Rescue Dogs published in UW journal

uppercut

I’m thrilled to announce that Rescue Dogs, an excerpt from my work in progress, has been published in the University of Washington’s Stratus: Journal of Arts and Writing.

Warning: The story depicts dog fighting, and includes some graphic violence. Read it here. (starting on page 67.)

I’ve been working on Fight Like a Lady since 2009 (it started as a NaNoWriMo book!), although not steadily: I wrote Bark and Lunge during that time. It’s so close to being done, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Dilly dog

I also entered the first several chapters in 2016 Ink & Insights Writing Contest, where it placed in the Top 10 of the Apprentice category. I was very flattered that one judge wondered why it wasn’t submitted in the Master category. (Because it wasn’t finished!)

More about Fight Like a Lady.

Top 6 Dog Books for Veterans Day

I was reminded how much respect and gratitude people in this country have for veterans when I went to Disney World last month with Rob’s dad, a career Navy man. When he wore his Retired Navy hat, total strangers thanked him for his service all day long, sometimes bringing a tear to his eye.

Today, as I’m seeing all kinds of social media messages thanking veterans, or lamenting that we don’t do enough for our veterans, I have the answer: Give every veteran a dog.

Here’s my supporting evidence:

Until-Tuesday-Book-CoverUntil Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván

This book captures the heartbreaking challenges veterans face when they return from war. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes back from war without serious psychological damage, and in Montalván’s case, he struggled with physical injuries as well. The healing power of his relationship with his service dog Tuesday is nothing short of miraculous.

I didn’t warm up to this book right away, I think because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training, before the author knew him. Tuesday didn’t come alive as a character to me until later in the book, when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. I loved reading about their illicit games of fetch after dark in a closed Brooklyn park, and my heart broke reading about the bus driver who humiliated Montalván by insisting Tuesday isn’t a real service dog.

51YYFNfdHaL._SX462_BO1,204,203,200_Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs by Tracy J. Libby

I received an advance copy of this book, which was officially released yesterday. It’s a hardcover coffee table book, and makes an excellent follow-up to Until Tuesday. It tells the story of 15 veterans and the service dogs who rescued them. You’ll appreciate this book if, like me, you think every nonfiction book about dogs should include dozens of color photos.

In addition to poignant stories of veterans and their dogs, Libby describes (and photographs) prison puppy programs, the history of therapy dogs, and rescue and breeding programs that provide dogs to veterans.

18740From Baghdad, With Love by Jay Kopelman

Sometimes dogs and soldiers rescue each other before they even come home from war. Lava is a puppy found by a unit in an abandoned city in Iraq. It’s been a while since I read this one, so I’m quoting the publisher: “Despite military law that forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat. Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of a dog named Lava and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.

“From hardened Marines to war-time journalists to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death, and war from a mangy little flea-ridden refugee.”

6260262One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

Did Lava’s story hit you in the feels? Do you wish more could be done to help the homeless dogs in war zones? Pen Farthing is a British Royal Marine who orchestrated a stray dog rescue effort in Afghanistan.

From Publisher’s Weekly, “Already burdened with the responsibility of overseeing and protecting his 20-man crew of Marines, Farthing becomes consumed with the suffering of the strays and risks his own life to rescue them … Soon he finds himself developing plans to save strays from dogfighting, a centuries-old local tradition that usually requires the removal of ears and tails without anesthetic, and adopts a former fighting dog he names Nowzad. Today, Nowzad happily resides in the Farthing household as his owners continue their quest to save thousands of suffering strays.”

cover-suspect-1Suspect by Robert Crais

This has made my list of top books before, and is officially my favorite Robert Crais book. Obviously, I’m biased because it’s about a German shepherd. But I have pretty high standards for dog books. Way higher than my standards for suspense novels.

The main doggie character isn’t a service dog, but a retired bomb dog who lost her handler to an explosion in Afghanistan, and her new partner, who lost his partner in a shootout.

Some of the chapters are written from the dog’s point of view, but not in a cutesy way. Crais nails the way German shepherds feel about their people. He also depicts accurately what it is like to live with a German shepherd, what it’s like to drive with one sitting astride the console between the seats, scanning the view out the front windshield.

