...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Excerpt from Cutthroat Business by Cheryl Smith

You row facing forward in a drift boat. This isn’t a lake, where you don’t need to see where you’re going. On a river full of rocks, turns, downed trees, and other potential boat-eating obstacles, you don’t want to turn your back on the view.
I rowed us out into the main current, then repeated my mantra. “Main rule, stay seated unless I tell you otherwise. We fish when the river runs high because that’s when the salmon come in, but that can make the Sol Duc one mean river. If you fall in, chances are good we won’t see you again until your body floats up somewhere.” I’ll never be able to say those words quite the same again.
When we were well onto the river, I had Spencer and Emerson drop the plugs I had already fastened to the ends of their lines. It’s called letting the river do the fishing. The current takes the lures downriver, I row against the current to keep everything flowing smoothly, and when the lure bumps into a fish, the fish might get annoyed and bite it. Not having the clients cast protects us all – a hook in the head is nothing to laugh about – and saves losing a ton of gear. Take a float down any fishing river around here and you can admire all the sparkly spinners, plus, and lures hanging in the trees. They don’t call this region a temperate rain forest for nothing. The trees grow right to the river and often arch over from both banks, and are dripping with “moss” (actually, not moss, but that’s what the tourists call it). I once brought a pole pruner out to the river and harvested a whole season’s worth of shiny lures, just from the places where you could reach over the water. If you put a second person in a drift boat with a pole pruner and made your way down the river, you could probably rake in four figures worth of fishing paraphernalia.
“Watch your rod tip. It’ll bounce as the plug goes over rocks, but if it really bends, you’ve got a fish on. Pick up your rod and try to keep some tension on the line. Do NOT jerk the rod to set the hook. You’ll pull it out of the fish’s mouth. Let the fish dictate the action and just keep a steady tension. If the fish runs toward you, reel as fast as you can. If it runs away, let it take out line.”
“So we just sit here and wait?” Emerson asked.
“Enjoy the scenery.”
I took to watching the two in Jack’s boat. They were casting spinners, something you don’t usually see on a guide’s oat. And they were good, but they weren’t having any luck either. I went back to scanning downstream for any obstacles to dodge, with my peripheral vision on the rod tips on either side of me. And hallelujah, the one on the right have a downward jerk, rebounded, then dipped down again.
But the action of the rod and line just wasn’t right. Though the name Sol Duc is a corruption of the old Klallam “Sol’ll Tak,” meaning “sparkling water,” I couldn’t see a fish or anything else through all the riffles. I waited a little to be sure, but whatever he was hooked to wasn’t moving up or downstream. I sighed.
“You’re snagged. Break it off.”
“You’re wrong.” And he proceeded to crank harder on the reel. Which I knew would end up with the line breaking anyway. “See! It’s pulling back. It’s a monster.”
The water at the edge of the rootball changed pattern. Damned if he wasn’t right.
“Just keep tension. Don’t try and horse him in or you’ll lose him.”
“I’m trying.”
“Oh my God.” And I scrambled to grab the anchor and throw it over without ceremony. “Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap.” As soon as the boat held firm, I yanked the rod away from Spencer. “Jack, get over here. Now!”
“Hey, what the hell!”
But I was done paying attention to Spencer or Emers or even Jack. Because as the tension on the line had increased, the hooked object had appeared. And it wasn’t a root, or a fish, or anything customary in my world. It was a sleeve, with the pale, pale hand coming out of it waving horrifyingly in the current.
Read more about Cheryl at "The Cutthroat Business of Writing" on Writers & Other Animals

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cutthroat Business of Writing with Cheryl S. Smith

