have water available

(whether in a large bowl, birdbath, or man-made small pond)
  •           provide a nutritious and balanced diet

(look for treats, kibble, and cans made with authentic ingredients)
  •          avoid harsh chemicals on your lawn

(like pesticides that may harm both your pet and children)
  •          make your swimming pool safe

(teach your dog to swim, but never let them swim unsupervised, fence the pool or purchase a top to close it, have a way for the pet to climb out)
  •          keep cats indoors

(cats can still have a fulfilling life if you provide views to the outside, a fenced patio, leash training, etc.)
  •          clean up your yard during Fall and Spring

(this is when ticks and fleas grow in abundance and like to hide in tall grass or accumulated leaves)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Books I’m Reading 35

UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michelle Borba, Ed.D. The author provides nine essential habits that help build empathy in children. She provides examples and different strategies to get kids practicing to be empathetic.

Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian is an excellent poetry collection with various themes related to Native Americans, Nairobi, Armenian-Turkish border, and more. Balakian has a gentle writing style which captures a lot of the sensitivities about his subject. Great read.

Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer S. Holland. This book is filled with pictures and stories of the various animals, from llamas to dogs, who have shown caring or helped others.

Unlikely Friendships Dogs: 37 Stories of Canine Compassion and Courage by Jennifer S. Holland. This book is filled with heartfelt stories of dogs becoming close friends to the animals they care for, from meerkats, to pot-bellied pigs to kittens and goats, there’s a lot to say about the kindness these dogs provide and get in return.

Booked by Kwame Alexander. Written in verse, this story is about a middle school boy trying to piece together the changes in his life- from his parent’s separation to getting the guts to ask a girl out, and from dealing with bullies to learning to love words. This book is a great read.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Writing Endeavors 15: Breathing PART II

Still working on my fantasy novel and querying agents. I’ve submitted to poetry publishers, too. Here is another compiled list of links to some of the poems that were published online. Enjoy!

I’d like to thank all the editors and publishers who accepted my work. Don’t forget to follow =)

“the Loss” poem read live at Café Gallery in Chicago
“Veteran’s Wish” (scroll down)
“Seasons” (scroll down)
“Hidden Crush” (scroll down)
“Milk” (scroll down)
“Pheonix Song” (scroll down)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quotes 28

“Always do more than is required of you.”
-General George S. Patton
To all those service men and women and volunteers who have assisted during the various catastrophes around the globe, THANK YOU.
That’s what this quote brought to mind. All the people who put themselves in harm’s way or are available after the harm is gone are important. Their dedication is amazing and needed.
This quote also reminded me of what your donations do for the different charities, helping provide food, shelter, and equipment to others. A deep thanks to all of you.
I’m sure by now you have seen the different places to send funds to those in need due to the hurricanes and earthquakes. I will list a couple of places to send donations (food, toys, money, blankets, etc.) to our animals in need.
-learn how to help with the animal’s environment and about a painting giraffe
-learn the extent of this horrible practice and see how you can help the Born Free Foundation
-learn how you can make a difference in a horse’s life through the different fundraising events
-learn what the National Wildlife Federation is doing to combat conservation efforts for all wildlife and their environment

-learn how this group is gearing to enhance the sanctuary and what they do to help the different animals in their care

Monday, September 18, 2017

Art 16: Reclining Beauty

This piece was done back in 2015 in a Life Drawing Workshop. I used pastel colors to draw the female model in a reclined position within the twenty minutes given. 
Though, the hands and arms look mechanical and need a little work, I do like the way the color enhances the shape of the body and adds dimension. 
If I had more time to work on it, I would focus on the shoulder areas to get a better feel for the arms. What do you think?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Short Stories & Such 35: Final Lunch

The following prompt came out of the Writer’s Digest Magazine. I had cut it out, but didn’t write the date (oops) of the issue. The prompt was: “When a man takes lunch to his wife’s office, he’s told that she hasn’t worked there in weeks.”
Here’s what I came up with. Maybe you’d like to try the prompt, too =)
Final Lunch

Every morning, my wife leaves me breakfast on the table, covered in one of those cake lids. The steam fills the lid’s inside area until I release it by lifting it. The smell of sunny side up eggs or the spinach induced platter consume my nostrils. Beside the dish, she usually leaves a note with different messages. Whether she’d be late or something for me to do or ‘have a nice day,’ but today, there was no message (and no breakfast). I looked around the pristine kitchen and couldn’t find it. Which got me to thinking about how hard she worked at the firm and a minor slip like this was nothing compared to that, so, I decide to buy her lunch on my day off to surprise her and thank her for all she does. What husband wouldn’t?