The Promise by Robert Craiscover-promise

So… I haven’t actually read this one yet because it just came out yesterday. But it’s a sequel to Suspect and features Crais’s flagship character, Elvis Cole, World’s Greatest Detective, and his partner Joe Pike (a veteran).

Here’s the blurb: “When Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find a missing grief-stricken mother, his first stop on that rainy night is an ordinary house in Echo Park. Only the house is not ordinary, and neither are the people hiding inside: A wanted killer on the run from police and a vicious career criminal with dangerous secrets of his own.

“As helicopters swirl overhead, LAPD K9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, track the fugitive to this same Echo Park house … ”

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Top 10 Books for Dog Lovers

Top 10 books for dog lovers

It goes without saying that the greatest gift you can give any dog lover this Christmas is my book, Bark and Lunge, but I’ll assume because you’re reading my blog that you already know that.

Here are ten more books to give the dog lover in your life. I have extremely high standards for dog books, so inclusion on this list is high praise indeed. I’m not like those reviewers on Amazon who say, “I love any book that has a dog in it.”

From left to right, my recommendations are:

Suspect

1) Suspect by Robert Crais (fiction)

Suspect is about a cop who lost his partner in a shootout, and a military dog who lost her handler to an explosion in Afghanistan. I’ve read all of Crais’ books and this is officially my favorite. Some of the chapters are written from the dog’s point of view, but not in a cutesy way. Crais nails the way German shepherds feel about their people. He also depicts accurately what it is like to live with a German shepherd, what it’s like to drive with one sitting astride the console between the seats, scanning the view out the front windshield.

Crais does a masterful job conveying Maggie’s body language and how she alerts to smells. Early on, I wished there were pictures. I wanted to see Maggie beyond the silhouette on the cover. Turned out, I didn’t need photos, because she is written so well. What a tribute to German shepherds. I hope this is the first in a series of Scott and Maggie books.

dog inc

2) Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend by John Woestendiek (non-fiction)

I never gave much though to what actually happens in order to clone a dog, and to be honest, I was more interested in the emotional ramifications when a dog is cloned. What’s it like for the humans? For the clone?

Woestendiek does a fairly good, if repetitive, job explaining the science. First, an egg must be harvested from a dog, and then a surrogate dog must carry the embryo. Probably dozens of times in this book, Woestendiek writes that the DNA of the cloned animal is put into the egg and then zapped with electricity. Hundreds of dogs have been experimented on, and hundreds of mutant puppies born and killed in the quest to bring dead pets back to life. It’s a gruesome business, and sure, maybe acceptable if the end goal is curing cancer, but not for our amusement. I recommend this book to anyone who’s ever wondered about the ethics of cloning pets.

romeo

3) A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans (non-fiction/memoir)

A Wolf Called Romeo mixes non-fiction narrative with straight-up encyclopedic non-fiction about wolf behavior. In general, I prefer story, but perhaps one must understand wolves in general to truly appreciate how extraordinary it was for this black wolf, Romeo, to spend multiple winters fraternizing with the citizens of Juneau and their dogs.

Most dog owners will appreciate the interplay between Romeo and domesticated dogs, and enjoy learning about the differences/similarities between these evolutionary cousins.

I hadn’t realized how rare it is for a human to be injured or killed by a wolf. As reported here, there have only been TWO human fatalities believed to have been caused by wolves in North America.

Part-Wild

4) Part Wild: A Memoir of One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs by Ceiridwen Terrill (non-fiction/memoir)

Another book that is part memoir, part wolf encyclopedia, Part Wild is more emotionally involving than A Wolf Called Romeo. It is about a woman raising a companion wolfdog. Terrill makes a lot of the same mistakes naive dog owners make, only the stakes are higher because Inyo is more volatile and more aggressive than your average canine.

This is also the story of Terrill’s emotional health and interpersonal relationships. It’s a cautionary and heartbreaking tale about bringing a wild animal into your home and your heart.

Hit by a Flying Wolf

5) Hit By a Flying Wolf: True Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Real Life with Dogs and Wolves by Nicole Wilde  (memoir)

As a fan of Nicole Wilde’s blog about dog behavior, I didn’t expect Hit by a Flying Wolf to so closely echo my own experiences. How reassuring to learn that an expert has struggled with a dog as much as I have!

