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by Betty Dravis

Susan Alcott Jardine is an amazing woman! Not only is she an author, an artist, former actress and an award-winning screenwriter, she and her equally-amazing husband, Neal, are among the most active animal activists in California, and possibly, the nation.

I met Susan about four years ago, shortly after interviewing her former high-school friend, Actor/Producer Tony Tarantino, for Dream Reachers II, a book I co-authored with Chase Von. Susan’s book, The Channel: Stories from L.A., came out about the same time, so I jumped at the chance to review it. A haunting, well-written book… Needless to say, Susan has a way with words… The Channel is available at many online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

susan triple pic art book and green door

Susan was born and raised in Los Angeles where she majored in theatre arts at El Camino College and California State University, LA. As mentioned above, she worked as an actress in theatre, television and film before working behind the scenes in music production/publishing, as a writer/editor for entertainer Kenny Rogers’s “Special Friends” newsletter, in entertainment law and broadcast television. She and her writing partner Marc Havoc received the WGA Foundation Award for their screenplay Lullabyeland.

susan in bus stop

ECC Theater Production of “Bus Stop,” directed by Joseph D’Agosta who also played Bo to Susan’s Cherie. — with Neal Jardine at El Camino College, Torance, CA.

While playing a role in a film at Paramount Pictures, Susan not only met Tony Bennett and the late Stephen Boyd, she also became friends with the acclaimed screenwriter Harlan Ellison who wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, among many other acclaimed literary/cinematic successes. Ellison became her mentor, actually critiquing her first published story from The Channel: Stories from L.A.,The Metamorphosis of Nathanial Kronstadt, which was first published in Ellery Queens’s Mystery Magazine back in 1985. She acknowledges Ellison as “a turning point and inspiration” in her life. For more about Harlan Ellison, check Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Ellison

susan with neal by artThis versatile and talented woman is also a painter, and her artwork is in private collections in the US, San Salvador, and Kenya, East Africa, including the permanent collection of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband Neal and many rescued cats.
Art website: http://www.GreenDoorEditions.com

While most of us writers dream of having movies developed from our books, Susan’s dream is much more altruistic: she and her husband Neal dream of founding a Feral and Stray Cat Foundation.

Since 2006, Susan and Neal have been actively rescuing feral and stray cats from the freeway berm that runs behind their home. Over the years they have been trapping, spaying, neutering and moving mother cats, kittens and new litters into their Green Door Editions (GDE) art studio, as well as using it for a recovery area for sick and injured cats. The Jardines named the studio their “temporary kitty hospital.”

susan's neal with cats on bed

Susan confided, “’Life’ and recent unforeseen events sent us into a tailspin here at GDE, forcing us to regroup and formulate a Plan B. But, from the chaos and re-grouping, New Doors opened up to a new path for us here at GDE. Through a loving gift from my late parents’ Trust, as if by magic, there was a ‘Gift’ to be used to start our animal rescue foundation.”

In 2015, the Jardines plan to open their non-profit foundation: “Alex & Friends’ Foundation” which will benefit ‘Feral & Stray Cat Rescue.’ Neal will be working from the legal aspect to set up a non-profit (501) (c) (3) to comply with Federal and state Regulations, and Susan will utilize her art & writing to create the logo and artwork for small gift items that can be added to a new website for the foundation.

dog with poster“It won’t happen overnight,” Susan said, “but by baby steps, we can slowly set it up and connect with other non-profits in the community. We will keep you posted and let you know when we’re finally up and running. A lot of legal work needs to be done before we can go forward, like setting up our Board of Directors, financial account, etc. The good news is that the non-profit status has already been approved by the IRS. We are moving forward and will keep you posted when it is finally up and running as a non-profit animal rescue foundation.”

I’m excited for Susan and Neal…and for all the animals they are helping. I admire them and others who care enough about animals to devote their lives and resources to them. To learn more about all the animals they help, check Susan’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/susan.alcottjardine?fref=ts Don’t forget to check Susan’s site on a regular basis so you can either rescue a pet yourself or donate to this worthy cause.

ENDNOTE: Not essential to this story is a fact I would like to mention before closing: Neal’s brother is the famous Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. Since we and most of our fans love The Beach Boys, I thought you might enjoy that interesting tidbit.

Susan and Neal with Al Jardine

Neal and Susan celebrated with Al Jardine at his performance and book signing on the Target stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. After performing his hit song, “Sloop John B,” Al greeted fans and signed copies of his children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale,” which also contained a CD of the song.

al jardine with brian wilson at bb concert in indio ca august 30 2014

BEACH BOYS Brian Wilson & Al Jardine still going strong as they prove at a recent concert in Indio, California. Next year they will take the ever-popular songs of the Boys to the UK.

 

First, let me say that I have nothing against cats. I like them. At least six have “owned” me over the course of my life.