Carrying the take-out lunch from Claim Jumper’s, I headed up the elevator to the fifteenth floor, when the doors opened, the gray and white walls of the lobby led me to the receptionist. A whiff of anti-bacterial soap hit me and I loosened my tie.

“Good afternoon,” I said with my friendliest smile.

She looked up and removed her glasses. Her hair in curls and her nails painted blue. “Good afternoon. May I help you?”

“Yes. I would like to see Mrs. Amanda Esparza.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t think she works on this floor. Maybe—”

“No, you don’t understand. Mrs. Esparza is my wife and this is where she works. Please check your records.”

The receptionist cleared her throat and stood. She was an inch or two taller than I. Then, she lifted her index finger in a gesture to wait and she walked into the office behind her.

Sweat trickled on my forehead. Probably from the hot food I carried, but I stood there like an upright spaghetti noodle searching my memory for a possible wrong floor number or the staff had changed?

After a few minutes, the receptionist walked out and looked me up and down, inspecting me and searching for some explanation. She frowned and sighed before biting her lower lip.

“Your wife hasn’t worked here in weeks, Mr. Esparza. I’m sorry you had to find out this way. I’m new here myself and I’m not familiar with everyone’s names yet.”

Blinking, I watched the food bag roll off my hands onto the floor. “Not worked here?”

She nodded as her eyebrows pressed together like an accordion.

I bent to pick up the spill and tossed the bag in the receptacle beside her desk. I scratched the back of my head and turned to her. “Do you know where she went?”

“I’m sorry we don’t have that information.”

She placed her glasses back on and proceeded with her work.

All I could do was gulp. What could have happened? When did this happen? Without answers, I decided to head back home and wait for Amanda’s arrival. Short of a panic attack, I decided to call her mother when it was past midnight. Better yet, I decided to pay her mother a visit. Somebody had to know something about my wife.

The sound of a motor stopped me from opening the door. Then, a thud for the door made me step back. But when the stomp of feet got closer, I knew there was more than one person outside. The gun was under the bed in a shoebox and I grabbed it. The rough handle glued to my sweaty palm. Securing a flashlight, I rushed to the kitchen. I wiped my palm on the back of my pants, then, turned toward the living room. My wife walked in… with another man.

She turned the lights on and led the man inside. They didn’t speak, so, I decided to step in.

“Honey?” I hid the gun behind me and left the flashlight on top of the counter.

She turned, her chin up, brown eyes wide, and long ponytail swaying.

“I went to your office…”

The man narrowed his eyes. He had a gray suit which complemented his blue eyes.

She smiled. The kind of smile she gave me when she wanted me to massage her feet after a long day. I would kiss her toes and she would…

“I must have been at one of my lunch meetings,” she said.

I neared her and got hold of her arm to lead her further from the man who never spoke. I inserted the gun inside the back of my pants.

“They said you don’t work there anymore,” I whispered. “What’s going on? and who is that man?”

She placed a finger on her lip, and said, “That’s the new Mr. Esparza.”

After minutes of composing myself, and giving her the gun, Amanda made it clear what changes were needed. All of it involved the new Mr. Esparza. I was suddenly out of her plans, which made the next part the ultimate blow.

“Before Mr. Esparza kills me, am I entitled to why?”

Amanda held the rope around my wrists and pulled me to the backyard. “Sometimes, a girl gets bored, too, honey.”

She kissed my cheek. That’s when the knife went through my back. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoy time off, relax, spend time with family, friends, pets…
Visit the site next week for a new blog post. Follow me on twitter @m_a_Arana
Here’s a link to an older post about writing:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Books I’m Reading 34

Living Wealth: Discover How to Get 12 Parts of Your Life into Balance and Harmony by Roz Townsend. The author delves into different facets of your life that affect your emotional being and how to change your thinking about them.

A Child’s Introduction to Poetry by Michael Driscoll. The book is accompanied by a cd in which the poetry inside is read aloud. An example of different forms of poetry are included. The author also provides short biographies of select poets and writers with a sample of their work. This is a great resource for teachers and aspiring poets.

Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon is the story of Acheron’s twin brother in the Dark-Hunter series. A prince who was never treated as one, yet, seen as spoiled and pompous. It is the story of a man who defies all odds and still be humble and just and caring. Quite an interesting character.

