Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fire and Ice Guest Blog - Susan Page Davis

Today is a guest blog from Susan about her travels and research for Fire and Ice. If you have any questions for Susan, be sure to post them in the comment section.

And now, here's Susan:

Dog sledding is a major theme in my newest Heartsong Presents book—Fire & Ice. It’s the second on my Alaska books (the first was Always Ready), and I had a wonderful time researching and writing this book.
I was able to visit Wasilla, Alaska, where the headquarters for the Iditarod Trail race is located. I soon decided not to feature the Iditarod in my book, but to make up a smaller one, the Fire & Ice, an annual race sponsored by the heroine and her family. Robyn Holland raises and trains sled dogs in my books, and her business is the core of this story. Her world turns topsy-turvy when six elite dogs are stolen from her kennel—four of her own and two belonging to a client.
Writing this story meant a lot of research for me, besides visiting the Iditarod HQ. (By the way, several people have asked me if I saw Sarah Palin while I was in Wasilla, and the answer is no—she was in the Lower 48 while I was in her town.)
What do you do when you want to learn about something you know nothing about? After talking to people in Alaska and watching videos and reading printed material at the Iditarod building, I picked up several books about dog sled racing, two of which I found especially helpful. One, called Mush!, Revised: A Beginner’s Manual of Sled Dog Training, by Charlene G. LaBelle, is perfect for rank amateurs like me. This book answered a lot of basic questions, like: What are dog harnesses made of? How do you put the harness on the dog? At what age do dogs start pulling? And so on. Using this book helped keep me from sounding totally clueless.
The other book that I really loved was The Speed Mushing Manual: How to Train Racing Sled Dogs, by Iditarod winner Jim Welch. It is geared to more advanced mushers—like my character, Robyn. It gives details on training for speed and for those long sled races like the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. It blasted away a lot of my preconceptions about mushing. And it gave me the jargon I needed to make Robyn sound like the professional trainer she is.
So, even though I would still be considered dangerous if I got behind a dog sled, I was able to write believable characters who know what they are doing. And I got to see their gorgeous habitat. I hope all the readers will love Wasilla as much as I did.
One other aspect of writing these books that challenged me: naming all those dogs! I have enough trouble naming all my human characters—in fact, naming my six children almost did me in! So I asked my daughter (who is a dog fanatic) to help me, and she was terrific! Between us, we came up with some creative names. I hope you enjoy reading about Robyn and her canine friends. I would surely love to hear from you on ways to find names for characters—human and otherwise. I admit to opening the phone book on occasion when I’m desperate.
Thanks for coming by. I hope you have a creative day!

QUESTION FOR YOU: What's the most bizarre pet name you've heard?

Join us tomorrow for a peek at a book from the Heartsong Vault.


  1. That sounds like a fun book! My Papa had a dog sled team way back in the day, so this is particularly interesting to me. I see another book in my TBR :D

  2. "Samuel Sebastian" named by my 5 year old at the time.

    Your book sounds great! Love Alaska.

  3. We had a dog for a while we name Clyde, short for Clydesdale, because he was as big as a horse, huge black lab with a big barrel chest.

    Love the picture.

  4. I use the phone book, but sometimes I scan the last names to use as first names. I also keep a baby name book and if I meet someone with a unusual name, I always ask if I can use it for a book. I've never been told no.

  5. Our former pastor's little girl named their new kitten Lipstick. Best part was that the cat was male! :)

  6. By the way, I know that should have been an before unusual in my last post. I'm treadmilling, while I type. Not an easy task.

  7. My niece named her cat Sparkly Princess, and in high school, I had a guppy I named Rufus Rastis Justice Brown (from the old Civil War era song.)

  8. How about my collie I got in the third grade...I named him Fuzzy LOL! My mom bugged me for weeks to change it to Buddy, or Sam or something normal like that, but I didn't budge! Fuzzy he was and Fuzzy he stayed!

    XOXO~ Renee

  9. My sister-in-law had dogs with very unusual names, two I especially remember are Grits and Zucchini!

  10. I used to have a shih tzu named Spice. I named her after a friend who had that name. She was a sweet, little dog, but is in doggy heaven now.

  11. I love the pet names! I should call on you all when writing my next book and looking for names!