My name is Cheryl S. Smith and I am a writer. I think I was born addicted, and I think it was the fault of my father. He never wrote to be published, but he penned some of the funniest, most ironic letters ever sent to companies and politicians with whom he was dissatisfied. My own first book was printed in crayon in a black cardboard notebook, with illustrations of the monsters inhabiting my home (thanks for my brother and sister).
My writing career operated in a sort of reverse, work-your-way-down fashion. I started in television, writing for sitcoms mainly. . . really good sitcoms. But the only person I know of who made a career living in New York and writing for Hollywood was Rod Serling. I was no Rod Serling. I thought about moving to L.A., but the closest I could bring myself to come was
Northern California.
It didn't take long to realize that writing for television was not a good career for me, temperament- or healthwise. So I started writing nonfiction, self-syndicating travel and food articles to newspapers. Then I tossed in some humorous articles about dogs, and that gave me somewhere to go as self-syndication slowly became more and more impossible. Soon, I was a full-time dog writer, with articles and books and awards being regularly produced. And that kept me happily and healthfully occupied for years.
But this country girl was not happy in the increasingly crowded confines of California, and I moved to Washington state, where I found open space with less extreme weather than New York. I am happy here still, with dogs, a feral cat colony, rescued llamas, a small flock of chickens, koi, and local ducks trying to raise their families while dodging local eagles. But the nonfiction gradually became not quite fulfilling.
So I have now switched back to my roots in fiction. After much experimentation and practice, I pounded my fist mystery in the Fishing for Mystery series into shape. It is available as an e-book, Cutthroat Business, now. I am hard at work on the second installment, Sole Suspect, happy to promote my Olympic Peninsula and maybe teach a few people a thing or two about our national parks and forests. In the third book my protagonist Rusty Travers will be on the bass tour, and I very much appreciate the help of another writer, Robert Montgomery, who has been covering the tour for years. (For those of you who don't know, no bass are harmed in the competition on
the bass tour.)
Anyway, Rusty is pretty outspoken and opinionated, and people seem to either like or dislike her pretty quickly. I hope you'll find her entertaining.

Come back Wednesday for an excerpt from Cheryl’s new book, Cutthroat Business. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Author Interview: "Horse Crazy" J.A. Campbell

Tell us a little about your background

It all started with a self-illustrated picture book about a bookworm named Willie when I was just learning to write. I graduated to Nancy Drew style mysteries in elementary school and moved to fantasy and sci fi in middle school and high school. From there I went to college and got a BS in Equine Science, never suspecting that I’d be an author one day...despite the previous evidence. At some point the bug bit me though, and I decided that writing was the life for me. While I have a day job, I now write fantasy books about horses (and dogs) and ride my own, an Arabian mare named Triska. We’re usually accompanied by my other inspiration, my Border Collie, Kira.

Tell us a bit about your latest book

Sabaska’s Tale is partially a biography of my late Arabian Mare, Sabaska, and part YA fantasy about a girl who travels to other worlds on very special horses called Travelers and has epic adventures.

Sabaska inspired this story a long time ago and I finally saw print last summer. I like to think that a lot of her personality came out in the novel.

Are any of the other characters based on real animals or people?

In Sabaska’s Tale the main equine character, Sabaska, is directly based off of my late mare, Sabaska. I’ll tell you more about her in a bit, but she was an incredible horse.

I based, directly again, another equine character off of my current mare, Triska in the sequel to Sabaska’s Tale and she’ll have an even bigger role in the third book.

I have a short story series about a  ghost hunting Border Collie named Brown, and I based her off of my BC, Kira. As you can see a lot of my animals make it into my writing.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

Currently I’m working on edits for Sabaska’s Quest, due out in the fall, a Brown, Ghost Hunting Dog short story, A Doc, Vampire Hunting Dog novel and edits for the steampunk magazine I’m the editor for. I never seem to manage to work on one project on a time, but I enjoy the diversity. Next I’ll be working on Saga’s Journey which is a prequel to Sabaska’s Tale.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

During the work week I usually work an hour or two before I go to my day job. On the weekends I could work anywhere from a few hours to the entire day, and I’m talking like, almost every waking moment. However, I always have to make time for Triska and Kira, but it’s a good way to take a break from the computer. So, basically I work about 20+ hours a week on writing, plus a full time job, plus I have a Border Collie to entertain. It’s a busy, but good, life.

Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.

Sabaska was my first horse, though I’ve been riding my whole life. I trained her and we used to do endurance racing. She loved to camp and trail ride and basically do just about anything. She inspired many of my stories, and the two poems I’ve ever written. We had fabulous adventures together, trail riding in the Rocky Mountains. I lost her to colic, Oct 2012 and I still miss her terribly, but I got to be with her at the end.

Triska, my current horse is a rescue from Montana. She’s a great little Arab mare with spunk. She’s very smart, and she’s shaping up to be an awesome trail horse. She’s steady and learning to trust me and we have a great time together.

Kira is my Border Collie. They aren’t for the faint of heart, but they’re wonderful companions. We herd sheep, trail ride, hike, play fetch, swim, camp, and do just about everything together. She’s inspired my vampire and ghost hunting dog stories with that Border Collie Eye of hers. If a dog can herd sheep, why not ghosts.

