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Monday Mentions: Fabulous Flowers, Furry Pet Care & Fantastic Writing Tips

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Magic in flowers

Last week I mentioned the 500 antique roses around our house? It used to be 700+ but the drought, armadillos and grasshopper attrition left a dent. You cannot believe the aroma! With all the recent rain, we’re fighting with the weeds but it appears the roses are holding their own or even winning. And so are the wildflowers. As promised, some of my favs are shared here today.

This next weekend I’ll be at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference. This is an organization very close to my heart, as I have met some of the most extraordinary writers and friends there, as well as connected with editors and agents. As a result of attending, I ended up writing a Woman’s World pet column for a couple of years, found my agent (we sold 15+ award winning books together!), and also served as contest chair and president. I’m now a life member, wow! This weekend I’ll be moderating a panel on social media. You don’t have to be there, either, to benefit–if you have questions please post in the comments section and I’ll pose them to the panelist and share in a future blog.

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the TASTY neato-torpedo links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Some of this “schtuff” can be hard to categorize and may fit more than one topic so I urge you to at least scan them all. But first…some N. Texas spectacular-arity because when you’re feeling angst, there’s nothing like a dose of Mom-Nature to set you right.

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Paintbrush
antique rose
antique rose
Anitique roses

WRITER-ICITY SCHTUFF

Amazon Rewards Content Creators a great post from LJ Sellers

2012 Agents Conference, Writers League of Texas the registration price GOES UP tomorrow (May 1st)

Winners of the 2-12 Edgars Announced

The London Book Fair from an author’s perspective

Writer Beware! avoid this German literary agent and VERY IMPORTANT info on Reversion Clauses in contracts (trust me, authors, you must read this!)

William Bernhardt Writing Programs Best selling legal thriller author’s seminars, workshops and more come HIGHLY recommended (yes, they’re that good). Bill’s also a thoroughly nice guy.

PET SCHTUFF

Big Head Saves Staffie an awesome come-back story about a dog named Diesel hit by car TWICE–from the awesome Dr. Rayya’s Online Vet Journal

Cats Are Con Artists, Dogs Are Sycophants says a new scientific study. Huh? Say it ain’t so, Fluffy…what’s that? Let me fill up your bowl…

39 Pound Cat?! OMG let me NOT fill up your bowl! And here’s more about MEOW the heavyweight kitty and how he came to be where he is today (thanks JaneA Kelley!)

Singer Chris Brown Sells Pit Bull Puppies Online — there are so many things WRONG with this, I don’t know where to start

Protect Cats from Heartworms! According to the website www.knowheartworms.org, in a North Carolina study 28 percent of the cats diagnosed with heartworm disease were indoor-only cats. It’s been a mild winter–mosquitoes are already out and about. And yes, Seren-kitty takes her preventive like a treat. (So does the Magical-Dawg).

Parasite Prevention from expert Dr. Blagburn from Good News For Pets

American Humane Association’s Second Chance Fund helps animals in disaster situations

Cat owners are urged to speak with their veterinarians about preventive medications for their cats so that they can protect their feline friends from potentially deadly heartworm infestations. For more information on CAPC, visit their website at www.petsandparasites.org.

2012 Petties DogTime’s Pet Bloggers Awards with awards going to help fund animal shelters of the winner’s choice. Nominations open June 4 and broadcast in November.

34th Annual Winn Feline Foundation Feline Health Symposium.  Learn all about feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy June 28, 2012 at the Boston Marriott Quincy, in Quincy, MA from researchers Leslie Lyons, PhD, University of California, Davis (speaking on genetics), and John Rush, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, Tufts University (causes, diagnosis, treatment). 

Hemingway Cats Case Awaits Federal Appeal The approximately 40 felines descended from the famous author’s “breeding” program continue to live on the grounds of the Hemingway Museum–should they be caged?

Fact Or Fiction: 10 Diet Myths Debunked, a fantastic post from the excellent blogger August McLaughlin

This terrific video “This Too Will Pass” was pointed out to me from terrific blogger Piper Bayard.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: The New Baby & Suck It Up, Sweetheart!

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Rialto Max & Celia

Frank Steele and Amy Shojai prior to the closing night performance of KURVES premier run.

A new “baby” was born this past weekend. That’s me with my writing partner Frank Steele outside the theater, just before curtain time on KURVES, THE MUSICAL. I’ll have more pictures and even video very soon to share, but for now, wanted to offer a brief recap of one of the most awesome experiences of my professional life.

Many of you who read this blog are writers–published or someday-published–and I’m hear to tell you that DREAMS DO COME TRUE! But first, you have to dare to dream. And then you gotz-ta reach out for that brass ring. When you fall off the merry-go-round, it’s tempting to lay there in the dust and watch all the pretty horsies keep racing round and round, just out of reach.

Nobody becomes successful without eating a few dirt sandwiches along the way. You don’t have to like the taste, but you do need to get used to it, and remind yourself where that dirt belongs–in the litter box (or litter-ary toilet!). So grit your teeth, swallow and it’ll all come out in the end where it belongs, but only if you GET UP and keep reaching for those shiny objects. You can’t catch anything unless you open your hand.

Rialto view from stage

View from the stage--waiting for the house to open.

My best advice? Try. Ask. Risk. Surround yourself with those who share–or at least support–your dream. Not yes-bots, but reality-peeps with gentle sage advice willing to give you a butt-kick when needed along with that shoulder to cry on, and support your toddler steps.