National Geographic’s Rarely Seen Photograph’s of the Extraordinary by Susan Tyler Hitchcock. This collection of rare images of nature really opens up your eyes to the variety on earth. Beautiful pictures you can escape to.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Writing Endeavors 14: Breathing PART I

Someone once said writing was like breathing. At times, writers stop breathing, but they can’t hold their breaths too long. I’ve been writing stories for the past five years (more if you count the poetry I started in High School). It had always been a dream to have something published. So far, I have two short stories, one non-fiction piece, and am querying agents for two novels I’ve written. Presently, I am working on a fantasy novel and continue to write poetry.

Since the novels have yet to be published (and I’m told it takes writers years before they do), I compiled a list of links to some of the poems that were published online. Thanks to all the editors and publishers who accepted my work. Enjoy!

“Witness 2011’s Massacre” 

“Just like the tree…” (scroll down- note that contact information has changed)

“I carry a crutch…” (scroll down) 

“A Place for Me” and “Stolen Love” (scroll down)

“California” (scroll down) 

“Veils on my Eyes” (scroll down- no photo) 

“Earthquakes 2012” (scroll down) 

“Earthquakes 2012” also won the 12/12/12 Contest and some comments are written here:

“To the People of Earth”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pet News 26: Book Sharing Tips on Dog Training

If you’re always looking for tips and strategies for dog training, here’s another book you might consider reading: 21 Days to the Perfect Dog by Karen Wild.

Wild has a nice introduction and evaluation section before you begin any training. The second section, Wild provides a 21 window for training your puppy/dog to sit, stay, roll over, ring the bell, getting off the sofa/bed, and other useful activities to stimulate your dog.

Of course, not all dogs learn the same or will manage to do the tricks presented in the book. I suggest to take your time and repeat, repeat, repeat! Practice will help your dog retain the information of what’s expected in a respectful, positive, fair, and fun atmosphere. The goal is mastery and not accomplishing each task in a short time.

Wild also adds a third section I find very helpful. Here, she provides some solutions to help your dog avoid behaviors such as excessive barking and digging. For example, if your puppy is chewing you out of home, then, provide alternative items or toys the dog can chew on. If your dog is easily distracted, make sure you ask them to sit and stay and watch you before giving another command. 

Teach your puppy to greet used to grooming and trimming of nails by touching those areas every day, then, moving on to trimming one nail a day until you can do all in one day.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quote 27

“The more you love what you are doing, the more successful it will be for you.”
Jerry Gillies

Recent rejections really brought this quote to life. Though, most of the rejections were nice, I stared at the e-mails as if hoping I was reading something different. Then, I realized, I can’t sit and stare at the screen, I had to keep writing, keep sending queries and researching agents (many switch agencies), and keep reading.

Writing is important to me. The rejections are part of what this world is about. Nothing is for free and I shouldn’t think one query would get me in the door. I love creating characters and writing their stories too much to stop. The more I do what I do, the closer I get to the success I want.

Luckily, I have had some poetry published and a few short stories. Most of my drafts I share with you. So, if you haven’t already, take a look at them and feel free to tweet me about them @m_a_Arana. Thanks!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Books I’m Reading 33

Poet Power: The Complete Guide to Getting Your Poetry Published by Thomas A. Williams. This book goes into detail on the things aspiring poets who self-publish or acquire a publisher will come across.

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness: One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life by Donna Smallin. This is a pocket-size book packed with a lot of helpful tips to think about for decluttering the home.

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King adapted by Peter David with the title of The Prisoner as a graphic novel for Marvel. The story begins with Eddie Dean’s childhood and how he can see Mid-World. Eventually, he meets Roland, the Gunslinger.

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King adapted by Peter David with the title House of Cards as a graphic novel.

p.s. can’t wait for the movie adaptation for the Dark Tower coming out this weekend!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Art 15: Sports Man

Back in 2014, I attended a Life Drawing workshop. This time, the model was a male. He was on the thin side and after the warm-up sketches, I decided to focus on the hands and torso during a twenty-minute pose using charcoal.
With this drawing, I drew swift and light curved lines to guide the movement of the body, then, lines to detail where the shoulders, ribs, elbows, etc. should be. Once those lines were in place, I began adding the contours for the body, muscles, and such, until I had something that resembled a man. Time was almost over, so, I began to shade areas.

For some reason, I felt really close to this drawing. Maybe it reminded me of someone or maybe the way the arms hung out of the torso are an echo of a past time. I do like the way the left side of the body was beginning to look with the shading. If I had time to go back and work on this drawing, I would accentuate that section.

