Giving Back: An Interview with Author Ed Ehlers of Max & Tucker Adventures

For this month’s post, I interviewed good friend and children’s book author Ed Ehlers.  It seems appropriate in this season of giving and hope to talk about books that literally give back to society, not just by their positive message, but also by directly giving back a share of the proceeds to wildlife and animal rescue organizations.

Hopefully by the end of the interview, you’ll come to agree with the Max & Tucker motto – “Those that we save really save us”.

INTERVIEW

Did you ever imagine you would become a children’s author?

I imagined being an astronaut, a transformer, a Viking, wait, I was a Viking but that’s another story.  However, never a children’s author.  I’ve always enjoyed reading, writing, and even, editing but it was always more for personal enjoyment.  Although, I’ve always enjoyed children’s books – my all-time favorite is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

The Max & Tucker Adventures are based on true life experiences.  Could you summarize one of the real-world experiences that inspired one of the books?

Yes, both books are based on actual events.  Deer Oh Deer is the story of how Max & Tucker helped rescue a deer.  Lily & Lucy is the story of how Max & Tucker helped rescue two puppies.  We, Max, Tucker, and I, had been headed to woods like most weekend mornings when we spied two puppies on the dirt road ahead of us.  We stopped and I got out to approach the puppies.  The little black one ran up to me right away, she was so starved for human attention.  The little white one wanted nothing to do with me.  She would dart off into the woods as I approached her only to remerge 50 feet down the road.  Eventually, I had to let Max & Tucker help catch her.  It took two hours, three humans, and Max & Tucker to catch one little puppy. With the help of our friend, Uncle Peter, we fostered the puppies which we named Lily & Lucy.  I’ll leave it there, so I don’t spoil the ending.

One of the messages you, Max & Tucker share with your audiences “Just act! Imagine the story you will inspire!”  Could you describe what that means?

Everyday each of us is presented with multiple opportunities to act.  So often, we let these chances pass us by.  Whether it is helping a neighbor, aiding a stranger, saving an animal, or just smiling at a passerby, there are untold occasions for us to act.  The incredible thing about acting is that it is like the proverbial pebble in the proverbial pond. You cast your pebble and you know not what ripples are sent forth.  Taking action is the same; that smile, that wave, that reaffirming comment can ripple through the lives of others and may change their whole day, their whole life.  One small action can set you on a whole new trajectory.  Stopping to help two puppies can lead to a children’s book series which help thousands of animals and humans in need. Just act! Imagine the story you will inspire!

A portion of the proceeds from your book sales goes to Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation and the Wildlife Rescue League.  Could you provide information on how others could support these causes?

You can do a lot. You can adopt a dog, foster a cat, be a pet taxi, become a wildlife rehabilitator, answer the wildlife helpline, or donate.  But the simplest thing you can do is share – share a post on your Instagram, share a story on Facebook, share a video on TikTok.  Getting the word out is easy and free.  You want to make a difference? Instead of sharing a picture of your latest cappuccino, share a photo of a seasoned dog needing a home.  Commit to sharing one post a week about animal rescue.  You will make a difference in thousands of lives, both animal and human.  Find out more at lostdogrescue.org and wildliferescueleague.org.

You and Max & Tucker often “take your show on the road” and visit schools, libraries, assisted living facilities, adult day care facilities and more.  Is there one particularly touching story you can share with us from these visits?

We’ve had the honor and privilege to be invited to so many venues.  Every time a person smiles at the sight of Max & Tucker is special but there is one that gets me every time.  We were at an assisted living facility sharing Max & Tucker’s stories.  The residents had varying levels of mobility and communication.  One resident was wheelchair bound and was non-verbal.  It was difficult to see if she was enjoying the story.  At the conclusion, Max & Tucker went to the residents who were less mobile and as we approached this resident, she reached down to pet Tucker, leaned further over and hugged Tucker.  She held him for several minutes and when she sat back up, she had tears in her eyes and a huge smile.  The attendant later explained that that was the most movement this resident had done in many months and the first smile in a long time.

You have several creative pursuits in addition to writing – where can folks find out about your other products and interests?

When you are in the woods as much as I am, you notice things.  As Max &Tucker chase squirrels, I would pick up litter and interesting rocks.  I noticed that some of the litter was historic, glass shards from the turn of the last century and that the rock could be quite beautiful.  So, I began making jewelry and art.  One line in particular is called Reinforced by CliftonStone which are one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry and art made from wire reinforced glass from the Women’s Minimum-Security Annex at the Lorton Reformatory.  A portion of the proceeds are donated to ThriveDC which offers programs assisting women to transition to life after prison, stronger than before. You can find Reinforced and other works at etsy.com/shop/cliftonstone and on Facebook at cliftonstoneva.

