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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Interview with DOGLAND Author Jacki Skole

Tell us about your latest book.
DOGLAND: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem intertwines two stories. The first details my search to find the person who surrendered my dog to a North Carolina shelter when she was only six weeks old; the second examines our country’s dog problem and seeks solutions to fix it.
For many people, the notion that America has a dog problem is hard to fathom when nearly forty percent of U.S. households include at least one dog. And when those of us who live with dogs spend several billion dollars on them each year, fulfilling their needs (food and veterinary care) and our wants (canine massages, monogrammed sweaters, and diamond—yes diamond!—dog collars). It’s not an overstatement to say that many pets live lives we, humans, can only dream of living. Yet animal welfare groups say shelter euthanasia remains the leading cause of death for America’s canines. And ninety-percent of those killed, they say, are healthy, adoptable, and would make great pets. 

What was it about the subject that inspired you to write?
I didn’t set out to write a book so much as I set out to discover why the puppy I adopted from a small rescue organization seemed unusually submissive and fearful of men, and why she—a dog from North Carolina—was up for adoption in a New Jersey garden-supply store.
At the time I began to dig for answers, I was in the midst of a career crisis: Should I pursue a doctoral degree in education? Could I be content as a stay-at-home mom and adjunct instructor, teaching just a few communications classes each semester? What was my purpose?
As I uncovered little bits about Galen’s past and learned about the scope of the dog problem in the United States, I realized there was a story that needed telling—not just about all the healthy and adoptable dogs being killed in shelters (that story’s been told), but about what’s being done—and what more can be done—to save lives and stop the killing.
I now had my purpose.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and how did you overcome it?
I think it’s hard to choose the “biggest” challenge as there are so many hurdles a writer encounters. In my case, being a journalist, the initial challenge I faced was simply getting people to talk to me. I had to persuade animal shelter directors who’d seen their shelters skewered in the media—sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly—to allow me in. I had to persuade an animal rescuer-turned-hoarder to share her story because hoarding by people who start out in rescue is a growing problem. I had to persuade rescue groups and animal welfare organizations that are often distrustful of outsiders that they could trust me.
How did I get over these hurdles? By being upfront about my intention to tell the story honestly and above all, that I was motivated to seek solutions, not to place blame.
Of course, once I’d done my reporting and knew I had a story to tell, I had to figure out how best to tell it.
And then there’s finding an agent—I was unsuccessful at that. And a publisher—I succeeded there, thanks to an article in Writer’s Digest urging writers—especially debut authors—not to overlook small, independent presses. It was that article that led me to Ashland Creek Press. The press’s commitment to environmental and animal themes makes it an ideal home for DOGLAND.

Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
I have no doubt that had my family not adopted Galen, I would not have written DOGLAND.
From Galen’s earliest days with us, I found myself comparing everything about her—her submissive personality, her physical features, her actions—to our previous dog, Gryffin. I even started a blog called she’s a dork where I posted vignettes about her quirkiness.
Like Galen, Gryffin had been a rescue. And he, too, had personality quirks that I wondered about, but I’d never thought to investigate his past. There was simply something about Galen that compelled me forward.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask?
I know that not everyone who reads interviews about DOGLAND will go on to read the book, so an important question to be asked—and to be answered—is this: How can someone not involved with animal welfare get involved and help save lives? 
There are numerous ways; it’s simply a matter of finding one that works for you. Here are some suggestions:
·         I am donating all the proceeds from sales of DOGLAND to the extraordinary non-profit programs profiled in the book. These programs survive—and thrive—on donations. Any amount of money you can donate to an animal welfare organization—be it one in the book, your local animal shelter, a rescue group, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic—will be used to save lives.
·         You can foster a shelter dog. Fostering socializes a homeless pet, readying him to be adopted into his forever home. Not only that, fostering opens up shelter space for another dog. Unfortunately, some shelters are so crowded, they euthanize healthy, adoptable dogs to make space for incoming ones.
·         You can volunteer at your local shelter. Volunteering can include taking dogs for walks. This means you get your exercise while doing the important work of walking and socializing a homeless Fido.
·         Adopt your next dog from an animal shelter or rescue, and encourage want-to-be-dog owners you know to do the same.
·         Join Facebook and follow your local shelter and local animal rescues. When they post photos of dogs who need homes, share those dogs with your own social network.

Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documentary unit; she’s also produced programs for Animal Planet and HGTV.
Jacki lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters—two human, one canine. It is Galen, Jacki’s canine daughter, who inspired the journey that resulted in DOGLAND.

