Earlier this week I spent five hours with an incredible family in order to learn techniques used and to toss around ideas, pros and cons of using other methods for training alert dogs for people with diabetes. There are four family members who train full time. Each person has from one to three dogs each depending on the stage each dog is in. Not just these four members, but this entire family has committed to breeding, raising, and training diabetes alert dogs. Their entire lives revolve around dogs. Wow! Talk about inspiring!

The first thing we discussed was why these dogs are so important. Obviously I had heard of type 1 diabetes, but I never heard of a subset of people with type 1 who are hypoglycemic unaware. In a nutshell, when our blood sugar levels drop, we feel the effects of it. People with type 1 diabetes who are also hypoglycemic unaware do not feel the symptoms and that can have deadly consequences if there is no one around who knows how to recognize what is happening or who knows how to help them. 

The hardest part of training doesn’t even involve the dogs. It’s acquiring the saliva samples that we use in training. When our volunteers check their blood sugar levels and the numbers are within our parameters, the volunteer must get a cotton swab and swab saliva from the inside of their cheek. Without touching the tip, they carefully place the swab in a freezer-safe, sealable plastic bag. Then it must be double-bagged, labeled with the date and blood sugar level, and immediately put in the freezer. At no point can there be contamination of the tip of the swab lest the whole thing not work at all.

 We need a cheek swab from a person with type 1 when their levels are just beginning to go high or go low. For example, we train for blood sugar drops by using a sample from when a volunteer’s level is between 60-70 on their glucometer. These samples are almost priceless for our training. We are lucky enough to have a few people willing to take the time to swab, seal, and label when their levels are within our parameters, but we do need more. At this point the longest a sample has been frozen and is still viable is three months. We don’t want to take a chance on losing the few samples we have, so testing beyond that three month mark will only happen by accident.

As a trainer, I know how much work goes into training a dog. I knew there would be extra work once I committed to training a diabetes alert dog. What I never considered was the necessary extras such as the network of volunteers with type 1 who are willing to give us samples and just how valuable those samples are. We wouldn’t be able to train these fabulous dogs without our volunteers.

Three of the little guys I'm training.
I'm really torn between rewriting my “finished” novel or starting on one of my new ideas. I've plotted out a couple of new stories. I visualize spending hour upon hour typing away. I am having a personal na-no-wri-mo, a per-no-wri-mo if you will. Yep, a goal of two thousand words per day. Luckily we're past the measly 28 days of February. Otherwise I'd have to ramp up to twenty-two or twenty-five hundred a day. And that's just too hard to do. Right? Right? Give me an amen! Or not. I know, it boils down to how badly do I want it.

This ponderous position derives from my writing research and binge reading. Binge reading. Is that considered a syndrome or a personality disorder? Or worse – an addiction? Either way, it's what I've been doing, so label me what you will. After all, labels make the world go round.

Starting a new project also gets you excited. Simmer down – not that kind of excited. In a way, it renews your faith in the process. You also allow yourself to see the world from a different perspective. Sometimes it's a fresh perspective, sometimes it's an old and haggard perspective. Even a tired perspective is interesting when viewed through the eyes of your character.

The plus side to revision is that I now understand what I need to do to make this WIP the best I possibly can. Which, by the way, changes about twice a year as I receive new/better input/information from the world around me. So at what point will I truly have it in its peak form? I guess that's one of the questions of the universe. My universe at least.

Working on revisions still keeps me within the framework of the per-no-wri-mo. In fact, I'll revise my new goal and label it rev-no-wri-mo. Obviously my word count goal will need to be adjusted, but that's no big. Maybe hours per day or pages per day is better than words per day. That's a tough one.

So which way to I go? Revise or new? I think I'll flip a coin.




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    I am a fangirl at heart. My heart races. My adrenaline soars. I love that feeling. It's a basic physiological response that can be summed up in that I feel like I'm thirteen years old again and getting to see the latest teen heart-throb in person. That's how I was today - totally fumbling over myself, as if my crutches didn't make that an easy move anyway. I was talking too quickly, saying stupid things that made no sense to anyone but myself, explaining in detail about things that were irrelevant. I was embarrassed at how nervous I was. Here was my chance to rub elbows with my hoped-for peers and I was behaving like a bumbling idiot. Need I go on?
    “Wow Machelle, what gives? What made you all twitterpated?” you ask. Well, sit down and and let me tell you. Tera Lynn Childs (her latest book, the merlicious Forgive My Fins will be followed by the release of Sweet Venom this fall,, Tracy Deebs (her Tempest Rising debuted this past May!, and Jennifer Archer (Her YA debut – by no means from a newbie author - Through Her Eyes were at A Real Bookstore in The Village at Fairview (Allen, TX) for the CHILLS AND THRILLS TEEN BOOK SIGNING TOUR. As if that wasn't enough, Rosemary Clement-Moore (the brains behind journalist Maggie Quinn's adventures and the author of The Splendor Falls, was hanging around for good measure.
    I had missed Rachel Caine (author of Bite Club, part of the Morganville Vampires' fame, both at A Real Bookstore and at The Smith Library in Wylie, TX. Geez! Can you believe it? Two different nights and I couldn't make either of them. It's all good. I'll catch Rachel on the flip side.
    To meet the Thrill and Chill authors was a thrill for me. Let me tell you, these ladies had to be tired, but they were beyond nice to me and the remaining stragglers. I arrived fifteen minutes after the signing officially ended (sometimes life puts little road bumps in your way), but I persevered. And I was rewarded. They were still signing, chatting, standing for pictures, and they were all smiles the entire time.
    Fangirl! Through and through! I have followed these ladies via social media for a long time. Now I can associate actual, touchable humans to the pictures on twitter, websites, and blogs. I was on a writer's high. Respect ladies, respect.
    I've finished writing my first book. Three times. My husband keeps asking me how many more revisions it will take. Then he follows up by commenting that you can over-revise. Yeah, I know, but I really don't think I'm even close to the point of over-revision. My critique group looked things over. I've had friends read it. Friends of friends have even read it. Actual real-life teens read it too. Everyone liked it. Everyone but the people who count – count as far as getting my foot in the publishing door.
    Talk about frustrating! If the buying public likes it, why don't the agents? The difference is "like" versus "love". It's good enough, but in this tough market, it's not great enough. Yet. I finally get it though. I understand what separates the goods from the greats. Yes I think my book is as good as a lot of what is sitting on the book store shelves. But maybe that's just it. They are sitting on the shelves and not moving off of those shelves.
    What changed for me? A stroke of luck and maybe some good old-fashioned, friendly chit-chat. An editor, yes an editor from an actual publishing house, took the time to read my first five pages and show me where it needed work. Then she said to study the great writers. I did. Wow, did I ever. I've been pouring over books. Inhaling them. A friend recently asked how many books I've read during my spree. She didn't believe me when I said I average a book every day and a half. If all I did was read, I'd swallow almost two books a day depending on their size, but I do have adult/parental/marital responsibilities so I can't devote an entire day to reading.
    I've compared boy/first POV to girl/first POV to boy/third POV to girl/third POV. I've looked into the effectiveness of third limited to multiple POV's. Within these POV's is passive action versus physical action. I've compared them all. Was this avenue effective? Why? Or would this other method have been better? I took notes. Furiously, copiously, I took notes and I studied my notes.
    I get it now. I know what I need to do. In fact at this point, I feel completely qualified to teach on these subjects. The question is, the real issue at heart is, can I put what I've learned into action? Can I step up and  pull this off or have I set my bar too high? After all, great players don't translate into great coaches and the best coaches probably weren't the best players. Right here, right now, I want to be a great player.