Finally, if there is one message you could give to the readers, about books or life in general, what would it be?

Make a SEA change.  “Sea Change” is an expression meaning a significant or substantial change; a major transformation; a metamorphosis.  By SEA, I mean Selflessness, Empathy, and Action.  Look beyond yourself.  Feel what others are feeling.  Act.  Your life, and more importantly the lives of others, can be transformed by day-to-day, common place deeds when done with selflessness and empathy.  Max & Tucker Adventures illustrate this beautifully.  We started with a simple trip to the woods, like most weekend mornings. It turned into a series of children’s books and activities which impact thousands of people and animals.

Tools of the Trade

Sometimes, in the midst of a variety of editing and writing assignments, I overlook the process of writing. It seems straightforward enough – simply place ink or pencil to paper, or hover hands over a keyboard, and begin.

With tunnel-like vision on the words themselves, I tend to forget all about if the tools I’m using – whether it be that worn out notebook or a shiny laptop – are the right tools for the job.

After all, the software world is buzzing about DevOps (the marriage of “Development” and “Operations”), the seamless integration between the development and deployment of software, so perhaps it was time to pay some attention to my own personal “WritingOps”.

Could changing how I write radically shake up my writing life just as DevOps shook up the technology sector?

And then I found just the spark I needed to light the fires of change – the Freewrite Traveler.

Dubbed by its creators as a “smart typewriter”, this ultra slim (12x5x1 inches) and ultra-lightweight (1.8lb) device may just revolutionize your writing habits. In addition to being portable, it has almost a week of battery life, a claim few laptops can make. Add to that a one-button upload to your free cloud account (postbox.getfreewrite.com) available to all customers, and you will quickly find the barriers (and excuses) for not writing quickly evaporating.

But what if you are finishing that historical romance novel in an isolated cabin in Maine? Fear not – the Freewrite Traveler provides enough internal storage for your drafts until you can reach the Internet.

Before I go any further, I should mention that I don’t receive any commissions from Astrohaus for selling Freewrite Travelers. Additionally, there are some downsides that might just prove too jarring for MS Word users. To start with, you better upgrade your spelling game, as the simple editor does not include spellcheck. Also, the file format of your drafts will be plain old text (.txt) files, so say goodbye to formatting features or writing your Shakespearean sonnets in that fancy Olde English font. Finally, the price of the Freewrite Traveler is not trivial – $429 based on the current website. You may also find the navigation within your document awkward (as I did) as it is based on old school arrow keys, or the E Ink screen simply too tiny to be usable inside of a novel-length manuscript.

My point is not that the Freewrite Traveler is for everybody. My point is that maybe we all need to shake up our WritingOps a bit. Maybe you are a visual person and you decide to install an erasable white board in your office for diagramming your plots. Or, maybe your aim is to perform more public readings, so you join your local Toastmasters chapter.

Whatever improves the efficiency of your WritingOps is worth the time invested, even if like the Japanese process improvement philosophy of Kaizen, they are small continuous improvements. It is worth it because as the small stickers that ship with the Freewrite Traveler state – Words are hard.

And before you ask – yes, this was written on my Freewrite Traveler.

The Glamorous Life?

When I was young, before I had written a word of fiction, I believed that all writers lived a glamorous life. Ernest Hemingway in particular seemed to embody this image – traveling on safari, sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, drinking whiskey as if he were a fish himself – doing almost everything except writing.

Ernest Hemingway on his boat (from Wikipedia)

Now that I  am older and wiser, I know that Hemingway wrote for hours each day, making him one of the more disciplined writers of his time.  But the larger-than-life Hemingway was a more appealing character to imagine, and therefore the one my younger self gravitated towards.

So, I am writing this post to the new breed of writers out there to let them know some of the disciplines they will find useful in their writing lives, and leaving the catching of Marlins to Salt Water Sportsman Magazine.

Marlin (from Wikipedia)

What Writing is Really Like…Computer Programming

Computer Programming is all about language and syntax, and so is writing.  I know something of this as programming is my day job.  I have often spent hours debugging some code, only to find that a misplaced semi-colon or comma was the culprit.  Writers also will find themselves laboring over the usage and placement of punctuation, understanding that punctuation in the wrong place can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

What Writing is Really Like…Project Management

Project Managers track task and project status, in addition to schedule, budget and other project elements.  As your writing career grows, you will quickly find yourself in need of a spreadsheet, database or other tool to know what you’ve submitted where, when to send a query letter, relevant contact information for publishers and publications, etc.  You will also need to track readings, book fairs, online interviews, etc. on your Outlook or Google calendar.  These demands will intensify as your writing becomes a fulltime occupation, and as you began to spend more time collaborating with others.

