I tried to think of a different angle for this month's topic, because I know this is really a downer, but this summer, I can't see the phrase "hot dog" and not think about this guy:

This was Jake--my dog who passed away last winter.

I've sort of been thinking of him lately in a kind of bittersweet light--I'll always be so glad I had him, but from here on out, no matter how many other dogs might fill the house, there will always be a little piece that's missing.

But that, in all obviousness, is life.

And it should also be part of fiction.

The thing is, we don't win without losing too. And what we lose is often unrecoverable. But the things we lose also leave marks on our heart--marks we would never want to erase.

In THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, a subplot surrounds the mother of the MC, Auggie. Auggie's town has led her to believe her mother is in California, shining brighter than any of the stars--the ones in the sky or the ones on the big screen. Her wishing spot is even a billboard featuring her mother's face. During the course of the novel, Auggie finds this story is untrue. As a result, she loses any hope that her mother would return. She loses her belief in a safety net she felt could call on should times get bad.

But learning the truth about her mother also pushes Auggie to stand on her own two feet and do her own fighting. In the end, Auggie succeeds in her quest to save her neighborhood. She finds her place as a folk artist, and she even mends a broken friendship. Along the way, Auggie might have lost any hope she ever had for seeing her mother again, but the whole experience surrounding her mother also taught Auggie to be something of a dreamer and a wishful thinker--qualities that help her develop her artistic eye.

Yet again, that's life--we never win without losing something along the way. Sometimes, the loss is a person, sometimes it's a dog, sometimes it's a belief. But there's always a little bit of bitter that accompanies any taste of sweet.