Getting Cut: Bleeding Is Good For Writers & Pets

SunBirdBathLast week my writing routine (and income) took a major hit. Getting cut from my puppies.about.com site and getting cut or fired, in effect told you’re not wanted or needed, is pretty dang high on the suck-isity scale but BLEEDING IS GOOD FOR WRITERS — and by extension, bleeding is good for pets (figuratively speaking, of course!).

Anything truly beautiful and worthy of our passion has the power to cut. And anyone truly open to change and growth must be willing to sacrifice for their art–and yes, bleed.

SunBirdBath2It’s very easy to fall into a routine *cough* RUT *cough* and for creatives, that’s deadly. For me, time is the most precious commodity in both my work life and outside life. Wait, who am I kidding? My work life and “outside” life are joined at the hip and that’s not always such a good thing. There is always MORE to do. Those who are FB friends are familiar with my to-do lists, and self-promises of “once THIS is done, then THAT will happen” and…as long as the About-puppy-schtuff demanded more and more time, those reward-end-goals on the list wouldn’t have ever happened.

My husband commiserated with me about the lost opportunity and then surprised me by saying, “I’m glad it happened. You never would have quit. Now you can…(all those things on my list).” After about 10-seconds of surprised silence, I took a breath and simply said,

“You’re right.”

So what has happened this last week? Did I get through all the “wanna-do” wish list?” Not really. In fact, not much happened on the writing front other than a few more to-do lists (I now have a list of the next 6 books to write!) I messed around with SEO, wrote a blog post and newspaper column, read a lot of blogs, a couple of wonderful books, and finally–finally–admitted the need for a REBOOT.

TableTopThose who regularly read this blog know I love shiny objects, so it should be no surprise I love art glass. My home is filled with stained glass panels and lamp shades, and even the rose garden boasts half a dozen glass mosaic pieces.

GlassNookI even created a character in my Lost And Found and Hide And Seek suspense thrillers who works in stained glass. You know that stained glass table in September Day’s kitchen? It’s in my kitchen, and yes, I made it. By the way, the latest stop on the Hide And Seek Blog Tour posted here today.

PedestalTableThe garden and the mosaic work has been neglected. It also needed a reboot. So I spent the past several days cleaning, repairing and re-cementing a couple of bird baths and garden table and I count that as valuable writing time. I’ve found over the years that any creative endeavor feeds across into other aspects of my life. Playing music inspires acting endeavors, designing glass feeds the writing muse, playing new games with the fur-kids offers a rich abundance of song material. So over this past weekend, I wrote nothing–instead, I heeded the call of shiny-brilliant-glass, and ended up bloody but smiling for my efforts. When working with glass you must expect to be cut.

Magical-Dawg doesn’t hesitate to go all out to chase down, leap high, and snatch Frisbees from the air. He’ll turn eight years old this month, and I fear he’ll injure himself and so keep the toys low to the ground. Seren-Kitty at 17 weighs less than half as much as the kitten, and could be severely injured by him, but her newest joy is teasing and then reprimanding the young whippersnapper. Karma-Kitten has discovered the joys of (eeek!) stalking, chasing, leaping to catch WASPS, and again I try to get to ‘em first. Magic, Seren and Karma risk bleeding because the rewards outweigh the potential cut.

Hell, our cats and dogs take risks every day, just by loving clueless humans who may leave their hearts broken and bloody with disappointment — but oh, the risk is worth it when they can celebrate that Gotcha Day connection when dreams come true.

BrownBirdBath2Yesterday I spent all afternoon putting together fun bios and questions for this weekend’s Thrillerfest when I’m a Panel Master on Saturday, and get to paw-tograph my dog viewpoint fiction next to best selling thriller authors. (stay tuned for video & pictures!). Meanwhile, all the getting cut and bleeding over the past week has done its job–sores are still a bit raw but healing commenced, and with it, oh-so-much new energy, inspiration and joy to come!

BrownBirdBath3Maybe September Day needs a stained glass bird bath–or perhaps Macy and Shadow should deal with a new kitten in the next book SHOW AND TELL. Hmmnn.

Do you “bleed” for your passion? Have you had to do a career (or life) RE-BOOT? Do tell!

Magic-Karma

(All images Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC)

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.

 

 

Dog Fears Fireworks? How to Fix Pets Noise Phobias

PatrioticPuppy

Even patriotic pups can be frightened of fireworks. Copr. Lisa Calvert/Flickr

When a dog fears fireworks, it can destroy your fun July 4th celebration, so it’s vital to learn how to calm thunder phobias and noise fear in pets. More cats and dogs–and even livestock like horses–become lost on this day than any other when pets panic, go through windows, break tethers and leap fences.