But my heart belongs to dogs—both real and fictional.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Right now I share my furniture and take long walks with two ten-pound hairballs, Bubba (a miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) and Max (a purebred Maltese with issues). (Pictures on my website, www.deadlyduomysteries.com )

I share my office with a trio of fictional canines, Sebastian, Nelson, and Cheese Puff.

That puts me in good company. Dogs reside in far more than a third of all U.S. households. And a heck of a lot of writers have created canine companions—from Argos to Lassie to White Fang to Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie.

Many fictional dogs work hard, serving as symbols or sounding boards and providing pivot points for plot. Some are loyal companions, faithful and protective. Others supply comic relief, clues, or red herrings. Some are smart. Others are goofballs. Many help ratchet up tension.

Some writers hesitate to write kill off a dog (or cat or other creature) because they believe readers won’t forgive them for it. Others, however, create fictional canines that make the ultimate sacrifice.

Do well-drawn, memorable fictional dogs increase sales? Especially sales to dog lovers?

Probably.

Did I consider that before I created my fictional dogs?

Nope.

I created them for their value to plot and characterization.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

My first fictional dog, Sebastian, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of A Place of Forgetting. He’s old, his muscles are limp and stringy, and his eyes are clouded, but protagonist Liz Roark loves him. To disrupt her life and force her to leave her hometown and get on with life, I sent them up a mountain on a perfect autumn day and let him die a peaceful death. Several readers wrote to tell me they loved Sebastian and were sad to see him go, but understood why I did that.

Nelson, the three-legged dog out for vengeance in Through a Yellow Wood, is the lone survivor of a serial killer’s attempt to hide his crimes. I thought long and hard before allowing that killer to shoot Nelson’s seven kennel mates (before the book begins). I finally took the leap in order to deepen and strengthen his character and will.

I created my third fictional dog, Cheese Puff, to get protagonist Barbara Reed out of the dumps and back into the world after a nasty divorce. He’s a shrimp of an orange mutt she finds in No Substitute for Murder, the first book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy mystery series. Barb’s neighbors find Cheese Puff endearing, but their pampering undermines her efforts to train him and encourages an excess of small-dog attitude.

Cheese Puff has been a hit with readers—especially those who have small dogs as companions. Several have suggested ideas for what might happen to him in future books. Thanks to some of those readers, he found love in No Substitute for Money and broadened his social and cultural life in No Substitute for Maturity. In the fourth book in the series—a book I hope to write this fall—Cheese Puff will be keeping a diary and tangling with Bigfoot.

It will be interesting to see what readers think about that.

The Dames of Dialogue and I would love to hear about your dogs—both real and fictional—and we’re looking forward to your comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity have sold 50,000 electronic copies), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

GoingHome-Megan-Kait

GoingHome-Megan-Kait

They tell me I have more than a little horse blood running through my veins and it no doubt started when Santa delivered Herbie on Christmas. If I moved forward and back in the saddle, much like on a real horse, Herbie would move down the road at a child-safe speed.

Eventually I grew up and joined the ranks of the thirteen million adults in the US that the American Horse Council’s survey said considers themselves to be “horse people.”

Make note of this, writers. If you catch the attention of this large group, you stand to make some serious hay. Just because you’ve never sat on a horse, don’t walk away from this group of avid readers.

Sure, I can see you shying away from a topic you may know little about. Many writers’ sole experience with horses has been confined to merry go rounds.

ECTRA-dinah plus

ECTRA-dinah plus

It’s a fact that horse people are avid readers. They have to get down off that horse sometime and after the stall is mucked out and the tack cleaned, they’re usually too tired to do much else. Curling up with a good book is most enticing.

We all know there’s lots of good books out there to chose from. But for the thirteen million horse people, it’s a plus if that book has a horse or two trotting through it.

But you hardly know a mane from a tail, you say. Not to worry. I can guarantee that when horse folks are not actually on their horses, they’ll spend hours “talking horse” to anyone who will listen. Ask around, most likely there’s a stable in your neck of the woods. Perhaps a place that specializes in lessons. Or a stable that specializes in training young horses.

Hang out for a while. Observe what characteristics play a major role in those who have invited horses into their lives. Soak up the ambiance of a stable full of well-kept horses and the people who adore them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out the names for all the straps attached to a horse. Learn the lingo of how horse people talk among themselves about their horses.

Patti-hobbyhorse

Patti-hobbyhorse

There are lots of good stories in the makings at the other end of the equine spectrum as well. Volunteer at a therapeutic riding center. Stop in at a horse rescue. Dozens of potential stories…or background for stories are there for the taking.