J.A. Campbell has been many things over the last few years, from college student, to bookstore clerk and an over the road trucker. She’s worked as a 911 dispatcher and in computer tech support, but through it all she’s been a writer and when she’s not out riding horses, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, her vampire-hunting dog Kira, her new horse and Traveler-in training, Triska, and her Irish Sailor. She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting Dog stories and the young adult urban fantasy series The Clanless. She’s the editor of Steampunk Trails fiction magazine and a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America. 
Find out more about Julie at  www.writerjacampbell.com  and follow her on twitter @Pfirewolf
 Website: www.writerjacampbell.com                                                       
Blogs: http://writerjacampbell.wordpress.com/blog/ FB: https://www.facebook.com/J.A.Campbell.Author

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Image, Text, and Dogs, Part 2

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Today's post is part 2 of two posts about how texts and images featuring dogs have been combined since human beings began to do such things. You can find Part 1 here. Thanks for being here - comments welcome!  ~ Sheila

Medieval and Renaissance artists often depicted saints in the company of faithful dogs. Saint Roch (Rocco) is a case in point. Legend holds that Saint Roch was born into a wealthy family in 1295 but gave away his earthly possessions twenty years later when both his parents died, and soon became known for miraculous cures. When he himself became ill with an unspecified “plague,” he was banished from human society. A dog, it is said, found him dying in the woods, licked his wounds, and brought him bread. The healer was healed. As the patron of dogs and of people who love or work with them, Saint Roch is often portrayed with a dog at his side or licking his wounds. Even today his image holds power and appears on medals given in many traditional “Blessing” ceremonies. Originally meant to secure safety for hunters, especially riders following hounds, such Blessings are now commonly held for pets of all kinds in religious and secular ceremonies around the world, and in my experience, dogs are far better represented at such events than are other animals.

Again, though, darker aspects of humanity are frequently embodied in images of dogs and in language. The unflinching loyalty that makes dogs “faithful” in human eyes also makes them appear to some as cringing cowards. For stray and feral dogs, survival often depends on scrounging for food in garbage dumps and other unsavory places, and malnourished, parasite-ridden dogs have been used to symbolize depravity, cowardice, thievery, and other negative human traits. Some Medieval and Renaissance artists were obvious in their use of the dog as a negative symbol. Titian, for one, is said to have included toy dogs in many paintings of female nudes to symbolize female seductiveness and infidelity, and Flemish artists often used dogs to denote treachery and persecution. In modern American culture, these negative associations are primarily linguistic; calling a person a dog, bitch, son of a bitch, cur, or pup is rarely well received. Images of dogs used to provoke negative responses seem to involve specific breeds rather than dogs as a species, and which breeds are held in negative public regard changes over time. 

From The Book of the Hunt by Gaston Phoebus. I love this
illustration - the images could be from a modern book on canine
care, or from someone's website or social media page!
As secular works emerged during the Middle Ages, and as Europe drifted toward the Renaissance, interest grew in understanding the natural world. Books on animals appeared, usually with an emphasis on husbandry and hunting. The fourteenth century Livre de chasse (Book of the Hunt) by Gaston III, also known as Gaston Phoebus, is perhaps the most famous and most lavish of medieval hunting books. The work, which is “organized in four parts and written in a clear narrative voice” (“Gaston Phoebus”), covers a range of topics, from training and handling hunting dogs to their selection and care to methods and equipment for hunting various types of game. According to the Phebus Historical Foundation, it was a book ahead of its time, “present[ing] an impressive knowledge of the natural sciences—long before the age of modern empirical science—with detailed observations on the various animal species” (“Gaston Phoebus”). Like its counterparts today, Gaston’s Livre de chasse is illustrated with exquisitely detailed miniatures, and it is easy to imagine the book’s select few readers scrutinizing the dogs in the pictures while their own dogs slept at their sides.

Invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century spurred a publishing surge. Although religious texts dominated early press publications in Europe, by the following century tales of strange places and creatures brought home by explorers had captured the popular imagination, and “scientific” bestiaries and herbals became ever more popular. Woodcuts were used for illustrations in early printed works, but during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, technological advances gave rise to better methods of printing illustrations. Eighteenth-century printers developed copperplate etching and engraving methods that further improved the quality and detail of printed images. 

