Tag Archives: dogs

My Doxie, A Poem and Me

It’s snowing off and on as I write this, and I’m thinking of my two favorite other snow days when my husband didn’t have to go to work, and we had the days to ourselves. One of those days, while the snow piled high outside, inside, we listened to music and read and talked, warmed by the fire. The second time, we braved the elements to have lunch by firelight at a local rustic inn.

Those are romantic moments to me. I’ve often said we romance authors are all married to engineers even if they aren’t engineers. My husband is an educator, teacher of English and former high school administrator. But really, he’s an engineer. He’s linear, he’s a one-thing-at-a-time guy, he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He solves problems. Don’t all heroes?

Another favorite memory happened on a summer day when he wanted me to listen to an album of poetry — Billy Collins — so we drove to Litchfield listening to the CD, had lunch, and continued listening on the way home. After which I immediately wanted to start writing poetry because listening to Billy Collins just inspires you that way.
One of the poems, “The Revenant,” really resonated with me. It was from the viewpoint of a dog in the afterlife, finally confessing his true feelings about his long-time owners, words to the effect of — I never liked you. I hated the food you made me eat. I despised this. I never liked that.
You get the idea. A litany of dislikes and resentments. It made me look at my mini-doxie in a whole new light. Did she hate me? Despise the “naming of the parts” game I played with her? Hate all the silly nicknames I gave her? Did she resent my re-naming her “Munch”?

She was my mother-in-law’s dog, as I may have mentioned previously, a gift after the sudden death of mom’s then canine companion, Casey. The problem was, mom was ninety at the time, had macular degeneration, and was pretty unsteady on her legs.
So my Munchkin started out in pretty shaky circumstances: taken from her mother at 6 weeks, flown up to NY, put in the hands of strangers who then gave her to an elderly nearly blind lady who couldn’t properly care for her.

Something had to give; a year or so later, something did: mom fell, went to the hospital, and we took Midgie. At the time we had our beloved galumphing lab mix, Maggie who was about four times Midgie’s size. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Mom always thought Midgie would be eaten alive by Maggie. But that didn’t happen.
They got along just fine. Midgie — or Munch — would chase Maggie around the kitchen-dining-living room and then hide under her legs so Maggie couldn’t find her. Or she’d climb up on the couch pillows dive bomb onto Maggie’s back. When they slept, Munch’s body language imitated Maggie’s. I really think Maggie taught Munch how to behave.

She was, as was Maggie, the Best Dog Ever. We were privileged to love her for ten years, and our beloved Maggie for twelve. We lost Maggie to cancer two years before Munch passed away a dozen days into 2011.
Munch’s was the hardest passing to bear, maybe because we’re that much older. And so, the first time in 45 years, we don’t have a dog in the house.
In truth, I’m a little scared. What will he think? What if he hates us? How will we know? And, after all, we still have memories and pictures – and a cat.
I really don’t want to wonder if Munch was happy — I think she was — I loved her to pieces, walked her, fed her, spoiled her rotten, made up songs about her, played with her — but a year after that lovely lunch in Litchfield, that Billy Collins poem continues to haunt me. I never liked you …
And still I wonder …
Did she hate me?

Do you have a pet? Would you? Wonder, I mean …]
How powerful words are.
How about you? Any pet stories to tell? Any poems that resonated on that level? Meantime, I’d seriously advise you to occasionally look deep into your pet’s eyes and try to divine what she or he is really thinking.

(You can read The Revenant on-line.)

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the USAToday best-selling author of 25 historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas. She’s currently working on an erotic contemporary romance. She misses her Munchkin terribly.


Fur Friends in Fiction

In honor of my dog Zak, I wanted to write a post about adding animal characters to our stories. Zak was a handsome and faithful ten year-old lab/husky mix who I had to say goodbye to this weekend. The house has been all too quiet since and we will no doubt miss him terribly. When we invite an animal into our lives, we are taking on a partner of sorts. They don’t become our pets as much as we become their people. As authors of romance and love stories, it’s only right that we should include our furry soul mates in our stories. I don’t know about you and your first encounter with your fur friend, but I fell in love with Zak at first sight. We quickly became best friends, forging a bond that would last his lifetime. I love the idea of incorporating that kind of relationship into my books.

In SAVAGE CINDERELLA, my main character Brinn befriends a bear, rescuing it as a cub after its mother is killed. Since Brinn was still a child at the time, she named the bear cub Kitty, stole milk from a farmer’s goat, and cared for the bear until it was grown enough to fend for itself. From then on, the two were friends for life, Kitty coming to Brinn’s rescue just in the nick of time. (see book trailer here).

It was fun creating that relationship and showing the connection between humans and animals even under the most unusual of circumstances. Animals have a way of getting under our skin right from the start, reminding us that unconditional love is the truest form of love we can express or receive. The bond that we form with them goes beyond pet and master. There is a soul-deep affection and trust that is difficult to explain to someone who has never befriended an animal and spent years living with them side-by-side.

Adding an animal character to a story is challenging, which is why I don’t think we see it done often. You need to make them into a believable, continuous thread of the story.To do it well, in my opinion, you have to sprinkle in the personality traits of the animal and show how they impact the main character. Aren’t we always a perfect match for our pets? By sharing how animal characters interact with the hero and heroine, it can deepen character and connect the reader even more than the hero/heroine relationship itself.

