by Lida Sideris
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it.
If you hang around authors long enough, you’ll likely hear tales of dust ridden manuscripts serving a life sentence in the back of a desk drawer. I’m here to tell you that, sometimes, those manuscripts escape.
When the publisher of my first mystery novel announced a children’s picture book division, many authors scrambled to pull something together. I didn’t have to. I had a picture book manuscript snoozing in the recesses of my drawer. But the publisher wanted a fully illustrated manuscript. No problem. I had a friend who had a friend who knew a friend of a professional illustrator. Attempts to connect were made, but nothing happened.
Two months later, I appeared at an author fair on the Central Coast of California. While I waited for the fair to start, I browsed through the books of the other thirty or so writers. I discovered an author who’d indie-published a picture book featuring bold, bright, and eye-catching illustrations. By the time the fair was over, we’d decided to work together. In short order, I had a fully illustrated picture book, which I sent off to the publisher.
The manuscript for The Cookie Eating Fire Dog was born about twenty years ago when I lived with energetic, imaginative preschoolers. Each of my children had a favorite stuffed animal. A well-behaved purple bunny slept in my older son’s bed. And my younger son carried around a happy-faced, but naughty Dalmatian named Dan.
One day, my younger child announced that Dan refused to help the firefighters when they needed him. I was at the sink washing dishes when I learned about the Dalmatian’s stubborn side.
“Why won’t Dan help?” I asked.
?“Because all he wants to do is eat cookies.”
I stopped washing, grabbed pen and paper, and wrote The Cookie Eating Fire Dog.
I sent the manuscript out and got a bite right away from a big-name publisher. We went back and forth a few times, but they ultimately declined. I tried sending it around some more but, eventually, my story sat dormant in a drawer for a while (yep, twenty years).
If someone had told me I’d be a picture book author, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I’m so glad to be one!
The question I’m asked most often is: Why Dalmatians? How did they end up with firefighters?
Here’s how and more:
—In the days before trucks and engines, fire wagons were pulled by horses. Guess who gets jittery and anxious when around a big fire? Horses. Fire-fighters were on the lookout for a way to keep the horse power calm. Dalmatians and horses got along splendidly, and Dalmatians took their jobs seriously (when they’re not eating cookies). They’d race along the fire wagon and chase away stray dogs running alongside or nipping at the horses’ hooves. When firefighters dashed to the fire, the Dalmatian kept the horses happy, while standing guard to keep robbers from stealing valuable fire equipment.
—Now that we have fire engines, Dalmatians are still used in fire houses as watch dogs and because they’re expert at catching mice and rats.
—Ever hear of George Washington? He had a Dalmatian. Benjamin Franklin was also a fan.
—Dalmatians can run for hours without tiring, which made them the perfect WWII spy. Our spotted friends were used to send secret messages across enemy lines. When the other side saw a funny looking, spotted dog running around, they’d laugh and pay no attention to what the Dalmatian was really doing.
—Dalmatians are the only breed of dog with spots all over (including on their toenails, in their ears and mouths, too). They are stubborn, smart and athletic (when they’re not eating cookies). Is it any wonder why they’re the perfect fire dog?
Dan is a naughty Dalmatian who spends ALL of his time eating cookies. In fact, he’s so busy eating cookies, he has no time to help the firefighters when they need him. Will Dan ever learn the importance of helping others?
A picture book for ages 4-8 (and up!)
To enter to win a copy of The Cookie Eating Fire Dog, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fire dog,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 14, 2021. U.S. residents only for print copy, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email and you want a print copy please include your mailing address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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