Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book II

The book is just about done, Meaning the rough draft at least. All painting are complete, except one. Once I finish that one I’ll do one more run through for final brush strokes. The narrative parts of the story are also nearly done. I decided to tell the story in poem form since it’s for kids. Here’s a picture of most of the paintings in various stages, plus the “Very formal” outline of the book with notes.

In the next part of the book, where I left off in the last post, Anna tells Granola that it’s time for her to go, for good. She says Granola is ready. Granola is saddened by this so runs away from home, has a good cry on a rainy day, and is finally brought home by her parents. She gets a warm bath and lots of hugs.

Later, Mom sits Granola and Scruffy down and tells them some big news.

In the end, time passes. Granola turns two! She doesn’t see Anna anymore but says she knows Anna still watches over them all. Except she says this in kid-friendly terms, in rhyme.

I’m still working on the cover but here it is, still in progress.

My next post about this book will be when it’s done and ready to read. Until then I’ll be focusing on some of the other paintings and my new foray into Makers’ Markets and selling my work.

Happy Creativity! Thanks for reading.


Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book

Though I’ve sworn off writing fiction and instead have thrown myself into oil painting, I’ve realized recently that maybe there’s a way to do both.

The day after Christmas, my old Schnauzer Anna passed away from complications of dementia and heart disease. My dog Granola was very close to her old doggy sister, though she also adores her middle- aged buddy Scruffy. One day I noticed Granola looking in a mirror, so I photographed her as I often do. I decided instantly to paint it but then got the idea to add Anna in, but only on one side.

From there I became completely pulled into the idea of writing a book about loss for children. I planned out the book on index cards, just like old times. Though this time there weren’t as many cards as an 80,000 word novel needs a bit more planning.

I decided to start the story when Granola was little. These paintings still need a little touching up but they’re a good sneak preview.

Over time, Anna’s age started to get the best of her. One day she got sick and Granola and Scruffy waited and waited. But she didn’t come home… Note my masterful sketches I use as a guide.

After that day, the pups were very sad…

Soon after, in the book, Granola sees Ghost Anna in the mirror, where it all started. She is very excited until she jumps right through her. She runs and hides but eventually comes out again, tentatively. Again, not to worry, these paintings are drafts. I’d never post drafts of writing online but with paintings I think it’s fun to see the process. I’m grateful my dogs are so good about picture time.

After that, when Granola saw Anna’s ghost wasn’t going to hurt her, it made her happy. Anna stuck around for a while. They hung out and played games together, though Scruffy couldn’t see her and thought it was her imagination. Why I got the idea of puzzles I’ll never know but I thought it would be fun to paint.

That’s plenty of teaser for now. I’ve got a lot more paintings done and only ONE PICTURE left to paint. Then I have to work out the narrative part. I know what I want to say but any good writer will tell you, it’s how you say it. And that, I don’t have figured out yet.

I’ll share more soon but didn’t want you all to think I was being lazy or binge watching TV with my “free” time. Okay, I am also binge watching TV, from behind my easel. I highly recommend Offspring and Wilfred. I’ve recently started watching LOST which I haven’t seen since it aired. And of course the perfect shows whose seasons end all too quickly, This Is Us and Call the Midwife.

Until next time, happy painting!


Oil Paintings- A Continuing Journey

Since my last post, I’ve had twinges of longing to write again. I’ve sat down at my laptop and “scribbled” down some badly written starts. In the past I’d persevere until the bad scribbles turned into something good. But with my long hiatus from writing, it’s still difficult to bring myself to write much more than blogs. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring my newfound love of painting.

When I was very young I loved to draw. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up but wasn’t good at it. This was back in the 70s and we didn’t have much money so art lessons in person weren’t even thought of. When we were kids, we played outside a lot and followed our creative pursuits and let our schools lead the way. There was no Internet or YouTube, no online lessons. Maybe there were art books in the library but writing stories came a lot more naturally to me. So that’s what I did. In sixth grade, I still really liked drawing and art class but because of budget cuts (Prop 2 I think it was called) only the tops kids got to pursue art in seventh and eighth grade in a class they called Super Art. I wasn’t chosen, not by a long shot, so that was that with art except for occasional cartoons I’d draw for myself or others.

When I took an oil painting class months ago it was a random happenstance, and I didn’t expect much. I couldn’t draw so I wouldn’t be able to paint. I’ve learned in the last several months that they don’t have to be interrelated. When I paint now, I’ve got the same excitement and enthusiasm I had when I was a child.