I’ll use Kristan Higgins again as an example because she does this so well. Her fur friend characters are engaging and lively, and are just as quirky as her main characters. They are clearly just one more member of the family. I think Kristan’s success with this is that the dogs aren’t just thrown onto the page to add color. It would be easy to have them distract from the story, but instead they are real secondary characters who are present in the background at all times, affecting the emotions and actions of our main characters, just like our real companions. They also have unique personalities–always ready to express themselves through a bark, a pant, or a set of pathetic big brown eyes begging for some love and attention, or a treat.

In my upcoming YA Dystopian release, WANING MOON, genetically altered teen Lily Carmichael, is accompanied on her journey by a pair of grey timber wolves. Bo and Pappy are brothers, distinguishable only by the scar that Bo carries across his eye and snout from having fended off a polar bear to save Lily. (Don’t ask about polar bears in the Northeast. You’ll just have to read the book.) I had fun writing the wolves into the story and used a lot of Zak’s character traits in doing so. I’ll describe him and you tell me if you don’t see the heart of a wolf in him.

Zak was a fiercely protective dog who thought nothing of challenging a bear or moose if he thought his domain was being threatened. He was stubborn and loyal, and not always terribly bright (just ask the skunks and porcupines that he thought were cats).  But he was also totally goofy and handsome the way his ears perked up and shifted at the slightest sound, like two satellite dishes on his head. My biggest challenge after taking him in as a six month old pup was that he had been taken out of two other homes for neglect and he had major abandonment issues, did not get along with other animals, and would become aggressive if threatened or fearful. I tried socializing him, but he had his mind made up that he was going to be a loner. Eventually, we became his pack. He was friendly to children, neighbors and even strangers, but if you tried to do something he didn’t like, he let you know in no uncertain terms that if you didn’t have a tranquilizer gun, you ought to just back off.

Against the advice of vets, I didn’t put him down as a pup. Instead, I moved him out into the country. Here, he was surrounded by woods where he could run free. Amazingly, he never strayed from our property or even far from our sight. He was a great companion for me on our hikes on the vast trail system behind my house. If my husband traveled, Zak was on guard and would no doubt protect me with his life. His daily presence was a comfort to both my husband and me, always greeting us with a bark and a wagging tail. He lay by my side more than once when I was sick, ever watchful and responsive to my moods or energy shifts. Though he sometimes made it difficult to appreciate his quirks, we always loved him unconditionally and that love is what I believe made him the great dog he was. He had a happy life here, and I’m so glad we could give that to him. In return, he gave us his all. It seems fitting that I should have him immortalized in some way through my Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I’m sure you’ll get to know Zak a little better as you read about Bo and Pappy.

Until then, what do you think about animals in fiction? 

Author Interview – Ryan Hill

Hello Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  Happy Saturday.  Today I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with author Ryan Hill. 

Ryan recently published a children’s book titled, J.P. Trouble

Thanks for being with us today, Ryan.  Have you thought about writing something that is completely different for you?  Perhaps writing in a new genre or just taking a story someplace that you haven’t done before. Everybody has a genre they feel most comfortable writing in. Children’s literature is a great avenue, since it allows me to be silly and ridiculous with my writing. That said, I think it’s important to “stretch your muscles” and get out of your comfort zone as often as possible. It’s the only way you can grow and improve.

What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career? The most surprising thing is that I actually have a writing career. Words can’t describe the sheer joy I get from knowing this is what I’m doing for a living.

What would you do if you couldn’t be a writer any longer? I’d like to say I can’t imagine doing anything else, but that’s not true. I can imagine doing lots of things: paratrooper, taxi cab driver, watersports enthusiast, dog trainer, candle maker, or Elvis impersonator. I just can’t imagine actually WANTING to do anything besides write.

Author Jane Haddam says that anyone who seriously annoys her gets bumped off in her next book.  How do you incorporate your real-life experiences into your stories?  For J.P. Trouble, real-life informed the entire story. It’s based on my father’s first dog, who was actually named J.P. Trouble. My dad told me about how he got the dog 11 years ago, and I immediately knew it would make a great children’s book, so I set about writing it. Cut to 2012, and that book is finally a reality.

I was in graduate school at North Carolina State University when I first wrote the story, and previous drafts kind of got lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Once I decided to write full-time, the manuscript was resurrected, I sent it off to Warren Publishing, an independent publisher in Huntersville, N.C., and the rest is history.

I chose Warren because it’s located in North Carolina, my home state. Honestly I never gave a lot of thought to going for an agent or big house publisher. I wanted J.P. Trouble to go somewhere that people would really care about the story and champion it, and Warren has done just that.

What was your biggest mis-step in your writing career so far? Waiting so long to pursue writing full-time.

What is your junk food of choice? Pizza. Definitely pizza.

What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done? I’m not much of a danger mouse, but the riskiest thing I’ve ever done is to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the ONLY decision.

For more information about J.P. Trouble or other writings by Ryan, check out his website.  Thanks for taking the time to be with us today, and good luck with your book!