I’ve amassed a sizeable file of horse-related stories. But one true-life story still gives me goose bumps.For my thirteenth birthday, I was given a horse that had been an Army Calvary horse. His brand on his neck was 1248. When I married fifteen years later, my husband was a horse trainer and judge. When I handled paper work for the horse show association, I had to write in his horse show number….1248.

horsePowered logo

horsePowered logo

Horses are not key characters in my novels set in the horse world. Rather they are the setting that adds richness to the story. Instead of being set in a teeming city or wild sea, mine settings are horse farm. Released two months ago, is my latest, Blood Hoax, a page-turning mystery with as many surprising twists as a country road.

www.PattiBrooksBooks.com   Horse Powered Mysteries For the Read of Your Life.

Need some help to introduce horses in your next work? Let me know and perhaps I can get you started in the right direction.

Lala Corriere, author

Lala Corriere, author

Naming a fictional character is easy for me. Naming a child or a pet? Daunting!

Buddy

Buddy

We recently adopted a dog. Very exciting. And burdensome. The Name Game begins. Onerous, at best.

To make matters worse, there seem to be some rules. A real man won’t name his sporting dog Precious. In fact, a more obscure rule dictates that a one-syllable name is best for the hunting canine. Likewise, one shouldn’t name a Siamese cat Butch. Go back to Precious. Precious is good. You shouldn’t name a Chihuahua Pierre, and most definitely, stay away from naming a Great Dane Fluffy.

I conducted my search for the perfect name, taking a history lesson from my past.

Big mistake.

As a child, our first family pet was a Pug. I don’t know who named him, but his name was Pug. We lost Pug and adopted another Pug. We named him Pug.

Clever—huh?

Scrolling back over my adult years, our first pet had another original name. My husband and I were eager to surprise our children with a kitten on Christmas Eve. This proved to be a difficult feat. Finally, we came upon the one lonely cat remaining in a cage. Her eyes were runny, and she coughed and sneezed. We brought her home, anyway. We spent far more money in healing her than on her adoption fee. That novel name? Christmas. 

Christmas has long since left us, along with Rudy. He was a gift for Valentine’s Day, as in Rudolph Valentino. Sidney—named after my mentor of several years, Sidney Sheldon, has also departed.

BB Fire

BB Fire

The name Bibelot, French for bauble, suits our white-longhaired Ragdoll who thinks she is a princess. We often call her BB; short for Bibelot Bianca.

The two dogs came next.

Finnigan is a 5 ½ pound Teacup Yorkie rescue dog. That said, we don’t know his original name. The rescue organization named him Finnigan and we liked it. It’s a funny word to say. It’s a name that makes people smile. We sometimes call him Finnie, for short.

A month ago the stork came again to the Corriere home. Finnigan’s Yorkie sister is 3 ½ pounds and fully grown. Oh dear! She makes Finnigan looks like a Mastiff who should have been named Brutus. Or Bruno. Or anything brutal and big.

Our new little baby girl is named Phoebe. The Name Game dilemma was solved, with no rhyme or reason.

Except, that rhyming is a problem we hadn’t considered. We didn’t realize it until we started calling out our pets’ names. It’s kind of like Santa’s Dancer and Prancer, and Blitzen and Vixen.

Come, BB! I mean Finnie! I mean Phoebe!

It’s kind of like we should have taken a hint from George Foreman, and named all of our wee ones George.

OK. I was honest with you. Your turn. What was YOUR most lame name for a pet? And your favorite?

 

EVIL CRIES by Lala Corriere

EVIL CRIES by Lala Corriere

Recently, Lala Corriere’s third suspense novel, Evil Cries, was released as an eBook and will soon be available in trade paperback. Other titles include Widow’s Row and CoverBoys & Curses. Kiss and Kill has a release date of late fall, 2013. Visit website http://www.lalacorriere.com/

Like most of my family, I’m a sucker for stray and abandoned animals.

Years ago, one day after school I found a small black kitten someone had tossed into a garbage can. I took it home, we fed it for a few days, then my mother discovered it was losing patches of hair.

My mother made my stepfather take it to the pound while she took my little sister to the doctor for ringworm treatment. We were kitten-less and the only family on the block to have a little bald girl whose head was painted with Gentian violet, the only cure for ringworm then.

I’ve always had animals living with me and they’ve always been adopted. I’ve had cats and dogs from shelters. I’ve had cats and dogs adopted from rescue groups. I’ve even had a rescue bird, from someone who had to give it up.

I currently have only one cat, a big black guy named Djinn, for those desert spirits that move so stealthily. He came to live with me almost thirteen years ago.

My daughter was an EMT, working for an ambulance company, transporting very sick neonatal babies. Her job consisted of 24-hour shifts so the crews lived at a base when on duty. She told me that there was a black cat who would hang around, begging scraps, and the other paramedics would joke about feeding him poison.

djinn“He’s really sweet. He gets so excited that he drools when you pet him.”