Even safely contained pets shiver, moan, and feel worse with each noisy boom. You may not see quivering scaredy cats when they dive under the bed, but the stress from noise phobia increases risk of hit-or-miss litter box behavior.

Ideally, pets can be counter-conditioned to the scary noises by exposing the fearful dog or cat to recorded sounds of fireworks played at a very low volume, and rewarding him for staying calm. Gradually, you increase the noise level, to help the pet “get used” to the noise and learn to tolerate it. Desensitization programs can take weeks and sometimes months to work, though. And for many of us, tonight will be the BOOM-ICITY deadline. So what can you do? And how do you know your pets are affected?

Fireworks

Image Copr. Bayassa/Flickr Commons

My mom’s Shelties used to act like furry jello as they quivered and dove for that dark safe spot under the bed. They’d squeeeeze between the sofa and the wall, or push faces into your armpits to hide.

But the Magical-Dawg could care less. Part of that, I think, has to do with the PUPPY-PARTEEEEE! WOW, WAS THAT LOUD, WHAT FUN! reactions I’d offer him each time the thunder boomed during his socialization months. Now, if a particularly loud thunder-clap startles me and I jump, he does look at me with eyebrows raised–ready to get wound up if I so much as “say” he should by my body language.

Karma is a bit different. The first loud thunderstorm we had, he RAN and then slowly ever-so-slowly crept out. And he watched what Magic did–nothing. And what I did–PARTEEEE! and treetz. Today he’s much less reactive.

Pets do read us. You have to be a really good actor around dogs (and cats) because they read our silent language with little effort. Do you speak dog? What do all those tail wags and woofs mean? Do you know what a doggy laugh sounds like? Different dogs “speak” in unique ways–how do your fur-kids tell you what they want?

PHEROMONE HELP

An innovative product designed specifically to help dogs deal with fear—especially noise phobias—employs a natural pheromone that dogs recognize on an instinctive level. Pheromones are chemical substances made by the animal’s body that act as a form of communication that, when inhaled by your pet, talks directly to his brain.

The product Comfort Zone with D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) is an analogue of the pheromone mom-dogs produce to calm nursing puppies. It calms the fears of dogs of any age, from puppy to aging oldster. The veterinary version, Adaptil, is available from your vet while the Comfort Zone can be purchased from local pet product stores or via the Internet. Cats benefit from Comfort Zone with Feliway, an analogue of the cheek pheromone that tells cats their environment and territory is “safe.”

Both products come as plug-ins from pet products stores, but it won’t “drug” your dog or cat into a magic cure. It instead helps put a damper on fear long enough to “think” so that your behavior modification/training techniques can work. You’ll need to have these plugged in for several days in advance for it to offer your dog or cat the best benefits. They also come as a spray or impregnated collars for immediate use, and can be sprayed on bedding, for example

COVER THE NOISE

There are a number of things you can do. Cover up the “BOOM” or the thunder and rain sounds by playing music–harp music actually has a sedative effect (it may put YOU to sleep, too!). Turn the radio to static for white noise. At my house, we could pound the piano or play the cello or …SING and have a howl-along. It’s hard for a pet’s brain to do two things at once–be scared and have fun–so find something your pet loves that has some noise to it. Hey, isn’t a squeaker less obnoxious than hearing your baby-dog whimper and moan?

MagicThundershirt

Magic models Thundershirt…and thankfully, doesn’t need it. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

COMFORT CLOTHES

A number of products are available that are said to help out with fear issues. Thundershirt for dogs is one of the best known and most effective. I also have the Thundershirt for cats and it helps Seren-Kitty enormously during fearful events–like vet visits. Storm Defender Capes are another option, as well as Calming Caps. Some of these products will be available at your local pet products stores.

GIVE DOGS A JOB

Dogs can’t panic when using their brain for something else such as “work.” Drill him on obedience commands and special tricks, or ask him to play fetch and carry around a favorite toy. That engages his brain into productive activity rather than thinking about the scary noises. Giving him treats and positive rewards for remaining calm also reinforces the benefits of controlling his emotions. For instance, puzzle toys stuffed with fun treats the dog–or the cat–must manipulate to get at the goodies can go a long way toward keeping their mind off the fireworks.

Yep, at my house a treat or game of fetch or chase-the-feather goes a long way toward building confidence and rewarding good behavior.