Since the last post here are the paintings I’ve finished. I’m throwing fewer in the trash and more are being hung on my wall or sent to people who want them hanging in their homes. This is a wonderful feeling, seeing my work on someone else’s wall. Each day something I created brings them joy. There’s nothing better than that.

Without further ado, here’s my newest stuff.

We’ll see what 2022 brings but for now as long as I’m doing something creative, I think I’ll be just fine.

Here’s to a creative and happy 2022.


Oil Painting- Dog Portraits

I’ve been painting like a madwoman because whenever I start a new hobby I go full force. I started painting dogs for practice and feel like I’m getting pretty good at it, enough to start selling them one of these days. Maybe it wouldn’t be as much fun if I had to do it but I may explore this and put any money earned toward my credit card debt. And if I don’t go that route, I’ll paint a bunch more and hang them to add fun and whimsy to my living room wall.

Here are the ones I’ve completed to date. The black and white ones are all of my Granola. The Australian Shepherd is my friend’s dog, Jasper. The terrier-type dog is my stepfather’s buddy Scooter.

This weekend I did the two below. The little brown dog, Maysie, belongs to my husband’s coworker. The poodle is my father-in-law’s dog, Bridget.

I’ve got two more to paint that someone requested and then I’m seriously going to consider opening an Etsy shop or at least advertising locally. I’m a little intimidated with trying to paint humans but I should give that a shot too.

Painting is so relaxing. The materials are a bit expensive but once I have the paints they last a while, except for black and white which I use up pretty quickly. I use Winsor and Newton Paints, Artist’s line, linseed oil and Dammar Varnish. I’ve been using the Winsor Winton Titanium White from Amazon because I use so much. It’s a little thicker but the oil thins is nicely.

I’ve got shelves full of tile and need to get back to mosaics one of these days. The only reason I’ve slowed down, okay two reasons, are the mosquitos that are STILL HERE even though it’s October 31st. Happy Halloween by the way. And second, I used up all the wall I can easily get to that’s not obstructed by plants. Any new work I do will need to be on the hill and it’s a lot harder to tile, lugging up heavy tile, water, and grout.

I hope you enjoy the paintings and feel a bit inspired.


My Mosaic Wall – My Sugar Glider

A lot of people still don’t know what a Sugar Glider is, which is probably a good thing. They’re adorable, snuggly, loyal, and more work than someone would expect for a tiny marsupial that weighs less five ounces. A lot of people buy them on impulse, like Ivy and I did, and then realize they’re not just an expensive, smart, hamster-sized creature that is content to live alone in a cage and chew things. A lot of them end of being neglected or rehomed. Ivy and I had one for eight years until she passed away. Mia, as we named her, had a lot of adventures with us. She was on Pets 101 on the Animal Planet with us, played escape artist and got lost several times in our old place, and spent about six hours a day on average sleeping in my shirt and sharing my lunch when I worked from home.

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to add a sloth to a bare spot I had on the wall. I looked at cartoon pics of a sloth and laid out a draft of it on a 12 inch square tile. I was pretty excited at how cute it was and expected this to be an easy project. I used bathroom white tile from the Habitat for Humanity Restore, gray floor tile from the same store, and various pieces of brown glass tile and black penny tiles from Home Depot. I’ve got some Dollar Tree broken plates for the leaves.

Unfortunately once I added it to the wall it looked terrible. But I wasn’t worried because once I add the grout everything usually falls into place. Except because there was so much white, it didn’t look at all like a sloth.

So I painted the in between spots with black grout paint. It looked ridiculous. And worse, I discovered sloths didn’t have tails so I had to chip away the tail, much to the annoyance of the husky next door who DID NOT LIKE all that hammering and chiseling. This was the final, which I hated. I planned to go out the next day and chip the whole thing off the wall which I have never done before but I was not pleased with it, at all.

When I looked at it closely, I saw that it kind of reminded me of Mia, my old Sugar Glider. She was gray and hung upside down from things and resembled this bad attempt at a sloth. She passed away a few years ago and I had failed to memorialize her on the wall previously.

I picked up medium gray grout stain and mixed it with my grout. I chiseled away the nose and the sky where the big ears would need to go. I didn’t want to chip away the sky where the sloth tail had once been, and add the tail back. But Sugar Gliders have long tails. I placed the tail tile over the sky tile, to go give it a 3D look but more so because I didn’t want to start chipping away too much of the long-settled piece beside it.

Finally, my finished result! Still not great but a lot cuter than it was before and now I’ve got my little Mia to make me smile when I look at the wall.