“You can’t let those jerks you work with poison him! Bring him to me and I’ll find him a home,” I said.

Famous last words. The home I had lined up fell apart, notices at work brought nothing and I squeezed him into a house that already had a dog and two cats, because once I saw him, I knew he wasn’t adoptable.

During whatever life he’d lived on the streets, he’d been injured. His front left shoulder had been broken and healed crooked, so he walked with a limp and when he curled up, it stayed straight out at an angle; he couldn’t curl it.

Recently, I was buying cat and fish food (not rescue fish, I did buy those) at one of those pet emporiums. That day, they were having an “Adopt-a-cat” display sponsored by a rescue group. Ever the sucker, I walked through the rows of cages talking to the cats when a young man came over.

“Aren’t they nice? They all deserve good homes. Were you thinking of any one in particular?”

I smiled. “I’m just looking at them. I have a lame cat at home.”

He stiffened. He almost hissed at me. “There’s no such thing as a lame cat!” he said.

I was so stunned I couldn’t fathom what he’d said.  Did he mean that all less-than-perfect cats should be killed? I finally realized that he was years younger than me and had an entirely different understanding of “lame”.

Djinn is now somewhere north of fifteen. His whiskers are pure white. He doesn’t clean himself as well as he used to. He still limps and occasionally needs help jumping up on the bed. Whenever I move around the house, he’s right at my feet and one dark night I’ll probably trip over him and break a hip.

But right now, my lame cat and I wander around the house at his regal pace.

I’m not sure who I’ll find when he goes but the young man was right, there’s no such thing as a lame cat.

If you could, what animals would you rescue? Cats, dogs, birds, bunnies, llamas, horses? Or maybe elephants, like the Performing Animal Welfare Society twenty miles south of me?

Labeled For Death by Michele Drier

Labeled For Death by Michele Drier

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.

She writes mysteries and paranormal romance and has just indie published her seventh book, a mystery titled Labeled for Death.

Visit her website: http://www.micheledrier.com or facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMicheleDrier or her Amazon author page, http://www.amazon.com/Michele-Drier/e/B005D2YC8G/

 

We all know that animals outnumber humans on this planet. (So do insects by a much higher number, but let’s not get into that today.) We consider ourselves the rulers of the planet (silly us), so it should be up to us to figure our how we all fit together. My solution is to keep everything where it belongs. In my life, here’s how I’ve coexisted with other species.

 

Pets: We’ve had dogs and cats since very shortly after we were married. That’s the easy way to coexist, have pets. We’ve let them go by attrition now and are without pets, having lost the last cat a couple of years ago. Agamemnon was a good pal, curling up next to me as I worked, only occasionally wanting keyboard time for himself. I kept an old, old version of Elf Bowling on all my computers because he liked to play it.

Kaye George desk with cat

Kaye George desk with cat

 

 

 

Wild animals: They’re fine outdoors–love them. Not indoors.

 

I’ll consider birds, first of all. I adore birds (when they’re outside, where they belong). I love having bird feeders. I sit with my bird books, hoping to catch one I’ve never seen before. We’re having a great experience at our new house in Knoxville. We back up to a medium-sized woodsy area that houses deer, coyotes, raccoons, bald eagles and possums–that I know of. Chipmunks dart under our storage shed and porch.

bluebird out the window

bluebird out the window

 

 

Love the birds outside. I do not like birds in my house. A couple of times they’ve gotten in, when kids have left doors open, or when cats are bringing them to me. I remember one time, when we lived in Minnetonka, MN. My husband was on a business trip and a bird was careening about the living room maniacally, totally out of control, trying to go through our large picture windows to get out. I snatched up the baby, yelled for the boys to follow me, and ran screaming from the house. I went to the next door neighbor’s place. Her husband was home and he volunteered to shoo it out with a broom.

 

When I reported this to the husband later that night, he was alarmed. “Was it an eagle or something?” he asked. I had to sheepishly admit it was a sparrow. But, hey, they have claws and beaks, too. They’re smaller, but just as sharp.

 

We are delighted that bluebirds nested in a large stump in our backyard this spring. We’ve also spotted, new-to-us, yellow warblers, rufous-sided towhees, and some fat brown ones that I haven’t identified yet.

cinnamon bear

cinnamon bear

On to mammals. Spotting bears, elk, big-horn mountain sheep, bison, and others has given me much delight over the years of camping in national parks. Many of our vacations were spent like that when the kids were little, and even as they got much older.