Illustration from Robinson Crusoe,
1893 Czech edition
As books became affordable and literacy in Western countries increased, secular fiction and nonfiction books became more popular. It seems natural that our best friend the dog should appear in many of them, whether in a minor or major role. In fact, illustrations sometimes elevate dogs to larger roles than they enjoy in the texts of certain books. In Robinson Crusoe (originally published in 1719), for instance, Daniel Defoe barely mentions his hero’s dog, but illustrated editions of the book often include the dog in at least one image (Britton). Other classics such as Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz feature dogs as prominent if not central characters, and show them in cover and internal illustrations. Novels with dogs as central characters, including such classics as Beautiful Joe (1893) by Margaret Marshall Saunders and the Sunnybrook Collie books (1919-1940s) by Albert Payson Terhune, first appeared in the nineteenth century, and judging by the sixteen thousand titles listed under “Fiction and literature: dogs” on amazon.com, the genre remains alive and well.

Nonfiction books about dogs, both narrative and informational, are also published by the hundreds each year, and most of them are generously illustrated. Although line drawings are still used, most illustrations these days are photographs selected not only for their ability to convey information (“here’s what a well-trimmed toenail looks like” or “here’s a portrait of Skippy”) but also for their emotional appeal. Readers like images that tug at their heartstrings. Even highly regarded narrative nonfiction books in which dogs are central, such as Mark Doty’s Dog Years, include at least a few photographs. 


And then, of course, there are books like these! Available from your local bookseller and online. Personally autographed copies available here

"Equal parts mystery and dog appreciation, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure, this second case for Janet and her pals (Drop Dead on Recall, 2012) is accessible to fans of all three." ~ Kirkus Review

"The intricate plot [of Drop Dead on Recall] has plenty of surprises, red herrings, and interesting details about animals. Fans of Laurien Berenson or Susan Conant will especially enjoy this pet-centered mystery." — Amy Alessio for Booklist.

Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals "...should be in the library of any serious animal lover and any library catering to them."   Midwest Book Review

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Calling All Animals - Mystery Character Raffle!

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Do you know any pet owners who wouldn't like to have their own pets appear in a a novel? When I asked myself that question a couple of years ago, I couldn't think of anyone, so I pitched an idea to two organizations whose causes I strongly support. I wrote about the raffles last year in "Could Your Dog Be a Sleuth?" And now, I'm doing it again! 

Shepherd's Crook*, Animals in Focus Mystery #4, is scheduled for publication by Midnight Ink in fall 2015. (That may seem a long way off, but in fact I'm writing the book right now, and will be turning it in to the publisher in about three months.) And some lucky creature will win a guest part in the book, while supporting ARPH - Australian Shepherd Rescue and Placement Helpline. Why Aussie rescue? Well, if you've read the first two Animals in Focus mysteries, you know that Jay, the protagdog, is an Aussie, modeled on my own love Jay (jumping in the poster below). Besides that, my husband and I used to breed Aussies under the kennel name "Perennial," and I helped found an Aussie rescue program back in the '90s. 

Thanks to Crystal Aguilar for creating these great posters
& for coordinatiing publicity for ARPH fundraisers,
including this one!
So here's how it works: Hop over to the ARPH character raffle page to enter. All non-human animals are eligible! Since Janet MacPhail, protagonist of the books, is an animal photographer, I can work any animal into the book. After ARPH announces the winner, I will contact his or her owner for information, including at least one photo and some details about personality, abilities, etc. 

You may be wondering what Shepherd's Crook will be about. Here's a short working synopsis: 
Animal photographer Janet MacPhail knows that something is seriously amiss when she and her Aussie, Jay, learn that livestock have disappeared overnight from a herding trial. Then a man dies, and Janet unwittingly photographs the thieves in action, putting herself and those she loves in the killer’s crosshairs.
You can learn more about the Animals in Focus mystery series at online at my website.

So what are you waiting for? 

Click Here to support Aussies in need and enter your pet for a chance at literary stardom!

From now through December 1, Pomegranate Books will donate 10% of your purchase price to support the not-for-profit group you choose - support Aussie rescue, feline health, or animal health. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

For more information about the work of these groups, 
please visit their websites.

Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline at http://www.aussierescue.org
Winn Feline Foundation at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/
Morris Animal Foundation at http://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/

Previous winners and the raffles they entered!

The first group to hold its raffle was LABMED,  an Internet-based non-profit organization created to distribute financial aid to injured or ill rescued Labrador Retrievers around the country, giving them a second chance at adoption and love from a permanent family. Since The Money Bird spotlights retriever training, and since character Tom Saunders has a black Lab named Drake, LABMED was a natural choice.  (Besides, I've had Labs in my life since 1988, founded Labrador Retriever Rescue of Indiana, Inc., in 1993, and wrote the award-winning Simple Guide to Labrador Retrievers, so how could I not support Labby dabbies?)