What’s the worst that could happen–you fail. So what? Here’s a lesson learned from dog and cat behavior–the only way pets learn on their own is to make mistakes, so failure is value-added. Each setback stings but also adds wisdom that comes with a callous on your nether regions for future protection. Thing is, dogs and cats learn REAL FAST compared to humans. People are just wired to be stupid sometimes, and it takes head-banging angst before I learn there’s an open doorway just waiting for me to walk through.

I have a confession to make. For years, I wanted to write a play and compose music but never got around to it. I was like all those wannabe writers (not YOU of course!) who like to say, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel…” and have every excuse in the book to postpone the dream.

Ya know what it took to get me to actually get off the “wannabe” pot? An insult from someone that really didn’t matter in the scheme of things. Yet I let those hurtful comments undermine my confidence and drive me away from something I desperately loved. To fill that hole in my heart my good friend Frank and I decided to create our own show, and KURVES (and the wonderful cast and crew!) put those careless comments right where they belonged–the litter box.

Rialto, KURVES set

The Kurves set awaits . . .

The older I get, the more I realize that life’s too short to let others rule your day or take the shine out of the sparkles. We give others the power to take away our joy sometimes–it’s easy to do but I’m getting better about recognizing that in myself. And, as one of the songs in KURVES says, instead of giving in to the urge, SUCK IT UP, SWEETHEART!

Do you have someone or something–comments, an event, a disappointment–that colors your future expectations? Does it hold you back, or spur you to by-damn prove ’em wrong? How do you manage the nay-sayers in your life? They say that success is the best revenge, so is it true?

I don’t know where KURVES will take us but this toddler seems to have strapped on roller blades and it may be we’re in for an exciting ride. So stay tuned! Oh, and you can scroll down a bit for the usual Monday Mentions mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week.

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Opening night cake courtesy of the Kurves cast!

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In honor of the "new baby" the playwrights were presented with flowers, candy cigars and monogrammed "onesies." Jury is still out whether it's a boy...or a girl.

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Opening night flowers from the cast.

kurves flowers

Closing night flowers from my husband--awwwww!

WRITING SCHTUFF

Time Waster or Time Investment? Social Media for Writers from Laurie Huston

Ebook Pricing for Writers from Dean Wesley Smith, he’s actually done some research, an interesting read

Kindle Nation Survey on reader habits, interesting info

PayPay vs Naughty Pink Bits oh no you DIDN’T?! from Susan Brassfield Cogan’s Blog

Audio Books Anyone? Some how-to info

French Seize Digital Rights?! Writer Beware awesome blog!

Twitter Tips for Tweeps from my writing buddy Nita Beshear

2012 International Digital Awards contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.

DK Seeks Online Marketing Manager

Christina Katz: Author of The Writer’s Workout from Jenn Nips blog

Firearms For Writers a conference speaker April 14 in Ohio from an RWA chapter, looks good!

PET SCHTUFF

10 Ways You Know Your Cat Rules You

AKC Names Most Popular Dog Breeds  is yours here?

Learn the Benefits of Play from Kitty from awesome blogger Angie Bailey

Owners Concerns Re: Euthanasia & Care

Birthday Surprise: Wife gets namesake pet-adoption center

Tough Job…NOT! Perfect for writers–get paid to stay home with the dog!

Trendy Pet Names from VetStreet as well as Least Trendy Pet Names

Why Cats Run the Internet and sell sell sell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Doggy Assistant, Excuse, or Both?

Today I sniff out new territory and welcome my first-ever GUEST BLOGGER! Please help me welcome my colleague Natalie Markey, who balances a writing career, marriage, motherhood, and special-needs dog–in other words, she’s like many of us who call ourselves freelancers. There can be pitfalls when working for yourself, though. I often tell folks that my “boss” is a b*tch who always knows when I’m goofing off–but truly it can be hard to toe the line and juggle all those balls (and Frisbees). How do YOU do it? Even if you don’t have the two-legged children, the fur-kids and significant others demand attention, too. Natalie shares her answers to these questions. Take it away, Natalie!

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I traded in my fancy suits and briefcase from the “corporate world” for college t-shirts and Victoria Secret sweats (they are comfy) to write full time from home. Some people turned to working from home when the economy went south. The truth is, more and more professionals are working from home as freelancers, consultants and writers. Some companies even allow employs to work from home as incentives to save on gas and long commutes.  And then there are the brave stay-at-home-moms AKA CEO’s of the home. Whether you work professionally from home or deal with the normal daily chores that faces us all, dog owners all have one thing in common— Our dogs and if you’re like me your dog wants to help with everything!

My dog, Oscar sees himself as the man of the house whenever my husband isn’t home. Gosh, sometimes he still probably feels that way when my husband is home! As a working from home mom and author I’ve learned from my experiences how to manage my schedule so that I can be a great mom, dog owner and professional. I’m currently prepping my next Writing Moms workshop and I’m reminded that so much parenting advice can be applied to anyone with a dog.

If you have children and dogs then you will probably agree with me that children are in many ways easier. I can take my daughter to the grocery store, church, etc. Most places don’t want to see eighty-pound Oscar, even though I know he is such a gentlemen and anyone who knows him is blessed. Oscar is my other baby.  So how can you use that to help you with your work?