 

 

 

 

The little cinnamon bear I snapped in Yellowstone a few years ago was so adorable! But the black bear that is running loose in Knoxville this week gives me the willies. I don’t like for bears to even be in my neighborhood! Love them in the parks.

bison in Yellowstone

bison in Yellowstone

 

 

A wildlife removal company captured seven (seven!!!) raccoons in our crawl space last week. The cleanup took another whole day because they’ve evidently been living there for a long time. I felt bad when they took the caged babies away because I know, by Tennessee law, they have to be put to sleep. With rabies, better safe than sorry. I do agree with this, but the little guys were cute. I leaned over and apologized to them, lamenting the fact that they were born in the wrong place–under my house. Right under my bedroom, actually. We’ve been hearing them at night for a couple of months, since about the time those babies were born.

 

I’m only willing to take coexistence so far. The animals need to stay out of my house. This goes for insects, too!

 

Eine Kleine Murder by Kaye George

Eine Kleine Murder by Kaye George

Cressa Carraway, the musician/sleuth in my new book, Eine Kleine Murder, has a mouse problem in her grandmother’s lakeside cabin in rural Illinois where she’s gone to finish her masters’ thesis composition. Her big setback is coming upon her grandmother’s dead body in the lake on her first night. The persistent mice in the cabin are a minor annoyance, but get on her nerves. The cabin Cressa is using was pretty faithfully modeled after the cabin my mother used to have at the same resort. So are the mice, unfortunately.

 

I’d love to hear of coexistence problems from others.

Visit website http://kayegeorge.com/

Barking Rain Press  http://www.barkingrainpress.org/products/eine-kleine-murder/
 
B&N  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eine-kleine-murder-kaye-george/1115225328?ean=9781935460640
 
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Monty (Sphynx cat), photo by Sofia Diana Gabel

Monty (Sphynx cat), photo by Sofia Diana Gabel

I have a problem. I can admit it. I’m a crazy cat lady. Always have been and likely always will be. And, my cat du jour is the Sphynx. This is the hairless, slightly quirky-looking breed that some people might remember as Mr. Bigglesworth from the Austin Powers movies. Sphynx have appeared in other movies and TV shows, but to me, my Sphynx or Sphynxi-my plural notation for multiple Sphynx-are simply companions. Although, my two boys are actually related to Mr. Bigglesworth (Ted Nude-gent is his real name), so there is a little Hollywood running through their veins.

Here’s the low-down on Sphynx. They are mutants! Truly. Their breed is a mutation. And, surprise, they aren’t truly hairless. In reality, they are covered in a fine, downy fluff, but because it’s hard to see, they look hairless. According to the breed standards, they are allowed to have limited fur on their feet, ears, face and tail, but it can’t be too much. Also, as they age, hormones can affect the amount of fur they have and their coloring.

Now comes the fussy part. Without hair, the oil on the skin collects and this, naturally, attracts dirt. So, they get dirty quickly and need to be bathed as frequently as once or even twice a week, depending on how dirty they get. I bathe my less in the winter due to it being colder. Another thing is that they do get cold and really like to burrow under blankets or sit in front of space heaters. I have a heated bed and so many baby blankets that they are never cold. They also have quite the wardrobe of tee-shirts and I’d swear half of their clothes are nicer than mine. Like any cat, Sphynx love to lie in the sun, but without hair, too much sun can give them a sunburn. Sunscreen isn’t a good idea because they’d just lick it off, so limiting their sun bathing is something I try to do.

The boys hugging

The boys hugging

Sphynx also have a faster metabolism and they feel very warm due to this. Their temperature is a few degrees warmer than furry cats. To drive this super heat-generating metabolism, Sphynx eat a lot. All the time. They never seem to stop. I learned early on that it’s a good idea to always leave kibble out for them or they’ll meow for food every few minutes until my ears ring.

While Sphynxi are felines in every sense of the word, they are definitely NOT aloof. Not even a little bit. They are affectionate and require a lot of attention. There is constant sitting on laps, shoulders or being cradled like a baby, wrapped in a soft blankie, and they will follow me from room to room. Wherever I go in the house, there is bound to be one or more Sphynxi trotting along with me. Even in the bathroom and especially on my laptop while I’m writing. This constant need for affection makes them a bit more dog-like and many people who can’t have a dog will choose a Sphynx because of this. I think that’s cool.

Sofia Diana Gabel, romance

Sofia Diana Gabel, romance

Luckily for me I do a lot of writing at home, so my boys are able to pester me incessantly. I can’t complain though. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t end well for me. Monty, my red (looks pink) boy has a blog of his own where he whines about what it’s like living with a writer. He’s a sassy blogger and posts all sorts of incriminating photos about how ‘tough’ his life is because I’m always at the computer and not paying him enough attention. Nonsense. Like any cat, he owns me and runs the household. I know my place and accept it gladly. And you know what, I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

Even with the Sphynxi distractions and Monty’s blogging, I have managed to get a new novel published, a historical romantic suspense, Charity’s Heart. It’s available at the publisher’s website (www.frontporchromance.com) and from the usual retailers like Amazon.