LABMED made $200 on the raffle to help with medical expenses for a rescued Lab. The winner of the LABMED raffle, seen here with his owner Diana Holman, is Lennen, who was a ten-year-old rescued boy who was turned in by his owners. They had kept him out in the backyard all his life. Aside from having landed in heaven with Diana, her six other Labs, with a comfy indoor couch to sleep on, Lennen also landed a part in The Money Bird, my second Animals in Focus mystery. Doesn't he look pleased about it all? Sadly, Lennen is now playing at the Rainbow Bridge, but he lives on in his fictional role ~ a heroic one, at that! ~ and I'm sure he is smiling at us from the Bridge.

I won't tell you what he does in the book, but the "Money Bird" Lennen has an interesting job, to say the least. You can tell by the grin on his face that Lennen liked the idea.
The second raffle was sponsored by Canine Health Events, a diverse gathering of dog lovers from across the country who are dedicated to improving the lives and health of dogs. Using normal dog events, they raise money for canine health research both through entry fees and additional fund-raisers, such as raffles, auctions and sponsorships. They held the main part of the raffle online, with additional sales and their drawing at their big agility trial on June 8, 2012. I'm delighted to say that CHE raised $2,000 with this raffle, all of which went to support research on canine health issues. 

The winner of the CHE raffle is Pilot, whose official name is MACH3 V-NATCH Gallopin'Jet Pilot CDX JH FTC WC VCX ADHF CCA CGC PS1. According to owner and compeitition partner Stephanie Schmitter, Pilot "is a very athletic and versatile golden retriever." That should be obvious from his titles! (For the unitiated, he is a Master Agility Champion three times over and has additional titles in agility, obedience and field, with a lifetime ranking of #66 for Golden Retrievers in AKC agility). Stephanie says, "He loves field work and will retrieve on land or in water until you make him stop" - which makes him perfect for The Money Bird, which features retrievers of all flavors training in the water and on land!

Stephanie writes, "Pilot will retrieve just about anything and is very helpful in picking things up around the house, including any shoes left around as well as his food bowl when he is finished eating.  But the thing he loves most in life is a tennis ball.  Although he is 8 years old, he acts like a puppy when he sees a tennis ball.  And he loves to carry 2 balls at a time!"

The third book in the series, Catwalk, has canine and feline agility, a cat show, and a feral cat colony, so when it came time to think about a character raffle, I went to the cats. Mackenzie, pictured here and owned & loved by Matt & Lisa Chin, won a guest role in the book, and her raffle ticket helped Support F.I.P. Research. Sadly, FIP took Mackenzie much to young, but she lives on in her fictional role and in hope for healthy cats.
A new character raffle is in the works for the fourth book in the Animals in Focus series ~ I will share details in a month or so, so please stay tuned! I'd like to thank EVERYONE who enters these raffles, because in my book ~ the big book of life ~ you're all winners for supporting such worthwhile causes and having faith in my new mysteries, too.

For more information about the Animals in Focus mysteries, and the series, please visit my website Mysteries Page, and for immediate news join me on Facebook at my author's page.

Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, The Money Bird, and my nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters, from Pomegranate Books. You can also PRE-ORDER your autographed copies of Catwalk, coming this fall.

Also available from your favorite bookseller (think Indie!) and online: Paperback and Kindle editions HERE
Audible editions HERE

*Title pending confirmation by publisher. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Image, Text, and Dogs, Part 1

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Today's post is the first of two about how images and text about our best friends have been combined through the ages. This post is adapted from a paper I wrote while working on my MFA in Creative Writing in the Stonecoast Program/University of Southern Maine. Special thanks to my friend and mentor Cait Johnson, who insisted I find the project that would "light me up." This is part of that project.  ~ Sheila

Words and pictures can work together to communicate
more powerfully than either alone.”
                                       – William Albert Allard

People have been combining text and illustration in books and their precursors since nearly two thousand years B.C.E. and dogs have been pictured in such multimedia presentations since at least 3500 B.C.E. Egyptian paintings, stelae, and reliefs frequently depict dogs in domestic and hunting scenes and mention them in accompanying writings. Some written texts are pithy, to say the least. Many Roman villas, for instance, announced the presence of guard dogs with mosaics in their entryways, the most famous of which is found in the “House of the Tragic Poet” in Pompeii. Typical of these mosaics, this piece from the first century C.E. shows a lunging mastiff-type dog over the warning Cave Canem (Beware of the Dog). Brief, but the message is fully realized. 