Your dog can help you around the house, whatever you are working on. Treat him like an assistant. Don’t let him be an excuse for not getting things done.  Arrange your routine to incorporate him. I work in my office so I made him a comfy bed set up under my desk. When I write, he lays on my feet keeping them warm and providing company.

Before I set up his addition in the office he would constantly be trying to get me away from work to spend time with him. He doesn’t get as much mommy/Oscar time as he use to because of our daughter. Whenever she naps, he wants to spend time with me. Of course I do give him my full attention throughout the day but when I’m working I’ve made it possible to combine time with Oscar with productivity.

There are many things you can do to incorporate your dog into your daily routine. Start with your relationship with him. Know your dog and you will know how to best incorporate him into your work, chores and goals.

How has your dog become part of your routine at home?

I’m giving away a “seat” in my March Writing Moms class, which begins Monday March 5. To participate visit my blog and leave a comment. I will put your name in my virtual hat and draw!

Natalie C. Markey is a seasoned freelance writer including popular columns like the Special Needs Dog Care Examiner. She is the author of “Caring for Your Special Needs Dogs,” and also writes fiction from her Arkansas home, where her dog Oscar assists her. Follow her on Twitter, Pen to Publish blog, and her website.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday WARNING!

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WARNING Will Robinson, WARNING!

A colleague of mine recently sent a link to something called the Writers Pitch Book that purports to “Connect Writers With Agents, Editors & Movie Producers.” The idea is that YOU (the author) send them your ‘pitch’ and they publish it in the book which goes out to the “right people” to get you noticed and published/produced.

Oh yeah, did I mention there’s a fee involved?

Shoot-fire, it’d be worth it to spend $50 to get your pitch before those with the golden keys to the kingdom, wouldn’t it? That’s what these folks bank on, people! Let’s take a deeeeeep breath and think for a minute.

TAKING ADVANTAGE, GRRRR!

What’s the benefit here? Well, you will get your pitch published. The “pitch book” certainly may be sent/delivered to all the movers-and-shakers in Nooo Yawk and Hollywood, very likely that will happen.

But why in the wide world of sports (or publishing/movie making) would those editors/agents WANT TO READ THIS FREAKIN’ BOOK? I mean, come on, people–agents and editors receive thousands (yes, that’s several zeros) of pitches a week. Not a year, but in a week. Ask yourself, just who is this publisher/person who has the means to persuade a busy editor or agent or (gasp!) movie producer to open up a book filled with pitches, sift through, and say, YES, I want to make YOU a star!

I apologize if this offends anyone but it makes me jump up and down and gnash teeth and say SIC-‘EM MAGICAL-DAWG! when anyone takes advantage of the hopeful aspirations of writers. There are many online sites that already purport to “connect writers with X” and they’re just as ineffective.

SCAMS, DREAM-KILLERS, SUCKING WRITERS DRY

Is it a scam? Well…some are, some aren’t especially if they do what they promise–publish a pitch and send that pitch to the agent. But the only people benefiting are the ones that take your check.  That sucking sound you hear is your wallet being lightened.

Similar “opportunities” are offered to actors for getting their head shots and resumes in front of casting directors–you submit your teeeeeny tiny picture and info to these ginormous catalogues that end up as a doorstop (at best) or hamster bedding (at worst).

Please, people. It’s never been easy to get work seen by editors, agents or producers. And nobody can do it for you. Instead of spending your hard earned money on one of these “short cuts” that don’t work, save those nickles and dimes and invest in a really good writer conference that allows you a face-to-face with an agent or editor. You’ll also hear success stories–and cautionary tales–from writers in the trenches, just like you.

I wish there was a magic wand–or magic book–that would do the job for you–and for me. If you ever happen to find that sparkly magic spell, please clue me in. Until then, watch out for the dream-killers. Protect your dream, it’s priceless, and don’t let ANYONE devalue your work with such things.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Writing, Acting & Pets oh my!

Maxine

"Maxine" the owner of the gym in Kurves, Texas.

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Some of this “schtuff” can be hard to categorize and may fit more than one topic so I urge you to at least scan them all.

This past weekend I finished the orchestration for the overture and exit music for KURVES, THE MUSICAL. Tonight we have a photographer coming for cast pictures during the show. That photo above is during a rehearsal–and that’s my co-author–to give you an idea of the flavor of the show. *s* If you’re in the N. Texas region I hope you’ll join us for this fun time. Rehearsals are a blast, we have a wonderful cast and the venue is outstanding. A reviewer will see the show this week, and we’ll have our premier March 1, 2, 3.

WRITER-ICITY SCHTUFF

Just Breathe! stress relief tips from awesome author and blogger Joy Held

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011  so do you agree?

The Writing for Children Competition seeks submissions for all ages of young people, from picture books to young adult (YA) stories. The Writers’ Union of Canada is pleased to launch its 16th annual Writing for Children Competition, which invites writers to submit a piece for children up to 1,500 words in the English language that has not previously been published in any format. A $1,500 prize will be awarded to an unpublished Canadian writer, and the entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted for consideration to three publishers of children’s books. The deadline for entries is April 24, 2012.

Pinterest for Authors, good tips from Carla Stewart

Writers–You’ve Been Replaced by a Bot this gives me chills and it’s not sci-fi any longer.

R.L. Stine Posts Horror Story on Twitter  Talk about “short short stories…” is this the wave of the future?