Charity's Heart by Sofia Diana Gabel

Charity’s Heart by Sofia Diana Gabel

My website is www.sofiadianagabel.com, and you can check out my other sites at: https://www.facebook.com/sofiadianagabel, https://twitter.com/sofiadianagabel, and http://approachablefiction.blogspot.com/,and you can follow Monty’s latest ravings at Monty’s Catablog: http://montysphynx.wordpress.com/.

Keri Lee Townsend, author

Keri Lee Townsend, author

Talk about March Madness. It’s the month of March and there’s definitely Madness going on, but I’m not talking about basketball. I’m talking about my GG aka Great Granny Gert and her arch nemesis Fiona Atwater.

Granny is such a sweet lady with pristine white hair and snappy brown eyes. She bakes cookies and swears there’s a cookie for everything, storing them in her orange pumpkin cookie jar with the foil wrapped plate for a lid, insisting they don’t taste the same stored in anything else. She adored her late husband, Frank, and has been a bit lonely since his death. Until she moved in with Sunny and me, then she became her chipper ole’ self again because she finally felt needed once more.

Everything was fine until her former childhood best friend turned enemy, Fiona Atwater, had to ruin everything by showing up at the Summer Solstice Carnival in our small upstate NY town of Divinity. Granny says Fiona had a crush on Frank way back in the day, but Frank took a shine to Granny and nothing was ever the same after that. Granny thinks Fiona has shown up with her Knitting Nanas just to ruin her life by competing in nearly everything against Granny and her Sewing Sisters.

First they made an afghan for the auction, trying to outbid the Sewing Sisters’ quilt with Granny Squares. Then they had the nerve to sign up for the bakeoff, trying to beat Granny’s cookies with Fiona’s Lemon Meringue pie. The final straw was when Fiona took a shine to Captain Grady Walker, just to try to steal him away from Granny, even though he was never Granny’s in the first place weather she chooses to accept that or not. Frankly, they are both way too old for the man, even if he does sometimes encourage them by flirting a bit too much in my opinion.

I’ve never seen two humans who are more competitive in my entire life. I’ve lived for centuries, so that’s saying something. They might be the same age, but Fiona is way more in tune with what is hip and now. So Granny starts trying to “improve” herself by trying every new fad there is and making a new wardrobe for herself. Trust me, people, it’s not pretty. Poor Sunny is going crazy. Even though I don’t really care for Detective Mitch Stone, he seems to make Sunny happy for reasons I’ll never understand. All she wants is to go on a real date with him, which becomes nearly impossible with the Dynamic Due ever present and reeking havoc. Why, they are even competing over me with Fiona trying to knit me booties to match Granny’s bowties.

Trouble in the Tarot by Keri Lee Townsend

Trouble in the Tarot by Keri Lee Townsend

Store owners are complaining, the fire department isn’t happy, the police department is worried, and Sunny’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. When a dead body turns up with Granny and Fiona listed as the main suspects, it’s no surprise. All the chaos they caused was bound to lead to disaster. All I can say is if Sunny and Detective Stone don’t solve this case soon, I just might have to take matters into my own paws…only, I don’t play nice in the sandbox.

Kari Lee Townsend lives in central New York with her understanding husband, her three busy boys, and her oh-so-dramatic daughter 🙂 She is the National Bestselling Author, Agatha & RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee for her Fortune Teller Mystery series. Kari also writes romance under the name Kari Lee Harmon. Small towns, mystical elements, quirky characters and a few chuckles along the way are what her books are all about. To find out more about Kari and all of her books, check out her websites at: www.karileetownsend.com & www.karileeharmon.com

Having been brought up in an unstable, abusive environment I often found comfort in animals – cows, dogs, chickens, wildlife – it didn’t seem to matter what kind of animal. When I got my first apartment at 14, I rescued a cat and found an amazing amount of comfort from the many animals that shared my home since then. Of the fur-friends who have shared my home the last 30 years since my first apartment, there are a few that stand out and I’d like to share those experiences with you.

Kasha by Lillian Brummet

Kasha by Lillian Brummet

Indika came into my life after a cycling accident left me in rehab for about 6 months. Having to spend most the first 6 weeks on the floor lying on a mattress, her kitten antics entertained me all day. She would play among my crutches, sleep with me and tease smiles out of an otherwise painful day. She and I grew to be very close until she passed on a few years ago due to old age.

Indy by Lillian Brummet

Indy by Lillian Brummet

Skylo was our first adopted dog and probably the smartest dog I have met. A 13-month-old Husky/Basenji cross. He was at the end of his rope – there was a time when animals were put down if un-adoptable instead of the current method of networking with other shelters. Fortunately for us, a softhearted staff member had prolonged Skylo’s life as long as he could. Skylo was incredibly restless, unstable from the lack of a secure home and didn’t know what he was supposed to do. We soon realized the beautifully-marked high-energy dog was strong willed and yet willing to please.