Cave Canem mosaic from the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii.

Literary and folk narrative cycles such as the Sanskrit Panchatantra and its derivatives, including the Arabic Kalila wa Dimna and Greek Aesop’s Fables, have been illustrated since they first appeared on papyrus scrolls, and medieval and modern editions from South Asia and the Middle East are often illustrated with exquisite miniature paintings. As the stories have migrated to Western languages and cultures, illustration has remained a staple of the tradition, even moving into the realm of popular culture. One of the best-known stories from these collections, for instance, is about a greedy dog who, crossing a bridge with a bone in his mouth, sees another dog in the water. When he tries to grab the other dog’s bone, he loses his own. A quick Internet search for images to illustrate the story brings up a range of works, from Moghul miniatures to contemporary cartoons. My favorite features Mickey Mouse’s friend Pluto as the greedy dog.

Illustration from a volume of Sufi teacher Rumi’s teachings.
Here he speaks to “Dogs in the Marketplace,” human and canine.

Illuminated and illustrated texts became high art in Western Europe beginning in late antiquity and continuing through the Middle Ages and beyond. One of the most beautiful examples is the ninth-century Irish Book of Kells, a stunning blend of calligraphic text and visual art in the form of full-page illustrations and elaborate intra-textual ornamentation. Like many books of this period in Europe, the Book of Kells is a religious text comprising the Four Gospels of the New Testament along with commentary. However, art reflects life, and many of the images are of everyday subjects, including dogs. 

Illumination from the Book of Kells, showing a dog

Dogs in Medieval and Renaissance art occupy a liminal place, appearing as both themselves – someone’s dog – and as symbols of such contradictory traits as love, fidelity, promiscuity, filth, and saintliness. In many paintings dogs appear to be “incidental background motifs, part of a hunting scene, religious, mythological, or allegorical composition” or accessories in portraits, according to art historian Edgar Peters Bowron. I would argue, though, that while it is true that sometimes a dog is just a dog, such images nevertheless carry both subliminal and conscious messages associating the people in them with presumed canine virtues. 

We still see dogs used in this way in modern print advertising and portraiture. Politicians and celebrities often cuddle up to dogs in publicity shots – who doesn’t trust a dog lover? Products that have nothing to do with animals, such as RCA Victor audio devices and Wolfschmidt vodka, use dogs in their advertisements. Even the type of dog used affects the immediate message – the terrier is a lively, faithful friend, the Borzoi evokes exotic elegance – but the core message is “you can trust us, we’re faithful and true.”

Many artists, though, employed dogs, although their intended meanings are not always clear, and as a "dog person" I don't always agree with the scholarly views. For example, Dutch artist Jan van Eyck included a dog in the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (1530), a painting filled with visual metaphors and signs, ostensibly to signify marital fidelity, although art historian Craig Harbison has argued that the meaning of the dog is ambivalent and may as well stand for lust and the couple’s desire for children. 

Fidelity to its master or mistress seems a logical meaning, but domestic dogs (unlike wolves) are notoriously promiscuous in their reproductive behaviors. The little dog stands at the wife’s hem facing away from the husband. In a paternalistic society in which female virginity and fidelity were guarded as the only sure guarantee of paternity, I read the position and presence of the dog as suggesting the wife’s potential to behave “like a bitch” in a very literal, sexual sense. Perhaps, as with much communication then and now, the message is intentionally mixed. 


Part 2 can be found HERE.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Imogene Duckworthy’s Animals

by Kaye George

Immy lives in Texas, near the panhandle, so she’s surrounded by cattle. In the first book, CHOKE, she doesn’t have any pets. Clem, the cook at the diner, does have an overweight, tawny cat. It makes an appearance near the end of the story.

However, Immy’s daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, nicknamed Drew, gets a potbellied pig for her birthday at the very beginning of SMOKE. Immy insists she doesn’t like pigs, all the way to the pig breeder’s place, Amy’s Swine. However, when the pure white piglet with the china blue eyes gazes up at her, she falls in love. How can people not love potbelly pigs?

I have some experience with the regular kind, good and bad. There’s a black and white picture in a box somewhere of my dad, as a young boy, astride a large hog. It was his pet pig and they were good buddies. I imagine it was “used” one day, but not for several years.