AUTHOR BEWARE discusses the pros and cons (lots of cons!) of  BookTango, an ebook aggregator for self-published authors has been released by  Author Solutions (owner of the iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, and Trafford brands, and the power behind the outsourced self-publishing divisions of Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, among others).

Kirkus Launches Editing Service for Self-Pub’d Authors

SAG + AFTRA = ???  Information on the merger of Screen Actors Guild & American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

PET SCHTUFF

Dog Flags for helping signal your dog’s attitude in advance–“I’m Shy” or “I’m Friendly” for the humans who can’t read doggy communication. Neat idea!

Help for Feral Cats from Examiner writer Stacy Ritz

Westminster Steps In It  Those who watched the dog show will be interested in this discussion by savvy dog-centric folks (be sure to read the comments, too, this is a keeper!).

Super-k9.com Presents Cara Shannon – Dallas/Addison 2012. This two day workshop shows professional dog trainers how to set up ongoing admission classes for reactive, aggressive, and shy dogs. Cara’s methods are all science-based and positive and are focused on not only changing behavior in the dogs but also on changing the emotional response of the dog.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Angry Cupid, Writer-icity & Pet Schtuff

KURVES LOGO, hi rez

Angry cupid says "Suck it up, sweetheart!"

Tonight we begin our third week of rehearsals for KURVES, THE MUSICAL which will premier at the renovated Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas on March 1, 2, and 3. Woot! So besides the regular writing to-do list, I’ve added learning lines, lyrics, and completing the orchestration for this week. If you’re in the neighborhood I hope you’ll check us out, we’re having a ball (and hope all the actors can keep straight faces, cuz there’s some seriously funny SCHTUFF in this show)!

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. And I’ve got a BOATLOAD of links today, so take your time, bookmark the entry for later if you like, and share with your friends. I’ll catch you later–after the orchestration-line-learning-theater-icity!

WRITERICITY SCHTUFF

Highlights for Children Publishing Job Opening and also for Art Director

Writerly Self Doubt SPEAR THE MONSTER from Alison Brennan

JA Konrath’s ‘REALITY CHECK’ on his Indy Pub success, a MUST READ for modern writers!

Bubble-Cow Editing Offers Query Letter Template

Super E-Reads changes name to Super E-Books and the new Twitter handle is @Super_EBooks and here’s the Facebook Page. Just goes to show you that you GOTTA check those pesky Trademarks. All the other links stay the same, and they’ve added a new feature for Super E-Books authors called “Friday Freebies” as a showcase for your free Super E-Books.

Do you write romance–or want to? Check out these online classes from Savvy Authors, Some Like It Hot: – Writing the Erotic Romance – Jan 30 – Feb 26 and The Sensual Novella– Feb 20 – Mar 18

Thoughty Book Review of Stephen Kings “On Writing” from Gene Lempp’s blog.

B&N May Spin Off Nook Business

Clean Reading? Yes, a book has been ‘published’ on a shower curtain.

Footprint Give-Aways from Doug Lyle’s awesome forensics blog, how a footprint might identify a killer

Man-Speak Defined from the seriously wise-ass (and fun!) Jenny Hansen. WARNING: Set your beverage aside before viewing the “brain” video. Oh, and here’s Man-Speak Part Two

10 Mis-Pronounced Words that make you sound like an idiot. NOTE: This is a companion piece to the dog-centric list of misspelled breed names, below.

A side note–this might explain a bit about (ahem) my own sense of humor to share the following from my musician/artist father. No, he didn’t create them but this is the type of “family game” we used to share around the dinner table, each trying to top the previous offering. So without further adieu:

FAMILY TREE OF VINCENT VAN GOGH

His dizzy aunt ———————————————– Verti Gogh
The brother who ate prunes——————————- Gotta Gogh
The brother who worked at a convenience store —— Stop N Gogh
The grandfather from Yugoslavia —————————– U Gogh
His magician uncle ——————————– Where-diddy Gogh
His Mexican cousin —————————————- A Mee Gogh
The Mexican cousin’s American half-brother ———— Gring Gogh
The nephew who drove a stage coach ————— Wells-far Gogh
The constipated uncle ————————————- Can’t Gogh
The ballroom dancing aunt ——————————– Tang Gogh
The bird lover uncle ————————————– Flamin Gogh
An aunt who taught positive thinking —————— Way-to-Gogh
The little bouncy nephew ———————————– Poe Gogh
A sister who loved disco ————————————– Go Gogh
And his niece who travels the country in an RV — Winnie Bay Gogh

3--black cat in garden--2-7-08

Managing Ferals Is A GOOD Thing!

CAT SCHTUFF

Loews Hotel Universal Florida & Feral Cats had a managed feral cat colony but has apparently decided to get rid of the cats–some have been trapped and taken to a local shelter to be killed. Click the link to learn more and sign a petition to urge the company to re-think this step.

Tips for Housing Feral Cats (positive info this time!) from the awesome Dr Deb Eldredge

CFA Foundation & Feline Historical Museum

DOG SCHTUFF

Professional Animal Behavior Associates (Canada) Offers Awesome “A SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATION AND STUDY OF WORKING DOGS 3-day seminar.  These are some of the best of the best in dog behavior and training, if you have interest and get the chance, go! (I’ve a conflict with a writer conference booooooo!)