Are your pets fearful of loud noises? What do they do? Have they ever damaged your house–or injured themselves or others during a panic attack? Is there a special way you handle the kitty or doggy panic attacks? Please share! Many more tips on dealing with fear in the books ComPETability (Dogs) as well as ComPETability (Cats).

Being scared kills the fun. Help your pets turn the fearful whimpers and scaredy-cat hisses into joyful purrs and wags, so your whole family (furry and otherwise) enjoy the 4th of July howliday. And have your fur-kids tell thunderstorms to “hiss off!”

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.

I Got Dumped! Puppies.about.com Kicked Out the Door

MagicChillBowl

“Where did it go?!”

 

 

It is with shock and deep disappointment that I must inform y’all that my Puppies.About.com contract has been terminated, as of this afternoon. No reason was given, and I’ve been locked out of my site without opportunity to say goodbye to my colleagues.

I’ve since learned that more pet Experts and others from the Home channel also have been terminated. The timing comes just prior to the July launch of a spanking-new About.com redesign which many of us worked tirelessly to facilitate. I wish only the best to those Experts who remain. And I encourage them to watch their backs. *sigh*

maxwellMedallionI loved writing as the Cats Behavior Expert for the cats.about.com site and then moving on to create Puppies.about.com as the Puppies Expert. And I was honored that my site won two DWAA awards for Best Dog Website. I’m very proud of the work published there, and I thank everyone so much who helped make it a success by visiting and sharing the content. I hope that the puppy-licious info has…and will continue…to help puppy lovers. I have no idea how long, or if, my byline will remain on the site.

This sucketh big time. I’m hurt more by the disrespect than for the loss of the paycheck, frankly. To my writer colleagues, I would urge great caution when dealing with this organization.

Going forward, I’ll concentrate on book-length publishing, work on STRAYS the MUSICAL, and may now have time to post more often here, yay! Heck, I may also have time now to possibly freelance for other select venues.

Every time in my career that a door has slammed shut (sometimes hitting my nose! LOL!), other opportunities appeared that often were much better than I could have planned. So now, I’ll just keep my eyes open and be ready to step into that next chapter!

What sorts of career changes/challenges/surprises have you faced? C’mon, I need some happy stories. :)

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

GOT STRAYS? Celebrating Pets with Musical Info-tainment!

KarmaStraysI’ve been grinning and doing the HAPPY-DANCE for two days now, ever since Monday night the Sherman Community Players Board voted YES to allow STRAYS, THE MUSICAL be produced as a full-fledged show, November 6-7-8, 2014 at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, Texas.

YEE-HAW!

My co-author (co-conspirator?) Frank Steele and I began this journey more than two years ago when we conceived the notion of a musical theater show from the cats and dogs point of view. For some of y’all who have read my dog-viewpoint thrillers, this probably sounds familiar. :) We’re both passionate about proper pet care, and I’ve carved a career out of helping to educate pet lovers.

Strays Logo2-LoRezWe wanted STRAYS to be a hopeful and funny show that also shines a spotlight (literally!) on how cats and dogs lose their homes, and celebrate the heroes who make it possible for the lucky ones to be chosen and have forever homes. Our fondest wish is that STRAYS helps rescues, shelters and pet lovers everywhere with info-tainment that inspires, offers hope, and maybe even raises funds for furry causes.

The best way to reach the widest audience is to publish. In theater, publishers require that a script be performed before they’ll even consider it.

So as we wrote the script and score,  with the help of talented local actors, STRAYS took baby paw-steps in a preview performance of sample songs at the national 2013 Cat Writers Association Conference in Dallas. And this past March, we were granted a “staged reading” of the entire show (script/music in hand), thanks to Webster Crocker, administrative director of Sherman Community Players (SCP). He agreed to our request to mount the full show in the fall under the THEATRICKS umbrella (children’s theater program), and June 23, 2014 the SCP Board approved the proposal.

Auditions will happen sometime in September–so if you’d like to “channel your inner cat/dog” please come out! Frank and I can’t wait to work with the Supporting Cast members, the young thespians who participate in Theatricks programs. But there are parts for singers, dancers, and actors of every age and type because, after all, cats and dogs are as unique as snowflakes, too. Wouldn’t it be PAW-some to have whole families perform in the show together?

You can learn more about our STRAYS journey on the Strays Page by clicking here, see video of the CWA preview performance, and links to the Cast Recording of the 12 songs.