Other News:
Two poems were accepted this month!
“A Passing Time” for vox poetica, July 19, 2017

 “Stranger Still” for the Spectrum 11 Issue: The Long Poem, July 2017
---not online--- purchase copies on

Monday, July 17, 2017

Short Stories & Such 34: Marketplace

Back in April 2015, I attended the MT. SAC Science Fiction Workshop led by Scott Noon Creley (see 
Creley had us write a science fiction setting for our world (good or bad). He wanted us to show and not tell using the 5 senses. In other words, he wanted the author to give a tour of the setting to the reader.
The following is my attempt. I only had one paragraph, but you can actually get an idea for a new story.


They came on the surfboards of the air, ear-splitting, and four-feet long crafts. They watched with glass eyes the people lined up against the red brick walls. Red from blood-stained entertainment.

Merchants wore their pointy hats- yellow and orange like the dry sky. Bellies full of food, they wobbled under their robes.

The foul smell of dust mixed with sweat permeated the narrow road, but they watched with glass eyes and metal hearts. Money purses dangled from their cold hands.

Dirt blew on the people’s faces. The bustling clinging of chains rattled behind them. Each of us holding a loved ones’ hands, teetering teeth and knees.

“Sold!” came the verdict.

“Dispose!” came the command.

“Turn around!” came another.

Those with metal hearts obeyed and pushed or clubbed or…

Our hands held tightly while the merchants passed us. The sweat from the outside rays were visible, and their flushed faces meant the day was done.

For some, it was a beginning. For others, it was a blessing. For those willing to live, it was utter agony ripping through our flesh-stricken hearts. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quote 26

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
Martin Buber

During my wait at the vet’s office, I realized the longing some dogs have based on their eyes. Some want to play and run and meet everyone. Others, are too scared to be curious and may become aggressive. You can tell by looking at their eyes. The nervousness or the joy.
When the office staff called me up to make a payment, I left my dog with my sister. When I turned to walk back, I saw my dog’s eyes. They never left me, and as I got closer, those same honey eyes changed to a brighter hue- glad I was back, and expecting new scents, and wanting my attention (or reassurance). And this quote is true for any animal, especially those in need.

Since we’re on the topic of noticing animal’s eyes, here are a few places you may donate to or volunteer for:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Independence Day Week

A lot of you have already gone on vacation and are enjoying yourself, others are preparing to celebrate July 4th this Tuesday. Hopefully, everyone has a safe event with family, pets, and friends. Speaking of pets, it’s important to keep them in a safe location when the fireworks go up and children should be supervised at all times. The following are some tips found on, a pet sitting/dog boarding/dog walking online venue with lots of information for owners. Of course, the safest (and sanest) way to celebrate would be without any fireworks. It’s good for the environment, good for your pets, and good for you (no after the day clean-up).

p.s. you can also check out the links from @m_a_Arana on twitter

Also, I know this post is early, but I won’t be able to post it on Monday. Enjoy!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Writer’s Workshop 24: Poetry’s Important Motion

Here’s another post on my experience in the MT. SAC Writer’s Weekend, April 28, 2017. This time, the Poetry Workshop was led by wonderful Nikia Chaney. She works at the Inlandia Institute in Southern California and her website is

Chaney’s workshop included some information about poetry and a few prompts, to which she provided guidance and feedback on the work presented. She spoke of the importance of indirect meaning, sound, and imagery in poetry.
Indirect meaning is where poetry says a lot with minimal space and where poetry has metaphor, simile, and/or allusion.
Sound involves repetition (of a word, phrase, or beat), alliteration, assonance, and
rhythm (soft). The repetition should not ‘hit us over the head,’ but repeat enough times that the reader expects it.
Imagery involves sensory language.

Chaney also mentioned that there is no wrong way to start a prompt and to always try new things with poetry. “If you think you’re doing something wrong with it, it must be right. That’s your creativity. Enjoy the writing and have fun with it.”

For the first prompt, Chaney had us listen to Lucille Clifton’s “Cutting Greens,” which you can read AND listen to at
Then, she asked us to write about something mundane that connects with life; a boring task like brushing teeth. Write what you do and replace some words with images and ideas similar to what Clifton did. Add details without censoring yourself.

The second prompt, she had us listen to Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Anodyne,” which you can read AND listen to at

Then, she asked us to write one line you can repeat but break up in different ways four times within your poem. To do this, you need to change the line a little, but still let us recognize it for the rhythm (like music). For example, “I want everything” can be added throughout your poem in different ways such as “You can give me” or “I want everything” and “everything you can” or “give me” and “I want you” and each one is on a different stanza.

Try writing some poems and see what you come up with... very interesting stuff =)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Books I’m Reading 32

Cure Back Pain: 80 Personalized Easy Exercises for Spinal Training to Improve Posture, Eliminate Tension & Reduce Stress by Jean-François Harvey, BSc, DO. There’s a self-assessment and many exercise routines targeting the various muscles that help prevent back pain.