Lovely article about DOGS IN CHURCH

Dog’s Microchip Returns Lost Child

dog licking nose

"Branding" Breeds? Tasteeeeeeeeeeee!

Everyone wants their pet to be “special” but has branding gone to the dogs? These are ‘real’ breeds of dog, as collected from license applications and want forms at a USA dog shelter:

  • Westminster Terrier
  • Rhode Island Ridgeback
  • Palmeranian
  • Copper Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniard
  • Black Labrador (from a license app, dog’s color was yellow)
  • Shit Sue
  • Dorky Terrier
  • Lopso Apso
  • El Paso (attempt at Lhasa Apso)
  • Highland Heeler
  • Alaskan Malibu
  • Belgian Manawa
  • Belgium Malenoise
  • Basket Hound
  • Bagle
  • Welch Corgi
  • Wild Haired Terrier
  • Carrion Terrier
  • Wineamimer
  • Rockwelders
  • Rottenwiler
  • Great Pekingese (supposed to be Pyrenees)
  • Great Pyramid
  • Miniature Datsun
  • Irish Settler
  • Jack Daniels Terrier
  • German Police Man
  • Chesapeake A Retriever
  • Borderline Collie
  • Chevy King Charles (Cavalier)
  • Goverment Pinscher

Novartis Temporarily Suspends Production of Interceptor & Sentinel

Serena Dracis Blog has a spot-on entry on communicating with your dog for training

K9 Mobile Grooming has a great post on dog grooming basics (I think they’re in the UK or I’d be tempted to ring ’em up for a home visit!)

ODD SCHTUFF

Colin Falconer explains all about FRIGGATRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA HINT: it happened last Friday.

Climbing Baby Mountain from Jenny Hansen’s Risky Baby Business blog–great info for expectant (or wannabe) parents.

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Fractal Felines, Cats with Thumbs, Extreme Dawgs & HALLELUJIA!

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. When this posts, I’ll still be on the road (maybe away from the computer GASP!) so I put this list together late last week. To fill in the empty spaces, I left it up to Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty to pick out a couple of favorite videos.

WEIRD & FUNNY SCHTUFF

Excuses–You Want Excuses? a whole slew of laugh-out-loud insurance excuses from Colin Falconer (hey, you need to check out his BOOK too!)

Stacy Green’s Glover for Lovers If you’ve got cold appendages, this blog has the answer for you. Stacy also writes a Thriller Thursday blog that’s a must-read.

KEWL WRITER SCHTUFF

Guest Blogger Jodi Renner on Killer Thriller Tips from the awesome Doug Lyle’s blog.

Pearson Wants MORE Rights, read about it in this Writer Beware post.

Jenny Hansen’s Awesome Formatting Tips for Writers

Lessons From Attila/Designing From Bones Blog from the awesome Gene Lempp–writers can learn a lot from these strong characters

Pets for Kids Poetry Contest, great pastime for creative kids over the holiday vacation

On Being Vulnerable–great post by blogger Nissi

FURRY-TASTIC PET SCHTUFF

Baggage Handler Fired for Helping Dog She did the right thing. What would YOU do?

Ease Travel Angst with Travel Calm from Earth Heart Inc.

EXTREME DOG WALKING This man takes his 16 dogs out for a bike ride and swim in a river every day. Look how well trained they are and how much they love him. By the time they return home, they are exhausted and ready for a good rest.

Stray Cat Poisoner Sentenced

Cat Inherits $13 Million, now that’s the cat’s meow!

PETSIDE.COM Holiday Sweeps, take a survey and get in line for $500

ProCATinator from the uber-evil Karyl Cunningham! cats doing CAT things to music–weirdly addictive.

Vir-Chew-Al Pet Gifts quite a variety and a really nice (truly!) gang of pet lovers run this show.

FRACTAL FELINES: This video is awesome–and IMO rates pretty high on the OOOK factor. What do you think? These Fractal Felines are enough to give Magical-Dawg nightmares but I think Seren sort of likes it.

CATS WITH THUMBS commercial just won an award! Awesome. Wonder if there’s a movie in the making?

HOMECOMING FOR THE HOWL-IDAYS: Here’s another video and the Magical-Dawg chose this one. It’s one of my favs, too. What about you?

MR. BEAN’S NATIVITY GAMES Admit it, you’ve wanted to do this!

HALLELUJIA CHORUS: Right in time for the holidays, this came across my virtual desk and I just had to share. Feel free to sing along.

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Christmas Sparkles

Naked tummy--Seren(dipity) after her spay.

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

“Amy! Will you please get your cat before she tears up the house?”

I sighed, and pushed away from the computer. My husband grew up cat-less. Mahmoud neither understood nor appreciated kitten antics, especially while he watched television sports.

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

Ameeeeeeee!”

By the sound of it, the eight-month-old delinquent had donned virtual racing stripes. She ran laps that traversed the carpeted living room and family room, slid across the oak floor entry, bumped down steps to the dining room, then finished with a claw-scrabbling turn around the slate-tiled kitchen.

Thumpa-thumpata-thumpa-THUMP!

Aha, a new path discovered . . . The sound grew louder as she raced toward me up the stairs and flew down the hallway to land tippy-toed on the guest bed across the hall from my office. I peeked inside.

Seren(dipity) stared back with blue-jean-colored eyes. Then she self-inflated in mock terror and began trampoline calisthenics (boing-boing-boing) on the mattress.