Now that I’ve got the gray stain I may go back and work on the Easter Island heads again. If I do, I’ll add an update to the last entry.

Two weeks ago I started an oil painting class so I may be adding pictures of new art one of these days.

Until then, happy creatiing!


My Mosaic Wall-The Pets

Though I didn’t add the pets to the wall all at once, eventually they all made their way. The first one I attempted was my Mini Schnauzer, Anna. I was excited because as I made her likeness on the wall, I was looking at an old picture of her on my phone. When I finished though, she looked more like a raccoon than a Schnauzer. As I’ve filled in the areas around her, she’s starting to look more like a dog. As of today, she’s 15 1/2 years old and still just as wonderful as when I got her at 4 months old.

The next pet attempt was Sasha, my 21 1/2 year old Siamese cat. This was shortly after I discovered grout paint, so I colored her face in. Somehow the mosaic ended up huge, compared to everything else. Since this is a creative endeavor, merely to keep my brain busy and cover the gray concrete, I decided to enjoy the giant Sasha mosaic.

Next came Mabel, who came out just about how she looked in real life. We only had Mabel for a short time. Two years ago I went outside for a walk and saw a woman with her on a leash. The woman said she’d found her running in the street and thought someone may have dumped her. I estimated her to be about ten years old, which a chip later confirmed. She was a pretty dog, well behaved, and very itchy. I said I’d take her in until we could find her owners, since the woman was going to have to bring her to a shelter. The owners never appeared. Mabel loved the other pets and instantly took charge as the pack leader, guiding them along the way as herding dogs do. She had a big personality and we loved her very much for the time we had her. About a year in, she developed heart disease. Despite lots of vet visits and, by the end, twelve pills a day, plus allergy shots, eventually her heart gave out. I’m happy that I see her image every day on the wall.

Next came Lily, our Yorkie. Like Anna, Lily came with me from Massachusetts. She passed away about a month before Mabel, also from heart failure. Lily had health issues for many years but she was so sweet. Losing two dogs so quickly was heartbreaking and I’m glad I added them to the wall when they were still with us. She was about 8 1/2 when she passed away.

Scruffy was the last mammal entry. We got Scruffy about five years ago when we innocently went to PetSmart to get cat food. It was Pet Adoption Day and Scruffy was with her foster sisters, in a small area in the center of the store. She was ten months old when we got her and had been rescued from a kill shelter. She’s a great dog but has really been affected by the loss of Mabel and Lily.

Tortuga was my boyfriend’s turtle long before I was in the picture. I know the mosaic looks nothing like him but turtles are hard to make. Tortuga came from a street fair when he was about the size of a silver dollar. He’s about twenty-five years old and the oldest pet.

I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my life, and seeing my pets.

Happy Tiling!


When Sugar Gliders Run Away

 Around 5:30 tonight I put a pan of lasagna in the oven and decided to take Mia, my sugar glider, outside  to get some fresh air. I’ve taken her out lots of times and let her play on little trees or bushes where I can keep an eye on her.  In New England we only have short bursts of hot weather so I wanted her to feel some sun on her face.

I stepped outside my door and to the one half tree right next to my townhouse.

Because I think Mia is the cutest thing ever, I set her on the tree  for a second to take a picture of her. And wouldn’t you know the little monster scurried up that tree so fast I couldn’t stop her. It doesn’t look  high in the pics it, but it is. There was no where she could go, except to the leafy tree next to it, but the street was right on the other side. If she decided to glide around she could SPLAT on a car. 

The two dogs stood next to me, wondering where Mia was, and why I kept looking up. At this point I was sure she’d be down any second as she has bonded to me and is usually clinging to my arm or shoulder. I ran inside and got my camera, shut the oven off less my lasagna burn, and went back out. I used the camera both to tape her, thinking it would be a cute footage for later, and also because I could zoom in and find her when she was hiding in the leaves.

A half hour went by. She wasn’t coming down. The neighbors came home. Yay! Both sets actually arrived at the same time. I got my big ladder which was actually not big at all near the tree. I climbed it, but it was no use.

At this point, we were about 90 minutes in. One neighbor went in, the other stayed with me (a woman). At this point, people in houses all around were starting to peek their heads out. Some kids asked what was going on. The man across the street from me, who in five years I’ve never met, yelled over, “Your cat stuck in the tree?”

“No, my sugar glider.”