What Writing is Really Like…Marketing Executive

While the big publishing houses have marketing resources of their own, new writers trying to make a name for themselves in small independent presses will find themselves on their own to promote their work.  You will be faced with questions like which social media channels reach the biggest (or more importantly, the most relevant) reading audiences, and does it make sense to subscribe to marketing service to promote your books.  Additional considerations involve creating your own author’s website and blog, all of which may require you to acquire new skill sets. Your ability to effectively promote your work becomes even more critical if your work is self-published.

What Writing is Really Like…Accountant

While writing is an art and not a science, sooner or later you will be focused with financial decisions and issues related to your writing.  These may be simple decisions such as whether to enter a writing contest that charges a fee, or whether to hire an independent designer to design your author’s web site.  Other more complicated issues will involve reporting any book sale royalties on your income taxes or tracking the sales tax to be submitted from cash sales at a book fair.  And when you’re finally ready to take the leap and go fulltime, the big financial question:  how much will I have to make on my writing to make a living? 

What Writing is Really Like…Lawyer

Finally, you will be faced with legal issues during your writing career.  I’ll give you a real-life example.  Unbeknownst to me, a designer at one of the publishing companies used an image on my book cover that was copyrighted.  Several years later, I was contacted by the copyright holder demanding a correction, and I referred him to my publisher.  The publisher finally admitted the mistake, and at their expense, corrected the cover.  Other examples include understanding reprint rights for your previously published stories and interpreting contractual agreements with publishers when you begin to get your first professional sales of your stories and novels.

So, there you have it – instead of being glamorous, the above disciplines can be tedious, if not downright boring.  However, these skills will propel your writing career much further than your ability to bait a hook.

Summer’s Almost Gone…

Recently I listened to the Door’s mellow yet satisfying album Waiting for the Sun.

The track “Summer’s Almost Gone” particularly resonates with me this time of year, although probably not for the same reasons as it did for The Doors (interestingly enough, another track on the album is “Wintertime Love”, so the change of the seasons definitely influenced the band on this album).

For me, this is the time of year that I get jacked for Jack-o-Lanterns, giddy for gourds, and generally pumped for pumpkins.

I long for the that crisp feeling in the air, falling leaves, and fire pits, that season that the poet Keat’s described as “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.

This makes me wonder – how did something as innocuous as a mere fruit become an object of terror? Certainly stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and movies like Pumpkinhead have helped solidify this gourd’s place in all things spooky, but where did the association between pumpkins and fear begin in the first place? One wonders.

Back to The Doors – near the end of the song, Morrison mournfully croons these lyrics: “When summer’s gone, where will we be?”

Well, by early October, the major cable networks (AMC, USA, etc.) will start running horror movies nonstop – classic movie franchises like Halloween (ironically, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, involves the Druids and Samhain, which I mention earlier in this post) and Friday the 13th (and yes, the excellent Pumpkinhead), as well as newer additions to the horror film lexicon like Scream and Urban Legend.

So my dearly departed Morrison, when summer’s gone, glued to the silver screen is where I’ll be!

Where you will find yourselves as we enter the dark half of the year?

A Brave New Blog – Post #1- Welcome Readers!

Welcome Readers

Welcome to my brave new blog! This is my first foray into blogging, and I hope you find it engaging, or at the very least entertaining.

My name is R. David Fulcher, and I am a life-long writer. I’ve been labelled a horror writer by some, and without a doubt my writings lurk more in the shadows (see my short story “Pumpkin Seed Spit” in Halloween Party 2019 published by Devil’s Party Press) than in the light. That being said, I’m as proud of my two chapbooks of nature and romantic poetry as I am of my horror stories, and my first book Trains to Nowhere is a historical fiction novella set in World War II.

I don’t intend for this blog to be a formal listing of my publishing credits. I desire this blog to be a place where readers like yourself can get to know me, not as a stodgy distant figure in a tweed jacket, but as a normal person that has this strange compulsion to put my thoughts into words. I hope to make this fun, or at least as much fun as you can have on a web page.

I have an amazing wife, Lisa, no kids, and two crazy cats named Inky and Rocky (see below):

Inky Taking Over My Chair

Rocky on Guard Duty

So I implore you to Follow, Like, Subscribe, and Comment as much as you’re able. Do you want to know my take on a new horror movie or book? Drop me a comment and I promise an honest (if perhaps eccentric!) reply. Want to discuss the merits of literature over genre fiction? Go ahead – strike up the debate! Just hoping the Washington Capitals get back to the Stanley Cup this year? Drop me a line.

This doesn’t have to be a conversation just about writing…Favorite Food? Mexican. Favorite beverage? India Pale Ales (IPA’s) – no, not Absinthe, the favorite drink of vampires worldwide. Sports? Yes, please (I play amateur ice hockey in Virginia).

So grab your lantern before the candle wick burns too low, and let’s walk into the catacombs together…

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