The first half of the book contains stories about four of the dogs Wilde has lived with, and the second half concerns wolf rescue. The first dog, a long-haired German shepherd, had the same fear of high-pitched noises that my dog Mia has. Mojo, her “soul dog,” was the crossover dog who helped her learn that positive reinforcement training is more effective than using old-fashioned choke collars. I have a special affinity for Bodhi, who came from a shelter and shared my dog Leo’s penchant for doing things like “grabbing a trailing hand and chomping down, or jumping up in front of me and placing teeth around my arm, exerting a disturbing amount of pressure.” Bodhi’s story hit home the most for me, because it illustrates how much dedication is needed sometimes to get through to a troubled dog, and shows that it’s worth it.

A major highlight of this book are the color photographs. It bums me out when photos in dog books are grainy and black and white, or worse, when there are no photos at all. I want to see the dogs! Wilde is an accomplished photographer. Not only are the animals described vividly in prose, but the images of the dogs and wolves also are stunning.

Wallace6) Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls by Jim Gorant (non-fiction)

I think “The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls — One Flying Disc” is probably the best subtitle of all time, but it doesn’t address the aspect of Wallace’s story that I most relate to. Wallace started out dog aggressive. Maybe he was just experiencing barrier frustration when he lashed out at other dogs while in the shelter, but he was in danger of being euthanized. Lucky for Wallace, Roo and Clara Yori stood up for him.

By channeling Wallace’s drive into flying disc, Roo Yori effectively gave his dog a “job,” something trainers will tell you dogs need to keep them from developing bad habits and behavior problems. From that point on, Wallace seems never to have another aggressive episode. Another aspect of Wallace’s story that resonated with me is that even when it seemed like the sport was rough on Wallace’s body, Yori kept playing disc with him. Yori recognized that Wallace’s love of/drive for the disc was so strong, that Wallace would play long after the lights at the park went out

tulip7) My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley (memoir)

I saw the cover of this book on a poster at my local bookstore and read it long before I was a dog author. It’s a completely charming account of a man and his dog. Any writer who is in love with his dog wants to put into words how beautiful the animal is, and do justice to every expression and behavior, and Ackerley achieves this.

A lot of the book is about Ackerley’s efforts to mate Tulip, not because he wants to raise puppies, but because that is what nature intends for female dogs in heat. At the very least, the book is an education in the mating of dogs in captivity.

Originally published in 1956 and set in England, it’s also interesting to read about the attitudes toward companion animals at the time.

tuesday8) Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván (memoir)

I didn’t warm up to this book right away, I think because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training, before the author knew him. Tuesday didn’t come alive as a character to me until later in the book, when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. Then, I was completely won over by scenes of illicit games of fetch after dark in a closed Brooklyn park.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes back from war without serious psychological damage, and in Montalvan’s case, he struggled with physical injuries as well. The healing power of his relationship with Tuesday is nothing short of miraculous. The book is heartwarming and makes me wish every returning veteran could have a service dog.

dogs_purpose_sm dogs_journey_sm9) A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron (fiction)

Okay, this is a two-fer, because A Dog’s Journey concludes the story begun in A Dog’s Purpose. Something about books written from the dog’s point of view get me * right here * (points to heart).

Cameron takes us inside the mind of a dog who reincarnates a few times until he discovers what his purpose is in this world. Having the narrator die and come back created suspense. As he lived his life as golden retriever Bailey, I was very afraid something terrible would happen to him.

During each of his lives, the dog is a completely believable character. I loved his view of the world and his affection for his people. I was completely charmed by this story. One of my top five dog tales.

The Dogs of Babel

10) The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (fiction)

This is my number one favorite book. I read it years ago, and I still think of it nearly every day when I refill my dogs’ water dish. See, the main character, Paul, wants to teach his dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Lorelei, to talk so she can tell him how his wife, Lexy, died. He starts by trying to get Lorelei to say “water,” and in doing so, he takes a drink from her water dish and thinks, “I should use soap more often when I clean this bowl.”

That’s an extremely small part of what stuck with me. The novel accurately depicts depression (both the husband’s and the wife’s) and grief, and the role a dog can play in a family. My heart broke for the dog when she searched the house for her dead owner. I also love the subplot about the wife’s mask-making. I finished the book with tears streaming down my face, which I promptly buried in Isis’s chest.