I quickly shut the door, confining the demon seed–my husband’s name for her–to my upstairs domain.

Back in June, a friend discovered the dumped kitten napping in an empty flowerpot on the back porch and called me, her pet-writer buddy, for help. I had been pet-less for longer than I cared to admit. E-mail, phone and fax lines kept me connected to my clients and colleagues, but I figured the kitten would brighten the long, sometimes lonely workdays. Besides, as a pet writer I needed a pet. So it was Amy-to-the-rescue, and love at first sight.

My husband wasn’t so easily smitten. He still missed our elderly and sedate German shepherd but cherished the freedom of being pet-less. I convinced him a lap-snuggling kitten would be no trouble. Besides, the cream-color carpet he’d chosen matched the color of Seren’s fur. It had to be an omen.

The cat gods have a wicked sense of humor. They made me pay for that fib.

The Siamese wannabe had no off-switch. She talked nonstop and demanded the last word. She opened drawers and explored kitchen cabinets. She answered my office phone but never took messages. And she left legions of sparkle ball toys everywhere.

The colorful toys polka-dotted the stairs. You’d think a peacock exploded. The toys floated in the kitten’s water bowl, swirled in the toilet, and bobbed in my coffee cup. And Seren hid sparkle balls everywhere to later stalk and paw-capture them from beneath household appliances.

Mahmoud quickly learned to check his shoes each morning before putting them on. He was not amused. I knew better than to suggest he should be grateful Seren only stuffed his shoes with sparkle balls and not–ahem–other items.

I’d managed to buffer the cat-shock-effect over the past months by keeping her in my office during the day and wearing Seren out with lots of games before Mahmoud came home from work. Weekends proved a challenge. By Monday morning, my husband reached his kitty threshold and welcomed a return to the cat-free-zone at work.

But now the holidays loomed. Mahmoud looked forward to two weeks at home, two weeks of relaxation, two weeks of napping on the couch in front of the TV.

Two weeks sharing the house with “the devil.”

It would indeed be a Christmas miracle if we survived with sense of humor intact.

In the past we’d often visited my folks over the holidays where we enjoyed a traditional snowy Indiana Christmas morning, stocking stuffers, decorated tree, lots of relatives, and a sumptuous turkey dinner. This year we planned a quiet celebration at home in Texas, so snow wasn’t an option. But I wanted to decorate with lots of holiday sparkles to make the season as festive as possible.

“A Christmas tree? Don’t cats climb trees?” Mahmoud’s you-must-be-insane expression spoke volumes. He’d already blamed Seren for dumping his coffee on the cream-colored carpet. Maybe matching fur color wasn’t such a great omen after all.

But ‘tis the season of peace on earth, and I wanted to keep the peace–and the cat. So I agreed. No tree.

Mahmoud didn’t particularly care if we decorated at all since Christmas isn’t a part of his cultural or religious tradition. But he knew I treasured everything about the holidays. So we compromised.

Gold garland with red velvet poinsettias festooned the curving staircase, wrapping around and around the banisters and handrail. Gold beads draped the fireplace mantel, with greeting cards propped above. A red cloth adorned the dining room table, while in the living room, the candelabra with twelve scented candles flickered brightly from inside the fireplace. Other candles in festive holders decorated the several end tables, countertops and the piano.

The centerpiece of Christmas décor was the large glass-top coffee table placed midway between the fireplace, TV and the leather sofa. The wooden table base carried puppy teeth marks, silent reminders of the dog Mahmoud and I still mourned. Since we had no tree, the table served to display brightly wrapped packages that fit underneath out of the way. And on top of the table I placed Grandma’s lovely three-piece china nativity of Mary, Joseph and the Baby in the manger.

Grandma died several years before, right after the holidays. Each family member was encouraged to request something of hers to keep as a special remembrance, and I treasured Grandma’s nativity. The simple figurines represented not only the Holy Family but evoked the very essence of Grandma and every happy family holiday memory.

Of course, Seren created her own memories and put her paw into everything. It became her purpose in life to un-festoon the house. She “disappeared” three of the faux poinsettias, risked singed whiskers by sniffing candles, and stole bows off packages.

She decided the red tablecloth set off her feline beauty. She lounged in the middle of the table beneath the Tiffany-style shade that doubled as a heat lamp, shedding tiny hairs onto the fabric. As every cat lover eventually learns, fur is a condiment. But Mahmoud had not yet joined the cat-lover ranks and was not amused.

“Off! Get off the table. Amy, she’ll break your glass lampshade.”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

Mahmoud had no sooner resettled onto the sofa to watch the TV when the whirling dervish hit again. The twinkling gold beads dangling from the mantel caught her predatory attention. Seren stalked them from below, quickly realized she couldn’t leap that high, and settled for pouncing onto the top of the TV. From there, only a short hop separated her from the ferocious mantel quarry she’d targetted.

“Off! Get off the TV. Amy, will you come get your cat?”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

I arrived in time to see her complete a second Mario Andretti lap. I swear she grinned at us as she skidded past. With the next drive-by Seren stopped long enough to grab my ankle, execute a ten-second feline headstand while bunny-kicking my calves, then resumed her mad dash around the house.

Mahmoud glared. “I thought you said cats sleep sixteen hours a day.”

I shrugged and hid a smile. Seren had already learned what buttons to push. Rattling the wooden window blinds worked extremely well, but now she need only eye the decorations to garner all the attention she craved.