“What?” I’m used to this. No one knows what a sugar glider is. I explained what she looked like and added, because it’s a fun fact, that we were on Animal Planet. He came over with his BIG ladder but it still wasn’t big enough. It reached about halfway up the tree. He shimmied up it in seconds and coaxed her with bread shoved into broom bristles. She walked up to end of the broom then ran back up, well out of reach.

The sun was setting and since she’s nocturnal and I’m not, I really needed to get her down before darkness fell or I could lose her forever.

So the neighbor, Mike,  went home and got the giant ladder which was as high as the tree. He mentioned then he had been in Iraq. I noticed his Marine shirt. If anyone could save my glider, he could. After a while of all of us shaking the stump and the leafy tree, banging the ladder against the tree to spook her, nothing happened. Mia ran back and forth, playing glider games: eating bark and bugs, washing her hands, gliding from the stump to the leafy tree, playing peek a boo…

Finally the Marine, against my pleas, climbed the giant ladder. “Well look at this,” he called down. There was a little cubby area in the top of the tree and Mia was hiding in there. He reached in and though she protested, he was able to grab her and come, one-handed, down the ladder. He gave her to  me and I promptly put her back in her cage where she will rest in solitary confinement until the panic wears off both of us. No more outdoor trips. She is hiding under her blanket now, tired from her big adventure. Two hours in a tree was a long time for her, and for me 

I am grateful she came out of it unscathed and pleased that everyone worked so well together to save my litter sugar glider.

Note: the outdoor pics were taken on a day she behaved herself on a tiny tree. No pictures today except of her sleeping quiet and safe under her blanket.

Foolproof Puppy Housebreaking Method-Or Is It?

I have two dogs. Anna is my 6 year old Mini Schnauzer and Lily is my 11 month old Piggy Yorkie. No, Piggy Yorkie is not a new hybrid, she’s just an exceptionally large dog for her breed, 11 pounds begat from 6 pound parents. Anna goes through phases of being housebroken. Locked in her small hallway, she’s fine all day. She usually sleeps through the night and on the rare occasions she doesn’t. she wakes me up to take her out. Well, at least that’s how it used to be.

I got Lily last summer and Anna has regressed. Lily was pad trained when I got her, and still is, mostly. But she also sometimes urinates on the rug near the pad, or nowhere near it. I was pretty proud of both of them for a while as they had the run of the first floor and there were no visible messes, even on the pee pad (for Lily, Anna won’t use them).  But then the oriental rug under the dining room table started to smell like a barn and I figured it out.

I sequestered them back in their hallway during the day, covered the oriental runner in plastic, and put down a pad. Okay good, that works. But overnight? Inevitably, someone jumps off the bed in the middle of the night in secret and I awake to mysterious circles on the rug. I will say the carpet shampoo manufacturers LOVE me.

I’d just about given up hope and started having fantasies that the dogs would get kidnapped, made into Schnauzer and Piggy Yorkie coats. Then one day I was rubbing Lily’s tummy and noticed her nipples were swollen. It was then I remembered that I had never gotten her fixed. I’d meant to but…and no she’s not pregnant, just in heat.

To prevent even more damage to my carpet I went to Wal-Mart and picked up some doggy underwear, or diapers. They only had one brand available, and it came in a two pack. Pink and purple. They velcro on and you stick panty liners in them. Okay so that’s easy enough. And honestly, Lily looked pretty cute in hers. I got to thinking that when she was wearing it, she wouldn’t be likely to pee her panties and that would housebreak her.

I thought what the heck, why not slap the second pair on Anna and my overnights would be pee free? The first night, Lily was restless. The second night, it was Anna who did not like the clothing. But two nights in a row? Clean rugs!

Within a few days, Anna seemed to get use to night diapers and Lily found ways to wriggle out of them within seconds.  Lily has a long body and whoever docked her tail (not a practice I approve of but she was that way when I got her) cut it too short. As such, the panties don’t stay on very well. With the smallest amount of wriggling, they slide right down her skinny little butt.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I started this experiment. Lily has stopped menstruating so she doesn’t need the pads anymore, and obviously Anna never did. I still put them on both dogs every night.

I say I’ve cut accidents by about 50%. It would be higher if Lily’s were harder for her to get off. And the upside is that if Lily does get up in the middle of the night, she mostly uses the pad. People use crates and leashes and lots of other ways to train their dogs, but for me, this seems the least restrictive.

I’m hoping that if i keep this up another couple of weeks then let them sleep diaper free, I’ll finally wake up to clean carpets. I’ll keep everyone posted but for now, so far so good.

I’ll post updates as I have them.