Skylo quickly became more than a “dog”.  During his 6-year stay with us, he was also therapy for me, helping me deal with an anxiety disorder simply with his comforting and protective presence. Our boy was brave enough to tree a bear in order to protect me – yet kind and patient enough to understand the weak. Skylo also had an ample dose of intelligence and gentle playfulness that had him not only making great friends with his two indoor feline “siblings”, but also making friends with neighboring cats and dogs.

Skylo by Lillian Brummet

Skylo by Lillian Brummet

Sadly, on a tragic Sunday I left Skylo on the step to pop inside and get his leash before taking him for a stroll. I suspect Skylo was chasing one of the neighborhood cats out of the yard when one of the many speeding and preoccupied drivers on our street took the joy out of our home. Poor Skylo was hit and injured very badly – his insides were hemorrhaging, he was screaming for me and when I got there he was shaking badly – and frankly, so was I. Luckily the neighbors and some people passing by jumped to our aide helping to carry him on a blanket to a nearby truck bed and the driver took Skylo and I to the vet. One person, a total stranger, even rode in the back of the truck with us and was so wonderful with Skylo, keeping him calm while I struggled to focus.

Our vet met us at the office downtown within a minute or two of our arrival, despite their being closed and the vet having to bring her young child along. She was amazing with Skylo, and climbed into the truck bed to give him a pain reliever right away, so he only suffered for about 7 minutes in total – the time it took to get him to the vet.

Skylo’s death moved so many people – the vet staff cried with us, the people who took us to the vet cried with us, our neighbors grieved with us… we never knew that Skylo had become such a large part of so many people’s daily lives. One neighbor was so moved and angered by the continuing speeding on our street that she got a petition together “in honor of Skylo Brummet” and acquired 32 signatures in just one morning. This letter was presented to the city and resulted in the police monitoring our street for a few months after the event.

We will never know the impact this event had on the safety of our neighborhood, however we do know that people were saying that prior to this event their children and pets have had many close calls with inattentive drivers. Perhaps Skylo’s passing prevented the death of another beloved fur companion, or a child.

In honor of Skylo we adopted Onyx, a two year old Border Collie/Chocolate Lab cross that had been badly abused and chained up most of his life – he didn’t know how to be a dog, what to do inside a house and had a deep distrust of people. The rescue staff had deemed him un-adoptable due to his aggressive behavior – towards men in particular – but trusted us to rehabilitate him. It turned out he was never an ‘aggressive’ dog, instead it was worse – as ‘fear based reactive’ dog when something upset him he reacted by barking, showing teeth, lunging and fretting to the point of high pitch wailing. When we first brought Onyx home he had skin rashes, was awfully skinny and patches of fur missing. We discovered ragged scars on his chin and three shattered teeth, which were extracted as soon as possible. It was an ongoing daily effort to help him be a calm dog and it definitely came with its trials along the way. I was pulled to the ground and dragged a couple of times during our walks; he had also scared some others (and us) with his lightening fast moves. By providing reliable routines with plenty of exercise and attention he was slowly able to relax, develop trust and let us be the boss.

When we adopted our third rescue dog it was to help us with Onyx who was having trouble learing how to be a dog, how to play or chew a bone. That is when Skyla, a Malamute/Shepherd cross (rescued from a puppy mill gone bad), entered our lives. This little puppy was anemic from near starvation, had heart murmurs and a bad case of worms because she survived off eating other dog’s waste. It took some time to get her to understand what dog food was and how to eat out of a bowl but with a lot of feeding and nurturing she built strength, her heart grew strong and she put on some weight. She was a bundle of awkward knuckles, knees and skin for her first eighteen months then the filling out of muscles and flesh began intermittently with the lengthening of her bones and structure – earning her the nickname ‘Grendall’ due to her appearance and the grumbles and grunts she emits. A very intelligent, but independent, dog, she loves to learn new things every day. I swear she has the strength and energy of a small horse and with her sled dog genetics lurking deep inside she would love to have a job pulling something. As a matter of fact when Dave takes her for a bike ride on leash in a heel, she hints that she has no problem pulling him around but he resists her charming offer.

Onyx & Skyla by Lillian Brummet

Onyx & Skyla by Lillian Brummet

Sadly after only 6 years with us Onyx’s old injuries from the earlier abuse he received were causing him a lot of pain and his reactive behavior came back up to the surface so with heavy hearts we decided to let him go. 6 months later we brought in another dog from the local shelter: Duchess,  a 3 year old Siberian Husky/Blue Heeler cross. She is the sweetest, gentlest, playful dog I’ve ever known. Skyla adores her and they play or sleep together constantly. A few weeks later we also had a stray cat join our home that we named Korma. She’s a 10 month old orange tabby and we are currently getting her vaccinations up to date and she’ll be spayed soon. She has a wonderful personality and after the adjustment period of introducing her to our ‘pack’ the dogs have accepted her and can actually be seen playing or sleeping with her.