Okay, so technically, I’ve given you a list of 12 books, if you include the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose and my own book. Consider that my Christmas gift to you.

In case this is your first time here, this is my book:

BarkLunge

Did your favorite dog book make the list? What did I miss?

Good writing is hard work!

It’s Pacific Northwest Writer Blog Hop time!

The hilarious and very smart Tiffany Pitts, author of Double Blind, tagged me with the following four questions about the writing process:

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m busily promoting my first book, Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog from Training Mistakes, which has been so rewarding and fun, but it’s time for me to get back to work on the novel I started in 2009.

Fight Like a Lady is about a young woman who competes in mixed martial arts and rescues dogs from dog fights. Officially, I will resume work on it in November.

It didn’t start out being a dog book; the focus was meant to be on mixed martial arts, but evidently, I have a calling, and that is to write about dogs. I’m looking forward to adding a Fight Like a Lady page to this site, complete with a summary blurb, but first, I need to get a picture of a blue pit bull to represent Apollo, the leading dog in the book. We saw a really cute blue pit bull puppy at the dog park a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have my phone or other picture-taking device on me, so I didn’t get his picture. Hope we see him again.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I don’t know of any mainstream novels about women in mixed martial arts, so I’m hoping to break some ground there. The Battered Hearts series is the closest I’ve found, but that’s erotic romance, which my book is not.

There is an emerging category of fiction that fits between young adult and adult adult, which they are calling “new adult.” Most of the popular titles in this category tend to be erotic romances as well. I hate to say that my book differs from others in the genre because it is not erotic, so I’ll put it like this: I think there is a market for fiction about a young woman in her early twenties, when she is out of college, but not yet on the path toward her life’s work, when she is trying to figure out what that might be.

But there is a romance in it. And sex. Perhaps I should make the sex steamier to sell more books.

Why do I write what I do?

I chose mixed martial arts because I wanted to write about something I knew a bit about, but where the character was not based on me. My earlier novels in progress were all thinly veiled memoirs. Then I actually wrote and published a memoir, and I certainly could write a few more of those, but not until I know how they will end.

I didn’t know I had a memoir to write about Isis until after she died. Only then was the narrative arc of her life clear. I may have a memoir to write about Leo and Mia and future dogs; we’ll have to see how their lives unfold. Other memoir topics I could explore are being “a little bit mentally ill,” and being “shacked up and child free.”

Writing is part of who I am. In the past few years, it’s become increasingly clear that dogs are my passion. That’s why I write about them. No offense, but I like them better than people.

How does my writing process work?

Quite a bit like this Peanuts cartoon I’ve had on my bulletin board for roughly 10 years:

IMG_0417.JPG

I write a word. I get up and pace around the roof of my dog house. I write another. Sometimes I eat a cookie or take a nap. Frequently ideas come to me while I’m walking my dogs.


I hereby tag:

Nancy Schatz AltonNancy-IMG_8445, ParentMap contributor and author of The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book, as well as an upcoming memoir about parenting challenges.

and

Cinthia Ritchie
Cinthia Ritchie, a marathon and mountain runner in Alaska and author of Dolls Behaving Badly, which was called “a fun read” by Publishers Weekly and “a compelling debut novel” by Booklist.

The Horror! A live reading

Hey look, I renovated!

The main reason I redesigned the site (meaning, I got a new theme) was that I wanted links across the top for my bio, Bark and Lunge, and info about my copyediting side hustle. Hope you like the new look!

In other news, the group of writers who collectively wrote two novels during NaNoWriMo held a reading last night at Village Books. Here I am reading from the two chapters I contributed. Both scenes are about dogs; vicious, evil, biting dogs. Remember, this was a horror novel.

Note: If you have trouble following the plot, you’re not alone. You can read the full horror novel here.

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NaNoWoofMo

I had so much fun writing a chapter in Red Wheelbarrow Writers’ NaNoWriMo book, I signed up for another: NaNoWriMo for dog bloggers.