The Dogist: Photographic Encounters with 1,000 Dogs by Elias Weiss Friedman. This is a great compilation of different dog breeds that would put a smile on any dog enthusiast.

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, adapted by Peter David as a graphic novel titled The Lady of the Shadows for Marvel. This story looks back at Odetta’s childhood and her multiple personality disorder before she lost her legs and got taken to Mid-World in search of the Dark Tower with the Gunslinger.

97 Ways to Make a Cat Like You by Carol Kaufmann. This pocket-sized book is filled with facts and tips about taking care of your cat.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pet News 25: Time for Puppy Pays off

This is the time of year for babies and puppies, and everything about growing.
Here, I’ll be focusing on puppies and providing a few basic tips I've used on all my dogs.

Puppies need a lot of attention and monitoring. Scheduling play, feeding, relieving, and training. It’s good to brush up on First Aid for pets. Also, read more about the breed you selected to be part of your family. Of course, researching a breed should be done prior to bringing them home. Too often, guardians select a mismatched breed and when puppies reach their ninth month, it’s harder to find a home, unless they’re in a no-kill shelter (which should be something we strive toward having, but I digress…)

Play is important in a puppy’s social upbringing. Not only does it encourage good behavior, it allows them to trust their new family. After being removed from their mother’s care, a puppy needs to know they are cared for and loved. Playing with them helps reassure teamwork, leadership, and fun. They also come to rely on you to feed them. In the beginning, puppies get fed about four times a day. Small portions to allow for bowel movements. This way, you can teach the puppy where to relieve themselves about ten to twenty minutes after feeding. Note that after a long play session. puppies should relieve themselves, too.

The basics for training your puppy are Sit, Stay, Watch, and Come. These are the ones I used when I got my puppy (who was already six months old, yikes!). You can always add other commands as your puppy matures or learns the basic ones.

With treat in hand, ask the puppy to sit without saying command. Lure their nose up, and their behind usually comes to a sit. Praise and give treat. If not, gently tap the rear. Do this multiple times. Then, add the word Sit, wait, praise, treat. Repeat until you no longer need the treat.

To get the puppy to Stay, ask puppy to Sit, then to Watch you. When you see they are watching you, praise and treat. Repeat. Then, say Stay and back up one step. If your puppy stays, move forward, praise and treat. Repeat until you can take multiple steps back. Then, repeat until you no longer need treat.

To get the puppy to Come, have the puppy Sit, Stay, and back away. Call puppy to you and praise when they reach you. Provide a treat. You can tether the puppy so as not to allow them to run away or to ensure they stay within the perimeters of the training session. You can add distance as the puppy gets better at coming. You can also do it sitting down. Later, you can add distractions, like give the puppy a ball, then call them to you.

Training sessions should be short and quick at first. Once the puppy gets better, trainings could be longer as their attention has gotten better.

Remember: Praise and Treat and Play afterwards. Also, pet slowly and softly, below chin, shoulders, chest. Practice touching paws for nail trimming and massage teeth, gums for brushing in future. Good luck!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Art 19: Sitting Pensive

The pose above was one I drew when I attended some Life Drawing workshops in 2011 (I know, quite a long time ago).
The model posed for ten minutes and I focused on the neck, jaw and shoulder area of the model. The trick I found that worked was to angle the lines to guide me where each body part would go, then, freely draw the body. Once that was down, which is like a skeleton, you start focusing on the areas to darken to build on the lines drawn.

Ten minutes wasn’t enough time to continue the rest of the body, but you could always finish the drawing from memory at a later time. I had been practicing drawing for a couple of days by now, and you could tell it paid off in this drawing. I liked the way it came out and would rather see it incomplete. I hope you do, too =)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope everyone has found their weekend running smoothly, relaxing, and commemorative.
If you are visiting family or friends, or another trip, please drive safe and patiently. Also, make sure your pets can’t escape during the fireworks by checking gates, crates, and homes. Please supervise children. Many tend to get hurt during this time.
The best thing would be to not to throw fireworks (but that’s a humble opinion). The neighborhood would be safe, there will be less pollution and clean-up for the next day, and your pets will still love you. We can entertain ourselves in other ways that are enjoyable and fun and not hurtful. Just something to keep in mind.
Oh! And if you do throw fireworks, please don’t exaggerate and keep the whole neighborhood up until 6 a.m. or be one of those who keep throwing them for the rest of the month. Thanks.

If you’re looking for some fun stuff to read, check out the POPULAR POSTS on the right side of the site or FOLLOW ME on twitter @m_a_Arana