Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Cat News & Other Updates

I started this blog as a means of helping writers learn a bit more about the craft, and to provide an inside look at the life of a working writer (and horse lover) for anyone who might be interested.

If someone contacts me about what I write, it is usually to ask a question about the writing world, or ask my take on a horse training technique. I never claim to know it all, but I try my best to respond when people ask me something.

But lately, it is this ongoing "Berrien County cougar" story that is compelling people to write to me. Most of them are the well-meaning romantic types who desperately want to believe that the cougars are coming back, and who take me to task for questioning the veracity of the verdict that a cougar is in the area.

While I, too, wish the cougar would make a comeback here, I remain skeptical that one was responsible for the horse's death late in November. I am appalled that no DNA testing has been performed on the animal -- especially after digging up the equine carcass so sensationally, and then not inviting a DNR representative to the forensic exam.

And so, I was very interested in the following email from N.F. of Kalamazoo yesterday:

The idea of a wild and reproducing population of cougars in southern Michigan has a wonderfully romantic appeal - I wish/hope it is true. Unfortunately Dr. Rusz and company are trying to prove it the wrong way - cutting corners and sensationalizing reports.

N.F. then directed me to the Cougar Network. This fascinating, fact-filled website has a “Breaking News” section that chronologically lists cougar citations in the reputable media.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and Dr. Patrick Rusz (whose visual examination of the horse’s carcass provided the media with the cougar confirmation, you’ll remember) are mentioned in several articles. One from the January, 2004 edition of Woods-n-Water News calls Rusz’ methodology and official statements into question.

The article by Tom Carney is well-written and reported. It also serves to illustrate why it is important for journalists to check their sources.

The jury is still out on what attacked the horse near here. But that doesn’t stop people from speculating. Some say “cougar.” Others say “dog pack.” Still others say “bear cub,” “wolverine,” or “escaped pet tiger.” I only hope it doesn’t take another livestock tragedy or – God forbid, an attack on a human – for people to conclusively find out exactly what it was.

In Other News

I am very honored to have my article Fashioning Fabulous Forewords featured on this week. Regular readers will quickly notice that the article was derived from the content of several postings on this blog earlier this year.

If you are at all interested in writing, I encourage you to check out the AbsoluteWrite website. It’s got something for everyone, and it’s full of reputable bankable information on the craft (and not just from me!).

Furthermore, earlier this year, Jenna Glatzer, the Absolute Write editor, worked to compile “Stories of Strength,” to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. All proceeds go to disaster relief charities. The book has been available for less than a month and has already raised over $3,000 for disaster relief efforts. What a great example of writers coming together to make a difference!

Saying “Thanks!”

I received a note regarding the acknowledgments in Geoff’s book from one of the editors at Trafalgar Square today. In our acknowledgments, we mention her by name and thank her for all of her help.

She very kindly pointed out the names of two other people on the publishing staff that did the hands-on editing and manuscript checking, and suggested that they should get a nod as well.

Of course, we’ll add “Thanks” to them as well. I just thought it was nice of her to mention some that we may have inadvertently overlooked. That’s just one more thing that I like about working with Trafalgar Square – they’re not in it for glory. What a refreshing rarity!