Skyla & Duchess by Lillian Brummet

Skyla & Duchess by Lillian Brummet

Life with these rescue animals has brought so much joy and laughter and purpose into our lives. We get down on the ground and play with their squeeky toys and laugh in the middle of the day. They get us outside exercising when we probably wouldn’t have if they weren’t here. Rescueing and rehabilitating the troubled personalities we’ve encountered was for me a way of rescueing myself – I healed, as they healed. Their love opened my heart more to new experiences that I would have avoided before. They’ve helped me stay calm when the anxiety disorder levels rise and their nurturing tenderness brings such a comfort to us. Who was there to comfort me after the 2 separate accidents happened and the pain was unbearable, but my fuzzy faced friends? Who provided companionship when my husband was away? Who protected our home and yard from undesireable visitors? Who senses when we are miserable and teases smiles out of a grumpy face? Who provided tender comfort while my husband recovered from knee surgery? Exactly who, then, was rescued – the human or the animal? Perhaps both.

3 pets by Lillian Brummet

3 pets by Lillian Brummet

As painful as it is to say goodbye to our fur children when the bell toles for them – we will always bring another in to our home from the local rescue shelter. There are just so many of these gentle beings that only want to be loved and accepted that it breaks my heart. We feel that by bringing in a new fur-kid whenever we have space in our home, we are given a chance to honor those who have graced our life over the years.

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: owners of the Brummet Media Group (http://brummet.ca), offering book publishing services from formatting to cover design, graphic design and promotion material creation, books and CD’s, the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/consciousdiscussions and the Brummet’s Conscious Blog: http://www.consciousdiscussions.blogspot.com

Moose, Kate George's dogNo, I’m not kidding. I dropped my flash drive in the dooryard and Moose, my big yellow mutt ate it. Well he crunched it up and spit it out. It’s probably a good thing he didn’t swallow it, who knows what it would have done to his innards if he had. It had a nearly complete novel on it that I hadn’t fully backed up. You should have heard me bitch and moan about rewriting those last chapters, I swear it was like pulling teeth to recreate them. I never did get the other data off that drive, it was mangled beyond recognition. I should have named that dog The Destroyer or Tank. Destructo, even. Moose just doesn’t do him justice.

About this time someone in the back has their hand up asking “what’s a dooryard?” In the west we might have called it the driveway, but out here in the east it’s the area of the yard where the cars get parked. I’ll show you a picture of mine. Notice that it’s not paved – that’s because I live in Vermont where not even the roads are paved. Okay, so some of the roads are paved, like the interstate and the larger town roads. We even have whole villages on dirt roads. I’m a native Californian, the dirt road thing blew me away when I first moved here.

Kate George's door yardPeople used to be afraid to drive into my dooryard. Until recently I had a sweet, if slightly eccentric black lab named Midnight. Unlike most labs she felt it was her duty to protect us from all interlopers, both friends and strangers. Hackles up, teeth bared, she made her displeasure clear. The UPS man was afraid to deliver packages. Strangers almost never had the nerve to make it all the way to the door and even my friends had their doubts. She never actually bit anyone that I know of, but she made it clear she was willing. I think she might have been part lab, part piranha.

Midnight, Kate George's dogThe UPS drivers solved the dog problem by dropping packages on the ground in the dooryard and driving away. Which worked fine until Moose came to live with us. He thinks the packages are for him. There’s nothing like coming home to find my dog tossing boxes in the air and pouncing on them.  We never did find the Christmas puzzle I bought for the kids’ advent calendar. Eight acres is a lot of ground to cover when searching for things hidden by a hording dog. It makes me wonder what else is out there waiting to be discovered. I would guess the rubber mallet that went missing from the garage at least. And probably my favorite trowel. The underwear that went awol off the clothesline.

And shoes. If the number of shoes missing their pair is any indication, there must be a Shoes.com for dogs out there in my field somewhere.

Zoey, Kate George's dogZoey, our Beagle mix, is feeling left out. So I’ll just tell you that she is perfectly well behaved, unless there is a thunder storm. Then she eats the house.  Think Tasmanian Devil meets Snoopy and you’ll have some idea of what happened to the porch wall. I used to love thunder storms.

 

 

Crazy Little Thing Called Dead by Kate GeorgeKate George is the author of the Bree MacGowan Mystery Series set in rural Vermont. The latest, Crazy Little Thing Called Dead, was released September 30, 2012, and features a Bulgarian assassin, intrepid federal agent Richard Hambecker, Planet Hair, the local hair salon turned murder scene. And Bree, of course, who really doesn’t like being told what to do.  Visit her website http://www.kategeorge.com/

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