And I’ve created a Facebook Group Page for STRAYS Fans here, to stay up to date on auditions, songs, and more. Please join our furry throng and spread the news!

Did I mention….YEE-HAW!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Book Thrills, Summer Reads & Pet Safety

Karma-Magic-Funnies

New meaning to “paper trained…” So, what’s on YOUR summer reading list? Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

It’s been a way-busy week and I have a lot to share to catch up with all the “doings.” :) This week there were six stops on the HIDE AND SEEK blog tour.

WRITER-ICITY SCHTUFF!

The Book Divas Read shared an EXCERPT from the thriller, click here to read.

Dakota’s Den posted a PAW-SOME review of the book. “…For me, Hide and Seek was more than just a book, it was an experience. If I used stars for ratings, it would receive the highest number of stars that I could assign to it.

Meee-WOW! that makes me purr and my virtual tail wag. Read the entire post by clicking here. And if you’re of the cat-purr-suasion, you can also read the review by clicking here at Cat Chat with Caren & Cody.

Hotchpotch also posted a lovely review. “A compelling story with a dog as a hero, written by a specialist in animal behavior, with a dash of intrigue and a splash of suspense, some dead bodies and a lot of hiding and seeking. All ingredients that make for a very enjoyable read!” Be sure to visit the blog to read the book excerpt by clicking here.

CMash Reads interviewed me about writing the HIDE AND SEEK story, my writing schedule, and even asked for a sneak peek about the next book in the series SHOW AND TELL. You can read the whole interview by clicking here.

Thoughts In Progress posted another interview today with me, asking about the pros and cons of including so much “animal” characters and plot in my thrillers. What do you think? Is there such a thing as too much animals? What’s the downside? You can read my take on the issue by clicking here.

Finally, I had a lovely surprise–not scheduled–when I discovered that Ingrid King’s Conscious Cat blog included HIDE AND SEEK in a roundup of recommended summer reads. Wow! You’ll want to check out some of the other paw-some books, too. Click here for the whole post.

Okay, now I’m gonna step outside my comfort zone and ASK you — if you’ve not already done so — to purchase (or recommend to a friend) a copy of HIDE AND SEEK and/or the first book in the series LOST AND FOUND. Both books are available in print and all Ebook versions, and LOST AND FOUND also is available as an audio book.

It may seem silly to ask for reviews–why should anyone care what you think? But other readers DO care, and in addition, the places you buy books (amazon, B&N, iTunes/Apple, Audible and more) pay attention to reviews. Books that have lots of good reviews get shared by these companies, so please help out the authors you know (not just me!) by leaving your comments on the book pages.

Find buy-links to HIDE AND SEEK by clicking here.

And find buy-links to LOST AND FOUND by clicking here.

(DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..)

I’M A PANEL MASTER FOR NYC THRILLERFEST!

“WHAT MAKES AN ENDING UNFORGETTABLE?”

with Panelists Donald Bain, Ward Larsen,

Sean Lynch, J.F. Penn, and Tom Young

BOOK SIGNING TO FOLLOW

If you’re there, please stop and say hello…and if you can’t come, please post YOUR answers to the question and I’ll get ‘em included in the discussion. Thrillerfest is always a terrific educational and social networking party. Yes, I’ll again be wearing my #1 Rhinestone B*tch Pin as well as my bunny-slippers-with-fangs. How else would anyone recognize me? *batting eyes all innocent-like*

PET-ASTIC SCHTUFF

Today is TAKE YOUR DOG TO WORK DAY! This is an annual event. You can click here to read more about what’s involved and tips to convince your boss to allow pets at work.

With summer heat upon us, I’ve been updating a lot of hot-weather tips at my puppies.about.com site (you may notice a bunch of SQUEE! new pictures, too!). Here’s some tips and suggestions for keeping your puppies–and adult dogs–happy and safe during the dog days of summer.

Hot Weather Games for Puppies–Click here!

Swimming Safety For Your DOgs (works for cats too) right here

This fall, I’ll be at the CWA conference in Atlanta at MEOWWORLD, speaking about how to put together Ebooks. You’ll get all the must-knows for writers and bloggers. Where else can you get great writer-ly advice while surrounded by all-things-pets? Hope to see you there at the Cat Writers conference! 

And if you write and publish about cats (including blogs) don’t forget to enter the CWA Contest, with thousands of $$$ in prizes and more. Click here for more informationdeadline to enter is July 1.

BarkWorld Expo and MeowWorld Sponsored by CWA

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!