Cute kitty. Smart kitty. Mahmoud wasn’t amused, but I was.

She raced into the living room, leaped onto the glass top table, and belly-flopped alongside my treasured Holy Family . . .

“Off! Get off.” Mahmoud shooed the kitten out of the danger zone before I could react in shock. This time, I was not amused.

Mahmoud knew what Grandma’s nativity meant to me. “Decorating was your idea. Don’t blame me if the devil breaks something,” he warned.

Before he could suggest it, I caught the miscreant and gave her a time out in the laundry room to cool her jets. We’d relegated Seren’s potty, food bowls and bed to this room and routinely confined her at night or when away. Otherwise, she set off motion detectors and the house alarm–or dismantled the house while we slept. Besides, Mahmoud complained Seren’s purring kept him awake at night.

I used a wooden yardstick to fish toys from beneath the washer/dryer to provide necessary feline entertainment during the incarceration. Several dozen sparkle balls–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple–and the three missing faux poinsettias emerged, along with an assortment of dust bunnies and dryer lint.

I sighed. The kitten’s age meant several more months of madcap activity and I wasn’t sure how much more Mahmoud could take. He only saw Seren at full throttle. He also suffered from “Saint Spot Syndrome” which meant he recalled only the happy memories of our beloved dog, and overlooked potty accidents, chewed shoes and other normal canine misbehavior of the past.

Seren suffered mightily in the comparison.

I felt exhausted after the first week of running vacation interference between my husband and the kitten. Whenever possible I kept Seren confined with me in my upstairs office but that backfired. She slept in my office, but once downstairs she turned into a dynamo intent on pick-pick-picking at Mahmoud especially when he ignored her.

The second week began, and as Christmas drew near I found more and more errands that required my attention outside of the house. Mahmoud came with me for some, but other times he preferred TV.

“Just lock up the devil before you leave so she doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t want to watch her.”

It made me nervous to leave them alone together in the house. I worried that Seren might commit some last straw infraction and I’d be unable to salvage any potential relationship. I loved her, heaven help me; she’d hooked her claws deep into my heart. And I loved Mahmoud. I wanted my two loves to at least put up with each other.

But as I prepared to leave I couldn’t find her. At less than five pounds, Seren could hide in the tiniest spaces. One time I found her inside the box springs of the guest bed, but that day–December 23rd–she disappeared and refused to come out of hiding.

I think she planned it. Maybe the spirit of the holidays inspired her. Or perhaps some other loving canine (or grandmotherly) influence worked its Christmas magic. Whatever the motivation, when I returned home that rainy December evening, my unspoken holiday wish had been granted.

I found my husband napping on the sofa. On the glass top table beside him the Holy Family nested in a radiance of sparkle balls–an inspired feline gift of toys for a very special Child.

And atop Mahmoud’s chest, quiet at last, rested a very happy kitten.

Mahmoud roused enough to open one eye. “Fafnir–I mean Seren still purrs too loud,” he grumbled.

Fafnir had been the name of our dog.

With a nod toward the overcast day Mahmoud added, “At least our cat won’t need to be walked in the rain.”

Seren blinked blue-jean-colored eyes and purred louder.

Note: HOLIDAY SPARKLES first appeared in a short story collection titled Christmas Cats: A Literary Companion (Chamberlain Bros. Publishing). May your Christmas be joyous, bright, and filled with loving woofs and purrs. ads

AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Severed Heads, Writing Fines & Star Trek Cats

What every kitty wants in her Catmas stocking...

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. My little cat Seren(dipity) slipped this picture under my pillow as a heavy handed…I mean, pawed, hint. I’m sure all the fur-kids have their own personal wish list. I think the Magical-Dawg has something stinky in mind.

As for me, I’m climbing aboard a plane and traveling to visit my parents and siblings in Northern Indiana, yay! It’s been way too long since I’ve seen everyone. That means, though, that I must meet my deadlines earlier rather than later. The blogs–well, I have plans to get them done in advance but who knows if that’ll happen? Santa’s Elves may have their own plans.

PET SCHTUFF

Help With Vet Bills Yes, there are organizations that help fund pet care. They rely on donations–wouldn’t it be a great holiday gift to be a Good Samaritan and fund helping someone’s needy pet? *s*

Dog People vs Cat People some interesting differences revealed in this survey.

Vegan Cat Food? Oh no! Check out this post from my colleague JaneA Kelley.

Demon Dawg–I wouldn’t want to be a vet on THIS critter! Gene Lempp once more offers great plot idea starters in his Designing From the Bones blog post.

3-D Doggy Anatomy, this is wild and awesome technology! For those writing about canine issues, not to be missed. And fun for anyone.

WRITING SCHTUFF

Conflict In Novels an awesome post from Bob Mayer

Using Track Changes from Jenny Hansen, priceless tips for editing

Jan Morrill’s Blog with some great writerly links in her mashup

Do’s & Don’ts About Email Marketing from the always awesome Lorie Huston

SEO Mistakes are you committing any of these?

Bloggers Get No Respect–or Protection! This blogger was fined $2.5 MILLION, don’t let it happen to you.

10 Rules of Writing–Best Checklist EVER for novelists posted by Heather Webb with kind permission from Janis Hubschman

KDP Select Program–read the fine print, from Writer Beware, and more about it from Kait Nolan and yet another from David Gaughran.