To see all the work Tracy currently has for sale, please go to her AMAZON PAGE.

My Sugar Glider- First Post

by Tracy L.  Carbone

Last Sunday my daughter and I were in our local mall and noticed a gathering of people. We moved toward it, wondering what all the commotion was about.  To our astonishment, it was performance by a company called Pocket Pets. Three young men in khaki parachute pants and button down shirts paraded around carrying the cutest creatures I’ve ever seen. They explained to us that they are called Sugar Gliders. Tiny marsupials who bond with their humans and, once bonded, will want nothing more than to snuggle with you in your pocket, or on your shoulder. They live for 12-15 years, like a dog or cat.

I worried, because I have a dog and a cat. Would they try to kill this little creature? No, the men said. As did the literature they encouraged us to go read and seriously consider. Marsupials and not rodents so regular domestic animals don’t have a frame of reference for them and don’t know what they are. Certainly, they don’t try to eat them. I wanted to believe this so badly. And all they eat is pellets and fruit and veggies. No vet visits, no shedding, no major care at all, you just have to cuddle with them a lot.

We asked the cost. $489. Yikes. But it was all inclusive-animal (you get to pick your own pet), a VERY large well-made two level cage, food, vitamins, water bottle, food dish, heat rock, a CD we had to listen to before we touched her again. And unlimited access to a website that told us everything we’d need to know. It provided a network of people to talk to, and they’d send emails every day for the first month to make sure we were on the right track. My daughter and I looked at each other, got all excited, and said YES!!!! Then they said we needed a bonding pouch as well and encouraged us to buy a 2 yr supply of food and vitamins. Okay, done. Total $601. About the price I paid for my little dog 5 years ago.

Here’s our record so far:

Day 1-we brought her home in a pink fuzzy zippered “bonding pouch” which we were told to keep around someone’s neck for 3-4 hours before setting her in her new cage (after we set it up and listened to the CD).  Abby and I would switch off holding her in the pouch. She skittered away and hid and made an ungodly loud noise for something that only weighs a couple of ounces. The site says if she screams it means “I’m SCARED, hold me tighter!” So we did the little squeeze technique under her blanket and she quieted instantly. We put clothes from Abby and me in her cage so she could learn our scent. We also put a dog toy in there that we rubbed on the dog and cat. She didn’t make noise all night like we thought and our dog and cat didn’t realize she was even here. They were confused about the giant cage however. We named her Niama.

Day 2-Dying to play with her but we’re supposed to leave her alone for two days to destress. We added and took away her 1/8 of an apple as recommended, which she only nibbled at. Still, we watched her when she came out and ate. The dog and cat still show nothing but a passing interest. No barking dog or hissing cat. They’re just mildly curious. We snuck this picture. My daughter has renamed her Mia. We took a video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Day 3- It’s killing us that we can’t play with her. Ugh! She’s so cute. She’s “barking” when we get close or our dog sticks her nose near the cage. Anna, the dog, is terrified but still curious. We are changing her food and sprinkling her apple with Glid-A-Mins every other day. She readily comes out of her cuddly spot and eats while we watch.

Day 4- Abby took her out of her cage and put her in the pouch and let her sit there all day till I came home. She let her pee and poo (as shown on video) twice. Mia wriggled a lot but Abby kept her mostly wrapped up. I came home and took her from the pouch and held her the special way. She screamed a lot and shook and bit me about 100 times before I could rearrange her. It hurt but didn’t break the skin. After about 20 minutes I put her back in the pouch and held her. Abby bonded with her all day and now it was my turn. Around 11pm I put her in her cage. She ate some apple and scurried off.  I don’t hear her up all night playing so am worried but she seems healthy. She’s on another floor though so maybe she plays quietly. Oh, she ate apple out of my hand and licked blueberry yogurt.

Day 5- Abby took her out of her cage today and let her go pee and poo. She sat in Abby’s hand for an hour somewhat wrapped in a paper towel. She fell asleep. She’d wake and cry and Abby would squeeze and she’d settle down. She spent most of the day in and out of the pouch. I came home and she was in her cage so I took her out, let her pee and poo and held her in my hand for about an hour. I didn’t get bitten!!! Maybe I’ve learned the grip better or she’s getting used to us. She licked peach juice off my fingers and fell asleep in my hand. She’s now sleeping in her bonding pouch. When I get up and move around she screams but a quick rub comforts her immediately.

I think we’re going to be just fine. 🙂


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, a middle grade paranormal mystery, published by Echelon Press. Buy now on BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.

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