A writer writing about writing (about dogs)

My friend Tiffany Pitts, author and mother to an awesome shepherd named Thor Michaelson, invited me to participate in a writerish blog hop. I mention Thor Michaelson because 1) this is a dog blog and 2) Tiffany and I met through Thor.

I’d been following Thor Michaelson on Facebook for several months when I happened to find myself sitting next to Tiffany at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference last summer: “Is your name Tiffany? I’m obsessed with your dog!”

Who says it’s hard to make new friends as an adult?

Tiffany is the author of the hilarious and smart sci-fi novel Double Blind, which is the first in the Thanatos Rising series. I highly recommend it, especially to the cat people among you who will appreciate my favorite character, Toesy.

Blog Hop

Note: I rearranged the order of the questions for the benefit of readers who come here looking for stuff about dogs.

Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?

My current project is a novel called Fight Like a Lady, about a female mixed martial arts fighter who rescues fighting dogs. I developed an affinity for pit bulls from watching Pit Bulls and Parolees, and despite not having any pit bull friends of my own, created several pit bull characters. Earlier this year, I started volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, and discovered that everything I fantasized about rescued pit bulls is true. They’re friendly and cuddly and have huge smiles and most of them let me kiss them on the head. I know I shouldn’t go around kissing dogs I’ve just met on the head, but I can’t help it.

Prior to this experience, I had written a scene at an animal shelter where all the volunteers are old ladies who are afraid of the rescued fighting dogs. I hope that when my friends at the Humane Society read it, they won’t think it’s based on them. I might need to rewrite it.

Where do you like to write?

I have two different writing desks at home, but right now neither is in any condition to foster creativity. The first is in the guest room, which is decorated like a little girl’s bedroom with Disney posters and other artifacts from my Hollywood days. (Note: No little girl has lived there since we bought the house.) We squeezed Rob’s old desk under the window and it is a nice writing space with a view of the rhododendrons, but it’s also hot in the summer, and right now, the room is a complete mess, with piles of clothes I mean to give away, and shoes and purses heaped on the floor. I can’t really even get to the desk, although that is where my laptop rests when she’s charging.

A few years ago, I created a space for myself in our library (which at one point was the only room in the house without a TV). I pushed a balance ball chair up to a sturdy old table of my grandmother’s. But right now the table is piled up with books and papers, and not suitable for writing.

Now that I have a lovely, lightweight MacBook Air, I can write anywhere. I am writing this from a recliner in the TV room.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?

Rob and I had some trouble coming up with a name for Leo, our second dog, and I recycled some of the vetoed names in Fight Like a Lady. In my memoir, Bark and Lunge, the names mostly were predetermined, but of course, I named the main character, Isis, in real life too. I still think it’s the most beautiful name in the world, and wish it weren’t the acronym for a terrorist organization in the Middle East. Looks like I picked the wrong summer to release a book about a dog named Isis.

I changed some names in the memoir, always with some connective thread that made sense to me. A dog named Belle… like Michelle, My Belle; I renamed her Rita, like Lovely Rita, Meter Maid. Shoot, now I’ve outed Belle.

I named Vicky, the heroine in Fight Like a Lady, based on what her fight nickname would be. She thinks fight promoters will call her “Vicky Victorious,” but instead, they latch onto her last name, Bergman, and call her “The Iceberg.”

Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?

I understand writers (and actors and directors) who have a policy against reading their reviews, but when I only have ten reviews so far on Amazon, of course I’m going to read them all. (Hey, advance readers… don’t forget, I’m counting on you to post a review!)

I’ve been steeling myself for the inevitable mean reviews, but my feelings haven’t been hurt yet. I got my first one-star review the other day, and totally agree with it. The reader said my book was “How NOT to train a dog.” Yes, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what my book is. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it or relate to it.

I would never respond to a negative review on Amazon or Goodreads, but one critical reviewer also commented right here on the blog, so I’ve had a conversation with her about some of the things she didn’t like. I understand where she’s coming from.

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?

I give away almost every book that I read. Usually to my mother, or a fellow author, or a fellow dog-lover, depending on what the book is. I’m trying to think of a book that I’ve given more than once. A Dog’s Purpose, I would give that as a gift. Or Robert Crais’ Suspect.


Pam HelbergI hereby tag Pam Helberg, a brilliant writer and friend who’s written beside me in both a fiction and memoir class, and at numerous cafes, conferences and retreats.

Pam Helberg is working on her memoir, an intimate look at what happens when the Perfect Lesbian Family falls apart, a story by turns humorous and heartbreaking. Her essay “Body Language” appeared in the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religion Seal Press, 2013, and her essay “Don’t Hold My Hand in Pocatello,” will be published in the Ooligan Press anthology Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity in Winter 2015.  Pam is currently working on her master’s degree in mental health counseling at Antioch University in Seattle.

Please visit her at pamelahelberg.com

And then go look at some pictures of dogs and cats.

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8 thoughts on “A writer writing about writing (about dogs)

  1. Your spare bedroom sounds like mine with SlimDoggy swag all over the bed. Luckily I have an office that I need for my day job, so it’s where I do all of my blog writing too. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Thanks for sharing, glad to know you got a Macbook so you can write anywhere. The greatness of modern technology, it’s funny to look back and how we were writing 20 years ago. Keep the creativity flowing.

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