I didn’t put my worst pig experience into the book, but maybe I’ll use it somewhere someday. My uncle was a hog farmer in Illinois and they lived just outside Alpha (the setting for EINE KLEINE MURDER by some off coincidence). Their middle daughter, Mary, was a bit older than me and we were cousin-friends. I spent a week at their house in the summer and Mary spent a week at mine. We both had sleepless first nights for the visits. I was awakened by the grunting of the hogs in the pens just across the road and their rooster didn’t really pay attention to when the sun was up or down either, just went off whenever. Mary slept through all of that.

When she came to my house, she woke up every time a train went by at the bottom of the hill, or a siren wailed in the night. I never noticed those, of course, or the traffic noises or honking horns.

One day, at my uncle’s farm, a sow had just had a litter of piglets. They were absolutely adorable. So my uncle asked if I’d like to hold one. Of course! I didn’t know what that involved, or I wouldn’t have been so eager. My uncle lifted Mary and me into the wooden wagon in the middle of the pig sty. Then he, timing it just right, snatched a piglet and ran like the wind to hop onto the wagon. The mother sow was quick to race after him. The little piglet was squealing loudly. The mother sow was butting her head, backed by her substantial weight, again the wheel and rocking the wagon like crazy. I was terrified.

My uncle handed the piglet to Mary first. She smiled and held it a moment, then gave the wiggling, squalling thing to me. Horrified, and afraid the wagon would tip over and we would all be attacked by a large, angry pig, I thrust it over the edge of the wagon and it landed next to the sow. We had to wait a long time for her to calm down before we could climb out of the wagon, across the sty, and over the fence.

Anyway, there are other pigs in SMOKE, all of them very nice, and a bull who is not nice. Drew’s pig, Marshmallow, is featured further in the third of the series, BROKE. He’s turning out to be a very smart and likeable fellow. I’m thinking of putting a goat into STROKE, which isn’t finished yet. Maybe a miniature one? They’re awfully cute - check this out.


Kaye George, Agatha-nominated mystery writer, writes several series: Imogene Duckworthy, Cressa Carraway (Barking Rain Press), People of the Wind (Untreed Reads), and, as Janet Cantrell, Fat Cat debuting in September (Berkley Prime Crime). Her short stories appear in anthologies and magazines as well as her own collection, A Patchwork of Stories. Her reviews run in Suspense Magazine. She lives in Knoxville, TN.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seriously Funny

by Susan J. Kroupa

One of my favorite saying is from Proverbs: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

Sometimes I forget that. The other day, in a blog post, after promoting what a friend calls my "doggy books," I said, "But I've also written serious stuff set in the Southwest, in Hopi and Navajo culture. I was referring to several stories published some years back, "Scapegoat", "The Healer", and "Harden Times". (All of which, by the way, feature animals, although in "The Healer" the animal happens to be a wolf spider.) 
What was I thinking? For all their comic tone, the Doodlebugged mysteries are every bit as serious at their core as those works I wrote years ago.
Sometimes I think comedy doesn't get enough respect. On another blog (yes, I need an intervention for Internet addiction!) when someone posted, "I don't do comedy. I'm serious about what I write," I wanted to say, Well, pin a medal on you! (Fortunately, I curbed the impulse.) Because the fact is, if the writer has something important to say, comedy might just be the way to go.
Back in the dark ages, (1983), I was thrilled when Tootsie won the Oscar for Best Picture. I hadn't expected it to because it was a comedy and traditionally only Serious Films with Serious Messages (capital letters required) won that award.  But I felt that Tootsie was just about a perfect film. And I still think that because it was a comedy, it drove home its message about gender bias and the differences in treatment of men and women much more effectively, roping in all those who go to the theater for entertainment rather than moral education, than it might have if had been a drama,. When comedy is done right, we laugh with the people rather than at them, and that very act helps us to understand and empathize with them.
Because laughter is a huge reinforcer.
We discovered this when we adopted Shadow, a manically energetic, highly intelligent, but not particularly biddable labradoodle puppy, who eventually turned out to be the inspiration for the Doodlebugged books.  Our early efforts to train him taught us how little we actually knew about dogs and training.  Nothing we did seemed to make a dent toward getting him to do what we asked.  In desperation, I started reading about clicker training and positive reinforcement, delving into such excellent books as Gail Tamases Fisher's The Thinking Dog and Jane Killion's When Pigs Fly. And they taught me about the power of laughter. Giggle when a dog rolls over in the ring in the middle of a retrieve and he's apt to do it again.
My Doodlebugged mysteries have a light tone and, according to readers, many laugh-out-loud moments. Narrated by Doodle, an obedience-impaired, service-dog flunkee, Doodle proves to be a somewhat unreliable narrator in that the reader often understands more about what's actually going on than he does.  That leads to misunderstandings of what the humans around him say and to his wry observations on the inconsistencies between what their words and actions. But underneath Doodle's breezy narration, the characters deal with real and serious problems—a child's abandonment by a parent, the plight of U.S.-born children whose illegal immigrant families have been deported, the treatment of dogs by bad trainers, and the peril of dogs who end up in animal shelters.
Don't get me wrong. I've written serious and sad and even more, I've appreciated the serious and sad and sometimes anguished works of great authors, wonderful and profound books that have enriched the world and our understanding of human nature.
But as I've aged, as real life grief has given me plenty to worry about, I find that more and more in fiction I'm seeking that elusive "merry heart." That doesn't mean I've abandoned serious intent. Comedy may dilute the trials and tragedies of life and serve them up in a more palatable form, but what does it matter how the meal is prepared if the end result is digested?
Which is why I reread books such as Michael Malone's wonderfully funny Handling Sin almost every year, learning new things each time through. The very passages that have me weeping with laughter often move me at the same time with their poignancy.
While I might not be able to aspire to writing a book like Handling Sin, I do hope to communicate to readers the ideas and issues important to me. And I hope, as well, to leave them with a merry heart.
Which sometimes works in reverse.  Last year, when I was undergoing a period of intense discouragement, a dear friend, one who has seen more than his share of sorrows, wrote to tell me he was nursing his mother through cancer and that they were reading the Doodlebugged books together. "Thank you," he wrote, "for helping my mother (who is on chemotherapy) to laugh out loud again and again."