Here are the first 10 parts:
1. Rocco
2. Bongo
3. Haley and Zaphod
4. Easy Rider
5. My Rotten Dogs
6. Sophie Doodle
7. Haiku by Ku
8. Oh My Shih Tzu
9. Sparhawk Scotties
10. Critter Alley

Previously in our story, Petey the dog escaped his backyard in search of his missing master, and was picked up by a lady who gave him treats, put a choke collar on him, and took him to a cabin where strange people were eating pizza. Petey snuck out of the cabin and has just encountered a scary beast in the moonlight…

And now… part 11:

I roll to my back and the beast is upon me, grabbing one of my floppy ears in his teeth. Though I’m beagle-sized, I have as much fight as a dire wolf. I grew up on the streets! Growling, I latch onto his throat, and maybe let out just a little pee.

Smelling my white flag, the beast releases my ear and audibly yawns. I release his throat, seizing the opportunity to scramble to my feet. The beast’s legs are more than twice the length of mine, so I don’t even have to crouch to walk under his belly to get a good whiff under his tail. Beast sniffs under mine and we wag at the same time because we recognize each other’s smell-names.

I know Beast from the street!

Human voices are coming through the snowy woods, so I quickly tell Beast that I’m looking for my human. Before he can tell me if he has any leads, Beast says he doesn’t get along so well with two-leggeds, so he wishes me good luck and bolts off into the trees.

“Petey! Petey!” I hear the worried voice of the psychic lady with the magic purse. Maybe she can help me, I think, giving myself a good full-body shake from my tail to the tips of my floppy ears. As I shimmy, I hear the jingle of the chain collar the psychic lady put around my neck. She wants to control me!

Since I don’t think I can trust her, I run off after Beast, following his enormous paw tracks in the snow.

Check in tomorrow for the next installment from Alasandra, the Cats and Dogs.

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NaNoWriDa: Join the fun

Want to participate in National Novel Writing Month for exactly one day? Look no further and sign up for the Red Wheelbarrow Writers round robin. We have two novels going: one horror and one literary fiction.

My current fiction project began as a NaNoWriMo effort in 2009. Sometime in 2011 or 2012, I did hit 50,000 words, but I don’t think that counts. Instead of starting something new this month, I celebrated NaNoWriDa yesterday by writing chapter three of RWB’s horror version of The Arboretum.

I’ve never written horror, and I don’t actually read very much genre fiction, but my movie and television diets are chock full of zombies and vampires. Of course, zombies and vampires are kind of played out, so I hope for The Arboretum to tread some new ground. Author Laura Kalpakian penned the opening chapter, introducing a character with mysterious star-shaped birthmarks on her face, and her mother, a decrepit old woman who doesn’t want to die. I had an image of the decaying woman sticking her fingers into those birthmarks while her daughter screamed, but I had to see where the author of chapter two left me.

Since chapter two ended with the old woman looking out the window at the son-in-law, and the birthmarked daughter sitting inside a car, it didn’t make sense to get the daughter all the way back upstairs inside the house. Fortunately, my predecessor also gave me a mysterious, possibly supernatural greenhouse to work with, so I substituted a scary potted plant for the mother’s demon claws.

Also in chapter one, Laura wrote of a cluster of dogs, described as “a rare breed of canine, vicious, toothy, unstable and nervous; they had slender bodies, exquisite thin legs, poufed tails and huge black eyes.”

I felt like I would be letting my readership down if I didn’t do something with those dogs. It’s almost expected of me at this point.

horror dogs

These guys don’t match the description of the hounds from hell in The Arboretum, but they can make pretty scary faces.

Maybe it was the two Moscow Mules I drank at Anthony’s while writing this chapter, but writing those 1,689 words got me so pumped! With about 200 words to go, I decided to have one of the dogs waiting outside the wine cellar where two of the other dogs had been fighting. I was excited to see her again. This is a fictional dog character whom I had named just an hour or two earlier, and I was attached to her!

Later, after I hit send on my chapter, while Rob and I were watching The Walking Dead, I couldn’t stop thinking about those five dogs. I named them Thunder, Ibis, Orchid, Basilisk, and Rhone.

Gosh, I really hope the next 27 writers treat them well.

Read the horror story here. (My entry is chapter three)

Read the literary version here.

Most importantly, join the fun. Sign up on the Red Wheelbarrow Writers site.

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