Left Coast Crime Convention  Left Coast Crime mystery convention will be in Sacramento, CA March 2013. Prices go up at the end of this year, so register before the deadline for the best deal. Author John Lescroart is our Guest of Honor, and James Rollins will also be in attendance, along
with some other great authors.

WEIRD-ASS-TERICK SCHTUFF

Myths About Introverts Are you an extrovert, an introvert or–well, how is YOUR brain wired?

Olympic Pole Dancing ain’t for sissies or introverts…wait, maybe it is! Hilarious post and videos from Piper Bayard

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

KURVES, the MUSICAL CAST

KURVES LOGO, hi rez

Local playwrights, co-authors Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, have cast KURVES, THE MUSICAL with eight popular local performers. The original show features twelve catchy original songs with full orchestration, an ensemble cast, and laugh out loud dialogue. KURVES, THE MUSICAL will be performed for three nights only, March 1, 2, 3,  2012 at newly renovated Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas.

Frank Steele directs the show. He has appeared in many TV and radio commercials, movies and TV shows including DALLAS. He taught drama for twenty-seven years and has appeared in over fifty plays as an actor or professional musician. “I’ve co-written several benefit shows,” says Steele, “including the sold-out Star-Struck Night musical benefit with Amy Shojai, produced for Theatricks some years ago.”

Shojai directs the music. She is best known as a local author with 23 published pet books. “But I have a degree in music and love composing and performing,” she says. “Frank Steele and I have acted and written together, so we decided to combine forces to write fun and poignant characters that we’d like to perform.” She has acted in several dozen plays in six states, and made countless TV and radio appearances both locally and nationally, including Animal Planet appearances as an expert. KURVES is her third co-written show.

Eight quirky characters, misfits all, become trapped inside MAXINE’S, a run-down woman’s gym located in Kurves, Texas. The cast remains onstage the entire show. Despite failed attempts to find happiness and true love, they finally succeed—but in unexpected ways.

KURVES cast

L to R, back row: Joe Maglio, Cheri Anderson, Craig Sturm, Johnny Flowers, Frank Steele. Middle L-R: Amy Shojai, Theresa Littlefield. Front: Leah Martin

THE CAST

Steele plays the cross-dressing Maxine/Max who owns the women’s gym and sings the title song “Curves.”

Shojai plays Celia, the sequin-wearing visitor to Maxine’s who sings “Dreams For Sale.”

Cheri Anderson is cast as the many-times-married Mabel, director of a soup kitchen, and sings the rousing gospel number “Suck It Up, Sweetheart.” She has performed in many local theater productions, including all three Smoke On The Mountain shows and the recent Ring Of Fire music review. She has performed gospel, bluegrass, country and classic rock-n-roll and performs with a number of country musicians in the area. She works as a Paralegal at Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin P.C. in McKinney.

Theresa Littlefield is cast as mousy poetry teacher Jane who transforms from plain-to-sparkling in the duet “Poetry & Jazz.” Theresa has been in numerous college, church, and community productions.  She is an active member of the First United Methodist Church choir and handbell choir. She often plays saxophone for high school plays and church programs. She is a counselor at Fairview Elementary in Sherman.

Leah Martin is cast as newlywed Ronnie, and sings about her insecurities in the plaintive song, “The Picture.” Leah has logged countless hours working backstage with Sherman Community Players and has performed leading roles in The Mousetrap and The Miracle Worker. She most recently appeared in The Big Friendly Giant, and has appeared in the City of Sherman “Can the Trash” commercial. She works as a Nanny for Dr. Clint Hayes and his wife Sunni’s children.

Johnny Flowers is the inept but lovable movie-quoting robber Fingers who laments his lack of finesse in the song, “Silver Screen Blues.” Johnny has been active in community theater for the past 30 years. Most recently he delighted audiences in productions of The Odd Couple, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Smoke On the Mountain III. Johnny is also involved in the Music Ministry at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. He is a graduate of Grayson County College and works in the produce department for the Sherman Kroger’s Store.

Joe Maglio plays ladies’ man Boots and sings, “You’re The Chick For Me.” He was one of the original dancers on American Bandstand and will show off smooth moves in KURVES. He attended Lon Morris School of Drama and worked for eleven years as technical director at Finley Playhouse. He graduated from Southeastern School of Theatre in 1988, moved to Hollywood and was active with Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Joe is a member of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and this year serves on the nominating committee for the SAG awards. KURVES marks his return to performance after a 19-year retirement.

Craig Sturm plays Ronnie’s husband, Troy Chadwick Noonan IV, who literally holds the key to Maxine’s and ties up all loose ends in the song, “Life Happens.” Craig has seen over 80 Broadway musicals, and has performed in many musicals both in the orchestra pit as a percussionist, and on stage.  Craig brought the butler character to life in the Finley’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2003. He is a gifted arranger and composer, often sharing original compositions at Trinity Lutheran Church where he serves as pastor.

Special thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church for rehearsal space. Mickie Martin serves as stage manager, and Garrett and Greg Guymon and The Rialto provides lights, sound and the performance venue. Show time is 8 pm and tickets are $10 adult and $5 (general seating) and can be purchased for the March 1, 2, 3, 2012 performances by calling the Rialto Box Office at 903-465-SHOW. Learn more about KURVES, THE MUSICAL here.