That gave me a very merry heart indeed.

Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.
She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Your Pet Could Be in a Mystery!

by Sheila Webster Boneham

OMG, you guys!!! One of us could be a STAR!! 
Don't forget to submit your entry for the ARPH Character Raffle Fundraiser. 
The lucky winner will be featured in Sheila Boneham's fourth mystery, 
tentatively titled Shepherd's Crook
All species are welcome to enter! 
(Other than humanoids!)

Some of you may recall that I've done this before - raffled off guest roles for critters in my Animals in focus mysteries. If you would like to know about about the winners who appear in The Money Bird and Catwalk, check out Animals in Focus Mysteries Characters Help Real Animals in Need .

Here's the scoop on the current character raffle - ARPH and I would appreciate your help in getting the word out, so please share the links. Thank you!


ARPH Benefit Character Raffle 2014

To pay for your entry, please send the money via PayPal at jagrdoggy@yahoo.com and note it's for Shepherd's Crook....

Contest – How it works:

The winner’s pet will appear in a “guest role” in Shepherd’s Crook, the fourth Animals in Focus Mystery by Sheila Webster Boneham. Winner must provide an email address and respond to Sheila’s request for further information within 48 hours of request following the drawing. Sheila will ask for at least one photo of the chosen animal, and some information about personality, abilities, etc. Click here to learn more about the series.  

What's the story in Shepherd’s Crook?

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail knows that something is seriously amiss when she and her Aussie, Jay, learn that livestock have disappeared overnight from a herding trial. Then a man dies, and Janet unwittingly photographs the thieves in action, putting herself and those she loves in the killer’s crosshairs.

A little about moi (and why I write a series with an Aussie as lead dog)

I've been involved with Australian Shepherds for more than two decades as a breeder, rescuer, competitor, judge, and fan. In addition to the Animals in Focus mystery series featuring Aussie Jay and his friends, I have written seventeen award-winning nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and rescue, including The Owner's Guide to the Australian Shepherd, Rescue Matters!, and others. 

Animals in Focus Mysteries

Drop Dead on Recall (2012)—because obedience can be murder! Winner of 2013 Maxwell Award for Best Fiction Book from the Dog Writers Association of America, and a 2012 Top Ten Dog Book, NBCPetside. 

The Money Bird (2013)—wet dogs, wildlife trafficking, and murder!

Catwalk (forthcoming fall 2014)—because agility - canine and feline! - can be deadly!

Personally autographed copies of Sheila’s books, including pre-orders of Catwalk, are available from Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC. Order online at http://www.sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/p/autographed-books.html or call Pomegranate Books at 910-452-1107 to place your order.

10% of your purchase from Pomegranate will be donated to support Aussie rescue or animal health foundations - your choice!

Also available online:
Powell’s Books
Barnes & Noble