Helpful Links:
DOGLAND on Amazon
Twitter @JackiSkole
Facebook fan page 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Joys of Being Outnumbered

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

In a way I feel sort of a cheat. I don’t put animals in my books, at least not in any major roles. I do, however, have them in major roles in my life, roles so major that I sometimes feel like a minor character.

I believe firmly in adopting rescue pets, so much so that The Husband’s and my favorite charity is East Lake Pet Orphanage. Right now we have two cats – a frail little tuxedo named Squeaky Boots and a simply enormous grey/brown tabby called Chloe – and an extremely prissy little dog of uncertain antecedents whom we call Mindy Moo the Monkey Dog, for reasons too complicated to go into now.

We like to say Mindy is half terrier mix and half diva. And she can be fierce, even though she is only 12 pounds. For reasons we can only guess, she simply loathes big dogs. When loathing is not enough, she will attack. I have pulled her off the chins of more startled big dogs than I care to remember – it is a nerve-wracking experience. On the other hand, it can be effective. For several years there was a Harlequin Great Dane in our neighborhood that would drag his owner to the other side of the street whenever we happened to see each other out walking.

But Mindy is not the queen of the house. That title belongs to elderly, frail Squeaky Boots, who – without the basic tools of claws or fangs – rules the roost with an iron paw. If she wants to eat or drink something, the owner of said treat simply steps aside. Same with a prime seat. If Squeaky Boots wants, Squeaky Boots gets. Perhaps it comes from her early life – we know little about her, except that she had five homes before she was four years old, and that in the last one she had to scrap for every bite of food she got.

By contrast, Chloe is a world-class wimp. Although she is huge – 16+ pounds and when stretched out almost as long as a king-sized pillow – she is shy and timid and incredibly neurotic. We know little of her early life, except that she was a police seizure from a home where she had been tortured for years. Every time I visited the orphanage she had invariably wrapped herself in a towel with only her tail sticking out. I brought her home while The Husband was deployed abroad. Like we’re told to do, I put her in a room by herself for a few days so she and Squeaky Boots (Mindy had not joined us yet) could smell and hear each other but with no contact, and I would spend a couple of hours a day in there, reading aloud or perhaps working on my laptop. Chloe cringed and hid, but did not fight too much when I picked her up and held her for a minute or two a couple of times a day. I thought we were making progress.

Then after a couple of days I decided to let her out… and she promptly disappeared. It was two or three weeks or more before I even caught a glimpse of her. Taming her took months. It started with just the touch of a fingertip on her tail. Then she let us touch her head. Then on one glorious day she started rubbing against my leg when she wanted to be touched. She learned that if I was working at my computer – which I nearly always am – she could butt her head against my leg and I would then be allowed to scritch her head for a moment.

I always played along, but once she butted my head in search of a head scritch at the wrong time. I was lost in my work and could not turn loose of the words to play with her. She butted again, once more without my responding.

Chloe has both claws and very intimidating fangs, and she wields both with skill. She turned her head and sank her fangs into my leg. Hard. She neither moved nor ran when I jumped and screamed, but merely butted my leg once more, demanding her scritch. I was overjoyed. She even allowed me to pick her up, put her in my lap and pet her. I didn’t even mind that blood was running down my leg.

And Mindy? Mindy simply moved into our home and hearts. You’d never believe what she suffered before she finally ended up with us, or how we managed to get her. That’s the subject for another blog. Now she is happy to sleep at my feet when I write and with her courageous barking protects the house from sinister mailmen, marauding moths and other offenders.

So how is it working at my writing when I am surrounded and outnumbered? It feels great. At least one is always at my feet or on my desk, and the others are usually within scritching distance. Normally the babies are pretty good about not disturbing me, especially while I’m working, unless it’s time for din-din, when everything descends into pandemonium. But with the love and companionship of three wonderful, affectionate animals, even pandemonium is great.


Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances, horror and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and non-fiction and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. She is a founder of RWA and currently serves on a regional MWA Board.
Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.
Find Janis on Twitter @JanisSusanMay and on Facebook at Janis Susan May.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Interview with Author Marilyn Meredith

Tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer.
My journey began when I was a child—I drew picture books before I could read or write (I was 4) based on a soap opera my mother listened to called “My Gal Sunday.” When I could read and started on the Little House on the Prairie series, I wrote my own version. I continued writing stories and added plays for my neighborhood friends to perform. When I married and was raising a family, my writing was confined to the PTA newsletter and plays for my Camp Fire Girls. I attempted three full length books, sent them off, and they were rejected. Didn’t write anymore for a long while. Wrote a historical family saga based on my own family genealogy, it was rejected and rewritten many times, but finally accepted and published, and I haven’t stopped since. Though I’ve written in several different genres, I’ve settled in writing mysteries. The first one was published as an e-book before anyone had a clue what that was. I championed e-books for a long time before people accepted them. I have two series: the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.
Tell us a bit about your latest book.
In my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Not as it Seems, Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch, travel to Morro Bay to attend their son Blair’s wedding. The maid-of-honor has disappeared, and Tempe is enlisted to look for her. The search is complicated by too many suspects, ghosts, and native spirits.
How do you develop your characters?
Because I’m writing a series, my main characters are already developed. When beginning a new book, along with a fresh plot, I have to create a victim and several folks who might be the murderer. Once I begin to get an idea of who each one is, I choose a name that I think fits, and the rest seems to come naturally.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My main series characters are the ones who inspire me and keep me writing about them. I’ve come to think of them as family and I want to know what’s going to happen to them next and the only way to find out is to write the next book.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m writing the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery while reading the chapters of my other series to my writing group. And like most authors, I’m working on promotion of some sort nearly every day. I suspect that will all continue.
Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
Right now we have two inside cats, Butch and Sundance. Though both like to hang out in my office with me, neither get on my desk or computer. That’s a good thing, because they are both really big cats. I’ve never included either one in a book and I’m not sure why. We live in the country, and outside we always have feral cats (people drop their unwanted cats off) that we keep water available for and feed.

To buy Not as It Seems

Marilyn Meredith lives in the foothills of the Southern Sierra, about 1000 feet lower than Tempe’s Bear Creek, but much resembles the fictional town of Bear Creek and surroundings. She has nearly 40 books published, mostly mysteries. Besides writing, she loves to give presentations to writers’ groups. She’s on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and a member of Mystery Writers of America and three chapters of Sisters in Crime. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adopter Beware by Jacki Skole

It's my pleasure to welcome Jacki Skole, author of Dogland: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem, back to WOA. We would all like to think that anyone calling herself an animal rescuer is a good and honest person, but as in all areas of life, that isn't always the case. Jacki offers some tips to help you assess rescuers and rescue programs before you support them with your money.  ~ Sheila Boneham (author of Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals). 

Many of us have seen them on the weekends—puppies and dogs up for adoption in local pet stores. Some of us have even adopted one of these homeless pups. Most of the time, it’s a rescue group, not the retailer, running the show. And most of the time, the rescue is working in the best interest of its animals. But as I learned while reporting DOGLAND, there are some so-called rescues that are simply turning dogs for dollars.
“Rescue has become part of the pet trade,” according to Libby Williams, who runs Pet Watch New Jersey, a non-profit that seeks to educate people about shady rescues and puppy mills. “There is a lot of selling going on for profit, and a lot of so-called rescues preying on the emotions of adopters.” The result: Dogs that have not been vetted or behavior tested are being adopted out, situations that can be both deadly and dangerous.
How can you determine if you’re dealing with a rogue rescue? Here are seven warning signs:
  • Payment is cash-only. The rescue won’t take your check or credit card.
  • There are a high volume of puppies for adoption. These “rescues,” also known as puppy-flippers, sometimes get their puppies from puppy mills and then advertise them as shelter dogs. 
  • Dogs lack health records, and if a dog has crossed state lines, there’s no inter-state health certificate. A rescue should be able to provide you with the names of the veterinarians who treat its dogs.
  • The rescue won’t guarantee a dog’s health for even 48-72 hours.
  • The rescue won’t take back a dog if the adoption doesn’t work out.
  • The rescue’s website and/or Facebook page doesn’t include the names of the people associated with the rescue or any means to contact the rescue, such as a phone number or email address.
  • The rescue doesn’t interview you. Just as you want to ensure the rescue is reputable, the rescue should want to make sure it’s turning over its dogs to the best home possible. Thus, reputable rescues screen applicants, require references, and whenever possible, do home checks.

Bottom line: Ask questions! A legitimate rescue will have the answers to your questions and will be happy to provide them. If you believe you are dealing with a rogue rescue, contact your local SPCA or police department.
Finally, if you find a rescue you really like, support it! Chances are, that rescue is run by a bunch of volunteers with full-time jobs who simply love dogs and who are driven to save lives. What’s more, it’s likely that the rescue is funded entirely by donations and by its members dipping into their own pocketbooks to keep the rescue solvent.

Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documentary unit; she’s also produced programs for Animal Planet and HGTV.
Jacki lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters—two human, one canine. It is Galen, Jacki’s canine daughter, who inspired the journey that resulted in DOGLAND
Helpful Links:
Website: www.jackiskole.com
DOGLAND on Amazon
Twitter @JackiSkole
Facebook fan page